It’s all about Jesus
INTRO: Good morning. What I would like to do this morning is start a walk with you through the Book of Acts. If the Lord is willing we will continue this walk throughout the quarter. I selected Acts because it speaks so much about the beginning of the church. I’m sure we all realize that this will take a number of lessons. We have possibly all read through Acts more then once and probably heard many sermons taken from this wonderful book. There is much to learn here and in a very real sense what we are going to see in looking at the book of Acts are things which are relevant for us today as a small congregation.
I’m going to begin though, by reading Proverbs 4:13 – “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.”
In April of 2011, a line of deadly tornadoes ripped across the state of Alabama, leaving some 250 people dead in its wake. Near Wellington, Alabama, the Hardy family realized the storm was coming too late to find a permanent shelter. They considered trying to take shelter in a metal clubhouse, but it had already been turned on its side by the strong winds. So in desperation, they took shelter in a small stand of trees. They tied a rope around the children and huddled around them in the trees as the storm passed. A family member said that while they had been scratched by flying dirt and debris, none suffered any serious injuries.
I want you to imagine how tightly you would cling to the rope in such a situation. Knowing that your life or the life of your child might depend on your grip would give you all the motivation you needed to hang on with every ounce of power you could muster!
Although there are no warning sirens or news alerts, each of us is living in the path of destructive storms. There are temptations and destructive philosophies abounding around us, and if we do not have a secure place of protection, we will be destroyed.
Because the Word of God is so readily available to us, we often take it for granted rather than treasuring it as the precious resource it is. When you view the Bible as a lifeline designed to keep you safe through the storms of life, you begin to take it more seriously. One of the great teaching books in the bible to equip us to face these storms is the Book of Acts.
We’re going to begin by reading Acts 1:1-3 – “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”[NKJV]
I. Most Biblical scholars will agree that the Book of Acts was likely written by Luke.
Luke begins by saying, “In my former Book” as the NIV puts it. In other words, he’s going to get our minds focused back to his gospel account of Jesus Christ.
A. Who is Luke? Luke is a doctor or a physician as some translations have it. We know this because Paul tells us.
1. After writing to the church at Colossae, Paul when he closes his letter to them, tells us in Colossians 4:14 – “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”
2. When we read Luke’s gospel account we can see that he had a very special interest in sick people and their diseases. It is Luke who records Jesus’ healing of Simon’s mother-in-law who had a high fever in Luke 4:38-39. It is also Luke who records Jesus’ healing of the man who was covered with leprosy in Luke 5:12. It is Luke who records Jesus’ healing of the man with the shriveled right hand in Luke 6:6.
3. The list could go on and on but the point is that Luke took a special interest in the health of people because he was a physician.
B. We also know that Luke was a great companion of Paul as Paul tells us in Philemon 24 and 2 Timothy 4:9-12 where Paul tells Timothy; “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica, Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” Luke is the author of the Book of Acts. He was a doctor and worked very closely with the apostle Paul.
1. Do you remember in Acts 16 after Paul received a vision from God about a man in Macedonia who wanted Paul to go over and help? The Bible says in Acts 16:10 – “10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” The ‘we’ and the ‘us’ in that verse are referring to Luke and Paul.
2. I don’t want to quote all the scriptures in the Book of Acts which refer to Luke and Paul because I want us to take a look at someone else.
II. When reading any letter we not only need to understand who wrote it but we also should observe to whom it was written, and in Acts 1:1 we find it is written to someone named Theophilus.
A. Who is Theophilus? His name means ‘one who loves God’ but when Luke writes his gospel, Luke addresses him in Luke 1:3 as ‘most excellent Theophilus’.
1. I found this interesting because when we look at other people in the Bible with the title "most excellent," or in some cases translated as “most noble”, they are usually people who are a part of the Roman government.
2. Luke addresses the Roman governor Felix this way in Acts 24:3. When the apostle Paul was standing in front of Festus, giving his testimony, Paul addresses Festus and calls him ‘most excellent Festus’ in Acts 26:25.
3. Since Luke addresses Theophilus as ‘Most excellent’ it suggests that he has a position of high ranking of some sort.
B. I don’t know about you but I still love receiving mail in my mail box. Well letters anyway, bills not so much. When I look at a letter I can tell who it is addressed to and who it is from, but it’s not until I actually read the letter that I find out what it’s about. So far we know it was Luke who wrote this letter and he wrote it to man named Theophilus but we also need to ask ourselves why it was written.
