Category Archives: Eastertide

Can I Get A Witness? The Power to Witness

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:22 (NKJ)

I remember as a child being cramped in the back seat of my parent’s car with my siblings and cousins. We would spend a large percentage of the journey pushing and elbowing each other in retaliation for being in such close quarters.  As part of our protest, one or more of the children would tattle on the other, crying out, “He (or she) breathed on me!”  The hidden message in that shriek was that someone’s personal space had been violated.  Imagine the risen Christ breathing on you.  What would your reaction be?  Why would Jesus do such a thing?  It would be in the “breathing” that the power to witness would be commissioned.

Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection are recorded in all the Gospel writings, however, our study text of Jesus breathing on the Disciples is found only in John. This passage (John 20:19-23) has been debated by many theologians as to its meaning in the formation of the Early Church and its relevance to the Church today.  Was this breathing the promised Holy Spirit Jesus had spoken of earlier?  (John 14:16-17; 16:17-18)

After much analysis and examination, theologians generally agree that “the breathing” is best understood as a pledge by Jesus that the Holy Spirit would be given later in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Luke 24:49).  One expositor describes this event as a “prophetic breathing” that revealed to the Disciples “the secret power” that would enable them to continue the work of Christ.

Christ’s resurrection and the promised coming of the Holy Spirit emboldened Jesus’ disciples to continue the work Jesus had begun:   “That he that believed shall be saved” (Mark 16:15, 16).  This same group that hid themselves in a room for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), would later stand with Peter at Pentecost as he proclaimed, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32).  It would be the Holy Spirit that would provide the power and boldness needed to share that witness with the world.

What is the relevance of “the breathing” for believers in the 21st century?  That same Holy Spirit that enabled the disciples now resides within every believer today and has empowered us to faithfully witness for Jesus Christ.  Our Resurrection witness is as critical today as it was in the formation of the Early Church.   Sinful behavior has become commonplace as it goes unchallenged. Adoption of worldview lifestyles continues to lead to spiritual deception, wanton depravity, and dismissal of holy living. The world is in desperate need of witnesses.  Let us walk in the power which now resides within us.   Receive the breathe of the Savior and witness boldly through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Good to the Last Byte…

Biblical scholar, G. Campbell Morgan, adds insight to the Disciples’ future commissioning by noting the use of two different verbs, “sent and send” in John 20:21.  Jesus states, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”  Sent (apostello) stands for delegated authority; one set apart and therefore sent.  Send (pempo) means to be dispatched under authority.  God sent Jesus with His delegated authority—Jesus was sending the Disciples under the authority of the Holy Spirit.  The clause, “And when He had said this” (John 20:22) ties the “sending commission” with the ability to do it—the future giving of the Holy Spirit.

Can I Get A Witness? Our Resurrection Witness

“And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NRS)

“Somebody, somewhere…can I get a witness? Let me hear you…can I get a witness?  I want a witness!  Just a little bit louder…can I get a witness?”  These pleas aren’t coming from a person falsely accused or someone currently incarcerated, but are the lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s 1963 hit recording, “Can I Get a Witness?” (I was still in junior high school)

You would think that living in an age of IPhones and Instagram that personal witnessing would no longer be needed.  However, witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are still necessary to address an unbelieving and lost world (1 Cor. 1:23).  With this thought in mind, we’ve chosen to focus April’s teachings on the importance of our Christian witness and why we believe what we do.  Can I get a witness?

Easter or Resurrection Sunday is unlike any other day in the history of mankind.  On that day Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35) resolved the issue of sin (Mat. 1:21).  As a result of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, man, who was spiritually dead, lived again (1 Cor. 15:21-22). The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is more that an event; it is the heart of the Good New Message, which believers are commissioned to proclaim:  Jesus Christ came from heaven and died for our sins.  He rose from the dead.  Now we have eternal life.  This is the Resurrection witness.

Witnessing is defined as the presentation of evidence.  The early church’s presentation of and confidence in the gospel was directly proportional to their confidence in the reliability and accuracy of the witness put forth by Jesus’ followers.  Their witness would first serve as a defense of Jesus Himself and the gospel message.  Secondly, their witness would become the vehicle for presenting the gospel.  Jesus’ followers could provide firsthand knowledge about Jesus’ earthly ministry, from John’s baptism to Jesus’ ascension.  Such witness would later provide credible sources for the rich content of the Synoptic Gospels.  Jesus’ followers were Resurrection witnesses.

Resurrection Sunday was not only a historical fact but it is also a holy commissioning.  Witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a practice that was isolated to the first century church but is even more critical as believers are challenged to “give a witness for the hope that lies within them”(1 Pet. 3:15).   Living in this post-modern age, belief in the resurrection is viewed as a fable perpetuated by the Church to justify its existence or for mental weaklings using their faith as a “spiritual crutch”.  It is time that the Church, individually and collectively, begin to take our anointed and appointed position as Resurrection witnesses.  Look for “resources” and other teaching links on our website  each week to support your growth as Resurrection witnesses.

