For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives… Colossians 1:9
Key verses: Proverbs 3:5; Matt. 28:16-20; John 20:19-31; Acts 28:17-31; Colossians 1
Key personalities: Early Jewish Christians
Timeline: The Church is established and grows by the Power of the Holy Spirit and the multiplying networks of the Apostles and their legacy for 2000 years and still growing.
If you know the Bible, you will say, "Hey, there are only 28 chapters in the Book of Acts!" Yes…Acts, chapters 1 to 28 are where the Church gets its call, start, and purpose as well as the narratives and happenings of the Apostles and the first few decades of the early church. Acts is also about God using His people for the spread of the Kingdom of God on earth. Furthermore, Acts is about the challenges, threats, opportunities, and wonders of being a child of God on His mission as well as a template for what we may face and can do. The "29th" chapter is US, the Church that is happening now--the Church at work today with our collective call and empowerment to expand His people, as Christ is still at work in and through us.
We are the next chapter of the story that is still being told, and we Christians are the continuation of the drama of Christ's redemption. The question is, what will you do with this incredible opportunity of expanding the Gospel so others can know and grow in Christ?
Key Happenings: "Acts 29" is about continuing the work of expanding and doing Church.
John 14 starts what is called Jesus' "Farewell Discourse" where He gives His most passionate and important instructions to His Disciples and us. Here, Jesus is not consumed with His own coming agony, but rather turns His attention to His Disciples and their needs. He not only reveals to us the Father, He takes us to the Father. In this way, Jesus comforts, encourages, admonishes, and coaches while He gives testimony to His role and the events of His upcoming Passion and their mission in building the Kingdom. He is the way, the role of the Holy Spirit, the importance of our connectivity to Him to produce faith and fruit, and that even in persecution, we will always be comforted as we remain in Him (John 14:1-16:33).
John 20:19-31, Jesus sends us! Jesus is referring to all of His Disciples and followers, then and now, to not be afraid. "Do not fear," do not fret, but have a transcending peace and contentment, even when the situation does not offer or give it. This is a depiction of the supreme comfort that we get from our Lord in a world filled with sin--bad choices surrounded by treachery, deceit, failures, and sacrifice.
- This the "Great Commission," the marching orders for our faith and practice! Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to be His successor in the presence, power, inspiration, and empowerment to His ambassadors and representatives here on earth. Even in Christ' presence, we are powerless until the Spirit came (Daniel 7:13-14; Matt. 4:17; 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-53; John 17:18; Eph. 1:3-14; 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16; 15:1-8)!
- Breathed on them. This refers to the act of creation from Genesis where God breathed life into the universe and into Adam; now, Jesus sends us His empowerment that gives us power to be Christ's witnesses. The point and reason for empowerment was to serve Jesus, not to bring attention and glory to self (Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 37; Luke 24:47-49).
- Receive the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we receive Him, and continually have Him living within us so that we are equipped to speak for Him! Before Christ came, the Holy Spirit was not available to all, nor was He omnipresent, or "everywhere." This is not a conversion or some kind of rebirth (John 13:10; 15:3; Romans 8:9; John 3:5)! Rather, the focus was on the promise in Joel 2, which was fulfilled in Acts 2.
The ultimate victory has come: Jesus is risen! Victory! Our ultimate triumph is in Christ alone! Do you fully realize what Jesus did for you?
- Christ took this punishment for us; our fears (as in scared to death, not fear as in reverence to Him) have been borne on the cross, while the fear and awe of our Lord and Savior help us see what He did for us (Prov. 3:5)! Every time we sin, we incur greater guilt, and we deserve punishment (Gen. 3:1-24; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:10-26; 5:12-19; Titus 1:15; James 1:12-15; 1 John 1:8-10).
We serve by trust and obedience! Proverbs tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This type of fear is not being scared, or fearful of what will happen, nor is it distrust or terror of God. This type of fear is reverence and awe that fuels our worship and faith. It is the understanding of the wonder and majesty of our incredible God, who transcends time and space, and who is bigger than the entire universe He created, yet, He personally knows and loves us with deeper and more love than we could ever comprehend! In the Old Testament, the stipulation put to the Jews was that they follow their God and stick to the covenant. The covenant we have now is grace; the stipulation is that we accept it by faith. The growth of our fear (awe) is the response to His majesty.
