The Mission of the Church - Acts 1:1-26

Series: THE BOOK OF ACTS

Summary

Hi family. Are you guys ready to go to work? We have so much ground to cover today. But before we do, I want to pray for our fellow Coloradans in Boulder County. My wife and I were on vacation, and so when everything happened, I was like, "I don't know what you're talking about." People immediately started emailing me, "What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do?"

Here's what we've decided to do, just so that you know, is rather than us collecting a bunch of resources and then going and doing a poor job of dispersing them, we've chosen to network with resourcing people who can actually get the resources properly placed in a way that's actually helpful for the people that most need it.

And so, that's what we're doing. There's been a collection drive, it was a grassroots community thing. SECOR was a drop off station for it a couple days ago. I found out between services that today from 11:00 to 5:00, Grace Baptist will be a parking lot where you can go and drop stuff off. Here's what I heard, is that specifically what they really are in desperate need of is water. So if you want to to do that, you can go get a case or seven of water and drop that off there. I'm sure that they would be appreciative of that.

What I love is what we saw happen at SECOR is that our people at Southeastern, our community and partners, are pretty generous. The guys that put it together came with a couple of Suburbans to fill everything, and they wound up with a 20-foot trailer and two 15-foot trailers and a bunch of cars and the Suburbans, and a neighbor from across the street came over to say, "Hey, I see what you guys are doing. That's awesome. I have a three car garage." They filled the three car garage to store stuff. So good job. Good job.

But I mean, you guys know that when people are in that space, they fall apart pretty quick. So anyway, I want to pray, and then we'll get into the sermon for today. Let's pray. God, we just want to lift up our friends and family members to the north of us. God, we don't even know how to grieve or what to ask for, but God, may you show up for them in a powerful way, or move on people's hearts to supply them with the things that they need to move forward. And God, as they sift through their history, which is literally ashes, but you help them to know how to grieve well. And Lord, rally around the people to support and love them while they're going through that difficult time. Yeah. Lord, just help us, or teach us to know how to help. In Jesus' name, Amen.

So, Week One of 30. You're going to be like... My initial run at the Book of Acts, I just mapped it out and was like, how many sermons could we do? 82 is what I came up with. We trimmed it down to 30. So what we are going to do is cover a massive amount of content today. And there are about five really awesome sermons in this one sermon that I'm going to try to distill down. But, I want to show you a map of where we're talking about. So this is biblical Asia Minor. Today, it's Turkey.

And so when people say, "Why do you go do study tours in Turkey?" Well, here's why. Because the Book of Acts was written to here. Over half of the new Testament was written to here. So the center of your faith as a Jesus follower is rooted here, not in Israel. This is the place where you start to understand what they did as a church, how they actually won people for Jesus in that space. And it was a difficult space.

The thing about Asia Minor is, to the east, you have all the Eastern mystic religions. And what happens in those is a lot of these Western world dominators, Alexander the Great, Rome, Julius Caesar, all of them, they start out in the West as great men, they go East and they conquer, and they come back as gods. There's something about going to the Eastern mystic world that deifies mankind. And so when they come back, they become godlike and they start having people call them gods.

Which, the West is much more pragmatic, more concrete. The stoic philosophers are from the Western world. They're more into naturalism. Like, "Let's observe what is and just make statements about what is, rather than having to assume that there's any other worldly thing going on." Asia Minor is where those two worlds clash. And so you have this massive dip of Western influence through Rome, but you have the Eastern influence.

And so you might imagine that Luke in the Book of Acts is going to be pulling on a lot of these different nuances of these world views, and he is. And so we're going to try to mine some of that out along the way, but this is where the action is. This is where the center of... After the persecution in Jerusalem, which we're going to read in Acts chapters Eight and Nine, after that persecution, the church really moves out of Jerusalem. The center of Christianity, and that's in the '30s AD.

