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Anointing and Empowerment by the Spirit

What we have been talking about are impossible tasks for human beings.

  • We are to do the very mission of Jesus. But Jesus is all-powerful God while we are sinful flesh. Impossible!
  • We are to love the poor and overturn their sorry situation. But the poor are hard to love, we will be exposing ourselves to real danger, we do not have the resources to do a really effective work. Massive poverty has been with us since time immemorial, and even the resources of the United Nations have not been able to stem the tide. Impossible!
  • We are to do rapid, massive and global evangelization. For housing and infrastructure alone, it will will cost US$1 billion! In just 7 years! Add another billion dollars for the other programs. Who has that kind of money just waiting to be spent? Impossible!
  • We are to become witnesses to Jesus himself, to be holy as God is holy, to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, to be willing to lay down our very lives for the cause of Christ. Who but a few outstanding Christians like John Paul II and Mother Teresa can be such? We are all just weak human flesh, living in a world, that is antagonistic to Christians, and constantly attacked by the evil one. Impossible!
  • We are to build communities according to the model of the first Christian community after Pentecost. When has that happened, aside from that first time? Even the Christian Church has split - Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc. Many Christian renewal groups have split due to leadership conflicts. If the Church itself and Christian renewal groups cannot remain united, how much more difficult would it be to unite people of diverse minds, interests and priorities? Impossible!
  • We are to make disciples of the nations. Even Israel, God's chosen people, failed miserably in living up to God's standards. Impossible!

We are called to do impossible tasks!

God does the impossible

Impossible for human beings, that is. But not for God. For with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Indeed, we are doing the mission of Jesus, so what we are doing is God's work. We are merely instruments.

Consider what God wants to accomplish in the world. Consider the impossible tasks that make up the very plan of God. Consider this vision of the messianic kingdom.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they tram for war again. (Isaiah 2:4)

Peace in the world, considering the history of humankind, seems impossible. There have been countless wars, with two world wars. There have been genocides - whether under Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot. There has been ethnic cleansing - whether in Yugoslavia or in Rwanda, or even in Sudan. Rather than beating swords into plowshares, it is the other way around. Poor Third World nations are investing heavily in weapons, at the cost of even feeding their people by investing in agriculture. They are beating their plowshares into swords!

Now consider the rule of Immanuel.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. (Isaiah 11:6-8)

God is about doing the impossible. God is about doing the miraculous. If what is done in the world is what humans can accomplish, then what glory can be attributed to God? As it is, what God wants to happen is “that all may see and know, observe and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this” (Isaiah 41:20).

If what is done in the world is what humans can accomplish, then humans may mistakenly take credit for the good that they are able to do. When God was about to deliver Israel from Midian using Gideon, God deliberately stacked the deck against Gideon by cutting down his armed force to a very small number, to face a very large enemy force. Why? The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, 'My own power brought me the victory.”' (Judges 7:2).

Whenever God intends to use humans to accomplish great things, He will deliberately cause the humanly impossible to happen, so that no one will mistake that it is His work.

The anointing and empowerment by the Spirit

This brings us to the seventh aspect of authentic evangelization. And that is, it must have the anointing of the Holy Spirit. And it must be moved by special power from on high.

Now there are many activities being anointed by God's Spirit in the world. Some are nothing short of heroic. There is the work of Mother Teresa and her Missionary Sisters of Charity, caring for the outcasts and poorest of the poor in many parts of the world. There are the many missionary priests, nuns and lay people who work in the remotest areas of the world and some of whom give up their lives for the cause. The Church is so blessed with men and women who are called and who have responded and are giving their all.

That is well and good. And God intends all of these works to build His Church. But for work that will renew the very face of the earth, figuratively but also literally, it must be the special work and have the special anointing of the Holy Spirit. As the inspired psalmist wrote: “When you send forth your breath they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30). The Revised English Bible translates it this way: “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you give new life to the earth.”

New life, new creation, new face. What we can experience is a real foretaste of the new heaven and the new earth, the coming of the new Jerusalem. God Himself says that “the old order has passed away. Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:4-5).

Consider the situation when Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples as recorded in the gospel of Luke. Jesus said to them,

Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:47-49)

Here again we see the call to global evangelization, just like in the Great Commission as stated in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. But there is a striking difference. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells his disciples to “go.” In Luke, he tells them to wait.

It was the most natural thing for Jesus to tell his disciples to go. After all, he had prepared them for this day. He had taught them, trained them and sent them out on practicum. They had successfully carried out their tasks. In fact, when he sent 72 of them out in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit they returned rejoicing and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” (Luke 10:17). They were exultant! And of course, when one has power over demons, the very enemy, that is the height of power! What more was there? They had already battered the enemy and they were ready to do more.

But for the task at hand, it was not yet enough.

For the task of uniting all in Christ, of renewing the face of the earth, of changing the whole world, of paving the way for the establishment of the messianic kingdom, there would be need for special anointing and power. And so Jesus himself said, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This was the power to change the world.

And so the disciples obeyed and waited. They entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room, where they devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. And then on the day of Pentecost it happened.

