A hurting child lay in his bed, quivering from cold and fear. Pedro’s father had beat up his mother again.1 And there was never enough food because his father drank away nearly all his earnings. With his dirty little hands, Pedro wiped at an endless stream of tears for at least an hour. Finally, he clenched his fingers and whispered with determination, “One day, I will leave this miserable house and never come back. No one pays attention to me here, anyway. I will make my own way in the world.”
As soon as he could fend for himself, Pedro left home and never returned. He lived on the streets and became what he hated in his father. The scared little boy grew up to become an alcoholic and drug addict. No one would ever see any value in him; he was worthless. Eventually, he cut back a little on his drinking and began to sell little bottles of perfume in airports. Twenty years had gone by since he was that scared little boy at home. He was doing better but had no purpose in life or hope of a better future.
A pastor arrived at the airport where Pedro was selling his perfume. Pedro approached the pastor, trying to sell some perfume. He bought a small bottle and asked Pedro about his life. The whole sorry story poured out of Pedro’s heart, ending with, “So, you see, I am an orphan that no one wants.”
The pastor began to tell Pedro about Someone who would never abuse or abandon him. A new light entered Pedro’s eyes. Suddenly, he jumped up and said, “Don’t go anywhere. I will be right back.”
Like the Samaritan woman at the well, he could not help but share the good news. He ran to get his friends—other peddlers—and they sat in a circle talking about Jesus, who could change their lives.
The pastor then offered to send audio presentations of hope to their cell phones. They all eagerly signed up. The pastor kept in close contact with Pedro and the others, creating a community for nurture and support. However, the power of drugs and alcohol seemed to overwhelm Pedro, and communication became less frequent. The pastor never gave up. Little by little, Pedro came to believe that God’s promises were meant for him, and he surrendered his heart, becoming a new man in Jesus, free from all substance abuse.
Pedro was baptized in the local Seventh-day Adventist church, a new creation made by Jesus! He could not stop texting the pastor who helped him, “Thank you for telling me about Jesus!”
Pedro now walks with a spring in his step because he knows who he is. He is no longer an orphan but the son of the King of kings, who will never leave or forsake him. He is wanted. He is valuable. He does not just sell perfume; he himself is now a “sweet fragrance of Christ . . . among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15, AMP). Pedro is passing on the good news of the gospel to all those around him.
This is not just a story of cell-phone evangelism and how effective it can be.2 This is a story of how a Spirit-filled church can be a sweet fragrance to the world that Jesus loves. It’s an example of how we, today, can be like Jesus, ministering to the downtrodden and those in need and leading them into the kingdom of God.
What are the characteristics of what we have been called to do?
Disciples are called to be global witnesses, a feat possible only through the power of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:8). Theologian Frank Hasel states, “As Christians, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Without Him, our witness will be powerless and our Christian lives nothing but a burden. We might have learning, talent, and eloquence, but without the Spirit, we … will not have the assurance of salvation and will not know the joy that comes from serving our Lord. We will be Christians in name only, and a Christian in name only is not really a Christian at all.”3
So, what does it mean to be a witness? A witness is one who testifies about what he or she has seen or heard. A credible witness may even put his or her life on the line for truth. The word witness is translated from μάρτυς (martyr). A witness may die physically because he or she is faithful to God, but all true martyrs must first die to self. Their death reveals that they are genuine witnesses. All true witnesses love God to the degree that they are willing even to die for His mission.
Witnessing is not a church program it is a lifestyle. A witness is deeply surrendered and committed to God’s mission. To be witnesses, we must know Him by experience. Without such an experience, our words are empty and without power.
The second characteristic is that the church is an immortal movement because its Owner is immortal (Acts ١:٩, ١٠). You may go to Egypt and see the body of Tutankhamun; in Rome is the body of John Paul II; in the United States are the remains of Abraham Lincoln; in China, there is the tomb of Mao Tse-tung; in Russia, the body of Lenin.
But if you go to Jerusalem, the tomb of Christ is empty.
The message of Christianity is based on an empty tomb. Evangelist Billy Graham expressed it this way: “There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.”4 The destiny of God’s church is an assured destiny because the Creator God is our immortal Founder.
The message of God’s church answers our deepest questions. We were meant for more than this life could ever offer. We were created to live eternally with our heavenly Father.
When Jesus left His tomb empty and ascended to heaven, the angels asked the disciples, “ ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’ ” (Acts 1:11, NKJV). To live in the time of the prophets and the apostles must have been a privilege; to know the Reformers would have been an inspiring and enriching experience. However, we live in the best time, the time of the end. It is imperative to understand the urgency of the time. We are called to make the same decision that Pedro made, to rely on God’s power to change our lives and give us a new identity as children of God. We are called to be ambassadors for the kingdom of heaven because Jesus is coming.
The fourth characteristic of the church is that it is part of the end time. We must not give up. We must not grow weary. Despite any personal cost, we must illuminate the world with the good news of salvation. We must call our members to put God to the test as they walk in the full power of God in this dark world. We must be an active part of the great movement that will illuminate the whole earth with the light of the gospel (Rev. 18:1).
The mission and legacy of the church are found in people whose lives have been rescued from Satan’s grasp. As we pass through the narrowest part of the earth’s hourglass, our members must experience the joy of being used by God to reach others. When they become true disciples of Jesus, they will receive the needed power for the daily surrender of their hearts and active ministry to others who will soon proclaim, “ ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’ ” (Isaiah 25:9, NKJV).
A status change
Jesus said, “ ‘I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you’ ” (John 14:18, NKJV). Our status has changed from orphans to ambassadors. We are the much-loved children of the King, and He has called us to involve all of God’s children in the precious mission of making disciples of a world He died to save. Jesus is coming, according to His promise. This is the hope of all generations. May the passion of our lives be to prepare the world for this amazing event and to see heaven filled with precious redeemed sinners saved by the power and grace of God.
- Pedro is a pseudonym.
- For more on cell-phone ministry see Karen Glassford, “Even God Uses Cell Phones,” Ministry, June 2020, https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2020/06/Even-God-uses-cell-phones, visit http://awr.org/cpe, or email [email protected]
- Frank M. Hasel, “The Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit.” Adult Bible Study Guide, January 28, 2017, 57. https://absg.adventist.org/pdf.php?file=2017:1Q:TE:PDFs:ETQ117_05.pdf
- Billy Graham, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2013), 82.