So pretty much right after Jesus goes back up into Heaven, the center of the Jesus movement comes out of Israel completely and goes to Asia Minor. So this is where the action is. And the Book of Acts is written to here. Now, it's called the Acts of the Apostles, but it would be way better described as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. And you might imagine that that would be the case, because the apostles are going to step into this world that is, in the words of the great philosopher Obi Wan Kenobi, "You will never find a more wretched place of theft and villainy." What's that?

A hive of scum and villainy.

So glad I didn't say that correctly. Thank you. Thank you for correcting me. "Wretched hive of scum and villainy." For the record, that's the only wrong thing I'm going to say today. So, this place is awful. It is morally corrupt. It is corrupt. And so this is a place where... You know the story of Caesarea Philippi and all the stuff that went on there, but Jesus is preparing his guys to go to Asia Minor. This is the place where they start having to figure out, "What am I going to do?"

And so, this is here. So obviously they're going to have to depend on the Holy Spirit to get them through this, because this is a whole new world. They're dealing with all these complex moral issues, all of these different kinds of ways of seeing the world that they've never had to face down before, right?

Which is a lot like what the church is facing today. And so I love the Book of Acts as a series in this place where we're at, as a nation and as the church and in our country, to really wrestle with some of the questions of, what did they do in this place of really complex moral issues? What did they do? How did they live out their faith?

So we're going to wrestle with that. But the Acts are much better displayed as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is all through the Book of Acts, but we're going to talk a ton about the Holy Spirit in this series. So I know for some people, the Holy Spirit's like a, "Don't talk about the Holy Spirit." We say, God, the father, God, the son, God, the Holy Spirit. That's how we keep that one under control.

We're going to talk a lot about the Holy Spirit in this series, because the Book of Acts talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. Okay? So we're going to do that. And some of it you'll be like, "That's amazing." And some of it you're going to be like, "I'm uncomfortable with that." Well, take it up with the Book of Acts. So that's where we're headed, over the next 30 weeks, in this space of Asia Minor.

So, next thing that we have to wrestle with as we introduce the book is, who is Theophilus? Luke writes the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles really as two volumes of one work. So Luke as a gospel is the account of Jesus, and then the Acts of the Apostles is the account of the apostles and what they did with the teachings of Jesus. And Luke writes both of them together. It's a two volume set, but it's one work. Okay?

So, he writes these to a person dubbed Theophilus. And so now we have to wrestle with this question, who is Theophilus? Okay, well there are some options. Some options for Theophilus. I'm going to give you four, and then I'm going to tell you the one that's my opinion. And I just want to be clear, it's just my opinion. So you're free to disagree, but I'm right. "Wretched hive, scum and villainy." I'm not going to ever say that wrong again.

So Option A. Theophilus could be a friend of Luke who is financing the writing of these books. Okay? Could be that. That would make him a person of high social standing, and probably a person of great wealth to be able to afford the financing of the writing of the book. Most excellent is a title that Luke uses to refer to him, which is a title of Roman respect and possibly official importance. Okay? So that's Option A, so maybe he's just a friend of Luke that is wealthy and very respected in Roman society, and he financed the writing of the book.

Option B, which is not a great option, but it's an option that has arose out of church tradition, is that he was a Jew from Alexandria, which is an Egypt. That's an interesting thing to think about. Theophilus is not a Jewish name, that's a Greek name. So I don't know that I would totally jump on that one, but that is an option that's presented.

Option C is that he could be a Roman official, just any Roman official that becomes the target of the letters. Option D is that Theophilus could be a title used to describe the larger group of God lovers from Asia Minor. The book is written to Asia Minor. Theophilus, Theos, God, Philia, love. So lover of God is what the name means. So it could be used as just a general title to describe anyone who calls himself a follower of Jesus. Okay?

My opinion, my opinion, this is just my opinion so we don't have to debate about it, you just like, "I don't agree with your opinion." Okay. But my opinion is that Option D is the best option, that this is a general title that's used to describe broader lovers of God, and that Luke is writing this to the region of Asia Minor to help them understand the movement of Christianity. Okay?

