Thursday, August 29, 2013

Acts of God

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, August 25, 2013

Acts 1:1-8, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit Promised
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This morning I would like to open up with you a brand new study of the Book of Acts, one of the most exciting, informative and provocative portions of Scripture, and one, I trust, that will be both very timely, and very helpful and instructive for us all.  Before we do, I’d like to do what every teacher does before he or she begins a venture into new material with his or her students, and that is, I want to give to you what teachers call a ‘pre-test’; a preliminary examination and evaluation of you and me, the students, assessing what we do and do not know about this new study material, before we actually begin the study. 

So, class, with your permission, now that I have given you 15 seconds advanced warning, let’s begin the test.  You have your pen and paper handy, right?  You won’t need much ink, or much writing room, seeing that – whew!  Praise God!  The quiz is only one question long.  And here’s the question: what do the following things have in common?  Or, if I may restate the question for you this way:  What is the category into which all of the following things fit? Now, here’s the list of things: 1) a level 4 tornado that rips through central Oklahoma, leaving death and destruction in its wake, 2) Lazarus, Jesus friend, and brother of Mary and Martha, is raised from the dead, 3) the granddaughter of a CCCD couple is hit head-on by a semi-truck, demolishing her vehicle, so much so that the first-responders say to themselves, this is for sure going to be a fatality accident, and yet, the young woman comes out alive, with only a few broken bones, and a punctured lung.  4) Peter, James, John and all the rest, on a Jewish feast day called Pentecost, are able to speak in the languages of all the different ethnic groups gathered in Jerusalem on that day, even though those men, Peter and the rest of them, had never before studied or learned those languages.  And finally, 5) a CCCD member volunteers twice a week at Robert E. Lee elementary school, helping 3rd graders improve their reading and math skills, while at the same time across town, another CCCD member’s life and words are slowly impacting and influencing the mind and heart of the young woman who serves as his housekeeper, so that in the end, the housekeeper and her husband, and 3rd graders from Lee elementary, come to this place, walk these aisles, and confess their faith in the Savior they saw and heard and felt through these His servants, and then, stand in that baptismal pool, to be immersed into Christ.  Five things, all of them unique and different, my fellow students, and yet all of them, all 5 of them, the same, having one common thread, woven through all of them, one common category into which all of them fit.  What is that common thread, that one category? 

Don’t you hate it when teachers do that to you?  They start the class with a ‘Pop Quiz’, hopefully, like today, with only one question on it, but instead of giving you the right answer for the quiz immediately following the quiz, they wait until two minutes before the bell rings to tell you what the right answer is.  Well, class, I’m sorry, but you’re going to hate me, because I’m going to hold you in suspense until right near the end of our study, before I provide the correct answer, that way you can squirm a little in your seats, while you mull it over, right?  We teachers can be so cruel and heartless, can’t we? 

The Book of Acts: we begin this new study today, perhaps with a lot of uncertainty, maybe with a bit of fear and trepidation, but, probably, for most of us, simply with a lot of questions.  Before we move on, let me chime in with you, as your fellow student, I have these same thoughts and questions floating around in my head, too.  And, listen, I know from having studied this lengthy portion of the Bible before, likely, along the way, even more questions will pop up which we will need to ask and answer.  I look forward to that.  I will be challenged by that.  But, listen, with you, my fellow students, I commit to engaging in that, a challenging, thought-provoking, life-changing study of this Book, so that, in the end, this study of this portion of the Bible might have the affect on me that God intends for it to have. 

I mention questions, questions that you and I might have going into a study like this.  What might some of those be?  “Who wrote this Book?”  “When was it written?”  “From where was it written?”  “To whom was it written?”  Etc., etc. 

As we begin our trek though these next 28 chapters, which, by the way, don’t worry, we’re not going to cover all in the next 20 minutes, how about if we boil our questions into two questions.  First off, what is the Book of Acts?  And, then, number two, why study the Book of Acts? 

For all you teachers out there, you’ll recognize those questions, the WHAT? question and the WHY? question, as the doorway into both the content, the details pertaining to the content of the Book, and, the doorway into the purpose, the reason for, and the meaning of this Book.  Let’s open up those doorways one at a time, shall we? 

Door number one, what is the Book of Acts?  Take a look again at verses one, two and three with me.  What is the Book of Acts?  Notice how the author begins: He says, “In the former account I made, O Theophilus, [I wrote] of all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,  to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.  The first thing we should note about the content of the Book of Acts is that it is linked somehow, some way with something else this author wrote to this person Theophilus.  Do we have any idea, any clues, as to what the ‘something else’ might be? 

Hold your place there in Acts chapter one, and go with me to the Gospel of Luke, chapter one, verses 1-4, where we read these words:

Luke 1:1-4, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

So, what is the Book of Acts?  It is the second half of a very unique Bible book combo teachers call, ‘Luke/Acts’.  In other words, it is the second half of the account Luke, as he sought to lay out the life, the words, the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to his friend Theophilus.  Back to Acts chapter one – what else is the Book of Acts? 

All you history fans, you’re going to love this: it is a history book.  It is an account, a continuation of the previous account Luke had written to Theophilus, detailing all that Jesus began to DO, and to teach.  DOING and TEACHING, what a dynamic duo that is!  The Book of Acts is Luke’s record of the CONTINUING activity of the DOING and TEACHING of the Spirit of Jesus at work in and through Jesus’ earliest followers, the apostles and others.  That, by the way, is why the Book came to be known as the Acts – the activities – of the Apostles. 

