Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "The Day of Pentecost"

“The Day of Pentecost”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
September 25, 2011
Acts 2:1-47

Acts 2 is one of the most important and amazing chapters in the whole Bible.

It is “The Day of Pentecost.”

Pentecost came every year. It was one of the Jewish religious festivals established in the Old Testament. But this was the most important Pentecost ever.

This was the Pentecost after Jesus died and rose again.

This was the day of Pentecost that the Spirit came, the gospel went forth, and the church was born.

Two weeks ago, we started our new sermon series on the book of Acts entitled “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania,” and we’re learning how the mission of the church progressed as the Lord, before His ascension, told His apostles that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth.

But first, he told them to wait.

To wait.

And last week, we were still waiting, as we saw what happened before Pentecost.

Waiting.  Waiting for what?  For the coming of the Spirit.

And then (v.1), “When the day of Pentecost came...” the waiting was over and the excitement was about to begin!

We’re going to divide up our time in this passage into three parts this morning.

Verses 1-13, The Spirit
Verses 14-40, The Gospel
And verses 41-47, The Church.

The Spirit, the Gospel, the Church.

First, #1. THE SPIRIT. Verse 1.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  Let’s stop there for just a second.

Ten days have passed since the Lord ascended into heaven.

For ten days the twelve apostles (including, now Matthias) and the rest of the disciples have been gathering for constant prayer, both men and women and including Mary, Jesus’ mother and his brothers.

And now on this day, the day of Pentecost, they are all together again. We’re not sure if they’re in the upper room still, that’s possible and likely.

But they are all together and then a miracle happens.  V.2

They hear a sound LIKE the blowing of a violent wind. It doesn’t say that there is a wind, it’s like a wind.  A violent wind. Have you ever heard a tornado coming?

And the sound filled the whole house were they were sitting.

But that was nothing!  V.3 “They saw WHAT SEEMED TO BE tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”

What’s that?  Fiery tongues.  Little? Large?  Individualized flames that came to rest on each of them.  We’ve all seen pictures of this, but noone really knows what it was like.

It must have been spooky!

And then something else happened.  V.4

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to SPEAK in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  Tongues are a figure of speech for languages.

All of them (at least the twelve and maybe more) began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

And speak they did!  V.5

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven [it’s the feast of Pentecost so everyone’s in town]. When they heard this sound [the sound of the wind?], a crowd came together in bewilderment, [bewildered] because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? [Aren’t they unlearned people from up north?] Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”

Check out how many languages. V.9

“Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’”

“What does this mean?” That’s a good question.

What just happened?

Well, here’s three things.

1. God just kept a promise.

The Lord said that He would send His Spirit.

And here the Spirit is.

The waiting is over and the Gift of the Father has been given.

God just kept a promise.

Don’t forget that. Often, we take that for granted, but it’s important to remember God always keeps His promises.

Not always on the timeline that we want!

But always and ever, God is faithful to His promises.

You trust Him.

He promised the Spirit, and here the Spirit is.

2. God is undoing the curse of Babel.

Remember the Tower of Bablel back in Genesis 11?

They sinfully wanted to build a tower to reach up to heaven?

And God frustrated their project and confused their languages.

Well, now heaven has come down to earth.

And when the Spirit came, He undid the confusion of language and made all of the languages serve the good news of Jesus.

These Christians were speaking human languages that they had never learned.

How amazing is that?!
And they are all saying one thing with those different languages. V.11

“We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.”

And it means at least one more thing.

3. A new era has dawned.

The Holy Spirit has come in fullness, and God is doing something new in human history starting now on the Day of Pentecost.

Some scoffed at this and (v.13) made fun of the saying that they have had too much wine.

They didn’t know that those were other languages. Sounded like drunkspeak to them.

So the apostle Peter stands up boldly and dispels the misperceptions and begins to preach the gospel for the first time in the new era. 

#2. THE GOSPEL.  V.14  [slide]

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!”

Nobody is drunk yet. There is something else going on here. Something BIG.  V.16

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”

That’s a new Peter, isn’t it?

How bold and strong he is in the gospel?!  That’s the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter proclaims that what they are hearing is the fulfillment of Joel chapter 2.

God promised to pour out His Spirit on all people–all kinds of people, regardless of gender, age, or social status.

