"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.."
- Acts 1:8
It's hard to be a dedicated serious Christian! Have you ever found that to be true yourself? It seems to be just a simple fact the living in this dark world as a follower of Jesus Christ is very challenging at times.
We can see that it's difficult to be a Christian by looking at the church HISTORICALLY. Simply by examining the lives of the 12 disciples and other early Christians, we see how hard it was to follow Christ devoutly during the first two hundred years of the church.
Historically we know that Paul the Apostle was beheaded in Rome ; Peter was crucified upside down; Matthew was skinned alive; Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross; Thomas was speared to death in India; Luke was hung on a tree in Greece; and even Timothy, as an old bishop, was stoned to death on the streets of Ephesus by pagan priests!
But we also see that BIBLICALLY it is very demanding to be a serious disciple of Jesus Christ. In Luke 9:23 Jesus said:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Jesus here tells us that to be a sincere disciple of his, we need to ensure that 3 vital things are happening in our lives:
1. LAYING DOWN our lives - Jesus calls us to cast aside our natural selfishness, and to choose to follow His leading for our lives instead, His goals, His values. Jesus wants us to not live for ourselves, and for our dreams, but rather for his dreams and intentions for our lives.
2. LIFTING UP our cross - Jesus challenges us to find our mission from God in this life. Jesus had a mission to die upon the cross for the sins of humanity, so each of us has a mission and a calling from God for our lives personally. Jesus wants us to seek it out on a daily basis and choose to fulfill it, though it will be difficult.
3. LED BY Christ - Jesus invites us to follow him and join his path of discipleship as a matter of lifestyle. He calls us into partnership with him, so that he would be the leader and director of our life, instead of culture, friends, or our own desires. Jesus invites us to look to Him and Him alone as our Supreme teacher leader and master for this life.
But honestly speaking, what Christian has sufficient strength in and of themselves for these three things? Answer: NOBODY!!
There isn't a single Christian on this entire planet that has enough power and ability within themselves to effectively follow Jesus and be a true Biblical disciple!
But that's okay, because Jesus knew this is exactly what would happen! Jesus, being God in the flesh, always knew how challenging it would be leaving his disciples to live the Christian faith in a dark and hostile world, that is overrun by the kingdom of darkness.
So what has Jesus provided for us that will enable us to be successful and effective disciples in a dark and hostile world? What has Jesus given to the Church to ensure that we will be bold witnesses for Him, spreading the Faith throughout the world, and aggressively expanding the Kingdom? Answer: God the Holy Spirit!!
Jesus, knowing the intense persecutions and challenging tribulations that awaited His Church, told His disciples beforehand that He would send to them God the Holy Spirit to comfort them, teach them, strengthen them, and guide them. Jesus taught His disciples in John 14:16,17 concerning the Holy Spirit:
"I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
Here Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is to be our "Helper". This word is the Greek noun "paracletos" meaning one who comes along side to help and assist you. Do YOU look at God the Holy Spirit like this - sent by Christ and the Father to help and assist you in your daily struggles?
Actually, the Holy Spirit is so powerful and effective at helping us in our walk, Jesus actually made an amazing statement in John 16:7. He told the disciples:
"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you."
Whaaat?!? How could it be better for them (or us) if Jesus were to leave? There are a couple of reasons why I believe that Jesus said this:
1. God the Holy Spirit can be with every believer, all the time.
Jesus was limited as to where He could be while in His human body. But the Holy Spirit is in and with every believer all over the planet. The Lord, through the Holy Spirit, ministers through all Christians, all over the world.
2. God the Holy Spirit is a Person, and exactly like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity, but exactly like God the Son, and God the Father in His personality. Though Christ ascended, the Comforter, Who is just like Jesus in every way, will now be helping, guiding, teaching, and leading the disciples permanently.
3. God the Holy Spirit lives inside us - permanently.
While Jesus was on the earth, there were times in which the disciples were separated from Him. But now the Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to live inside of His followers, they would never be alone. The Spirit of Christ lives in them, and works through them permanently, and will never leave them! (Read John 14:16)
4. God the Holy Spirit places His will into our hearts.
The Holy Spirit is part of the New Covenant that Jesus spoke of at the Last Supper, and which was also prophesied in the Jeremiah 31 and many other places. One of the beautiful aspects of this New Covenant is that the Lord will come and live in His people personally and individually. He puts His will and desires on our hearts and into our minds! (Read Jeremiah 31:33)
5. God the Holy Spirit gives us the POWER that we need to follow Christ.
As we said earlier, Jesus always knew it wouldn't be easy to be His disciple in this world. To enable us to serve him faithfully and represent Him accurately, Jesus has poured our the Spirit of God to empower us. In Acts 1:8 Christ told His disciples:
"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.”
If we turn to God the Holy Spirit and ask for Him to come "upon" or over us, to fill us with His power, His love, His heart and mind....then we will be effective. This is different from salvation. This is an experience of asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, mold you, break you, build you, and empower you to be the man/woman of God you are called to be. God the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the Bride of Christ to teach us, lead us, speak to us, comfort us, embolden us, heal us, and help us...if we will only ask Him to! (Read Luke 11:11-13)
So, are YOU trying to follow Christ under your own power? (Read Zechariah 4:6) Are YOU attempting to be a disciple of Jesus relying only on your limited strength? If so, why not stop (right now) and simply ask God the Holy Spirit to fill you and baptize you in His loving presence. Why not begin to cultivate a daily relationship of talking to Him, communing with Him, and seeking Him for you needs...just like in the Book of Acts?
Open your heart right now, and yield yourself to the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and begin a whole new relationship with Him from this day forward! Jesus relied on the power of the Spirit constantly...shouldn't you? (Read Matt 3:16-4:1) The apostles continually relied on the power of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts...shouldn't you as well? (Read Acts 2:1-4; 4:31; 8:29; 13:1-2)
Look to Him now, invite Him to empower you, strengthen you, and change you... and watch how the Lord will use YOU in a fresh new way for His glory!