Jesus ascends up into heaven before the disciples eyes, they stand amazed looking up into the heavens and have two angels address them saying; “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 1:11)
These are momentous days! The early prototype church has watched Jesus ascend into heaven, they devoted themselves (men and women) to corporate prayer seeking God’s wisdom (vs14), they’ve had one of the original 12 exposed as the betrayer of Jesus and then everyone became aware of how he died in the field he obtained with the ‘reward of his wickedness’ (vs 18).
The prototype church need leadership. You can almost hear the questions; ‘What should we do now?’, ‘Jesus has left…and told us to wait’, news of Judas’ death was probably raising questions within the prototype community of faith concerning who they should replace him with…?
Peter stands up and points them back to the OT Scriptures (Psalms 69 & 109) seeking to explain what’s just happened with Judas. Seeking to help them to discern God’s will now and then Peter leads them off the back of those Scriptures and makes a suggestion that they should seek a man who has been a witness of Jesus’ to replace Judas (vs21-22).
The congregation of 120 disciples agree with Peter’s leadership proposal and they put forward two men who satisfied the requirements Peter had proposed (wonderful example of leadership, collaboration and followership).
Then wonderfully the church prays (vs24-25) that God would show them who He has chosen to replace Judas as one of the 12 apostles;
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
Yes – to devotion to prayer
Yes – to dedication to Scripture for guidance for life
Yes – to leadership, collaboration & followership
Yes – to corporate faith-filled prayer and the desire for God to reveal His will
And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles (vs26)
They prayed and then cast lots, rolled the dice as it were! This was an accepted practice in the Old Testament (see Proverbs 16:33, Leviticus 16:8 & Numbers 26:55) and they had prayed and asked God to show them His will, and God can control the outcome of a cast lot – but seriously!
This is never repeated in the NT as a method for leadership appointment or decision making so what can we make from this?
After all they have done that is a great example for us to follow, throwing lots was actually the best they could do in the absence of Jesus and prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! The Helper who was still to come, who is clearly involved in leadership appointments and deployment later in Acts 13:2 & Acts 20:28?
Dr Luke’s account of the early church has only just began but we are off to a rollicking start! What an example they are for us. Prayer, preaching, leadership saturated with God’s word, followership, more prayer and a desire to be lead by God… May we be like them individually and corporately!
And may we who have the help of the Holy Spirit, ask Him, be lead by Him and obey His leading in our everyday lives and churches!
Picture the scene, the disciples (who by now are a core group of 120 men women and children, no more than an average size small church) have had a wild, exhilarating & challenging last three years with Jesus leading them. So much has happened!
Jesus taught and performed countless miracles, engaged with countless people but then dies at the hands of the Romans on the cross but then rises again from the dead as He promised He would! Jesus then re-appears to them at many times and in many ways over a remarkable period of 40days after his death & resurrection and before His ascension into heaven (vs3). Who would have missed out on those meetings?
During this time Jesus kept telling them about his kingdom. Telling them what His kingdom was like, what people who have Him as their king are like, what a community of people with Jesus as their king are like, how Jesus wants them to take His kingdom rule and reign and invade the known world setting people free from the kingdom of darkness and bringing them into His gloriously good kingdom characterised by grace & love, healing and wholeness, joy and peace with God.
At one time Jesus draws them all in and tells them all to;
‘wait for the Promise of the Father…John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’ (vs4-5).
And after some questioning from those gathered which just reveals how little they were getting at the time Jesus carries on with what He was saying;
“…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 (vs8)
Something had been promised by Jesus (see John 14-16) and by the Father (Joel 2:28-32) that was about to happen, to be fulfilled! The disciples were instructed to wait for it. They were not to proceed until they had been totally filled to overflowing with the presence and the activating power of the Holy Spirit.
That in-filling of power from God would activate them as Jesus’ agents in the world, sent by Him to bring His kingdom to all those they met right there in Jerusalem, in the surrounding regions too and ultimately to the very ends of the earth! (vs8)
This book we’re reading in July/August is the eyewitness account of what those 120 did once they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and as they obeyed Jesus command to be His witnesses to the world.
So what relevance does this have for you and for me?
Ask: You have been walking with Jesus, you have put your faith in Jesus like they had. They were told to wait until they had received an out-pouring of Holy Spirit power on their lives that would activate and enable them to be Jesus’ agents in the world! Have you prayed and asked God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you too can be activated for God’s mission through you? Pray now, ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit for power to be an agent of Jesus’ today.
Consider: This book is not some nice church history, some nice stories of the early church. This book is not meant to be exceptional but rather an example of what God wants our lives and our church to be like and to do for God in our day. There were just 120 in that room listening to Jesus, no more than most little local churches but consider what God did through them!
