Saviour at work
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
One day, my father Hermann Bonnke went 'fishing' but his 'catch' was far different from what he or anyone else might ever have expected '“ an incredible story.
My father was young, strong and sporty. Out walking by the water one day he heard a cry for help. Looking across, he saw a man struggling, in danger of perishing in the ice-cold water. How or why the man was there did not matter to my father. He was a strong swimmer and without a moment's hesitation, he jumped into the wintry flood, swam out to the man, grabbed him and saved his life.
He pulled the half drowned victim to the water's edge and began hauling him ashore. But he felt a peculiar drag. Heaving the victim to safety seemed like pulling on an unexpected weight, heavy work. He could not understand why. Then he saw the answer. To his astonishment, he found out what the dragging 'weight' was. Two more drowning people were hanging on to the first man's feet! He was saving not one man but three people. Three for the price of one!
Because of her persistent testimony
A young man brought us a thrilling personal tale a few months ago. In 1985 in Cape Town we had pitched the world's largest tent seating 34,000 people. Then calamity struck. A tornado-like storm ripped that proud tent to shreds, leaving bits of canvas flapping and fluttering so pathetically on the 88 foot high steel masts. It looked like the skeleton of a sea monster. Yet we still went ahead and held our Great Gospel Campaign '“ and more people gathered than would ever have fitted into our tent. The young man's grandmother became a Christian at that meeting in Valhalla Park, Cape Town. She began witnessing to others, like the woman at the well who went into her city and told everybody she had 'met a man' (John 4:4-42). The young man said, 'Because of my grandmother's new life and persistent testimony, 100 family members have been saved and are today Spirit-filled Christians.' Ninety-nine others had followed her as she followed Jesus.
I had tears in my eyes as he spoke. Then I remembered the story my father had told me of how he saved one man and two other people were holding on to him to be saved. Jesus saved this grandmother and she had taken the whole family with her to him. She followed Jesus and they followed her as she followed him, out of the deep waters into the Kingdom.
That is the lifestyle of disciples of Jesus. It applies to all of us. We are called, equipped and enabled to pass on the glorious good news of salvation in the power of God.
Empowered for the impossible
I want to look now at Christ's Great Commission. It was impossible to act on the Great Commission before the Day of Pentecost. Jesus had told his disciples to wait. Then things started to happen! The evangelism that took place on that one day produced the worldwide church. But '¦ what is the church? Are we clear about its nature and its purpose?
The church is an extension of Christ
The church is an extension of the compassion of the Lord Jesus, an extension of his comfort, his healing and his goodness. 'Jesus of Nazareth '¦ went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil' (Acts 10:38). That is what we should be doing!
The church is his body; we are told: 'And he is the head of the body, the church' (Colossians 1:18). God has no arms but ours with which to embrace this pitiable world. Love is his supreme characteristic. I feel that we are only his body to the degree or extent that we show clear evidence of his compassion. A loveless church is no church at all. The love of God that was personified in Jesus needs to be personified in the church. 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 2:5). The church is the current evidence of what we read of Jesus in the Gospels. Let me put it like this: the church is his beloved child, the embodiment of his Spirit of sonship.
The church is to be a continuation of the Day of Pentecost
The purpose of evangelism is not to turn the church into an ecclesiastical advertising agency or a society for propagating its own existence. It burst into view on the Day of Pentecost speaking in tongues, with prophecy and fire. If the church is not like that '“ no fire, no tongues, no prophecies, no evangelism, no bold preaching of Christ and the Resurrection, no triumphant certainty and promise '“ how can any rational person identify it as the same church? Who would recognise its visage as that of the church in Jerusalem in AD 30 without the power and manifestation of the Spirit? We are left with the natural processes of success, organisation, intellectual abilities, human wisdom, prowess and energies. Those assets, relied on alone, leave the church an empty shell.
The church of Pentecost demonstrated that Jesus is alive
The proof that Jesus is alive should be in the church itself '“ demonstrated by its energy, love and vitality. Living people tend to stand out! All Jesus wants is a chance to show that he is alive '“ in the church. When the church spends its time trying to prove that Jesus was resurrected, people naturally think, 'If Jesus is alive, why do they have to devote so much effort and reason to proving it? It should be obvious.' Compassion for the suffering and that matchless quality of Christ-like goodness that only he can impart must be there, clearly in evidence.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he was talking to twelve men only, twelve ordinary men. It must have sounded an outrageous demand. No king, no tyrant ever expected so much of so few. But Jesus did. You can know the true Jesus because he demands the impossible. That is how you can identify him. That is Jesus every time '“ telling you to do what is beyond your natural abilities. Kill Goliath! Be a giant, not a grasshopper! Move mountains! Be perfect! Walk on the waves! Cleanse the lepers! Raise the dead! Teach all nations! Preach the gospel to every creature!
The idea of being saddled with the task of the Great Commission without Pentecostal power is ridiculous. Whenever Jesus demands the impossible, he is there, the living Christ, to make it possible. That is the principle of a life with Jesus '“ all the glory goes to God! Hallelujah!