Reverence is taking the incredible knowledge of His majesty, and applying it to our lives, so we will walk with confidence in our Lord, and operate with respect to Him, and to the others whom He knows and loves. Reverence leads to worship because we can acknowledge whom God is, and respond in the only way we can, to surrender our will to Him and worship Him! As His created beings, saved by His grace from a destiny we created and deserved, we have an obligation to give Him all of our honor, all our praise, and all our adoration. This is the reason for the primary purpose of our saved lives--to give God the glory that is rightly due Him. Why must we? Because He is the Holy, Sovereign, the Creator (Duet. 7:21; Neh. 4:14; Psalm 48:1; 86:10; 95:3; 97:2; 145:3; Dan. 9:4; 1 Cor. 13:12; Heb. 12:28,29)!
Live a life worthy/walk worthy of the Lord. This means live in the manner of what we know and believe--and do it consistently. We do this when we are pursuing God and His righteousness, and believing His precepts, so He is more and we are less in our will. This is our "walk with God," is living out the daily Christian life thinking as He has called, behaving as we believe, and thus doing in response to His Work in and for us. It is also about being empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is never the walk in our own will and strength; such a thing is pride and disobedience to our loving Lord (Lev. 26:3; Ezek. 36:27; Mark 10:29-31; John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; 5:16; Eph. 4:1; 5:1; Phil. 3:10-14).
We behave as the One you represent, as the name Christian means to be like Christ in His character.
Be like Christ, to being an "appropriate" or acceptable offering so we "deserve" our reward; we cannot earn this. Be a friend of God with gratitude; seeking Him first is to glorify Him. (Deut. 10:17-19; 2 Chron. 20:7; Psalm 69:30-31; Matt. 5:16; 6:33; Mark 12:29-30; 1 Thess. 2:4).
Bringing forth fruit. The byproduct of a healthy tree, is the same with a growing Christian: Christ's characteristics of the Holy Spirit are flowing in, and through, and then out of us, thus our fruit is an offshoot of the care we make in paying particularly close attention to His Word so we can grow more righteousness. Our growth and development in Christ is paramount and this results from our mindset and attitude in our relationships. This is the central feature of our faith development that results from saving faith (Gen. 1:28; Hos. 10:1; 14:7-8; Matt. 13:3-8, 31-32; Luke 8:11; John 14-15; Rom. 1:13; 15:30; 1 Cor. 16:15; Gal. 5; Phil. 1:11, 22; 4:7, 17; Col. 1:6; Heb. 12:11; 13:15).
Our spiritual formation is allowing Christ to dwell in our minds and hearts so He goes to our hands and feet.
This is our maturity, character, demeanor, and conduct--the essence of who we are is a display of Christ, even without opening our mouths. We are His exhibit--an example of His work. This cannot occur unless we work at it, taking what He gives and building upon it, so we can grow deeper in Him (Psalm 119; John 14:23; Rom. 8:5-9; 1 Cor. 12-13; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:3-5, 13-14).
- Too many Christians neglect the basics of the faith, replacing it with new teachings, or neglect good teaching all together. They forget who God is, and who we are in Christ. If we do not know who God is and what our call and responsibilities are, how are we to grow in our faith, in maturity, and in character, not to mention in leading others in the direction of God's call? We cannot!
- The opposite of maturity is immaturity, as the opposite of wisdom is foolishness, and this is the result of no direction in life brought on by no discernment. This leads to rebellion against God, and His godly leaders. We will then lead others away, as well. We will be leading people in hopelessness and despair, because most people cannot discern the difference. Thus, it is the Christian's responsibility to know their faith, and apply it with correct knowledge, based on God's Word.
- We have been transformed! Now we can be ambassadors and demonstrators of God's transforming power to those around us!
