Week 1: 9-7-14

ACTSBANNER**Due to Technical Difficulties There Is No Recorded Version of this sermon. Please enjoy reading through the text though!**

Acts 1:1-15
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 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. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Three Priorites:
1. Represent Jesus Well
2. Tell the Story of Jesus to as Many as a
You Can
3. Receive Continual and Heavenly Power through the Holy Spirit

 

“Acts 1:1-5 September 7, 2014

In the movie, The Odyssey, a film based on Homer’s epic poem about the adventures of Odysseus, Odysseus and his men land on the island of Aeaea.  A sorceress named Circe (Kirkee) lives on this island and she serves a magical potion to Odysseus’ men causing them to forget about their journey and their ultimate goal of getting back home.

Odysseus, who is suspicious of Circe, eats an herb that protects him from the magical potion.  However, since his men are caught under Circe’s spell, Odysseus has to make a deal with the evil sorceress in order to free them.  After setting his men free, it is clear that they must leave the presence of this evil sorceress.

However, before they resume their journey, Circe uses another tactic to enslave Odysseus and his men.  Circe offers Odysseus and his men all kinds of pleasures which they can indulge for as long as they like.  The offer is too tempting and Odysseus and his men stay for another five days indulging in all kinds of pleasure.  But after five days, Odysseus says to Circe, enough is enough, he and his men must resume their journey.  Five days of revelry has to end.

At this point, Circe laughs at Odysseus and reveals to him that he has not been on the island for five days …but rather five years!  Shocked by this news, Odysseus runs down to the shoreline and finds his ship covered with five years of blowing sand.  What he thought was just five days was in reality… five years.

What a striking picture for all of us to contemplate.  How easy it is to think that a short detour… a little sidetrack… a frivolous pursuit …can turn out to be so much longer than we think!  All of us can be easily pulled away from the greater goals of life and squander not mere days… but entire years.  We may have determined at some point in our lives a particular set of priorities, but as we were caught up with this… and then with that… days passed by… and then days turned into years.

Perhaps there was an earlier time in our lives when we said, “I need to spend time with God each day… I need to read from my Bible each day… I need to pray for my friends and family by name each day… I need to memorize key verses from the Bible so that the truth of Scripture can be planted in my heart.

However, the demands of everyday living and the fun attractions that our culture offers, pull us away little by little.  We think we are only losing days… but all of a sudden we come to the realization that years have passed by and we are not as close to God as we should be.  We are embarrassed by the fact that we know more about certain TV shows than we do about the Bible.

Perhaps in the early years of marriage we realized how hard marriage can be and we re-dedicated ourselves toward our spouse.  We were going to do everything we could to become close, unified, true soul-mates.  But life kept throwing in little details here and there… and short-sighted choices were made… and distance grew and all of a sudden you look at your spouse and you say, “Where have the years gone?”  And you ask, “Why isn’t our marriage better than it is?”

Perhaps there was an earlier time when we made a commitment to serve God.  We were so excited about what Jesus had done for us that we couldn’t wait to tell others… we loved serving… and we loved singing… and we loved teaching… and we loved planning new events.  And we envisioned ourselves as standing before Jesus on the Day of Judgment and hearing him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

But long work weeks… and the demands of raising kids… and the desire to make a better life for ourselves started taking up our time.  It really seemed like just days… but now we realize that years have passed by and we still haven’t done all that we know God planned for us.

It is easy to get sidetracked.  It is easy to be lulled into a life of mediocrity.  It is easy to let days …become years.  And so, there will always be a need in our lives to get re-focused.  All of us will need regular reminders of our true priorities.  We will all need key moments in our lives when we re-commit ourselves to those priorities.

In the Bible, the book of Acts identifies the key priorities of a Christian.  The book of Acts identifies beliefs, passions, and practices that should be primary concerns for followers of Christ.  The book of Acts has a clear focus on what will matter… for all eternity.  The book of Acts is a good book to study when you want to clarify what really matters most.

Any Christian who studies the book of Acts will find important truths in this book that cannot be relegated to the category of: “I’ll get to that… someday.”  The book of Acts presents the stuff that should be integrated into our everyday!

This morning, we will begin a sermon series on the book of Acts.  Right from the opening verses, Luke, the author of Acts, identifies important priorities for all Christians.  So take your Bibles and turn to Acts 1:1-5.

This is Luke’s second book—his first book was the Gospel of Luke.  Both of these books were specifically written to a man named Theophilus, and yet Luke clearly intended both of his books to be for all Christians.  It is a book full of wonderful truths and memorable stories all designed to help Christians do what matters most.  Follow as I read, Acts 1:1-5.

1In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3After 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. 4On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

In these verses, Luke points out priorities that should have greater significance in our lives than our retirement plan… the school our child is accepted into… or any promotion we may be longing for at work.  These verses reveal some of the reasons you and I were created… and these verses identify some of the very things that should be a part of our everyday life.

