Bible Studies for Life, April 12
John O. Yarbrough
Assoc. professor of Christian Studies
In 45 years of ministry I have seen many church members struggling as they attempt to live the life of a Christ-follower. They often word their dilemma with something like, “I just can’t do it” or “I am just serving Jesus in my own way.” They need to learn the joy that comes in living and serving in His strength and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have observed that one of three situations exist when there is a struggle to live the Christ-life. First, they are immature followers who have yet to discover all that is available to them in Christ. Second, they are carnal and have allowed the flesh (sin) to take hold in their life. Thirdly, they have never really become followers of Christ. They may have become church members, but never genuinely become followers of Christ.
When we repent of our sin, confess Jesus as our Savior, and receive His free gift of salvation, we receive a full package. We have eternal life. We receive the Holy Spirit and He empowers us to live and serve. We receive spiritual gift(s) as He wills for Kingdom service. Finally, He gives us the fruit of the Spirit to enable the character of Christ to be demonstrated in our life.
We need to open the package and celebrate the gifts that He has given us to accomplish His will in His power for His glory.
Equipped to be His disciple
Paul is giving Theophilus “the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). He began by the statement of the resurrected Christ “giving orders to His apostles.”
Over a period of 40 days and nights Jesus completed equipping His disciples for the task and challenges that would be theirs. They were hearing with a new understanding on this side of the resurrection. Jesus was leaving no room for them or us to be unprepared or ignorant of the purpose He had for His followers to accomplish.
The Jewish priests had tried diligently to spin the event of the resurrection as some kind of scam. They were unsuccessful because of the presence of the risen Christ for over 40 days and nights following His resurrection.
The promise of receiving the Holy Spirit was to assure His followers that the task He commanded them to accomplish would be possible in the power He would provide. There are many strange teachings about this empowering and even the apostles did not understand Jesus’ statement in verses 4 and 5. Even after all the teaching Jesus had done, they were still expecting the “restoring the kingdom of Israel” by Jesus immediately.
They presumed that the Holy Spirit would provide the power for the restoring of the kingdom of Israel from the hands of the Roman occupiers. Jesus clarified the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming when He responded to their concern by informing them that “the Father has fixed” the timing and it was not for them to worry about.
He went on in verse 8 to tell them why they would receive the Holy Spirit. “… you shall be My witnesses.” Jesus made it very clear that when you receive the Holy Spirit, you would receive power and you would be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit would enable them to live and witness in power to the risen Lord.
In Acts 2, the coming of the Holy Spirit, you discover that the result of the coming of the Holy Spirit was, as Jesus had promised, witnessing. They were witnesses and the results were that “about three thousand souls” (2:41) were saved and baptized.
The Holy Spirit empowers tools for witness of the risen Lord, not toys for the self-exaltation of the follower.
Jesus will return
Jesus had accomplished all He was to do at this time. He had finished teaching and giving “orders” to His followers. He ascended to the Father, knowing that His followers would soon be empowered by the Holy Spirit and be His witnesses until His return.
The followers continued “gazing” at the cloud that had taken Jesus out of their sight. They were amazed and perhaps wondering, “Now what?” The messengers of God challenged His followers to stop staring.
Jesus had not called them to the Mount of Olives to camp out, to await His return. They were to wait for the power provided by the Holy Spirit and then to do what He had “ordered” them to do, be witnesses to the “remotest part of the earth.”
The messengers assured them of what Jesus had already promised them, that He would return! He is coming again!
Many of us believe that we are living in the last days. The expectation of the return of Christ should not cause fear, but should give comfort. The promise of His return was a comfort for these early followers, knowing that He would be back. However, it would also serve to encourage them to get to work.
We should experience the same in our day by being comforted that Jesus is coming again. However, it should also challenge us to be even more urgent about the task He has given us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
If the fact that Jesus is coming again brings you fear, it may be that there is something in your life that you need to deal with to be ready. It could be today!
Live it out:
Walk – Answer the question, “If you knew Jesus was coming tonight, what would you do different today?” Once you have answered the question, do what you have said you would do.
Run – Do an inventory of your salvation package. You have eternal life; you have the power of the Holy Spirit; you are using your spiritual gift(s) and the fruit of the spirit are evident in your life. How does your inventory look? Ask God to show you the areas that need attention.
Soar – How is your witness? “…You shall be witnesses.” Ask God to put people in your path each day that you might be a witness to the risen Lord. If you are not the witness you should be, maybe there is a power problem you need to deal with.