Monday, March 07, 2016

Entrusted with a Mission

My Life Group lesson for March 6, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever begun a vocation as an intern or understudy only to one day take on more responsibility in the company?

Have you ever been promoted to a position that you once worked under?

In those situations we often feel both prepared and scared.

Prepared because we knew that the day would come. Scared because the day had, in fact, come, and we wonder if we can actually do the job.

In a sense, this is what the disciples faced in this moment.

They had been prepared by Jesus, and now Jesus was handing the mission over to them.

But Jesus did not leave them alone. He provided the power to fulfill the mission.

Moreover, the success of the mission was ultimately dependent on the work of Christ, not on the disciple’s ingenuity.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Introduction to Acts

*** The author is Luke, who also wrote the gospel of Luke. After today’s lesson, the rest of Acts deals with the ministry of the church, especially Peter and Paul.

--- Luke was a Gentile, the only Gentile writer in the entire New Testament. He was a historian and a doctor, so he was well educated.

--- Luke was a friend and traveling companion of the apostle Paul.

*** Most Bible scholars place the date Acts was written about 60-65 A.D. One reason is that Acts makes no mention of the temple’s destruction in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

THE REMEMBERED PROMISE (Acts 1:1-5)

I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

*** Jesus is Lord: The Sequel.

A sequel usually takes up where a previous book left off and often features the same characters and setting.

Acts picks up where the Gospel of Luke ends, but with a more detailed conversation Jesus had with His disciples before the ascension.

*** Who is Theophilus?

--- We don’t know. But Luke addressed both of his books to him.

(His name means “Lover of God.” He could have been a prominent believer and had social standing, since Luke 1:3 calls him “most honorable.”)

*** Founded on a promise.

--- Luke begins Acts by reiterating the central and essential Truth that Jesus is Lord, that He was crucified, buried and rose from the dead.

--- Not only had Christ risen, He had instructed them on the kingdom of God.

--- There is much responsibility here, but it all rests on the work of Christ.

--- The disciples were instructed to wait on the promised Spirit.

THE RESURRECTION PROCLAIMED (Acts 1:6-8)

6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

*** By the power of …

Not Grayskull, but the Holy Spirit. We’re talking about a different He-Man and a real Master of the Universe!

--- The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus and fulfilled 10 days later at Pentecost. The Spirit fills believers with His presence so that the Gospel can be proclaimed everywhere.

--- The apostles had to wait until the day of Pentecost, but since then all believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit.

--- Paul made it clear that only those who have the Spirit have eternal life. (Romans 8:9-11)

--- This is Luke’s version of the Great Commission.

Matthew 28 memorably phrases it as “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

*** Not through force, but restoration.

--- The disciples knew something very important was about to happen, but they did not yet have a clear understanding of what it would be.

--- The apostles were still expecting that Jesus was going to usher in His kingdom right then through military force. But the kingdom of God doesn’t operate like the kingdoms of this world.

--- Jesus reminds the apostles that He wasn’t restoring the kingdom of Israel, but the eternal kingdom of God.

THE RETURN PORTRAYED (Acts 1:9-11)

9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”

*** The mission, should you choose to accept it …

(Is not an “impossible” mission!)

--- The church is sent on mission by Jesus.

As prominent Southern Baptist church planter Ed Stetzer says: “It's not that the church has a mission, but rather that the mission has a church.”

*** The ascension.

--- The disciples watched as Jesus ascended into the presence of God, to Jesus’ rightful place at the Father’s right hand.

--- The two men in white robes reminded them that Jesus will return. Therefore, there is no time to waste.

--- The disciples had a crisis moment as they stared into the heavens, realizing that the mission was left to them. Jesus, their leader, was gone. The mission now rested on them.

--- Awaiting the Spirit, they had to decide to believe Jesus and take His gospel to the ends of the earth.

--- The fact that Jesus would return should give us encouragement and power for today.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

We are often guilty of looking around, up, or away instead of following Jesus’ command to “be My witnesses.”

With that said, let’s take a chance to clear the air in regards to how this 2016 election season could be messing with our mission.

*** Pray that the Holy Spirit that dwells within you will help you develop the fruits of the spirit and speak through you to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

*** Think about your mission. Your own Jerusalem could be our own homes and neighborhoods. Our own Judea could be Millington and this area. Our own Samaria is surely rough-and-tumble Memphis, and to the ends of the earth.

*** Jesus will return personally, bodily, visibly and victoriously. Now live like you believe it.

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