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1In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
3He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
8But 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.”
9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,
11and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-8 ESV)
Recently I wrote an article called Time Tunnel. It’s an old television series that I enjoyed watching as a kid. With the time tunnel, the television characters traveled through time, back and forth. If a time tunnel existed, we could be able to travel through time, and we could relive our lives again. Well, time tunnel doesn’t exist, but as Christians, we can move on with our lives.
After the resurrection, for a period of forty days Jesus appeared to His followers on many occasions, and after that He ascended to heaven. In the traditional Church calendar, there’s a day that marks this special occasion, we call it the Ascension Day. The ascension of Jesus is key to Christians for a number of reasons. Just shortly before His departure on earth, Jesus commanded His followers to wait for the Holy Spirit. He did so for the benefit of all human beings. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can move on with our lives with purpose and power. The presence and power of God’s Spirit mark the new beginnings of our lives. Yes, we cannot relive our lives, but we will have a new beginning in Christ. God is the Lord of second chances, as He gives us a new beginning.
1) Wait (Acts 1:4-5)
There is a key word about Ascension Day is wait. On His ascension, Jesus commanded His followers to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
What’s the baptism with the Holy Spirit? Some theologians and pastors associate the baptism with the Holy Spirit with supernatural power, miracles and speaking of tongues, etc. But according to my humble opinion, it wasn’t what Luke was saying here. In the Bible, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is mentioned only seven times. Another phrase for the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the filling of God’s Spirit. In Acts 2:4 and 11:15, Jews and non-Jews were baptised by the Holy Spirit. Two events witness the fact that all believers are united in Jesus Christ.
The Birthday of the Church
Why is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit so special? It is because without the descent of God’s Spirit, the Universal Church wouldn’t come into existence. According to my theological belief, I believe the birthday of the Church falls on the Day of Pentecost. On that special day, all believers in Christ were baptized by the Holy Spirit, thus joining them to the universal church. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit formed the first local church in Jerusalem. As you can see, the baptism of the Holy Spirit marks the new beginning of Christians.
Start with A Clean Slate. The disciples didn’t do too well before the resurrection appearances of Jesus. Jesus commanded them to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit that they could start their faith journey all over again. At the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the disciples could start with a clean slate.
New life begins when we become followers of Jesus. People often say, “Let bygones be bygones.” Our past is history, what matters most is the days ahead of us. Shortly before the ascension of Jesus, He promised them the filling of the Holy Spirit – a guarantee that they could start their spiritual lives all over again. What’s that? As I told you so many times in the sermon series Second Chance, God is the Lord of second chances.
Before we became Christians, we only lived and breathed for ourselves, but as Christians, we should live and breathe for Jesus Christ. For those who know me well, they know I don’t like sushi. It would be rare for you to see me at a sushi bar. Let me ask you a question: can we be a witness for God by eating sushi? Of course, we can. Before we became Christians, we only eat and drink for our own enjoyment. As Christ followers, we still enjoy eating and drinking, but with a thanksgiving heart.
With Power and Purpose
Before we became believers in Christ, we might be a bad student, a horrible son, a rebellious daughter, or a lousy worker. As Christians, we can move on with our lives with God-given power and purpose.
Wait Is Stay Put
What do we mean by wait? Wait is stay where you are. Wait is stay put. 4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; (Acts 1:4 ESV) Jesus told the disciples to stop departing from Jerusalem, implying that at this point the disciples had been coming and going from the Holy City. In simple terms, Jesus told His followers to stay put. Some people are suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Similarly, some believers suffer from some sort of spiritual ADHD as well. They cannot sit still. They cannot be still that they can attentively pray.
Waiting Is Hard
Modern people don’t have patience. Many people are not satisfied with 4G. As to many users, it is not good enough. Many people want to have 5G as soon as possible. You know many Chinese still practice ancestral worship. When their loved ones die, they would burn paper goods to them, hoping they would continue to have material goods in another world. One day, I was surprised to see a paper iPhone marked with 5G at an Asian supermarket. As you can see, all human beings don’t have patience – all want to have faster smartphones and networks. As Christians, we must wait upon God, but it’s a difficult lesson.
Ever since I started to use internet, I saw the possibility of using internet to connect with non-believers and believers alike. I always wanted to have my own web ministry. Honestly speaking, I have waited for more than ten years to start my e-ministry. Waiting is a very hard lesson, especially I am a person without much patience.
Challenge to You
Believers in Christ, quiet time or devotion is a means to wait on God. As we are living in a corrupt world, we could be polluted morally. As we draw near to God, we can ask Him for cleansing our thoughts and minds. The Holy Spirit can cleanse us with His mighty power.
Wait is Submission
What does wait on God mean? Wait on God involves submission to Him.
All for Jesus
I like an old song by Robin Mark. It’s called All for Jesus. The lyrics touched my heart: “All of my ambitions, hopes and plans I surrender these into Your hands.”
Recently a news headline captured my attention. It says Germany’s Protestant and Catholic churches will lose half of their members by 2060. Sadly, it’s the fate of many churches in the western world too. Many Christians in North America are physically rich, but spiritually poor. What western Christians need is to have a submissive heart.