Everything’s Looking Up, Part 2

“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” Luke 24:51 (KJV)

We spend a lot of time talking about the incarnation of Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection but often neglect the ascension, a key element in the ministry and work of Christ. If we stop at the resurrection event, we miss the full power of God. This power that raised Jesus from the grave also lifted Him to heaven. The ascension completes the ministry of Christ as affirmed in our Statement of Faith: “We believe in Jesus Christ…crucified, dead, and buried; the third day He arose from the dead; He ascended in heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” This statement successfully captures the full efficacy of Jesus’ ministry.

Christ’s ascension is a defining moment in Christianity much like His Advent. While the ascension marked the conclusion of Christ’s ministry on earth, it also initiated three (3) key changes for all who would follow Him as Lord and Savior. The Ascension would result in:

#1. The Holy Spirit’s ENTRANCE. Jesus had earlier reminded the Disciples that His departure was necessary in order that the Holy Spirit would come. This transference of power to the Disciples would occur through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) resulting in “even greater works” than had been accomplished by Jesus (John 14:12). The Holy Spirit’s arrival would also result in the “gifting” of individuals for the edification of the Church (Ep. 4:8). Lastly, the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance the truths that Jesus had taught the disciples during His time with them. He would add clarity and understanding to many of Christ’s teachings that would later be included in the infallible record of the Gospels.

#2. The Disciples’ ENGAGEMENT. The forty days prior to Jesus’ ascension provided a critical transition period in which Jesus could prepare the Disciples for their new commission. During that time Jesus answered their questions, banished their fears, and opened their minds to the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-48). The ascension marked the beginning of the Disciples apostolic calling. After receipt of the Holy Spirit, they would be empowered to be the primary propagators of the Gospel beginning in Jerusalem and then expanding to Judea and Samaria and finally to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

#3. Jesus Christ’s EXALTATION. After the ascension, Jesus Christ was placed on the throne at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus’ position of honor signified the acceptance of His “once for all” sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12) and His triumph over the forces of evil and Satan (Heb.2:14). Jesus has ascended to heaven where He now reigns as Lord and King (Rev. 19:16). It is there that He: (1) governs the universe, (2) rules the Church, (3) gives aid to believers, and (4) intercedes for believers. The ascended Christ is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that named” (Ep. 1:21). In 2015 Jesus Christ reigns!

And what does all this business of ascension have to do with believers living in the 21st century? Everything! Although Christ’s entered through the filter of time, the impact of His life and ministry extends throughout eternity. Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension provide the foundation on which believers appropriate God’s grace—His mercy and His power. Our response is seen in a life style that reflects our Lord and King.

The Holy Spirit’s entrance provides believers with a litany of gifts and powers to successfully navigate in a chaotic and tumultuous world—much like that which the Disciples faced. He is there to provide guidance and direction to accomplish the purpose for which God has created us. The Holy Spirit is the source of truth in all things protecting us from the world’s deception and Satan’s lies (John 16:13).

The Disciples engagement is the same for believers today. Our commission is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ within our sphere of influence. We too have received the call to faithfully evangelize whenever possible. We can begin our commission by witnessing to what we personally have seen Christ do in our lives and his love for others—love that was demonstrated by His death, resurrection, and ascension (Rom. 5:8). Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

The knowledge of Christ’s exaltation is the place where believers can respond with great joy and confidence. Christ seated in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20) reigning as Lord and triumphant King of the universe. It is because of this fact that we can be assured that the world is not spinning out of control because He is sovereignly overseeing current history and our destiny (Ps. 103:19). In addition, Jesus love and benevolence doesn’t end with His ascent into heaven for it is there that He acts as our High Priest continually making intercession before the Father on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).

Jesus ascended “materialistically, physically, and bodily” into heaven. This is no fable or folklore; neither is this an illusion or the result of some mass hysteria. It happened then and Jesus will “return in like manner” (Act 1:11). Christ is ascended. And what should our response be? Like the Disciples let us worship and praise Him (Luke 24:52).

Crown Him with many crowns
The Lamb upon His throne
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own
Awake my soul and sing
Of Him who died for thee
And hail Him as the matchless King
Through all eternity.

Everything’s Looking Up, Part 1

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;

and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (KJV)

I have now added the Book of Acts to my list of favorite Bible books. Why? Because it bears witness to the fact of what can happen when ordinary people (and the Church) cooperate with supernatural power (the Holy Spirit). And what is the result? Extraordinary ministry! I’m sure the disciples felt that things were “looking up” since once again Jesus was present with them. But they had much to learn from Jesus before He ascended to heaven.