The first priority is this:  Represent Jesus well.

Notice what the very first verse of this book states:  Luke “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach…”  Jesus started something that has not been finished.  Jesus began to do things… and Jesus began to teach things… but he only began the process—he didn’t finish it!  There is still more doing and more teaching that needs to be done.  And Jesus is NOT going to finish what he started because as verse two makes plain, Jesus “was taken up to heaven…”

Jesus is no longer here on earth.  Jesus has returned to heaven.  Therefore, what he began to do and what he began to teach needs to be finished by others.

At the end of verse two, Luke makes it clear that this job was passed along to the apostles.  Jesus gave “instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”  And so the apostles started the process of finishing… but they didn’t finish either.  The “doing” and “teaching” has been passed along to every generation right down to you and me.  Today, in this immediate community… and in our places of work… and in our home neighborhoods… we are the ones who do what Jesus would do, and teach what Jesus would teach.  Jesus is not here to do and teach… but we are.  We are the ones who do & teach what Jesus would do & teach.  We are the ones who represent Jesus on earth.  And so… how are you and I doing in our representation of him?  Are we living a life of love… are we boldly speaking about Jesus to others?

When I was a little boy, I remember putting my face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man.  The picture was funny because my head didn’t match the body.  What if your face or my face were inserted on top of the body of Jesus?  Would others laugh at such a picture?  Or could they say, “That’s a good fit!”

This morning, who is the person who needs to see Jesus in you?  This morning, what is the one habit that will help you become more like Jesus that you need to start again?  Jesus was taken up to heaven… so it’s up to us to represent him here on earth.  Let’s do it well.

The second priority is this:  Tell the story of Jesus to as many as you can.

As Christians, we have a message.  And it’s a great message.  When we aren’t finding ways to tell others this message… we aren’t living as we should be living.  Talking to others about this message will always be one of our greatest priorities.

In one verse, Luke reveals the main components of this great message.  Look again at verse three.  “After his suffering,” (that’s one important point—Jesus died on the cross for our sin) “he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (That’s a second important point—Jesus rose from the dead.  His resurrection is powerful proof that he is God’s Son and that all he taught is true).

The verse continues with “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”  That is a third point to our message—the Lord needs to be the king—the ruler, of each of our lives.  For the final forty days Jesus spent with his disciples, this is what he emphasized.  God is the ruler of all things… and in order to be a part of his kingdom, a person needs to surrender their life to him as king.

 

When I was in seminary, a father told me about an interaction he had with his son.  They were driving through the streets of Chicago when the little boy noticed some thugs hanging out on a street corner.  The little boy turned to his father and asked, “Why doesn’t God get rid of all the bad people?”

His father gave that question some thought and when he felt he had an answer he told his son essentially two things.  “First, God’s main purpose is not to get rid of people who do bad things… but to bring them into a new relationship with him.  And so God is holding off his judgment… until he has given bad people a chance to enter into a new relationship with him.”

“And secondly,” the father said, “You and I need to understand that we too are a part of the bad people group.  For every one of us has sinned against God and so we are all bad people needing God’s forgiveness.”

We have a great message!  Jesus died for our sins so that we don’t have to die for them… and Jesus rose again proving that the benefits of the cross are real… and Jesus is calling us to join his kingdom today.  Oh… when was the last time you told someone that simple message!  Telling others is a key priority for all Christians!  So tell the story of Jesus to as many as you can!

The third priority is this:  Receive continual heavenly power through the Holy Spirit.

Luke finishes this paragraph by recording a command Jesus gave to his disciples while he was eating with them.  Jesus told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…”

Jesus realized that once he went back to heaven, that the disciples would be tempted to go back to everyday living.  Jesus recognized how easily the disciples would be pulled back into their day to day responsibilities and so they would leave Jerusalem and go back to their home towns and do what they had to do to make a living and raise a family.  But no matter how pressing those day to day responsibilities might be… they needed to wait… in Jerusalem… for a gift… the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Up to this point in time, the disciples had only experienced the blessing of a water baptism… but now they would experience something even more—the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  What is the difference between these two baptisms?

Baptism in water is an expression of our commitment to God.  Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an expression of God’s commitment to us!

We still practice water baptism, and in just a moment we will have one.  Anyone who is a follower of Jesus should be baptized in water in order to publicly declare their repentance from sin and their commitment to follow Jesus.  Water baptism celebrates a person’s commitment to God.

Holy Spirit baptism is God’s commitment to us.  Holy Spirit baptism is when God sends the Holy Spirit into our lives to live with us… to guide us… to empower us… to give us joy… to give us assurance that we belong to God… to help us become like Jesus.

Once a person puts their faith in Jesus, they are baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Fernando has placed his faith in Jesus.  He has been baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Now he wants to publicly declare his commitment to faithfully follow Jesus.

Will you rise… and come join us across the street for a baptism celebration.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+1:1-5

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