I have to freely confess that I am approaching this series of messages for the spring and summer with a lot of angst. I have not really touched the Book of Acts since my departure from the Assemblies of God and I grew up in Pentecostal circles. It was a large part of my upbringing to believe and think certain things about the Book of Acts but now I want to look at it through fresh eyes. I plan on going in to a deeper look still with a series of posts on this blog on Acts after I finish up with Revelation but this is kind of laying the groundwork for that by preaching through the book first. In any case, the goal is to take off my Pentecostal colored glasses and look at this book not as a Pentecostal/Charismatic but simply as a Christian.
There are some practical challenges as well as the Book of Acts is long with 28 chapters and much like with King David early in the year I am going to have to pick out the passages that I think God is leading me to preach. Even so this, is still going to be long series of messages but the opportunity for preacher to go through a whole book piece by piece is priceless so it should be done as often as possible. In this case I think it will take the rest of Spring, all of Summer and probably part of Fall to finish. This is going to be the Summer of the Holy Spirit from the pulpit of Hersey Congregational Church.
The other practical problem is now I have two services. I have the more classic service with solid attendance and then the young fledgling second service with its contemporary music and feel. I basically found out the reality of these things this week as the second service had the music team plus one this week. It was not a surprise to me as I see this Post Easter letdown every year. Even the first service was down. It is like Easter counts for two weeks attendance so people take the next week off. 😉 I don’t get mad about it but this week demonstrated something I reserve when I am doing two services – I can change my message to fit the audience. In particular I altered the message for the second service to fit the challenges that service faces being brand new.
The book of Acts begins with Luke reminding us that this is volume two of his writing, the first being his gospel. I always remind people Luke’s themes sometimes span both books and really a proper study of Luke’s theology requires a good knowledge of both. The fact is Acts begins with the end of Jesus being on earth as he gives his final words and departs and so the end of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth is the start of the Acts of the Apostles.
This series of messages is however called the Acts of the Holy Spirit and mostly this is to bring out the fact that the book of Acts is largely about the third person of the Trinity coming to earth to begin his work through the church Jesus established. The odd thing is that this begins not with flash but with waiting.
The disciples ask a pretty Jewish question at this point – ‘Are you going to reestablished the kingdom of Israel now?’ They have return to the question because Jesus has been around for forty days and what is buzzing in their heads is – now what? They now see the necessity of Jesus rising from the dead but they are wondering if this is just the beginning of Jesus now finally taking over as not even being killed on a cross can stop him.
Jesus’s response is classic and probably not what they wanted to here – “You don’t need to know that because it is not for you to know.” (My paraphrase). They are told basically that is the Father’s business and not theirs. Their business should be to wait for the promise of the Father in Jerusalem. It is as he makes this statement that he is caught up into heaven and taken out of their sight. They are now alone with out Jesus to directly guide them. They need a new Guide and they have been instructed to wait until He comes in fullness.
Waiting for God’s promises is never easy and I am sure the disciples had many questions but they proceeded to do as they were instructed. If you read beyond verse 11, you see Peter guiding them into choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot and then them praying together and waiting for ten days for this promise. The waiting they did was not passive they were actively seeking something they had been promised. This ‘active’ waiting is something that I think is missing from the church. Waiting for God to move is not like waiting for a package from UPS. It is seeking through prayer and fasting and when it is a promise to a group of people is needs to be done together.
As Christians we need to heed the lessons of this first chapter. In seeking the promises of God we do not necessarily need to know everything or the answers. Part of waiting is actively praying and seeking as the promise being fulfilled may and probably will answer those questions we might have.
For my second service there was another lesson. The temptation when numbers are not that great is to try to do something to make them come up. If we however believe the promises of God for our church we need to simply stay faithful and actively wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise to us that if we gather, pray and do our part he will give the increase. The issue is patience. No farmer who is worth anything puts a seed in the ground then goes out the next morning and stands over it and screams at the seed because it was not a full-grown plant after only one day. By the same token, no group of people with a vision for ministry should expect the same when first starting out. It will come as we do our part and wait for God’s promise.