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Todd continued the series in Acts. Looking specifically at Acts 1:8-26, Todd reminds us of God's sovereignty as He moves forward His plan in history. Just as Jesus trusted God when Judas was among Him, so His followers are to trust God even when they don't understand what He's doing. Todd also highlights the qualities of the early church leaders, encouraging us also to be devoted witnesses of Jesus.
Stephen…a Faithful Mailman Who Saw Jesus
How to Destroy a Shadow: Stephen’s Masterful Defense of Jesus Finished Work
Hellenistic Lives Matter (And So Does the Ministry of the Word)
The Gospel is NOT a Fad
Beauty and the But
Where Does That Come From?
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
Well, good morning, church! Way to make your way through the weather out there. Fort Worth and Plano, we're glad you're with us. It is awesome to be able to dive in. I love the privilege that you give me to serve you by getting to study God's Word throughout the week so that when we gather together we can find something from it.
This is one of those texts that you might read and go, "That's why I don't read my Bible because I now know a little bit more of the history of what happened, you know, about AD 33, 34, or 35, but I'm not really sure what relevance that has to me." Well, I'm going to tell you this morning that you're going to see incredible relevance in this passage.
If we just read through it from beginning to end, you might go, "I don't really get it, Todd. How's that supposed to help and affect me today?" Well, I'm going to show you, and you're going to be motivated…if I do my job…to study God's Word, to spend time over it, to make observations, and to figure out what you should do with those observations, to interpret them to be applicable to use so that you would be men and women of action. That's what this book that we're studying is about: action.
We've already answered this question in the Gospels…Was the Son of Man faithful when he was here? We know what Jesus did. He accomplished God's purposes and that God moved forward his kingdom program to reconcile the world to him and let the world know of his love and his goodness. He did that through his Son who is the visible image of the invisible God.
But now we have another question that we need to answer…Will the spiritual body of Christ, of which he is the head…the church, the people that he has chosen to use as ambassadors, as individuals that will be his witnesses…be faithful, and will they accomplish what Jesus has them to do? We know they will because God sovereignly decreed that they will, but the question is whether the individuals that he first grabbed to do it will do it the way that he said.
The fact that we're gathering here today is a bit of a tell that they did their job. The church is always one generation away from extinction. That is why we need to be strong in the grace that is in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the things which we hear today in the presence of many witnesses, these we should teach to faithful men who will be able to entrust them to others also. We should entrust these with faithful men who will be able to teach them to others also. That's our job.
So I'm going to teach you something today and you're going to find out some amazing stuff. What is it that God wants for us? How are we supposed to accomplish it? What are we supposed to do when we find discouragement in our midst? What's the very first message that the church gathered was given by its leader? What are the characteristics of leaders that are supposed to be in the church? And what happens if you reject the message of grace that the church gives you? Are you all ready? That's some stuff. All right.
Father, teach us and allow us to pull from this Scripture everything that you want us to learn and know, that we might be in that long line of faithful men and so that if you tarry generations from now, others will gather and be equipped to be a light in the midst of a dark and perverse generation. Would you, right now, help us concern ourselves with that task? We know that part of that is being a witness to others, and part of that is being a witness ourselves by the way that we live our lives. Use this morning toward that end. Teach us now. In Jesus' name, amen.
We're going to cover the rest of chapter 1. We're going to go back and touch on verses 8 and following. Here we go. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, "…but you will receive power…" The word is dynamis. We get the word dynamite from that. God is going to give you something explosive and powerful that will accomplish what it is that he's asked you to do.
Question: Where is the power going to come from? Answer: "…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…" The Holy Spirit is the power. Question: What power does the Holy Spirit give us? Answer: The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be his witnesses. Question: How are we his witnesses? Answer: The same way you're a witness about everything.
The word witness is a word that you will find in the Greek has made its way over into the English, and it talks about ultimately how committed we should be to what we are witnessing to. Here is what witnesses always are. Are you ready?
1._ Witnesses know something is so, and they testify to its truth._ Witnesses are always people who say something is so and give testimony to the fact that it is true. Let me say that again. That's all it means to be a witness. They know something is so and they testify to its truth.
You don't have to be an expert witness. You don't have to be somebody that can sit there and know all about ballistics. All you have to say is, "That guy shot that guy." You don't have to be able to deconstruct weaponry. You don't need to talk about the travel, velocity, and range of different ammunitions and loads. All you have to say is, "This is what I know. It is so, and I'm going to testify to its truth." That's what witnesses do.
What are we witnesses of? We are witnesses of the fact that God is good, that his Word is true, that he is sovereign, that he has overcome the grave, that the solution to man's sin and the curse of death is Jesus Christ himself who has come and whom God made "…sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him," and that our eternal debt to God was paid through his eternal Son that we might be free.
2._ Witnesses testify in word and in deed._ Witnesses are people who know something is true and testify to it in word and in deed. That's the second thing. They know something is so, they speak it, and they live it. This is what James 1:22 says. It says, "Brethren, do not let us be deluded," all right? But we want to prove ourselves to be "…doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude [ourselves] ." All right? We have to be individuals who are busy acting on what it is that we believe.
