By Kyle Patterson
I don’t know if you’ve ever had someone close to you die, but typically you hang on to those last words tightly. Those last memories are precious to you.
Thinking about your own life, before going on a trip or away for a couple of days. Before you leave you’re going to share what’s of most importance to you and closest to your heart, with those you love.
Likewise in Scripture, we see in the book of Acts, the parting words of Christ before his ascension to the Father.
Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
In leaving his disciples to carry on his mission of reconciling all things to himself, he spoke of a movement of ministry that would impact town after town, city after city, state after state and nation after nation until every person had an opportunity to be blessed by the gospel.
For three years Jesus had invested in these 12 men from no significant background. Now it was their turn to take what Jesus had imparted to them and impact nations for him.
What started in Jerusalem would go into every nation. Christ compared the kingdom of God to a wedding banquet that everyone was to be invited to. This is the Great Commission and this is God’s plan to impact nations for his glory, and we get to be a part of it. Looking into the text I believe we have three specific takeaways from Acts 1:8,
We’re empowered by God to fulfill the mission.
The mission is Good News of great joy for all peoples.
Everyone has a part to play in the mission.
Empowered to fulfill God’s mission
Jesus promised we would have power to be Christ’s witnesses. This speaks of ability to testify to and of Christ. He is saying in effect that I am not asking you to do something you can do on your own accord or by your own gifts and talents or your own speaking or teaching ability or by your persuasive speech. Rather I am going to give you the power of by very Spirit living in your to carry out this important work.
As such he told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the Spirit. Jesus said it was to our good to have him go and for us to receive the Spirit. So what did that power look like in the life of the apostles?
1. Church growth
Acts 2:40 - 41 says, With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
In one day God grew the church from 120 to 3,000 after the Spirit was poured out on the disciples. Now that is exponential growth and constitutes of move of God’s Spirit. When the Lord pours out his Spirit, the church grows. People are hungry for the real thing, so when God shows up, people respond. We must never be content with ritual at the expense of a genuine encounter with God in the Spirit when God touches and changes human hearts and also in the flesh - through loving and serving the community of believers.
2. Demonstration of God’s kingdom
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. Acts 5:12-16
The apostles weren’t content with doctrine alone, they demonstrated the kingdom of God and it’s reality in the lives of the people they were ministering to.
3. Signs and wonders.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Acts 19:11-12
God empowers us for service by his presence resulting in extraordinary things happening as seen in the life of Paul. God did amazing things through Paul and yet that same relationship with God is available to you and I today.
This wasn’t due to any ability on the part of Peter or Paul, two men that had failed deeply, Peter denying the Lord, Paul persecuting the church. The evidence of power in their life was not due to their strength but the power of God working in them and through them, because they are weak people. God wants to be glorified and he is most glorified when he uses weak, sinful people to do amazing things. It confounds the wise and demonstrates his ability to do all things well, even through weak people.
So why couldn’t God use someone like you?
I think of the story of Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. At 5-11, he wasn’t immediately thought of as a potential star quarterback. Growing up he was small, but he had big dreams of playing in the NFL.
He relates the story of his dad being the one who would encourage his dream to be in the NFL by saying, “Why not you Russell? Why not you?”
Today he is a super bowl winning quarterback, has a foundation called the “Why Not You Foundation?” and overcame many odds to become one of the best quarterback in the league.
So joining God on his mission empowers ordinary believers to do extraordinary things.
John 14:12 says, Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Ephesians 3:20 says, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.
The Mission is Good News
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10
The Great Commission is good news. Sometimes, though, we act as if it’s a secret that we should keep to ourselves. But the truth is people are hungry for Christ. We have good news to share that a loving God sent his Son to take our place, die a sinner’s death, rise again so that we could be reconciled to our Maker and live eternally in paradise.
People need to hear this message of good news of God’s love.
Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, the problem is the laborers haven’t been available. Luke 10:2 reads, “He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
Today Buffalo and Erie County rank among the top 10 least Christian cities in America with around 10% of the population claiming Christ.
Globally the statistics aren’t much better. JoshuaProject.net tracks the progress of the Gospel around the world and today estimates there remain approximately 3 billion people, 40% of the earth’s population remain unreached.
More Global Missions Statistics
Of all the missionaries in the world only 2.4% are working among unreached people.
The current ratio is 1 missionary for every 278,431 unreached people
Conversely, there are 95,000 evangelical Christians for every unreached people group
Less than 1% of missions giving goes to unreached people.
The truth is, it’s good news that God wants a relationship with us.
It’s good news that God paid the price to forgive our sins and heal us.
It’s good news that we can spend eternity with Christ.
Everyone has a part to play
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
You are representing another Kingdom, a heavenly one that is greater in power, scope and influence than you could have ever imagined. In your coming and you're going. At school, at work, at the park, in the city, in the country, you are a carrier of God’s glory and a minister of his good news that he loves everyone and wants a personal relationship with men, women, and children. You’ve been chosen by God as a representative of his coming rule on the earth. Paul described you and I as Christ’s ambassadors.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Here’s a couple of definitions of ambassador:
an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country.
a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.
An ambassador is an official envoy, especially a highest ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state, or to an international organization as the resident representative of their own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic.
The fact that God would allow us to be the primary way he displays and advances his kingdom in the earth is astonishing. It is hard to believe that he would invite us to officially represent heaven on earth. If people want to know who God is and what he is like and what he stands for, they should be able to find out by looking at you and I and the community of faith functioning in a way that bears witness of and representation of the kingdom of God.
Ambassadors are those representing the interests of their country while in a foreign land.
For us that means we’re living and working in a foreign country every single day. No matter what nationality you are and what country you are a citizen of on earth, you are in a foreign land. As a believer you are not of this world.
Peter wrote, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11
We’re foreigners and exiles on earth but we are to care for and love the place God has put us, we just don’t become too attached or too comfortable here while working to display God’s peace and Kingdom reign. When Christ comes again we will see fully the reality of his rule. But until then, seek the prosperity and blessing where God has sent you.
Jeremiah 29:7 reads, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
So don’t abandon your assignment, engage it and prepare it for a coming Kingdom that can never be shaken. This is obviously an assignment that can’t be accomplished on our own. But as you make yourself available to be used of the Lord in this way and seek his face for power to live in this manner, we know and trust that God is able and faithful to perform what he has spoken.
So commit today, by the power of Jesus, to be an ambassador first and foremost of the soon coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It starts as simply as putting God first. Pray before, during, and after work. Depend on his wisdom and strength. Lean not only on your understanding but acknowledging him in all your ways. Commit to follow his guidelines as outlined in Scripture and to honor his work in the earth by working not for human masters or earthly finances but for the mission of God to be completed. Thus bringing about the reign of God on the earth. Where you come up short, God makes up the difference in a way that only he can. As an ambassador for Christ you are his chosen representative to bring about his kingdom peace, rule and love in the hearts of those you touch in whatever assignment God has placed you in.