And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind and it filled the entire house in which' they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:2-4)

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples received the anointing and empowerment from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Acting under the anointing

That power was immediately put to use. Peter preached one sermon and about three thousand persons were converted! And every day the Lord added to their number! Great numbers of men and women were added to them (Acts 5:14). When a severe persecution broke out in Jerusalem, they were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, where they continued to evangelize, and the church continued to grow. With Cornelius, the mission to the gentiles was started. “Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased In number.” (Acts 16:5). And within the period of a few centuries, the whole known civilized world was converted to Christianity.

That was the power of the Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth!

What was so special about Peter, the apostles and the first Christians? As far as the world could see according to its value system, nothing. That IS why when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and questioned, and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, they were amazed! They were amazed at observing the boldness of Peter and John because they perceived them to be uneducated, ordinary men (Acts 4:7-13). And indeed they were.

But there was a very important difference. They had been anointed and empowered. They had been called and chosen to be God's instruments in changing the world.

God used weak human instruments. God continues to do so today. God continues to call on ordinary men and women to become His instruments to do the impossible.

In fact, God sets up the all-important tasks to be impossible, so that in being able to achieve it, it will be clear to all that it is done by the power of His Spirit.

A prime example

Take a look at Gideon.

God called Gideon at a time when the Israelites were being constantly harassed by the Midianites. When Gideon was told that he was being sent to save Israel from the power of Midian, he answered “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the meanest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father's house.” (Judges 6:15). Gideon could not imagine himself assuming the task at hand, since he knew who and what he was, the least of the least! God is at it again, calling the nobodies of the world!

When Gideon finally accepted after laying a fleece before the Lord and getting his sign, he assembled his army. But the Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, 'My own power brought me the victory.”' (Judges 7:2). God is at it again, stacking the deck against His chosen instrument, so that it would be clear how the victory was won!

Gideon asked God for a sign that God would use him to save Israel. Gideon did this twice, using the woolen fleece on the threshing floor. The first sign was if dew came on the fleece alone while the ground remained dry. The second was the reverse, when there would be dew on all the ground while the fleece remained dry. God did so both times. (Judges 6:36-40).

So God trimmed Gideon's army from 32,000 down to 10,000 and then down to 300! This was the army sent to face a vast enemy. The Midianites, Amalekites, and all the Kedemites were as numerous as locusts and their camels were as many as the sands on the seashore (Judges 7:12)! Talk about an impossible task!

You of course can guess what happened. Gideon's 300 routed the enemy.

Proving God's point

The human mind often looks at what human resources are available to accomplish a task. And for a large difficult task, it looks to vast resources. But for His work, God says that He will provide whatever is needed. And to prove His point, He makes sure the task is impossible for human beings.

There is an important principle here.

If some task is humanly possible, then humans can do it. In a way, God is not necessary. In a way, we do not even have to pray for God's blessings. Indeed, in the task of poverty reduction, many good things are being done by non-Christians, even by atheists.

But for a task that is humanly impossible, then we look to God.

Doing the impossible and miraculous

Christians are disciples of Jesus who should be going about God's work. Christians should be going about the very mission of Jesus. It is a call to do the impossible. It is a call to do the miraculous.

This is important to know. Because we often sell God short. We often look to what resources and talents and experience we have, and then proceed to do God's work on that basis. We often are afraid to venture out and pursue the humanly impossible task, because we are thinking with our human minds. And we end up limiting God, missing out on divine wonders as we expect only what is humanly achievable.

But we are called to change the world

This is what the Pentecost community was able to do. The first Christians followed through on the very mission of Jesus, were able to care for the poor such that there was no one in need, built a community that gained favor with everyone, did rapid and massive and global evangelization such that every day there were converts until the whole Roman empire was converted to Christianity.

They were able to do all these because they received God’s special anointing and the power from on high. “Awe came upon everyone and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43).

The Situation Today

Today Christians still do a lot of good work, but no longer do authentic evangelization, with all its distinctive aspects. Even though the call of Jesus is for more laborers for the harvest, Christians are failing to reap the harvest because they are willing to go only to a certain level of response to the call.

  • Many are involved in the work of renewal, but stop short of really working to care for the poor.
  • Many are evangelizing, but are not doing it on a rapid, massive and global scale.
  • Many are repenting and rejecting sin, but are not moving on to a greater holiness of life.
  • Many are active in their prayer groups or parishes, but are not living a community life of real sharing and caring.
  • Many are serving in their parishes, but do not consider serving beyond their parishes.
  • Many become good law-abiding citizens of their countries, but do not actively work to build their nation for God.

And so what is accomplished is not the fullness of what God intends to be accomplished. And so the effect on the world of all the good work being done is inadequate and not lasting. Certainly much good is being done, but not enough to change the world.

And so we see the sorry state the world is in today, after 2,000 years of Christianity, after Jesus issued His Great Commission to his disciples to win the world for him.

And mere instruments are what God is looking for. With mere Instruments, God is able to accomplish great things.

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