“In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:1-11 NRSV
The gospels proclaimed boldly that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. The message we hear from scripture is as relevant then as it is today. Whilst we live in a modern world and a different culture but the words of Christ still matter today.
The disciples, and generations after that, lived with an expectation that the son of man would return in the same way he left, and when he returned he would be looking for those faithful ones. (Luke 18.8)
Look busy, Christ is coming
Do we live with an imminent expectation of Christ's return, if so how does our life play out? What decisions have we made that reflect our eternal expectations?
Remember the wicked servant who buried his talent, his defence or his excuse was rejected by the master and he lost everything, “in fear because he knew the master would “Reap where you did not sow, so I hid my talents.” the master expected the servant to use what he had given them.
Jesus’ expectation of his followers was that they should to continue his mission on earth, healing and restoring people and telling them of the arrival of His kingdom. Whilst they were not to know the hour he would return they had a purpose and they were empowered to fulfil that purpose.
The restoration of the kingdom in full was something they looked forward to but they did not get hung up on the date it would happen, they were to be about kingdom business, keeping their lamps filled with oil with expectation.
Armed with this knowledge the disciples understood their purpose within the kingdom. After years of questions, they finally understood the purpose of Christ coming, Christ dying and Christ ascending.
Understanding brings purpose
As disciples of Christ, we are called to share in the heavenly life by being spiritually empowered. Additionally, we have a redeemed mind, filled with the spirit of God, spiritually gifted as Lizzie spoke about. The concept is that we are consistently bearing fruits by evidence of spiritual empowerment.
This is the Spirit-driven life, that we have spiritual intentionality in our daily walk. In our passage of scripture we read that the disciples obeyed Jesus, waiting to be empowered by the Spirit and the evidence was that they were witnesses.
There have been many emphases of the Holy Spirit at work, as Paul writes there are many gifts but one Spirit, one Lord, one faith one baptism and whilst we can speak in tongues and words of prophecy we have to ask ourselves “are we being empowered for the task that Jesus spoke of, are we sharing our faith?” Are we ready to share reasons to be hopeful, speaking about Christ's kingdom and loving our neighbours into a relationship with Christ?
We are facing a generation for whom the message of Christ's kingdom seems so easily dismissed, some are too occupied with things, perhaps the majority, whilst some others think they know the message but fail to see the relevance for themselves. Still, others have heard and rejected God, stubborn and determined to live only to please themselves.
Where is the church's voice at this time? Perhaps some are not convinced of the depravity of sin, perhaps some don't understand the consequences of living without hope and without Christ. Others worry too much about what people will think of them rather than pleasing God.
Oswald Smith wrote over 100 years ago “Ah, yes, men have forgotten God. Sin flourishes on every side. And the pulpit fails to grip. And I know of nothing less than the Outpouring of His Spirit that can meet the situation.”
The only way we can be rid of darkness is for the church to be filled with the manifestation of the Spirit and to be filled with the oil of the Spirit and shine bright. To put a stop to the corruption around us by being the salt that preserves.
It is therefore just as important today that we who call ourselves Christ followers live in a way that conveys a witness to the kingdom of God.
If we are no different from the world around us and comprise the biblical standard of living or we love the things of the world more than we care about following Christ's mandates. Ian last week spoke about being lukewarm, and it was a cry out to us as a church to wake up. Hot water from a spring was very useful in those times, for washing etc, cold water was perfect for drinking, however lukewarm water gets spat out, if you're like me you prefer iced coffee or hot coffee over lukewarm any day.
So many today live an earthly fleshly life without conscience the flow of the gifts in their lives and evidence of the Holy Spirit, which could be why many could be lacking in focus with no purpose or direction and lacking in effective soul-winning. How far has the church moved away from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, how much have we compromised without realising?
In reading over the Twelve Rules of the Early Methodist church I was struck with the fact that they aimed at and looked upon soul-winning as their supreme task. Let me quote from one of them: "You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent on this work. It is not your business to preach so many times; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and with all your power to build them up in that holiness, without which they cannot see the Lord."--From "The Twelve Rules."--John Wesley.
