Tag Archives: witness

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

HolySpiritAnointingTo understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we must keep in mind the Big Picture:

After Adam’s fall, Satan rules, and the whole cosmos falls under sin and corruption. God’s plan is to redeem humanity and the cosmos. He will destroy sin and corruption through Jesus Christ and reconcile the world to Himself. He will do it in relationship with redeemed humanity through the agency of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer, giving new life and power to those who cooperate with Him.

John the Baptist anticipates this New Day when he says, “I baptize with water, but the One who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Holy Spirit is key to destruction of Satan’s dominion, restoring God’s original purpose in its fullness. The Holy Spirit will work through the lives of Satan’s former subjects, once captive to sin, now free in Christ, to bring about his total destruction.

In short, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is key to effective witness and completion of the Great Commission, which will usher in the triumphant Second Advent of Jesus Christ.

This plan terrifies Satan. He desperately wants to limit the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s redeemed children. He does all in his power to blind God’s children to the reality and power of the Holy Spirit. He works overtime, getting us to waste time and energy in pointless arguments about the Holy Spirit.

He bends over backward trying to get us to fear the mis-use of Holy Spirit power so that we take the opposite extreme of dis-use. This keeps us from being open and receptive to His infilling so that the Holy Spirit can use us in supernatural ways.

He tries to turn the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its many blessings into a curse that separates members of God’s family from one another.

All of this grieves the Holy Spirit. Let us not fall into Satan’s traps. Let us remember how Acts 2 began to fulfill the prophecy of Joel 2. Let us remember how the Holy Spirit radically transformed the disciples. Let us remember how the Holy Spirit turned that first-century persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, into Jesus’ most faithful missionary.

Let us remember those first centuries of church history when the Holy Spirit caused the church, weak in the eyes of the world, to grow in spite of persecution and outlast their persecutors through our own day.

Let us remember that the Holy Spirit has planted within each of us as His children His New Life. As His children, we have the life of God, Creator of the universe, living within us.

Because life in the Holy Spirit is a relationship, we must renew our relationship with Him day by day as a husband and wife must renew their relationship with one another day by day and even hour by hour and minute by minute for the marriage
to work.

Let us remember the Big Picture of who we are in Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit. Then we will become His more effective witnesses in the world to fulfill the Great Commission and usher in the fullness of His kingdom. We will become His agents to answer the prayer we have long prayed: “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

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Your Life, His Grace

In the Greek New Testament, the word for “witness” is also the root word for “martyr.” When Jesus tells His disciples, “You shall be my witnesses…,” He is also saying, “You will lay down your lives for My sake.”

This does not mean that we must seek martyrdom to become a “witness” for Christ. But it requires that we count the cost of discipleship. We must see ourselves as soldiers for Christ. When a new recruit takes his oath of loyalty, he gives his superiors the right to send him anywhere, even into battles that require great risk to his life, from which he may not return.

A-bigger-lifeTo become a “witness” for Christ means that we serve a life bigger than this earthly life. The circumstances of our lives are short and uncertain. There are other things better and eternal, centered on Christ. A true “witness,” like Jesus, has compassion upon people and a world that wander like sheep without a shepherd. Whether in life or death, true witnesses trust Jesus to provide everything they need, to go wherever He says to go.

Jesus warns His “witnesses” that He may assign them to take the gospel as “sheep to wolves.” Many will gladly accept the Good News, but others will hate the “witness,” claim that he is destroying society and seek to defame him or her.

Like Jesus, witnesses may also have to stand before the authorities in trial for their faith. But their suffering will further the gospel, and the Holy Spirit will give them the words to say at the right time.

We are to become Christ’s witnesses with the perspective of Christ’s own suffering and of His Second Coming. We are to know that whatever suffering we face will bring glory to God, a great reward in heaven and ultimate judgment for those who persecute us. We are to know that even if we lose our lives, human power over us ends at death, but God’s power is eternal.

Grace is costly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us. The gift is free, but it costs our lives. Beware of “cheap grace,” he warns, “the grace that we [not God] bestow on ourselves…forgiveness without repentance…baptism without discipline, communion without confession.”

“Costly grace,” he goes on, “costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew what he was talking about. God called him as a witness to serve Him in Nazi Germany—a place unfriendly to the gospel. He became a leader of the Confessing Church when other German churches were giving in to Hitler. His friends wanted to save him by bringing him to America, but after a few months, Bonhoeffer knew he must return to the place God called him.

Bonhoeffer indeed paid with his life, but he became the ultimate winner. Days after his death, Hitler went down to defeat—and suicide. Bonhoeffer’s witness continues throughout the world in his writings and his example of commitment to Jesus Christ.

This month, as we celebrate Christ’s costly sacrifice and His triumphant resurrection, may each of us also count the cost of discipleship and commit ourselves to effective witness however and wherever Christ calls us.

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His Witnesses

witnessThree years before he became President, Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer, was called to defend an old family friend accused of murder. The murder took place at night, and a key witness said that he saw the defendant kill the man “by the light of the full moon.” This seemed compelling evidence, beyond reasonable doubt.

However, during cross-examination, Lincoln used a simple almanac to prove that on the night of the murder, there was no full moon. The accuser could not have seen what he claimed to see.

Today, we all stand accused by Satan of crimes against our Creator. His evidence against us appears beyond reasonable doubt: we all stand guilty before God. But through Jesus Christ, God has evidence on our behalf that saves us from our arch-accuser, Satan.

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they would become His witnesses to His power to save, and that their witness would carry them to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

What kind of compelling “witness” did Jesus have in mind for us? How effective is our “witness” to others?

The Greek word for “witness” used by Luke has more than one meaning. First, a “witness” is one who speaks from first-hand experience about actions in which he participates. Specifically, this “witness” means our testimony to others of our relationship with Jesus Christ and what God has done in our lives.

Second, a “witness” is one who makes an evangelistic confession of specific truths. In Luke 24, Jesus said that this “witness” must include the truths involving His suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day—the key to our salvation. It must declare the need for repentance from sin to receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

Luke tells us that Jesus sent His disciples forth on their mission as “witnesses” with the promise of His Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, an effective witness depends upon trust in the word of God to empower us and bless our witness in great and marvelous ways.

Before He left them, Jesus grounded their “witness” firmly in the scriptures. He systematically showed them how the entire Old Testament—“the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”—was the foundation for His saving life, death and resurrection.

In short, effective “witness” comprises four major elements for compelling communication to others: (1) personal experience, (2) clear evangelistic confession, (3) trust in Holy Spirit power and (4) solid biblical foundations. If one or more of these elements is lacking, our “witness” suffers, and a needy world fails to hear the Good News and escape Satan’s accusations.

How well are we doing? Is our society becoming more or less committed to the Christ of our “witness”? Too often, we must admit, our words and actions have denied Jesus. Too often, we have played the coward, fleeing from opportunities and hiding from opposition.

Clearly, as we read our daily news today, we have much for which to repent. But let us not become discouraged. Let us remember that the success of the disciples’ witness followed only after their own abject failures and cowardice. Let us heed their example of repentance, for God’s forgiveness and renewal is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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