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Today Todd dove into Acts 1. The book of Acts is one of five historical books in the New Testament. The Gospels, the other four historical books in the New Testament, remind us of what God did through His Son and that Jesus did what He came to do. The question now in Acts is, “Will the people be faithful to do what they need to do?” The answer is, “yes,” and Todd shows us how this plays out. It begins with God's people accepting their mission as God's witnesses of His saving power through Jesus's death, burial and resurrection.
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Living Bolder as We Grow Older
What Makes a Man Fit for Judgment, Ministry and a Ready Response - Acts 4:7-23
The Beginning of Persecution and the Proper Reason for It. - Acts 4:1-12
The First and Enduring Attributes of Christ’s Church
The First Savior Exalting Sermon of the Church
The Gift of Tongues Part 2
Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church
From Judas to Matthias: How to Choose Leaders and Find Hope in Failed Ones
The King’s Orders for the King’s New Men
The Story Before the Beginning of the Story: Genesis - Acts 1
Good morning! How is everybody doing? Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, and friends watching online, we're glad you are here and excited to dive into the book of Acts. We went from Genesis to Acts last week. We're going to slow it down today, but let us pray.
Father, we thank you for a chance to learn something this morning. We have friends who are here who have no idea what we're talking about sometimes when we say we raced from Genesis to Acts. I thank you that by your kindness you've directed them to be with us this morning, that they would watch as we unfold a particular portion of Scripture you've given us to teach us who we are, why we're here, what you expect to go down in this moment, and that we could then encourage them as we get busy acting like your people.
So thank you for what you're going to teach your church. Thank you for friends who are here with us, your church gathered today, and I pray you would strengthen our hearts, show us things that are true, that we ought to know what kind of people we ought to be in holy conduct and living so we could love people you love and be busy with your business. Would you teach us now? In Jesus' name, amen.
We are studying the book of Acts, and what I want to do is show you in the first 11 verses exactly what God is up to. Some of you all love to take notes and order things in a way that you can go back to and get your arms around. I'll give you a very easy way to get your arms around these first few verses in the book of Acts. This is an incredibly significant and important book.
It tells us about the beginning of a group of people made up of slave and free, barbarian and Scythian, Jew and Greek, male and female, whom God has called out of darkness into his marvelous light to be about his business until he rolls up his current outpouring of grace and gets busy revealing some of his justice and wrath on a world that has not responded to that grace.
We, the church, are a people. The church is never a building. It's not a place. It is a people, and what you're going to find out is we had a beginning and we have a responsibility and have been given very clear orders. I would offer to you that part of the reason there is dysfunction all around us and pain and all kinds of travail in our communities is because the church, which God called to be light in the midst of darkness, is not doing its job.
I will make a case that when the church does its job, it is a time of great blessing. That's why we have to pay attention: so we can be effective and faithful. Let's just take a look at verse 1 of Acts 1, and then I'll show you how seamless your Bible is. The New Testament only has five historical books. In other words, five books that are recounting narrative history, telling you a story. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and then the book of Acts. After that you have the book of Romans.
You might ask yourself, "If Jesus was doing something here in this little place called the Middle East, this place called Israel in this town called Jerusalem in the region called Judea, how do we go from Jerusalem to Rome? How do we go from a Jewish context to an international context?" The book of Acts is the answer. What you're going to see in the Gospels is Jesus modeling Christianity. What you see in the book of Acts is Christians modeling Jesus.
Jesus modeled faithfulness and what God wants people to do by, he would tell you, being a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God. We know that from the very beginning, but he said, "I'm going to be one who identifies with man, so even though I'm eternally God, I'm going to lay aside my ability to comfort myself, to live in the midst of my glory and power. I'm going to identify as a man so I can provide for man what man could never do for himself. I will pay man's wage, and I will take my riches and become poor for his sake, that through my poverty he might become rich, because I'm going to show you the goodness and kindness of God."
Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. All the fullness of God dwelt in him in bodily form, but he laid it aside. What he did is what a perfect man always does, which is to walk in fellowship with God and to yield to the Spirit of God. Jesus modeled what a Christian should do by abiding with the Holy Spirit. Christians in the book of Acts will model what Jesus did the exact same way: by having a relationship with God and yielding to the Holy Spirit.