First John 3:18 says, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth [be as witnesses] ." Why? Because the world is going to look at you, and they're not going to like what you're saying, that there's a God who is there that you are culpable to and that you will be judged by.
So they're not going to like that, but the Scripture says, "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." This means that when God comes to judge the quick and the dead, they're going to say, "You know what, God? You put a group of people here that showed that you were real and powerful.
You gave them power to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. There were people who didn't live immoral lives and who were among us but that lived above us. They didn't separate and go live in monasteries, but they walked among us. They were in the world but not of the world.
They said that the way they were able to live peaceably, to pound their swords into plowshares, and to make peace with one another…to have people of every tribe and nation and tongue not be at war with each other because of their political or social or gender differences, but to be loving and kind and inclusive and peaceful…is because of your transforming power in their lives.
They testify that you were real and that you had done something to take sinful men and bring them back toward you. They said they were children of wrath. They said that they were sinners just like us, but they met you and by faith, through their confidence that Jesus had done what he said he came to do…which is reconcile rebellious men to God…they were made to be at peace with you."
That's what the Scripture says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…" Because we are at peace with God, he can have union and fellowship with us, which is to say that our spirit and his Spirit can be reconciled.
We now know that God is good because he gave himself for us. We're not trying to manage God, please God, or earn our way back to God. We're just enjoying God who has made every provision for us. We are children of grace, and we walk in that grace. We don't rebel against God because we know that God is good.
We have the power, the dynamis…by relationship with God because we know he's good…to be his witnesses, and the world is going to say, "We don't like that we're under judgment. We don't like that you say that there's a God that we have to answer to, but we knew your people." When judgment finally comes, they're going to say, "Thank you, God, that you didn't leave us in the dark, that you sent to us a great light, which was your church."
Do you see that? Witnesses know something is so, and they testify to its truth. They testify in word and in deed. One last thing. First Peter 3:15 says, "…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet [do that] with gentleness and reverence…" Not like you're smarter than somebody else or better than anybody else. All you know is, "I was blind, but now I see."
Then it says, "…and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered…" That is, that you're a people of God, called by his name. "…those who revile your good behavior in Christ will [one day] be put to shame." They'll say, "Those church folks had it right, and I thank God for them because they were God's testimony to me."
"…you will receive power…" The ability to do right when you have a reconciled relationship with God. How do we get reconciled to God? Through what Jesus has done and trusting in it, by faith, we are brought back into a relationship with God. When we walk with God and speak of God, we are his witnesses.
3._ Witnesses testify to the end._ Watch this: Witnesses say what is so and testify to its truth. They do it with word and with deed. Then the third thing is that they do it to the end. If we're going to be as witnesses, we cannot shrink back when it gets tough. The Greek word for power, as I said, is dynamis, where we get the word dynamite from. The Greek word for witness is martys. It's where we get the word martyr. The word witness and the word martyr are the same thing.
Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God, under penalty of imprisonment or, in some places, death? Are you going to back down when you're cross-examined or when this cross, if you will, is thrown on your back and you're tested? Are you going to bail out, or are you so convinced of it that you're going to say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain"?
We can say, "If you want to move me on, past this opportunity on earth to be a testament to the goodness of God, that's fine. Get me out of this hell. This is not my home. I'm an alien and a stranger. You want to send me home? Take my head off. Put that bullet in my heart. I don't care, but it's better for you that I stay because I am here as a means of God's grace being revealed to you."
So look, we are not to back down just because people go, "That's politically incorrect." We're not to back down when people go, "That sounds exclusive and arrogant." We're to be gentle and respectful when we communicate, but when we are called names and lose earthly pleasures because the spirit of the age doesn't embrace our witness, we don't back off the stand.
What people try and do is get you to back down from your testimony and discredit the witness so they can make their case and do what they want. Jesus says, "You be a witness to the end. You be my martys." Gang, you're only going to get that ability when you continually spend time meditating on what God has done, focusing on the cross and the resurrection, reminding yourself of what the disciples were reminded of next in verses 9-12.
We see that. We see that the disciples saw Jesus after he appeared to them in many convincing ways and convincing proofs over 40 days. It said he ascended into heaven. The disciples saw that; that's Acts 1:9-12. He was lifted up as they were looking on, and a cloud receded him out of their sight.
I don't know if you saw the movie Risen…did you guys see the movie Risen? How does that movie end? Do you remember? If I remember correctly, Jesus kind of walked off into the sunset like some Clint Eastwood movie. That's not what happened, all right? Lord knows why they did it that way.
The disciples needed to see, "Hey, look, this Lord who has come and said that he was going to go and be seated at the right hand of the Father…I'll be dagnumbed if he didn't defeat the grave, appear to us, and now that's exactly where he went." Back then, you have to remember, most of even the educated world thought the earth was flat. If Jesus walks off into the sunset, they might have thought that the resurrected Lord went to the uttermost parts of the world and just fell off. They'd say, "I don't know if he's going to show back up."
What they heard from him was this, "I'm leaving. You wait for this abiding presence. You have the presence of the Holy Spirit in me, but I'm about to go be seated at the right hand of the Father. You wait, with great anticipation, for me to send you the Helper. He, the Holy Spirit, will be your power, that relationship with God.