- We have reason, distinction and purpose in life, we have meaning and hope! God saved us for liberty, gives us holiness and gives us assurance. Our sin no longer has dominion over us; we are no longer under its rule. Although sin still infuses and influences us, our purpose and hope for the now and future is in our New Life! We have entered His presence through a new birth (John 3:5). We have our freedom, yet we owe Him for what He did for us. We are His adopted children (Gal. 4:5) but we are not to be childlike in our activities and responsibilities as we are fully adults in Him.
- Because what He has done for us, we are no longer His enemy. Since our lives have been transformed because of His gift can live, our lives focused on our Lord lest we fall astray. There is nothing holding us back, nothing oppressing us. We can cast off our fears and trepidations and embrace our Lord with passion, conviction and serve Him in the same way (Romans 8:1-17; 1 John 1).
- To keep Acts going, we are to keep our eyes centered upon the Lord, and please Him as our chief ambition in life, and not be distracted from His purpose (Gal. 5:1; Col. 3:1-4).
Key Takeaway: Acts 29 is us, the pursuit of our personal and collective Christian life. When we are seeking Christ first and His work in us, then we are pursuing righteousness and all that is good as a way to glorify Christ as Lord. What we all need to be doing is applying His precepts into our lives and relationships and our mission for His glory. This is the real, authentic application of our faith development that is essential--not only in our personal Christian lives, but also in how we are to prepare ourselves to build relationships that build churches to model and make Him known.
The Call to the Church? The Church tends to ask the wrong questions, seeking the latest trends and pleasing inspiring personalities and missing what a church is for. It is all about worshiping Christ the Lord and then the spiritual formation of the leaders, pastors, then the training and discipleship of the congregation, over any management model or church growth idea. To lead a church is to point to Christ and trust and obey His precepts and teach them, model them with the power of the Holy Spirit, the conviction of the Truth, the clarity of the Bible and it is about, being poured out in Christ as LORD. We can move the Church on, by others seeing Him at work, seeking how much prayer, how are the leaders' devotions, what are the small groups teaching, where is the Bible, how is the pulpit teaching. The organization becomes organic and more effective for Christ's glory.
Questions to Ponder
- What does Jesus do when "opportunity knocks?" What do you do?
- How can we do as the disciples did in Acts when Jesus was no longer with them on earth?
- How have you experienced total dependence in God? How did that change you, if it did?
- What are the consequences for not undergoing discipleship as a leader?
- How can you and your church be better witnesses to Christ's testimony and Truth? We need to seek our Lord and ask about what do I need to be cleansed?
- For us today, we must realize God's call to build His Church is relevant and for us. It shows us God's requirements and models how we should be to God, to one another, and to others in the world. What do you need to do to make this effective and to work in your daily life outside of church?
- What would it take for you to become a more humble and surrendered Christian to God, so that you do not look to yourself, but to God in all things and in all ways?
- Are you committed to seeking the depths of God's love and righteousness, and in so doing be committed to continuing to allow yourselves to be transformed and renewed? (A lot of Christians make the mistake in thinking that discipleship is only for new Christians. So, remember this important fact: Discipleship is something that is ongoing. It does not stop at the basics, when you let Him in. It must be ongoing throughout your Christian life!)
- What can you do to develop your picture of your life from Jesus' point of view, to be more reflective of this sermon?
- In what ways can you and your church help others by hindering the corruption in the world by being examples and instigators of action and involvement with virtue and morality, tempered with love and care?
- Discipleship has a cost. Following Christ will also cost us, and require effort and consistency. This can cast fear and trepidation amongst most Christians. How can you develop an attitude to embrace what society, family, friends, or even people in your church fail to see and do?
- What can you do or remove so that you can embrace discipleship with vigor and faith, so that nothing can come before Him? (Keep in mind God will never call you to do something that contradicts His Word, such as you cannot neglect or leave your family to serve Him more. You must find the balance and build the time to do both. Prayer, and having a good person to disciple you, will allow it to happen!) Can you see what you need to give up and what you need to keep in order to become His committed child?
© 2015 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org