And He promised to do this in the last days.  The last days are here.  The Spirit has come.

Amazing things are going to happen. Great signs and wonders in the earth.

And some of that happened when Jesus was crucified and raised again.

And the great and glorious day of the Lord is approaching.

A day of judgment.  And there is only one way to be saved.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Are you saved?

The coming of the Holy Spirit has inaugurated a new era and brought near the coming of the day of the Lord, a day of judgment.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

What is the name of the Lord that he’s talking about?

It is Jesus.  V.22

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. [Don’t forget what has happened these last three years in our nation!] This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge [God’s plan]; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

That’s the gospel!

Peter is forcefully preaching the gospel.

Jesus lived a perfect life and had dynamic ministry.

And God allowed in His perfect plan for Him to be handed over to the Jews.

And they with other wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Remember how we studied that back in the Spring?

We had four messages titled:

Arresting Jesus
Judging Jesus
Crucifying Jesus
Burying Jesus

But (v.24), “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him!”

Yes!

Jesus is alive!

We’re going to see that again and again and again.

The resurrection changes everything.

Jesus is alive.  “It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him!”

Like the song say, “Death in vain forbids him rise!”

Peter has been reading his Bible, and he has come to understand how the Old Testament predicted this.  He pulls out Psalm 16. V.25

“David said about him: ‘'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' ‘Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”

Do you see what Peter is doing with this sermon?

Where he’s going?

He knows that David wrote Psalm 16, but Peter sees some things in Psalm 16 that were more true for Jesus than they ever would be for David.

Jesus is the ultimate “Holy One” of Psalm 16:10!  V.29

‘Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne [2 Samuel 7]. Seeing what was ahead, [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”

There is that word “witnesses” again. The book of Acts is about witnessing.

The apostles are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus is alive!

His body did not decay. In fact, it came out of the tomb better than it had ever been.

And now (v.33), “Exalted to the right hand of God, [Jesus] has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Stop there.

You want to know what just happened?  What this all means?

The Father has given the Holy Spirit to the Son, Jesus, the Resurrected One, and Jesus has now poured out the Spirit on us.

That’s the Day of Pentecost.

That’s what’s happened: A Spiritual Downpour by Jesus Himself.

And then Peter turns to Psalm 110.  V.34

“For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘'The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’' ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’”

That’s one of the most amazing things ever said.

They crucified Him, but God has made Jesus both Lord (master, king) and Christ (messiah, savior, annointed one).

That’s what all of this wind, and flame, and tongues mean!

We can get caught up in debates about speaking in tongues and be amazed at the wonders of the day of Pentecost.

But David says that the whole point of it all is that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

That’s the gospel.

And the people listening to David GOT IT!  V.37

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”

We crucified Him?!!!

He is Lord and Christ and we crucified Him?!!

Let that sink in.

The 3-6 grade classes in Kids For Christ this Fall have a mystery they are trying to solve.

Who Killed Jesus?

They have a list of suspects, I’ve heard the kids talking about the suspects and who they think did it.

When we think about it for long, we realize that we are all guilty.

Verse 36 is addressed to Israel, but it’s true for all of us.

“God made this Jesus, whom YOU CRUCIFIED, both Lord and Christ.”

Does that cut you to the heart?

What shall we do?!

We crucified Him?!!!

He is Lord and Christ and we crucified Him?!!

What shall we do?  V.38

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”

What shall we do?

Believe the Gospel!

Turn from your sins (repent) and trust in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

And do that publically taking on the sign and symbol of that repentance, water baptism.

Repent and believe!

This is for everyone.

Not just one generation, but everyone who will believe.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

And will get the gift of the Holy Spirit.

That’s grace!

People who killed the Messiah now get His Spirit.

That’s grace!

V.39 “The promise [of the gospel] is for you and for your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Even those people who will live in Pennsylvania some day?

Even them?  That far off!  Really far off?!  Gentiles like them?

Yes, even for them.

Are you saved?

Have you repented and put your faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?

Or are you still FAR OFF?

“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Turn from your sins and trust in the crucified and risen Savior, the one God made both Lord and Christ.

And then tell the world by water baptism.

Have you been baptized?

Baptism is not for extraordinary Christians or for mature Christians.

Sometimes, people tell me that they’re not ready to get baptized because they haven’t grown much as Christians.

