In 1983, a 50-year-old tradition was quietly dropped by the U.S. House of Representatives. The tradition involved the annual reading of George Washington’s farewell address on the occasion of his birthday. Democratic and Republican leaders decided it was useless to continue to read the lengthy address to a mostly empty chamber. “It’s too bad,” said a GOP aide, “but it’s time for this to be consigned to the trashcan.”
The Calgary Gerald stated, “in past years, it was almost a religious act that the address must be read. Through war and storm for half a century, a member of each chamber has been chosen to read the address.” declared the newspaper heading, “nobody listens to washington’s farewell address.” Sadly, something similar is taking place in the Christian church. Fewer and fewer believers are listening to Christ’s farewell message. To his disciples Christ gave clear instructions – to go to all nations with the gospel.
Acts is the history of the spread of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit on earth. The point of the book of Acts is to eliminate any excuses as to why you can’t participate in the advancement of the gospel. Whether you are young or old, weak or strong, smart or dumb, foolish or wise, God can use you if you are willing to be used. Today, I want to explain to you the ministry model that Jesus gave the disciples for making disciples of all nations.
Acts 1:4–8, “ While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “this,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.”
God’s Purposes Are Bigger Than Our Plans
Wait upon the Lord
Acts 1:4–8, “ While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “this,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the father has set by his own authority.
The disciples wanted to know when the final Kingdom was going to be set up. You can’t blame them. Jesus promised that each would occupy a seat on the throne. Jesus says, “you don’t need knowledge, you need power to accomplish the mission.” they didn’t need to know when He was coming back, they needed to know that he was coming back and more importantly, they needed to know what to do until He returns. Jesus warns them to slow down. “Don’t go out and start your own ministries in your own strength and ability. Wait for my plan and power.” Pentecost or shavout is called the feast of weeks. It is a time of showing joy and thankfulness for the harvest.
On the first pentecost, Moses received the Word of God. Moses goes up the mountain and God comes down and gives him the law, and Moses speaks it to the people. On the Pentecost in Acts 2, God descends upon the disciples through his spirit, and they speak his word boldly to the people.
Jesus wants them to wait because his plan was to bring Jews from the 4 corners of the world to Jerusalem to hear the gospel on pentecost.
Pentecost was the second of the 3 pilgrimage festivals where Jews were required to make a trip to Jerusalem from all over the world.
Jesus instructs the disciples to wait 10 days. Acts 1:3 says, “Jesus appeared to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Jesus died on passover. From that day forward, Jews would count 50 omers or days until pentecost. Jesus appeared for 40 days and Oentecost is on day 50.
- Noah endured mocking and humiliation for 120 years while he constructed the ark.
- Abraham waited for 30 years before God came through on his covenantal promise.
- Joseph endured isolation in a pit and incarceration in a prison before realizing the promise God made to him 11 years before.
- Moses wandered in the wilderness for four decades waiting to enter the land that was promised.
- Jesus waited 30 years before he began his earthly ministry.
Life is much like a puzzle: we all have a handful of pieces, but someone took the box with the picture on the cover. We are left wondering how each piece fits with another. After an extended period of time, sometimes years, we pick up more pieces to the puzzle of life. Parts that once were disconnected start to fit into place. It is at this point that the image begins to take shape. As time goes on, we look back and realize that no pieces were wasted. Everything God gives us fits into the picture of our lives.
God’s timing is best. There are certain lessons like patience, perseverance, and endurance that can only be learned through waiting upon the Lord. Sometimes waiting upon the Lord can be the hardest. However, God works in our waiting.
God’s Power is Greater Than Our Programs
Success in ministry is not based on our ability but his empowerment. Jesus’ church growth seminar is very different than ours.
The Promise of Power
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. This word power is dunamis, where we get the english word dynamite. God’s power is his presence. God made a promise to be with his people in the Old Testament.
Moses was given a promise:
Exodus 3:12, “but Moses said to God, “who am I that I should go to pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of egypt?” 12 he said, “but I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Did God follow through with his promise? He led them by smoke during the day and fire by night. Why? The mission was going to be hard. In the desert without food or water. But he would be there.
God made the same promise to the prophet Jeremiah.
He’s preached the judgment of God to people who disobeyed the Lord. How many converts did Jeremiah have during his lifetime? Zero.
The Holy Spirit is the promise that God is with you.
Jer. 1:6, “then I said, “ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 but the Lord said to me, “do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”
The Old Testament saints experienced God’s presence when he came upon them. The New Testament believers are indwelt with His presence at salvation. At the end of time, we will be enveloped with God’s presence for eternity.
Rev. 21:3, “then I heard a loud voice from the throne: look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.”
The Person of Power
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity. Refer to him as He not it.
Ill. When I was a new believer, I attended a Bible study of a different denomination. They asked me if I was filled with the spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues? I said no. This group told me that you can be a believer without being filled with the spirit. Because I didn’t speak in tongues, there was no evidence that I had been filled. This false doctrine alienated me from others. They would say, it’s ok for you to come to the Bible study, but we have the real power. I felt separated and so did the others who did not speak in tongues like them. Unfortunately, that is wrong. You can’t be a believer apart from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
The spirit is the evidence of our salvation.
You can’t be of the Lord and not possess the spirit of God.
Rom. 8:9, “you, however, are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if in fact the spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
The Spirit is the guarantee of our future glory.
Eph. 1:13, “in Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Guarantee is the word for engagement ring.
The spirit is the sign that you’re in the body of Christ.