It had been forty days since Resurrection Sunday and Jesus wasted no time in completing His earthly ministry. After His ascension, Jesus would give His commandments to His “sent ones”, the newly commissioned apostles through the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:2). Knowing His departure was rapidly approaching, Jesus directed His energies to two activities: presenting evidence of His resurrection and teaching concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

How did Jesus prove His resurrection? Not only by the witness of others (1 Cor. 15:4-7) but Jesus Himself would offer “infallible proofs.” Perhaps He showed unbelievers His nail scarred hands and His pierced side. For those who challenged the stories of His resurrection, Jesus might have walked through closed doors as He did Easter afternoon with his disciples (John 20:19) or suddenly joined scoffers at their evening meal and ate in their presence to prove He was no ghost or apparition (Luke 24:41-43).

What did Jesus teach His disciples concerning the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God was the future Millennial Kingdom—the thousand year bodily reign of Jesus upon the earth (Rev.20:1-6). Jesus had spoken to the disciples before about an earthly, literal kingdom (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30). Through the Millennial Kingdom “God would burst into human history in a spectacular way to establish His rule on earth.” [1] Perhaps He reminded the disciples of the faithfulness of God in His promise to establish the throne of David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:13; Jer. 33:17-21). Knowledge of God’s faithfulness and eternal promises would outweigh any deterrent they might face in the future (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Jesus left his disciples two instructions. First they were to wait for the “Promise of the Father”, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). Jesus also waited for the Holy Spirit before beginning His ministry (Matt. 3:16). The new apostles would need the Spirit’s power to accomplish their work. Second, they were commanded to be witnesses of Jesus “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The spreading of the Gospel would require the disciples to move from the familiar to the unknown, expanding their territory and their audience. However, if they followed Jesus’ instruction and the Holy Spirit, the result would be “extraordinary ministry.”

In this time and place, there is both the need and the possibility to create extraordinary ministry. Jesus has given us the commission to go and to make disciples, to teach and to witness, just as He did (Matt. 28:19-20). We need not wait for the Holy Spirit. He is living within every believer and is ready to empower us to complete the work that Jesus began. Jesus has provided us witnesses and infallible proofs within the Gospel narratives and the Bible in general. We have the guarantee of eternal promises that begin now and extend into eternity. It’s time to move out of our comfort zones and embrace the work that Jesus has gifted us to do. Let us live each day with intentionality creating extraordinary ministry. Are you ready?

Good to the Last Byte…
John’s disciples had baptized (dipped or immersed) with water. Jesus disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit–here the idea is one of “uniting with” Him (1 Cor. 10:1, 2). This supernatural power would also become the means for doing “signs and wonders” therein demonstrating Christ’s authority and power. Uniting with the Holy Spirit is still possible today and is the only means of accomplishing the mission and vision of Christ in the world.

The Believer’s Meaning and Reality

Every Sunday our church recites in unison our affirmation of faith—a series of declarations as to who God is and the mission of our church as part of His kingdom. Many congregations share in this tradition by reading The Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. The intent of this practice is to express collective agreement and commitment to the basic tenets of Christian faith. In the past as I recited our affirmation I was not fully aware of its significance for me personally. However, as I study the Apostles’ writings during this Eastertide season, I have discovered its application for me in my spiritual formation. My favorite declaration is found at the beginning of our affirmation. “We believe in God, Who is the absolute source of life from whom all creation derives its meaning and reality.” It is this meaning and reality I’d like to discuss today.

The Apostle Paul understood the importance of knowing the source of one’s meaning. Jesus shared Paul’s meaning with him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:6). This would serve to guide him through many trials and difficulties finally landing him at the court of Rome. The philosophers of Athens, on the other hand, fancied themselves as great thinkers and orators, spending their day debating over the latest doctrines, beliefs, and suppositions. They were less impressed with Paul’s credentials, describing him as a “babbler setting forth a strange god because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection” (v. 18). Unfortunately this group placed the meaning of life on intelligence and the ability to answer difficult questions. In spite of their intellect, they didn’t know the name of THE UNKNOWN GOD on whose altar they inscribed this title; they did this in response to local superstition. However, Paul personally knew THE UNKNOWN GOD. It was that same god who “made the world and all things therein” (v. 24).

Paul introduced the scoffers to the reality of God as the Sovereign Creator of the universe. God created everything they were familiar with. God was over all things—living and inanimate and it is in Him alone that “they lived and moved and have their being” (v. 28). Paul knew that Creator God was “the source of life not gods of “gold, or silver, or stone” (v. 29). The men of Athens foolishly erected altars to dead gods but the God of Heaven and Earth resurrected the Living Savior. Paul closes his oration to the Athenians by calling them to repentance (v. 30) in realization that they would ultimately face a time of righteous judgment by “that man” whom God has ordained (Jesus). This final reality was authenticated by the Christ’s resurrection (v. 31).

How does Paul’s teaching to Athenians speak to believers today? Believer’s reality and meaning must be grounded in God. That reality began in the Garden of Eden. Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny is tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3). This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted. Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood. Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15). “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).