Baptism is for new Christians, ordinary Christians.  Look at verse 41.

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

They didn’t wait for maturity in Christ to get baptized. They didn’t delay.

They heard the call, “Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Baptism symbolizes the washing away, the forgiveness of your sins.

And they had 3,000 dunkings that day!

I wonder how they did it. Those apostles would have been tired by the end of the day!

Maybe they had newly baptized follower baptizing others.

Anyway about it, they had 3,000 new believers baptized on the Day of Pentecost.

Why?

Because they believed the gospel.  V.41, “Those who accepted his message were baptized.”

Do you believe the gospel?  Are you saved?   Have you called upon the name of the Lord?

If you have, are you witnessing to others about it?

The bulletin has those 6 gospel outreach events in it that are coming up for our church.

Are you praying, helping, inviting, sharing the Lord?

The point of the Spirit’s coming is not a pyrotechnic show.

It is a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Repent and Believe and Bear Witness.

And be the church.

#3. THE CHURCH.

Something new started that day, a dynamic community of disciplemakers was born.  V.42

“They [these new converts] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

What an amazing time!

Our church’s purpose statement came, in large part, from an indepth study of this passage on the birth of the church.

We exist to glorify God by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The newborn church was devoted to learning about the gospel from the apostles.

And we have the apostle’s writings, the Bible.

They were devoted to fellowship, which is more than potluck dinners. They were in each others’ lives in genuine community.

They were devoted to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

I think that means the Lord’s supper and prayer.  So, they were devoted to regular worship and prayer times and observing the ordinances the Lord had given.

It was a time of great miracles and wonder and awe.

The newborn church was generous.  They sold items and gave it to the poor and to those within the church that were needy.

They worshipped God and shared Jesus with others.  They didn’t just look inward. They looked outward and reached out.

“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

God’s blessing was on the newborn church.

Starting on the Day of Pentecost.

Are you and I living our lives like they were living theirs?

We don’t have to wait for the Spirit to come.

He’s already here.

Ever since the Day of Pentecost.

Messages So Far In this Series:


You Will Be My Witnesses
Before Pentecost

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Before Pentecost"

“Before Pentecost”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
September 18, 2011
Acts 1:12-26

Last week, we started our newest sermon series on the book of the Acts which we are calling, “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania.”

We’re going to read and study the entire book of Acts from cover to cover and understand better how we got here.

How did the gospel come all the way from Jerusalem to Pennsylvania?

Jesus died. Jesus rose again. And last week we saw that Jesus gave his followers a mission.  V.8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Even to Clearfield County Pennsylvania.  (Ok. I added those words. They aren’t in verse 8.)

And then Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father.  And someday will return the same way.
 
In verse 4, Jesus told his apostles to not leave Jerusalem just yet. They weren’t supposed to head out to the ends of the earth the day that Jesus left.

They were to wait.

What for?

They were to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Which it turns out was going to be in just about 10 days, at the feast of Pentecost.

They had to wait.

Do you like to wait?

I hate waiting!

I like things to get done, not to hang around.

I like things to move right along.

I even hate waiting rooms!

I like to make decisions, and hate it when I have to wait for some key piece of information.

I decided the other day that I had to mull on something instead of choose.  I hate the wait of mulling over a decision.

Do you like to wait?

Some people do.

I have a hard time imaging the apostle Peter enjoying the wait.  Peter was such a do-er and a hot-head. He probably struggled with this waiting-time. Waiting for the Spirit to come.

But just because they were waiting, doesn’t mean that they were inactive before Pentecost.

By the way, that’s our title for today: “Before Pentecost.”

After the Ascension and Before Pentecost. The time in between.

I used to think (up until just a few days ago) that there wasn’t very much here in this passage between verse 11 and chapter 2 that was worth very much.

It felt like filler to me.  Maybe because of the waiting aspect.

And maybe because of some of the interpretive questions that swirl around these verses.

But this week as I studied it, I began to see lots of more there that was of use for my life and yours.

The Spirit had not yet come in His fullness, but that doesn’t meant that there wasn’t anything good going on.

In fact, I have 5 things I want to point at for us that we can see in this early group of followers, this church before the church, before Pentecost.

5 things that I think we can learn from today.

#1. PRAYER.

