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Too Big to Keep at Home
Scripture: Acts 1:1-11
Track 1 of 14 in the Being with Him Compels Us to Go for Him series


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Sermon for Sunday, May 30, 2004
"Too Big to Keep at Home"
"Being With Him Compels Us to Go for Him"
(Acts 1:1-11)
C. Sackett

We've spent the last several weeks looking in the gospel of Matthew at various aspects of the life of Jesus trying to understand what it means for his people to look like him. That's the vision of our church. That we might be a community of believers who look like Christ.

So we've asked ourselves, "What did he look like?" And we've looked at some of those characteristics and asked ourselves, "Can we look like those characteristics?" We make the transition today into the book of Acts. I think the natural followup to looking like Jesus is going for him. Simply stepping out into a world that is in great need of hearing his message and understanding what they need to know about his life.

We start that this morning in Acts 1 and it's interesting when you look at the very first verse. Here's what the author Luke says. In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach. . . .that's what we've been looking at, something about Jesus. And like Luke we're about to make the transition into what that then becomes in the life of a body of people we call the church.

The book of Acts has a variety of titles. The particular Bible that I'm using today says simply Acts and then it leaves you to read to decide Acts of what or Acts of whom? One of the Bibles that I have sitting at (well, was at home, now in a box somewhere) says this is the Acts of the apostles. In fact, that's probably the title of most of those books that you'll look at. It will call it the Acts of the apostles and in some ways that's probably accurate except that there are really only two apostles that see much time in the book of Acts. The first half is dedicated to Peter and the second half is dedicated to Paul. So you might want to call it the Acts of the apostles, Peter and Paul with a smidgeon of other people thrown in.

Some people call it the Acts of the Holy Spirit. That is certainly true because you'll see the evidence of God's Spirit working on every page in this particular book. Maybe the best suggestion I've heard is that it's simply called the Acts of God's people or the Acts of God through His people. Because what we're going to discover is that there are all kinds of characters in this book through whom God does some absolutely extraordinary things.

Again he's taken those rather ordinary folks and he has done remarkable things through them.

Well, let's start, shall we as we begin thinking about how the church impacts the world. How the church then becomes the expression of what Christ is. That which he began to do and to teach.

There is a contemporary worship band that came out of a situation not unlike our own. It's actually a group of folks who got together to lead youth worship in their church. They called themselves Casting Crowns. They have what has become, oh I don't know, the number one or number two song on the contemporary charts in America right now called "If We Are the Body". The lyrics go something like this.

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
(and then the chorus)
But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
(Second verse says)
A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ
(and then the chorus is repeated, oh I don't know, two or three different times)
But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

I remember the first time I heard the song being absolutely captivated by its message. Because it is a provocative question. If we are the body, why are we not living out the faith of Jesus in the community? But I have to confess something to you, I've heard that song now until I've had it up to about my eyebrows. It seems like it's the only song that anybody wants to play on the radio station over near where we live. And I find myself saying, "okay, enough already!" But that's provoked I think as much by this as anything. I think we are. I suppose if you were a certain song writer looking at a certain church, you might ask that question, "Why aren't we doing the things that Christ does?" But I think if you looked around here you would find yourself saying, "we are doing those things. We are his hands. We are his feet. We are his words."

I think I could give you, well, I think we could spend the rest of the morning giving you a litany of places where that has been seen in our community recently.

Now, are we perfect? Absolutely not! Is there more we can do? Yes! But I don't think that the message we're going to get from the book of Acts is this is what you ought to do. I think it's going to be much more. This is the kind of thing you are already doing. Keep doing it.

Well, look at Acts 1 We'll not do the entire book of Acts this summer but we will spend some time hitting the highlights. The first one is Chapter 1. In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

We believe the story of the past. That Jesus lived to advance the kingdom. In fact, this is Luke's second volume. Volume 1 we simply call the gospel of Luke and in it there is this intense emphasis on what Jesus did and said in his lifetime.

If you go back over just a couple of books to the book of Luke. In Chapter 24 as Luke is winding down that first volume talking about the story of Jesus, he says to these two men on the road to Emmaus. Over in Luke 24:25 post crucifixion, post resurrection, but before anybody has really had a chance to see Jesus, two guys are walking back to their hometown away from Jerusalem bemoaning the fact that this one they thought might be the Messiah apparently wasn't the Messiah. . . . . he has died. Jesus joins them and this is what he says. "How foolish you are, (verse 25, Chapter 24 in Luke) how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Now come over to the end of Chapter 24, verse 44, still in this conversational mode, post resurrection. Now with the rest of the disciples gathered he says, "This is what

I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Then he opened their minds so they would understand the Scriptures.