Luke Chapter One, where we have to begin in Luke to get to Acts, because that's where Luke began. Luke Chapter One verses One to Four, here's what it says. "And as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who are from the beginning, where eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things that have been taught."

In other words, Luke gives us the reason why he does this research. He said, "We heard all these people talking about things that they had seen that Jesus did. Rose from the dead. Raised people from the dead. Healed lepers. Made hands revive that were... He did all these things, and it just seemed so fanciful. So what I wanted to do was to go and interview all the people that claimed to be eyewitnesses and see if their stories lined up." So that's why he did what he did. Okay?

Now, that raises, then, the next question that we have to wrestle with. Who's Luke? Well, Luke is a Gentile. He's not a Jew. He's a Gentile, which means that he came to the Jesus movement a little bit later in the game than a lot of other people did. But what's more interesting than that is that Luke is a doctor, and that matters. It matters because of his educational capacity to put together an orderly account. But it matters for another reason as well. In the ancient world, they don't have hospitals. Doctors are the priests of the temple to the God Aesculapius. Asclepius If you're Greek, Aesculapius if you're Roman. So now you don't have to correct me on that.

I want to show you a picture of Aesculapius. He's the God of health and resurrection. This is him. Pay attention to his staff down here on the side. If we go to the next picture, here's a drawing of his staff. And now you're like, "What do I do with that? Do I go to the hospital?" But understand this, in their world, that was a real question. Because to go to the hospital was to go to the Temple of Aesculapius. And in order to get help from Aesculapius, you had to give incense and pay a tribute to the God Aesculapius. So do you pay the tribute or not?

Now, it's one thing if it's me, that I'm wrestling with my sickness, my injury, my hurt, my whatever. It's a whole other thing if it's your child, right? What if it's your child's appendix that's about to rupture? What if that? What do you do? Do you go to the hospital or not? For them, that was a real wrestling match. And here's the crazy thing. They figured it out. Luke was part of, at least at one point in his life, the Temple of Aesculapius. Somehow became a Jesus follower, was able to use some of his skills for good.

So I want to read Acts, Chapter One. I'm going to make some just broad commentary statements along the way. And then I want to pull out two things that I think are particularly important in this passage. Beginning in Verse One, here's what it says.

"In the first book, oh Theophilus, I've dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up. After he'd given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen, he presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the Kingdom of God." So what was Jesus's sermon topic for the last 40 days? Kingdom of God. Why? Because that's his gospel.

And I would say this. When people say to me, "We need to be gospel-centric," or, "We need to be more about the gospel," I would say, "Yes, yes, but Jesus' gospel was about the Kingdom, and that's what we need to be passionate about." So now we got to wrestle with, what is the Kingdom, and where do we go with that, and how do we make that go forward? And what does it look like? And what does it not look like? And we're not even out of the second verse yet.

Now you understand why it's so hard to prepare a sermon every week, because there's so many questions. "And while staying with them, he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait on the promise of the Father, which he said, "You heard from me, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you, at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" What are they looking for? They're still looking for Jesus to overthrow Rome and restore Israel's power in the world. After everything that they've been through, they're still looking for that to happen. And Jesus is like, "You guys, what?" He said to them, "It's not for you to know times or seasons that the Father is fixed by his own authority, but you'll receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem. Then in all Judea and Samaria to the ends of the Earth."

I just want to say for the record, people have tried to make that like concentric circles, they're not concentric circles. It doesn't make any sense to do that. It's just, "You're going to be my witnesses." "And when he had said these things, they were looking on, and he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into Heaven," can you imagine? So Jesus has a cloud take him up out of their sight, which, it has to be a low cloud because the Mount of Olives is not very high. "And while they were gazing into Heaven, as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into Heaven?"

