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ACTS 1:1-11
Series:  Being The Church - Part One

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 22, 2016

This morning we’re beginning a study of the first two chapters of Acts - thinking together about what it means to be the church - “Being The Church.”  Let me share a little of where and why we’re going there.


This is who?  Albert Einstein.


Probably Einstein’s most famous equation is what?  e=mc2   Which explains…?  The relationships between mass and energy.  Energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared.  Which all of us understand completely.  Yes?  


What Einstein came up with revolutionized scientific thought with new ideas about time and motion and mass and space and gravity.  He was brilliant - gifted.  Way beyond where most of us process things.    


There’s a story about Einstein.  True or not doesn’t matter.  It’s still a great story.  Einstein was traveling on a train one day from his work at Princeton - the same train Einstein took every day going home from work.  As the train went along the conductor came down the aisle punching the tickets of each passenger.  As Einstein was sitting there deep in thought the conductor came and asked him for his ticket.  Einstein reached into his coat pocket and couldn’t find his ticket.  So he reached into another pocket - still no ticket.  He looked in his shirt - his briefcase - the seat next to him - everyplace he could think of.  No ticket.

Finally the conductor said, “That’s okay, Dr. Einstein, I know you ride this train everyday.  We all know you.  I can collect tomorrow.”


So, the conductor continued on down the aisle punching tickets.  As the conductor was ready to move on to the next car he looked back.  There was Einstein - the great atomic physicist - on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.  The conductor rushed back.  “Dr. Einstein, don’t worry,  There’s no problem.  I know you.  I’m sure you bought a ticket.”


Einstein said, “Young man, I too know who I am.  But without the ticket  I don’t know where I’m going.” (1)


Which is so like where we can be as a congregation and as individuals making up that congregation.  On the train - in the church - same train we’ve been on before - ride it almost every Sunday - doing the same routine - going along for the ride - but struggling to understand where we’re going and why.


As a congregation - at our Leadership Retreat - Ministry Update meetings - our last Congregation Meeting - we’ve been talking about where we’re going - where God may be taking us as a congregation and what that might look like.  Looking at how God is connecting the dots for us.  We’ve been exploring “Simple Church” - Purpose and Process - Love God, Love Others, Serve the Church, Serve the World. 


It’s a crucial question for us:  “Where are we going?”  What does it mean for us to be the church.  The church in process - “Being the Church.”  What does that look like as we move forward together?


Which is why we’re looking at the first two chapters of Acts.  What took place in the lives of the disciples right after Jesus’ resurrection.  What were crucial days - foundational days for where God took the church in the next 30 or so years of church history - the church learning what it means to be the church - being the church expanding outward into the empire and beyond - even into what we’re living out today.  Very instructive chapters even for us today.


We’re together?


Please join me at Acts 1 - we’re going to be looking at verses 1 to 11.  We’re going to break these down into 3 sections.  Section one is verses 1 to 5 - which is Luke’s Introduction to the Book of Acts.


Let’s read these verses together and then do some unpacking.


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen.  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.  And while staying 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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


The writer here is Luke.  One of the reasons we know that is because Acts is volume two of a two volume set.  The Gospel of Luke being volume one.  A two volume set that the early church passed around as having been written by Luke. 


Luke is writing to Theophilus - who some have speculated that he was named Theophilus because when he was born they took one look at him and said, “That’s the awfulness baby we’ve ever seen.”


Theophilus means... “loved by God.”  Based on how Luke addresses him in the Gospel of Luke - Theophilus was probably some high ranking official in the Roman government who’d come to saving faith in Jesus but was under pressure to deny that faith - especially with coming persecution. 


Luke wrote Acts to be an encouragement to Theophilus.  This is what it means to follow Jesus in the messed up world we live in.  This is what it looks like in real time to be the church.


Luke reminds Theophilus that in volume one - the Gospel of Luke - Luke dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up... 

