Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Acts 1:8 – That the World may know

Acts 1:8 – That the World may know

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.
Believe it or not – you are being watched…

A preacher was building a storage shed behind the parsonage when he noticed a little boy watching him. The boy didn’t say a word – so the preacher kept on working, thinking that he would eventually leave. But he didn’t. He stayed there all morning – just watching.

Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the preacher asked, “Well son, trying to learn some pointers??”

“No,” answered the boy. “I’m just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”

I’m not trying to make you paranoid, just stating the facts: you are being watched. People in your life have HEARD you talk about the Lord… they know you go to church… they have watched you as you go through life –wanting to see HOW you react to painful problems and difficult people.

They want to see if your profession of faith is REAL or if it is like they’ve seen so many OTHER times – just words.

Because you are human and are prone to fail, IF you are going to be the witness for the gospel this world needs, you are going to need the help of the Lord! And there's plenty of that HELP offered in our text this morning.

With the Cross behind Him and the Crown before Him, Jesus tells His disciples WHAT they should DO with the time they have left and what they would NEED in order to DO it.

Knowing that the World would not only be listening to our words but also watching our lives, Jesus offers here ONE succinct and powerful statement that would forever stand as the Universal call of God on His Church. He said:

“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.”

That one statement contains 4 things His disciples – both then and now - need:

1. First, we need Enlistment. We need to take ownership of God's plan. These men were Jews. They had been raised with Jewish traditions and prejudices. Many of these men had never been outside the borders of their homeland. The center of their world was the Temple, and up until this time, if anyone wanted to know God, they had to come to Israel.

But this text marks a significant change in God’s method of reaching the lost. WE are to carry the Good News to people, wherever they may be. The disciples needed enlistment in God’s new program of global outreach.

God wanted THE WORLD to know the good news… and he wanted His disciples to tell them.

  • They would face prejudices within and problems without
  • there would be language barriers, 
  • money issues, 
  • cultural complications, 
  • and an overall disdain for foreigners. 

So they needed enlistment. They needed to own God’s vision themselves.

We need enlistment too. We are called to reach our world for Christ. We might think, “The world is a HUGE place… what possible difference could I make in the world???”

The Lord called each of us to impact THE world by sharing the gospel with OUR world.

Your “world,” is much smaller than THE world. The places you go… the people you know… your family, friends, work associates – God has a plan to reach those people - just as much as He does the people of Brazil or Panama – and a key part of that “plan” is YOU. He is ENLISTING you to impact your world for Jesus.

We have prejudices that WE need to overcome.

Take for instance our thoughts on the illegal Hispanic population in this country – people breaking the law crossing our borders.

I’ll admit - have a problem with that. In SOME cases, they are threatening our safety as a nation, bringing their diseases, their poverty, their language and culture and expecting US to adapt to THEM. We look at the burden these people have brought to our educational system and welfare programs and our prejudice kicks in and we want them to LEAVE.

What we need – however - is ENLISTMENT.

Since WE weren’t going to THEM, the Lord is bringing THEM to US. The church needs to be doing SOMETHING to reach those people with the Gospel. God isn’t simply concerned with middle-class white America, He is concerned for the whole world. We keep passing the buck thinking ‘someone else needs to do it,’ but God wants all Christians to do their part.

  • If the barrier is language, He wants us to learn it. 
  • If it is money, He wants us to GIVE it. 
  • If it is prejudice, He wants us to overcome it with the love of Christ. 
  • If it is fear of rejection – lack of knowledge – or WHATEVER – He wants us to get over it. 
We have to overcome these things for God’s glory and man’s need. Enlistment.

2. But not only did those disciples need enlistment, they also needed Encouragement. They would never be able to Evangelize their World without Him. That’s why Jesus closed the book of Matthew with THIS statement: “go make disciples… And behold I am with you always, even to the end of the World…”

That word of encouragement became the life verse of missionary David Livingstone. In every crisis of life, he fell back on it. When surrounded by hostile savages, he encouraged himself with the knowledge that Christ was WITH him. When at the deathbed of his wife and missions partner, he cleaved to it. “I am with you always.”

The disciples needed Encouragement too. They needed to know that the Lord had not abandoned them. Even though they watched Him die and be buried, He hadn’t left them. Though they saw Him ascend into heaven, He had NOT left them. And here… commanding them to go out and witness in the face of rejection and hostility, He wants them to know He hasn’t left them.

They needed encouragement.

