Scripture: Acts 1:1-10 New International Version (NIV)
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.
Title: Jesus' Good Bye Promises - 1. The Promise that God has everything under control 2. The Promise of a Better Life in the Holy Spirit 3. The Promise of being able to be a Global Witness
Good morning and what a joy to be with one another on the Lord's Day!
This morning, let me ask you a question. How do you rate your good byes? Last week many of us celebrated Mother's Day with our extended family members and friends. No doubt some of us were with family members that we may not see again for many weeks or months to come. After enjoying each other's company there comes that time when some have to leave and go back home. So, how do you say goodbye? How do you say good bye to people that you love and that it hurts to say good bye to?
Chelsea Fagan penned a recent article on the subject, entitled -" How To Say Goodbye To Someone You Don’t Want To Leave." ( see ThoughtCatalog.com) She and others on that site share a great deal about how goodbyes can be so difficult. You want to say the right words, after all, it may be the last time you talk to that person. You want to depart with the right atmosphere, the right attitude, and the right mood. You want your good bye to be memorable. You want them to connote something special to both you and the listener.
And so at times you mentally rehearse what you are going to say. You want your goodbye to be just as great as your first hello. You want to tell the person how much you love them and what a tremendous impact that they have had on your life. You want to express your appreciation for just being able to share life with them.
However, when it comes to that moment, we just mumble something. We open our mouths and meaningless dribble falls out. Subsequently, we get quiet as we begin to feel the ache of our oncoming separation. Quickly, desperation slips in because we know what we want to say but suddenly it seems awkward and uncomfortable. So, we leave it all unsaid only to later wish we had just shared everything our heart was thinking and feeling. Maybe we will text or write. We will do better next time.
Our passage this morning deals with one of the great goodbye passages found in the Bible. It involves Jesus' good bye conversation with his disciples. For the past 40 days these disciples have been on the receiving end of Jesus' teaching, His Resurrected Power and Presence. Jesus has taught them about the Kingdom of God and the upcoming baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Now, it is time for Jesus to return to His Home in Heaven. It is time for Jesus to be exalted at the right hand of His Heavenly Father. Jesus' earthly mission has been wonderfully fulfilled. All that the Father had wanted Him to do, had been done. Now was the time to return and continue to make intercession for all humanity. Now was the time to say good bye.
This wasn't the first time those there that day had seen Jesus go away. After the Resurrection, Jesus had appeared to many different people. He would spend some time with them and suddenly disappear. Scripture records at least 11 different such events taking place (see John 20, 21; Luke 24; Mark 16, Matthew 28 along with 1 Corinthians 15). But this time it would be different. This time, instead of just disappearing, the disciples watched as Jesus ascended into Heaven. This time a couple of angels told them that this would be the last time they would see Jesus in this life. That the next time Jesus would return would be the end of the age.
So, what did the disciples have to say? What did Jesus have to say? It would have been nice if Luke and the other writers would have shared more with us about this day, but they didn't. However, they do share three of Jesus' Promises. They do share what we could call Jesus Good Bye Promises.
What do are these three promises?
I. Jesus shares with them the Promise that God has everything in control.
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
Dr. F. F. Bruce is accurate when he writes that the apostles maintained their interest in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God realized in the restoration of Israel's national independence. Earlier the disciples had been captivated by the thought that the their nation would be restored and that they themselves would have positions of authority (Mark 10:35ff; Luke 22:24ff).1
They surmised that since Jesus had been teaching about the Kingdom of God that it wouldn't be long until they would experience a new Israel. They had been looking forward and hoping for the day when Rome would be put down and a new Israelite Golden Age would commence. They were hoping that time was imminent. After all, who could stop the Resurrected Jesus? And who would be able to control the power of the Holy Spirit? Surely, this is the time of Israel's restoration.
Jesus simply relates to them that everything is in the Father's control and on His time table. He does not debate with them nor spend a great deal of time in discussion. For Jesus, the disciples will have to just rest and wait on God and His timing.
