The Great Awakening prevented the French Revolution from happing in England. As a result, social healing took place. The rich became just and generous with their resources. The poor became more self-disciplined after conversion. Britain abolished the slave trade. There were lots of reforms, and more literacy.
Do we need another great awakening today?
How would you know if it came and what it’s impact would be? The best place to look is in Acts--a tiny group of peasants and slaves had no political, economic, cultural or religious power, but within three centuries the Christians were the only ones keeping the world together.
This first chapter shows us what a revival would be like. Acts 1 tells us the essence of the original Christianity. Most of us have never seen the original Christianity. The average person today misunderstand the essence of Christianity. Because when it is understood properly it is a dynamic force for amazing change.
Background to chapter 1:
Luke wrote two books; Acts is the second. Both were written to Theophilus.
These early chapters take place on the day of Pentecost. But before that day, there is a period of waiting. There are 40 days between Easter and the Ascension and another 10 between the Acension and Pentecost, or a total of 50 days.
What were the apostles doing during this time, the 50 days before Pentecost?
1. They received their commission (1:6-8)
2. They saw Christ go into heaven (9-12)
3. They spent time in prayer (13-14)
4. They chose another apostle (21-26)
I. What He Began to Do and Teach --Verse 1-4
1 "I wrote to you all that Jesus has begun and taught."
I. Jesus taught them about the real nature of the Kingdom of God (V. 6.)
They have a faulty view of what the Kingdom of God is. If the Spirit is about to come,they reasoned, doesn’t this mean the Kingdom is going to be set up in all its political glory? Their question was shot through with misunderstanding.
With "restore" they show they were expecting a political kingdom, with "Israel" they were expecting a national kingdom, and with the words "at this time" they were expecting it to come in its completion right now. Their hope for this was rekindled by the resurrection .
They were still dreaming of liberation from Rome and the setting up of a new territorial kingdom. But Jesus tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. The Kingdom is the rule of the Holy Spirit in their lives, not the power of the sword or politics. It is spread not by force or arms but by ambassadors of the gospel. Though it is spiritual, it is still earthy. Kingdom values clash with wordly values. We are called to take this world and God’s creation seriously, which means taking politics seriously.
2nd, the kingdom of God is international in its scope and its membership. This is the missionary appeal of the gospel .
3rd,the Kingdom of God is gradual in its expansion. The "already" and the "not yet." (V. 8 ) They were to be worldwide witness to this Kingdom, this Gospel.
Newbigin writes, "the Church is the pilgrim people of God. It is on the move---hastening to the ends of the earth to beseech all men to be reconciled to God, and hastening to the end of time to meet its Lord who will gather all into one....it cannot be understood rightly, except in a perspective which is at once missionary and eschatological."
We have no liberty to stop until both ends have been met.
Our message is the good news of the Kingdom, as laid out in Luke. This was the substance of the Lord’s teaching during the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension. When the Spirit came in power, the long promised reign of God, which Jesus had himself inaugurated and proclaimed, would begin to spread. It would be spiritual in its character (transforming the lives and values of its people, who would then transform structures and create culture,) international in its membership, and gradual in its expansion (beginning in Jerusalem and spreading around the world.)
They were united in prayer and persevering in prayer. When the Holy Spirit came the mission and witness of the church was to begin and continue until Jesus returns. We have work to do; let’s get busy!
B. What he has done:
Christianity is about what Jesus has done, not what you have done. For most religion is about what we do; about being good. Luke says Christianity is not about being good but about what Christ has done.
What has he done? He suffered. Why is this important? The Old Testament is about blood atonement . There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood.
It’s not enough to be a good person. The wrongdoing we do leaves a barrier between us and God. Someone must pay. Justice must be done.
We can ask for forgiveness, but someone must pay for the damage. There has to be payment.
If you can’t run a society that way why run a universe that way?
Someone must pay for the vandalism.
In this world, he suffered; we are told what he has done. He stood before death and destruction and pays the price for us. It is what he has done that matters.
2. He showed that he was alive. He proved to them he was alive.
Jews at that time did not believe in resurrection or only in a general resurrection. When he showed up and said he had resurrected he had a tough audience to convince.
II. Why Jesus’ Work is different
1 There is a connection between his ministry before ascension and after. The watershed between Luke’s two books is the ascension.
What Luke is saying sets Jesus apart from the founders of other religions. In the others, the founders had completed their work. For Jesus, Luke/Acts is not only about His deeds and teaching, but about about his continuing ministry even after he was gone. In a sense he has only begun His ministry.
He makes it clear to his apostles, before he is taken up, how his ministry will continue through them. (V. 4.)
(V. 1) Luke does not think of volume one, the gospel of luke, to be about the life and death of Jesus and the book of Acts to be about the church. No, he sees the two books as two stages in the ministry of Jesus.
In the first book he wrote about all the things Jesus had begun to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven and in the second book he implies that he will write about what Jesus will continue to do in the life of his followers. Thus Jesus’ ministry was exercised personally, and publicly will be followed by his ministry while in heaven through his people and the Holy Spirit.
Part of the essence is that Jesus has not just done, but is still doing at the right hand of the Father. He does not go to get away from us, but to continue what he had been doing. The ascension does not mean that Jesus is no longer present, but that he is all here.
He does his work through not one body, but millions. He is present through us and in us. It radiates out of us.
He gives them and us the commission. We are called to be his ambassadors.
When you come to church, what do you expect? Do we expect to meet Him? Do we expect transformation? That is the essence of Christianity.
III. How does this come to us now?
1. We must believe that the facts of Christianity are objectively true for everyone. (V. 8) Again: this is true for everyone.
The average person searching wants to know "will it work for me?" They don’t care about everyone else.
How do you know if it works for you? Will it make you always happy? Nothing can do this.
Can you figure out if it is true? What if it is not true? What if he did not raise from the dead?
If he did not then it won’t work for you. It does not matter then. Figure out if it is true. If it is true, it will work for you.
How do we figure this out? We have to think. Read Matthew 9 and learn what this means..... Look into the claims of Christianity; go and think.
2. You must believe that it is personally true for you.(V. 8) you need power. Romans 1:17
We need truth and power. We need enabling ability. We need guilt, grace, and gratitude
Truth becomes the power.
If you have truth without power, you don’t have the truth. With truth, you have experienced transformation. A revolution in your life.
Some of you know the truth but are stagnant. The gospel has to become a power again. It has to melt our hearts again.
How will this change society?
If you have power without truth, you have domination, or you burn out and give up. You need both truth and power.
In the 1859 revival in Ireland, prostitutes got converted. Why did they go to church? 1st Business fell off in the revival. 2nd people started treating them better on the street.
What changed their lives is that people got the gospel and changed the "religious" from contempt, to love and concern.