Sunday, April 20, 2008

Matt's Messages "The Holy Spirit Empowers Us To Be Witnesses for Christ"

“The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Be Witnesses for Christ”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
April 20, 2008
Acts 1:1-11

We’re back to our study of the Person and Ministries of the Holy Spirit of God.

Ever since the first Sunday in February, we’ve been learning about Who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in and through us.

We’ve learned that the Holy Spirit Is God, Worthy to Be Worshiped as God.

The Holy Spirit is a person, with Whom we are able to have a relationship, to fellowship with. He is not the Force from Star Wars. He is a person.

The Holy Spirit is Mysterious. We can’t completely understand Him, and we can’t control Him. He’s like the Wind!

And the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered. His ministry is to spotlight the Lord Jesus Christ and His Crosswork.

He doesn’t point to Himself. He points to Jesus!

And we’ve also learned about five precious ministries that He has to us:

The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ. He convicts, He draws, He regenerates, He converts us. If there was no Holy Spirit, there would be no Christians!

And then, the Holy Spirit Assures Us Of Our Relationship with God. He assures us of our Ownership, of our Inheritance, and our Adoption as God’s children.

Do you know that you are God’s child? That’s the work of the Holy Spirit!

And then, He doesn’t leave us alone. He continues to guide us. The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth. He wrote a Spirit Book, the Bible (the doctrine of inspiration), and He helps us to understand it (the doctrine we call illumination).

The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.

And He does these precious ministries from within. The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us! He lives inside of us making us holy temples of His presence!

What a thought that is! God the Spirit lives inside of all genuine believers.

And there, He does His work of purifying us. He makes us holy.

The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us.

Holy love, holy joy, holy peace, holy patience, holy kindness, holy goodness, holy faithfulness, holy gentleness, holy self-control.

The Holy Spirit makes us holy by producing His holy fruit in us.

But that’s not all!

In fact, we’ve got a number of ministries left to go in our study. I have seven more messages planned for this series, and we I’m sure we could do a lot more.

Today, I want to talk about power.

This week, I read every verse in the Bible that has the word “spirit” in it. Holy Spirit, or whatever kind of spirit. Every verse in the Bible.

And I was struck as I did that a great many of the passages that talked about the Holy Spirit emphasized the power of the Spirit. The power.

One leading expert on the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit summarizes His person and ministry in these three words: God’s Empowering Presence.

That’s who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in 3 words: God’s Empowering Presence.

Now, we’ve already had a couple of weeks on God’s Presence in the Holy Spirit, now I want to shift our emphasis to talking about His Power.

And specifically today: His Power to Help Us to Witness.


That’s what Jesus promised right before He ascended into heaven.

Let’s read Acts chapter 1, the first 11 verses.

Doctor Luke writes, “In my former book, Theophilus [the Gospel According to Luke],I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. [The Holy Spirit!] For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. [But catch this!] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘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.’”

These are some of the very last words that Jesus shared with His followers before He left this Earth.

He talked with them about the Kingdom of God and the Spirit of God.

The Kingdom of God is the reign of the King. And when its fullness would come is not something that He’s told us. It’s bound up with the timing of His glorious return which is also not something He’s told us.

But He did promise them something about the Spirit of God.

He promised them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to talk about that more next week.

And He promised them that when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit, they would receive POWER from the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 (a very familiar passage).

“[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


Acts 1:8 was the theme verse for last weekend’s Allegheny District Conference of our EFCA family of churches.

And we were reminded of the awesome power of the Holy Spirit working within believers to reach our communities, regions, and world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to be Witnesses for Christ.

In the last chapter of Luke’s first book, he quotes Jesus as saying “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

That’s quite an expression, isn’t it?! “Clothed with power.”

Jesus was promising that the disciples would receive a fresh endowment of potent mightiness that would enable them to be His witnesses in their capital city, their region, the suburbs, and the rest of the whole wide world!


The Holy Spirit is God’s Empowering Presence.

Empowering His Disciples to be Witnesses for Jesus Christ.

And that’s exactly what happened. If you read chapter 2, you discover what happened on the day of Pentecost.