The book of Acts, specifically the first two chapters, talks about how the Holy Spirit came to God's people. Once Acts 1 and 2 are over, there is no more a separate and subsequent event called the baptism of the Holy Spirit when you come to know who God is through the person of Jesus Christ. It happens instantaneously. It has caused a lot of confusion in the church, because they take a historical book, which is explaining a transitional period, and make that normative. It is not normative. It is descriptive, not prescriptive.
You don't wait now for the Holy Spirit to come upon you. You don't seek the Holy Spirit to come upon you. You seek Jesus. You acknowledge your separation from God and believe that Jesus is the means through which you're reconciled to God, and when you by faith declare your need and that Jesus is the one who meets your need, you have been reunited to God and are one with him and have a relationship with him and are baptized in the Spirit, sealed in the Spirit, and should yield to the Spirit. I'm going to teach you all that in the weeks ahead.
Acts 1:1 is Luke starting. Luke is a historian. He's the only non-Jewish person who wrote part of our Scripture. He took the eyewitness accounts of Paul, things he himself saw, and probably Silas, Timothy, and others, and wrote down the history of the church. He said, "Listen. In the very first book I wrote to you, Theophilus," which probably was a friend of his, maybe a patient. Theophilus is somebody who maybe through Luke and the testimony of what Luke talked about, him knowing about Jesus, himself became a lover of God. That's what the name means.
It's also a book that is written to all of us who are lovers of God so we can see what God is doing. He said, "I wrote to you about all that Jesus began to do and teach." Here's what's great about this. Our Bibles weren't always broken up into chapters and even the books we have in the way they are. Here's one example. The very first time the book of Acts was recorded for the church it was just Luke's account. This is really volume two, and it was given to us. It was called the "History of Christian Origins," and it went from Luke 1 all the way through Acts 28.
Later, we split it up a little bit, and now it's called the Acts of the Apostles. It really ought to be called "The acts of Jesus through his disciples who have a relationship with God and are given the ability to honor God through intimacy with the Spirit of God who they know through Jesus." That's a long title. That's why they call it the Acts of the Apostles. This is where Luke ended. Luke, chapter 24, verses 44 and following.
It's really interesting. All of the Gospels end the exact same way: with a commissioning. They end talking about four major events: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the ascension of Jesus Christ, the promise of the Holy Spirit coming to the church, and the promise that Jesus will come again. Those four things: resurrection, promise of the Holy Spirit, ascension, and promise that he will come again. Our God is not dead. He is alive.
The Gospels are what Jesus did. The question we now have to ask is…Will his disciples do what he wants them to do? By the way, that's the question we have to ask ourselves every single morning. Are we going to be his people or are we just going to gather around and talk about historical fact or are we going to be people who have knowledge and act on it?
In the book of Luke, he's wrapping it up. "Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'" Last week I showed you who Jesus was in the context of Genesis all the way through the gospel narratives.
"Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…" He said, "This is where we are in history." "…and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'" This is Jesus reviewing three years of teaching to his disciples.
He says, "You are witnesses of these things, and I am sending you forth." There you go. Right here at the end of Luke, he's saying, "Look, guys. We are at a place in history when God decided to commence his work in his most complete and full revelation, Jesus Christ, who is the one who has come to be the blessing to the nations as a descendant of Abraham that he promised way back in Genesis 12.
He is the one who would care for his people. He is the Good Shepherd, and he will give his life for the sheep, but when he gives his life he will take it back up again, because he's God. He is gentle, he is powerful, he is sovereign, and he is the Great Deliverer who has come to bless the whole world and show the kindness, mercy, grace, and compassion of God, even while displaying the justice of God. Pay attention to him. God is going to make it easy for you, because there's only going to be one guy in history who's going to be resurrected."
To this day, every major world religion out there does not make the audacious claim Christianity makes, that our founder, the one who is God's prophet, wasn't just a prophet; he was very God of very God, and he conquered the grave, because God wants to give you life, even though you deserve judgment. God made it easy for you. He didn't just make his tomb empty. He had all of human history pivot on this man, and you must ask yourself, "What am I going to do with him?"