1 Cor. 6:19–20, “or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
In the Old Testament, God had a temple for his people but now he has a people for his temple. God’s spirit is always with you. Do you believe that? Do you? You better. If you don’t settle this in your heart before you enter the mission you will never make in through the mission.
David Livingston was a world-renowned pioneer missionary to Africa. During his time there, he walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his own people. He ministered half blind most of his ministry. He wrote in his diary: “send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to your service and to your heart.”
After service to the Lord in Africa, he arrived in scotland to address the students at Glasgow University. The previous 16 years had been spent in the service of God on the continent of africa. As he stood before those young men and women, the tremendous price exacted of Livingston was plain to see. More than 27 fevers had coursed through his veins, leaving his body emaciated and ravaged. One arm hung useless at his side, the result of being mangled by a lion.The core of his message to those young people was: “Shall I tell you what sustained me amidst the toil, the hardship, and loneliness of my exile? It was Christ’s promise, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.”
What Christ promised to the disciples nearly two thousand years ago is yours today. He promised to always be with those who fulfill the great commission.
The Purpose of Power
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the earth. A witness is someone who testifies about something. The purpose is not draw attention to oneself. A witness is a billboard for something else. The greek word for witness is martures where we get the english word for martyr. A witness is someone who tells the truth to others about Jesus: who he was and what he did.
Here are some examples of how witnesses is used in Acts:
Acts 2:32—God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Acts 3:15—you killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
Let me explain it very simply. You don’t have to be a theologian to be a witness for Christ. You don’t have to go to Bible school or seminary, and you don’t have to be a missionary. It doesn’t require a college degree or great intellect just tell others the truth about Jesus. That’s where witnessing always begins.
Acts 1:8 is a geographical outline of the entire book of Acts: Jerusalem 1–7, Judea and Samaria 8–12, ends of Earth 13–28.
- Jerusalem is your home
- Judea is your city
- Samaria is your country
To the ends of the earth is the world.
Notice is doesn’t say or. It says, “and.”
Acts 1 & 2 should remind us of Genesis 11.
From the beginning, God desired that men from everywhere would proclaim his glory to the world. In Babel, the people united against the creator by building a tower. When they ascended the tower, every nation came together speaking the same language. God cursed the people for their selfishness. On Pentecost, people gathered from every nation to hear the gospel in their own language and 3,000 were saved.
Acts 2:5, “There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under Heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 and they were astounded and amazed, saying, “look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? [this list reminds us of the list of nations in Genesis 10] 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent Acts of God in our own languages. 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “what could this be?”
In Genesis 11, every race spoke the same language. God cursed them by making them speak a different language and as a result they spread all over the world. In Acts 2, every nation from all over the world gathered together and heard the gospel in their in their language.
Tower of Babel: There was confusion of tongues
Pentecost: reversal of babel—understanding
Babel: God scattered the people in judgment to the four corners of the earth
Pentecost: People came together from 4 corners of the earth.
Babel: Results were disunity
Pentecost: Results were unity.
Why is this important?
The kingdom of God is bigger than you or me. When considering the significance of tongues throughout the pages of scripture, one may begin to wonder why God desires to hear his praise in every language. Why not just teach everyone Korean or Spanish, the language of heaven? Instead, God desires an array of languages praising him simultaneously. In Revelation 7, readers discover that in eternity, it is not merely one voice that lifts its praise to almighty God; it’s one voice in many languages. John gives us a glimpse in Rev. 7:9, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!” 11 and all the Angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
This is why we go to the nations with the gospel. There are some people who belong in the fold of God but have yet to hear of the gospel. There are tribes without a Bible in their language or Christian witness in their community who have a seat at the marriage supper. It’s our job to go and tell them about Christ. If you were one of them, you’d want them to do the same for you. So what are you waiting for?
William Arnot, a distinguished Scottish pastor in the last century, put the matter this way: “to every true Christian these two things may be said: you have need of Christ and Christ has need of you. The simple fact that a Christian is on earth and not in heaven, is proof that there is something for him here to do; and if he is not doing it, the neglect shows either that he is not yet a Christian or that he is a Christian who grieves Christ.”
Everyone of us will gather one day from every nation, every tribe, every tongue at the marriage supper of the lamb. Jesus will be the focus of everyone there. Each person swill have a story to tell. Imagine sitting at that table across from a little girl and her brother. While you are waiting you lean over and ask her, “tell me your story.”
“I remember the day when the Roman soldiers kicked our door down and drug my daddy out the house and into that huge coliseum. We followed him to that arena. It was overwhelming. If I close my eyes, I can still see the people yelling and spitting upon my daddy. He was all alone in that arena when they gave him 1 option: “deny Jesus Christ and live.” “Never” he yelled. At that moment, I heard the roar of a lion. We couldn’t watch as the lion attacked my daddy that day. Then they threw my brother and me into the center of that arena. Thousands of people were cheering and screaming. They gave us the same option, “deny Jesus and live.” We couldn’t turn our back on Jesus. All that he had done for us. We loved him to much to deny him.
We died that day. The moment we closed our eyes to that world; we opened them to this one. That’s our story, what’s yours.
What are you going to say?
I amassed a great fortune. We spent our retirement years collecting seashells by the seashore. You should have seen the garden we grew. The house we restored was amazing.
We spent our lives making Jesus’ name and renown known to the world.
You better have a story. My prayer today is that you would stop living a safe comfortable life and risk the rest of your life for the gospel. You’ll be glad you did.