Jesus - for 3 plus years of ministry - purposefully moved around the countryside from Judah in the south up into southern Lebanon - traveling from the coast of the Mediterranean - around the Sea of Galilee - to east of the Jordan.  Jesus teaching multitudes on dusty roads - by the shores of the sea - in humble homes - and in the grandeur of the Temple.


Jesus - during that ministry - Jesus triumphed over demons and the forces of darkness - proved that He’s greater than Satan and his minions.  He’s proved His authority over the forces of nature - calming the wind and the sea.  He’s healed the sick - the lame - the blind - proving His authority over disease and the infirmities of this world.  He’s raised the dead.


Jesus - during that ministry - Jesus bested the greatest theological minds of His day - of any day for that matter.  Jesus has forgiven sins - claiming to be God incarnate - the Messiah.  And God the Father Himself has more than once attested to the truth of what Jesus taught.


Then Jesus is crucified - to death.  For three days His body remains in the tomb.


Then on day three - early in the morning - the women arrive at the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.  When they arrive they find the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus missing.


A series of events unfold that go on for 40 days - Jesus presenting Himself alive.  Jesus walking with disciples on the road to Emmaus - a village about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem - revealing Himself to them.  Explaining what God is doing.  Jesus coming to the disciples where they’re hiding - cowering - mourning - hopeless.  Proving to them that He’s very much alive.


Thomas having his doubts removed.  Hundreds if not thousands witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  The lives of the disciples were changed forever.  Life transforming encounters with the living God.


A picture is worth... a thousand words.  The images of Jesus’ ministry - His death and resurrection - even His ascension - connect with our lives.


Meaning that as Jesus moves from encounter to encounter it’s not about establishing evidence for what are incontrovertible facts of history.  What Jesus did is about the application of what He taught.  Bringing the reality of His work on the cross - the reality of the empty tomb - His resurrection - the meaning of His ascension - being taken up - bringing that reality into the lives of His disciples.  Into the reality of where we live our lives.


Point being that Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension are about the saving work of the living Jesus touching us at the deepest need of our lives - forgiveness of sin and being made right in our relationship with God.  His ascension into heaven is about hope - life - Jesus returning - our forever with God.


Luke concludes volume one - his Gospel account concludes with Jesus and the disciples just outside Jerusalem at Bethany - with Jesus being taken up into heaven.


Acts - volume two - goes on from there.  Its an explanation of how God the Holy Spirit works - taking obscure men and women - people like us - in the day to day stuff of life - often messed up - and even in the midst of persecution and incredible adversity - how God takes this handful of Jews in Jerusalem - adds Gentiles - and uses them in His history encompassing work of redeeming mankind.


Some time during these 40 days of appearing and teaching and proofing Jesus orders His disciples - literally “commands” them - to wait in Jerusalem until they’re baptized with the Holy Spirit.


Water baptism is like taking a shower with our rain coat on.  It’s an outward act.  But, it can’t touch the inside.  The work of the Holy Spirit touches us inwardly. 


Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is how Scripture describes the work of the Holy Spirit making us to be part of the Church.  When we come to salvation in Jesus Christ it’s the Holy Spirit who brings about the rebirth of our spirit - literally baptizes us into the Body of Christ - the Church.  It’s the Holy Spirit that indwells us and is changing us to be more like Jesus.  The Holy Spirit fills us and empowers us and gives us spiritual gifts to be used in ministry. 


Jesus orders His disciples - literally “commands” them - to wait.  Not “go.”  We’re good at going - at trusting our own whit, wisdom, and working and getting ahead of God’s leading and timing and messing up a lot of stuff in the process.


There is no way we can be truly effective as a Christian - at being the church - if we’re not operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have what it takes.  And, if we’re operating under our own power division and discord and disaster will result.  So, Jesus says, “Wait in Jerusalem a few days until the Holy Spirit comes.”


