Sermons

November 1, 2020

The Time Is Now

Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | Acts 1:1-11

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.”

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.” 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, why 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.”Acts 1:1–11

Outline

Introduction: The Point of All Time

  1. The Presentation of the Kingdom (Acts 1:1–3)
  2. The Power of the Kingdom (Acts 1:4–5, 8)
  3. The Purpose of the Kingdom (Acts 1:6–8)

Application: The Time is Now (Acts 1:9–11)

We are praying today for a fresh call of a few of you to leave all you have and go to the nations and a fresh call for all of you to be more engaged in the work of reaching the unreached.

Introduction: The Point of All Time

Today we are in Week Two of Global Focus and our first week of a series in Acts. Not only that, but we have election day right around the corner. This is in the midst of a year of social unrest and a pandemic. How in the world could all of those themes fit together? Well, I think verse 1 helps us.

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.

Now, if you’re thinking that didn’t help us fit all those themes together at all, then let me keep trying to show you. This verse tells us something important about Acts. It is “Book 2” in a two-book series. What is the first book? The Gospel of Luke. Both of these books were written by Luke—the physician we see traveling with the apostles on their missionary journeys and the one we see was with the apostle Paul in his last days in the book of Timothy. Both of these books were written to Theophilus in order to testify to the person and work of Jesus.

Luke wrote more of the New Testament than anybody else in total content. So from this first verse, we see that we are in Part 2 of a two-book series written by the same author that takes up more space in the New Testament than any other author. I want to point out the overall structure and therefore main purpose of this two-book series. 

Book 1 is the Gospel of Luke, and the point of that book was for him to record a detailed account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from the time of his birth until the time of his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Book 2 is the book of Acts, and if Book 1 was meant to show the words and work of Jesus while he was here on earth, then Book 2 is meant to show the words and work of Jesus after he ascended to his throne in heaven. Do you see that in verse 1? In the first book, Luke dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up. So what is he doing in Book 2? Dealing with all that Jesus continues to do and teach by the Holy Spirit through his people!

Do you see the significance? All of history before Christ was pointing to the fulfillment that would come by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. And now, all of history after Christ is flowing out from his life, death, resurrection, and ascension by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The very structure of Luke-Acts is meant to show us the centrality of Jesus Christ and his kingdom. What is most important in these days of pandemic we are in? Knowing this King and making him known. His kingdom has been unshaken through many dark days before. What is most pressing in these election days? Remembering that our King has been and always will be on his throne. You will not get the idea as we read through the book of Acts that the kingdom of God is dependent on any particular earthly ruler—because power is always coming from the throne of heaven. 

Now, I’m not asking you to minimize the importance of the election on Tuesday or the pandemic. I realize it’s important. I’m just asking you not to maximize it. The kingdom of God will not be shaken by the election on Tuesday. The pandemic will not ultimately undo any of God’s purposes. In the very structure of this two-part series that was written by Luke, we see how our God would have us structure our hearts—with Jesus Christ ascended and reigning as the very first priority.

In some ways, now is an inconvenient time for a missions sermon with all that is going on. How could anyone even have the bandwidth to consider leaving everything behind and going to the nations with the turmoil here in our own nation? Because Jesus is reigning as the very first priority in our hearts. There’s never a convenient time to lay down our lives, leave our comforts, and walk into danger and risk in order to make the beauty of Christ known. But perhaps if we can get Jesus centered in our hearts—the inconvenience would pale in comparison to the beauty of our Savior who is worthy of worship in every neighborhood and nation. 

1) The Presentation of the Kingdom (Acts 1:1–3) 

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.

So here we see the presentation of the Kingdom. As we begin this book, we see overlap with the end of Luke. In Luke 24, Jesus tells the disciples that they will be witnesses to the nations, starting in Jerusalem, and then he tells them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. Luke picks up that narrative here.

Many of the titles of the book of Acts say something like “The Acts of the Apostles” or “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” but if I were to name the book, I would name it “The Acts of Jesus Christ.” In this book, we see Jesus Christ from his throne on high continuing to do and to teach by the power of the Holy Spirit through his people—and not just apostles. So as we move through this, keep that theme in mind. This isn’t mainly about the power of the people we will see; it is about the power of the King from on high. Jesus is speaking and doing.

Notice two significant things about these verses. First, notice all of the proofs he gave them. He didn’t just show up once and talk to them. He spoke to them about the kingdom of God and gave them commands for 40 days. Day after day after day he spent with them. First Corinthians 15 talks about a time he appeared to more than 500 people. Jesus made sure that they had ample proof that his resurrection was real and therefore his kingdom was unstoppable. Our king is alive and well. He is reigning at the right hand of the Father. Nothing escapes his power or his providence. Our ruler remains steadfastly working all things according to his will. 