The disciples were all together in one place and the Holy Spirit showed up like He’d never showed up before!

He blew in!

There was a sound like the blowing of a violent wind from heaven that filled the whole house where they were sitting.

And He burned in.

“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the Holy Spirit enabled them.”

And boy, did He enable them!

They whole city was full of people from every nation.

And the disciples ran out into the streets and began sharing about Jesus–and everyone heard the good news in their own languages!

And Peter got up, empowered by the Spirit, and he preached the Gospel!

And the Holy Spirit started to work, and He drew 3,000 people into the church right there, right then!

And lives were changed! Just read Acts chapter 2.

The Spirit came just like Jesus said and did just what Jesus said He would do.

He empowered the disciples to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

In Jerusalem.

But also in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

That’s like the table of contents for the book of Acts. That’s exactly what happens as the Spirit does His work in the church. The church expands and explores and evangelizes from the inside of Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the planet.

And He’s still doing it!

The same promised Holy Spirit is still empowering us to be Christ’s witnesses today.

Do you realize that you are a fulfillment of Acts 1:8?

Often, we like to use Acts 1:8 as a map for our evangelism. How are we doing at reaching our Jerusalem (our hometown), our Judea (our region), our Samaria (those we’d rather not touch), and our ends of the earth (global missions).

And that’s a helpful diagnostic question to use this verse metaphorically.

But Acts 1:8 wasn’t meant to be taken metaphorically by the disciples. This was the real Jerusalem, the real Judea and Samaria, and the real ends of the earth.

Where do you live on that map?

We live on the ends of the Earth!

Lanse wasn’t on the map!

The disciples didn’t even know about our continent when Jesus gave this promise and command!

But the Holy Spirit did! And He empowered disciples to bring the gospel to our land.

He’s still doing it today!

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to be Witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Now, what does that power look like?

What is bound up in that word: “power” that is available to us today?

I can think of at least 4 things.


The power of the Holy Spirit transformed Peter and the other disciples from scared-ey-cats huddled up in locked rooms into courageous evangelists that boldly shared the truth of His death and resurrection with thousands of people in a hostile environment!


Are you scared to share the gospel with other people?

I am, and I’m a pastor!

You know, I’ve been doing this meals on wheels thing for about half a year now. And one of the reasons I started it was to get me out in the community rubbing shoulders with lost people so that I could share Jesus with them.

It seemed to me that I could start some Jesus conversations with people as I smilingly delivered them a hot meal.

How many conversations like that do you think I’ve had?

I’ve had a few. But not very many.

A number of times, I’ve felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to say something and try to steer a brief discussion in a Christ-conversation direction.

But most of those times, I’ve chickened out.

I was reminded of that as I prepared this message. The Holy Spirit lives inside of me.

And that means that He will give me, as I yield to Him, the POWER to be bold.

The courage to say something.

Do you know, after you get started, it normally gets a lot easier?

Phil Alessi was here last weekend, and I listened to his message on CD. Lots of stories there, weren’t there, of his being used by God to start spiritual conversations?

Do you think he’s always been that good and wading in and talking with folks?

He might have a gift for it. But my guess is that it comes from yielding time and time again to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to make Him bold for Christ.

Power for boldness!

Even power to die for Christ. Remember that the same Peter who got up on Pentecost and led 3,000 people to Christ all at once, died hung upside down as a martyr for Christ.

The word translated “witness” in verse 8 is “martures” from which we get the word “martyr.”

It takes power to die for Christ. And the Holy Spirit is ready to give it to us!

#2. LOVE.

This power, I think, looks like love. Love for the lost.

The Holy Spirit transforms unloving people into people who not only love God but love those who don’t yet love God themselves.

He gives us to power to love the lost.

To love our enemies. To love God’s enemies!

The primary election is Tuesday, and if you’re a registered party voter, I encourage you to exercise your right and responsibility to go vote.

I’ve noticed something about the candidates. They don’t seem to love each other!

And Democrats don’t love Republicans. And Republicans don’t love Democrats.

And Independents (like myself) don’t love either of them and vice versa!

But that’s not true of Spirit-indwelt Christians.

