As I prepared my message last week I was particularly moved by the correlation between the gift of Holy Spirit power and the mission of God's people as described in Acts 1.
It's a fairly common verse that we all have heard but I wonder if we get the powerful implications of Christ's admonition:
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The most often emphasized element of this passage is the calling. Christ tells us, "Be my witnesses, not just at home, but throughout the world." There is no doubt that this command is central to the mission of the church but I fear for many this direction by Christ has become far too sanitized. The word that is translated as witness is the greek word martys. Just a quick reading should give you a clue to the magnitude of this calling. This is where we get our word martyr. The Websters dictionary defines it like this: one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles; one who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle. We Christians so often blithely go about our lives, "living as Christians" and inserting a message of Christ when the opportunity arrives and consider that a fulfillment of being witnesses but the command to martys is so much greater then simply this lifestyle. It is to martyrdom. For all. Now, we might not be stoned like Stephen or beheaded like Paul or burned at the stake like Jan Hus but we are all called to lay down our lives; to die with Christ, as Paul puts it in Romans. The commitment to Christianity is not simply about a prayer or joining a spiritual community but an active sacrifice of personal will, comfort and purpose. The Christian walk has become far to cheap a calling and when that is the case we don't really understand the role the Holy Spirit must play.
When you understand Christ's charge to the disciples, to us, to be martys you really understand why he told them to go to Jerusalem and tarry until the Holy Spirit came upon them. You understand more clearly why Christ said he had to leave so "the Comforter", God's Spirit, could come. They needed, we need, the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill this calling. Francis Chan wrote a great book about the importance of the Holy Spirit entitled "Forgotten God" and the premise that motivated this book was the belief that many in the American church have forgotten the Holy Spirit's vital role in the believer's life. I agree with his assessment and I believe one of the greatest contributers to this condition is how unaware we are of the great sacrifice, and even suffering, that is required to follow the path of Jesus. We have made Christianity too cheap and too easy in an attempt to make it attractive.
If we are going to truly be His witnesses, His martys, we will need to receive power. May we seek the power of the Holy Spirit and may it manifest in our lives and in our church.