And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you, but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high, Luke 24:49.
Clothed with Power
In the past I often wondered how our nation survived the 1960's. In September, 1962 riots broke out at the University of Mississippi as students and others violently resisted the entrance of James Meredith to the University as the first black student. Two U.S. Marshall's were killed in the rioting. In May, 1961 Freedom Riders were taken off their Greyhound Bus and beaten at Anniston and Birmingham, AL. Three civil rights workers were murdered and buried in a dam at Philadelphia, MS in June, 1964. Medgar Evers was gunned down in his driveway in June, 1963. Just a few months earlier Eugene "Bull" Connor turned fire hoses and attack dogs on black children at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham. Hundreds were arrested. In September of that year four black children were killed as a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, right across the street from Kelly Ingram Park. In November John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. In February, 1965 Malcolm X was gunned down by Black Muslims in New York City. In March demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery, AL were turned back at the Edmund Pettus bridge by Alabama State Troopers and tear gas. Meanwhile the Viet Nam War was escalating as people turned on to LSD and other drugs. In January, 1968 the Tet Offensive brought to the American mind the reality that the war was getting way out of hand. In March of that year Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. In June it was Robert Kennedy in Los Angels, after winning the California Democratic primary. In August, 1969 a convergence of free love, rock and roll, anti-war demonstrations, and the drug culture occurred at Woodstock in upstate New York. A few days later the horrific Charles Manson murders occurred in southern California. And in May, 1970 National Guardsmen opened fire on students at Kent State University, killing four.
So, how did we survive the 1960's? Clearly it was the grace of God. But how? In 1965 Chuck Smith was pastoring a small church in Costa Mesa near Los Angeles and his wife suggested that he reach out to the hippies, surfers, and drug addicts in their community. Chuck resisted at first, not wanting anything to do with "those people." But he finally went to the streets, after much prayer, and God began to convert them by the hundreds. The work, called the Jesus People Movement, among the "Jesus freaks" continued and grew, making its way to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Over the next ten years or so a mighty movement of God spread from the west coast across the United States, resulting in hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more conversions. I suggest these conversions began to stabilize our country. I fear we today are headed for a severe economic and cultural meltdown. Only mass conversions, spurred on by revival, can hold back the putrefaction of our culture.
After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus met repeatedly with His disciples, reminding them of how the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), the Prophets (Isaiah 9, 11, 53), and the Psalms (Psalm 2, 16, 22, 110) all wrote of Him. He gave them their marching orders, just prior to His ascension, telling them to preach His death and resurrection, calling people to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. They were to preach this message to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem. And even though they were well trained for their mission, having been with Jesus for three years, having seen the mighty miracles, the powerful preaching, having witnessed His resurrection, and soon, His ascension; still He commands that they not move, that they stay in the city until they have been clothed with power from on high, until they had received the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
My friends, due to God's merciful grace to you, the fact that He has lifted you up from the ash heap of your deserved judgment and condemnation, He says to you-proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning in your own neighborhood. What does this mean? You are to be intentional, just like the disciples, and go to the nations. And you are not merely to make mission trips to some third world nation while neglecting your own community. You are to start where you live. And what is the message? It is repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This message begins with bad news-people are rebellious against God, having violated His law, and thus incurring His just wrath and condemnation. They are guilty. Their lives have been toxic. Disorder and every evil thing accompanies them. But then you are to move to the good news that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, that all who are to be saved must turn from their sins and embrace the Savior by faith. The only way this can happen is a miracle of God's free grace since no one seeks for God.
Why is this call from Jesus so necessary? Because He is the only savior of sinners (John 14:12, Acts 4:12). Buddha cannot save. Neither can Mohammed. Neither can the witchdoctor. Neither can one's exercise and eating program. Neither can one's money or accomplishments. But people are not buying what you are selling. They have no interest in the gospel. It is foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14). Hence Jesus' call for you "to wait in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." We, however, no longer need to wait. The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Every true believer is indwelt by Him, but we must seek His fullness, power, and presence. We must believe in the Holy Spirit. We must believe in the immediacy of the Spirit. What does this mean? Jesus put it this way, "Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened to you," (Matthew 7:7). He also said, "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you shall receive that your joy may be made full," (John 16:24). In other words, ask the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in your preaching, teaching, evangelizing, counseling, discipling, equipping, leading. Keep short accounts with your sin. When the Spirit convicts you of sin, deal with it immediately. Confess it to God, repent of it, and make restitution to any whom you have hurt or wronged in your sinful act. Then ask Jesus for His holiness. And never forget that those who have been delivered from much, love much, give much, hunger and thirst much. While you may have been a moral, nice person prior to your conversion, you nonetheless were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I met a new friend a few weeks ago who was delivered from a $400 per day heroin addiction. I met another friend who owned and operated twenty-two pornographic websites. Both have been delivered by the power of Jesus and His gospel. Both are white hot in devotion to Jesus. They know what we too often forget-God raised them from the ash heap. He has done that for you too, if you are in Christ Jesus. He took away your rebellious heart and gave you the heart of Jesus. He took away your shame, guilt, and condemnation and gave you Jesus' righteousness or innocence. He took away your terribly toxic life and gave you His Spirit who enables you to walk in newness of life, to obey the Law of God. My friend, you have all you need for life and godliness. You have the Spirit. Go forth, being filled up with Him. Ask God for the divine swagger, that Spirit filled boldness and joy that causes you to have the love of Jesus on your face, in your eyes, in your speech, in your hands and feet. You are to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning right in your neighborhood. Are you doing so? Are you looking intentionally for ways of bringing Jesus into your neighborly conversations? What would happen if we all took seriously the promised fullness of the Spirit, being unleashed in our churches, communities, and nation?
Reverend Allen M. Baker
Pastor Baker is ordained in the PCA and has been in the ministry for over 30 years. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he received his M.Div. degree from...