Some people call it CE today, the Common Era, or BCE, Before Common Era, instead of Anno Domini, the year of our Lord and following. What is uncommon, what separates them even among secularists who call this the Common Era and not AD is that something very uncommon happened. One man in human history was raised from the dead. Pay attention to him. If you know the story, you are to be his witnesses and proclaim it, because it's the only story that matters.
By the way, every other story you love harkens itself back to this story. There is a beloved who is taken captive, who suffers hardship, and then a great rescue ensues at great cost to the loving one who seeks their beloved. There is redemption and there is resolution. That is the recipe for every great Disney story out there, every great Lucas film out there.
Any story that captures your heart harkens back to this story, because you are created to be rescued and you want to know, "Is there someone who loves me?" The answer is "Yes," and you don't have to go to Orlando to find it. You go right here. You're going to find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John… I'm going to show it to you, because it's worth seeing. They all end with the same thing, and guess what? The next historical book, which is telling you what you should do, starts the same way.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples…" Don't just tell the story and get people to agree with it. Teach them what it means to know the story and to act on it. That's what a disciple is: a learner. "Teach them to observe everything I have commanded you. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
In other words, there should be a public outward display of their inward faith. They should go on record as saying, "I now know who Jesus is. I am a witness of his power and his resurrection. You can watch my life and listen to my words. Because I have found the kindness of God, I'm going to teach you, too, how you can observe everything he has commanded, because we're going to be people who are busy. He's going to do it through us, and we're going to do it with him, and he is with us to the end of the age." That's Matthew.
Look at the very end of the book of Mark, Mark 16:15. He says it very simply there. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Gospel means good news. "Tell them the good news. Their beloved has come to seek them in their lostness, death, imprisonment, and hopelessness, and good news: I'm going to set you free."
We already read Luke, chapter 24, verses 46-48. In John, it says at the very end in chapter 20, verse 21, "So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'" Do you all get what's going on here? He wants this story to go out, because he wants to rescue people. People who know the story, who were witnesses to the story, have a responsibility to tell the story. There you go.
Now Acts, chapter 1, verse 2. He just got done telling you, "I told you all that Jesus did up to this moment. Now the question is what are you going to do? You ought to do this." "…until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen." Luke is going to say there were some men God chose to do something, and he gave them orders.
The word apostle literally means sent forth. That's what an apostle is: a sent forth one. What he's going to say is there were 12 men, specifically, who were chosen by God to do something. I'm going to show you who these guys were in just a second, not just by name but by special choosing of God. He's going to say, "These men and their understanding of me are going to build on the foundation I have laid, and I'm going to use them as my eyewitnesses to tell the story. I'm going to record it and supernaturally preserve it.
These things which they have heard in the presence of me they're going to be faithful witnesses of, and they will entrust it to other faithful men who will teach it to other faithful men also, so that if I tarry (and I will, because I desire for none to come unto judgment but for all men to come to repentance), it'll get all the way to 2016, where somebody will be showing up in Fort Worth, Dallas, Plano, or online, and they can hear the story that God loves them, that he is real, and that he is just."
The way that he, in reality, shows his love and deals with his justice is through Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, raised again, ascended to heaven, seated at the right hand of God so he can intercede for you. Believe in him. I love this word where it says he gave them orders. Don't you wish right now that you had somebody who would tell you what you're supposed to do? The word orders in the Greek is the word entello. It's where we get, in effect, the word intelligence.
Do you want to know what to do? Do you want to be wise? Then you get busy. We have a word from God. Do you want to know what to do with your life? Here it comes. This is a direct order from God himself. Here is some intel for you: Jesus is God. Man is a sinner. There is no hope for man. He is imprisoned, dead in his trespasses and sins, but God in his grace and mercy will take the place of sinful man. He will pour out his wrath on his eternal Son.
His eternal Son will pay that debt. He will be raised from the grave, where he can then offer life to all who believe in him. If men don't want to believe in him, then they can incur that wrath themselves, and that day is coming. That's the story. Your command is to tell that story. So this is it. Do you want to give a little title to verse 2? Write down purpose, because that is it. It is not your best life now, but it is your responsibility for the time being.
You are not here to be healthy, wealthy, and to prosper. You are here to be faithful witnesses. That is our charge. You have a purpose. Paul says it this way, wrapping up all he had learned from the Spirit of God. He said, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."
