A Journey Thru Acts 1: Jesus’ Mission For Us (1:1-11)
Loved ones, after spending 52 posts last year in 2016 digging into the Bible to understand the foundation of this local church, it is even more important that we invest posts in 2017 to building on that firm foundation. In other words, the question we all should be asking is, “So what do we do NOW? What are the next steps regarding our Biblical foundation of elevating God, Christian community, and others (non-Christians)?” Let’s not have an open hole in the ground forever, and let’s not start on another project either—let’s partner with the LORD as HE builds on the foundation!
Again, some say, “Don’t worry about what to teach in 2017—just get out there and get busy doing good stuff.”
The problem is, the Lord Jesus has not given us such a general mission—He has given us a specific mission, a precise mission—Matthew 28, Acts 1; doing anything else, even good things, is disobedient to the Lord.
- If a tight end goes out for a pass when he is supposed to block the linebacker, the QB can get sacked, injured, and knocked out for the rest of the season. All because the tight end did a good thing instead of the right thing, instead of the best thing; all because the player ran the play he thought was good instead of the play the coach said was best.
- Since I started driving a car when I was 16 years old, I know how many miles I have personally driven. I keep track. Why? Because I’m WEIRD. There literally is no other explanation. There is no benefit to knowing the amount of miles I have driven—it simply is further proof of how strange I can be. 🙂 (If you’re wondering, I have driven 250,000 miles over those 20 years.)
- Why do I bring this up? Loved ones, 250k miles is a lot—I could have driven around the world ten times (assuming there was a highway over the oceans!). TEN TIMES! But you know what? I didn’t drive around the world even once. In fact, I haven’t even driven around the US once (that would take about 10k miles—I could have driven around the coasts/borders of the U.S. 25x). I basically drove in circles in a tiny area of Chicago and a tiny area around southern Minnesota for much of the last 20 years.
Loved ones, if we just get busy doing something good, we can be like this at the end of our earthly lives—done a lot in general, but not done what the Lord Jesus made us to do; living in circles—going far but going nowhere; having many miles on the odometer, but ending up right where we started.
As the Christian William Carey said in the late 1700s:
“I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
(For more on that please click HERE)
And so the elders and I have been praying and discussing about what to teach on to start 2017—we will be spending the months of January through May digging into the book of Acts—the actions of the apostles, really the actions of the Holy Spirit, in the early Christian Church. This is a fantastic book for us to dig into to build on the foundation of this local church—
- How did the early Christians live?
- What was their purpose, their mission?
- How did they live out their faith in the Lord Jesus?
- What did they do?
- What did they NOT do?
Now I don’t want to give the impression that the early church was perfect—they were not; much of the New Testament is written to correct their sinful attitudes, beliefs and actions!
But we can learn much by looking back—technology has changed over that time, but people haven’t, our mission hasn’t changed, our Savior is the same yesterday today and forever. Humans are still sinful rebels who need a sinless Savior—and oh what a dangerous privilege to introduce them to Him! Let’s dig in together!
Acts 1:1-11 (NIV)
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach
[Jesus spoke AND acted, Jesus taught with words and with actions—both! We often like to do one or the other, though for so many today we place a higher emphasis on doing, on acts of kindness. We often do not teach others with words. But if we are to truly be like the Lord Jesus and fulfill HIS mission for us, we must teach with words and actions. We must learn how to talk about the Gospel with our words—what is sin, why did the Lord Jesus have to die, what is the difference between faith that saves and simply an intellectual belief, what is grace, what is the Gospel, what is the meaning of the manger, the cross and the empty tomb, what is holiness and why is it important, etc.?]
2 until the day he was taken up to heaven,
[no retirement for the Lord Jesus, no resting on past accomplishments—He fulfilled the Father’s mission TO THE END, “until the day He was taken up to heaven.” We must look at our time on earth like this—breaking the tape of the finish line at the end of our race, not lazily floating across it in an inner-tube with a pina colada. For a race car, retirement—the placing on of NEW tires—means that the racecar will get back on the track, not parked in the garage. That kind of retirement is Christian/Biblical, regardless of our age, physical health, bank account, giftedness, etc.—living out the Lord Jesus’ mission for us until the day He takes US to heaven.]
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
[The Bible is trustworthy—please see Luke 1:1-4. People 2k years ago had the same questions we have today, and so Luke explains how he is using his scientific mind as a medical doctor to thoroughly research what happened.
Loved ones, we trust things we read from journalists because either they witnessed something that happened or they interviewed people who did. May God help us to give the same trust to the Bible!!! Oh my friends, if we are to truly follow the Lord Jesus & elevate God, community and others, we must see the Bible as perfectly and uniquely inspired by God, completely unlike any other book—not just containing truth, but BEING the Truth…
- 2 Peter 1:16-21: For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. 19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.]
Back to Acts 1:
3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
[Again, so many different people over a nearly six week period physically saw the Lord Jesus–He gave many proofs that He was alive! But blessed are those who have not seen and still believe…
And notice also what the Lord Jesus did during those forty days–He could’ve gone around physically healing more people, focusing on their earthly problems, but He didn’t: He focused on His Word, speaking about the Kingdom of God to His followers so that they would be equipped to introduce others to the Lord Jesus so He could also focus on their eternal problem–sin & separation from the Father! The Lord Jesus used those forty days to continue to prepare His people for their specific mission of being His witnesses, of using their words to spread the Gospel of grace & Truth.]
