The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
May 21, 2023
Jesus knew His followers needed more than high principles. They needed higher power. That’s why He promised to send down upon them His Spirit, His beloved Partner in the Holy Trinity who’d baptize them with – immerse them in – a strength beyond their own.
None of us who follow Jesus are, in ourselves, equal to the tasks He assigns us.
In her book Waiting for God, Simone Weil compares some trying to raise their spiritual game to athletes who work out daily to increase their vertical jump in the delusionary hope that, if they jump higher and higher, one day they’ll leap to heavenly heights.
The problem, however, with seeking spiritual self-improvement by such determined effort is that it locks our eyes on ourselves and keeps us from looking above us for help. We end up relying solely on ourselves, though we don’t have it in us to jump far enough to reach the heights to which we aspire. But if, we look heavenward and wait on God, He’ll soon reach down and lift us up to levels we couldn’t reach on our own.
After Jesus rose from His grave, He stayed on earth, in the flesh, for forty days. Just before Jesus returned to heaven, He ordered His followers to wait in Jerusalem for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise. He told them that, “not many days from now”, the Spirit would come down upon them to infuse them with His life force!
Anticipating that amazing gift, the disciples wondered whether its imminent arrival meant that Jesus would, “not many days from now”, establish His reign on earth and that, by the Spirit’s strengthening, they’d be empowered to reign with Him. So they asked Him how long they’d have to wait for that great glory.
Jesus replied that they were focusing in the wrong direction and missing the point of the gift. They’d receive power from on high for a different purpose than what they had in mind. The Spirit would come soon – in fact, only ten days after Jesus’ ascension – not so that they might reign on earth, but so that they might be His “witnesses”, even to the ends of the earth. The Spirit would come down upon them in order that they might fulfill the mission of evangelism!
“Evangelism!” That’s a word about which a lot of us have a lot of mixed feelings; and, given what we’ve seen in some evangelists, few of us want to become one. Yet, I think an evangelist to Jesus is simply a witness to Him and for Him. Being His witness is being like one hungry person telling another hungry person where they’ve found some free, really delicious, really nutritious food. Evangelism is just sharing with the interested how we’ve come to know Jesus as the Bread of Life and discovered firsthand the truth of His saying, “Whoever feeds on me will live because of me.” For us to be His witness is for us to testify to the difference He’s makes in our life.
To be Jesus’ witness you don’t have to be a persuasive salesman or saleswoman. You just have to report, honestly and humbly, what you believe has happened in your life thanks to Him.
To be Jesus’ witness you don’t have to be an eloquent or entertaining talker. You just have to tell the truth of your experience straight – in ordinary language anyone can understand: whether unschooled or well-educated, rich or poor, young or old, white or of color.
And you don’t have to have a “gutter to glory” tale to tell. Though the story of the guy contemplating suicide with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a .357 Magnum in the other to whom an angel appears has dramatic appeal, it’s a story to which few can relate. A story of someone raised in church, always loving Jesus and knowing His blessings, may carry far more weight with some folks.
Nor do you have to tell a story of how Jesus has made you better than anyone else. It’s enough to testify that He has made you better than your former self or than the person you know you would have become had it not been for Him. In bearing my witness to Jesus, I can’t say I’m all I should be or all I hope to be; I can only say I’m not at all what I used to be and what I would still be were it not for Him. I may not be all that impressive; but because of Him I’m less depressive, self-centered and anxious.
You don’t have to be special in any way to be a witness for Jesus. The only two requirements are having 1) some awareness of His improving your life and 2) some faith He’d do as much, if not more, for anyone else who gives Him a chance.
If we see the mission on which Jesus wants to send us out, we will see what our life is to be about. We have this purpose from Him: To share our story and maybe help someone know the greatest blessing we know: enjoying the company of this wonderful Savior who liberates and invigorates anyone, even us!