You're going to find that a lot of the piece… "For this purpose I proclaim, according to his power…" Paul read clearly the book of Acts. In fact, he probably dictated a lot of it to Luke. He wraps it up in Colossians 1:28-29. He says, "I am under orders. I'm not dillydallying around. I'm not here for ease." Let me just tell you something. You don't trust Christ so he can be your genie, that you can rub up against his little lamp and go, "This is what I want now that we're friends."
In fact, if there's a phrase I want you to take away from today it is this, because I get this question all the time. "Todd, what's God's will for my life?" I'm going to tell you this. Don't worry about God's will for your life. You need to concern yourself with the will of God. That's what we do. We don't worry, "God, what are you going to do with my life?" We worry that we'll do with our life what is God's will.
You go, "Okay, Todd. What's God's will?" I gave it to you right there in Acts 2. You are under orders as one sent forth. Now you're not one of the original Twelve. They had a different responsibility, which is to record what they saw as eyewitnesses. You are to testify what you experienced as you believed in the testimony of the apostles.
By the way, you might go, "Man, Todd. That would have been awesome to be one of those Twelve." Well, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who believe and do not see." We're going to be in an even better place than they are if we just take recorded history. We didn't get to see it with our own eyes, although we're seeing a lot of what Jesus did right here. This is, by the way, the one thing I am most passionate about.
There have been folks who have been after me for a while to write a book, and I always said, "Well, take anything I've ever said, manuscript it, and make that a book if you want to." They'd go, "No, no. We want to know the one book you could write if you wanted to write." For years I said, "That book has already been written. I'll write a book and title it 'Don't Read This Book.' Then, inside, it will all be about why God's Word is what I want you to read."
I said that for years to a couple of different publishers that were talking to me. Finally, they said, "Todd, we want you to write a book. What book are you going to write?" I finally said, "Yes" this year. Do you know what I said yes to? I'm going to write a book and title it Come and See. Wouldn't it be awesome if you were one of those people who lived around Jesus and all you did was proclaim, "Let me tell you what I'm seeing"?
Running around this little lake. "I'm watching this guy. I'm watching the deaf hear and the blind see. The lame are walking. Captives are set free. I'm watching a man speak with authority like no man. I'm hearing him quote the rabbis. He says, 'Truly, truly, I say to you.' I'm watching storms be stilled, multitudes be fed, people be loved, lives being transformed. I am watching what it looks like if God was real and was here on earth. Come and see."
Here's the amazing thing. In John, chapter 14, Jesus says something to his disciples. It's a pivotal moment in history. He says in verse 12 of John 14, "Truly, truly…" I'm not telling you some rabbi's statement. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father."
"I'm going to reconcile you to the Father so you can have a relationship with the Spirit, which is the means through which we created this whole thing in the beginning, and it's the way we're going to redeem this whole thing. What you see me doing is by the power of the Spirit, reversing the effects of the curse. And guess what? When I'm gone, because I'm going to go to a place you can't go…"
"Where is that? Where are you going to go that I can't go?"
"I am going to go and offer a sacrifice to an eternal God that will be acceptable to him, because I am sinless and eternal. Because I offer that sacrifice, you can believe in it, and you'll be reconciled to God, and then you can be a friend of God again."
Then verse 13: "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.""You will be busy with my intel, because I love people." He continues.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever…""Who is that?" you would ask. "…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you…""Right now, if you're hanging with me," Jesus would say. "…and will be in you."
You're like, "Man, when is that going to happen?" Answer: Acts 1-2, and every time forward from there. My book Come and See is going to be what I'm doing right now in Dallas. I don't know if you know this or not, but we started this thing in Dallas, just a small group of friends, because we didn't feel like we had a place that we could meet anybody, anywhere, anytime and say, "Come on. Come and see. Come and see what God's people look like and what God's people are supposed to be up to and how God is working in this world of hopelessness to provide hope, in this world of hurt to provide healing, in this world of sadness to provide joy."
"We're not going to focus on our weekly gathering; we're going to focus on our reigning King. We will gather every week, but our goal is not to get people to gather with us again every week. Our goal is going to be to make disciples and to teach those disciples to do everything he commanded them to do, and we're going to watch Jesus do things that are going to be amazing." This is crazy, but I'm going to tell you that there have been more miracles done at Watermark in the last 30 days than were done in all of the Gospels combined.