The last chapter of Acts - Acts 28 - ends with the Apostle Paul - a man who wasn’t even there at the beginning - the great evangelist Paul - under house arrest in 60 AD - Paul renting a house in Rome and it just sort of ends there - leaving us hanging - waiting for the sequel.  Which is awesome.  Because we are that sequel - volume three. 


Being the Church means we get to live life being transformed by the living God working in us and through us for His purpose of redeeming mankind which is all to the glory of God.


Let’s go on to verses 6 to 8 - which are about FOCUS.

Let’s read together:  So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


If you met someone who’d been dead for 3 days.  What would you ask them?  What was it like?  Did you see a light at the end of a tunnel?  Why did you come back? 


Jesus has been hanging around the disciples for 40 days and it seems they’ve got this question that Jesus hasn’t answered yet.  Maybe it took them that long to get up the courage to ask.  “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”


Which tells us a ton about the disciples.  They’d been brought up and taught the Old Testament.  They’d waited for the Messiah.  They understood that the Messiah would be the One who would establish God’s Kingdom on earth - the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people.  The giving of the Holy Spirit was a part of the fulfillment of that promise.  Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit.  So, this question, “Is it now?” is a very legitimate question.


The question tells us that the disciples are still thinking about earthly kingdoms and about Israel’s 12 tribes and dealing with the “nutzoness” of the Roman Empire.  Which - reading God’s promises - all that is in some ways right on.  But it’s a very limited perspective of the Kingdom of God - of what God is doing.


Jesus’ answer - verses 7 and 8 - is about refocusing the disciples towards God and what God desires to do in them and through them.  Jesus is focused on the Kingdom of God - God’s work of redeeming mankind.  A much larger picture.


Verse 7 is about Who God is - the authority of God.  Times and seasons that God fixes in place - fits them where He wills for them to be in history - because He alone has the right and ability to establish times and seasons.  God has authority to do as He wills with the history and the affairs of mankind. 


Empires have come and gone and they will continue to come and go.  The issues of man will grow in importance and fade into history.  The one constant in the affairs of man is change. 


But, God is immutable - without change.  His word is eternal.  His purposes are fixed.


In other words, what God has purposed to do as He unfolds human history is way above and beyond lemonade stands like the Roman Empire.  Way above the limited influence of ISIS and Iran.  What God is fixed to do is way beyond the power that Bernie and Hillary and Trump are vying to control.  History - times and seasons - all that is a God thing not a people thing.


What God calls us to be a part of - being the Church - isn’t about all the temporal stuff we get all “nutso” about but about God’s Kingdom - His purposes being accomplished by His authority according to what He wills and for His glory. 


Then Jesus tells the disciples that the power they need to live out the purposes of God and His Kingdom - to live being the Church - that power that we need to witness for Jesus it comes only from God.  When the Holy Spirit comes on you - because you waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon you - then the Holy Spirit will empower you to be witnesses of Me - Jesus.


Let’s be careful, the disciples are to wait in Jerusalem because Acts 2 hasn’t happened yet.  For us, Acts 2 was plus or minus 1983 years ago.  We’re being what they were waiting for.  The Holy Spirit baptizes us - indwells us - when we come to salvation in Jesus.  In Christ we have been baptized.


Bottom line point being:  The authority is God’s.  The power is God’s.


And third:  The witness is of Jesus - Good News, Bad News, Good News, You Choose.  The Gospel.  The salvation and life that God offers to us through the completed work of Jesus on the cross.  We will be - good or bad - witnesses of Jesus - those who testify of Jesus - in Jerusalem and beyond.


Within a very short time after Jesus had made this statement in Acts 1:8 - the Gospel had been carried throughout the Roman Empire.  In time the Gospel came here to the remotest part of the earth - Merced.  That might sound a little strange.  But, except for someplace a few hundred miles west of here in the Pacific Ocean - there really isn’t a place that is more remote - farther away from Jerusalem - than Merced.


