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No Plan B (Acts 1:1-14)
Pastor Tim Vincent, Our Savior's Baptist Church, Federal Way, Wash., www.oursaviorbaptist.org (Sunday, July 31, 2011 - my notes from the 9 and 10:45 am service. I pray that they will be useful to you.)
--- How do you measure the value of something? ---
Antique Roadshow - a blanket that's been draped over a chair in someone's house for a long time, only to discover it's a national treasure: a Navajo blanket in wonderful condition that could fetch $500,000.
1999 Ford Taurus with 100,000. Before he owned it, he thought it was the ugliest designed car ever. It squeaks, it creaks, it's missing a hubcap. How valuable is it? A dealer might give $700, KBB says $1,600. But to Pastor Tim, it's really valuable. If you had to go without your car (or any replacement) for two months, how valuable is it? Our values come out in how we spend our time, talents and treasure.
Values - teenagers are used to being told things are wrong. They're in this process of establishing their values and convictions. Typically by age 25, someone has established the convictions that will guide most of their lives.
As we get older, we stop listening, we stop changing. We have a hard time facing the fact that we might have been wrong, especially if it's something we've held as a belief or custom or behavior for most of our lives. Or we rationalize it away.
Acts - the story of change. Exciting to teenagers, not so much to adults.
--- What is Jesus worth to you? ---
- A couple of Sundays a year, up to an hour.
- Most Sundays, as long as I don't have other plans.
- Every Sunday, every morning, church and an adult Sunday school class.
- I'd even teach a children's Sunday school class.
- And tithe!
- or what about your entire life? Every single element, every single second?
Jesus says "Come and die." It's tough, but it's what He asks.
He IS our life. When we understand what He did for us, it is easy to stop living our lives and start living His. And if (when) we don't, it's because we may not necessarily fully appreciate all He's done for us.
People who love and value his love actively and passionately obey his commission to go.
--- Acts ---
"...He gave many convincing proofs that He was alive..."
This is important. They saw him *dead*. it must have been mind-blowing for them. None of us has had that happen to us.
"Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Oh... you poor, silly, silly disciples. Still no clue. Pastor Tim hopes that helps us, says it helps him - they've been through all this first-hand and still, they're confused. So we still get confused in our walk. Thank God God's patient with us.
"...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
A oft-used and -misused passage for missions. Often used to suggest classes of missionaries. A guilting message. That those who don't go to the "ends of the earth" (not here) are lesser Christians. But no... we are to go. Just go. You will be my witnesses. Not my salesperson, not my defense attorney. You don't need training to be a witness - a witness simply tells what they saw.
It might be the next room, the parking lot, next door, across town, etc. We are called as His followers to go where people need Jesus.
Adverbial participle... "As you are going ______, make disciples." (to the store, to school, to work, to the gas station, the Papua New Guinea). Not when you get there, but as you are going. And it wasn't presented as an option. The action here is "make disciples" - as you are going. (Because you are going somewhere.)
But it's not easy. Most will say "I'm not cut out for that." Thank God for the Holy Spirit.
"...when they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying..."
They took Jesus' messages back to their friends and prayerfully waited for the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said "go" and they went. And it cost them their lives. These men went. We owe them our lives. They heard Him and they obeyed. If you are a Christ-follower, you have the same mission.
- Andrew - crucified
- Bathlomew - crucified
- James, son of Alphaeus - stoned
- James, son of Zebedee - beheaded
- John - natural causes, in excile
- Simon Peter - crucified, head down
- Philip - crucified, head down
- Simon the zealot - unknown
- Thomas - speared to death in India
- Mattias - stoned
- Paul - beheaded
- James, the brother of Jesus - martyred (can you imagine growing up and coming to the acceptance that your sibling is God??!?!?)
It happened and it happens today. While I sit here in this brand new building taking notes on this IPad, people today are putting their very life on the line to tell others about Christ.
People who love Christ recognize they were given the assignment - there was no plan B.
Josephus has no reason to document this:
- that Jesus was a real man
- he walked this earth
- he had followers
- they would not renounce Jesus even if it meant their deaths
- his own brother (James) did not become a follower of Jesus until after Jesus died. And James was killed for that belief.
Josephus had no reason to document this except that he was an historian. He was a Jew, not a Christ-follower.
--- God, Help Us To Be Like Stephen ---
Stephen - he understood that the church was God's only plan to fulfill His mission on earth. He had no Plan B. Stephen's mission field was his own town. Stephen was chosen for his dedication. Our problem is that we can get comfortable in our home. Our comfort makes us lazy and apathetic and we stop caring about the mission.
Now... wherever you are is home. Home is where Jesus is. What's Jerusalem to one person is Samaria to someone else and "the utter ends of the earth" to yet someone else. Sometimes it may feel harder to go across the street than it is to go to Papau New Guinea. But these (non-Christians) are a people with a different culture, belief systems, values who need to learn about Jesus Christ and His love for them. (If we truly are called "here," are we *serving* here?)
Stephen spoke up. He was meeting the needs of those in the mission field. He served and God blessed.
We "go" when we serve. We need to meet the needs of people, because the world isn't meeting those needs on its own.
"...you stiff-necked people..."
"...you already resist the Holy Spirit!"
"...was there ever a prophet you did not persecute?..."
"...you have received the law [...] but not obeyed it..."
And when they told Stephen to be quiet, he didn't. We're told that the Gospel will offend people. You know what? IT WILL OFFEND them. We should not intentionally offend - "turn or burn" is mean and not helpful. You can be nice and still speak truth. And so we become fearful and say nothing.
"Religion is a private thing.". Fine... Whatever... This isn't religion, this is salvation, this is redemption, this is truth. Don't best people up, just be true. Let God do the work.
But the message itself WILL offend, because it will ask the listener to reject the belief system and values that they've held true their whole lives.
To call Christianity bigoted, mean, intolerant - that's a lie from the pit of hell. The truth is the truth.
We are the voice of Christ. As cool as it would be to see the rocks cry out, it's us that will tell others. God doesn't have a bunch of neon signs He's ready to flick on
And if we say "I don't speak so good." we're in a really big club. It's not about training or qualification or refining their message first - it's about going and doing. But if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, it will shine through - in words, in service. You will not be able to keep quiet.
This is not my life to live.
--- Stephen Welcomed Death Because He had Already Died ---
"...I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God..."
"...at this, they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voice, they all rushed him..."
"...the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul..."
This must have played over in Saul's mind - why was this man so willing to die? Why didn't he just shut up? He couldn't.
At the end of his life, Stephen got his reward, he saw Jesus welcoming him into heaven. Well done, good and faithful servant, come in to your rest.
Problem is, most of us aren't going to need to rest because we've been down here resting. If we don't die, God has No Plan B. Instead, we will be stuck in religion for the rest of our lives.
When the youth group went to Canada on a recent missions trip, they met a Fijian named Asa. When he had departed from Fiji, he was presented with a mat. The equivalent for us would be to be presented with a coffin. They knew he would probably die in the foreign land, but they were already recognizing that he was giving up the life he had given. This was a blessing for him.
Are we too complacent here? Are we able to "go" here locally? If not, maybe we need to "go" somewhere else. If we've gotten too complacent.
"Jesus did not come to give you a better life. Sorry, if that's what you're looking for, you can go down the street a few blocks.". He came to become your life. You are His Plan A, His only plan.
It’s too late It’s my fate
I can’t turn around
There’s no fear, in the mirror
To hold me down
I’m too far, from the start
Now I’m in too deep
-- No Plan B, Manafest