“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the big educational trends of the last generation is the great focus on all things STEM. STEM, of course, is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. This comes out of a recognition that those particular disciplines are of an increasingly vital importance in the modern world, coupled with a desire to prepare students more thoroughly and effectively to gain meaningful careers in related fields. This STEM focus plays itself out in a variety of ways from schools offering more of the relevant courses in these areas, to the development of entire STEM schools – like my own boys attend – where STEM has become an entire educational philosophy where real world problem solving and interdisciplinary interactions are the foundation on which all learning is built. What this helps students see is that just because an idea is properly understood through a single set of lenses doesn’t meant there are not still more implications to the idea that can help us understand other ideas in new and important ways. What has me thinking about all of this today is a reflection I recently read on this well-known verse from Acts. What it means is clear. But there are some implications of those ideas that I hadn’t considered before. Let’s explore these together.
Acts 1:8 is one of three major commissions Jesus gives His disciples before He departs to rejoin the Father. It is the second most famous of the three. The least well-known is near the end of John’s Gospel. The most well-known is, of course, the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. Here, Jesus is talking with the disciples just before they watch Him ascend into the sky. It may be that this is part of the same conversation Matthew recorded, but we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that the disciples showed themselves yet again supremely capable when it came to missing the point. They do this by asking when Jesus is going to claim His kingdom. They were still thinking about His mission in earthly terms.
Jesus shook His head (well, Luke doesn’t say He did, but you have to think it at least crossed His mind) and told the guys that they were going to be His witnesses throughout the world. Specifically, they were going to be His witnesses when they were filled with power from the Holy Spirit. And that’s exactly what they did. They waited in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, and then went crazy on the world. In a matter of 300 years, they would overcome the resistance of Rome. Historians and sociologists are still analyzing how they did that as quickly as they did.
Over the last couple of weeks, though, I have been reading through a devotion on handling emotions in a way that brings God glory. This is not because I’m a particularly emotional person – I’m not – but because I want to make sure that I am handling emotions that do come up in God-honoring ways. At the same time, I don’t think this reading plan was entirely for me. There have been multiple instances since I started it in which I have been able to share what I’ve been learning with other folks who were struggling to get a handle on their emotions for one reason or another.
Honestly, it’s been a challenging devotional to read because while the devotions themselves have generally been really good, they haven’t always connected as well to the accompanying Scriptures. Or, they’ve taken a passage I’ve understood one way and run off in a different direction with it. Sometimes I’ve had to simply agree to disagree, but sometimes – like in this instance – it has challenged me to see something in a new light. Perhaps a better way to put it is that it has helped me see some implications of what Jesus said that go beyond simply sharing the Gospel.
The first implication is connected to the first thing Jesus says. He told the disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them. The coming of the Holy Spirit was not a promise just for them. It was for all of Jesus’ followers ever since. When we have given our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in our hearts to shape and guide us in the direction of becoming more fully who God designed us to be. Let me put that more plainly: If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you.
Just let that one sit on you for a second. This is a powerful truth that too many of us (myself included) do not countenance nearly as fully as we should. If you are in Christ, you are not ever alone in any of the things He has called you to do. Ever. You don’t ever have to operate on your own strength. You never have to wonder how you are going to manage to get through whatever it is you are facing in the moment. You don’t have to be overwhelmed by life. None of that. You have the Holy Spirit’s power coursing through you. All you have to do is lean into that power and move forward.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have superpowers. That’s not even remotely what Jesus was talking about. You don’t get access to God’s divine attributes. But you do have Him with you. And His power does give you power over a whole lot of things this world will throw at you to try to knock you off God’s path.
The other thing Jesus said is that once we have this power, we will be His witnesses. You were made to be a witness of the resurrected Christ. God’s Spirit dwelling in your heart, then, enables you to become fully who God designed you to be. You can help others move in that direction as well.
Neither of these things takes away from the fact that Jesus was calling the disciples to advance the Gospel here. What they do instead is to point us to the fact that advancing the Gospel, proclaiming God’s kingdom, doing evangelism, are not siloed activities that we pursue separate and apart from the rest of our lives. With the power of the Holy Spirit in us, enabling us to be His witnesses, we can commit our entire lives to the task. Every part of us can play a role in seeing an unbelieving world discover something worth believing in. Let’s commit to doing just that.