Wednesday, September 25, 2013

God's Time Table - Seven Bible Sticky Notes (Part 1)

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, September 15, 2013

Acts 1:12-26, “12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it’;
‘Let another take his office.’
21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”  23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And 
he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Have you ever wondered why it seems that God takes so long, to act, to move, to do something?  And, have you ever wished that just once you could look over God’s shoulder at His calendar, His date-timer, His clock, so as to know when? 

This morning, we continue our study of the Book of Acts.  And what do we have here?  We have the record of how the Church – God’s Church – through the proclamation of the Gospel, began and grew.  We have an account of the extension of the influence of God’s Word, spoken AND lived out by the Church.  And the Church’s expansion from its birthplace, in Jerusalem, out into the rest of Palestine, Judea, Samaria and Galilee, over into western Asia Minor and Eastern Europe, then finally, all the way to Rome.  We have a ‘story’, if you will, of how both the Spirit of Christ and the Word of Christ sustained and motivated Christ’s people, the first Christians, and supplied them not only with a message – God the Father has sent Jesus the Son to save the world – but also gave them power to preach that message.  Right up front, this story, this account, this record, has everything to do with a schedule.  With God’s timing and time-table for the things He had planned! 

Now, before we move one, let me simply ask: do you know the basic details of this time-table, God’s timing of the things that unfold here in Acts chapter 1, and then, over in Acts 2? 

In a nutshell, here are the details: Jesus death, burial and resurrection, the events of ‘Passion Week’, Good Friday, the Sabbath, and Resurrection Sunday; between that series of events, located on and around the Jewish Passover celebration and the next major event in God’s time-table, the outpouring of His Spirit on the apostles, how much time elapses?  Let me give you a word.  Pentecost – ever heard of that word before?  Pentecost, it was the next Jewish feast day, on the Jewish calendar, that followed every year, 50 days after Passover.  At day 40 of the 50 day period what happened?  Jesus ascends back to heavenly glory – we studied that last Lord’s Day.  So, where does that put us as we look at this portion of Acts 1?  We find ourselves in that 10 day in-between period, looking at the clock and asking God, ‘When?’ 

Walk down through this passage with me, and let’s see what we learn, what we’ll notice as we go.  I don’t know about you, but I like little labels, brief sticky-note-like descriptions of things to help me understand them and especially to help me remember them.  Allow me to give you a few of those little sticky note labels. 

Acts 1:13 – Label #1, ‘Eleven Waiting’.  Notice the Eleven Waiting; Peter, James, John, Andrew…  Maybe like you and me, they wish they did have a window into heaven, a way to look over God’s shoulder at His clock.  But, since they didn’t, notice what they are doing.  They are OBEYING.  Yes, I know that that word ‘obeying’ isn’t actually in the text – oh!  But, if you’ll remember, the reason they are waiting in Jerusalem, kind of like Jesus going to Jerusalem to suffer, to die and to be raised from the dead.  The reason the eleven are there doing that is because THAT is what Jesus told them to do!  Acts 1:4, “And being assembled together with His apostles, Jesus commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait…” 

Without going into it too far, how much of this thing called being a Christian, LIVING the Christian life, boils down simply to OBEYING, to DOING what Jesus tells us to do?  Isn’t that what Lordship is all about?  Isn’t that what serving Jesus is all about? 

Acts 1:13 – In that 10 day in-between period, the Apostles are told to wait, obediently.  And that’s what they do!  “Wait!”  Jesus says, “Because I told you to wait!”  It’s all a part of God’s timing of things!  His schedule.  But, did you also notice – remember?  Acts 1:4, we didn’t read all the verse a minute ago.  The REASON for the wait was not just a matter of God’s SCHEDULE as to when the apostles’ work was to begin, more importantly, it was a matter of God’s strength, that they would need God’s strength to do the work!  Acts 1:4 – the Promise of the Father was that Jesus’ apostles would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a few, short days.  Verse 5 – the Promise of the Father, essential to do the work, was the power they would receive when the Holy Spirit came upon them.  Acts 1:13, what were the apostles doing in that 10 day in-between period?  They were waiting, and they were obeying! 

But, then notice with me, verse 14.  What does the text tell us about these men as they waited?  Sticky note label #2, ‘In Unison Praying’.  “These all continued in one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with Jesus’ brothers.”  There’s a temptation that comes when God’s people have to wait on Him, did you know that?  What temptation is it?  The temptation to WASTE the waiting!  Take a look again at the history of the children of Israel during Moses’ day and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

When God’s people have to WAIT, because God is working out HIS plan in HIS time, God says, ‘Don’t waste the wait!  Pre-pare by pre-PRAYing!’  That’s what the apostles did!  And, take a look.  That’s also what 3 other groups of people did. 

That’s what ‘the women’ did.  Ladies, do you realize how much Jesus did for women?  He opened the Upper Room Door for them!  They were some of His closest friends, some of His most faithful followers!  And look where they are.  In the upper room with the eleven.  No surprises here, right? 

But, look at the other two groups Luke mentions were there, waiting, obeying and praying.  Acts 1:14 – Marry, Jesus’ mother and, Jesus’ brothers were there also.  Like with these other ‘women,’ perhaps it’s no surprise that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was there, with the eleven.  After all, she had been there, at the foot of the cross and at the door of the empty tomb.  But, what about Jesus’ BROTHERS?  What do we find out the last time we read of them, in places like Matthew 12:46ff and John 7:1ff.  Where are they, in respect to their relationship with Jesus?  At that point, on which side of the fence are they as far as Jesus is concerned? 