Second, notice the prominence of the idea of the kingdom of God. Here is a risen King who is giving commands. This book begins with the kingdom of God (1:3) and this book ends with the kingdom of God. Listen to these last verses referring to the apostle Paul: 

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.—Acts 28:30–31

The central theme of Acts is the King and his kingdom that comes as people repent and believe the gospel to the ends of the earth.

We have no clear finish to the story in Acts. No clear ending of Paul or the other apostles, but the last words speak to the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many think this was intentional by Luke. His point is this: The story continues. Jesus continues to do and to teach. The Church continues to pray and be empowered by the Spirit to make much of Jesus. We are the continuation of the story. This has implications for us. 

It means Jesus is our King. Now, of course, entrance into the Kingdom comes by faith in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. We will see that theme. But then, his kingship means your life is sold out to him. This is not a democracy where we all get a vote. He is a King who gives commands to his people for their good and his glory. We ought not live segmented lives where we do our will over here and then play church over there. We ought to plead for his power and his presence to make much of his Name as his witnesses. 

How will Jesus continue to do and teach in the neighborhoods of the South suburbs? Through the church by the power of the Holy Spirit! How will Jesus continue to do and teach in the nations? Through the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

2) The Power of the Kingdom (Acts 1:4–5) 

Now, obviously the task is big and sometimes can be overwhelming if we think about it. The number of unreached neighbors we have and the amount of unreached nations out there is stunning. So many people don’t know Jesus. How can we accomplish such a huge task? 

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; John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus is about to leave them. They have been taught about the Kingdom. They have been given their mission. And Jesus says, “Wait.” Why? Because they needed power. And Jesus promises them the help they need. He promises they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. In Luke 24, Jesus says they will be clothed with power from on high.

The point of this text is that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the purposes of our King—and the Father promises that these apostles will have what they need. This power is necessary because persecution is coming. The power is necessary because we cannot change hearts on our own. The power is necessary because opposition would be strong. When you step into your God-ordained role as a witness of the King—you step into hardship and opposition.

As the Holy Spirit comes in the book of Acts we see him work as people preach sermons that draw many to repentance, we see him work as miracles of healing take place, and we see him work to set apart people for mission. The Holy Spirit comes to make much of Jesus in word, deed, and mission so that the kingdom comes as people believe and submit to the King. 

So King Jesus is still working and teaching, and he’s going to do it by providing the power necessary in the person of the Holy Spirit for his people to be ambassadors of his kingdom. 

3) The Purpose of the Kingdom (Acts 1:6–8)

We see the purpose of that power in verses 6–8:

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.” 

The apostles have been through a lot at this point. So we can understand their hope that this might be the moment where the Lord will restore the kingdom to Israel. Do you ever feel that way? You just want God to come and fix the chaos in your life and give you back some control? 

“Lord, is now the time where you will make that problem go away in my life?” “Lord, is now the time when you will make this country look the way I want it to?” “Lord, is now the time when you will make my messy life less messy?” “Lord, is now the time when you will make this pandemic end?” Have you ever been distracted by the here-and-now? Have you ever wanted answers now? Have you ever longed for it all to get easier now?

And Jesus simply answers their question, “That’s not for you to know. The Father has fixed the times and the boundaries of all things. You let him worry about the timing. You worry about your mission.” What is the purpose of the Kingdom?

The purpose of the Kingdom is Spirit-empowered witnesses of King Jesus going to the ends of the earth. In verse 8 we see the outline of the book of Acts and the outline of human history with the mission of Jesus at the center. In Chapters 1–7 we see the name of Jesus testified in Jerusalem. In chapters 8–11 we see the Name of Jesus testified in Judea and Samaria because of persecution. The initial spreading wasn’t bold going—it was necessary running. And then in the rest of the book, we see the name of Jesus beginning to spread to the ends of the earth.

And here is the amazing thing about this verse. If you are sitting here today trusting in Jesus, it is because God has kept his promise to give his people power to go to the ends of the earth. Lakeville is a long way from Jerusalem. The gospel has spread, you’ve repented from your sins, the Kingdom has come to you, and now you are invited to participate in making Jesus known just as he was made known to you. And with that invitation is the promise of power. This is the purpose of the kingdom of God—a people speaking the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit so that others can know him, be forgiven of their sins, and submit their lives to the King.

