Summary: Encouragement for a new year
Acts 1 - January 8, 2017
Turn with me this morning to Acts 1. It is good to be back with you today as we come out in a new year and celebrate all that our God is doing. We’ve had just one week go by - and if you made new year’s resolutions, I hope you have been keeping them. If you have already fallen behind, there is still time to catch back up. As we think about our goals, let’s realize that we often overestimate what we can do in a year - but we often underestimate what we can do in seven years. As we look forward, we need to make sure we are not just looking at the short term, but for the long haul.
When we think about Jesus and His ministry, let’s remember that most all of what we find written in the gospels comes from the last year of Jesus’ ministry. He has three years of public ministry, but most of the miracles and events of the gospels come from that last three years. Because we build on a foundation. Jesus built a foundation with the disciples the first years and built upon that foundation in the last year.
Some of you may just have a little knowledge of the scriptures, and maybe this year will be a year of getting a foundation in what the scripture teaches. For some of you it may be a growing year, starting to apply the truth you know to the way you live. But for most of us, we have the foundation, and this year should be a reaping year, as we see God doing wonderful things in our lives as we seek to serve Him.
But one thing that IS certain is that we will see change in our lives this year. Most people don’t like change. We like finding our “rut” - getting in a comfort zone and we like to stay there. But change is good for us. It helps us to be intentional about what we do. And this morning as we look at Acts 1, we can see that the disciples had to deal with change too. Let’s look at our passage:
Read Acts 1:1- 14 Pray
The book of Acts is written by Luke, a physician who also wrote the gospel of Luke. In verse 1 He tells that the gospel was written only with the events leading up the the ascension. And that is where he picks up the story here in chapter 1 of Acts. Verse 3 tells us, 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. So WHY would Jesus spend this 40 day period on the earth? Why not just ascend to heaven right away? He has already triumphed over death - He has already provided for our salvation - His job was finished - so why not just go back to heaven?
And I think the answer to that is that He stayed here forty days to keep hope alive! Think about the disciples after the crucifixion - they are discouraged, despondent, hopeless. But when they see Jesus, suddenly the hope is rekindled. But just hearing about a risen Jesus isn’t enough - remember Thomas, who HEARS that Jesus has risen, but says “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” So as Jesus stays here for forty days, He is able to rekindle hope in everyone He meets.
Often we lose hope during times of change and transition. Often our plans are shattered and our dreams are broken, and we need God to give us a new perspective to be able to hold on to hope. We need to be reminded of God’s purposes, power, presence, and plan.
Jesus gives many convincing proofs that he was alive - He eats fish, He lets others touch Him, we can only guess all the things people wanted Jesus to do - but Jesus makes it clear that He IS alive. He is not just an angel or a spirit who appears to be human. He refutes the lies of the Pharisee who said that Jesu had died but the disciples stole the body away. By showing Himself alive, Jesus refutes all their claims. By showing Himself alive, Jesus also shows that He has kept His word - He had predicted several times that He would go to Jerusalem, be crucified, and on the third day raise back to life again. So as He shows Himself alive, He shows that His word can be trusted. And as He shows Himself alive, He shows that He has the power over death. That gives us hope that one day we also can have victory over death.