We don’t hate our enemies. We love them. And we desire for them to come to believe in Jesus, too.

The folks in Judea didn’t like the folks in Samaria.

They would cross the road if they saw them coming!

But Jesus sent them with the gospel to Samaria.

And He gave them the powerful love to do it!

The folks in Jerusalem didn’t like the people at the ends of the earth.

They weren’t circumcised, they ate meat with blood in it, and pork sandwiches! They didn’t speak Hebrew and many of them had oppressed them!

But Jesus sent them to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

And He gave them the powerful love to do it!

Is there someone, a lost person, in your life that you are struggling to love?

The Holy Spirit will give you the power to love them!

Remember this fishbowl?

We started praying back in August for folks whose names were in here to come to Christ by Resurrection Sunday.

And that exercise is now over, but does that mean that we can just stop praying for and loving those folks?

“Well, God didn’t save them by Easter, so I’m done!”

Paul says that the love of Christ compels us to be ambassadors for Him.

The Holy Spirit will empower us to love the lost.

#3. WORDS.

This power comes in the form of words.

Witnessing is something that takes words to do.

You can’t be an effective witness unless you use words.

Sometimes we like to use the phrase from Francis of Assisi:

“Preach the Gospel Always, Use Words When Necessary”

And there’s some truth to that, in that our actions speak just as loud or even louder as our words in authenticating the message.

But the words are essential.

If the wind had come and the flames of fire had come and the disciples rushed out on the street and then they didn’t talk about Jesus, those 3,000 people would have stayed lost!

Someone had to share the gospel. And part of the power of the Holy Spirit is giving the words to the witnesses to speak to the lost.

Jesus promised his disciples that this would happen.

He said in Luke chapter 12, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare. The Holy Spirit often gives me my words to speak to you on Saturdays when I’m in my study. And they are precious gifts then.

But it does mean, “Don’t worry!” The Spirit will give words, especially if we are being bold to share the gospel.

On Pentecost, He gave them words in languages they had never learned! (At least, that’s how the people heard it!)

I think that the Holy Spirit can give you and me words in our own language to share with those around us who need to hear about Jesus.

Charlene Ball was in the hospital this week, and she had opportunity 3 times to talk about the Lord–and she did.

God gave her words.

We need to bake cookies for the gospel! Just like Phil Alessi said last week. “Bake to Make Disciples of All Nations.”

But we also need to use words. And the Spirit will give them to us.

A number of ladies came to the church last weekend and created “Outreach Prayer Cards” that are in the table in the foyer.

They are for us to grab and write a note to someone that we are praying for and send it to them.

Often, we pray for people here in the service who aren’t here physically. Many of whom we never see. This is a new ministry that we can use to grab a card and send a note to someone who is outside of our church.

Who knows, maybe the Lord will use those words to bring that person to Christ?


Power for Boldness.
Power for Love.
Power for Words.
And Power for Holiness.

We’re back to the Holy Spirit makes us Holy, aren’t we?

Because there needs to be a fundamental connection between our TALK and our WALK, right?

If we are going to have the power to witness with words, our lives must witness, as well, with holiness.

One passage that I won’t get to preach during this series is 2 Corinthians chapters 2 through 4, which talks about how the Holy Spirit enables the New Covenant ministry.

The New Covenant, enacted by the blood of Christ, is a covenant that is more powerful than the Old Law Covenant. And it is administered by the Spirit who gives life–it’s more glorious!

2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is [that’s our lives!] there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory [remember Moses? This is even better!], are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Isn’t that awesome?

The Holy Spirit transforms us into holy people by His POWER.

And that authenticates the message of the gospel and makes us effective witnesses.

The power for Boldness.
The power for Love.
The Power for Words.
The Power for Holiness.

The Holy Spirit EMPOWERS Us to Be Witnesses for Christ.

You know what the application of this is, don’t you?

Be witnesses for Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit!

As we leave this place today, we need to go out of here ready to reach our community, our neighbors, our family, our friends, our enemies[!], our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the Earth with the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Holy, boldly, lovingly, verbally–in the power of the Holy Spirit.