Did you hear what I just said? There have been more miracles that have happened at Watermark in the last 30 days than all of the Gospels combined. Why is that? God has raised people from the dead. You're like, "Really? Where? That's big news. How come CNN is not all over that?" Lame people are walking. Blind people have come to see. Captives have been set free. By the way, there are only about 36 to 38 (depending on how you separate them) miracles that happened in the Gospels.
We had 22,000 people who gathered with us Easter weekend here. That's how many folks were at Watermark. People who have a relationship with God, who love him, who abide with him… Now not all 22,000 by a long shot knew him, but let's just say half of us did. Eleven thousand of us already really know Jesus and are his disciples and walk with him. Jesus said in John 14, "You guys are going to do greater things than I've done." Not in scope but in number and in kind.
To my knowledge, there has been nobody in a wheelchair who is now walking, but there are people who were walking lives of self-destruction and death who now have turned around and are walking new. No one, to my knowledge, was unable to physically see and now can physically see. If God wanted to do that, that would be no problem, but typically, he's not doing the kinds of miracles today that show he has the power to do what he says he's going to do.
By the way, what you'll see is even when he did miracles physically to restore people, he said, "You'd better repent or something worse is going to happen to you." You're like, "What could be worse than being lame for 38 years? What could be worse than being born blind?" Answer: Moving into eternity and living in this life like you don't know God.
So anything he did in the physical realm was to show them he had spiritual authority, because nobody can do anything to alter the physical realm except somebody who's above the natural order, somebody who is supernatural, somebody who is divine. He said, "So that you might know that the Son of Man has authority in heaven and on earth to forgive sins, I'm going to do this right here, right now, in a way that's going to make your head spin. Take up your pallet and walk."
What we have done is what he has done, and we proclaim that Jesus is the one who can forgive sins. It is a miracle, my friend, when people who thought they were supposed to work their way to God all of a sudden stop working their way to God and are set free by grace and the gospel.
People who walked according to a way that seemed right to men and was going to end in death now start walking in a way that is a blessing and a source of life to others. People who were captive to sin and death and deceit are now walking in freedom and truth and light. That, my friend, is a miracle, and that's what I'm talking about.
Just like the early disciples got to run around a lake in Galilee, saying, "You have to come up here and see this," I'm running around this city and this world telling people, "Come here, you have to see this. You won't believe this. Come and see what God is doing. Here is a group of people, and they're getting after it, and it's amazing. They are loving and kind. Let's get to that."
These apostles, these Twelve who were taken forward, who Jesus said were going to be the ones he used to get it out, have a purpose. Verse 3: "To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." He told them, "This is what the kingdom of God is going to be."
By the way, he's going to say, "There's going to be a delay. I know you're thinking of a physical kingdom where when the Messiah would come he would be one who would rule on the throne of David, and it would be through Israel that all of the nations would be blessed." That is, in fact, his intention, but Israel rejected him as their coming king. He didn't make it through caucus. He didn't get enough delegates. They said, "That's not a messiah we want. We're not going to vote for him." So they ran him out.
Here's the question…What's going to happen to the kingdom now that the King has been rejected? Jesus explains to them, "Hey, listen. The kingdom of God does exist. The kingdom of God is coming. You are citizens now of that kingdom. I will establish it on earth, but for a while, you're going to be ambassadors. This earth is not going to be my kingdom, but I'm going to send to it messengers, sent-forth ones, individuals who will be my people, who will have authority given to them from their King, who will live in a foreign land and speak about me."
Just like there's a US embassy all over the world and people go to that embassy hoping they can come to the United States, this land of great promise and blessing… It was founded, by the way, on Judeo-Christian principles, even if we never really walked in them. There were people who said, "This is going to be a new Canaan. This is going to be a new land that God blesses, and we're going to seek his will and trust in divine providence, and we're going to order ourselves for the purposes of liberty, that we might enjoy life the way God intended and men might be happy."
