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The Great Invitation

Receiving the Holy Spirit's power

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We pride ourselves on being a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. It’s our identity, our family’s slogan. Acts 1:8 is a mandate from the Lord that we cannot afford to ignore. There is an unfinished task. And many of us have given our lives to this course and made sacrifices to obey this call to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

I do not want to downplay the significance of this mandate for all of us. But, we may have completely missed the real mandate Jesus gave in this familiar verse. It’s not just to be His witnesses or to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. The real mandate is to receive.

Clothed with Power

The beginning of Acts 1:8 says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” Jesus was about to ascend to the Father, and He left His disciples with this seemingly impossible task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, making disciples of all nations. And His final instruction was to WAIT. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift that my Father promised. . . . In a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4–5).

That was the mandate. Everything else that follows is just an outcome. It is what happened to this bunch of feeble, inexperienced, and fear-stricken disciples when the Spirit of God baptized them with His power. Acts 1:8 is a cause-and-effect statement. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and this is what’s going to happen—you’ll be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but also in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. What would have happened if the disciples had not heeded this instruction and went on in their own zeal?

Many of us have been trying to be His witnesses
without first being baptized with the Holy Spirit. No wonder evangelism and missions have been the most challenging tasks for the Church to this day. Jesus is
reminding His followers that this task of completing the unfinished mission will be impossible without being clothed with His power. But if we receive power, we will
be radically changed.

Falling Out of Love with Ourselves

What happens when the Spirit of God comes on mere mortals like you and me? We fall out of love with ourselves in a way that is humanly impossible. Jesus says, “You’ll be my witnesses.” We have reduced this word “witness” to handing out tracts, talking about faith in our workplaces, and inviting someone to church, but to the disciples this word would have meant so much more.

Their master had just been executed for who He claimed to be, and He’s telling them, “You are now to proclaim the same message that got me killed. The world is going to hate you. You may lose everything in this life, but you will gain everything in the next. The priority and obsession in your life has been self, but when the Spirit
of God fills you, your priorities and passions will
radically change.”

We love ourselves too much. We are deeply drenched in the culture of preserving, promoting, and gratifying SELF. I feel those impulses in my own life every single day. What am I going to do to make myself feel good? How am I going to promote my name, my ministry? That’s the flesh in us.

But the Lord is saying that when the Spirit of God comes upon us, we will take on a different nature; we will humble and sacrifice ourselves for His sake. It is one of the most radical changes we will experience in this life to have the miraculous power to deny our flesh and become a witness of someone other than ourselves.

Falling In Love with Our Enemies

When the Spirit of God fills us, we will also fall in love with the world in a way that is humanly impossible. By the world, I’m not talking about worldly pleasures; I’m talking about people. We understood Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth as the scope of our mission—that’s what the missiologists taught us, right? But again, to Jesus and His followers, these places were more than locations—they were people groups.

Jerusalem represented the Jews, their own kind who held the same religious and moral worldview.
Judea and Samaria is a reference to ancient Israel—the
Southern Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom of
Samaria—conservatives who held onto the law and the prophets and liberals who intermarried gentiles and
became apostates. And the ends of the earth was, historically, a reference to Rome. They would not have known China, Korea, or a remote island of Papua New Guinea. They were thinking of their enemy, their oppressors.

What Jesus is really saying is that when the Holy Spirit fills us, we will be able to love those who hold to different moral, political, and religious views and even our enemies, those who hate and oppress us. He’s saying that our hearts and our view of the world will radically change. No political, racial, or moral boundaries will ever be able to keep us from loving on people.

Why should I care about those who are living thousands of miles away when I have my own family, friends, and church to care for? Why should I care about those Republicans or Democrats, Muslims or atheists when they believe differently than I do? Because the Holy Spirit’s power compels us to do so.

A Transactional Duty or Love?

Dear friends, our inability to live out this mission is not an academic issue—it’s a heart issue. In the same way, our inability to love people is not a theological one. It’s a matter that belongs to the heart. You can try to
convince yourself to love somebody, but it just won’t happen. Something has to change. If we find ourselves struggling to be Christ’s witnesses, it’s not because of a lack of strategy or training. It’s because of a lack of
encounters with the Holy Spirit.

If we fall in love with the Holy Spirit, we will not be able to contain the joy, excitement, and hope that He feeds us. We become a different kind of people—the kind the world will think of as crazy or insane,
outrageous and reckless.

It’s not that we haven’t figured out how to tell the world about this Jesus we’re in love with. Is it possible that we’re not in love with Jesus to the point where we can’t possibly keep it to ourselves? Is it possible that our walk with Jesus has changed from being a love relationship to being a transactional duty for what He has done for us? Is it possible that our evangelism and our missions has become a human endeavor rather than uncontainable testimonies of our encounters with the Holy Spirit?

If so, what we desperately need is not more training or strategy. We need to find ourselves in the Upper Room where we must wait with the anticipation that in our time God may again do the very things we read in Acts. The Great Commission begins with the Great Invitation. And the invitation is to receive—to receive His power to love those who are beyond the reach of our human
compassion. Otherwise it’s an impossible mission.

Impossible Lives

My mom is a tiny 5’3” Korean woman who has spent the last 30 years on the streets of downtown Toronto feeding the homeless and telling them about Jesus’s love. Her life is a great mystery to me, because she’s not the same person I knew before the Lord possessed her. She was so broken in her despair after her marriage fell apart that she actually tried to take her own life.

After she was released from the hospital, she moved to Italy for a year to recover. And there, she had a fresh encounter with Jesus. She was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit in a small church. She came home a completely different person and eventually planted 
a church in one of the most dangerous parts of Toronto.   

She never went to seminary or had any formal training in ministry. She never even learned proper English—just enough to tell people about Jesus. But over the years, I’ve seen men twice her size weep for hours as she held them in her arms and prayed for the love of God to fill them. I’ve seen people with AIDS, cancer, and all kinds of disabilities and addictions walk out of her mission completely healed after receiving prayer from her. Thousands and thousands of people have come to know Jesus Christ through her ministry.

She’s now in her 70s and has not stopped giving herself to the Lord. The fruit of life I see in her is simply unexplainable without God.

We somehow think that God can use people like you and me only when we have adequate training, knowledge, or talents. We’re obsessed with our personality profiles and strengths finders. They can be useful, but God has not chosen people like you and me because of those things.

One of the greatest revelations I had is that God has no need of me. He can finish whatever remains unfinished with a snap of His finger if He desires. Yet He wants to do it in us, with us, and through us. For this reason, He has promised the outpouring of His Holy Spirit, not just for those in the Early Church but again and again. The gift of the Holy Spirit is never an assured possession of the Church, but it’s an assured promise for the Church. And this promise is for you and your children and for all whom the Lord will call through you.

I hope we will be launched to build our own Upper Room in our families and churches where we will continue to wait and expect God to fill us with His power over and over again so that we can go on to live impossible lives, doing what is possible only with God.

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