In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:1 - 11 (NLT)
At the end of each year I get all introspective, reviewing the previous year’s events and progress, successes and flops. And then I look ahead to the coming year; I want it to be better, more fruitful for the Kingdom of God. Call it making resolutions, or just turning over a new leaf.
In 33 A.D. the disciples of Jesus stood on the Mt. of Ascension and witnessed the turning of a new kingdom. The course of history had been altered forever. Jesus, the God-man, the Eternal One who had entered time and space, had charted new courses for the disciples and established new goals and rules for living in this new kingdom.
What is this Kingdom?
Jesus said much in the forty days after His resurrection about the Kingdom of God. Much of what he shared with them was instruction, or commandments about how they were to carry out His mission in the days ahead. What is the Kingdom? The Lord's Prayer tells us precisely, "...Thy KINGDOM come, Thy WILL BE DONE on earth, as it is in heaven." The Kingdom of God is extant wherever, and IN whom-ever makes it his number one priority to do the will of God.
Now, this is not something you decide lightly; something has to happen to set your mind in that direction. For the disciples it was the resurrection. That Jesus actually rose from the dead and walked the earth for forty days is one of the most well-documented facts of history.
In First Corinthians (15:1-8) we find there are no less than eight specific persons or groups to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection. And these were no midnight visions, no trances, or New Age séances. Jesus ate and drank with these people; they felt the wounds in His flesh. He sat with them in the light of day; He talked and taught and traveled with them. This wasn’t Casper the Ghost, some apparition, or disembodied spirit. This was the living Son of God, raised from the dead, in the flesh and announcing with His own presence that the Kingdom of God was upon us!
What Jesus taught in those days was how to share this good news:
The word "kerugma" means "to proclaim". The disciples spent time with the risen Lord learning about the Kingdom and how to spread the Good News. And then they were ready to serve Him. If you and I would serve Jesus, we also must spend time getting to know His Kingdom. For those who would share Jesus, you must have Him to share! It’s personal!
In our text note how Jesus shares with the disciples His plans for reaching a needy world with the good news.
First, note they were INSTRUCTED
…he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. Acts 1:4 (NLT)
He said, "Wait". Those of us who are more impetuous like Peter want to forge ahead like bulls in a china shop. We like doing things our way, but Jesus instructed them to wait. It is always so much more effective to do it God’s way.
We are like that in our church evangelistic programs. We think, "Get a 'name-brand' preacher, one that can really win people, get decisions; that'll do it!" That may sound like wisdom, but there's only one thing wrong - that isn't the way Jesus said to do it. My friends, if you had Billy Graham in this pulpit, winning 500 converts a week, this church would see 26,000 souls brought into the Kingdom this year. You would say “WOW, isn’t that wonderful”!!!.
But what if the 50 of us here today each made it our goal to win just one person this year? And then spend a whole year helping that person become a mature disciple who would win someone else the following year?
Now, fast-forward twenty years and check our evangelistic progress. With Billy Graham as pastor we’d see 520,000 people added to the kingdom. However, with just the 50 here winning 50, then we have 100. In the second year that 100 win another 100 and you have 200. Keep doubling like that, and in 20 years we would witness over 52 million people coming to Christ. Which is better? They were instructed and they were…
John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:5 (NLT)
...In the book of Acts there are only six references to the "filling" (or baptism) of the Holy Spirit. Each instance includes a bold witness of Christ.
Conclusion? If you want to be a witness for Christ, you will need to encounter and be filled by the Spirit. It’s also true that if you want the Spirit of God blessing your life, get ready to be His witness!
The disciples were being given advance notice that for the task set before them, God was going to do a major overhaul on their courage. They were to receive the tremendous compelling desire to share the message of Good News in the home, synagogues, in the market place, and on the sidewalks.
They were Instructed, Inducted, and…
6So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. Acts 1:6 – 7 (NLT)
I can just imagine the disciples were dreaming of powerful cabinet positions in the new kingdom. Promise and power from on high were theirs…and what else, Lord? Imagine their surprise when Jesus said, "None of your business, guys; you just do what I've told you, and leave the driving to me."
Why were the disciples still clinging to the ancient shrine of a national independence and kingdom for Israel? Well, we ALL find it hard to let go of our private, lucrative agendas. The disciples had stuck with Jesus, all the way to
Sure there was that brief time when they had to leave him to the Romans
and the cross. But three years of
faithful self-denial ought to count for something. Didn't Jesus and His Father in heaven know
that the time was right for Jerusalem 's
new kingdom? Israel
The disciples had to learn what we also must know...The church's job is proclamation of the gospel, not prediction of the future. We don't have to know what God's timetable is to be able to do what He's commissioned us to do. He can still read a calendar. And He is still, most definitely in charge!
Instructed, Inducted, Insighted, and…
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)
Jesus told them flatly that they didn’t need to know the times or the seasons..; Jesus had taken care of the power they would need –here, my beloved, he says, is YOUR PART of the work...Here is your priority; you be my witnesses. Go tell the good news!"
In Indianapolis many years ago a young preacher stood on a street corner one day, and began to preach the good news. Soon a huge crowd was gathered, listening. The intersection was so filled, that they were ordered by the police to disband, and the group all moved inside the convention building. Before the young preacher finished preaching to this overflow crowd, the convention manager came and announced they'd have to get out to make room for the clergy who had come to hear the speakers on "How To Evangelize the Masses". While the convention was DISCUSSING how to reach the lost, D.L. Moody had been DOING it!
That’s the bottom line of being in-serviced – we go about the business of sharing the Good News of God’s grace and saving power.
The final verses of the text are about that – about how to cooperate with Jesus’ invitation to turn over a new leaf this year.
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:9 - 11 (NLT)
Jesus is suddenly taken from the midst of His disciples – right up into the clouds! There they stand, eyes wide, mouths open, totally amazed...and then so very alone, again! They had to have had that same sinking feeling they had a few weeks prior, after the cross when Jesus was buried in that grave. Now what?
But there are the angels, standing there..."Hey, stop daydreaming. Stop looking at the clouds. Jesus is coming back in those same clouds someday. And He's given you a job to do....Why stand there, when you've been commanded to go?"
It seems it's always like that. Suddenly graduation day is upon us. School was regulated; time was accounted for; structure was comfortable. But then, graduation, and we're all grown up, supposedly, and it’s now time to stand up and DO something!
The disciples did, indeed “do something” – or more accurately, the Holy Spirit of God did something in, with, and through those disciples. One scholar put it this way:
After the wait, with the power of the Father, the church is unleashed into the world with incredible energy and authority. It is unrestrained by the authorities it encounters; it is unimpeded even by imprisonment. Its impact is “to turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). I do not know about you; this prospect and possibility seem remote from the church as I know it . . . except, it is the work of the Spirit! When the church waits and receives, it is emboldened in a way that transforms. Imagine, “news” turned loose in the world: the truth of repentance, the reconciliation of forgiveness. The church mounts, in effect, an abiding truth and reconciliation commission. In the Book of Acts and long after, when the church is empowered by the Spirit, the world finds it irresistible!
We have before us a new year, new challenges and a new chance to serve our God in His Kingdom.
What is our outlook?
How shall we approach the invitation to cooperate with God?
Will we pray and wait for power, and then allow God to unleash us with the greatest news on a generation of hurting and lost people that are our neighbors, friends, families and strangers among us?
Is the world going to find us “irresistible”?
It will, if we allow the Spirit of God complete control here!