Acts 1:1-14 – We have a mission!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2012 AM
Do you remember that old TV program “Mission Impossible” and later they made several movies with Tom Cruise? How serious do you think Christians are today in carrying out the Great Commission? Do you think it is “Mission Impossible”? For some it is second nature to reach the world, yet for others they never give it a second’s thought. Why is that? I believe perhaps that some of us have lost sight of the mission Jesus commanded His followers to take up. In every Gospel and the Book of Acts we find Jesus challenging His followers to take up His mission to reach the world.
Luke, the author of the Book of Acts and the Gospel took very seriously Jesus’ call to mission. Many Bible students believe the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts made up two parts of a single literary project. Both were written to his friend Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In the opening verses of Acts, Luke summarized his first narrative as a way of reviewing his first work and introducing the second. Luke’s Gospel is all about what Jesus began to do and teach and Acts is about what Jesus continued to carry out through His followers. Jesus commanded His followers to continue His work by being on mission as His witnesses throughout the world. Let’s discover how and perhaps regain our own desire to be about Jesus’ mission. After all, we have a mission…
Bible students observe that Luke evidently used this teaching of Jesus to outline his book. Acts 1-7 describes the early church in Jerusalem; Acts 8-9 tells about Christians in Judea and Samaria; and Acts 10-28 relates the spread of the gospel as far as the capital city of Rome. After all we are reminded that this is all about…
I. Jesus’ Mission! (Acts 1:1-3)
1. Being on mission for the Lord is more than showing up on Sunday mornings! — Leeferism
1) Luke’s brief review highlights the essential ingredients of Jesus’ earthly mission, that is, the period from His birth in Bethlehem until His ascent to heaven. Jesus’ deeds and teachings were carefully preserved. As part of His mission, He had chosen 12 men to be His apostles to represent Him and to continue His teachings. The main reason Jesus came to earth, however, was not to perform miracles or to teach truths. He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Luke knew that Jesus suffered and died on the cross as the satisfaction for sin. God then raised Him from the dead. The tomb was empty. Further, He also presented Himself alive to His apostles. Luke called Jesus’ resurrection appearances “convincing proofs.” Not one of the witnesses doubted that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life. Only a resurrected Lord could truly save from sin. Acts relates that Jesus’ resurrection appearances lasted for “over a period of forty days”. Jesus taught about how the Scriptures had spoken of Him (Luke 24:27). In addition, He taught further about “the kingdom of God.” This had been a central topic of His teaching ministry (4:43). The kingdom of God through Jesus, the Messiah-King, is the opposite of the kingdom of this world of sin and death. During those 40 days, the King taught His followers more about His kingdom. Jesus was about to commission them to take the message of the kingdom and invite others to become kingdom citizens. Later on, the Apostle Paul expressed the importance of the kingdom this way: “[God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). This was Jesus’ mission! Praise God that Jesus perfectly accomplished His mission!
EXAMPLE: Today, believers need to know what Jesus did and taught about the kingdom of God so they can understand their own mission as being witnesses for Him. Suppose you have a neighbor who grew up somewhere where the Christian gospel is largely unknown, then one day your neighbor casually comments, “I have just learned that the Easter season began as a way for you Christians to remember the life and mission of Jesus. Would you mind writing out for me a simple paragraph summarizing what He accomplished and why He did so?” How would you respond? What would you add that Luke omitted or what would you omit that Luke included? Consider writing such a paragraph and sharing it with someone you know that does not know Jesus as Savior and Lord this week. Perhaps you could begin by telling them about Jesus’ mission!
