Jan 1, 2017

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In recent weeks I have been blessed by a study of the book of Acts.  Two truths in particular have stood out to me: Jesus’ affirmation that we will be His witnesses, and second, the power that exists with the name of Jesus.  Prior to ascending to heaven after His sin-conquering resurrection, Jesus instructed His followers to hunker down and wait in Jerusalem for the Father to give them what He had promised, the Holy Spirit.  He says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NASB).

The Greek word for “witness” is martus (pronounced mar-toos), which simply means for a person to give testimony to what they have seen, heard, believed, or experienced.  Martus is also the origin for the word “martyr”, in which case a person would be so firmly convinced that they are willing to die for their testimony.  More or less, Jesus is saying, “Empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will give testimony to all people everywhere of My gospel message, even to the point of death.”

Reading on in the book of Acts, multitudes of men and women were added daily to the believers as the apostles and early Church gave witness to Jesus and His gospel message.  Filled with jealousy, religious leaders jailed the apostles but in the middle of the night, an angel of the Lord released them and said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life” (5:20).  In other words, give testimony to Jesus, the author and giver of life!  Astonished by their miraculous escape from jail, the religious leaders brought them back and said, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name”, the name of Jesus (v. 28).  Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross… we are witnesses of these things” (vv. 30, 32).  Not sure how to respond, the Pharisees beat the apostles and ordered them not to speak the name of Jesus.  Afflicted, but not crushed, struck down, but not destroyed, “they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (vv. 41-42).

Ordinary men and women comprised the early Church.  For the most part, they were not influential nor educated, yet by the testimony of this ragtag crew 2,000 years ago, we know of and can call upon the name of Jesus to taste and see for ourselves that He is in fact good; He is life.  So is this our call, to in a likewise manner testify of Christ, sharing with countless others the hope, life, forgiveness, and joy we have in Jesus.  Do I believe the gospel can, and has, changed my life?  Absolutely.  Do I believe the gospel message can change your life?  Without a doubt!  The gospel of Jesus Christ can change the lives of all people who have been made in His image and likeness, not excluding the strung-out, homeless, pimps, drug dealers, sex offenders, murderers, thieves, and terrorists.  As the Lord has been merciful and patient toward us, which He undoubtedly has, let us not forget that He is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  And how will they come to repentance?  By hearing the word of Christ as we, the Church, give testimony to His gospel message by the power of the Holy Spirit, a message for all people, of all times, everywhere, as He rescues us from the domain of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, Jesus.

Go, testify, and make known this radical message of the costly love of Christ!

The Apostle Paul writes, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God”       (Acts 20:24).

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