III. Luke begins his Letter by writing in Acts 1:1 – “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,”. The beloved physician, as Paul describes him, seems to have thought of Acts as a continuation of his account of the works and words of Jesus Christ.
A. We live in a society today where many people think that the ‘church’ is a place you go to on Sunday mornings to worship God.
1. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:24 that the church is the body of Christ. We’re all a part of the body of Christ which is the ‘church’. When Saul of Tarsus was going around persecuting the ‘church’, Jesus asked him in Acts 9:4 - "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" In a very real sense then, the works of the church could be described as the works of Christ.
2. The point is this, Luke wrote the letter of Acts because it gives his readers an overview of the workings of Jesus for the thirty years following His resurrection. In other words the Book of Acts lets us see the fulfillment of Jesus’ coming in the first place.
B. In Luke 19 Jesus tells Zacchaeus (zah-KEE-us) the very reason why He came to earth. Jesus said in Luke 19:10 – "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost". We discover as we go through this letter of Luke’s, a detailed and pictured account of that happening. Let me tell you about two guys who were out walking their dogs one day and one says to the other, “Look at that forest over there.” His friend said, “What forest? I can’t see anything but trees!”
1. We can’t read through the Book of Acts and not see Jesus saving people. We can’t miss seeing some people choosing to remain lost in their sins. On the Day of Pentecost for example we read in Acts 2:41 that Jesus saved 3000 souls from their sins. In Acts 2:47 we read about even more souls being saved by Jesus.
2. These figures also tell us that many more people decided to remain dead in their sins. We are not told how many but the language implies there were more souls who rejected Peter’s message and chose to remain in sin.
3. Another example is found in Acts 4:1-4 - “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.” [para]
4. 5000 souls were added to the Lord’s church that day but how many chose to remain in their sins? We just don’t know.
C. The Book of Acts not only shows us many people choosing to reject the gospel and so remain in their sins, but the Book also shows us many people responding in humble obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we see is a picture of Jesus seeking and saving the lost by the Holy Spirit’s working through the apostles.
IV. I wonder, do you notice anything significant about Acts 1:1? He says, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” Luke begins by telling us about the things which Jesus did first, and then he mentions the things that Jesus said. It is significant to me that he would mention actions first, and then words.
A. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:21-22 – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth'';” Unlike those of us who sin, Jesus' actions were consistent with His preaching. Not only were they consistent with His preaching they underlined His teachings. In other words, Jesus preached what He practiced. His actions and His words were completed on the day He ascended into the heavens to be seated on the right hand of the Father. What Luke is doing here following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is setting the stage for the rest of the Book of Acts.
1. Many people have computers today. Anyone who has ever used a spell checker on a computer or smart phone has seen some of the insane recommendations a spell checker will make for seemingly common words that, for some reason, were not included in the checker's dictionary.
2. Let me give an example. A Lutheran Bishop, James Rave, was writing a column focusing on the need to lift up the name of Jesus in the marketplace. When he had finished typing the words into his word processor, he ran a spell check. The program stopped at the word "Jesus" with the comment, "Does not exist." This prompted a later column in which the bishop reminded his readers "Jesus does not exist in anybody's vocabulary, including a spell-checker's, until you intentionally insert it."
B. We cannot truly understand the Book of Acts until we understand just exactly who Jesus Christ is. Many people do not believe that Jesus Christ existed. Even more importantly some people, who do believe He existed, don’t truly understand just exactly who He is.
1. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He was there in the beginning of creation. Remember in Genesis 1 after God created everything in the universe? He created everything and said, “It was good.” He said in Genesis 1:26 - "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."[para] Jesus Christ was there in the beginning.
2. If we fast forward a few thousand years we will see that He was also present among us.
C. In John 1:1-4 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The same God who created the heavens and the earth also walked among the men He created, on the earth He created. John says the Word was God and all things were made through him.
1. When we look at John 1:14, John says that, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus was God in the flesh.
2. When Luke refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, he’s referring to the same Lord Jesus Christ who was there at the very start of all things. 74 times the name Jesus is found throughout the Book of Acts. 24 times the name Christ is mentioned throughout the Book of Acts. 102 times the name Lord in reference to Jesus Christ is mentioned throughout the Book of Acts.