Number three, what is the Book of Acts?  Speaking of links and of continuations, the Book of Acts it the link, the written by means of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, LINK between what we call the Great Commission – Jesus famous words in Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:44-48 and John 20:21, words like: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, go, ye, therefore and make disciples [not fans, but followers] of all the nations, immersing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…”  Words like, “Repentance and remission of sins must be preached in My name among all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and you are witnesses of these things.  Words like, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you..”  The Book of Acts is the link between Jesus’ Great Commission words, “Go, ye…” and the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Romans, Galatians, 2nd Peter and so on, all of which were written to people who had become Christians, directly or indirectly through Jesus’ witnesses, the apostles and others, all of which were written to Churches, which those servants of Jesus formed or helped to form.  This Book serves as that link, that connection, and how do we know that?  Acts 1:2, Jesus gave commandments through the Holy Spirit, to the apostles.  What were those?  “Go and make disciples, I am sending you…”  How do we know that?  Acts, one, verse 8. 

Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

What is the Book of Acts?  1) the Second half of the Luke/Acts combo, 2) a history book, with so much more, thank God, than just boring lists of places, events and dates, 3) a link, a vital, crucial continuation of the Great Commission of Jesus, as Paul Harvey would put it, “The rest of the story” of Jesus’ words, “Go, ye…”  Then, number 4) it is both a statement clear, powerful, provocative, as to what the early followers of Jesus believed, what they taught and preached, what they did when they met together, and how they interacted and intersected with the world in which they lived.  It is a statement, a bold declaration of these things, AND, it is an illustration of these things, a pattern, if you will, for future generations of followers of Christ to use as a guide for their beliefs, their teachings and preaching, their gatherings, and their influence in the world.  What is the Book of Acts?  4 things, 4 supremely important things, but, how is all of this so? 

How is it that this Book is all of this, and much, much more?  You know, don’t you, class?  IT’s because ultimately, fundamentally it is God’s Word!  It is God’s Book!  Which leads, quickly, then into our second preliminary question as we embark on this journey together: remember the question?  WHY study the Book of Acts?  As I said a moment ago, this is the purpose question, the meaning question, the reason for this study question. 

Why study this Book?  Most importantly, as we just stated, because ultimately, fundamentally, it is God’s Book, God is the One who raised up Luke, Dr. Luke, the Beloved Physician friend of the apostle Paul, to write.  And God is the One who guided Luke in his research and in his writing.  We study it, or, ought to study it, first off, because it is God’s Book. 

Secondly, we study it because it is a ‘measuring rod.’  I mentioned a moment ago that Acts is both a declaration statement AND illustration pattern.  It not only tells about the doctrine, the message, the meetings and the influence of the earliest Christians, it also sets before us a pattern.  But not just a pattern to examine, and maybe to learn all the intricate details about, but a pattern to FOLLOW, a guide as to WHAT we believe about Jesus, as to WHAT message we preach and teach about Him and His way of saving men and women and boys and girls.  It is a pattern, like the one supplied in Acts 2:42f, meant to serve as a measuring rod when it comes to what we are doing when we meet, and how we are or are not impacting for Jesus’ sake the community and culture in which we live! 

This Book is a ‘measuring stick..’  It is also a ‘pricking goad’, a sharp-tipped stick that ought to pierce through our hearts and lead us to repentance and greater conformity to God’s will, just like Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  Yes, it’s a ‘pricking goad,’ that ought to cause us to cry out, “What must we do…?”  “What does Jesus want me to do in light of who He is and what He says?” 

Thirdly, this Book is a ‘pointing arrow,’ pointing straight and true, and pointing to one ‘target’ and one target only.  Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved…” than the name, Buddha?  The name, Allah?  The name Joseph Smith?  The name, Mr. President?  My friends, ‘diversity’ may be society’s buzzword, but listen, when it comes to this Book, watch where the arrow is pointing: one name, and one name only: Jesus.  Jesus! 

We study this Book, the Book of Acts, and really, ANY portion of God’s Book, the Bible, because ultimately all of it, like an arrow straight and true, points us to Jesus Christ, our only Savior, our only Hope! 

Well now, here we are class, two minutes left before the bell rings, take out your papers and let’s grade them.  Our one question pre-test over the Book of Acts.  Remember, the question was: what do the following things have in common?  Or, what is the single category into which all of the following things fall?  1) A level 4 tornado ripping through Moore, 2) Lazarus, dead for 4 days, raised from the dead before the eyes of his sisters, 3) the granddaughter of a CCCD couple delivered from certain death in a head-on collision with a semi, 4) Peter, James and John, and the other apostles, speaking in languages that they previously had no known or studied, and the native speakers of those languages hearing it clear as a bell, and one more, 5) a CCCD member volunteering at a Robert E. Lee school, while across town another CCCD member hosts his housekeeper, both of them, influencing their friends toward this place, these aisles, and that baptismal pool.  What do all 5 of these things have in common?  What’s their common category?

How about this: Acts of God.  Acts of God.  Now, what does this have to do with our study of this Book?  Once again, what is the title of this portion of the Bible?  The Acts of the Apostles? 


The more accurate, the most precise and correct title is: The Acts of God.  The Acts of Christ.  The Acts of the Holy Spirit of God and Christ in and through Peter, John, James, Paul and all the rest.  Guess what?  I want to be ‘an Act of God,’ don’t you?  Guess what, I’m praying, and I hope you are, too, that this church will be a place full of people about whom it could be said, “Act of God!  Each one of them is an ‘Act of God…” 

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