Closing Message at 2012 Africa Regional Conferences
HOW TO BE A POWERFUL WITNESS
From Acts 1, we learned that the church was born and exists to witness Jesus Christ to the world. By God’s wondrous grace, we were created and called to be children of God and witnesses of the Lord Jesus. We find our supreme purpose in life when we live as His witnesses. Do you want to be a witness of Jesus Christ? Do you want to be a powerful witness? Let’s learn from Apostle Paul how to be a powerful witness of Jesus.
Acts 19 is the highlight of God’s work through Apostle Paul. Ironically the greatest gospel work did not occur in a city like Berea where people were noble, but it occurred at Ephesus-a metropolis full of materialism, idolatry, and immorality. Interestingly the atmosphere of Ephesus reflected today’s post-modern culture. When Paul revisited Ephesus, there were 12 men who knew only the baptism of John. To them, Paul witnessed to Christ and baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit came upon them. (1-7) Paul was sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and depended on Him for his ministry. He entered the synagogue and argued with the Jews, but the Jews hardened their hearts. Then Paul prayed and changed his strategy. What was his new strategy? Look at verse 9b. “He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” Paul focused on daily Bible study with the disciples. He believed that the word of the Lord is the Spirit and life (Jn 6:63). He experienced the life-giving and transforming power of the word in his own life and ministry through obedience. He obeyed the Lord to the point of risking his life as Jesus’ witness. The Holy Spirit empowered him to overcome all hardships.
To be a powerful witness, we should first have a firm conviction of the power in God’s word. This conviction comes from experiencing the truthfulness of God’s word through obedience. When we deny ourselves and simply obey his words, God never fails to manifest his power, love and faithfulness. Let me share what I experienced. When the Lord called me to be a shepherd, I decided to live by His words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When I was a student missionary to the United States, a crisis came when my advisor demanded that I choose either doctoral candidacy or campus ministry. In order to keep campus ministry, I resigned from my research assistant position. Then God opened a way to successfully finish my doctoral study under another professor. And God raised two American shepherds. One is Pastor Ron Ward who is now a senior pastor of Chicago UBF. Upon my return to Korea, I decided to become a B professor to be an A shepherd. God blessed my ministry and raised many shepherds and missionaries. God also made me an A professor by promoting me to the highest rank as professor ahead of my competitors. I know many of you have experienced the power, love and faithfulness of our God through obedience to his words.
With conviction of the power in God’s word, Apostle Paul prayerfully devoted himself to Bible study and messages for two full years. When he had God’s word in his heart, he was full of the joy and power of the Holy Spirit in all circumstances and God worked mightily through his ministry. May God help us to experience the power in God’s word through obedience and devote ourselves to deep Bible study until we have the joy and power of the Holy Spirit.
Next, Paul focused on discipleship. During his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus taught the crowd and focused on raising 12 disciples. Jesus’ strategy to evangelize the whole world was to raise disciples. So he commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” God’s work continues through the disciples, not through the crowd. No disciple, no future. So Paul welcomed everyone who came to Bible study, but focused on raising disciples. In Acts 20:19-31, he testifies to how he served the disciples, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus….Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” First, Paul served the Lord. Paul did not serve his own dream or ambition. He served the Lord with great humility and with tears. He could humbly serve God’s flock of sheep when he remembered the grace of God. When he remembered the grace of God, he could thank God in tears in all trials. Second, Paul shepherded the disciples one-to-one. Each person is different from one another. Paul accepted each person as he/she was and served the person according to his/her specific need. He visited them house to house after his daily hard work to nourish and lead each soul to God through repentance. In love, he did not avoid touching their sin problem. In Galatians 4:19, Paul said, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Paul did not lead people to himself but to Christ. His utmost purpose was that Christ be formed in them. This life-giving shepherding was the secret of successful disciple-making in Ephesus.
The outcome of Paul’s ministry was amazing. The Christian community in Ephesus grew and many Bible teachers and shepherds were raised. Missionaries went out to pioneer the seven churches in Asia Minor. Verse 10b says, “…so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord.” God confirmed the word through many miracles. Many confessed their hidden sins. Many who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls and burned them publicly. In today’s terms, they burned love books, porno videos and heavy metal CDs. Verse 20 concludes, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” When we obey the word and devote ourselves to the ministry of the word, the Holy Spirit will manifest many miracles of transformation, healing and restoration.
Verse 21 reads, “After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. ‘After I have been there,’ he said, ‘I must visit Rome also.’" After experiencing the work of God in Ephesus, Paul was convinced that God’s great work is possible even in Rome through Bible study and disciple-making. With this conviction, he later taught the Bible in Rome as a prisoner. And God changed Rome into a Christian empire after 250 years.
We should not be discouraged by the realities and problems in life. The Lord promised, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Mt 28:20). The Lord is with you. Let’s have faith in God and live as Jesus’ witnesses in obedience to His command. Let’s devote ourselves to Bible study and raising disciples after the example of our Lord Jesus and the apostles. May God make the word of the Lord spread widely and grow in power through the UBF chapters in Africa. May God raise missionaries and shepherds for the 55 African counties.