“Jesus Directs His Church” (Acts 1:1-8 sermon)

Steve Jobs was one of the most unique CEO’s in history. He had a lot of quirks, but he led Apple computers to become what is now THE largest company in the world, worth over 300 BILLION dollars. But among the things Jobs did well, was keep his company focused on what they were supposed to be doing:  know what people want;  produce quality products that will appeal to them;  and eliminate all unessential activities, and focus on doing your best at your most important priority. He constantly kept these directives in front of his people, to keep them on track.

As the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we too have been left some directions by our “CEO,” who left us some specific directions about what He wants us to be doing as His people, His church. We find some of those directions here in our passage for today in Acts 1:8:

I. Accept the Challenge of Waiting

After Luke’s introduction verse 4 says that Jesus gathered His disciples together and commanded them “NOT to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised …”. 

Jesus commanded His disciples to WAIT. Maybe they thought about leaving because they weren’t from there, or maybe they just wanted to go and begin the mission work Jesus told them they’d be doing. But for whatever reason they were thinking about leaving, Jesus said, DON’T do it. He said, STAY where you are. “WAIT for what the Father had promised.”

The Bible is full of commands from God for us to WAIT on Him:

— Jesus told the disciples here, “WAIT for what the Father had promised.”

— Last week we read the last verse of Psalm 27, :14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes wait for the LORD.” 

— Psalm 37 is a great Psalm of trust in the Lord; it says in :7 “Rest in the LORD and WAIT patiently for Him;” :9 says “those who WAIT for the LORD, THEY will inherit the land;” :34 says, “WAIT for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land.” Over and over Psalm 37 encourages us: “WAIT FOR THE LORD”! 

— Psalm 130:5-6 says, “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait … My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman for the morning; indeed more than the watchman for the morning.”

— Isaiah 40:31 famously says, “They that WAIT ON THE LORD shall renew their strength …”

Over and over the Bible says there are great blessings for us when we wait for the Lord. But it can be hard to wait, can’t it? So many times we find ourselves in situations where we feel like nothing’s happening, and we’re “just tired of sitting around,” and we feel the need to get out and just “do something.” Sometimes WE feel that way — and then sometimes it is OTHER PEOPLE are pressuring us: “you need to DO SOMETHING!” They may or may not know what it is we should do, but they just think you should “do something.”

The problem is, a lot of times when we just “do something,” that “something” we do ends up being WRONG. We see an instance of that in I Samuel 13, when King Saul was at war with the Philistines. The prophet Samuel had told Saul to wait until he came and made the sacrifice for them before the battle, but Samuel was late. Verse 8 says “the people were scattering” from Saul, so :9 says that Saul, who was not a priest, went ahead and made the burnt offering himself. But “as soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold Samuel came.” Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul told him, well you hadn’t come, and I saw that the Philistines were gathering for war, and our people were scattering, “So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” Samuel told him, “You have acted foolishly.” And he told him, “Your kingdom will not endure.” The LORD seeks a man after His own heart, who will obey Him. Saul felt that pressure; everybody wanted him to “do something.” He gave in to that pressure; didn’t wait on the Lord, and it cost him the Kingdom.  

Sometimes God’s best for us is just to wait. On November 21, 1960, the new U.S. space program attempted to launch a Redstone rocket, but when all the smoke from the launch had cleared, the rocket was still standing there! The parachutes had deployed, and the “umbilical cord” that held the rocket had come off. Now what were they going to do? They had a rocket they had no control over, which could be knocked over by the wind, and it would be dangerous for any technicians to approach it.

NASA flight director Chris Kraft listened intently to his crew as they desperately searched for a way out. Then one of the test conductors came up with a plan that made sense. “The winds are forecast to remain calm, so if we wait until tomorrow morning, the batteries will deplete, the relays and valves will go to the normally open condition. … then it will then be safe to approach the rocket.’   Kraft nodded and growled at his controllers, “That is the first rule of flight control. If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.’ ….    ‘Doing nothing’ worked: by early the next morning, the batteries were depleted, the system disarmed, and the pressure relieved.”   (Gene Kranz, Failure Is Not An Option, pp. 31-32)  

Waiting overnight solved the problem. They just needed to wait.