Today, we have many who are asking similar questions. Only, instead of focusing solely on Israel, the questions deal more with what will happen to the Church. Some are wanting to know exactly when and if Jesus will "rapture" His Church. Others just want to know when the end of the present Age will occur. Others are not sure what they believe they just want some answers. Many are just confused.
The Bible does predict that certain things and events will happen in the end times. And there are many today that believe we are in the midst of the "last days." Several have looked around and have decided that they can see the signs of the last age taking place. Quite a number believe that we are on the verge of some kind of great supernatural invasion and/or encounter.
They may be correct. However, we need to pause and listen again to Jesus' words and teaching. Thankfully, we have His teachings concerning the "last day" things in His eschatological discourses ( see Mark 13, Luke 21 and Matthew 24-25). Listen again to Jesus words recorded in Matthew 24:44-46:
Matthew 24:44-46 (NIV)
44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.
We must never fall into the trap of date-setting. It's a fool's mission. Instead, it would be better for us to heed the advice of Jesus and simply live our lives in the best manner we can through the power of His Holy Spirit. It would be good for us to be at the business of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28).
When asked what he would do differently if he knew it was his last day, Rev. John Wesley usually had this to say: "I would spend it just as I intend to spend it now."2 He would then read off his schedule for the day and be off. Wesley, like his Master Jesus, left all the last days material to His Heavenly Father. Wesley's mission was that of teaching and preaching the Good News of Jesus to the least, the last and the lost. He would let others meditate on "last day" theories and time tables.
And this morning, that is the best place we can leave such talk, in the hands of our Heavenly Father. For Jesus wanted his disciples to focus on something more important. Jesus wanted them to know that God has everything in control. Not just the things that pertain to the last days but everything. Everything imaginable is under the control and in the capable hands of Almighty God.
This morning, Jesus last words can bring comfort to us. No matter where you find yourself, no matter what circumstance we can rest assured that we are in God's hands. Our Heavenly Father is in control of everything. We can live with the same promise that St. Paul lived by:
- Romans 8:28English Standard Version (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.
Note, that is not an excuse nor does it mean that people do not suffer. What it does mean is that God is in control and that when all things are said and done, God will put things right. We may not fully understand all that even this means, but, we are instructed to put our faith and our assurances in our Heavenly Father. And we can have peace in the care of our Heavenly Father. Jesus is proof of that reality.
II. Jesus then turns their attention to another promise - Jesus Promises them a Better Life through the power of the Holy Spirit:
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
Today, so many people are in a pursuit to find themselves, to find ways that they can experience fulfillment. And they have turned to a great many things but so many of these things have proven to be just fantasies, mere illusions. We who know Christ, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit know the truth. We know that nothing will bring more truth, joy, peace and fulfillment in our lives than to experience the continual power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Noted author, Frank Viola shares with on his blog some 50 things that the Holy Spirit can and does do in the lives of those who allow Him (see http://frankviola.org/2010/11/18/50-things-the-holy-spirit-does).3
This morning we don't have the luxury of time to share all 50 things but very quickly we know that the Holy Spirit makes our lives better in these six simple ways:
1. The Holy Spirit grants us New Birth - John 3:5-8
2. The Holy Spirit leads us and guides us in our everyday Lives - Romans 8:14
3. The Holy Spirit is constantly cleansing us and sanctifying us - 2 Thessalonians 2:13
4. The Holy Spirit teaches us and aids our prayers - Romans 8:26-27
5. The Holy Spirit brings us together in unity and harmony - Ephesians 4:3
6. The Holy Spirit is constantly transforming us into the Image of Jesus - 2 Corinthians 3:18
Jesus tells his disciples that He desires them to receive the Power of the Holy Spirit. We know that ultimately, this means that they will be transformed into the image of Jesus. That they will be restored into the image of God.
It is the restoration of that image that is God's ultimately desire for you and me this morning. It is that restoration of that image and the restoration of that relationship that was first shared so long ago by Adam and Eve that God so desires. Sin has marred that image and greatly damaged that relationship. But through the power of the Holy Spirit we can possess the power over both the penalty of sin and the power of sin in our lives. Through the Holy Spirit we can experience newness of life and holiness of heart and life.