So picture it, put this picture in your mind, the apostles are looking up into Heaven and two guys are like, "What are you looking at?" "I guess we need to go do something. You know, what are we going to do?" "I don't know." They had a seven-day waiting period between when Jesus said to wait and when the Holy Spirit actually showed up. That's the longest seven days. Have you ever had a gap between when you were told by God to do something and when he actually helped you resolve it? Have you ever had that gap? Because that's the longest time in history. Seconds slow down to hours. And they're going to spend the next week in that spot.

"And this Jesus who was taken up from you into Heaven will come in the same way that you saw him go into Heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey." Let me tell you what a Sabbath day's journey is real quick. In every Jewish town they have an eruv. Today it's a metal cable on steel poles that's up about 12 feet and it runs around the perimeter of the city. And that is the boundary line that you can walk to on the Sabbath. In Jesus' day, it was not a steel cable. They didn't have that. They had landmarks. And so you could walk to this well or to this ridge or to whatever, and that was your Sabbath day's journey. So as long as you stayed within that boundary, you were okay, but if you took one step past it, then you violated Sabbath. So that's the Sabbath day's journey. Mount of Olives is a Sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem.

"And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room where they were staying. Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, and Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, the son of James, all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer."

So how many are in the upper room? Only 11. Together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers... Can you back it up one slide? I think I went too far too fast. There we go. Oh, no, I didn't. I was right. Yeah. "In those days, Peter stood up among the brothers. The company of persons was in all about 120." Here's what that means. If you've been to Israel and you've seen an upper room, there's no way that 120 people fit in any upper room in any part of Jerusalem. They're not big enough. Try to find one room in your house today where you could put 120 people. They're not there. They're not in the upper room anymore. There's a transition here, and that matters. We'll talk about it in a couple of weeks.

"In those days, Peter stood up among the brothers, the company of persons was in all about 120, and said, "Brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus, for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry."

Now this man, and this is important that Luke defines him this way, he's the person who shan't be named. "Now, this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out." That's one of the coolest verses in the whole Bible. "His bowels gushed out." "And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is the Field of Blood, for it is written the book of Psalms, "May his camp become desolate and let there be no one to dwell in it," and, "Let another take his office."

By the way, anytime that a Jew quotes a verse, they don't mean the verse they quote, they mean the context around it. So we got to maybe take a look at that and see what Peter's trying to say. Because what'll happen a lot of times is you'd be reading the Bible and somebody would pull a verse out of the Old Testament. You're like, "That doesn't really make any sense." Go back and read the context around that verse. You'll learn all kinds of impressive things.

"So, one of the men who have accompanied us during all that time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us, one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." And they put forward two. Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias," who was called Matthias. Joseph has three names. Matthias just has one.

"And they prayed and said, "You, Lord who know the hearts of all, show which of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias. Lots is like a dice game. It's a gambling game. But by the way, I don't know what you do with that information, but what I can tell you is that the only time that we see the Bible talk about gambling is when we see people doing it. So for those of us that are like, "Gambling's a sin," well, they chose the next apostle with it.

"And he was numbered with the 11 apostles." Okay. So I want to pull out two important things. I'll have to move through these relatively quickly, and there's so much here that I would love to talk about. We just don't have time for it. The first one that I want to pull out is how they felt about Judas. Now, here's the thing you have to understand about Judas. His last name is Iscariot, right? You call him Judas Iscariot. Iscariot is from two Hebrew words. Iscariot. Is means a man, and Cariot is a village just outside of Jerusalem. So he is Judas the man from Cariot.

Here's why that matters. Cariot is a zealot village. So Judas is a zealot. And that matters because the zealots believe that the way that the Kingdom comes is through military force. We bring the Kingdom by overthrowing our oppressors. So Judas... By the way, the gospels make this pretty clear. Judas isn't rejecting Jesus, he's trying to force Jesus' hand. Judas, as a zealot, is trying to get Jesus to get on with the program. What's the program? Bringing the Kingdom. Well, how do we bring the Kingdom? We force him into taking his role as a military leader.