When you have to wait for something, a great thing to do is to pray!

You can do that anywhere, anytime.

Let’s start reading in verse 12 and go through 14.

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. [This is immediately after Jesus’ ascension. They walked back to Jerusalem to wait.] When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

This small group comes back to an upper room. It might be the same upper room as the one from the Last Supper. We don’t know.

And the first thing they think to do is to pray.

And pray. And pray. And pray.
                               
Verse 14 says that they joined together in constant prayer.

Now, I don’t think that they stopped eating or doing anything else, but they returned again and again to prayer.

And prayer together. Corporate prayer.

One of the things I love about this church is your commitment to corporate prayer.

This is a praying church.

We have a great prayer meeting on Wednesday nights which grows even when some of the regulars have to leave the prayer meeting and work in the Family Bible Night programs.

By the way, if you come on Wednesdays and drop off your kids in the program, please consider joining the prayer meeting from 7 to 8pm. There is no pressure to pray out loud. It’s not a weird time in any way.  It’s just 8 to 15 Christians who get together and lift up their hearts to the Lord and intercede for needs.

And, of course, that prayer meeting isn’t our only prayer meeting.

One time I counted up all of the prayer meetings and prayer ministries of the church and it was quite a long list.

We have prayer in these services.
Our Link Groups pray.
Our Sunday School Classes pray.
The kids pray on Wednesday nights.
We have prayer phone tree and a email prayer broadcast.

And so on.

Constant prayer.

Notice who is praying here.

It’s these guys: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bart, Matt, Jim, Simon, and Judas Jameson.

But it’s also these faithful women. Jesus always had great relationships with women who believed in him.

And his natural biological family. Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.

Both of those are interesting.

Here’s what’s interesting about Mary. This is the last time she is mentioned by name in the Bible.

The apostle John was tasked by our Lord with taking care of her. I sure he did it.

But this is the last time we hear her name.

Notice that she is honored. She is noted as the mother of Jesus.
But she is not glorified. She is not set apart in a special category or treated like a mediator herself as some tried to make her out to be.

The last picture we get of her is that she is praying.

And the interesting thing here about her other sons is that during Jesus’ earthly ministry they didn’t believe.

Read John 7 some time to see what they thought of Jesus’s claims.

But now they do believe.

Jesus appeared directly to his half brother James. And he eventually will write a book of the Bible himself.

And what are they up to before Pentecost?

Praying.

How is your prayer life?  Do you pray?

Do you pray every day?

What pray for?

How do you pray?

The Link Group that meets in our home has just started reading Paul Miller’s A Praying Life a book that I’ve recommended to you before.  It’s really good. I have a few copies left that we’d love to have some of you read to grow in your prayer life.

Prayer. Constant prayer.

Question. How many apostles were there in the list in verse 13?

Did anybody count them?

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bart, Matt, Jim, Simon, and Judas Jameson.

Eleven.

How many apostles should there be?

The Lord Jesus told his apostles in Matthew 19, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Did Jesus make a mistake?

He picked twelve. Did he make a mistake in which ones he picked?

He was up all night praying before he chose his twelve.

Is the whole plan of God now ruined because there is one missing?

Here’s our next word.

#2. UNITY.

We’ve actually already seen it at work. Verse 14 says that they “all joined together constantly in prayer.”

The King James says, “with one accord.” (And I don’t think they meant Honda.)

They were together. They were unified.

And they were going to fight for unity.

The Holy Spirit will bring that unity even more when He comes, but they had it already and were practicing it right now.

Our enemy, Satan, hates unity.

He hates the unity that we enjoy in this church.

Hates it. He would love to wreck it if he could.

And he tried to do that with Judas.

The whole point of tempting and then entering Judas was not just to betray Jesus but to break up the plan of God and the unity of the circle of Jesus’ followers.

And it looked like he succeeded.

But Peter has been studying his Bible while he’s waiting for the Spirit, and Peter has seen in the Scriptures that Judas’ defection was not a surprise to God.

In fact, it was all part of God’s plan. V.15

“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) [this is one of those prayer meetings between the ascension and Pentecost where a bigger group has gathered– a group about the size of this group in this room.] and [Peter] said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus–he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.’”

We’re going to deal with this head on.

