December 24, 2010

A People Empowered by the Holy Spirit

God called us to be His witnesses, to carry hope to the world, to show that His love encompasses each person, and to proclaim His soon return. This is our glorious mission. However, when we think about the magnitude of the task, the first word that comes to mind is “Impossible!”

Take a look to what is only a part of our challenge as we try to reach the largest cities of the world. São Paulo, Brazil, with about 18.8 million inhabitants, has only 68,000 Adventists. In Tokyo, Japan, with a population of 35.6 million people, there are only 2,820 Adventists. New York has 19 million people, 37,897 of whom are Adventists. In Mexico City there are 23.5 million inhabitants, 53,093 of whom are Adventists. Mumbai, India, has 18.9 million inhabitants, and we have about 10,000 Adventists there.
And we can go on.
We face tremendous challenges! If we look at the global figures, the level of concern increases even more. The world’s population is about 6.8 billion with some 16 million Adventists.
The question is clear: How can we reach so many people with so few members?
2010 1532 page10Our only certainty comes from the fact that God can do what is humanly impossible. If we leave it to our own hands, the task is completely impossible. Yet we are called to do it. But how? Let us see how the early Christian church did it.
At the beginning the church was a very small group, under the leadership of 12 apostles. Their challenge was to reach more than 200 million inhabitants! In only 50 years Christianity established itself in the known world, and did it in such an impressive way that the Roman Empire could not ignore it.
Secret of Success
The secret of their success is found in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The powerless and insignificant were empowered by God through His Holy Spirit to accomplish what was humanly impossible. This is because “there is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God” (Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 159).
The Holy Spirit was at the very center of the life and mission of the church as it grew and expanded. The church was interested in witnessing the power of the Spirit rather than in speculating about Him. For the men and women of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was not a doctrine but an experience. The message they proclaimed was not to believe in the Holy Spirit but rather to receive Him.
We need to seek and receive this same Power as we proclaim to the world the coming of the kingdom of God in the glorious return of our Savior in the clouds of heaven (Matt. 24:14). We are as incapable of accomplishing the task that lies before us as were the first disciples. But we can also be empowered and enabled by the same Spirit to accomplish the task. The only thing expected from us is to make a permanent and full commitment to the Lord. Ellen White says: “There is nothing that Satan fears so much as that the people of God shall clear the way by removing every hindrance, so that the Lord can pour out His Spirit” (Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People, p. 133).
This will take place through the confession of our sins and a direct involvement in the mission of the church. We need to stop complaining about the difficulty of the task and about the human indifference to the gospel. Let us go out and fulfill the mission!
Do you believe that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit can occur in our day? We tend to refer to this event as something that will happen in the indefinite future. The truth is that by the social and moral corruption all around us, by the violence and the religious confusion, God is telling us that He is ready to reveal among us the fruits of the latter rain. Thousands ?of Adventists are being used powerfully by the Holy Spirit around the world and incredible things are taking place as church members go out to fulfill the mission. This Power is already active in and available to everyone who wishes to participate in the mission of hope.
Then we will see what seemed impossible become a reality. At Pentecost 120 people cried out for the Holy Spirit’s power. When the Spirit came 3,000 people accepted Jesus. Afterward, the numbers continued to increase (Acts 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24). What can the Holy Spirit do for the church today?
When someone asked Moody, the great evangelist of the nineteenth century, why he needed to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit, he answered, “Because I have a leak.” This is the secret: We receive in order to give. We should give more of ourselves in favor of those who need salvation, and as a result we will receive an increasing portion.
A good illustration of this is found in the symbol of fire that accompanied the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Fire purifies, illuminates, shines, heats, and spreads. God wants to make us spiritually “combustible.” This is God’s answer to the world’s coldness. Someone asked John Wesley how a preacher could persuade people to come and listen to the gospel. He answered straightforwardly, “If the minister is burning, others will come to see the fire.”
When the Fire Falls
Ellen White described precisely the result of this fire in the heart of the church: “In visions of the night representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God’s people. Many were praising God. The sick were healed and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great day of Pentecost. Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. On every side doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence” (Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 580).
The challenge is before us. The moment to announce our hope with power has come. The promise of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the latter rain are at our disposal. Let us take hold of them and go forward in the name of the Lord. 
1. Is it possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit today, or must we wait for the latter rain?
2. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What will our lives be like?
3. What do you see as the church’s greatest need now?
Erton Carlos Kohler is president of the South American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, with offices in Brasilia, Brazil. This article was published September 23, 2010.