October 6th, 2019
Minoh International Church
Good morning Minoh International Church! I’m James from Perth, Western Australia and this is my wife Ritsuko (who is originally from Kagoshima, but lived in Perth for 12 years before we moved to Japan). We’ve been living in Nagaokakyo city, in Kyoto prefecture for the last almost 11 years. We’re about to return to Perth for at least 3 years. After that, I’m not sure what plans God has for us… Whether we’ll come back to Japan, stay in Perth or go somewhere else?
Not long after we arrived in Japan we connected with Sis. Jo Ann, through a missionary who was teaching English in Nagaokakyo. After a short while we began teaching English at a company in Osaka once a month with Sis. Jo Ann. A few months later Sis. Jo Ann invited us out for morning tea and then we met Pastor Joseph. Since then we’ve been meeting for morning teas and prayer, once in a while, sometimes more regularly, sometimes not so.
I was told by Pastor Joseph that this month is missions month and asked to share a little about what we did in Japan. I’m feeling a little unworthy, as we didn’t even come here as official missionaries tied to any missionary organisation. We just came as an immigrant and a returnee. We were hoping to help a church we had connected with restart its English program, and through that and other English teaching opportunities support ourselves. But God had other plans…
Through a friend of a friend we’d connected with a church in Nagaokakyo. That friend of a friend also gave us much assistance in finding accommodation and helping us move to Japan. We made a short trip to Japan in September 2008. The church accommodated us and on the Sunday service we were given a very warm welcome by the members of the church. We made the move to Japan in November 2008. Again the church accommodated us for the first couple of days, until the house we would stay in for our whole term in Japan was ready.
A few weeks after we settled in, it became apparent that things were not quite right in the church we had joined. I won’t go into all the details now… By the end of December 2008 the church had split and the people who sided against the pastor asked us to lead them in a new church. We wrote to our pastor in Australia and told him all that had happened. He advised us that it would be best for us to accept the offer to lead this new church.
Shining Lights Church, Nagaokakyo began on January 11, 2009 in that friend of a friend’s house. In September 2009 the church moved to our house and remained there until it’s conclusion last week. We’ve had many people come and go. Only one person other than ourselves has remained since the beginning. I’ve faced a lot of criticism from people of about my leadership style. However, despite of my weaknesses, we’ve seen God work in many wonderful ways to change people and also provide for us. More recently we’ve seen God do work in Ritsuko’s family, one by one they’re starting to get saved.
Empowered for Mission
Even before Pastor Joseph mentioned to me that this month is mission month, I felt that God was placing these verses on my heart as I prayed and thought about what I might share with you all here. I believe in these verses God is revealing to us the very essence of what it is to do mission in this world. I believe that these things apply to all believers not only those who are officially missionaries or pastors, but also to students, teachers, company employees, homemakers, business people, trades people, etc. It doesn’t matter what your official occupation is, if you’re one of God’s people then in a big or small way you are a missionary… Maybe there are some here today who this is all new to. Some who’ve not yet made the connection with God through Jesus. I pray the Holy Spirit will speak to you of the truth of God, and Jesus’ work of salvation as we look at these verses.
There are a lot of things I could preach about from these verses, but today I feel the Lord is asking me to focus on three essential ways we are empowered for mission. Let’s look at these three things now.
- Empowered by Evidence
v3a “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”
The book of Acts is written by Luke, the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke. In Shining Lights Church, I was preaching through the Gospel of Luke. One thing striking about Luke, is how thorough he is at gathering evidence and cross checking facts. This is because of his Greek education which was big on those things. So when Luke makes a statement “many convincing proofs”, be assured that Luke is convinced Jesus had indeed risen from death and is alive. While Luke himself wasn’t an eyewitness, he carefully interviewed and cross examined many of the eye witnesses to come to his conclusion.
Today is around 2000 years since those events, what evidence do we have that Jesus is indeed alive? I’ve come to the conclusion that it is through the people who have invited Jesus into their lives. How Jesus transforms the lives of those who invite him into their lives. He has totally changed my life and continues to change me in ways I never thought possible. He totally changed my wife’s Aunty Noriko and all who knew her saw it. Now He’s changing my mother-in-law! Jesus is alive and working in the world today. AMEN
- Empowered Supernaturally
v5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even before he was born. Jesus declared John to be greater than all of the prophets, yet less than all who would come later. Why is that so? Because up until John, only a few people were filled with the Holy Spirit at any given time. Those filled with the Holy Spirit would be the prophets to the rest of the people, to give the people God’s message. The people would either obey the word of God the prophet brought to them and change their behavior or persecute the prophet. When the people were baptized by John, they were declaring that they accepted the message from God which John gave and they were going to change their behavior.
Jesus is telling us that the time we are living in is a time when all of God’s people are going to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Now is a much greater time spiritually than the old times, because the Holy Spirit dwells in the whole body of Christ. No longer do we have to put our own effort into changing our behavior. Rather as the Holy Spirit indwells in us we are transformed supernaturally from the inside out. Accepting Jesus into your life is not just changing to another kind of the many religions in this world… It’s not about changing your culture or your morals… It’s about trusting Jesus that He has done the work for you on the cross and allowing The Holy Spirit to transform your life from the inside out. Then you will be empowered. AMEN
- Empowered to Witness
v8 “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 filling of the Holy Spirit is not for self-indulgence. If we see that situation occurring it is right to question is the Holy Spirit at work or another spirit. The main reason for the filling so we can be empowered to witness others, demonstrating the truth and power of Jesus, raised from the dead. I’ve seen Holy Spirit supernaturally convict people of sin and bring them to repentance. I’ve seen people healed from inoperable cancers. I’ve seen miracles occur and people emboldened to share the Gospel. The pattern in the Bible shows us that when supernatural works of the Holy Spirit occur then Gospel witness always follows it.
Notice also that this witness starts locally, the disciples were located in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Mission starts where you are now. It could start with something as simple as talking to someone you haven’t talked to before. Mission expands outwardly as far as God is willing for you to go on your life’s journey. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. We are empowered for Mission. AMEN