May 9, 2015

You Are Witnesses of These Things (Ascension Readings)

The Ascension of Jesus marks the end of Jesus visible ministry on Earth, until His coming again in the End Times. In between these times, Jesus tells us our ministry is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations. (Luke 24.47). The Good News is that Jesus did not abandon His followers in this mission. Jesus promised that they would receive “power from on high”, the gift of the Holy Spirit, that he would “open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24.45) If we are to be effective witnesses to the life, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus we need to understand:

  • Why we are witnesses
  • What we can witness too
  • How the Holy Spirit helps us
  • Our responsibilities as witnesses
1. A witness is a person who has seen or experienced something
Jesus was speaking to His followers who had personally heard His teaching, seen his healing miracles and personally seen His Resurrection body.

  • They did not chose to be witnesses. They were witnesses because of what they had personally seen and experienced.
  • We know from the Bible that their lives were completely changed so their witness included the love, joy and peace of God in their lives
  • Witnesses can only “witness” to first-hand experience
  • This first-hand experience is by definition truth as opposed to opinion, analysis, teaching and doctrine
  • Personal experience has always been a challenge in churches because those who have dramatic experiences of the supernatural can become prideful and  cause divisions with others who have not
  • Satan lies and gives people counterfeit experiences – i.e. Mohamed, to cause division
  • Experience must be tested against the Bible – read it ourselves
  • Good News is that personal experience of the divine helps us understand and believe in the supernatural worldview of the Bible
  • Anglican Church crippled itself when a Bishop pushed  Rev. John Wesley out when he had a genuine experience of the Holy Spirit
2. “Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Jesus did more than explain the Scriptures. These men had been taught the Scriptures all their lives. Jesus opened their minds with the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand how the spiritual dimension operates.

  • Unlike the Disciples we live in a Post-Christendom culture which has largely rejected the supernatural worldview of the Bible
  • Hard for people who have not personally experienced the power of the Holy Spirit – i.e. feelings of joy, healing or words of knowledge
  • Good News is that Jesus did not abandon His followers
  • Holy Spirit still comes to everyone who believes in Jesus and asks
  • The experiences I can witness to include reading the Bible daily, having my mind opened in prayer and receiving words of knowledge that help me in preparing teachings – and finding tax receipts
  • I want to also witness to my own experience in baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had moved to Calgary, was on my way to a divorce and had spent a year “hermiting” – not dating women. I met a woman in a job interview, talked to her a few times and felt some kind of strange attraction. Decided to explore this, had her for dinner and spent a wonderful evening. On the way out the door I heard myself say “I love you”. She said she felt the same way, the door closed and there I was having just made a serious commitment – but still legally married. I sat in my chair cried out to God “Help” – and for the next 45 minutes it felt like I was under a warm waterfall. I took it as a yes – and we have now been happily married for 36 years.
  • As we grow in our spiritual life we become witnesses automatically
3. A witness has an obligation to share
In the readings Jesus commissions all the Baptized believers to be witness to all nations starting in Jerusalem. (Luke 24.47) This would have been a huge challenge for the Disciples. They were all devout Jews who were raised on the teaching that God had chosen the Jews, and the Jews alone, to be His people. The idea of sharing the Good News of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus name with other nations would have been completely new to them. But they were so excited and full of joy they just had to share it!

  • Witnesses have a moral obligation to pass information on
  • Civil society depends on the reliability of witnesses in court
  • Baptismal Promise to bear witness has been abandoned by many
  • People are afraid of conflict – abandon their ministry
  • Fear has led to a division – those without personal experience have sometimes rejected the supernatural Biblical worldview as pre-scientific superstitious myth  (and reduced Jesus to a moral teacher)
  • Brother Alfonso story about a very shy monk asked to preach who asked if the brothers knew what he was going to say ending - “ Well then those who know can tell those who don’t know” as he raced down the stairs from the pulpit.
  • We do not chose to be witnesses – we are because we see
  • ·         Witnesses have a moral responsibility to tell others
We are witnesses because of what we have seen and heard and experienced - This is what the witness must share out of love.

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