And Luke explains for his readers who didn’t know the story what happened to Judas. V.18

“(With the reward he got for his wickedness [betraying Jesus with a kiss], Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)”

We’d say, “He bought the farm.”  The farm of blood.

And that’s why the circle of apostles is broken. Eleven, not twelve.

But that is not a surprise to God.  Verse 20.

“‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,' and, ‘'May another take his place of leadership.'”

There are biblical typological patterns in the Scripture that point to this being God’s plan. A betrayer will arise and then need to be removed and then replaced. The Bible says so.

So. V.21.

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Now, first unity.  And then two more themes out of this section.

Notice how focused Peter is on unity. The circle must not be unbroken.

Blessed be the tie that binds.

We need to have a similar passion for unity.

In my book on resisting gossip, I have an entire chapter devoted to God’s love for unity and how to cultivate it in the local church by rooting out gossip.

Is there anything hindering our unity in this church?

We need to take whatever steps we can to preserve our unity in the Lord.

That’s #3. OBEDIENCE.

Before Pentecost there was obedience.

They prayed, they stayed together, and they obeyed the Scriptures.

Do you see that word in verse 21, “necessary?”

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men...”

It is necessary.

Why?  Because the Bible points to it.

Peter was convinced that the Bible called them to identify a replacement for Judas.

Now, some had thought that this was a mistake.

And if you think so, I love you, and you’re welcome to think that. There are great people who have in the history of the church.

Some people think that the church should have waited for Paul.  He was coming and would be glad to fill the twelfth seat the table.

But he wouldn’t have fit the definition in verses 21 and 22 either.

“It is necessary to chose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.”

Paul didn’t do that.

There is no hint in the Bible that the apostles were barking up the wrong tree at this point.

Everything points to Peter reading his Bible and obeying what he read.

“It is necessary.”

Do you read your Bible and do what it tells you to do?

Do you act on what you read?

Are you obedient?

Peter was a leader in obedience.  Now, in 10 days, he’ll be even more of a leader and he’ll be bold.

But right now, he’s reading his Bible, and he’s doing what he thinks God wants him to do from it.

Is there some area of disobedience in your life right now where you know what you should be doing, but you’re not doing it?

It might be this one. We talked about last week.  It’s number four.

#4. WITNESS.

Notice why Peter thinks they need a twelfth apostle. V.22

“For one of these must become a witness with us of his [Jesus’] resurrection.”

Jesus is alive!

And we have to tell people!

Right now, they have to wait.

They have to wait for the Spirit.

But soon they'll be telling everybody in the whole world.

We need to witness.

We’ve already talked this morning about upcoming outreaches.

What are you going to do as part of them?

Here’s our list.

    Pray.
    Help.
    Invite.
    Share.

“You will be my witnesses.”

Jesus is alive. We’ve got to tell people.

So, here’s where they are.

They’ve been praying. They are waiting. In the meantime, they are reading their Bibles, and they come to believe that to be obedient and preserve their unity, they need to replace Judas so that there are twelve apostles again.

Now, they will only do this once. After the apostles start to die, they won’t replace them again.

But this wasn’t just a death, it was a defection. So, another must take his place of leadership.

And here’s how they did it.  First they had a nominating committee.

Well, maybe not exactly, but they searched their 120 members for men who fit the qualifications. They had to be eyewitnesses who had been around since the start.

Josephesus says that both of the men they picked were part of the 70 who had been sent out. The Bible doesn’t say that, but it’s very possible.

They picked two men (probably the only two men) who fit the qualifications.

And then they prayed. And then they flipped a coin.

Let’s read it. Verse 23.

“So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

Now, in once sense, that’s very weird.

I don’t think that God is teaching us how to choose our leaders here.

Well, who do you think ought to be church chairman next year?  Let’s flip a coin!

And you don’t read about any more casting lots after the Spirit comes at Pentecost. So that might tell us something, too.

But casting lots was a regular practice in the Old Testament.  The Urim and Thummin were probably a form of lot casting that God appointed for use in the Old Testament.

So, it’s not really that strange.

And here’s why, I think, they did it.

#5. FAITH.

Who wants to make this decision?

Who gets to be an apostle?

Let’s decide.

That didn’t seem right.

How would they decide?  Based on popularity?

The most popular guy gets to be the apostle.

Joseph had was called Barsabbas, probably because he was born on the Sabbath.