If you belong to Jesus, you cannot wiggle out of this purpose. It is the highest and most pressing calling of your life. The question cannot be, “Will I participate?” Instead it must be, “How will I participate?” I said earlier in the sermon that this is a really inconvenient time for a missions sermon, but isn’t that sadly true of how we prioritize our energy, time, and resources?

Do you often wake up with this mission on your mind and the promise of his power compelling you to go? Are we submitted to our King and expectant in prayer? Are we a people devoted to the Word and prayer? Are we a people with our hope completely wrapped in the kingdom of God over and above the passing kingdoms of the earth? If people looked at our checkbooks, our social media, our dinner tables, and our schedules, would they see a people dripping with devotion to King Jesus?

Application: The Time is Now (Acts 1:9–11)

Now, hear me clearly. This is not a guilt trip. None of us is perfect. The apostles weren’t superheroes. I have zero desire to shame you into anything. This is an invitation. Do you love Jesus? Has he saved you from your sins? Do you see how good it is for him to reign in your life? Do you see how much better it is when he is in charge and you are not? Do you feel the freedom of walking in dependence? This is an invitation to invite other people into your joy.

You tell people about things you are passionate about: music, movies, politicians, food, sports, your kids, your thoughts about organic foods and vaccines, your opinions about masks, etc. I’m not telling you to stop that. I just want to ask a question out loud. Are you as passionate about the kingdom of God and about the King who saved you? Do people know that?

How many of our friends and family, neighbors, and co-workers don’t yet know Jesus? Do we feel the urgency of the moment we are in? The southern suburbs need Jesus Christ. And not only our neighborhoods but the nations. Do you know that according to the Joshua Project there are still 3.23 billion people who are not only unreached but untargeted? That’s 41% of the entire population of the world who have never heard of Jesus, and no one is planning to reach them. That’s around 7,000 unreached people groups.

We’re not thinking about reaching our neighbors and no one is thinking of reaching these nations! And the time is now to pray and plan to reach them.

Listen to verses 9–11:

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, why 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.”

Do you see the time we are in? Jesus has ascended and is reigning. One day, Jesus will come back in the same way. Right now is the time where King Jesus is still working by the power of the Holy Spirit in his people to bring more souls into the kingdom.

Jesus wins. He is coming back to reign. Our hope is sure. Nothing can shake it. He will come back in the same way. What will we be about as a people while we wait—especially in light of his clear purpose for us and his promised power to us?

We have been reached by the kingdom of God, saved from our sins, and now we are invited to invite others into the kingdom of God. We are invited, as the church of Christ, empowered by the Spirit to be a part of inviting the nations to know Jesus. Right now, I want you to ask the Lord what he would call you to do.

If you are part of the kingdom of God, the time is now to engage in fresh ways in this mission. Again, this is no guilt trip; this is an invitation to a life fully engaged in the purposes of our King. This is an invitation to be “all in that all may know” King Jesus. All of history centers around the supremacy of Jesus Christ. All of history centers around the worship of God. All of our lives—in our neighborhoods and to the nations—must be centered around these things as well. The structure of these books must be the structure of our lives. We have a King who is worthy of our praise and worthy of our obedience. We have an invitation to be all in for the sake of his Name. We have a promise of his power to accomplish his purposes as we walk in faith and obedience. And we see the great need for many who have never heard to hear—like we did—and be saved from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline

Introduction: The Point of All Time

  1. The Presentation of the Kingdom (Acts 1:1–3)
  2. The Power of the Kingdom (Acts 1:4–5, 8)
  3. The Purpose of the Kingdom (Acts 1:6–8)

Application: The Time is Now (Acts 1:9–11)

Discussion Questions
  • Who wrote Luke-Acts? What do we know about him? 
  • What does the structure of Luke-Acts—particularly the ending of Luke and beginning of Acts—teach us about the point of all time? 
  • How does the reality of the supremacy of Christ in all things and in all-time come to bear on the current moment we are in? 
  • How does Jesus present the kingdom to his apostles? What are the main points of this kingdom? 
  • Do you think of yourself as a subject of Jesus Christ and your life (in every area) to be radically submitted to him? 
  • Who was the power that was promised? Why is it significant that the apostles were told to wait until they had received the Holy Spirit? 
  • What is the purpose of the Kingdom? How are you fulfilling that purpose? How could you be more engaged in your neighborhood and the nations? 
  • What time are we living in? Why does that produce urgency for the lost in our neighborhoods and the nations? 

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