Welcome to Merced - Home of the 10th UC Campus and The Remotest Place On Earth.   Remember you heard that here first.


Remember what Jesus said?  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  (Luke 10:2)


In Merced we know fields and harvests.  We get that.  Jesus is talking spiritual.  Right?  The issue isn’t the readiness of the harvest it’s always the lack of harvesters.


Point being:  We don’t have to travel overseas to get to remote.  We are remote.  We are the mission field.  Are we witnesses?


Focus:  Witnessing isn’t about us.  It’s about God who’s called us into being the church - by His power not by our whit, wisdom, and working - to witness - to harvest in His field by His power of His Son and His work - for His glory.


Being the Church means we get to live life being transformed by the living God working in us and through us for His purpose of redeeming mankind which is all to the glory of God.


Verses 9 to 11 are about URGENCY.  There is an urgency to our witnessing.


Let’s read together:  And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.  And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, whey do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”


One huge key to understanding prophecy is to look at Israel.  Not Washington.  Not Tehran.  Not Moscow.  But how does all of the chaos in the world around us affect Israel?


It is amazing.  Isn’t it?  That the entire world is continually drawn back - over and over again - to focusing on this extremely small patch of rocky ground perched on the edge of the Mediterranean?  Percentage wise - Palestine compared to all the world’s land masses - percentage wise this is very small piece of real estate.  Compared to the world’s great peoples - the Jews really are not a large group of people.


How many times in world history - times and seasons - even today - the question is how will this effect Israel?  Pretty simple:  That’s because God purposes for it to be that way.


The prophet Zechariah lived in times like ours.  Israel had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon.  They were surrounded by enemies.  The Jews were being encouraged to build up the defenses of Jerusalem.  Sounds kind of like today.  Yes?  Zechariah is a prophet of hope and encouragement in troubled times.


In Zechariah 14, Zechariah is writing of future events which are yet to take place.  Future history that we’re still waiting on.  Zechariah records these words given to him by God.  God speaking through Zechariah - Zechariah 14:2:  For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.”


For Israel its a future time of war and atrocities.  All of which doesn’t sound very hopeful or encouraging.  Not too different than today or any day.  But this prophecy speaks of God at work even today.


God goes on - Zechariah 14:3:  Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on the day of battle.  In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from the east to the west...  Verse 5 - Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!  Verse 7 - For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord…  Verse 9 - And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.  (Zechariah 14:2-9 NASB)


What God gives us through Zechariah is a powerful prophecy of the second coming of Jesus - not the baby born in a manger or the sacrifice crucified on a cross - but the Messiah -  the King of Kings - the Lord of Lords - our judge and conqueror - descending back down from the sky - at the head of Heaven’s armies - coming to end the kingdoms of man - coming to claim His final - universal - everlasting kingdom.


When Jesus comes He’s going to touch down on the Mount of Olives - in Jerusalem - and it’s not going to be a soft landing.  Judgment will come - division - people - some whom we know and love - apart from Jesus will enter into an eternity of torment and separation from God.  Those who know Jesus as their Savior will enter into eternity with Him.


No matter what the circumstances around us we need to remember that the sovereign God is in control of what will happen.  There will come a day when He will intervene with final judgment.  Jesus is returning.  Knowing that promise has some serious implications for our lives.


Reading Luke - knowing what’s coming - there is an urgency to all this.  What theologians refer to as the immanent return of Jesus.  Immediate.  Instant.  Catching people by surprise.  When is Jesus coming back?  Soon.  How soon?  Soon.   Always to be expected... soon.  Maybe now. 


Jesus - on the Mount of Olives - teaching His disciples about what was coming - about the end of time - His return - Jesus said, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  (Matthew 24:36)


The times and seasons are fixed by the authority of the Father.  The time of Jesus’ return is known only to the Father.  Not Jesus.  Not us.