Just like you have a relationship with God through me, the ongoing relationship with God is going to be through the Spirit. He will let you be my witnesses in word and deed. He'll tell you what to say. He'll remind you of things that I taught you. He will empower you to live a holy life if you abide with me. But I'm going to go. I'm going to ascend to the Father…"
And as it says in the Apostles' Creed. "…from whence I will return one day to judge the quick and the dead." Those that are still alive are the quick, and then there are those that aren't so quick because they're dead. Jesus says, "I'll resurrect them, and I'll judge them. You can be sure of that, so you go and be faithful. Ready? Break!"
That's basically Acts 1:12, where Jesus leaves and the disciples are told by the angels, "What are you looking up into the sky for? He told you to go get busy." The first thing the church does when they get busy is they get busy saying to God, "We want, passionately, what you told us you would give us: intimacy with you and an ongoing relationship with you through the Spirit."
Now the Spirit is going to give us the Word, which is one of the primary ways that we abide with Jesus today, but he also is present in our lives in the same way that Jesus was present in the lives of his disciples. We can't feel him, touch him, or taste him, but make no mistake: there is a reconciliation between us and God that brings us near to him. He speaks, he convicts, he encourages, he sustains, and he wants us to be identified with him and to bear his fruit.
The attitudes and priorities of a disciple are always the same: you seek to be with Jesus.
You might ask, "How am I going to be with Jesus today, Todd?" Well, I'd start by hanging out with him, just like the disciples did in the Gospels. Study him. Learn his ways. Pray his revelation into your heart. Learn from him.
Be reminded of his goodness and what he has accomplished. Blessed are you who believe and do not see. You know God is good because, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" So we're going to be his witnesses to the end, and off we go.
Look what the Scripture says right here in verse 12. "Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem…" Let me tell you a little geography right here, okay? If you're in Dallas, I would tell you that the Mount of Olives is a hill; it's not a mountain. It's not Pike's Peak; it's Flag Pole Hill. That's the Mount of Olives.
If you're on the top of it and walk down it and go across Northwest Highway, that's the Kidron Valley. Then if it went back up a little bit on the other side there, by Buckner Park and was elevated, that would be the Temple Mount. If you just went to the left there as you came down, this direction across Northwest Highway (Kidron Valley) up to Buckner, on the left-hand side, there's a little room there that I've been in which they say is the upper room.
This is the location, the general area, where the disciples went. Again, this is a history book. This actually happened; it's not a fable. It says, "…which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away." So you go, "Todd, how do we know what a Sabbath day's journey is?" Well, you read your Bible.
If you would go look at Exodus 16 and Numbers 35 and put those pieces together, you know that a Sabbath's day journey was about 2,000 cubits. You go, "What's a cubit?" Well, we know that it is 18 inches. So what's 2,000 times 18 inches? It's about 3,000 feet, which is about three-fifths of a mile. I've walked that walk. It doesn't take you that long. In less than 15 minutes, I can go to from where the ascension happened to walk over with great gladness to where I'm to wait until the fulfillment of the promise comes.
So there they were. When they got there…you're going to find out here, in verse 13, who was there: Peter, John and James (the sons of Zebedee), Andrew (Peter's brother), Philip, Thomas, Batholomew, Matthew, James (the son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, and Judas, who is called Thaddeus (the son of James). That's 11. There's one missing. It's Judas Iscariot. You kind of ask yourself, "That's a good point because I thought Jesus chose the Twelve."
In fact, if you go to Luke, chapter 6, I'm going to show you what Jesus did before he chose the Twelve. Luke 6:12 says, "It was at this time that He [Jesus] went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles…" That is, guys he was going to send forth and accomplish his world through them.
Then he names: "Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John…" All the way through to this last guy who is called Judas Iscariot. You go, "Todd, how can Jesus be the perfect Son of God and pray, and when he chooses, he only hits 11 out of 12? That's discouraging." Don't be discouraged because I'm going to tell you that Jesus, from the very beginning, knew what he was doing.
He chose Judas because he knew that Judas was not going to choose him, though he continually presented to Judas the same truth that he presented to the other 11 disciples. He knew that Judas was not going to choose him, even though Judas had all the revelation that he needed to be a faithful follower of Christ, because Judas was hell-bent on God looking like he wanted God to look and doing what he wanted God to do, the way that he wanted God to do it. He was going to reject Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. It was going to cost Judas his eternal soul.
Judas was never a believer. When Jesus chose the 12 disciples, we have no sense that any of them, yet, are believers. We know that they become believers a little bit later. In Matthew 16, Jesus finally called the question after the three years of ministry: "Okay, guys, it's time to declare. Who do you say that I am?" They kind of murmur, "Well, some say you're John the Baptist, some say Elijah…" He goes, "No, no, no. Who do you say that I am?" Peter steps up and says, " You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Peter is saying, "You're the Messiah." That's what Christ means. That means, "You're the Prince of Peace." That means, "You're the Eternal Father, the Mighty God, and the Wonderful Counselor." Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because this was not revealed to you because of some fantastic charter school. This is a gift of God from heaven who has allowed you to see."