Having seen what Jesus came to do, and to be, and to understand how much God had said about him prior to his coming, here's the end result. Verse 46 "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

That's the text to which Jesus refers. That's the speech that's referred to by Luke in Chapter 1. Jesus came to advance the kingdom, to establish it on earth, to make it what it is supposed to be. The question that the disciples are asking is not a terribly bad question. Is this the time you're going to restore the kingdom to Israel?

The only problem they had is they added those two words; restore the kingdom to Israel? God's intention wasn't ever to have Israel be the kingdom. They were merely a small expression of his kingdom. Just think about the terminology for a second. If Jesus is king, then he rules over everything.. . . . . .always has, always will.

So I'm going to ride my hobby horse for just a moment. It's one of those little "pet peeves" of mine that I have first been guilty of making the mistake of doing and then since, have tried to say, "I'm going to try to stop this if I can." The typical place that I hear it is in preachers, so maybe that's why I'm sensitive to it. They come to a point in a conversation where they say to people: "You need to make Jesus the Lord of your life.." I've been guilty of saying it. Did you know you can't make Jesus something he already is?

We'll see next week when we come to Chapter 2. Here's Peters announcement in Chapter 2. This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made to be both Lord and Christ. God already made him Lord of everything so you can't make him Lord of anything. He already is. What can you do? Submit to that Lordship. That's your choice. You can't make him something. You can only submit to what he already is. Acknowledge it. Recognize it and live under it. Jesus came in order to restore that Lordship over all of the universe.

Let me take you to one other passage over in Ephesians 1:9-10 This rather broad and sweeping kingdom language has been hard for people, the church to get a hold of and to understand because it is so big. Look at Chapter 1 in Ephesians and look at verse 9. In the midst of all of this language of what God has done for us in Christ, he says in verse 9, And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In Christ everything comes together under his Lordship, under his headship. Jesus' goal is to take what creation used to be, everything under God's rulership, before man sinned, and restore that oversight. It's much bigger than just individual salvation in our lives. It is the gathering of everything under his control.

Paul says it this way in another place. That it is the desire of God to have every thought taken captive to Christ. I don't think he means just merely everything you think about. That would be enough in itself, if we could just control everything we think about and have that be captured to Christ. I think he's saying to us in the grand scheme of things, "I want every arena of thinking to belong to Christ. . . .science, math, history, literature, religion, everything belongs to Him." Because ultimately, it does.

And one point in the future. When Jesus returns, all of this will be restored to Him. The frightening thing about what happens in our day and age is that most people don't believe that.

According to the pollster, George Barna, who typically does surveys of American population, less than 4% of Americans believe in a Christian world view. Now 84% of Americans claim to be Christian in some sense of the word. But less than 4% of us believe the fundamental tenants of the faith. Things like this: God is the creator, the Bible is accurate, Jesus is who he said he is, salvation is free. Those basic fundamentals are not in the American psyche. We don't believe in God the creator. We don't believe in the accuracy of Scripture. We don't believe that Jesus is his Son. Not as a culture. And Jesus comes, lives in order to further that kingdom concept. It has to start with this church that we believe that God is Lord over everything.

Well, that's where it begins. He says we live in the expectation of the present that Jesus empowers us to be witnesses. You notice that in the language of this text? Wait there in Jerusalem until you have power from on high. You will be my witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria and to the outer most parts of the earth.

Next Sunday when we come back here to look at Acts 2 we're going to see this anticipated event occur. You wait here. Stay in Jerusalem until power comes from on high and there will be this invasion by God's Spirit in the life of these believers and it happens twice in the book of Acts. It happens once at the end of Chapter 1, beginning of Chapter 2. It happens again in Chapter 10. Once to open the door of the church to the Jewish nation. Once to open the door of the church to the Gentiles, that's us. Twice he comes in great power. Both times he gives the presence of his Spirit so that we can be his witnesses. That same Spirit that came upon them in such magnificent power is promised to us, well, first of all in Chapter 2:38. You be baptized into Jesus Christ and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He promises that ongoing presence in Chapter 5. You pray that God will keep filling you with his Spirit. There is the presence of God in us that empowers us to witness for him that gives us a renewed intentionality rather than being intimidated.

