So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

                                                            Acts 1:6


Strange thing about Jesus, he always seems to come up with a surprise.  When the disciples asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” they expected him to say, “You bet!  I’m about to usher in Israel’s Golden Age!”


But Jesus said in effect, “Never mind what I’m going to do.  It’s not for you to know when I’m going to restore the kingdom to Israel.  Times and seasons belong to the Father.  Let’s talk about what you’re going to do.  You are going to receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.  And you are going to be my witnesses, starting here in Jerusalem and spreading out over the whole earth.”


Immediately after Jesus made that promise, a cloud of glory enveloped him.  And when that cloud lifted, Jesus was gone.  They never saw him again.  Were they sad?  Scripture tells us that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.


In a matter of days those believers did receive power as the Holy Spirit came upon them.  And they forgot their speculations about the kingdom of Israel and began hauling people in the kingdom of God with a witness about Jesus the Messiah, pouring from their hearts with an authority that took their breath away.


Many people today are trying to figure out what God is going to do next according to prophecy.  And if we’re looking for signs, there are plenty of them.  Turmoil in the Middle East, swirling around the ancient city of Jerusalem, especially around that rocky mount, occupied by a mosque where the Temple once stood.  Widespread famine, in a world where there should be plenty for everybody.  Wars, rumors of wars, violence, hatred, earthquakes, crazy weather.

“Lord, things seem to be falling apart everywhere!  Are these the last days?  What are you going to do next?” 


“It’s not for you to know what I’m going to do next.  But here’s what you’re going to do: you’re going to receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.  And you are going to be my witnesses in your Jerusalem, and out over the whole earth.”


Notice the Lord does not say, “Try to be my witnesses.  Make an effort!  Go out there and really try!”  He says, “You shall  be my witnesses.”  That’s not a plea, nor even a command.  It’s a promise.  “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses.” 


Wait a minute!  “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you……” ?  I thought we already had the Holy Spirit.  Doesn’t every Christian have the Holy Spirit?  Doesn’t Paul say that no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit?

As it says in the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints….”  Isn’t the Holy Spirit already at work?


It’s true.  Whatever degree of faith we may now have is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit.  He alone gives us the power to believe in Jesus.  He alone teaches us to pray.  But the promise of Jesus on which we are now focusing is about an outpouring of the Spirit beyond what most of us have ever tasted.  This promise is about a visitation of divine life that not only frees us from the power of sin, it transforms us into something most of us have never been: witnesses. 


When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a might wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

                                                                      Acts 2:1-4


The Spirit sets fire to their hearts, anoints their tongues, and now they’re witnesses.  They can’t simply stand around and talk to each other, so they spill out into the street, still proclaiming the wonderful works of God.  A crowd gathers to observe these people speaking in many languages.  “What’s going on?  What does this mean?”   “Oh,” exclaims another, “they’re just drunk with new wine.” 


Not quite the kind of new wine they’re thinking about.  “No,” says Peter, as he stands up to speak.  “They’re not drunk.  It’s only 9:00 in the morning.  This is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy….”  Peter explains what’s happening, tells them who Jesus really is, and winds up his witness with these words:


Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”


Three thousand are baptized that afternoon.  But very soon persecution begins.  Some days later Peter and John are witnessing to a crowd that came together in the Temple after they healed a man.  While Peter is speaking, the Temple Police arrive, arrest the apostles, and lock them in jail over night.  The next day, as Peter and John are being released, the authorities warn them to stop this witnessing about Jesus.  They return to the other believers and hold a prayer meeting.  And what do they pray for?


“And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant, Jesus.  And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”

                                                                      Acts 4:29-31

 “O, but they were special people.  And they were living at a special time in history,” you say.  No.  Those people were no more special than we are.  And their time in history was no more special than ours.  The same Spirit who anointed them with boldness and power to witness hovers around you as you read these words---to set your heart on fire, to loosen your tongue.  


So what’s the holdup?  If the Holy Spirit, sent by the Lord himself is present with us now as I write these words, and as you read them, how come we go to our churches week after week and walk away from our worship as timid and tongue-tied and wimpy as ever? 


What is it that’s delaying the fulfillment of the promise?  What did those people have that we lack?  Two things:


1.     They understood the promise and believed it.


2.     They were yielded and willing to let it happen.


They understood the promise and believed it.  Jesus had taught them that he was going to go and the Spirit was going to come.  And they believed it.  Jesus had explained to them that the Spirit would guide them, remind them of all the things he had said to them.  And they believed it.  Jesus told them that the Spirit would dwell inside them, enflaming their hearts with his love and power and boldness.  And their believed it.


For those men and women the Holy Spirit was not some vague spiritual force.  He was a person: God the Holy Spirit, dwelling inside them to transform their lives into everything the Master had commanded them to be.  They understood the promise and believed it.  And we need to do the same. 


So what’s the Holy Spirit going to do for us?  Everything he did for those early believers.  He will bring to our remembrance everything our Lord said, by opening the scriptures to us.  There is no way anyone can figure out the Bible until the Spirit comes and turns on the light.   There is no school on earth that can cause you to understand the Bible.  Only the Spirit can do this, as you allow him to. 


The Holy Spirit is going to teach us how to pray.  For, as the apostle Paul says, we don’t know how to pray as we ought, “but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs to deep for words.”


The Holy Spirit is going to empower us to love.  We do not have it in us to love either God or man---we’re too wrapped up in ourselves---until the Spirit causes the love of God to be “shed abroad in our hearts.”  Then amazing things begin to happen in our personal lives, and in our fellowships.


All these things have been promised.  They simply need to be understood and believed.  


Those early believers were yielded and willing to let it happen.  Nothing happens until we are willing.   The Spirit never forces his miracles on us.  He waits until we yield to him.


While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus.  There he found some disciples.  And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”


Why did Paul ask them that?   Because he could tell that these guys lacked fire.  Something was missing.  Notice, Paul did not ask, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?”  He asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?”


And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?”  They said, “Into John’s baptism.”  And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  There were about twelve of them in all.

                                                            Acts 19:3-7


No hesitation.  “We’re willing!  We’re open!  Fill us, Lord!”  That’s all it takes.  You don’t have to jump through hoops.  You don’t have to prove you’re worthy.  Who’s worthy?  Only the blood of the Lamb makes us worthy.  All you have to do is open your heart and say, “Lord Jesus, I’m willing to receive this gift that will make me a witness.  And if there is anything in me that’s unwilling, I’m willing to be made willing.  Here’s my body.  Let it be, in fact, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Here’s my mind.  Flood it with the Spirit’s wisdom, love, power.” 


The living Lord never fails to answer such a prayer.




“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses….”


                    Understand and believe this promise.


                    Be willing that God should fulfill it in your life.


                    Ask him to fulfill it in you….


And to a degree beyond anything you have ever known, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you in this way.


And you will be a witness to the crucified and risen Lord with an authority that will take your breath away.