It looks like 10 other guys fell in line, but one more said, "I'll trust that you're God when you do what I want my God to do, which is to rid my world of that which bothers me." In this case, that was Rome. Judas wanted Jesus to be a political deliverer and did not really care about his sin. I'm going to show you how we know that. And Jesus knew who he was from the beginning. Let me prove it to you, okay?
Jesus, when he was dealing with Judas, would say things like this in John, chapter 13. He's talking to his disciples in verse 13, and he says, "You need to know that you guys call me Teacher and Lord, and you're right, for that's exactly who I am." Verse 14: "If, then, I am your Lord and Teacher, I washed your feet and you ought to wash one another's feet also." Verse 15: "I'm giving you an example that you should all follow."
Verse 16: "…truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him." Verse 17: "You are going to be blessed if you do these things." He's saying, "If you are reunited with God, you'll have the Spirit of God in you. God is not an oppressive king, he is a benevolent ruler. He is just and will judge those who don't do it. If you have the Spirit of God in you, then you will love as I have loved and do as I have done."
Jesus said, "You don't need to be washed all of you, just your feet, so that you can be cleansed because if you walk on this earth on a regular basis, your feet get dirty. So I'm going to wash your feet." This is what the lowest and most humble servant on earth would do. Jesus is saying, "Watch this. I'm God, and if I can do this, don't you think you can do this?"
Question: What kind of person would live that way? What kind of king would wash his servants' feet? Answer: The king we all dream of. The kind of king that doesn't use his power to maintain power but that uses his power to serve others. A benevolent, humble, loving ruler. That's your God: slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and full of grace and truth.
"Now if you reject me and you don't want this benevolent king, then you have trouble coming. Stay tuned for about 20 minutes from now." But Jesus says right here, in John 13:18, "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled [that I chose 12 of you] …" He continues, "There's one who is going to eat my bread that's going to lift up his heel against me."
What Jesus says right here, he repeats throughout. In fact, back in John, chapter 6, he says this to them after he had revealed himself as the Bread of Life that all men should come and eat from. He used an analogy where he said, "You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood," and they're like, "Hey, Jesus, that's not a good campaign slogan. It's freaking people out, so we have to get rid of the hashtag #EatMeAndDrinkMe. It's not working, okay?"
Jesus says, "Hey, this is an important metaphor. We're going to stick to it. If you don't like it and want to leave with the rest of them, you can." Then Jesus basically says this in John, chapter 6, verse 64, "But there are some of you who do not believe." He's talking to the Twelve now. "For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. John, chapter 6, verse 70: "Jesus answered them, 'Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?'"
He is laying it out. He knows exactly what's going on. Let me just tell you guys that God is always sovereign, even over devils. He is never surprised by sabotagers or schemers. Let me say it to you again. There's a reason I'm encouraging you with this, church. What I'm about to tell you is the very first thing the church was reminded of while they were waiting for the fullness of the promise of the Holy Spirit to come.
Peter was going to stand up and just say this, "Hey, man. Let's just remind ourselves that our God is sovereignly enthroned in the heavens, and he makes no mistakes. So even though we're not thrilled that the end of the resurrection period is over and he strengthened our hearts when we were with him, we're not thrilled that now's the time when he went to be seated at the right hand of the Father and he's left us here, he said we weren't going to be left as orphans.
It has to be really scary for you; it's scary for me. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what it's going to be like when the Holy Spirit comes, when God is with us in the person of the Spirit in a way that's different than the way God is with us in the person of the Son, but let's just remind ourselves that he makes no mistakes and he knows what he's doing.
If you haven't noticed, it's just 11 of us men here that were chosen by Jesus when he prayed. He knew what he was doing when he chose Judas, because Judas was going to be an instrument to accomplish what Jesus wanted to accomplish. He did this so we could be reconciled to God and so that the Spirit, who is going to come, could come and so that we could have fellowship with him. We have been made clean because our Jesus has gone where we could not go, which is to a cross to pay for the sins of the world that we might be forgiven."
This is what Peter is going to tell them. He's going to make this next little message you're about to hear have this point. Our God is sovereign even over devils, and he was not surprised. This was not Julius Caesar getting jumped by Brutus. This was Jesus Christ sovereignly working out his plan when Judas did what he did. Jesus knew what Judas was doing, and he told Judas (do you remember?) when to do it.
Now Peter might have also said this, "It is clear to me that we couldn't see that. Do you guys remember when Jesus sent us out?" Peter would go back to what was not yet Luke 9 but was going to be one day, and he'd tell the story. You can go read it yourself in Luke 9. "Do you remember when Jesus sent us out and gave us authority? He sent us out in twos. Which one of you went with Judas? I can't remember. Who went with Judas? Yeah, it was you, Thaddeus." That's probably who went with him, I don't know. I'm making that up, okay?
Peter might have continued, "But when we all got back…there were six teams that came back…we all gave reports of what God had done, the way he used us to cast out demons and to testify to the fact that the Messiah was here. Every group, all six of us, had stories of God working in our midst, even through Judas. It is clear to me this is about Jesus and not about us."
I think Peter would have said something like this, "Hey, gang, let's just make a note right her. God is going to use us whether we're Judases or Johns, the disciple that Jesus loved. It makes no difference to him how he's going to accomplish his sovereign purposes, but it makes a tremendous amount of difference to us.