That’s a good lesson for many of us today too. Sometimes the best thing we can do, is just wait. You don’t always just need to “just do something.” Make sure you are doing WHAT God wants you to do, WHEN God wants you to do it. If you don’t, that “something” you do will end up being WRONG, and it will cost YOU, and likely hurt others as well. So don’t “just do something.” WAIT until you know what GOD wants you to do, and for His time for you to do it.  We need to learn that obeying God not only means GO when He calls us to go, but WAIT when He needs us to wait!  

So what does that look like?

— Sometimes “waiting” on God literally means just to wait. Don’t do anything yet; don’t make any decisions yet; just wait on His timing.

— But often in scripture, “waiting” on the Lord means seeking Him in prayer and in His word. So don’t just “sit there and wait,” actively seek what God has to say to you in His word about your situation. Just do your normal daily Bible reading, but watch for what God says to you about your situation in it.

— Don’t make the mistake that Saul made; don’t just make a decision because everybody else thinks you should; you wait and make sure that YOU have peace that this is WHAT God wants you to do, and that it is WHEN He wants you to do it.

— Don’t just marry “somebody;” WAIT for the right one God has for you!

— Don’t just go to any college; go were God is really leading you. 

— Don’t just take off in “some” direction; wait for God’s clear leadership first. 

Make sure you are doing WHAT God wants you to do, WHEN He wants you to do it.

Jesus told His disciples: don’t just head out of here and go “somewhere.” WAIT for the promise of the Holy Spirit. He may be saying the same thing to some of us today. Don’t just do “something.”  WAIT for the Lord! 

II. Beware the Distraction of Speculation

Verse 8 of Acts 1 gets a lot of the focus from preachers and teachers, and it SHOULD; we’ll look at that in a minute. But at the same time, there is a great word from Jesus for us here in :6-7, and it warns us about something I have seen a LOT of people get caught up in: and that is the temptation to get distracted by speculation and curiosity about things we cannot know.

Here Jesus was, telling His disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit for their mission. And what was their response to Him? :6 says they asked Him: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”  In other words, Lord, is this the end times? Are these the last days? Is the kingdom coming now?

Jesus’ response in :7 should teach us something. He said, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority …” and then He gave them :8 and our mission. But before that, He basically says, DON’T get distracted by curiosity and speculation about things that you can’t know — like when God is going to do what in the future. He says only GOD THE FATHER knows that; don’t waste your time and emotional energy worrying and speculating about it. Instead, you focus on the work I have given you to do.

This is a fitting word for many of God’s people today. Don’t get caught up in the temptation to speculate about the future, and the end times, and all kinds of other spiritual curiosities which you can’t know.  And I say that because over the years I have seen many Christians get caught up in these things, and get distracted from the mission God really called them to do. This kind of distraction is not from the Lord.

In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, he writes about how one of the strategies the demons use against God’s people is to misdirect them. Get them to focus their attention in the wrong direction. Get them to give their time, and focus their energies on things that won’t make any difference in the way they live their life; and get them to do that instead of reaching, teaching, and caring for people: the mission He has given us. 

That happens to Christians a LOT: they get all caught up in theological speculation or some end times theory that takes all their time and energy — and they feel like they’re “good Christians” because they’re studying this stuff all the time — but the truth is it’s a distraction, because they’re spending all their time and effort on speculation about things they can never really know, instead of DOING the practical, daily things God’s called them to be doing for His Kingdom.

If a church scheduled two discipleship classes: one a study of theories about the end times, and the other on how to witness to people for Christ, which class would most people take? In a typical church, 9 people out of 10 would go to the end times class. Why? Because it excites our curiosity; we like that speculation. And I’ll give you another reason: they will choose that class because it’s “safe.” That end times study won’t ask anything of you more than sitting there and listening for an hour. It doesn’t “cost” you anything to speculate on when the Millennium may be, or who the antichrist might be — but witnessing takes us out of our “comfort zone,” it challenges us spiritually. 

This is EXACTLY the point that Jesus is making here. DON’T get caught up things that aren’t really profitable in the end. Focus on the mission God’s eally called you to be doing.

Just think about it: what do you think the Lord would rather you spend your time on:

— Figuring out which nation the antichrist will rise from — or going on a mission trip and witnessing?

 — Would He rather you spend hours figuring out if the Tribulation will be pre-, post-, or mid- — or would He rather you spend hours discipling a class of adults, children or youth?

— Do you think He wants you to drive to another prophecy seminar, or drive a hurting person to the doctor, or take them a meal after they’ve had surgery?