By the way, the zealots love the idea of a Messiah leading them. Think about this. Jesus feeds 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves, and he raises people from the dead. Are either one of those two things a military tactical advantage? We would love to have him be able to do that. So they want him to get after it. They want him, "Let's get on with it, Jesus, let's get on with it."

This is why, once Judas figures out that he got it wrong, he doesn't know what to do with himself. He tries to give the money back and they're like, "We don't take it." So then he goes and commits suicide, because he can't take the grief, which a lot of people are like, Oh, you copped out, Judas." Some people believe that's the ultimate act of repentance. I'll let you wrestle with what that is, but he can't deal with how wrong he got it.

But here's the thing that I think is really important. No matter how hard Judas tried to get Jesus on Judas's program, Jesus wasn't interested, because he's not interested in any other version of the Kingdom, just his own. And we ought to pay attention to that. Because he is not interested in your version, or my version of the Kingdom either. Jesus isn't interested in what you or I think about what the Kingdom should look like. He's only interested in what he thinks.

I want to take a look at these pull quotes that Peter uses in their context. The first one is taken out of Psalm 69, because remember, when they quote a verse, they don't mean the verse they mean the context around it. And not only do they know that, but everyone who listens to them knows that. That's why you'll see Jesus quote a verse from the Old Testament. And then it says, "And everybody wanted to kill him." And you're like, "Wait, what? That feels abrupt." Well, go back and read the verse in context. They say stuff like, "You're the devil," you know, nice, quiet, easy things that Jesus says. But he says it in a Jewish way.

Psalm 69, starting in Verse Nine. Here's what it says. "For zeal for your house has consumed me." Did they ever use that verse to describe Jesus? The answer to that is yes, and the context is when he cleanses the temple, which remember, Jesus' program isn't an indictment on Rome, it's an indictment on the temple system because it's the temple system that was bankrupt.

"Zeal for your house has consumed me and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. And when I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate and the drunkard make songs about me. But as for me, my prayers to you, oh Lord, at an acceptable time, oh God, the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me in your saving faithfulness."

Let me set the context for what David is saying here. What David is saying is, "I'm trying to follow you, God, and these people are making fun of me, and rather than lashing out at them or being wounded by them and taking it out on someone else, which is what we do, God, I'm giving it to you." When you're wounded by somebody else emotionally, you really reveal what you believe about God. Do you believe that your God takes it and deals with it in his way and in his time? Or do you believe you need to take matters into your own hands?

"Deliver me from sinking in the mire. Let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me or the deep swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, oh Lord, for your steadfast love is good. According to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant for I am in distress. Make haste to answer me, draw near to my soul. Redeem me, ransom me because of my enemies. You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor, my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart so that I am in despair. I look for pity, but there was none. And for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food. And for my thirst, they gave me sour wine to drink. Let their own table before them become a snare, and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and may their loins tremble."

I don't know what to do with that statement, but I'll give it to you. Their loins tremble continually. "Pour out your indignation upon them and let your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be in desolation. Let no one dwell in their tents." And that's the verse that Peter quotes. "For they persecute him who you have struck down and they recount the pain of those you have wounded, add to them punishment upon punishment. May they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living. Let them not be enrolled among the righteous."

So, somehow Peter's pretty frustrated with Judas. We can say that for sure. I was reading a commentary on Psalm 69, and here's what it said. It said, "This is a Psalm of David. We do not know what event or series of events caused him to write Psalm 69, and we do not know if it was before or after he became king, but it seems that his dedication to God caused other people to scorn, ostracize, mock, insult and reject him," which is exactly what Judas did to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus wasn't lining up with his version of what the Kingdom was supposed to be.

And here's the thing. What percentage of caring did Jesus have for what Judas thought the Kingdom was supposed to be? None. God doesn't care what you think his Kingdom's supposed to look like. He doesn't care about that. Doesn't mean he doesn't care about you. He doesn't care about what you think the Kingdom's supposed to be. He only cares about what he thinks the Kingdom is supposed to be.

