When the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?” “The Father sets those dates,” he replied, “and they are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:6-8)
I love the transparent honesty that the gospel writers and Luke (in Acts) employ to portray the disciples/apostles! This Acts 1 passage is one of our standard Great Commission mandates. Yet I believe it reveals far more about human nature and the radical character of our witness than we might realize. First, human nature: the apostles still did not get it! After three years of Jesus’ teaching – and an extra 40 days of intensive post resurrection leadership training – the apostles are still wondering when Jesus will overthrow the Romans and restore a political kingdom to the Jews. At the end of the day, we humans are still mostly impressed by power, aren’t we?
Jesus’ response challenges me. I think it reveals the type of witnesses we are called to be. Jesus submits himself to the Father. The Father sets dates, and Jesus states that He doesn’t need to know them. Furthermore, He informs His disciples that they don’t need to know them either. Their role is to just submit themselves to the call of being witnesses everywhere, at all times. Bearing witness in this context is explained in Philippians 2: Jesus chose to submit Himself to the Father in absolutely astonishing ways, rather than trumpet himself as the omnipotent Christ who will triumph over sickness, annihilate evildoers and overturn human pride and kingdoms. All three of these, and many more things besides, Jesus does and will do. However, the Jesus we are called to bear witness of is the One who submitted His will to the Father and who reconciles hopeless, undeserving sinners to a just and Holy God.
In some ways this is hard to fathom – and far less exciting than a martial arts hero who will kick “Satanic butt” with flair. Yet it seems my call to be a witness involves my submission to the Father and the Holy Spirit, who will lead me to proclaim the good news concerning the humble King. Yes, the Spirit will work in power, but the gospel we share is far more concerned about spiritual power and kingdoms than political power and kingdoms.
This summer the EFCC conference (July 21-24 at Sun Peaks near Kamloops, BC) will celebrate 25 years of kingdom advance and plateau, in the EFCC. The theme will reiterate this challenge for us to be witnesses of this Christ. Our them is “REGENERATE: Plant. Water. Grow.” I long for the day when we have the passion again to return to the basics that will trigger a spiritual power in our movement in Canada and around the world that will change lives for eternity!
So pray with us as we approach EFCC Conference this summer and plan to join us! We are all witnesses after all. Is our witness shallow hype? Or is it something more spiritually substantive?
Your fellow witness,