I think we know the answer to those questions, right? Now I’m not saying there’s not a place for a legitimate study of the Book of Revelation and other theological studies. Just don’t get so caught up in speculation about things that you will never will have an answer to on this earth, and neglect your  close by neighbor, or the ministry that God’s set right in front of you!  

There’s a great example of this at the end of the Book of John. Jesus had just told Peter to follow Him, and He told him that in the course of following Him, one day his hands would be bound and he’d be taken away. Verse 21 says that Peter looked at the disciple John and said, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?  YOU follow Me!” Jesus was saying, don’t speculate about what may or may not happen to HIM. YOU do what I’ve commanded YOU to do.  YOU follow Me! 

This is a good word for many of us today too. Don’t spend a bunch of time and emotional energy on things that are not God’s priority for you. YOU focus on doing what Jesus has called YOU to do! 

Well, what IS that?  In Verse 8 Jesus shows us what our focus is supposed to be: the worldwide mission of the gospel.

III. Focus on the Priority of Mission

Acts 1:8 is one of the famous verses in the Bible, and rightly so: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Notice this verse actually begins with the word, “BUT.” He’s saying, as opposed to those who get distracted by speculation and curiosity, BUT YOU devote yourself to the mission I’m giving you. And here’s the mission: receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and be My witnesses, starting right where you are, and reaching to the ends of the earth. 

Now, notice Jesus did NOT just say: “Go and be My witnesses.” As we saw a bit ago, He told them to WAIT for the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon His church. This week we read in Acts 2 about how the Holy Spirit came on the church for the very first time, on the Day of Pentecost. Since the time of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life the moment they get saved. Paul talks about that in I Corinthians; Ephesian 1:13 says “Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Now, the moment you are saved, the Holy Spirit immediately comes into your life.

That’s part of the GOSPEL: God created us to know and love Him. But we chose to sin against Him, which cut off our relationship with God. That’s why Jesus came: to die on the cross and pay for our sins. When we repent of our sins and trust Him as our Lord & Savior, He immediately forgives all our sins, gives us a home in heaven, and send His Holy Spirit in our hearts; “sealing” us as belonging to Him, Ephesians says. 

And when the Holy Spirit comes into your life, He does a number of other things in and for you:

— He gives you the assurance in your heart that you belong to God. Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

— He convicts us of sin. In John 16:8 Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. This is why Christians feel badly when we sin, and many other people don’t. We have the Holy Spirit in us; we can’t sin and feel good about it, because the Spirit  convicts us. If you can sin and be ok with it, you don’t have the Holy Spirit; you are not saved. Because if He is in you, He will convict you of sin. 

— The Holy Spirit also helps us love and understand His word. Jesus said in John 16:13 “He will guide you into all truth.” We’re encouraging everyone to read the Bible daily this year, but the truth is, you can’t understand the Bible without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. 

— And when the Holy Spirit is in our life, He fills us with “love, joy, peace, patience …” Galatians 5 says, and all the fruit of the Spirit. 

All these are the work of God’s Holy Spirit in you.

But the greatest sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, is NOT speaking in tongues, as some would teach. Paul said in I Corinthians 14:19 that he would rather speak 5 words with his mind than 1000 in a tongue; it’s just not that important. In Acts, the great sign of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is SPIRIT-FILLED WITNESSING. Even in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, it says they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking of the mighty deeds of God. They were witnessing to all those people from different countries who were there, in their own language. More than anything else, the Day of Pentecost was about bold witnessing to people about Jesus. They were living out what Jesus commanded them to do in Acts 1:8. He said, start here in Jerusalem, where you are; then take the message to Judea and Samaria; other states and people groups in your nation; and then take it to other countries to the ends of the earth.

This is not just a history lesson. Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 is for US too. “YOU shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon YOU, and YOU shall be My witnesses.” We need to be doing what Peter and the disciples did: share the gospel, starting where we are, and taking it to the ends of the earth.

That means first of all, we should seek to be witnesses right here in Angleton where we are; this is our “Jerusalem.” Where has God planted you: what neighborhood are you in, what school do you go to, what job do you have?  THAT is your first mission field. Pray and watch for opportunities to witness there. Next month, we are going to do another area-wide prayer walk, covering our “Jerusalem” in prayer. You do that in your own neighborhood: walk and pray for each house, that God would touch them — and pray that He would use YOU to witness for Christ, and minister to them, right here in your own “Jerusalem”; your own street. Start where you are. 