Our job is to be a part of that. And in order to figure out how to do that well, we're going to have to have a Holy Spirit living in our life. Psalm 109, which is the other Psalm that gets quoted from, here's what it says. "Be not silent, oh God of my praise, for wicked and deceitful mouths are open against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer so they reward me for evil and hatred for my love. Appoint a wicked man against him, let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty. Let his prayer be counted as sin. May his days be few, may another take his office."

And this is the other verse that Peter quotes. "May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, may his children wander about and beg seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit. May the creditor seized all that he has. May strangers plunder the fruits of his toil. Let there be none to extend kindness to him or any to pity his fatherless children." So this is how Peter feels about Judas. Peter's angry at him.

What I love about that is, Peter's not denying his anger. Because what a lot of people who follow Jesus do is, when we get offended we're like, "Oh, I'm not offended." Yeah, you are. Yeah, you are. You're offended. And by the way, while we can't sit in it, it's not evil to be offended. It's not evil to be offended. What David does in both of these Psalms is, he turns it over to the Lord and lets it lay there. He doesn't have to exact his own vengeance. And that's where we get off-track because we think that in the Kingdom we have righteous indignation. We can take out our righteous vengeance on other people. No. That is God's issue.

Which leads me to my second major point from Acts Chapter One, and that is this. Jesus isn't interested in what they think about what the Kingdom is supposed to look like and what the Kingdom is supposed to do. He's not interested in that. He's only interested in what he thinks. Acts One, Six and Seven, and here's what it says. So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" Which, by the way, what was their focus all about? Was it about the Kingdom of God? No, it's about Israel's glory. God's not interested in Israel's glory. God's not interested in America's glory. He's interested in his own. And America's only as effective as a nation as it will glorify him.

He said to them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority." Here's where they're coming from. Okay? What they had, what was popular in the Jewish world at the time was what's called a two stage theory of eschatology. And this is why this matters. So let me show you a picture. So this is our two stage theory. It all begins with the fall of man, okay? At the fall of man, what's ushered in is the Kingdom of Satan. And the Kingdom of Satan rules this world. And then, what they taught was, there's going to be this great and awesome day of the Lord. And on the day of the Lord, the Kingdom of Satan will be done away with and the Kingdom of God will be ushered in.

So there's a transition of the Kingdoms, right? So we have the Kingdom of Satan, and then we have the Kingdom of God and the day of the Lord. And so what they're pulling for in Acts, Chapter One, is for Jesus to bring about the day of the Lord. Come on, restore glory, let's do this. Let's get rid of these evil, dirty sos-and-sos that are taxing us. Let's get rid of them. Let's restore our own power. Let's make this world about us again.

But Jesus taught what's called a three stage theory of eschatology. Here's what that looks like. Next slide. There's a little compliment. So it also begins with the fall of man, and the fall of man does in fact usher in the Kingdom of Satan. But what happened was at the cross... Remember, what was Jesus's gospel? Kingdom of God. At the cross, Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of God.

Now, we're still waiting for that great and awesome day of the Lord when this Kingdom of Satan will be done away with, and the Kingdom of God will be fully realized. We're still waiting for that day. But the problem is, you and I live in this space that Paul calls the [foreign language 00:37:07] the present evil age. We're in the middle of the overlap of the Kingdoms.

So right now, and by the way, it's been that way since the cross and it will be that way until the return of Jesus, whenever that day comes, Lord come quickly. But the problem for you and I is that now we live with one foot firmly planted in both Kingdoms. And you can say, "Well, but I'm a part of the Kingdom of God." Yeah, but the world you live in isn't. And we still engage with it. And we still get sucked into its values. And we try so hard to hang onto this world. We try so hard to stay here, but it's the Kingdom of God that we're chasing. Whether that's here or there, wherever there is, doesn't matter. It's the Kingdom of God that we're chasing.