You and I can live a better life in the here and now. In Christ, through His Holy Spirit we can experience a supernatural life. We can experience a supernatural life.
Movies made about super humans and demi- gods displaying all kinds of power are immensely popular today. Both Marvel and DC comics have taken their heroes off of the comic page and onto the silver screen. Billions have been made through the stories of Iron Man, Super Man, Spider Man, Thor and Captain America. Each hero/heroine dedicated to making the lives of mere humans better. However, each time you watch one of those movies or even read one of their comics there is a universal theme that comes through that involves a great deal of violence and destruction.
For each time one of these so called super heroes attempts to make our world safer and better they have to battle over some city which results in a great deal of mayhem and destruction. Each movie and comic book is filled with all kinds of blood and violence. It seems that the only way to make our world better involves destruction and mayhem.
Against that backdrop, Jesus offers our world, His way - a way of peace, of harmony, of unity and of restoring His image in our lives. A way of changing the world through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit.
For we all know that DC and Marvel and the rest are mere fiction, mere fantasy - but as you open up the Acts of the Apostles -or perhaps better said - ACTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT - you find people being healed, lives being renewed and restored. You find societies sharing with one another and living in harmony. You discover how that sin no longer reigns and death has lost its sting. You find what it means to live a life in Jesus, through His Holy Spirit.
This morning, I believe Jesus is inviting all of us to live a better life. One that does not come as a result of seeing a movie or even taking a pill or getting a new biotic part. For when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit we have a supernatural encounter - we have the power of God Himself coming into our lives. Can you think of anything more able to make your life better than God? Is there a better life than that one experienced through the Spirit of God Himself?
III. Thirdly, Jesus says that not only can we have a better life - but it will be one we can and will want to share with the WORLD. We will become Global witness for Christ.
Jesus tells us that once we have the power of the Holy Spirit not only does it make our lives better it will motivate us to want to share that experience and possibility with the whole world. Having the Holy Spirit will give us the courage and power to share the Good News.
For history shows us that this happens when a group of people experience the Holy Spirit. History shows us that the Holy Spirit leads them into a time of renewal, revival and evangelism. That is why it is so vital that we remain in open, receptive and responsive to the infillings and leadings of the Holy Spirit in our post modern world.
Our God is at work today. His Holy Spirit is doing today what He has done throughout time. The Holy Spirit is leading His people to apply God's truths to their lives. He is motivating and leading them into a life of obedience. He is assisting us to experience God's forgiveness, grace and power. The Holy Spirit is pouring out His gifts on all that will receive them.
Pastor Frank Laubach served in the Philippines during the 1930's. During that time he experienced what St. John of the Cross would call "a dark night of the soul." He had to endure a time of separation from his wife and child due to health reasons. Pastor Laubach shares that he felt completely isolated and broken in heart and spirit. He believed he was still a minister but one that was good for nothing. He had no joy, he had no contentment.
One day, he felt led by the Holy Spirit to try a little experiment. He would attempt to commune with God as much as possible throughout each day. He thought if he just talked to God throughout the day, perhaps this would transform his mind and his circumstance.
So, he gave it a try. He would attempt to make each day a day to experience as much of heaven as possible. He would try each hour of the day to be open, receptive and responsive to the Holy Spirit. He would attempt to contemplate on God as much as possible.
At first it was not easy. He would find his mind wandering and he had a difficult time thinking about God throughout the day. But in time, in six months, in years to come - Laubach was transformed. His whole life became saturated with the Holy Spirit. He discovered that it was not his job to win the world for Jesus, but it was his job to be as full of the Holy Spirit as possible. Laubach felt that it was his job to be wrapped in God, to have His thoughts captured by God and to burn with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Through all of that, God would make a way for him to touch people with the Good News.
