“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jason and I started intensive language study as soon as we arrived in Japan. From the homework, flashcards, sentence structure, and pen strokes of hiragana, to the dry and exhaustive work of listening and conversing and translating, we had one goal: to learn the language of the people so we could love them by sharing the gospel. I wanted to speak their heart’s language. We spent the winter, spring, and summer biking up a huge hill to our sensei’s house, translating and pouring over homework, and integrating ourselves into the culture to pick up and apply more language. But let me tell you, the work of language acquisition never ends.
A few months after our language studies began, we found ourselves on a camping trip in the middle of a forest with a big group of students. Bellies full of Japanese curry and rice, and faces lit up sitting around a bonfire, I sat next to Sochan. He had just started coming to Bible discussions. He didn’t know Jesus and I didn’t fully know how to tell him about Him. But like He does, God clearly opened a door in conversation. Wide open. I asked Sochan what he thought about God and his opinion on the Bible. With his limited English and my limited Japanese, I prayed a deeply theological prayer. “God, help.” And we moved forward. The good news.
I don’t remember the details of what I shared, but I will never forget Sochan’s response.
“Megan, I don’t understand. Usually, I have to untangle a message from English and put it back together in my mind. But I understood perfectly what you just said.”
Friends, this is the power of the Holy Spirit, who, by the way, happens to be all-lingual. We are not commissioned to make disciples, to sow gospel seeds, to join this incredible kingdom work, and then left hung out to dry in our own best efforts. Oh no, if you yourself have received and believed who Jesus Christ is and what He’s done for you in rescuing you from sin, you have received power.
To receive: claim, lay hold of, receive what is offered, not originating from you.
Power: force, ability, strength. Holy Spirit: coequal with the Father and Son, the efficient source of power. (1)
Receiving this incredible Spirit, whose job is also to teach, to call to mind all that we’ve learned (John 14:26), means we who are daughters and sons of the King have access to His riches and are indwelt with the very mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)! He promises! You are not moving forward in your own ability or words or arguments. Oh no, friends, you are commissioned by an able King who gives you His authority to speak His truth in love.
Perhaps this cosmic story in the setting of a bonfire, under the stars in a foreign land sounds magical (it really was), but inaccessible. You mean, this doesn’t happen on the daily in your life? Me neither anymore. More good news! This command is for the concentric circles we find ourselves in today. Jerusalem: the central city for God’s people, Judea: their home country, Samaria: the next door country, and the ends of the earth. None to be neglected, neither the here nor there. All fulfilled in His promise of power paired with His purposed plan.
One of the most practical first steps we can take is to pray. A suburb of Indianapolis or Utsunomiya, Japan, here it is: “Lord, open a door, open my mouth, open their heart.” (2)
Then, receive and go watch the Holy Spirit speak through you.
And the current chapter of Sochan’s life? He is my brother in Christ.
- Mark Vroegop. College Park Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. http://www.yourchurch.com/sermon/applying-the-gospel-connecting-your-experience-of-the-gospel-to-the-lives-of-others/