You Will be my Witnesses

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Today is Ascension Sunday, which reminds us that the risen Jesus defeated death and ascended to be with the Father. Augustine said this was the ‘Crown of all Christian festivals.’

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there whenever the risen Jesus met with you, spoke into you life and gave you instructions for how to live the rest of your life?

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about."

Acts 1:4b

One of the stand-out events for Jesus’ disciples was over a meal when had spoken to them about a coming advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom they would receive and be immersed in within a few days.

The disciples were intrigued and, just like many people today, wanted to know about God’s timetable, especially regarding the future. Jesus said that it’s pointless trying to second guess God’s timing. The only thing we can be certain of is knowing that He will return again.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you"

Acts 1:8a

Jesus is about to leave and ascend to heaven, so now it’s over to his disciples – to us – to continue his mission and ministry in the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit they were going to be Christ’s witnesses to the world. But for that to happen, Jesus had to leave, to ascend.

"You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8b

Here we find Jesus’ commission to the disciples – to us, ‘You will be my witnesses’

As Jesus ascended to heaven his feet left the ground. As his disciples we are now, post-ascension, to be the feet and hands of Jesus – his witnesses in the world.

‘The local congregation is the hermeneutic of the Gospel’ – Lesslie Newbigin

"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."

John 16:7

Jesus’s going led to the Spirit’s coming to the disciples. We need the supernatural presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives if we are to be effective witnesses in our own communities.

“What we need is not more learning, not more eloquence, not more persuasion, not more organisation, but more power from the Holy Spirit.” – John Stott

“The reality is that the church I lead can accomplish more during the next month in the power of God’s Spirit than we can in the next hundred years apart from His provision. His power is so superior to ours. Why do we not desperately seek it?” – David Platt

As His hands and feet today, how do we ensure we are drawing from that power source to reach out and reach into people’s lives in the power of the Holy Spirit?

Pentecost marks the coming of the Spirit to the disciples, and this promise is for all who believe. Every believer now is filled, immersed and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Cf. 1Cor 12:13). So how do we maintain the right connection with the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Wait and pray (v.4,14)

We need to embrace the practice of the disciples here in Acts 1. They wait and they pray. This helps us to recognise our need for the Holy Spirit, and reminds us to depend on His power to be at work in our lives, rather than trying to do things in our own strength.

"“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”"

Acts 1:11

After giving his disciples the commission to be his witnesses Jesus was lifted up before their very eyes. It’s a definite physical departure from the earth, but it’s only temporary. He is coming back again and that’s a major promise. So now it’s time for you, as a follower of Jesus, to get ready to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be his witness.

The ascension kickstarted a new beginning: as a result of the Spirit’s coming the church exploded and grew in Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth, including Belfast. Jesus need to go in order that the Spirit could come, and so today on Ascension Sunday we acknowledge and celebrate that.

These five words of Christ’s final command remains your commission:

You will be my witnesses

Why not intentionally wait and pray this week. Ask God for a renewed awareness of the Holy Spirit to refresh you and enable you to be his witness to the people in your street or community.

How much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask

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