So let's be his witnesses out of relationship with him and not of wishful thinking that if we do what we want God to do, then he'll do for us what we want him to do. We want nothing from God except for the revelation of truth so that we can be obedient to it. God is not our puppet. He's not our little genie to rub a lamp and get what we want. We're to be his witnesses, and we're going to be martyrs for that witness, just like Judas was a martyr for his. He gave his life betraying Jesus because he had his hope in this world."
Now watch this, gang. This is the message to the first church, but let me just show you something else, before we go, because I want to encourage you with this. This is kind of God to accomplish this. It wasn't just those 11, it was also others who were of one mind. I love that word right there. I want to just talk about it for a second.
In verse 14, it says, "These all…" Those 11 disciples. "…with one mind…" The word there means "of one passion." "…were continually devoting themselves…" They were occupying themselves, with persistence and with focus, on a regular basis. "…to prayer…" They were there, and they were saying, "God, we desperately want what you want for us, which is intimacy with you."
The women were there. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there at the birth of God working through the Son, and now she's going to be there at the birth of God working through the body of the Son, the church. But look who else was there: "…and with His brothers." You see, what you need to know is that in this upper room, we're about to find out, were 120 people.
In fact, let's just read that next little sentence. It says, "At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren…" The 11 disciples, Mary, the brothers of Jesus, and a few others. "…a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together…" Now this is worth just acknowledging for a second.
There are about 4 million Jews at this time in Palestine. Of those, 120 were believers in Jesus and the resurrection, and they were waiting for him to start working in them in a way that he said was going to change the world. Out of 4 million, there were 120. Do you know what that is? That's 0.00003 percent. That means that out of the 4 million people, one out of every 30,000 Jews was a believer.
Let me just give you a little insight as to what that's like, okay? One-30,000th of a percent would be like in America today…if you go to the United States of America, there are 320 million Americans. One-30,000th of that is 9,600 people. Roughly imagine Watermark membership, okay? We have about 14,000 folks who hang out here on a regular basis. About 10,000 of those are members, okay?
Imagine Watermark… There is no Village Church. There is no Saddleback. There is no Bethlehem Baptist. There is no faithful community anywhere in the world except right here, and Jesus is saying, "Hey, we're going to change the world together." Do you guys believe that God could do that with just Watermark?
Let me just bring it back a little bit. How about if it was just Texas? Texas has about 25 million people in it. That means that in the state of Texas, if we were starting in Texas to change even just the state of Texas, we're talking about 750 believers. Dallas-Fort Worth has 7 million people. That would be about the same as 210 believers in all of Dallas-Fort Worth. That's about this section right here. And Jesus is saying, "You're going to change the world."
This is a fulfillment, by the way, of what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 13, when he was with his disciples. He said, "Listen, the Jewish people are going to reject me as their coming king. I'm going to show them one day that I'm their King, but you need to know this. Here's a story. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed."
A mustard seed is a seed so small that it's like a grain of salt or a grain of sand. You can't even see it. It's like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field, and then this mustard seed, which is smaller than all the other seeds…all the other plant seeds are bigger. An apple seed is bigger, right? Jesus said, "A mustard seed is tiny, but when it's full-grown, it's larger than the garden plants. It becomes a tree. That's what a mustard seed grows into. It's a massive shrubbery that grows to be like a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."
In other words, you can't believe that this little 0.00003 group of believing Jews is going to change the world. Question: How in the world? Answer: Because "If God is for [you] , who can be against [you] ?" It's like God was saying, "What I started with Abram which got kind of sideways, I'm going to start over with you. I'm going to use you to be my witnesses, and you're going to tell about the goodness and greatness of God.
You're going to live differently, just like the people of Israel were supposed to do among a dark and perverse generation. You're going to talk about the provision and relationship you have with God. They didn't do so well and are being disciplined. I'll get back to them in a minute, but right now, it's about me and you. And if you do it, you're not going to believe what I'm going to do. All the birds…" It's a reference to all the people from everywhere, flocks from every different pond around. "…are going to come and find rest and shade in you. Let's go."
Some in that group were his brothers. His brothers didn't believe him just six months before Jesus was crucified. In John, chapter 7, Jesus is in Galilee because he has to leave the southern region where they were trying to kill him. When he's in Galilee, his brothers…who lived in Galilee…ran into him, and they said, "Hey, man. Why don't you leave here and go into Judea so that the disciples may see your works which you're doing, you guy who grew up with us and thinks he's God on earth?" They mocked him.
It says in verse 5, "For not even His brothers were believing in Him. So Jesus said to them…" He said, "Hey, look, man, my time is not yet here, but it's always a good time for you to go worship God and, frankly, to believe in me. Right now, the world doesn't hate you. The world hates me. The reason the world hates me is because I'm not buying into the lie and the confusion that right now is being represented as God's will and way.
It's not God's will and way, and I'm here to call them to repentance. You guys are still trafficking that nonsense, even though I'm trying to tell you that's not the way to go about it. So you go to the feast yourselves, do your little religion, and you're going to find out that I am the provision of God to have a relationship with you."