Jesus summarized the Christian mission to the world with one simple phrase: “Be my witnesses.” In a court of law, a witness is someone who has seen or experienced something and then tells others the truth about it. In Christianity, a witness is someone who has experienced Jesus Christ through the gospel and then tells others about Him. But the witness must be communicated. In court, witnesses must speak what they have experienced; they can’t just be observed. Although it’s important for Christ’s followers to model exemplary lives, He has asked that they speak on His behalf. Notice, too, that this responsibility wasn’t limited. All His followers were included. We are reminded that it is…
II. Our Mission! (Acts 1:4-8)
1. Our mission isn’t to be about us, our mission is to be about Jesus! — Leeferism
1) Jesus gave His disciples a commission that showed His great concern—that the gospel witness would spread all over the world! Along the way, He provided important information concerning the work of the Spirit in energizing this task. Peter promised that God would give “the gift of the Holy Spirit” to all who repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38). Second, Paul wrote that Christians “however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9) In other words, being baptized with the Spirit is another way of looking at what happens at Christian conversion: the Spirit of God is given in such a way that the Spirit now lives in the believer as a permanent gift. This wonderful gift enables and empowers the witness of believers to the world. The birth of the church as a spiritual entity on Pentecost was marked by the gift of the Spirit (like breath given to a newborn infant) to enable God’s people to live and grow and fulfill their mission. As the church continues to grow, its continuing life depends on that same gift of the Spirit all believers enjoy that began that day at Pentecost. Notice Jesus was neither distracted nor concerned about the final fulfillment of His second coming, like so many are. Instead, the disciples were to “wait for the gift” God had promised! So when they foolishly asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He bluntly replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” There it is, our mission as His disciples is to be His witnesses beginning in our community and then going into the world! It is our mission to witness about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: It is not in the best interest of Jesus’ followers to know dates and time lines for Bible prophecy. Christian history is littered with examples of misguided persons who focused on dates and the end-time schedule. Such people have lost sight of the main thing, which Jesus declared in verse 8. As someone who used to be extremely interested in biblical prophecy, I’ve personally had to guard against being consumed with figuring out whether all the signs were pointing to Jesus’ immediate return. As a young adult, I heard a number of preachers claim that Jesus’ return couldn’t be later than 1988. In fact, one said there were 88 reasons why! Guess what? He was wrong! Then there was another round of such preaching when Y2K, the year 2000, rolled around. This was a mistake because the new millennia actually began in 2001, not 2000. Therefore we must guard against both date-setting and having an unhealthy interest in “the signs of the times” as important for Christ’s mission. One paraphrase I heard for verse 7 included the following: “It’s none of your business to know ahead of time when the end-time scenario will unfold – be my witnesses!” That’s our mission!
The pattern of beginning in Jerusalem, moving out to Judea and Samaria, and finally spreading to the ends of the earth has inspired churches, mission agencies, and individuals. The Lord expects us to be involved in local missions, regional missions, and international missions. Many congregations have structured their mission activities and budgets to include all three. Therefore, we are reminded that we need to be…
III. Preparing for the Mission! (Acts 1:9-14)
1. Our hearts will not care if our hearts aren’t prepared! — Leeferism
1) Jesus’ ascension may be thought of as a visual aid to His followers to let them know they would not be seeing Him again. “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” The cloud symbolized the presence of God. A few days later, Peter preached that Jesus had been “exalted to the right hand of God” from whom He received “the promised Holy Spirit,” which He “poured out” (2:33). The disciples waited around, gazing into heaven. I can relate! Yet just as they were asked, “Why do you stand looking to the sky?” so today some believers need encouragement to stop standing around waiting and to get busy preparing for their mission as witnesses! Their questioners were angels, who appeared to be men in white clothes. The angels confirmed that “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.” visibly, bodily, and with the clouds of glory! In the meantime, the disciples were to be busy with preparing themselves for His commission. Sure, the fact of the end-times, including Christ’s return, was affirmed, but the date was unimportant. Why? We find that after Jesus ascended, His followers “returned to Jerusalem”. The group included the Eleven, that is, the original twelve apostles designated by Jesus, minus Judas Iscariot. The group also included some women disciples, as well as His mother Mary, and Jesus’ own brothers. The most important observation for us, however, is that all these were continually united in prayer. While they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they prayed. They were preparing to fulfill their mission as witnesses for Christ. No less important today is the role of unity, prayer, and preparation for the mission Jesus has given us!
EXAMPLE: What does it take to prepare a field for planting? You have to determine what to plant, when to plant it, and how to plant it. Then you have to begin a process of tilling the field, getting water to the crop, getting rid of any trees, large rocks or obstructions. Then there is the weeding, continued watering, and keeping your crop free from insects and other pests. There is a lot of work involved, just as there is a lot of preparation for doing Jesus’ mission. What should we do as a church to prepare?
We need to think about identifying our “Jerusalem.” What witness activities have we done and could we do? Perhaps taking food to a local shelter, collecting useable clothes for a women’s or children’s shelter, or making special treats for the drug abuse program that meets in our church? Perhaps some of us could learn Spanish together in order to better reach Hispanics moving into our area? Would you be willing to sponsor a neighborhood Bible study in your home or apartment? Could your Bible study class plan such an opportunity for local witness? We need to prepare ourselves for mission!
Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost, our mission is to do the same, and we are to be preparing for the mission task He gave us! Are you willing?
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.