That is very biblical in its intention, and even to this day, as much as we are screwing it up currently and have screwed it up for 200 years, everybody longs to meet an ambassador who can get them to this place. That sounds like you. You ought to be that person who folks can run into. The resurrection is the thing that seals that our God isn't just an idea. It happened historically, and there were many convincing proofs. This is not a Sunday to talk about the evidences for the resurrection. There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on it.
We've spent Sundays on it before. Go back and look. God has made it easy. There's something uncommon about what happened 2,000 years ago. That uncommon thing was God came and conquered death, and he lives, and we're in a period of grace where he wants you to respond to him before he closes the gate, builds a wall, and says, "No more will immigrate in here by faith." It's a kingdom, though, that God is going to establish, and it's a kingdom that's going to be marked by love.
Let me do this very quickly. In Isaiah, chapter 2, there was a section of Scripture where a prophecy was given to Isaiah, and it was a prophecy of what would happen on the day the King came and reigned in Israel and all of the nations acknowledged that Israel were people of the name. They knew the God who always was and always will be, Yahweh, and they were descendants of Shem, people of the name.
"The Lord, whose name is I Am Who I Am, will grab these people and give them a name, and I will bless them, and others will watch that blessing, and then it will come to them, and then all of the nations will be blessed through them." God didn't love Israel more than the nations. He used Israel to reach the nations, and when the nation he chooses to use and blesses is not a blessing to others, judgment begins with them. That was all last week. There was a lesson for us in that.
He says in Isaiah, chapter 2, when the world recognizes who the King of Kings is, who the Lord of Lords is, who the seed that was going to come from Abraham is that was to be the blessing of the world… Watch what happens in verse 4. "And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." In other words, peace will come.
This, by the way, is what is inscribed in New York City in the world headquarters of the United Nations. It is the desire of the nations, the Scripture says, that there would be peace. Jesus says, "I'm the Prince of Peace. You guys want to get along? Here's how you're going to get along. Not with political alliances but by aligning yourself with the King of Kings, whose Spirit will indwell in you, and when his Spirit indwells in you, you will be able to get along."
Colossians 3:12-16. When this group of called-out ones gather, the world should be able to come up to them, as people who have been chosen of God, who are holy and beloved, who put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. They bear with one another. They forgive each other. Whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as God forgave them they forgive others, and they put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
The peace of Christ rules in their hearts, to which indeed they were called in one body, and they are thankful. The Word of God richly dwells within them, and with all teaching and wisdom, they admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in their hearts to God, and they get along. They don't go to war with each other. They, in fact, will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. It is a community of peace and love, and we say to the world, "Come and see these people." Do you all see what God is doing?
One of the things we hear all the time from folks is that when they come here, they run into you and go, "I've never seen a community of people who are filled with such joy and peace and love for one another." I really mean that. We're not a perfect church by a long shot. We are purposing to move forward. We'll talk more about this tonight as we gather as a family to pray and reflect on where we are as a body, but that's the story.
We get to say, "Come and see…" Not perfect people, but people with a perfect God who, when they make mistakes, extend grace to one another, seek forgiveness, make amends, repent, and begin to once again lay down their swords and reconcile. You go, "Wow, Todd. That's a big deal." It sure is, and we proclaim that. That is our job. Napoleon writes about this. He writes about the King of this kingdom. Jesus said, "I'm going to give you some new intel. This is how your kingdom is going to be marked: you love one another. Even as I have loved you, so you also love one another."
Napoleon, in all of his craziness, wrote this. He basically said, "Well, I'm going to tell you something. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have all founded great empires, but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force, I tell you. Jesus alone founded his empire [see also kingdom] upon love, and to this very day millions will die for him. I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. None else is like him. Jesus Christ was more than a man. I have inspired multitudes…" Here comes his humility. Watch this.
"…with such an enthusiastic devotion they would have died for me, but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, and my voice." Don't you love that? Napoleon said, "I did it because I'm stunning." "I lighted a flame of self-devotion in their hearts, but Christ alone has succeeded in raising up the mind of men toward the unseen that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space."
He goes on to talk about all of his observances of Jesus Christ, and he says, "It proves me quite convincingly of this: Jesus is divine, and his is the kingdom." Folks, that's beautiful, and that's the story. We are people who are to be marked in such a way that folks come in here and go, "How do you all get along? There are Arabs in here. There are Hispanics in here. There are Europeans. There are descendants from the Celts who are in here. There are black, there are white, there are rich, there are poor, and you guys get along."