It’s like calling a kid “Saturday.”

“You know, Saturday is pretty good guy. Let’s make him the apostle.”

Who chose the other eleven?

The Lord did.

Let’s let him choose this one.

Now, of course, you can’t run around doing that for things that are not equal.

You can’t say, “Lord, I’m going to flip a coin to see if I should commit adultery or not.”

I’m going to roll some dice to see if I should lie to my neighbor or not.

No.

But all things being equal, guess what?

God is sovereign over even the flip of a coin.

Listen to Proverbs 16:33.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

God is sovereign even over the random.

Let me say that again.

God is sovereign even over the random.

I don’t think that God miraculously pushed Matthias’ name out of the hat.

And I don’t think that Peter and the others assumed that he did.

I think that they just trusted that God was sovereign even over the random.

And only one of these two qualified men could serve as an apostle, so casting lots was as good a way as any to establish God’s will.

And they had faith.

By the way, it was a dubious honor at the moment to be an apostle.

Someday, to sit on the throne is one thing.

But at this point, it probably meant a sure and certain death.

The Greek word for witness is maturous from which we get martyr.

God is sovereign over the random.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Life seems random so often. And there is a randomness that is real.

But God is over all of that, as well.

Does you life feel random and out of control?

It could go this way or that way, and who knows?

God is sovereign over the random.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Have faith!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "You Will Be My Witnesses"

“You Will Be My Witnesses”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
September 11, 2011
Acts 1:1-11

The title of this new series will be “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania,” and we’ll see where that title comes from when we get to verse 8.

Which says, “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.”

The title for this message also comes from verse 8.  “You will be my witnesses.”

“You will be my witnesses.”  First spoken by the Lord Jesus to his apostles. And also applicable to us today.

“You will be my witnesses.”

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Acts chapter 1.

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men 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.”

Notice how this book of Acts begins. It begins a lot like another book that we are very familiar with, doesn’t it?

What book?

The Gospel of Luke, right?

The Gospel of Luke was also addressed to a fellow named “Theophilus.”

Luke began with these words:

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Our last long series was the book of Luke and we called it “Certain of Jesus.”

Just this last Spring, we finished 66 messages on the Gospel of Luke.

This book is the sequel.

The book of Acts was also written by Luke, and it is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke.

I almost called this series, “Certain of Jesus Volume 2.”

Because that’s what it is.  Verse 1 again.
 
“In my former book, Theophilus, [that’s the gospel of Luke] I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven [Luke 1-24], after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”
           
The book of Acts stands on the shoulders of the gospel of Luke.

And it is as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.”

Acts is a very important book because it’s the only one of its kind.

How many gospels are there in the Bible?  There are four. And that’s pretty important.

The Lord must wants us to get a picture in our minds of who the Lord Jesus and (v.1) “all that he began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven.”

But there is only one book of Acts! If we didn’t have this, we wouldn’t know the rest of the story and what happened next. Very important.

It’s interesting that it says in verse that it was “all he BEGAN to do and teach.”

I think that means that the book of Acts continues Jesus’ ministry.

Even though he is taken up into heaven, he continues to do and teach through His apostles and by His Holy Spirit.

The traditional title for this book is the Acts of the Apostles.  And that’s a good name for it because the book does tell us what they apostles did in the spreading of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

But it’s also been called the Acts of the Holy Spirit because it’s a divine book about God’s action, not just the action of men.

If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, there would be no acts of the apostles!

But it’s also true that Acts is the continuation of the story of Jesus.  The Gospel of Luke Volume 2.  The sequel.

Verse 2 says that Jesus through the Holy Spirit gave instructions to the apostle he had chosen.

What’s an apostle?

Am I an apostle? Are you an apostle?

Not in this sense.

An apostle is an authorized representative. A delegated representative that is authorized to carry someone message and spread it.

These men were authorized, empowered, in a unique way in history to spread the good news and teaching of Jesus Christ.

They had been given a mission.  V.8 says it this way, “You will be my witnesses.”

And here’s the first reason.
       
You will be my witnesses...

#1. BECAUSE JESUS IS ALIVE.

Look at verse 3.

“After his suffering [what’s that? That’s the Cross], he showed himself to these men 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.”