Now if you're Jesus' brother, can you imagine that conversation over a bowl of Cheerios? You're like, "Would you get out of here? You are insane!" In fact, that's exactly what they did in Mark, chapter 3. Jesus is out running around one day, and his brothers go to get him. In verse 21, they say, "He has lost His senses." They say, "He's out of his mind; he's beside himself. Look, this guy grew up with us. He's Joseph and Mary's son, just like us. Quit listening to him. Jesus, come here, bro. Come in the shade. You're embarrassing our family."
Now what happened to James? Well, I'll tell you what happened to James. He becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem. I'll tell you what else happened to James. Somewhere along the way during the 40 days after that resurrection, Jesus appeared to him and the rest of the brothers. This is what we know from 1 Corinthians 15:7. If you want to go look at it, there's the reference.
Basically, it talks about the things that Jesus did during the 40 days, and one of them was that he appeared to his brother. I imagine that Jesus said, "Hey, James. Come here. I'm not mad at you. I know it must have been hard to grow up with me when I was claiming these things, but here's some pretty thorough evidence. That brother that you mocked? He's risen from the dead."
Apparently, that did it for James, and at that point, he was all in. Okay? James said, "I know this is so, and I testify that it's true. My life is now changed in word and deed, and I'm willing to die for it." Sometimes only a resurrection can heal that kind of family dysfunction and hatred and bitterness and confusion, and that's exactly what did heal it.
Watch this. This is so great. Peter is going to speak up to this small group of people, and look what he's going to say, "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled…" So he's telling them, "Look, guys, let us not make any mistake. We serve a good and sovereign God. We don't really know what he's up to right now, but hasn't that been our story all along?"
Because right now, some of you guys are going, "I don't know what God is doing. I don't know if I can follow him, Todd." So here's my message to you, the church. The very first message to you, the church, is going to be basically this: He doesn't make any mistakes. You can trust him. Even when it looks like he's making a mistake, when he puts a devil in your midst, he's not making a mistake, even if you can't always see it as clearly as they are about to see it.
What Peter is going to do is testify. He's going to, in effect, say, "Guys, here's the deal. We're about to embark on a journey that none of us can believe. None of us are sure how it's going to turn out, but let me remind you that I was the guy…when I first identify him as God in the flesh…that first raised my hand after that. When he said, 'You're right, I am God in the flesh. And I'm going to die. I'm going to lay my life down and am going to pick it back up again.'
I was the one… Do you guys remember this? I said, 'No! God forbid it, Lord!" He rebuked me because I couldn't see how his laying his life down, dying on a cross and letting the Pharisees and Sadducees and Romans mock him, could ever be something we would accept. But guess what? That most awful of events turned out to be our greatest blessing. We can trust him. None of us could believe that there was a traitor in our midst, but it turns out that was the means through which he was going to allow himself to be taken by those men."
Then what Peter did was amazing. This is evidence, right here, gang, that you have a relationship with God. You start to see things that you didn't used to see. There's what's called the illumination of the spirit. Now in Luke 24, when Jesus was walking on the road to Emmaus with some of the disciples, the first time he appeared to them at a resurrection event. They didn't recognize him and couldn't believe that he, Jesus, hadn't heard about these goings-on in Jerusalem.
Then he finally, it says, looked at them and said, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then watch this: "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures." In other words, he showed them that the whole Bible is pointing to God's outworking in history.
Now Peter, all of a sudden, sees that even what are called the royal Psalms, the Davidic Psalms that talked about the righteous king who was betrayed by his enemies, have application to Jesus. So what you're going to find here is Peter saying… Jump down with me because we're going to come back to verses 18 and 19 in a minute. But look what it says here in verse 20.
It says, "For it is written in the book of Psalms…" Speaking about Judas. "…Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it…" That's Psalm 69, and then Peter quotes Psalm 109: "…Let another man take his office." That is, "We have to appoint somebody to take his office."
What Peter is going to start to do is… In the 40 days from the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension he, all of a sudden, starts to see now the truth of how all Scripture points to Jesus, who he was, and what he's doing. He takes these Davidic, royal Psalms, and he takes things that people did to David, the righteous king, and he goes, "That's what Judas did to our righteous king."
David is a type and an illustration of what Jesus is in all his fullness. Do you remember when he said that there was going to be a descendent from the throne of David who would reign forever? That's Jesus. When Ahithophel betrayed David, that's what Judas did to Jesus, and Jesus knew it all along.
So what Peter is going to say is this. Here's the message: "Hey, guys, why are we worried? Do you know what worry is? Worry is believing that God is not going to get it right. God always gets it right. And guess what? Let's not be bitter at Judas, but let's make sure we're not like him. Because bitterness and despair are believing that God got it wrong."
I imagine that Peter went on, "God didn't get it wrong when he picked Judas; he used Judas for his eternal purposes. Here's the thing: God didn't get it wrong when he picked us either. Who knows what's ahead of us, his witnesses and his martyrs, but let's trust him. Let's not worry. Let's not be bitter or despairing." What a great message for the first church.
Did you hear what I said? I mentioned this before. Worry is what we do when we believe that God is not going to get it right, and bitterness or depression is what we move to when we believe that God got it wrong. Peter is saying, "May we never grumble or dispute God. Let's pray and wait for the Spirit to give us truth." That's what you do, church, when it's hard and when there are traitors in your midst.