Cultural Marxism has no effect in here, because the Marxists can't talk about how we use economics to suppress each other, so they can't find small interest groups they curry to and say, "Hey, we're going to make you a special interest group to us, and if you just trust me, I'll be your man and go to this special interest group. If you just trust me, I'll be your man," and they get the groups fighting against each other. They claim to be the deliverer of all of those different groups.
They want their own power, and they say, "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to make y'all miserable and all live the same way. We'll have power, and you need us to have power, because we're the ones looking out for all of you." No. That has no voice here, because someone said, "Why do I need you? Everybody here doesn't look out for their own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Everybody here, if they see I have a need, will care for me. I don't need you to care for me. Jesus cares for me, and he changes the hearts of men."
Come jump into our family. We're not a commune, but we have all things in common. We don't live in the exact same square footage, but we live with the exact same sense of right. God tells those who are rich among us that we should be rich in good works. By the way, not everybody here who is as rich as they are are as rich in good works as they should be. Some people are still trying to find their best lives now, and we are calling them to repentance and asking them if they would consider to follow orders.
While we're working to get there, there is grace, but we are working to get there. There is a proclamation of the kingdom that is coming, and there's a people. Verse 4: "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised…" There's your next P. We have a purpose, we have a proclamation, we are a people who gather together to encourage each other, and there is a promise that is coming. There is a provision.
"…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." What does it mean to be baptized? It means to be identified. What this basically means is if you were a cucumber, you would be dipped in vinegar and spices and would become a pickle, because you would identify with that which you were dipped into.
We go through a symbolic ritual of baptizing you into water, where you go under and identify with his death, burial, and resurrection, all done because the Spirit of God says, "I love you, and I'm powerful," and you say, "I really believe that."
You identify me with the King of Kings who died for me and lives for me so that I may live for him, and you stand up and say, "I am going to work. I am under orders, and I have now a relationship with God through this King who died for me and lives again, who is no longer actively working on the earth but is seated at the right hand of God and is actively working in me and the rest of the people who have the provision."
"So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'" He said, "It's not up to you to know what God is going to do and when he's going to do it. Don't worry about what God is going to do. You do what God has told you to do." If I could give you one application for today it would be this: Don't worry about the will of God for your life; concern yourself with the will of God.
What's the will of God? "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you in due time." "Well, Todd, I'm not much for that. I'd rather make a big deal of myself." Great. It's God's job to exalt you, and I have a warning for you. If you try and do God's job (exalt yourself) he will do yours (humble you). So my advice is you concern yourself with the will of God and say, "I am a man. I am under orders. Let's go."
Verse 8 is the outline of the entire book, the central verse for the entire church. "…you will receive power [dunamis] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem…" Chapters 1-7, a two-year period. "…and in all Judea and Samaria…" Chapters 8-12, a thirteen-year period. "…and even to the remotest part of the earth." Chapters 13-28, about another 15 years.
That's the next 30 years, and you're going to watch Jesus accomplish what he said he was going to accomplish. The question is…Is he still accomplishing it today at Watermark? "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them."
This is the message of angels. God is working. You should be working with him. Get your hands out of your pockets, shut your mouth, and quit gaping into the sky. Quit looking for your best life now, and get busy right now doing the best thing you could possibly do, which is to serve the King of Kings, who is not so unkind as to forget your faithfulness in having ministered to and in still ministering to the saints. He is alive, and he comes again, and his recompense is with him to reward the faithful and the just and to say, "Come here" to those who dillydally.
The angels say, "Let's go. Don't be stuck. Don't stand still. You have orders, and your Commander is coming back. He has given you what you need. Do his bidding." You are to be his witnesses. You don't have to be an expert witness. All you have to say is, "I don't understand. The guy pulled out a gun and shot him."
"What kind of gun was it, sir? Do you know anything about ballistics?"
"I don't know nothin' about guns. I know that that guy pulled the trigger. There was a pop. It went into that guy. There was blood everywhere. He was dead."
"Sir, do you have any idea what kind of ammo was used?"
"I don't now nothin'. I know that he pulled the trigger. It hit that guy. He was dead."