That's why Paul says, to live is Christ, but to die is gain. The people that read this for the first time, gladly and willingly laid their lives down because they knew that there was a reward better for them. We try so hard to cling to this space, and Jesus is like, "Let it go, let it go." That's why Jesus says, in John 13, he's telling his disciples that he's leaving them, and they're all sad and grieving. And he's like, "Guys, if you knew where I was going, you'd be happy for me."

We try so hard to cling to this space, and what the New Testament teaches is why? What's here in this complex overlap of the Kingdoms, where we have this constant battle of wrestling for you and I? Is this the Kingdom of God, or is this the Kingdom of Satan? Whatever this is, whether that's a house or a TV or a car or a relationship or whatever. Whatever it is, whatever we're wrestling with, is this this or this?

What I can tell you is, what we try to do to circumvent that question, that wrestling match, is we try to say, "Well, it's neutral." Nothing is neutral. It is either Kingdom of God, or it is Kingdom of Satan. And you don't have to wrestle with that. And here's the even bigger issue. You can't do that by yourself. That's why we need one another to help ourselves wrestle with what that looks like, because God's not interested in what I think the Kingdom should be. I have to figure out what he thinks about it.

He's not interested in my version of the Kingdom. He's not interested in your version of the Kingdom. And I know that there's so many of us that are like, "Man, if we could just get the church back to where it was at in the whatever, when I was a kid, the church of my childhood would change this culture." No, it wouldn't. But the church in the Book of Acts would. And here's why, because the church in the Book of Acts did change the culture, because it was rooted in values and principles that are Kingdom values.

And please hear me say this, I'm not anti the church. I'm not beating up religion. None of that. What I'm saying is, what we have to wrestle with is of our religious expression, which religion isn't evil. People are like, "It's a relationship, not a religion." That's a misappropriation of both of those terms. Religion is simply a voice for your faith. It's an expression that gives voice to your faith. So religion isn't bad, but religion for religion's sake is lifeless, and that's when it becomes meaningless.

And the great news about that is that you and I have absolute freedom to cut that stuff off and let it go when it loses its life. But what happens over time is, religious tradition becomes, "Thus sayeth the Lord," and those lines get blurred. And so we have to wrestle with that. And that's okay. That's okay. What we got to do though, is give ourselves permission to wrestle with it. That doesn't mean we need to throw the baby out with the bath water. That means we need to be willing to look at what we're doing and say, "Okay, number one, is it working? Does it work for me and does it work for the world?"

Because if you look in the church, the church is just as addicted, the church is just as divorced, the church is just as in debt. Why would the world want what we have? They're like, I look the same as you. Go to a sporting event, watch the Christians and the non-Christians, see how different they are. Why would they want what you have? They look exactly the same as you, just without the guilt. So why would they want that?

Did I stepped on any toes just yet? Because we're only in Chapter One. I have some implications for us this morning, and these are important. Implication Number One, the Acts of the Apostles was written so that we can have confidence in knowing what the church is supposed to look like. We don't have to guess what the church is supposed to look like. We have confidence in knowing where we're headed.

And here's the thing. We'll chase things. And you know what's the beauty, you know what the great thing about God is? If we start chasing something that isn't quite in line with his Kingdom, you know what he'll do? He'll say, "Hey, that's not right." And then guess what we get to do? Get back on the path and walk it. If it's not right, he'll show us, and we'll get back on the path. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy.

Implication Number Two, Jesus does not need to uphold our version of Kingdom. We must give our lives to his mission for the church. Implication Number Three, when we give our lives to Jesus' mission for the church, some people will not understand. Judas didn't understand. By the way, Jesus's apostles didn't understand. They might even try to persuade us that they're toward their desire for the church. "Well, no, it can't be this. It's got to be this."

And that's why it's so important for us not to wrestle religion for religion. The importance is for us to wrestle the presence of God. Which one brings about the presence of God? Because that's what we're after. We're not after a religious correctness. We're after the presence of God, more in our hearts and more in this world. So which one brings that about?

