Summary: This sermon is the first in a series which looks at the Church of Acts and challenges modern-day Christians to take their faith to the edge!
Folks, why are you here this morning? I mean, honestly, what brings you to this place? What makes you want to get up and come here and spend an hour sitting in that uncomfortable pew? Is it the opportunity to see your friends and family? Is it your belief that by doing so you’re fulfilling your obligation to God for the week? Is it an attempt to feel better about yourself? Why are you here? And what difference does this solitary hour make in your week? What good does it do?
This morning I want to begin a series with you on the topic of discipleship. We’re going to be looking at the book of Acts in the New Testament for a few weeks and I want to spend some time with you discerning exactly what the purpose of the church is and how you and I as members of the church, as a part of the body of Christ, as the church is called, are to be carrying out our existence.
You see, I believe that the church has long since ceased being the church that existed in the New Testament. It has long since, in many cases, ceased to be the thing which Jesus desired. It has long since ceased offering the power that can and should be ours as children of God. The church in most cases is no longer the vessel of transformation and hope that God wants us to be. Instead we have become an institution. An institution that is stuck in the past and one which fosters mediocrity and stagnant living.
As we begin to look at the book of Acts we are quickly going to discover a community which is much different than any other community you’ve ever seen or been a part of. We’re going to find a group of people, who while they had their struggles and their faults, were in touch with God’s purpose for their lives. This group of people lived their lives in such a way that they were the catalyst for transformation in the lives of those around them.
Over the next few weeks as we delve into the purpose of the church and our role as disciples, or followers of Christ, I want you to seriously pray about what God would do in this place. I want you to get on your knees and plead for God’s direction, for God’s vision. For God’s leading as we move forward into the future that God desires for us. We have the potential to transform this area. We have the opportunity to be a source of renewal for the exhausted; a source of hope for the disillusioned; a source of peace for the troubled; and a source of healing for the broken. But until we recognize that opportunity, and radically follow Jesus Christ where he would lead us, that transformation will not occur. Pray that God will continue the good things He has begun in and through this congregation and that we will be able to be used in extraordinary ways to reach the world around us.
The first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels as they are called, tell us the story of Jesus. We spend a lot of time in them learning from Jesus, sitting at his feet, hearing his parables, and we focus the high points of our year (Christmas and Easter) in those books. But it is the book of the Acts of the Apostles that urges us to become more than spectators, to take what Jesus has taught and make it real in our world. It is the book of Acts which depicts real people, people who do not have Jesus physically present with them, living real lives, struggling with the same things with which we struggle and endeavoring to be the people that Christ called them to be. That’s why this book is so practical to us as we seek to follow Christ.
If you’ll open your Bibles with me to the book of Acts you’ll find in the first verse a reference to the author’s “first book”. The author of this book is Luke who also wrote the Gospel which bears his name. He says to us that he wrote about all that Jesus did and taught until he was taken up into heaven. He goes on to say that Jesus gave the disciples instructions to stay in Jerusalem and wait (verse 4 tells us) for the promise of the Father, a promise that we’ll talk about next week. Verse 5 tells us that while the disciples had been baptized with water, the same baptism that Jesus himself had received from John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, they soon would be baptized by the Holy Spirit.
Like little children, the disciples are anxious to find out what this gift was and they thought that perhaps it was going to be Jesus’ bringing God’s kingdom back to Israel; they thought that maybe this would be the second coming Jesus had promised, but Jesus basically says to them in verse 7 that the timing is none of your business, rather God’s. In a moment I want to focus on this next verse where Jesus instructs the disciples to be his witnesses, but let’s quickly skim the remainder of the fourteen verses.