3. I don’t often look at frequency of occurrence but I find this something to consider. If our Lord Jesus Christ is Luke’s favorite topic, then we should consider the question, why.
V. If we know that Jesus was there in the beginning and we know He became human and walked among us, we also need to understand that He is going to be the One who will meet us when we die. Hebrews 9:27 – “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”[para]
A. Paul said concerning Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11 - “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[NKJV]
1. There is a time coming when everyone on this planet past and present, every demon in hell is going to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was there in the beginning and Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, who walked among us.
2. There is something else that every human being and demon in hell is going to do. All are going to say 4 little words. All are going to confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. It’s not a question of ‘if’ it’s a question of ‘when.’
B. In Acts 1 when everyone was mesmerized with Jesus going back to heaven, two men stood by them in white apparel and said in Acts 1:11 - "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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." There is a promise that Jesus Christ is coming back.
C. When Paul was speaking with the philosophers in Athens in Acts 17. He references their altar “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”. Paul says to them in Acts 17:29-31 - "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
1. A time has been set when Jesus will return and He will judge us, everyone... past and present. Folks, there is something else; you don’t want to wait until judgment day to confess Him as Lord. You need to confess Him as Lord of your life before the judgment. You also need to know that calling Him Lord doesn’t mean anything unless that confession affects your life.
2. Who’s your lord? Is it money? Is it your husband or wife? Maybe it’s your job! I mean who or what has control over your life?
VI. Paul says in Galatians 5:16-21 - “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
A. When you confess Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, you’re confessing that Jesus Christ has first place in your life. You’re confessing that He is in control of your life.
B. We need to show the world that He is in control of our lives. How do we show the world that He is in control?
1. Following on in Galatians 5:22-26 - “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”.
2. If Jesus Christ hasn’t got complete control of your life, then the parts which are not under His control you need to eliminate and give Jesus total control.
C. Just like the apostles, we rely on the Spirit to help us live by the Spirit. It’s by the power of that same Spirit that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Listen to how Paul begins his letter to the Lord’s church in Rome. Romans 1:1-4 - “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
D. Luke also tells us that Jesus gave His disciples instructions through the Holy Spirit. Again in Acts 1:1-2 - “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”
1. The apostles were the ones who received those instructions from the Christ. Why the apostles? It’s certainly not because they were more intelligent than anyone else. It wasn’t because they were stronger in the faith or better in debate than anyone else or not even because they had seen Him alive after His death and burial. A lot of people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection.
2. Paul tells us that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 - “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.
3. There were hundreds of witnesses who saw Jesus after His resurrection. The reason Jesus chose these men was because they had spent a lot of time with Jesus while His work was being done here on earth. What was Jesus doing with them during their time together? He was teaching them the truth concerning His kingdom.
4. In Acts 1:3 - “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” [para] For forty days, the resurrected King taught His chosen apostles important truths concerning the kingdom of God. In other words He was teaching them about the church.
E. When Jesus is speaking to His disciples before His death, He says to them in John 16:12-13 - "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come”. Jesus spoke to His apostles through the promised Holy Spirit.
A man named Anton Radevsky created a series of pop up books, one of which has famous buildings inside which pop up when you open the pages. He has a pop up of the famous Tashmahal and Roman coliseums etc. and it is just amazing seeing these things pop up. When I was younger I used to love pop-up books which told a story itself. You would turn one page and find a huge mountain with birds flying over it. You could turn another page and see dinosaurs roaming around some remote island.
The Book of Acts reminds me of that in a way. Every page you turn to, Jesus Christ just pops-up and hits you right between the eyes. In the truest sense, we can honestly see in the Book of Acts, the acts of Jesus Christ, as seen in the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles.
You see folks, the Book of Acts really is all about Jesus.
Will you say ‘Yes’ to Jesus today and call Him ‘Lord’ of your life?
Will you be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins like those we read about in the Book of Acts did?
You see when you do these things you will not only receive the forgiveness of your sins, but you will also receive what Peter tells us in Acts 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
You cannot live by the Spirit until you possess the Spirit.
God bless and thank you for taking the time to grow with me in our understanding of God’s Word.
Reference Sermon: Mike GloverPrint
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