Then, we look for opportunities to serve OUTSIDE our local home town: in our “Judea” and “Samaria.” That’s other towns and states; other people groups in our country. Some of our folks have served in the Port Ministry — reaching sailors and truck drivers and port workers from our country and all over the world. Chris Moore, former pastor at 2nd Baptist church and now the new Director at the Port Ministry, is going to be here in a couple of weeks, and he’ll share with us some ways you can be involved in that ministry. The Pregnancy Help Center is another “Judea/Samaria” ministry; and there so many others. 

And then Jesus also told us to go to “the ends of the earth.” That’s other countries around the world. That’s why we’re teaming together with other churches from our Association to go on mission to Bulgaria. Several years ago our International Mission Board identified an unreached people group in the Rhodope mountains in Bulgaria, and the churches of our Association have joined together to reach that people group with the gospel. Since then, a number of trips have been taken; relationships have been built. We started a camp for special needs students every summer — in Bulgaria no one cares for them, but our folks brought the gospel, which says that God cares for ALL, and that ministry has touched families, and several there have now come to Christ for the very first time. There is another special needs camp in June you have the opportunity to serve on. There’s also an ESL trip also in June, a couple of our men are going on; to teach students there how to read English, using the Bible, which gives you all kinds of open doors to witness. And there will be more trips this fall. 

Now I’m not saying you have to go to Bulgaria, but as a church, we need to be an “Acts 1:8 church,” obeying Jesus Acts 1:8 command. We need to reach out to our own Jerusalem here in Angleton, to groups outside our home town, and also to countries around the world. AND I think it would be a good goal for us as individual members to try to be “Acts 1:8 Christians”: reach out right here where you are; be involved somewhere in a ministry beyond our home town; and then in some foreign country where God leads you. Make it your goal to be an “Acts 1:8 Christian!

You can be an “Acts 1:8 Christian in at least 3 ways: giving, praying, and going. 

— You can GO. Pray about going on an overseas mission trip, like one of these to Bulgaria. Go to the Port Ministry or the Pregnancy Help Center. These trips are not only life changing for the people we go see; it is life changing for US! Ask God if you should go.

— You can GIVE to help other people go on mission trips. Give a special offering to help others go. Or give regularly to our “Acts 1:8 Offering” which is named after this verse. The “Act 1:8 Offering” is basically divided between the Lottie Moon Offering that supports our 3800 Southern Baptist missionaries around the world, and helping our people go on mission trips, like the ones coming up to Bulgaria. I’m hoping we can pay for most/all of the airfare for those trips, which will help many more of our people to be able to go. You can be an “Acts 1:8” Christian by helping other people go. 

— And then we can all PRAY. Write down these countries, like Bulgaria, on your prayer sheet, and the Port Ministry, and Pregnancy Help Center. Pray for the work there every week. Pray especially when we have teams there. Even if you’re 90 years old, you can be an “Acts 1:8 Christian” by praying for those missions, and for our people as they go.

Giving. Praying. Going. Here in Angleton, our “Jerusalem,” to the ends of the earth. THAT is the mission Jesus has given us as His army to fulfill.

CONCLUSION:

Not long ago I read a book on the history of the British army, called “Mr. Kipling’s Army.” After sharing an interesting survey of the history of what the British Army had done in the 1800’s, the author shared a very revealing quote:

“As late as 1903 St John Broderick, the British Secretary for War, wrote to A.J. Balfour, their Prime Minister, to express his puzzlement: ‘I do not find that any definite instruction exists as to what is the exact purpose for which the army exists, and what duties it is supposed to perform.’”

(Byron Farwell, Mr. Kipling’s Army, p. 21)

The British Army had gone a lot of places in the world in the 1800’s, and had done a lot of things. But the Secretary of War himself admitted: we don’t have anything written down that tells us what we’re really supposed to be about. That was an amazing admission for him to make.

But as Christians, and as a New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no such confusion. We know what we are supposed to be about — or we SHOULD know it! — because Jesus tells us right here. He directs us to:

— WAIT for the power of the Spirit; 

— DON’T get sidetracked; 

— and fulfill YOUR mission of giving, praying, and going, beginning right here in Angleton where we are — to the ends of the earth!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
This entry was posted in Discipleship, Doctrine/Theology, missions, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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