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Power for purpose

By Randy Hurst

In my Pentecostal upbringing, I really wanted the Holy Spirit baptism, but didn’t receive it for seven years. It wasn’t until I reached a point of desperation for what only the Spirit could provide that I finally received. For all those years I wanted the Holy Spirit baptism for the wrong reason. I wanted it simply so I could say I had it. For the most part, the purpose of this wonderful blessing escaped me. I wrongly viewed the Baptism as a point of arrival instead of what it is — a point of entrance into a life of Spirit-empowered witness for Christ.

Jesus’ promise
Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus promised His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”1

The last of Jesus’ words recorded by Luke are these: “That repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”2

It would seem that a task so great, proclaiming Christ’s message to all the nations, should commence immediately. But Jesus told the disciples to wait in the city to be “clothed with power from on high.”

Remember the American Express commercial? A person is on a trip away from home without the necessary resources and is advised, “Don’t leave home without it!” Jesus was telling His disciples essentially the same thing — that they should not begin their mission without being equipped to accomplish their task.

Jesus clearly stated that the essential purpose of the Spirit’s empowerment is to be Jesus’ witnesses. The Holy Spirit baptism is a promised gift to all believers.3 But receiving the gift is not a guarantee that the promised power will be used for its intended purpose.

I heard an intriguing fact on the radio: 95 percent of all sport utility vehicles sold in the United States are never taken off the road. Of course, during Minnesota winters, four-wheel drive is a great help in snow and even on city streets. But why would someone need four-wheel drive on the freeways of Southern California? These vehicles were equipped for a purpose for which most are rarely, if ever, used.

I believe this illustrates many people’s experience concerning the Holy Spirit baptism. They receive this wonderful gift, yet they don’t put it into action or may not even fully understand the purpose for which this equipping power was given.

Jesus’ promise to His followers was that they would be His witnesses wherever they went. Unfortunately, many equate being a witness merely with their speech, or what has come to be termed “witnessing.” But effectiveness in reaching the spiritually lost requires a witness beyond words.

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica: “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”4

Paul’s witness was not merely what he said (“not … in word only”), but also how he said it (“in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”) and who he was (“you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake”).

Our witness is comprised of what we say (vocal), how we say it (vital) and who we are (valid).

Questions and Answers about the Holy Spirit
Hal Donaldson, Ken Horn, & Ann Floyd

What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit
Stanley M. Horton

The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective
Anthony D. Palma

Response Evangelism
Randy Hurst

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Vocal witness
Our message is Jesus. It is the Christ-centered message the Spirit will honor and use. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would glorify Him.5 After the Day of Pentecost, the first Christians boldly and clearly witnessed about Jesus as He promised they would.6

In Acts 2, the multitude was amazed because they heard those who had been filled with the Holy Spirit speaking in the languages of the unbelievers who were gathered. When they asked what was happening, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood and explained that this was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy in the Old Testament concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.7 Then he clearly and boldly preached Jesus Christ, and about 3,000 people were added to the church that day.

In Acts 3, Peter and John were going to the temple to pray, and a man lame from birth was healed. Peter again used the opportunity to proclaim Jesus, and about 5,000 believed the message.

In Acts 4, the priests, captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees were so disturbed that they put Peter and John in jail. The next day the rulers, elders, scribes and high priests challenged them: “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke boldly about Jesus: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”9

When the Early Church was born, the message of the believers always focused on the person Jesus Christ. As they boldly and clearly proclaimed Jesus, great numbers believed.

Today this same message — Jesus — must be clearly communicated to the spiritually lost of this world. The life of Jesus Christ is the turning point of all history. The world’s calendar is hinged on His birth. He is thought of by many as a teacher, a philosopher, or even a prophet, but every person must be confronted with the reality of who Jesus truly is — the sinless Son of God who gave His life to pay the penalty for our sins. They must be given an adequate witness and opportunity to accept His offer of forgiveness and everlasting life and personally submit to His lordship.

Vital witness
Our words must have vitality. How we say things communicates as much as what we say. Passion is contagious. It is not necessarily conveyed by volume, but rather through evident sincerity and conviction. To be convincing we must first be convinced. If we’re not moved by our message, it’s unlikely we will move anyone else.

Our emotions, attitudes and actions are as much a part of our message as our words. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul said, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”10

The apostle Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”11

Notice that both Paul and Peter emphasize a witness that includes more than mere words. Paul says our speech should “always be with grace.” Peter says we should speak “with gentleness and respect.”

Valid witness
The validity of our witness is related to the credibility of our lives. Effective witness depends on character. This has always been true. But in a culture that is increasingly skeptical of Christianity, it is even more critical. The content of our message will be greatly hindered if our manner and actions are inconsistent with our words. With many people, especially those we know personally, our own testimony of the difference Christ has made in our lives and its consistent proof through our actions will be what compels them most.

In many countries, Christianity is not a prominent religion. The Christian population is small, and Christian media do not exist. This can offer a great advantage in evangelism, because the first witness unbelievers in those countries receive is from someone they know personally whose life has greatly changed after receiving Christ. They do not have to overcome negative perceptions that come from knowing people who communicate a Christian message but whose lives do not affirm it.

In a society in which people are rapidly losing faith in the integrity of leaders in government and the business world, the personal credibility of Christians is not merely an added blessing in witness, but an essential requirement.

People often think of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment only in terms of signs and wonders and spiritual gifts. But the word translated “power” in Acts 1:8 is wonderfully comprehensive. It simply means “ability” and applies in practical ways to everyday life.

The Holy Spirit supplies whatever it takes to help us accomplish what is needed. That is all we really need — whatever it takes. The Holy Spirit enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

The Holy Spirit empowers our witness in what we say. As He did for the New Testament Christians after the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit gives us the internal motivation to speak about Jesus, confident in His (the Spirit’s) convincing work. The early Christians prayed for that kind of help: “Grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence.”12

The Holy Spirit also helps us in how we speak — to communicate Christ as Paul did “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”13 The Spirit moves us in our witness with a sincere, compelling passion.

And the Holy Spirit enables our character to become what God has called us to be as the fruit of the Spirit — the nature of Jesus Christ — becomes evident in our lives.

The power Jesus promised His followers is for every aspect of Christian living, enabling us to do and be whatever our Lord has purposed in our lives. The Holy Spirit baptism opens the way to a life of effective witness for Christ in what we say, how we say it and who we are.

Randy Hurst is commissioner of evangelism for the Assemblies of God.

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All Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible [unless otherwise noted].

1. Acts 1:8,
2. Luke 24:47-49
3. Acts 2:39
4. 1 Thessalonians 1:5
5. John 16:14
6. Acts 1:8
7. Acts 2:16-18; Joel 2:28,29
8. Acts 4:7
9. Acts 4:12
10. Colossians 4:5,6
11. 1 Peter 3:15,16, NIV
12. Acts 4:29
13. 1 Thessalonians 1:5

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