It is a remarkable thing to recognize that in a culture that was so anti-Christian that these disciples were set out here to accomplish his task and they went with great intentionality. These were the disciples that were hiding after the death of Jesus, who were trembling in an upper room. Who were frightened by the experience of the Romans, who now suddenly come out into the public and just without reservation, share their faith. Where did that come from? The presence of the Spirit in our life.

I don't know how many times I've passed through Baltimore-Washington International Airport. I've never met this particular baggage handler but I was deeply impressed by a story I read. This was a preacher who was passing through BWI here going through the security check. He says, "Along with everyone else moving toward the gate in order to catch a plane, I went through the security screening. I was asked to stop so that a security screener could carefully look at every inch of my carry on bag. The screener politely asked me to step back and resist my urge to reach out and help him. As he poked and unloaded things and unzipped pockets and felt the linings of my bag, I noticed the ring on his right hand - a silver ring with a cross on it. I mentioned it. He looked briefly at me, then as he continued searching my bag he said something like this, ‘Yeah, the ring. It means that I'm a follower of Jesus. You know, in my job, one of the things we worry about is dynamite. But do you know where that word comes from? It's from the Greek word dunamis which means power. AS a Christian, I know that all the power belongs to God. That's why he sent Jesus. So while I'm doing my job, I know he's doing his job. That's where I put all my trust. It all belongs to Him and he's here with us. Well, Mr. Johnson, have a great trip', he said, before moving on to the next person. I walked away with a smile thinking about how this man had so naturally risen to the opportunity to share his faith. It certainly wasn't the place for an extended conversation. There was a long line of people behind me. He had plenty of work to do but in less than 30 seconds he spoke about his faith to a total stranger, calmly, confidently, and without hesitation."

That's what the Holy Spirit does. Empowers people to simply speak a word in the right situation without it being an intimidating kind of experience, but rather with great intention, just simply letting God speak through us whenever the occasion arises.

The remarkable thing to watch in the book of Acts is the absolute confidence. . . . the word is usually translated. . . . Boldness with which they spoke. In fact, when there were times that they were afraid to speak, here was their prayer. Chapters 3 and 4, fill us with Boldness that we can speak. See the Holy Spirit gives that kind of boldness. Paul told Timothy, I didn't send you a Spirit of fear. I sent you a Spirit of power.

In the book of Acts you will discover that they are empowered by the presence of his Spirit. They are empowered by the revelation of God that he has already spoken his word. We don't have to make up anything on our own. He's already given us the information. We are empowered by the presence of models around us whether it be Peter or Stephen or Philip or Philip's daughters or Paul. There are people who show us how to do it. We will be empowered by the prayer of the people of God for boldness.

See, the story of the book of Acts is the story of evangelism. It's the story of Chapter 2 when Peter stands up to preach. It's the story of Chapter 8 when the eunuch joins himself to the chariot and speaks. It's the story of Chapter 16 when Paul speaks to Lydia on Greek soil for the first time. It's the story of Paul's own conversion in Chapter 9, 22 and 26. In fact, listen to the last words of the book. Chapter 28, the very last phrase. Paul's in prison. Verse 31: Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

In fact, in the original text, the last word in the language, the last word in the book of Acts is this word . . unkindered. We have been empowered to be his witnesses. You see the point of the book of Acts is this. The story of Christ is too big to keep to ourselves.

I was in one of our local stores here awhile back. This has been a year or two ago. The conversation got started. They wanted to know who I was, where I worked--that kind of thing. I said, "I'm the preacher here at Madison Park Christian Church." and their response --this particular person's response was "oh, you're our competition." And I thought . . . .what?? She said, "yeah, we're your competition." And I looked at her and I said, "I don't think I understand what your talking about--what do you mean?" "Well, we go to such-n-such a church and we're your competition." And I said, "wait a second." And I turned to the lady next to me and said, "Do you go to church someplace?" And she named another church here in town and I said, "Listen, we're not in competition with anybody in this room apparently because you're both believers going to church. We're in competition for those who are not in church anywhere." We're not interested in moving people from one building to another. The gospel is about people who don't know Jesus, coming to faith in Christ. It's about people empowered by his Spirit to go into a world and to speak to those who have yet to find grace and faith in Christ. We've been given the power to do that. To be able to help people come to the place that they know Jesus. That's our mission, to carry out the great commission. To go into the world empowered by his Spirit and to speak the word for Jesus. And we'll do so anticipating the promise of his return. That is the promise of the future. But he will come for us.