We learned in Luke that the kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God, was Jesus’ favorite topic to teach on.

Do you see how this is the sequel to Luke?

“After his suffering, after his death on the cross, Jesus showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”

Jesus is alive!

We celebrated Jesus’s resurrection this year with 10 baptisms.

We believe that Jesus died, and then ROSE again!

Jesus alive!

And that makes all the difference.

Are you struggling with your faith right now?

I have a pastor friend who is going through a lot of doubts and questions. He’s had a hard time over the last few months and has been asking himself if he truly believes.

And when we talked recently, I brought him back here.

Jesus is alive.

The fact of the resurrection.  If Jesus is not alive, then we are fools to be here today.

We are wasting a perfectly good Sunday morning. I could be sleeping in!

But if Jesus is alive, then that changes everything.

We’re going to see this again and again and again in the book of Acts.

The central message of the apostles wherever they go is the cross and the resurrection!

Jesus is alive, and they are witnesses to that truth!

Verse 3 says that Jesus gave these men “many convincing proofs that he was alive.”

This was no ghost. This was no vision or dream or nightmare.

This was not something they ate causing a mass halucination.

Jesus was (and is) truly alive . . . again!

He appeared to them over a period of forty days. The Bible recounts at least 10 appearances to various followers over those forty days, and there might have been more.

And they were convinced that Jesus was alive.

Are you convinced that Jesus is alive?

Then be His witnesses.

Tell other people. They won’t know unless we tell them.

One of the reasons why I decided to do the book of Acts now is that I believe that the next year of our church is a year of outreach. It is a year of reaching out to our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have a number of events planned to help us to do that. Regular programs like MOPS and Family Bible Night and events coming up like Game Day on the big screen, like a women’s outreach in December, like our Wild Game Dinner in February, a concert in March, and a car cruise-in in the Summer.

But those events are nothing if we are not telling people personally about Jesus.

Be His witnesses.

If you believe that Jesus is alive, be His witness.

#2. BECAUSE JESUS WILL SEND HIS SPIRIT.

Now, remember where we are in the story.

Jesus is alive and he’s teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God and giving instructions about what they are to do after he leaves. V.4

“On one occasion, while he was eating with them [and dead men don’t eat!], he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

Something important had not yet happened.

This begins the countdown to Pentecost.

Jesus told his apostles to stay put in Jerusalem because something important had not yet happened but was about to.

“Wait for the gift.”

What is the gift?

It is the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.

“The gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

When was that?  Many places in the gospels, but especially John 14-16, the Upper Room Teaching.

And then he reminds them what John the Baptist said in Luke 3. “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Baptism is a key word in the book of Acts. We’re going to see a lot about baptism.

Here Jesus promises a greater baptism than John’s.

A baptism with the Holy Spirit.

It’s coming in “a few days.”  “A few days.”

Well, that got them interested!  And later when they met together with him in the vicinity of Bethany on the Mount of Olives, they asked more about it.  V.6

“So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’”

Is that what you mean by baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Are we going to get our kingdom back?

Israel has been a political football since Babylon took us over 600 years ago.

Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, then Rome.

Do we get our kingdom back now?  Do we get everything that the Old Testament promises us?

You’re the Messiah, and you’re back from the dead.

Is the kingdom next?

Is this kingdom now?

No. There is something else that comes first. It’s the age of witness.

V.7 

“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’”

When are we ever going to learn that lesson?  When are we ever going to stop hearing people setting dates for the Kingdom to arrive in its fullness?

The Harold Campings of the world will always be among us.

We keep ignoring that verse.

But Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”

Instead. V.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.”

The dates and times of the kingdom are privileged information. For God’s eyes only.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have something important to do.

Our job is not to know when the end of the age will come but to be busy until it does.

Busy as witnesses.

“You will be my witnesses.”

A witness is someone who gives testimony. A witness is someone who has seen something or experienced something and can tell others about it.

These men were eye-witnesses of the resurrected Christ!

And you and I are ear-witnesses.  We have heard the good news that Jesus is alive, and we need to tell others.

How do we do that?

In the power of the Holy Spirit. V.8

“But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” and that will enable you to be my witnesses.

They didn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit yet.

But you know what?  We do.

We live on the other side of Pentecost.

And the same Spirit that enabled the apostles to turn the world upside down is the same Spirit who has come to live inside of each Christian today!

