Today I would like to begin a journey with you as we work through the book of Acts. This book is important because it answers the: ‘What now?’ question.
The Gospels not only refer to the prophecies of the Messiah, they give us a beautiful picture of who the Lord Jesus is; “The Great I Am, The Good Shepherd, The Way, The Truth and The Life….” They also open up the possibility of God intervening in ordinary people’s lives.
In the Gospels we have the life, teachings, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus explained to us by four different writers; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Luke is the only one who followed with the results of the Gospel.
Luke records the story of the beginnings of the church. The now question is answered. It is done so with great clarity and historical accuracy- Luke had a definite purpose in writing both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Maybe these should have been placed in the Scripture after each other.
Who was Luke?
- Luke was a well-educated man, he was a doctor some commentators believe that he was also a wealthy man. He was meticulous in his recording of events; he was also a historian and a close friend of the Apostle Paul. Some believe that it was through Paul that this man from Antioch came to faith; others believe that he was Titus’s brother. There is a good chance that all these facts are true.
- He wrote with the purpose of informing people about the Gospel and the beginnings of the Christian church-
- I believe that it went beyond a literary exercise and the recording of History- what he writes is life changing, it breaths; it is alive and it is worthy of being recorded in Holy Scripture.
- Luke wanted the world to know what burnt in his heart! What enthused him and gave him life. That his readers too may come to the same conclusions in their lives.
Acts begins with these words:- “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 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.
In other words, I have already spoken about the Lord Jesus. Now this is what happened after the resurrection- The Disciples and fellow believers had the privilege of seeing the risen Christ on many occasions during a forty day period. They witnessed many convincing proofs for the resurrection! They experienced signs and wonders at the hand of the Lord; this was a sign of what was to come in their lives. The Lord Jesus commanded his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, for something was about to happen. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing; it was something that God had prepared for the Church much earlier.
The fulfilment of prophecy- Some weeks ago I said that things do not just happens; they are often the result of many other decisions that had been made over the years. Although it came as a shock to the followers of the Lord Jesus- what was happening was foretold-: Acts 1:4,5. “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.” The penny dropped for Peter as he preaches his first sermon. He got it! It all made sense now. Read Joel he says: – Joel 2:28:- 28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”
They were asked to wait, the old English word is tarry, remain, stay, linger!
Have you noticed that much of our lives are spent in waiting?
We wait to be born and we wait to die.
We stand around waiting for all sorts of things to happen.
Nothing is ever instant.
I believe that there is a God given process in life waiting is part of that process.There is conception and then there is gestation and then a series of events that mould and shape our lives. In fact we are all a product of our past, this will either free us or condemn us, only the Lord Jesus can take the past and make it a stepping stone for better and greater things! Throughout the Scriptures there are many instances of waiting. Take Moses for example. How many years did he have to wait before he led the people of Israel out of Egypt? He lived for 120 years
- 40 years initial education he was a somebody, an important man in Pharaoh’s court.
- 40 years in the wilderness where he learnt to work and be a nobody, and
- The next 40 years he was God’s man.
There are stages in each person’s life. Many have a similar spiritual journey. The Disciples also experienced these stages.
- Enlightenment- they came to know who the Lord Jesus was and followed Him. (Not everyone who is enlightened follow through)
- Education and empowerment
- Earnestness as the journey begins.
Acts is the story of the Empowerment and education phase of their journey.
If you are like me, waiting may not be your strong point- yet God calls each one of us to wait in expectation.
Expectation that God will provide, that God will bless, that God will guide. William Carey that famous 18th Century missionary said; “Expect great things; attempt great things.”
Wait: I love Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
We wait to hear from Him.
We wait to be equipped by His Spirit.
We patiently wait while others catch up, or even walk away.
Acts chapter one is the story of waiting; it is also the story of being equipped and enthused by the Spirit of God.
When was the last time you got excited and enthused about something?
God’s presence in our lives should:-
- Excite and provoke us to service.
- Enthuse and spur us to action.
- Encourage and motivate us to thanksgiving.
- As we read through this wonderful book, we find that the early Christians we Excited, Enthused and Encouraged.
- We also are given insight into their lives and struggles; in doing so we can relate to their humanity, their fears and their faith.
- The book of Acts has also been called the book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
- Like the Gospel it has no ending it has many beginnings. There have been volumes written about the church throughout the centuries. Wonderful stories of Faith in action and the continuation of the Church in this world.
What is the secret to this- In fact it is no secret- it is the promise of Joel fulfilled not only in the early Church but of the church of the 21st Century.
What is it that makes the Christian different?
Some would say:-
- Good moral teaching
- Following the Lord Jesus
- Our love and fellowship and
- Our good works
All these are commendable and should be obvious in the church. They are not the answer. The answer is twofold.
- A relationship with the Lord Jesus. We come to faith in the Lord, accept and acknowledge His right to be Lord of our lives.
- The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We come to the point of new birth in our lives, where the Holy Spirit, indwells and transforms.
The Christian walk is both normal and supernatural. The Early Church like us needed to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit within the life of the believer. Acts 1:8 “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. YES EVEN WOLLONGONG. AMEN!