Probably it isn’t like this.  It might be.  We don’t know.  But, one can almost see the Son next to Father impatiently asking, “Is it time?”  When the Father says, “Go!” the Son is gone.  The soon and immediate return of Jesus.


Let’s be clear.  The urgency isn’t about us.  Having less time today than yesterday to clarify our check lists of the events prophetic future history. 

The urgency is for those around us who are heading through life without Jesus - heading for Hell - eternally perishing without Jesus.  The urgency is about our living under the authority of God - Holy Spirit empowered - faithful and obedient witnessing of Jesus.


Being the Church means we get to live life being transformed by the living God working in us and through us for His purpose of redeeming mankind which is all to the glory of God.


In Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft, Thor Heyerdahl tells how he and a crew of five crossed the Pacific Ocean from South America to the South Pacific Islands on a crude raft of balsa logs bound together with hemp rope.  During the three-month journey in 1947, they had little control of the direction of the raft and no way to stop its forward progress.  They learned early in the voyage that anything dropped overboard was almost impossible to recover once it passed behind the raft.


Two months into the voyage and thousands of miles from land, Herman Watzinger lost his footing and went overboard.  The raft, driven by a strong wind in heavy seas, moved ahead faster than he could swim.  The  remaining men were horrified for their friend.  They tried to throw him a life belt on a rope, but the wind blew it back at them.  In seconds, Herman was all but lost to their sight in the tumble of waves.


Suddenly Knute Haugland grabbed the life belt and dove into the water.  He swam back to Herman and wrapped his arm around him, holding his exhausted friend and the rope while the men on the boat drew them back to safety. (2)


We need to feel the urgent desperation of those around us.  In a world which is very confused - fearful - anxious - where morality is relative - philosophy subjective - depression and emptiness bottomless - where families are coming apart - children are killing children - in a world where people are hungry for answers - where people are willing to follow after even the most bizarre notions that seem to offer hope - people need to know the truth of Jesus Christ.


God has placed us in the mission field.  How committed are we to being used by Him for His purposes for the Church?  Are we willing to give our lives that others might be saved?  Are we continually looking - prayerfully looking - for opportunities - to be led by the Holy Spirit - to be used by God - doing whatever it takes - whatever it costs - to share His Gospel - the resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that is offered to us because He lives?


In our discussions about Creekside’s purpose and process we’ve narrowed all that down to Love God - Love Others - Serve the Church - Serve the World.  Let’s say that together:  “Love God.  Love Others.  Serve the Church.  Serve the World.”


We’ll talk more about what all that means as we move forward in Acts.  But this morning - what’s in front of us is an example of Serve the World - intentionally witnessing of Jesus - intentionally getting the Gospel out into Merced and beyond.


We have opportunities for that.  We just finished another year of AWANA.  How many of you are part of that?  Vacation Bible School is coming in June.  You can talk to Karen if you’d like to help with that.  Operation Christmas Child comes in the Fall.  In March we had a missions team go to Mexico.  In August Fred and I are heading to Armenia.  That’s all part of Serving the World.  Merced and beyond.


We’ve also talked about our Spiritual Survey of Merced.  Going door to door with the goal of seeking to understand where people are at spiritually and to minister accordingly.


All of which might be outside of most people’s comfort zone.  Which is understandable.  But, it’s also very doable.  And, crucial.  And focusing on the harvest, we are at a point where we are desperate for harvesters.


So, we’d like to give you all a short demonstration.  Imagine the stage here is the front door of Albert’s house  - whom we don’t know… yet.  Mike and I are out surveying.  Mike has the survey form with the questions.  I’ve got an additional records keeping for follow-up form.  And this is what it looks like…


(Spiritual Survey Demonstration)

Being the Church means we get to live life being transformed by the living God working in us and through us for His purpose of redeeming mankind which is all to the glory of God.





1. The Biblical Studies Foundation, Direction / Purpose, and Leadership, Spring 2003

2. Leadership, Summer 1998


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.