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Men, movements, and monuments

“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” — Acts 1:8

In the history of human endeavors, there is a natural progression from “man” to “movement” to “monument.” A charismatic individual typically comes on the scene, mobilizes others to join him, and achieves great things. When the leader dies or leaves, his followers continue for a while in his spirit. But the movement generally lacks the founder’s dynamism and eventually loses momentum. Subsequently, it either fails outright or becomes only a monument to its former, departed glory. Man, movement, monument.

Christianity did not follow the “man-movement-monument” scenario. Jesus’ charisma cannot be denied. But when He died, He died alone. And after He rose from the dead, He had to appear to His disciples repeatedly to convince them that He was truly risen from the dead (Acts 1:3). He had to explain to them again that His kingdom was far different from the one they imagined (1:3, 6; see John 18:36). Even when He made His dramatic exit to heaven, they stood staring into the sky (Acts 1:11). They apparently still misunderstood that His departure was planned and His return was inevitable!

Not a very promising beginning! And yet Jesus’ “cause” not only survived but even thrived, so that the four corners of the globe and the most remote stretches of the world resound to the praise of the Lord Jesus two millennia later. What happened?

Prior to His departure Jesus told His disciples, “In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… You will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere” (1:5, 8). This power—the “Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead” (Romans 8:11)—imparted to them supernatural resolve that made them compelling witnesses for Christ.

Rather than losing momentum after the first generation, this movement of the Holy Spirit has continued, empowering Christ’s followers to serve Him. The Holy Spirit has winged their message to many hearts and has performed mighty works of grace, turning people “from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

There is no denying that Christianity has in some instances degenerated into a monument, and its places of worship into museums. But it is equally true that, where ordinary men and women in the power of the Spirit have proclaimed the good news of Christ’s saving grace, the church has continued to grow and thrive. When this happens, there is no man-movement-monument syndrome. The Man, Christ Jesus, is still at work through the Holy Spirit, doing what only He can do—and doing it well!

For further study: Acts 1:1-11

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.