Summary: How a law of physics can keep us from fulfilling the Great Commission
Good morning. I invite you to turn to Acts chapter 1 this morning.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to Israel, you will see, all over Jerusalem, a very distinctive cross. It is called the Jerusalem Cross. It has been associated with Jerusalem ever since the Middle Ages, when it was adopted by Crusaders as the flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem around 1250 AD.
I bought a Jerusalem Cross necklace when I was there two years ago, and I’ve not taken it off since. And I don’t plan to. And I’ll tell you what sold me on it.
We were in a gift shop in Bethlehem, and I was looking at a display of jewelry because I wanted to get something for Trish. And the man behind the counter asked me if I knew the symbolism of the Jerusalem cross. I didn’t. He said that it represents the five wounds Jesus received on the cross—two hands, two feet, and the spear in his side.
But he also said that it represents the four quarters of Jerusalem. Since the 19th century, the Old city of Jerusalem has been divided into the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Arminian Quarter, and the Christian Quarter. And Psalm 122:6-7 tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for everyone who lives within her walls.
But here’s what made me buy my cross for Trish from this guy. And if you do get to go to Jerusalem, and you’re in the market for a Jerusalem Cross, don’t buy one from anyone who doesn’t tell you this part of the story: the jeweler in Bethlehem said, “But for Christians, the Jerusalem Cross also reminds us that Christianity began in Jerusalem with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. But Jesus told his disciples to take his disciples to the four corners of the world.”
And I was like, sold. Because I need a reminder that the gospel was never meant to stay in one place.
Today as we continue our series about shifts we need to make in our personal lives and in the life of our church as we follow God’s plan for our lives, I want to talk about SHIFTING into action. Because from the very beginning, God’s plan was never for the church to stay in one place. So we are going to look at what God’s plan has been for his people from the very first pages of Scripture. But we are also going to look at why that plan gets sidetracked so often. Why do we have such a hard time putting God’s plan into action? And I want to close our worship service by calling us all to shift into action by doing one simple thing this week.
So we are in Acts chapter 1. Acts is really volume 2 of Luke’s story of Jesus. Luke was a Gentile—a non-Jewish writer who set out to write a complete, orderly account of the ministry of Jesus and the activity of the early church. He writes his gospel for a guy named Theophilus, who many scholars believe was a wealthy Gentile who actually commissioned Luke’s biography and may have even funded his research. The gospel of Luke ends with the resurrection of Jesus. At the end of Luke, Jesus’ gives some final instructions to His disciples. He says, (Luke 24:47):
47 repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [My] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Now, just pretend for a minute that the New Testament books were in a different order, and instead of having John in between Luke and Acts, you could just turn the page and go straight from part 1 of Luke’s account to part 2. Here’s what you would find at the very beginning of Acts. And if you are physically able, please stand to honor the reading of God’s Word:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”