There are many people saying today that the world is in a mess. The Australian feminist Germaine Greer recently highlighted a “major” problem (as she saw it) in England where she lives. She said that the future of the protected perennial flower, the English bluebell was threatened. The cause? Domestic dogs! Dog excreta were damaging the bluebells. She told a recent Festival her solution to this gigantic problem, “If you love your bluebells, kill your dog”. I don’t think many who heard her will be motivated to do that. It expressed her own individual response to the problem.
We are normally motivated to do good things in life rather than that which is obviously bad. But we have to qualify that by admitting that humans are not always motivated to do some of the good things in life. Obeying the two Great Commandments of Jesus would indeed be a very good thing to do but very few people are willing to love God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength. Neither are they willing to love their neighbours as themselves. We are increasingly becoming an “I” and “My” and “Mine” generation rather than living in willing subjection to God and in a sacrificial loving service to our fellow humans. If we don’t have the motivation to do what God wants us to do, then we will not receive His empowerment to do so either.
People With Motivation But No Power
As we read Acts 1 we see that even the early disciples of Jesus who had been motivated to follow Him realised they lacked power in their lives. It’s probably one of the reasons why they asked the Risen Jesus, Acts 1:6 “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Nothing much had changed for the disciples in spite of their commitment to Jesus. The Roman occupation forces were still in control of the country in spite of the current expectation that the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One would raise up an army and drive the Romans from the land. Then Israel would be a mighty nation again. It wasn’t happening as they thought it might. Nor were they radically changed personally. Personal belief had not been accompanied by personal power.
How wonderful it would have been for them to hear the Risen Jesus promise them, Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus’ Disciples Should Have Known Better
Jesus’ early followers didn’t just suddenly appear from nowhere. They had been brought up in the Jewish faith and had probably been exposed to the Jewish sacred writings from their youth. They would have known of many Bible passages which spoke of the New Covenant God would make with His people. In this New Covenant there would be a greater motivation and empowerment to live for God than ever existed before.
Old Testament Passages About Motivation And Empowerment For God’s People
i). Jeremiah 31:31-33. Jeremiah predicted a New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The law of God would be internalised, rather than being “out there”. As Paul later wrote, the law was good but gave no power to obey it. But in this new covenant God would write His law on their hearts. There would be a deeper, more personal intimate relationship between a forgiving God and His people.
ii). Ezekiel 11:19-20. Jeremiah predicted that God would soften people’s hearts enabling them to obey Him. Ezekiel 11: 19), And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (See also Ezekekiel 36:26). God would give His people a heart transplant. The new heart of flesh He would give them would make them more sensitive to Him and to His will for them. He could motivate and empower His people to obey Him.
How would He do it? In Ezekiel 36:27 He tells us. God would place His own Holy Spirit within them, And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. The word for “cause” is (asah) which can mean to accomplish, achieve, bring about, fulfil, produce, work and many other meanings. It describes God enabling His people to walk in His statutes. His Spirit would indwell them. The Spirit would motivate and empower them to do what God wanted them to do.
Instead of there being just a few people who would receive God’s Spirit to perform certain tasks for certain times, all of God’s people would receive His Spirit. That truth was emphasised in a later prophecy in Joel 2:28-29, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. It meant that in the new age when the Spirit was to be poured out on all believers they would be inwardly motivated and empowered to walk in the way God wanted them to live.
At the end of the Old Testament era there was an expectancy that things would be different when the Promised Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One came. It just needed the Messiah to come and establish the New Covenant so that God’s Spirit might be poured out on all who responded to Him.
The Disciples In Jesus’ Day. Motivation but no Power. Acts 1:6
Jesus came and established His Kingdom. He preached, taught and He healed. Many people rejected Jesus and His ministry. They had no motivation to live as God wanted them to live. Others like the disciples did have the motivation having been with Jesus. But they didn’t have the power to live as God wanted them to live. Even after His resurrection there was little change in them. They were probably thinking, “Hey, things are supposed to be changing. When is it going to happen Lord?” Jesus answered their question.
The Promise Of Power For The People Of God. Acts 1:8
Power was about to be released. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”9 And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Peter said later on the Day of Pentecost that when Jesus ascended into heaven he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” to pour out on the church on the Day of Pentecost.
Power Was Released On The Day Of Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4, 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out. The New Age of the Spirit had begun. Now the disciples of every age and throughout the ages could be Motivated and Empowered to do the will of God.
In the next blog we will look at how believers today can know God’s motivating and equipping power to live for Him in today’s world. We will look at some “mind-blowing” truths that will challenge and encourage us deeply.
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.23. Posted on Sunday 12th June 2011