Was it a success? Pastor Laubach touched more than 60 million people in his life as a result of his thought life, his prayer life and his surrendered life to God. He taught them how to read and how to be able to share the message of Jesus with others. Through his continue presence with the LORD, God was able to use this simple man as a might witness. It was all through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
He did not try to win the world through a series of debates or arguments. What he did do was to simply turn over as much of his day as possible to the LORD. All He did was to allow God to direct Him and guide Him and to think about God and being open, receptive and responsive as much as possible.
Pastor Laubach knew what Peter and John knew in Acts 3 and Philip knew in Acts 8. All of these men were not attempt to argue or win a debate. Each of them were simply doing their best to be open, receptive and responsive to the Holy Spirit.
For John and Peter that meant they were able to bring healing and wholeness to a man who had been suffering for over 40 years. For 40+ years he had been lame, his feet and legs unable to carry him. That resulted in him being unable to attend temple, to attend worship. For over 40 years he had laid outside the temple's doors, but never was allowed to go in, never allowed to make a sacrifice or have a prayer of blessing prayed over him. Can you image, coming to the doors of a church for over 40 years but never being allowed to go past its doors? Being that close and yet in reality being a million miles away?
Peter and John, being open, receptive and responsive to the HOLY SPIRIT's leadings were able to be the very vessels God used to transform that man's life. Through them the Holy Spirit ushered in healing and wholeness into this man's life. Can you image the joy, the excitement and the testimony this brought forth from that day all the way to our day (read all of Acts 3 and 4)?
The Bible is full of such stories of miracles, wonders and signs. The history of the church is full of such stories of miracles, wonders and signs. All have to do with the Holy Spirit.
The real question is - is our history, our lives, our churches, our traditions - are they full of individuals and people being open, receptive and responsive to the Holy Spirit? Do we have a witness to share with those around us? Do we have a witness of God's cleansing, healing and transforming Presence in our lives and the lives around us? Are we desperate for the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives, our churches and in our world?
The world will never be reached through tired old worn out preaching. It will never be won by sad old singing. It will never be won by church services duller than a 15 watt bulb. And it will never be won by lifeless, sad and hopeless disciples. It will be won through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Over the course of his life, the Apostle Paul was attacked by wild animals, beaten with rods, thrown into a dungeon, shipwrecked and even stoned to death. In other words, there wasn't many places on his body that he did not have a scar or a bone that had not been broken. If anyone could have just sat down, it was Paul. But Paul was full of the glow and flow of the HOLY SPIRIT. And it was through that Holy Spirit he endured pain and suffering and it was through that same Holy Spirit he led thousands to Jesus and build church after church after church. What we cannot do on our own, Jesus shares can be accomplish through His Holy Spirit.
This morning, as we celebrate Jesus' Ascension - let us rejoice in Jesus' Goodbye Promises:
+Let us live in the assurance of the Promise that God is in Control - Time is in His hands. We can be a people of peace knowing that our God is in Control.
+Let us enjoy the Promise and the reality of being able to live a better life in the Holy Spirit. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to renew us, guide and lead us into the abundant life in the Spirit.
+Let us share with others how the presence and power of the Holy Spirit has been able to accomplished miracles, signs and wonders in Your life. Let us share what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives right now.
Let us open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit.
Let us be as receptive to His leadings as possible
Let us be responsive to His infillings and anointings
1F. F. Bruce, The International Commentary on the New Testament, The Book of Acts
2Ajith Fernando, THE NIV APPLICATION COMMENTARY, ACTS - page 67.
3 Here are the 50 Things the Holy Spirit Does (see http://frankviola.org/2010/11/18/50-things-the-holy-spirit-does) Google does not allow us to paste Frank's list but you can go to the site and download the list for private use. In lieu of that I have posted the first 12 to whet the appetite.
1. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
2. The Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).
3. The Spirit regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).
4. The Spirit glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).
5. The Spirit reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).
6. The Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).
7. The Spirit sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).
8. The Spirit empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).
9. The Spirit fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).
10. The Spirit teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).
11. The Spirit bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).
12. The Spirit produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).