Do you see it, my friends?  Acts 1:14 – This passage is almost unbelievable!  Why?  Because up until Jesus’ death, burial and especially, His resurrection, Jesus’ brothers are on the others side, the WRONG side of the fence as far as their relationship with Him is concerned.  Oh!  But, what a difference a resurrection makes!  Amen!  The Apostles, including doubting Thomas, they are there, in that upper room, waiting AND praying.  No real surprise there.  And, the women, and Mary, Jesus’ mother are there, too!  Again, no surprise!  But, what is absolutely stunning, and yet so very in-keeping with the awesome power of the Good News of Jesus, crucified, buried and resurrected, is that Jesus’ formerly skeptical brothers are there, too!  Critics, questioners, have you examined the evidence for the claims of Christ and of the gospel?  Even Jesus’ brothers were willing to bow the knee and call their Brother, ‘My Lord and my God!’ when they saw Him alive again!  How about you?  If there’s room for them in the Upper Room, there’s a place for you there, too! 

Our time is quickly evaporating, so let me press on with at least a couple more of these two or three word sticky note labels as we walk down through this passage.  Verse 13 – the Eleven were waiting.  Verse 14 – In unison they were praying.  Now, let’s look at verse 15.  Acts 1:15 – Sticky note #3: ‘The Brethren Meeting’

            Acts 1:15-17, “

The brethren meeting - no longer is the number of the apostles 12, why?  Because Judas killed himself.  And, no longer is the number 12, because at least a hundred or so others have seen the Lord Jesus alive and have joined themselves with the apostles as they await the promise of God to be fulfilled.  The ‘Brethren Meeting’ – I don’t know what those words mean to you.  But, you know brothers and sisters, getting together to be with each other, for all I know, you may not like your brothers and sisters, for all I know, you may not HAVE any brothers or sisters.  Oh, but listen!  The brethren meeting, though those words may not mean anything to you or may even be fightin’ words for you, when it comes to your physical brothers and sisters, listen, in the Church, in the unique ‘family’ where Jesus’ Father is also OUR Father, things are different!  God, our Father, intends for things in His family to be much different!  Matthew 23:6-12 – Take a look there, will you?  What’s different about THIS family, God’s family? 

            Matthew 23:6-12, “

Verse 8 – What’s different about THIS family, God’s family?  There’s really only ONE teacher, Jesus Christ, and we are all brothers.  Verse 9 – and, unlike in so many families, in this family, there is only ONE Father, the One who is in heaven.  So, what does all of that mean?  It means that we are all on an equal plane with each other.  We have the same Father and all of us who are in Christ are brothers and sisters.  What’s different about this family, God’s family?  What’s different about it is that those who truly are a part of it are pursuing the greatness, not of special titles or special seating, but of special, humble service.  Serving each other AS brothers and sisters, through Christ-like love!  The brethren meeting, like we are today, those words, may they never be fighting words for this family – no!  Rather, may they always be some of our FAVORITE words!  Something we look forward to and enjoy each Lord’s Day! 

So, once again, what are our sticky note labels?  #1 – ‘The Eleven Waiting,’ #2 – ‘In Unison Praying,’ and #3 – ‘The Brethren Meeting.’  Allow me to close with one more.  And, we’ll look at the rest of these next time.  Acts 1:16 and 17, and verse 20.  #4 – ‘The Scripture Fulfilling.’ 

            Acts 1:16-17, 20, “

Recognizing the significance of Judas Iscariot’s choices and their consequences, what does Peter declare?  Don’t miss this, my loved one.  The Scripture Fulfilling – Peter points out that Scripture, the nature of prophetic Scripture, is that it HAS to be fulfilled!  The prophetic word of God CANNOT – not might not, but cannot – be broken!  Because it is God’s Word, it MUST be fulfilled!  Because it is the expression of God’s sovereign will, it must come to pass! 

Psalm 119:89 – What does the Bible claim about itself?  Do you know anything about that unique chapter in the Book of Psalms?  At the exact center of that majestic 176 verse long, 119th Psalm - the longest chapter in all the Bible – verse 89, God says this about His word, “My word is forever settled in heaven!”  Because of the nature of God’s prophetic decrees in places like Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, the passage Peter perceives as being carried out in and through Judas’s actions and their consequences, the things Judas CHOSE to do, HAD to take place – why?  Because it had ALREADY been settled in heaven! 

So, what difference does that make in our lives?  Well, let me ask you this question: according to Scripture, what is going to happen to the created realm, as we now know it?  Heaven and earth is going to pass away!  All creation is going to pass away to make way for the new heaven and new earth.  What about Jesus’ word?  It will never pass away!  Beloved, say it with me: God’s Word cannot be broken!  God’s word CANNOT be broken!  It must be, it shall be, fulfilled!  So, what difference does that make in our lives?  Again, let me ask you a question: what’s going to eventually happen to your body?  Isaiah 40:6-8, quoted by Peter, in 1 Peter 1:23-25.  “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flowers of the grass.  The grass withers and the flowers of the grass fade and fall, but the word of the Lord, the living and abiding word of God, the imperishable seed by which Christians are born again, that word, God’s word, endures forever!  Forever!” 

The Scripture Fulfilling, yes, even through the dastardly choices and actions of Judas Iscariot!  Here’s the point: the difference that this Word, this eternally-settled-in-the-heavens Word, makes or can make in your life, is all the difference in the world!  Why?  Because, as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-5, by it, by God’s unbreakable, unshakeable word, you can be born again, into a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  You can be born again into an incorruptible, undefiled and unfading inheritance, reserved in heaven for you who, THROUGH faith are kept by God’s power for the final salvation that is about to be revealed in the last time. 

God’s unbreakable, unshakeable word, have you received this incorruptible, life-giving seed, that you might be saved?  Have you?  Now is the time to do so, today is the day to do so. 

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