Number Four, God's heart for the church and for the world is the only thing that matters. It's the only thing that matters. I know that for many of us, we experienced things along the way in our spiritual journey that were very meaningful, and we want to reproduce that meaningfulness in the lives of other people. And that's great. That's great. But religious expression is not the Kingdom. God's heart is the Kingdom. And so, as long as our religious expression actually facilitates that for others, that's wonderful, but if it doesn't, let's get rid of it and do things that actually matter.

That's the freedom of Acts Chapter One. By the way, it's the freedom of the Book of Acts. They didn't have any religious traditions, at least not from a Christian perspective, they didn't have any of that. They didn't have the New Testament. You know why? It wasn't written yet. It didn't even exist. So they're flying blind, just crying out to the Lord and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead them. Weird. Presence of God. And it actually worked. Do you know, within 200 years of the Book of Acts, the Roman empire was 80% Christian, and that is before Constantine. It worked.

So my question to you is, what's getting the way of God's presence in your life? What is it? Maybe it's a need for approval. Maybe it's a sin. Maybe it's a wrestling match with something. I don't know. I don't know. You get to pick. That's just between you and the Lord. But what's getting in the way of God's presence in your life? What's getting in the way? Because as we move into our communion time, that would be the conversation that we need to begin having with God. What's getting in the way of our relationship with the Lord, with more and more presence of God in our life? What's getting in the way? Let's take some time to talk about that with him as we prepare our hearts for communion.

On the night Jesus was betrayed. He took bread and he broke it and he said, "This is my body, which is given for you so whenever you eat this bread, do it in remembrance of me." Let's remember him this morning. And then after the dinner he took a cup and he said, "This cup, this is blood of the Covenant, which is shed for you. So whenever you drink this cup do it in remembrance of me."

Let's pray. Lord, thank you for the call towards your Kingdom. Thank you that you don't bend and you don't bow to any other versions of what that Kingdom is supposed to look like. Thank you, God, that we can rest in the confidence that your desires for your Kingdom are the best. Help us to have the courage to follow them, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Speaker: Aaron Couch

January 2, 2022

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Follow Along with the Message


Luke 1:1-4 English Standard Version

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

 

Acts 1 | ESV

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate, 

and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

“‘Let another take his office.’

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Psalm 69:9-28 | ESV

For zeal for your house has consumed me, 
   and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, 
   it became my reproach.
When I made sackcloth my clothing, 
   I became a byword to them.
I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, 
   and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. 
   At an acceptable time, O God, 
   in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
Deliver me 
   from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies 
   and from the deep waters.
Let not the flood sweep over me, 
   or the deep swallow me up, 
   or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; 
   according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant, 
   for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Draw near to my soul, redeem me; 
   ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach, 
   and my shame and my dishonor; 
   my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart, 
   so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none, 
   and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food, 
   and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
Let their own table before them become a snare; 
   and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, 
   and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them, 
   and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation; 
   let no one dwell in their tents.
For they persecute him whom you have struck down, 
   and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
Add to them punishment upon punishment; 
   may they have no acquittal from you.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; 
   let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

Psalm 109:1-12 | ESV

Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, 
   speaking against me with lying tongues.
They encircle me with words of hate, 
   and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me, 
   but I give myself to prayer.
So they reward me evil for good, 
   and hatred for my love.

Appoint a wicked man against him; 
   let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; 
   let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few; 
   may another take his office!
May his children be fatherless 
   and his wife a widow!
May his children wander about and beg, 
   seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has; 
   may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
Let there be none to extend kindness to him, 
   nor any to pity his fatherless children!

Acts 1:6-7 | ESV

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Implications: 

  1. The Acts of the Apostles was written so that we can have confidence in knowing what the church is supposed to look like.
  2. Jesus does not need to uphold our version of the Kingdom. We must give our lives to his mission for the church.
  3. When we give our lives to Jesus’ mission for the church, some people will not understand; they might even try to persuade us toward their desire for the church. 
  4. God’s heart for the church and for the world is the only thing that matters.

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