As I was thinking about this text this week, it was one of those strange moments when I had one of those thoughts like I've never thought of this before. I don't know why those are such a surprise. I don't even have a memory of what I used to think, so maybe that's it. It wasn't something that I'd never thought before, I just never remembered thinking it before. When Jesus comes is that reward or rescue? Now I don't know if you've ever asked that question or not but I find myself pondering the question. When Jesus returns, is it reward or rescue? And I have to confess to you that for me it has always been reward. You know, the John 14 thing. I'm up in heaven creating this big mansion for you and you've got a room with your name on it and one of these days I'm going to reward you for your faithfulness. And I found myself thinking, you know, that's a pretty selfish kind of mentality isn't it? That what we're going to do is sit around and wait for Jesus to reward us for all the good stuff we've done.

And I tried to put myself back in the book of Acts, back into a Roman occupied nation, back into a culture where Christ was not famous, back into a world where Christians were persecuted and I found myself wondering if Jesus return was not the promise of RESCUE, because he understood that these people would be under the gun. It isn't but five or six, seven chapters in you have the first martyr.

Talking about Jesus in the open public in those days wasn't gonna earn you any favors. It was going to cost you and it may cost you your life.

One of the things that Bob Lowery has said in our own worship center, he has said in class. I have heard him say on a number of occasions that the church will face one of two problems. We will either be seduced by the culture and we will begin to look so much like the world nobody will know the difference between us and everybody else or we will be persecuted. And if the church chooses to be the church, if we, in fact, choose to be his hands and his feet, his body, then chances are not everybody's going to like what we have to offer. Not everybody wants to hear the story of Jesus and if that is the case and we persist in trying to share Christ, there will be people who don't want anything to do with it. And the coming of Jesus will not be reward. It will be rescue.

Calvin Miller tells the story of talking to a medical missionary who happened to work in an Arab community. Obviously the goal of his ministry was to see Muslims become Christian. But surely you understand to become a Christian in a Muslim country is a death sentence. My student at the East Coast campus, Legasa Owauke(??) was in prison for a year and a half because he was a Christian in Yeomen(??) and they gave him two options; he could spend the rest of his life in prison or he could leave the country. They were going to be kind to him. He chose to leave the country.

So Miller asked this medical missionary, "Doesn't it make your work seem rather pointless, that, if you convert them they die?" He said, "Just the opposite, that is the point of my work, that they can know Jesus and be prepared to die."

The "story" of Jesus is simply too big for us to keep at home. What we have to offer is the message that the world so clearly needs to hear about a relationship with the one who came to bring life. To offer free gifts of salvation.

Today is a rather special day of course. It's Memorial Day. And there is on this particular occasion something special about this Memorial Day. Now I recognize in our culture I cannot make the comment that I'm about to make without getting in trouble with somebody, so for those of you I'm about to offend, I'm sorry. I think it's about time there was a World War II Memorial and I'm grateful that somebody built one. . . . . .what it looks like or not is entirely up to you. I think it's time that there was one. I had the privilege of being in the Philippines a few years ago and I saw the World War II Memorial and I thought, you know, if they've got one over there, we probably ought to have one over here.

In fact, one of my favorite World War II stories comes out of the Philippines. It was in December of 1941 when Japan overran the Philippines and the American Army was shoved back into caves and many of them had to leave. In fact, in February of 1942 MacArthur was forced off of the island and back out into the ocean. He left with these words, "I will return." In October of 1944 he stepped back on Philippine soil and made this comment: "I have returned."

I love that image and of course, you know where I'm going with it already cause this is church. But is that not the very image that we're talking about? That in the midst of war Jesus says, "I will come back." And he will. And he will come, yes, to reward. There will be that, but ultimately he will come to rescue those of us who are trying to live a faithful, empowered, witnessing life in this world to let other people have what we have. He will come to rescue those of us who are trying to do that job when nobody wants to hear the message.

The book of Acts is about an empowered church, not one that meets inside walls, but one that invades the world and says, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria, then to the ends of the earth, we will take the message of Christ. Not because we have a power in and of ourselves, but because we have the power of Christ living in us.

You know some folks out there who need Jesus. I'm hoping that over the course of the next several weeks, we can help you find the confidence to speak a word naturally about Jesus.

And if you don't know him and you've never experienced his power in your life. If you've never had the experience of a relationship with Jesus then we would be remiss if we didn't say to you, you need to know Christ. And if we can help you come to know him we want to do that, so please ask. Let us talk with you about what you need to do next in your steps along the way to knowing Jesus

Let's stand.