You're not called to be an expert witness. If you have any sense, you'll want to become more and more expert at the only thing that matters, but you are simply to be his witnesses. Not his salesmen, not sensational speakers, not do signs and wonders, not to be sophisticates, not to have superiority of speech, not to be persuasive or powerful, not to be prospering in all things. You are to be his witnesses.
"All I know is I was blind and now I see. All I know is I was lame. My life was lame, and now I walk. All I know is I was a captive to sin and the flesh and the Devil, and now I'm free. All I know is Jesus changed me through his death, burial, and resurrection." Can you do that? And can you do this? "Come and see. You don't believe me? Come and hang out with a bunch of other folks. Watch the way we love each other. Watch the way we reconcile." Can you do that? That's your job.
I have a friend who's doing that right now. There are a bunch of them all around us, from Dee Elliott to Jennifer Clouse to Brandon Landis to Angela Andrews to a score of other sweet people in this body who are his witnesses as their bodies are failing them. A member of our body who was here for years, a good buddy of mine, Greg Murtha, who's my age, has cancer. He has had over 50 different chemo treatments. Greg is right now fighting for his life up in Nashville at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Here's a picture of Greg he sent. He posted it on Facebook.
He said, "It's been an interesting week. I can breathe, but barely. This is not what I planned for the last 37 hours. Thursday morning at 2:30 a.m., I awoke with severe chest pains. 'Where is this pain coming from?' I wondered. 'Did I bruise my lungs from all the coughing?'" From the cancer that's in his lung. "Certainly I'm not having a heart attack." He said, "Let's go to the hospital." They get to the hospital. They find out there are two blood clots in his lungs and he really is experiencing a heart attack in real time. They put a stent in his heart.
He says, "I lost 50 percent of my heart's functioning capacity. It could reverse if I'm fortunate; it could not. Pray that we're fortunate, but all I know is now I face an intricately detailed health puzzle. Having a stent required a use of blood thinner, and blood thinners in turn caused significant bleeding in my cancer-filled lungs. So the dance is to determine how much blood thinner I need so that the blood can flow through while avoiding me bleeding out because of my cancer." He's updating me.
Next paragraph: "By the way, yesterday a cute nurse came into my room. She was 20, a tiny young lady named Angel. When Angel was born, I came to find out, she was two months premature and weighed a whopping 1.5 pounds. After delivery, she went down to half a pound. She wasn't expected to make it. Her parents didn't want to lose her. They didn't want to name her and bond with her more, so they told the nurses to name her, and the nurses said, 'We're going to fight for her, and she's going to be called our little angel.' Tracey [his wife] and I held her hand and told her the story."
This is a guy with 10 years of cancer, 50 years old. He just had a massive heart attack, 50 percent of his heart is not working, and in comes some little girl, and he plays the role of messenger. He goes, "I know why I'm here. It's for you, Angel." He said, "Angel, why would God allow you to emerge from a beginning like that without having big plans for your life? I believe God has big plans for you.
We prayed for her, that she would see what God's plans were and that she would embrace them. I'm still here, Todd. I've recently endured a major heart attack. I've endured 50 rounds of chemotherapy. I find it almost impossible to breathe, but while there is breath in my lungs I will use it to praise Jesus. I will use it to encourage Angel and people like her. I will continue on this adventure, the adventure of a lifetime. Will you join me?" ("I am under orders," he implies.) "I know you'll never regret it."
That's the church. Are we that church? Somebody was faithful, and that's how it got from Jerusalem to Rome and from Rome to Dallas. It's up to you if it gets from 2016 to 2017. The church is always one generation away from extinction, so it's time.
Father, I pray that we would be your people and that we would see that you have given us, in your kindness, a purpose that we are to proclaim as your people, empowered by your promise and given your provision, the power to accomplish what you alone can accomplish, that the lame would walk, the blind would see, the prisoner would be set free, and the dead would be raised.
Father, I pray that we would do what godly men have always made their purpose, which is to proclaim him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we might present every man complete in Christ, and I pray that we would know that we should do it only in abiding relationship with you, not out of ecstatic fervor on our own but depending on you, our King. For this purpose may we labor according to your power which mightily works within us. We pray this for the glory of Jesus, for the good of the world, for our coming King, amen.