The Last Word

Praying til Pentecost Day 38

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8

A member of my church in Georgia asked me one Sunday, "What are the last words you will ever hear a red neck speak." I was smarter than a fifth grader on that day, so I pleaded the fifth. With a dead pan face and perfect comedic timing he said, "Watch this!" I looked around and everyone else thought this was funny so it was safe to laugh. Gotta be careful these days in such a politically correct world. You never know when a joke session will turn into a lynch mob. I excused myself, and wrote these priceless words in the flyleaf of my bible. They are not inspired, but they do have ring of truth to them. That is what makes them so funny.

On a more serious note, our denomination is getting ready for another serious reorganization. Pastors in pulpits and people in the pews have been praying for the past year for some very special leaders who have been charged with the task of formulating a strategy for world evangelism. These folks will present a report at our annual meeting that will hopefully provide a sense of direction under the banner, "Great Commission Resurgence." Jesus launched his own version of this in once sentence.

Leave it to Jesus to keep church simple. He knew who He would leave behind to follow the directions. Every time I read the last words of Jesus, I am impressed with the brevity and the breadth of the commission He gave a small group of disciples. Before He ascended into heaven, He focused on their

Personal Poverty - "but you will receive power.
America on its worst day is still a wealthy nation. The American church still has an abundance of resources. What the church lacks is not the power to communicate what they believe, but the power to transform lives. Transformed people change the culture around them. They do not adapt to it, or camouflage themselves to hide in it. There had to be a personal admission before there would be any resurgence to the commission they received. They were poor in spirit. They needed a Helper, and would have to pray for God to give them what they had to have to live. Jesus would send them what they needed for an abundant life that would overflow their capacity to keep what they knew about Him a secret. This kind of praying is not about greed. It is about need.

Personal Responsibility - "...when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
The Holy Spirit's personal power was meant to be a personal touch that would be sent to individual people with willing hearts and open hands to receive. The Holy Spirit would not come upon an institution, denomination, idea, concept, or nation. He would fall upon and transform the lives of praying people. Transformed people change the world around them. They let their light shine in a dark world. They do not look for someone else to do it, and hire them to get it done for them.

Personal Mission - "and you shall be my witnesses."
In ancient times, paid witnesses were usually bribed witnesses. Nothing has changed in the past 2,000 years. The Greek word for witness is rooted in the same word that is transliterated "martyr." The early disciples had such a passion for their mission that death could not stop them from telling what they had seen, and heard about Jesus. The refocus of a denomination on the Great Commission does not have much hope unless the individual members of that corporate body recognize that the call to tell people about Jesus is not an option. Every believer is accountable to God to share the message of salvation. They are not responsible for the response to the witness. They are responsible to share it.

Personal Vision - "both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

This mission to tell people about Jesus would take some time for the disciples to grasp. What they heard was different from what Jesus said. They heard Him say that they were to be witnesses "to the Jews in Jerusalem, the Jews in Samaria, and the Jews in the remotest part of the earth." Their distorted hearing gave them a blurred vision. Jesus had a bigger plan and a wider net than the establishment of another ancient cult group. To reach the world with His message of hope, He sent His Spirit to His followers. He took His place in Heaven to intercede for them at the right hand of the Father. His people must see that they are citizens of a kingdom that has no earthly borders.

The message of the Risen Christ is so simple a child can get hold of it and even sing about it. "This little light of mine. I'm going to let it shine." Sing it loud! Say it proud! "Let it shine til Jesus comes! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!"