Don't be surprised. There are going to be some people around us who say, "Lord, Lord," and who do things that look like they're doing stuff and then, the next thing you know, you're going to find out they weren't even of God. God's going to say to those people one day, "I never knew you; depart from me…"
I don't know who those people are sometimes. All I know is that I don't want to be that guy. I want to be the guy who is a true witness, who loves God and walks with him, and that's what I want you to be. Knowing that nothing I could ever do would make him love me, but because I'm truly a disciple and not just working this God thing to see if it works out for me, I'll hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" not, "I never knew you; depart from me…"
Now look at this. Peter goes to the psalms, Psalm 109, and it says, "Let another man take his office." This is in reference to something that happened in a psalm. He said, "We have to do this because remember what Jesus said to us?" If you want to go back and look, you can find this in Matthew 19.
Peter continues, "Do you remember that day that I said to Jesus, 'Hey, Jesus, you know, we've done a lot. We've left house and home to follow you'? Jesus said, "Hey, let me just tell you something. During my reign, you will reign beside me on 12 thrones over the 12 tribes of Israel. They will see that the early adopters of this Jesus thing had this right. So you will reign with me.' There are only 11 of us, so we have to appoint a twelfth."
So now you're going to learn, in this very relevant text, how you pick leaders for the church. We're going to look at a couple of characteristics that church leaders should have.
People who daily abide with Christ. Peter said in verse 21, "…it is necessary that [we pick from] the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us…" The first characteristic is when you're choosing leaders for the church, you choose people or men who daily abide with Christ. You choose men who are companions of Jesus, who live with him and who walk with him day by day. That's the very first thing you want to look at.
People who know the risen Lord. Then Peter said, "Let's choose these men and they "…must become a witness with us of His resurrection." In other words, they can't just know about the resurrection story. In this event, one of these guys has to be one of the 500 that saw the resurrected Lord and knows the resurrection story.
When you choose a leader for your church or your ministry or your Community Group, you ask yourself, "Does this guy devote daily? Is he a companion with Jesus? Is he walking with him? And does he know the power of the resurrection?" I'm not just talking about an apologetic defense of the resurrection. I'm not just talking about the Christian proclamation that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, resurrected on the third day, ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
I mean does that guy know the risen Lord? Do you? Because if you don't, you can't aspire to be his man. You walk with him daily and you have personal intimacy and knowledge of the resurrection. Now for these guys, it had to be the literal resurrection, but for us, it has to be that.
Now watch this. "So they put forward two men…" One whose name was Justus and another whose name meant learner or disciple. They prayed and said, "Look, Lord, you know the hearts of all men. Let us not be confused with external presentation. We have to now make sure that these men are your men." So prayer is going to be that which helps us figure that out.
By the way, if you go look at the characteristics of a church leader in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, you're going to find that there's only one thing that lends itself at all to any sort of ministry competency. It is the phrase "…able to teach…" Why? Because this is what the early leader of the church did.
He pointed men to what the Word of God said and said, "We're going to do what the Word of God says we should do." That's what a spiritual leader always does. They know the Word, they're informed by the Word, and they call people to obedience to the Word.
Then every other characteristic of an elder in 1 Timothy 3 is just that. It about their reputation, about the way their family loves them and the way they lead their family, and about their character. It has nothing to do with their education, their profession, their business acumen, their financial status, or their fame. It has everything to do with their character.
Churches die because they get this wrong. They choose leaders based on, "That guy is smart. That guy does well in business. That guy has a lot of cash; he can write checks." They do some superficial evaluation of what it looks like they are without really understanding what's going on in the family and that guy's life. They don't really ever go, "How are you devoting daily?"
That's why we always want to know, guys, "What are you learning now? What has Jesus taught you lately? Tell me what difference the resurrected Lord has made and is making in your life?" This is an incredibly relevant text.
Let's go now to verses 17 and 18. It's talking about Judas, and it's talking about how "…he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry." He did things that we didn't see, but this guy was a traitor. He "…acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out."
This is Luke's recounting of what ultimately happened to Judas. After Judas realized that his betrayal of Jesus, that Jesus being taken captive by the Jews and then by the Romans was not going to make his little insurrectionist messiah heart bow up and call angels down to have a political overthrow right then… Judas knew his plan didn't work. Judas knew he couldn't control or manipulate God. He knew that Jesus was a good man and that he was the God.
Judas was convicted. He went and took the 30 pieces of silver, and he threw it in the temple. The legalistic Pharisees took it and said, "We can't take that; it's blood money." So they went and bought what was called a potter's field, and they used it as a burial place for the poor. It was an old trash dump. It's called the Field of Blood because it was bought with blood money.
Judas went, and he hung himself there. After he had hung himself, whether the branch snapped and he fell down. His body swelled, and he was bloated, and when he fell down, his innards came out. Let me just tell you something. Mark my words, this is sobering. If you want to do a gruesome study, you do a study on how the enemies of God die. They are legion. I've already told you about Judas.