Wait for His Presence and Power
The baptism of John the Baptist is all about repentance, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is about the presence and the power of God’s Spirit. With the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, believers will start to experience God’s presence and power. At the baptism of the Holy Spirit, believers in Christ will receive the spiritual gifts from God, so that we can effectively witness for Christ. Jesus commanded His disciples to wait for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. When we wait on God, His presence might be manifested in the form of His words. Through His comforting words, we can feel His presence.
The Presence of God’s Words
26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV) One power that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles was the ability to accurately recall and proclaim all that Jesus taught them.
As a preacher, I must confess to you that preaching isn’t an easy thing. Oftentimes, I simply ran out of things to preach, but strangely, new preaching ideas and Bible passages came to my mind. With the presence of God’s Spirit, He empowers me to preach.
Waiting on God
We wait on God in devotion. If you go to a restaurant, what are your expectations of waiters and waitresses? I think it’s natural that we expect servers to listen attentively to our needs and requests. If your server keeps on talking about himself or herself and doesn’t show any interest of waiting on you, of course, you would be furious. As Christians, we must humbly wait on God.
Serving God is a must and a good thing, but we must spend more time waiting on Him for His instructions and directions. It’s unavoidable to have church board meetings. Sadly, church board meetings are full of human voices and ideas, but lack of God’s voice and His opinion. As church leaders and volunteers, we must learn to wait on God. We should learn to talk less in board meetings but humbly seek God’s heart before planning and making decisions.
The Power to Convict Sinners
With the power of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the apostles convicted hearers of their sin and of their need for a Savior (John 16:7–11). Being invited to preach at evangelistic events is stressful, as church leaders have high expectation that non-believers would turn to Christ for salvation. As a pastor, I understand I cannot persuade people to come to faith in Christ by my speech and power. The conversion of non-believers is purely the work of God’s Spirit.
2) Witness (Acts 1:8)
Witness as Eyewitnesses
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)Shortly before the ascension of Jesus, He told the Apostles to be His eyewitnesses. As the Apostles had witnessed the earthly ministry, the death, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus, they were chosen to be the eyewitnesses of Jesus.
Witness by Our Personal Experience
Although Christians haven’t eyewitnessed the earthly ministry of Jesus, we could still testify for Him. Jesus has touched, changed and saved our lives, so we could testify to the world that He is our Lord and Redeemer. In short, we witness for Christ by our personal experience. We all have our unique salvation stories to tell, so be prepared to share it with our non-believing friends and relatives. Do you know how to share your salvation story? Write it up. You can share your testimony within three minutes.
Witness with Head Knowledge and Heart Knowledge
To be a witness is to speak from personal knowledge of facts and their implication. As Christians, we should have ample head knowledge or rational knowledge about our Christian faith, but sadly, many believers are wishy-washy in this area. Many people like to read tabloids. In tabloids, you can read a lot of sensational crime stories and gossip columns about celebrities and sports stars. Facts can be boring, but stories are captivating. Many non-believers might not be interested to know about the facts of Christianity, but they might be curious to know your salvation story. Your salvation story is the heart knowledge or experiential knowledge of your faith. How can we effectively witness to non-believing friends? By means of head and heart knowledge of our faith. As for this very reason, I have come up with my own Bible study method. iEXP Bible Study Method is comprised of head and heart knowledge. By means of using this iEXP, you would gain rational knowledge and experiential knowledge.
Witness for Jesus
As followers of Christ, we are witnesses to Jesus. The focus of our witness is Jesus. A Bible scholar says it well: “The less Jesus is the core of witness, the less power we have.” Our testimonies are not about us but the amazing things Jesus has done in our lives.
Our Vocation is a Witness
As believers in Christ, we should know the vocation of our lives. You are called to be a student, a teacher, a mother, a father, or a missionary, etc. Our callings might be unique, but the key is to be a witness to Jesus. We witness to Jesus by our words. We testify to the world by our works. We affirm the authenticity of the Gospel by our temporal existence on earth.
Witness with Power
Christians should witness for Jesus with power. Where does the power come from? It comes from God’s presence and His power. Remember the last words of Jesus: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT) Jesus has the power in heaven and on earth. If we were obedient to be His disciples, Jesus would be with us all the time. Sharing the Gospel is not just a skill. We should share it with power and conviction. The key is with God’s presence and power, we can effectively lead non-believers to Christ. Many years ago, I was invited to preach in a New York church. New York is a fascinating place and there are so many interesting sightseeing sites that I would love to visit. Instead of shopping and sightseeing that weekend, I stayed in a small church room praying and preparing for my message instead. For the benefit of the audience, I rather prayed for power instead of having pleasure in sightseeing. Do you want your unsaved family members saved? First of all, be an obedient disciple. Second, pray for the opportunity to share the Gospel with your loved ones. Third, you have to pray for God’s presence and power to witness to them.
9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT) As Jesus was on His way to heaven, His followers were reluctant to part with Him. They were passively watching the ascension of Jesus.
While they were passively watching the departure of Jesus, two angels appeared. They reminded the Apostles that Jesus would return to earth. Instead of passively watching, the Apostles should engage in actively watching and waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
In the football world, some great defenders are worth millions of dollars because they are not ball watchers. Good defenders are always actively watching for the possible dangers. As Christians, we shouldn’t be ball watchers, but should engage in actively watching and waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
God has already baptised us with His Spirit. All we have to do is to be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God is a God of second chances. He has already granted us the Holy Spirit so that we can live our lives to the fullest.