Pray: Oh, Lord do it again through us, through me! Fill us, fill me with your Holy Spirit, with Your power and glory and send us, send me out on Your mission to the world.
In Colossians 3:1-17 we find a vision for an incredibly amazing church. A church where the people are living out holy lives in response to the wonder of the Gospel of Jesus. They have and are putting to death old sinful life-patterns which affect their attitudes, actions, speech & behaviour (vs5&7-9). They are living in a right reverent fear of their awesome God who is holy and yet their Father (vs6). These people in this church have put on the new nature that is theirs as the children of the living God – they are beginning to look more and more like their Saviour – Jesus.
This church is a multi-cultural church, a community of faith that has formed because of the Gospel. They have come from all walks of life but have all been united in their common need and their common faith in Jesus who answers all their sin-problems (vs11)!
These people know that God literally chose them to be His beloved children, His holy ones on the earth (vs12). They live with this truth shaping their thinking and their lives. They were chosen to be holy ones, chosen as sons and daughters of the most High God. And because of this knowledge, these people live differently!
They are confident because of God’s love and yet humble and compassionate & kind because they know God loved them when they were unlovely. They love others, are gentle, patient and forbearing with one another because that is how God has treated them (vs12). They don’t hold on to wrongs done to them but forgive one another because they know that they have been forgiven (vs13)!
This church is characterised by love, pulsing through everything that’s done and said and this results in a deep community and a deep unity and peace in their community in spite of their diversity (vs14-15). The people of this church are characterised not by anxiety and worry but by peace that comes from knowing that your Saviour holds the whole world in His hands (Colossians 1:15-20)!
These people are a gospel-centred people in that they are supremely grateful to God. Thankfulness saturates everything because they keep looking back at who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them and that discipline fills them continually with thanks and praise and faith for the future, that thanks glorifies God and fuels their worship and the lives (see thanks 3x in vs15,16,17).
They are a Scripture-saturated people! They love God’s word, read and honour God’s word by obeying it. The Scriptures form the basis of their conversations, their relationships, their counsel and their worship. They aren’t just taught by preachers but in fact they all teach each other continually from the Scriptures in TRIO’s and Community Groups(vs15-16).
Worship, songs of thanks, songs that tell of the greatness of God and express praise that makes Him the centre and their preoccupation are forever in their hearts and on their lips (vs16). In fact they’ve turned anything and everything in their life into worship as they do everything from a place of wanting to represent Jesus, to bring Him honour – whether they are employing people, studying, working for someone, being a husband or a wife or a neighbour… They do everything for Christ and in the power of Christ knowing that they are His ambassadors in the world (vs17).
What a church! Where do I find such a church?
You don’t find one, you and I all make one! You and I and others all saved and rescued by Jesus together form a community, work out our salvation, keep Jesus the centre, saturate ourselves with Scripture, and keep being transformed by the incredible power of the Gospel and then this is the type of incredible church that will form! Don’t look for a church like this – play your part in making one!
I invite you to track with our church through the month of February as we read the book of Nehemiah…
Nehemiah is the Old Testament narrative history of God’s people in the time of Nehemiah as they under Nehemiah’s leadership they came out of Babylonian captivity (which had lasted 70yrs) and rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem thereby restoring life back to the capital city of the Promised Land.
As we read the book of Nehemiah it’s important to know the context. God’s people had repeatedly sinned, and although God had told them through many of the OT prophets that if they don’t repent from their sin He would punish them – they continued in their sin.
Eventually God judged their sin by exiling His people to Babylon, however God’s justice is restorative because God is just and God is love. He is not one or the other but both always.
Because of this, God’s plan was to redeem His people, and so God promised through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10-14) even before they went into exile that He would restore Israel to the Promised Land after 70yrs of exile.
In the book of Nehemiah we witness that restoration starting as a group of people under Nehemiah’s leadership return to broken down Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the fortified wall that was so essential to the restoration of normal life in Jerusalem.
Through the book we will discover that a work of God like this requires good leadership who will follow God, requires people who follow God’s leaders, and people who have faith. We learn that restoration will often not be easy and we learn that doing what God wants often faces tough opposition.
Finally, we learn that restoration is not just a physical thing but ultimately is about our restoration back to right relationship with God!
As you read the book this month, my prayer is that you’d grow in your knowledge God and His ways. May you grow as you read the testimony of these God followers and their journey of redemption challenge and restoration.
Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.
“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.
And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.
And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!
Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.
Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.
Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)
Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)
Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)
Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!
Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)
Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…
Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)
But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.
Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)
Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)
And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.
Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)
The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning
Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)
Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life! Behold your King!