It's interesting what God does; he rips out their insides a lot. This happens again and again. Eglon is one. You go back to the book of Judges, and Eglon was a rebellious king who led Israel astray during the period of judges. He was a hedonist. He was fat. Ehud, the judge, went in there because he didn't want this king to rule over them anymore.
Ehud said, "I need to have a private audience with the king." He was a respected man, and when he went in there, he took a knife and stabbed Eglon, this raucous king. It says that the knife went inside the fold of his fat, and his fat molded over it. He burst his intestines, and the smell of filth began to come out all over him, but it was contained in his belly fat.
Ehud walked out and said, "Hey, the king is in there, but I think he's about to use the restroom." They stood outside and literally thought he was covering his feet using the restroom because it smelled like filth was all over him, and it was. That's how he died. His bowels were stabbed and just came out of his obese self. That's how Eglon died.
The enemy of God, Sisera…the commander of the Canaanite army who tormented God's people…had his head run through with a tent peg. He was nailed to the earth, which he loved. Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, who slaughtered people left and right, had a millstone crush his head to the earth.
Jehoram, a godless king, was the last of the kings. God brought nations against him. Jehoram had all of his brothers killed so that they wouldn't come to be a king. It says that Jehoram contracted a disease of the bowels and died in excruciating pain two years later when, it says, his bowels came forth out of him. Again, the same thing.
Jezebel made herself up to look all pretty to try and make herself not hated by the coming judge, and the judge said, "Throw her out." So she was thrown out from her palace. When she fell down, she splattered on the ground, blood came up on her palace, and horses trampled her. Then Jehu said, "Go back and get her and bury her," but when they went back, dogs had licked her up and all that was left was her skull, hands, and feet.
Absalom was running through the woods. His donkey goes out from under him, his hair gets caught in a tree, three spears in his heart, and 10 of the men run swords into him. King Agrippa is said to be a god; he doesn't deny that he's a god but takes credit. He's eaten alive by worms. I mean, I could go on and on and on!
You're like, what's the point? Here's the point. Do you guys know…watch this…this is how enemies of God end up. It ain't pretty. He has come and has offered himself for you, but if you reject him, he will come to judge the quick and the dead, and it won't go well. Trivia question: who dies the most awful death as an enemy of God in the Bible? I haven't even mentioned him. Think about it. Who had the most awful death of any enemy of God in the Bible?
Are you ready? Jesus. Jesus did, because the wrath of God was poured out on him. Isaiah 53 says, "He was smitten of God, and afflicted." He bore our griefs, and he carried our iniquities and our sins. "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities…"
The Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him. He was mocked and beaten and scourged. He was stripped of his flesh and stripped of his clothes. He was nailed to a cross and publicly displayed and humiliated for six hours. People mocked him and spat at him. And he was alone because he became sin for me and sin for you.
Let me just tell you. You go watch the life of Christ. At the annunciation of Mary's conception, angels were there. At the birth of Jesus, angels were there. At the baptism of Jesus, angels were there. At the resurrection, angels were there. At the ascension, angels were there. Do you know where there was never an angel? When he was smitten of God and cursed for your transgressions. He became the enemy of God because he died for you.
I am a witness of these things, and I'm going to tell you: it is so and it is true. My life is different because I've met this resurrected Lord, and I am willing to be his martys. You need to figure out who this Jesus was, what he was doing on the cross, and what you're going to do with him because what happened to Judas and Eglon and Jehoram and Jezebel is nothing compared to what is going to happen to those who reject this testimony and witness of God's love poured out for you when he bore your transgressions on the cross.
Because he paid an eternal debt and because he was an eternal holy sacrifice, God raised him from the dead. All who are reconciled to him by faith now live with him, and their lives bear a fruit of the testimony of the power of God to transform us. We live in peace, enough of us to change the world. Here we go.
Father, I pray for my friends in this room, that we would just see how amazing this section of Scripture is and all that's there. I pray that we'd see that you're faithful and good and that you don't make mistakes. It sometimes looks like you have devils in our midst, but you're just up to something. You're just telling us, "Just trust me," and that you'll work it all out in the end, Father.
You just tell us to be faithful. At the end of the day, the Lord of the harvest will come and separate the wheat from the tares. Our job is to be faithful, to be your witnesses, to abide with you daily, to walk with Jesus, to be his companion, to know the power of his resurrection, and to have not just external conformity, but hearts that are at peace with God and that love you.
Lord, I pray that you would multiply those members here in this midst, and that we'd be witnesses in word and deed. I pray that you would call other people to come to respond to the One who died the death and incredible judgment so they might be saved. If there's somebody here in this room today who doesn't know what love looks like, I pray they'd look at the cross, where the kindest man that ever lived, very God of very God, gave himself. No one took his life; he laid it down because he loves them.
Father, you made Jesus, who knew no sin to become sin on their behalf that they might become the righteousness of God in you through him. I pray that they'd run to that cross today. I pray that those of us who have run to it would carry ours out of here and would be your witnesses by the power of your Holy Spirit which indwells those who believe.
For the glory of Christ, the good of our souls, and the hope of a watching world that desperately needs to know that you are good and loving and set people free, would you use us now this week? Help us to love one another. Would you bring the lost; would they come and be set free? And would you equip and use your saints as we go. In Christ's name, amen.
All right, church, let's go. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.