You need encouragement too. He knows your struggles. He knows your fears. As you go about sharing His Gospel, He knows the rejection you will face and the excuses people will make. The ONLY thing that will help you is the Presence of the Lord. He is with you always, even to the end of the World.

3. But not only did they need Enlistment and Encouragement, they also needed Enlightenment. What were they supposed to do?? He said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

THAT’S His program. REACH THE WORLD one soul at a time – beginning with your friends and family, then extending to your community, and your country.

But it doesn’t stop there, He wants some of us to go to foreign soil. And He wants the rest of us to send them and support them with our prayers and our finances. This is His program.

When faced with such a daunting task as reaching the world, we are overwhelmed. We lose heart. We talk about the challenge to reach the world until we are blue in the face but don’t know how to actually accomplish it.

But think of it THIS way - How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The Lord was perfectly clear… He wanted them to begin with their Community… reaching their friends and neighbors with the Gospel of Christ.

He THEN wanted them to reach their Country, witnessing all over Judea.

Then He wanted that growing group of disciples to reach their continent for Christ... and on and on they would go until the gospel had permeated the whole world. THAT is His program.

They were successful too. Within 15 short years, Paul, had almost single-handedly successfully evangelized the 1,500 mile stretch from Jerusalem to Illyricum. 15 years, 1,500 miles - spanning seas and crossing borders.

You know what that tells me?? Something is wrong with our methods.

Imagine not having a car or any mode of transportation faster than walking, and the Lord telling you to start in Troy, and preach the Gospel from here all the way to Washington DC, and NOT just preach, but establish churches, ordain leaders, and indoctrinate members in the teachings of Christ – in 15 years, reckon how far we would get??

Our church has already been here for what, 10 years? And we haven’t even scratched the surface of our own community. We have members of our own families and neighbors we haven't witnessed to.

Something is wrong with our methods. We’re not doing it right. I believe if Paul were with us today, he would shake things up or throw us OUT.

God’s plan has not changed. His desire is for every member of the church to take personal responsibility for fulfilling the great commission. We need Enlightenment.

4. But not only did they need Enlistment, Encouragement, and Enlightenment, they also needed Enablement … “you will receive power … and you will be my witnesses.”

THAT is what made the disciples so successful. It wasn't that they were so much smarter or more talented. Motivated by God’s love and filled with His power, in one decade they had “turned their world upside down for Christ.”

Consider what they were BEFORE this power came upon them. They loved the Lord and were doing what He had told them.

He had told them to ‘Tarry in Jerusalem,’ so they were tarrying in Jerusalem. All one hundred-twenty of them.

  • They were in happy fellowship with each other.
  • They were making decisions related to the affairs of the church. 
  • They were giving themselves to prayer. 
  • They were searching the Scriptures and exhorting one another daily. 
  • They were rejoicing in a risen and returning Lord. 

BUT … they were powerless.

Most churches would LOVE to be where they were. Sincere. Friendly. Never mind the lack of power, 120 gathering faithfully for prayer and Bible study fills us with envy!

And just like those early disciples huddled in the upper room, we are powerless and visionless. And the reason their focus hadn't shifted from the four walls of their building is very simple… they didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit.

What's our excuse???

Only the Holy Spirit can make Christ real to someone else. Only the Holy Spirit can convict hearts and convince minds. Without the Spirit, we have to settle for what man can do. And look at what that has produced - a small group struggling to stay together while the community burns.

It was not until AFTER the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that early church became powerful witnesses for Christ. That is why they had to “wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). They would not be effective no matter how well they preached or lived … without the Holy Spirit. But when the Spirit came – The time for huddling was OVER. They were to do what God had commanded and GO!

The good news? We already have the Holy Spirit. You received Him the moment you placed your faith in Christ to save you.

We don’t need to sit here week after week in our holy huddle. We need to GO. We must follow the leadership of the Spirit, and take the gospel into our world! That is all we need to carry out His will.

Some of us have friends who are lost and we’ve been waiting on some extraordinary event to wake them up to their need… we’ve been praying that God would send SOMEbody, ANYbody, to tell them. But God wants to send YOU. So you see… all you need to be the witness God wants is right here in Acts 1:8:

Enlistment - He has called YOU to be a part of His plan to reach the world.

Encouragement - He promises to be with you

Enlightenment - He has told you where to go

And Enablement – He will fill you with His power and use you to reach your world.

It’s time you stepped to the plate. Will you? No more excuses. No more passing the buck to someone else. Will you, like Isaiah, say “Lord, here am I, send me?”