He’s the same Spirit that is among us right now in this room.

And He’s the same Spirit that will enable you and me to open our mouths to witness to Jesus this year.

This week!

Is there someone right now in your life that you need to open your mouth and witness to about the Lord Jesus?

The power of the Holy Spirit is available to you to talk to them.

It’s not a spooky thing. Just do it.  Trust in that power and act. Trust in that power and talk.  Open your mouth and witness.

The apostles did.

We’re going to see that again and again and again as we read the book of Acts.

In the face of persecution and fears and trouble and trials and suffering, they were bold to witness to Jesus.

And the power to do that came, not from themselves, but from the gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit of God.

Notice where Jesus says they will witness.

In Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Now, it’s popular for us to apply that to ourselves and see where we live as Jerusalem and our region as Judea, and the people we’d rather ignore as Samaria, and the mission field as the ends of the earth.

And I think that’s a helpful little way of thinking about this strategically.

But that’s not what Jesus was saying.

Jesus was saying that his apostles would witness in literal Jerusalem, and then in Judea and Samaria, and then take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Jesus’ prophecy came true.

In fact, verse 8 is the outline for the book of Acts.

Chapters 1-7 are about the gospel in Jerusalem.
In chapter 8, it makes it to Judea and Samaria.
And by chapter 13, there are missionaries named Paul and Barnabas who start taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.

And one day, it reached Pennyslvania.

One day, the gospel made it here.  This is the ends of the earth.

There are other ends of the earth–like what Zeke and Meagan Magill told us about in Papua New Guinea.  There are ends of the earth all over the world.

But we are far from Jerusalem and the gospel has made it here.

One mistake that we can make in the book of Acts is to think that every verse is there to teach us how to do church or what to expect ministry to look like today.

There will be things we learn about that along the way.

But the book of Acts is not at all times prescriptive, giving us a prescription for today.

The book of Acts is primarily descriptive, telling us the amazing things that God has done in history.

He has raised Jesus from the dead.
He has sent His Holy Spirit to empower His people.
He has birthed a church with a mission.
And that church has carried out that mission so that the gospel has gone from Jerusalem to Central Pennsylvania!

There is more work to be done.

But we can rejoice in what God has done!

And now, from Jerusalem to Pennsylvania, we can also apply what we learn to our lives in Pennsylvania.

And a key application is to be his witnesses.

Who are you going to tell?

You will be my witnesses.

#1. Because Jesus Is Alive!
#2. Because Jesus (Has Sent) His Holy Spirit!

And #3. BECAUSE JESUS WILL COME BACK AGAIN!

V.8 was Jesus’ last words on earth to his disciples.  V.9

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

We call that the ascension.

How did God do it? Where exactly did Jesus go?  Why did Jesus go in this way?

We don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say.

But the Bible tells us what happened. Jesus was taken up to heaven and a cloud hid him from their sight.

He was gone.

Just like that, he was gone. V.10

“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. [I assume that’s angels.] “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The same Jesus, the same way.

He was taken up. He’ll come back again some day.

Now, get busy.

Our job is not to be staring up in the sky waiting for Jesus’ return.

Our job is to get busy being his witnesses until He does.

And He will.

Jesus is coming back again.

The same Jesus, the same way.

He is coming back.

To judge the living and the dead.

To bring salvation to all who are waiting for Him.
And judgment to all who are not.

To bring that kingdom that He talked about in all of its fullness.

Are you ready for His return?

Do you believe that He is alive?
Do you believe that He sent His Spirit?
Do you believe that He is coming back again soon?

Then Be His Witnesses.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Next Phase!

Celebrate with me. I have written a book!

I just sent the completed manuscript off of Resisting Gossip to my 25 critical readers with a questionnaire for their evaluation in the next phase of the doctoral project.

What a great relief.

Now, I'm going to bed and sleep for a week (or a night, whichever comes first).

Saturday, September 03, 2011

More Spurgeon on Gossip

Be deaf, be blind, be dead to gossip, and it will grow disgusted with you and select a more sensitive victim.

 - Charles H. Spurgeon

Friday, September 02, 2011

Andree Seu on Gossip

I just wrote about Proverbs 6:16-19 today.

So did, Andree Seu: Sowing Discord.