The Holy Spirit can make the Word as successful now as in the days of the apostles. He can bring in souls by hundreds and thousands as well as by ones and twos. Could it be that the reason why we are no more prosperous is that we have not the Holy Spirit with us in might and power as in early times?
I read this quote the other day
If we had the Spirit sealing our ministry with power it would signify very little about talent. Men might be poor and uneducated, their words might be broken and ungrammatical; but if the might of the Spirit attended them, the humblest evangelist would be more successful than the most learned of divines, or the most eloquent of preachers.”
"It is extraordinary power from God, not talent, that wins the day. It is extraordinary spiritual unction, not extraordinary mental power, that we need. Mental power may fill a chapel but spiritual power fills the church with soul anguish. Mental power may gather a large congregation. but only spiritual power will save souls. What we need is spiritual power."--Chas. H. Spurgeon.
The question of Christ restoring his kingdom was one Jesus was asked constantly. Against the backdrop of the promised messiah in scripture, Jesus' disciples had this question, when will we finally see the restoration of Isreal? Jesus replies that the time is not for you to know however you will have the power of the Spirit to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.
We need this power and authority of the Spirit today.
Christ has all Authority
The claim of Pentecost, from Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and Romans 8 and all those other great Spirit-texts in the New Testament, especially John 13—16, is precise that the rule which the ascended Lord Jesus exercises on earth is exercised through his Spirit-filled people.
The Spirit of Jesus himself give us the courage and hope to be strong to witness His Lordship, his sovereign rule, over the world where human rulers mess it up and ignorant armies clash by night.
In Ephesians ‘God raised us with him,’ declares St Paul, ‘and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’. And only when we continually remind ourselves what this means will we understand why he goes on to say that God plans to unveil his many splendoured wisdom through the church before the surprised and alarmed eyes of the principalities and powers.
Understanding the mission brings purpose
We have a mission, just like those disciples on the day of ascension. A mission reconceived and rethought to meet the needs of our day.
Our task remains the same and it is to embody and proclaim what the Spirit is saying to the world and its rulers, by way of critique, calling the world and its rulers to account for fresh wisdom, and clear proposals.
As Christ's followers we live in this world to bring the kingdom here, it is not to compromise with the world and reduce ourselves to their standard. We are called to raise this world to heaven's standards.
We who believe in Jesus Christ as the world’s true Lord, calling all rulers to account, cannot keep silent, especially at such a time as this. We have an opportunity today, people are fed up with empty words, virtue signalling and deception, the world is sick with anxiety and depression and is crying out for some good news. Let us open our eyes to see the anguish of our generation and pray.
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38 NRSV
The witness of the church consists, as it has always done, of living within the present world according to the new rule of the ascended Lord, living in faith, hope and love, putting into practice the generous self-giving love which is at the core of Jesus’ message, living out the Beatitudes day by day, demonstrates to the world that there is a different way to be human, a way of charity and chastity, a way of patience and prudence, a way of joy and justice, that it works, that it is life-giving, that it is creative and cheerful and colourful and bubbles up, like the Spirit itself, all over the place and all of the time.
The whole life of the church, particularly in its outward-facing works of mercy and generosity, of justice and compassion, is the setting within which a few of us can speak with conviction about the rule of the crucified and resurrected Saviour.
Paul writes to the church to take their place, based on the understanding of the working of His Spirit. The gospel is the power that we need to bring this world to Christ to make known to those worldly power who think they are in charge and who has all authority in heaven and earth. Paul writes.
“Of this gospel, I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in
God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 3:7-10 NRSV
When will his kingdom be restored? When will the rule of Christ fully come and the last enemy be destroyed? We may not know the times, but we know it's coming. The wisdom of God is to be made known by the church.
Are we ready? Is our lamp lit and shining bright? Are we compromised and corrupted or are we filled with the Spirit of God and living as a witness for Christ?
Do we know that we are God's chosen people, a. Royal priesthood. have we come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
Is our faith and hope set on God? Have we purified our souls by our obedience to the truth?
Do we have genuine love, deep in our hearts?
Have we been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God?
Are we filled with power from on high?
Are we living in the heavenly life?