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:
[Doesn’t say Christ gave them a tip or a suggestion—He gave His followers a command! Oh please don’t think of the Old Testament as full of commands and the New Testament as full of suggestions—BOTH have commands! Think about all the verses in the New Testament that are commands–that tell us what we are to do and not to do:
- “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians)—commands!
- “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people. They immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Not suggestions, commands!
I wonder if one of the reasons so many of us aren’t taking up our cross and following the Lord Jesus each day—one of the main reasons so many church attenders act & believe like non-Christians—is that we think following the Lord Jesus is optional, is a suggestion from a consultant instead of a command from our King.
Loved ones, the New Testament has RULES! And they’re good rules, Truth & commands from God to honor Himself & spread His Kingdom; the commands of God to His people are like lenses that enable non-Christians to see Jesus more clearly—”let your light shine so people see your good deeds & praise your Father in heaven!” The more faithfully we follow Christ the more praise our Father gets! To follow someone is to walk in their footsteps—to walk where they walk, how they walk, why they walk! To follow is to obey—we can’t follow Jesus without obeying Him, and we can’t love Him without obeying Him (John 14:23-24).
- Romans 1:5: “Through [Jesus Christ our Lord] we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.”
Not the obedience that leads to faith, but the obedience that comes from faith. Faith in Christ is first, receiving His grace by faith as an undeserved gift! We don’t obey the rules in order to earn heaven—the grace of Jesus is a gift to be received by faith alone! But once God opens our eyes to receive that gift, the Holy Spirit transforms His people to joyfully obey the rules on the WAY to heaven! This distinction is so important—both extremes are wrong: obeying the rules to EARN heaven or thinking that grace means we can ignore God’s commands and do whatever we feel like. So much more to say about this, but let’s continue with the command that Christ gave His people in Acts 1:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
[Aaaargh I want to share an entire sermon on the importance of waiting on the LORD (for more, please click HERE)—what it is, what it isn’t, and why it is not passive, lazy or unproductive! But we are to learn what it means to wait on the Lord—we cannot fulfill His mission for us without learning to wait on Him, just as the first Christians couldn’t fulfill the mission without waiting on God!
In Matthew 28 the Lord Jesus just gave His followers the biggest mission of their lives—telling others about the Lord Jesus and making disciples and teaching them to obey everything Jesus said! He gives them this huge mission…and then tells them to WAIT! For many, they would just get busy busy busy doing a million activities—but that’s not what the Lord commanded them to do—He said to WAIT on God the Father; they would need Holy Spirit power, not human horsepower, to fulfill this great mission. Oh how we need God’s help not to row harder as Christians (our own power) but to work to open up our sails so that the Holy Spirit can drive us (God’s power). There is a subtle but important distinction in looking at Christianity as either a rowboat or a sailboat. No one has ever ROWED a boat around the world; but tiny sailboats have sailed around the world because of wind power. We must learn to live on the Holy Spirit’s power through the Bible.]
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
[Stop worrying about when the Lord will return—go do the what until He returns! We 21st century Christians must submit to the Lord our insatiable thirst to KNOW—somethings are not meant to be known by us. Are you ok with that? Will you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior & follow Him as your King without knowing all the answers to your questions? Knowledge can be important, but it was a LUST for ALL knowledge that led Adam & Eve to eat the forbidden fruit—it was called the tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good & evil—“you will KNOW, you will be like God!” (Genesis 3) We still think our knowledge makes us god, means that we don’t need Him, etc…
- “The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may obey all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
And finally, here is our mission, loved ones—not just for the early disciples of the Lord Jesus but ALL of His followers: to be His witnesses, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally…to tell others about the Lord Jesus, the Gospel—the manger, the cross and the empty tomb. That is our assignment, and it is for EVERYONE, not just for a select few (Navy SEAL Christians). Anything else is driving in circles, is chasing our tails, is busyness but not the Father’s business, is walking around admiring each other’s shiny climbing gear but never actually going up the mountain.
Lord willing, we will dive deeper into this in the Spring, but here is a powerful verse regarding our mission:
- Acts 5:28: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name [of the Lord Jesus],” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” YES! May God help us to fill the cities where we live with the Gospel, with the Good News, with the meaning of the manger, the cross & the empty tomb!]
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
[The physical cloud hid the Lord Jesus from their physical sight…NOT from their faith! May He help us to trust Him, even though we do not see Him physically…yet!
- 1 Peter 1:8-9: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”]
Back to Acts 1:
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
[Don’t worry! The Lord Jesus is not physically with you, but He is still with you! Don’t just stare at the sky—you got work to do, a mission from your Master!
Oh the beautiful Christian/Biblical tension: RESTING in the Lord Jesus’ finished work on the cross while also RUNNING the race that He has marked out for us (Hebrews 12)! It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Let’s run together with Christ Jesus, let’s take the baton from previous generations of Christians and run our lap of the race for the glory of God, being Jesus’ witnesses local, regionally, nationally and internationally—let’s proclaim the Gospel of the manger the cross and the empty tomb to a dying world that needs to be saved & reborn not just improved & enhanced! What a mission, what a Master!]