Friday, 5 July 2013
Famous last words.
Last words are powerful. They are spoken for maximum impact, when nothing else matters any more. There are pages full of them on the Internet. Some funny, some poignant, some sad, some totally fabricated!
One of my favourites was uttered by the over confident General Sedgwick before his last moment in the American Civil War. Looking over the parapet, he turned to encourage his troops with these words:"They couldn't hit an elephant from this dist...!"
Or how about one of the heroes of Scott's fatal race to the Antarctic? Knowing he was dying of exhaustion, hunger and exposure, Captain Oates left his colleagues in the tent, not wanting to slow down their retreat to safety, out into temperatures of-70. His brave, stiff upper lip British understatement at this moment of supreme self sacrifice? "I'm going out, I may be some time."
In my last words as a preacher in the church family that we've served in for the past eight years, we are looking at the most significant final words of all. In Acts 1.8, the soon to ascend Jesus tells his bewildered disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and that they will be his witnesses from their current home city to the very ends of the earth.
My final encouragement is this: A Spirit filled, Spirit dependent church, is one where every ordinary disciple is empowered by God; Looking and sounding like Jesus, noticeable to the world around us for our power and spiritual authority.
So it's a specific power to enable us to do a specific job. But are limits on us with regard to this resourcing- Both chronological and geographical.
Jesus promises us to be with us in this way, empowering us through His Spirit to the very end of the age. Then He commissions us to go in this power to the very ends of the earth.
There are two distinct 'end' points in view for us here, two lines to cross- Until Jesus returns to planet earth, and until every people group, every distinct culture on earth has a living, vibrant New Testament church witness to the truth about Jesus.
This is why we've received the Spirit. Until he returns or until the job gets done, we run as hard as we can at these two finish lines. No talk of retirement or easing up - Until my last breath is gone, my last pound is spent, my last prayer is prayed - We are called to live in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit and be a witness to Jesus.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army understood this. His pioneering church expanded with the speed and depth which shows that it was rooted in the original, grand apostolic plan. Booth's last public words shortly before his death in 1912 were these: "While Women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!”
Few of us will have our final words recorded for inspirational posterity- All of us are called to be filled with the empowering missionary Spirit, then to run and fight with everything we have until the end of the age and out to the ends of the earth.