Three Great Themes in the Book of Acts
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 12, 2013
*Indianapolis pastor Russ Blowers was a member of the Rotary Club. At the club meeting each week, a different member told a little about his job. And when it was Russ’ turn, he said this:
-"I'm with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and board room on earth. We're into motivation and behavior alteration.
*We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death. We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants.
*Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking. (There's not enough money to buy it.)
*Our CEO was born in a hick town, worked as a carpenter, didn't own a home, was misunderstood by his family, hated by enemies, walked on water, was condemned to death without a fair trial, and arose from the dead. I talk with him every day." (1)
*Christians: We are part of the most important organization the world will ever see: The church of the living God! This Book of Acts tells us about the birth of God’s church. And in these opening verses God shows us the 3 great themes of this book.
1. First: Jesus wants us to see the importance of His work.
*Luke began in vs. 1-3 by stressing the Lord’s work. There this "beloved physician" and medical missionary began by saying:
1. 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.
 In these verses, Luke stressed the Lord's work. And one of the really great things to notice about the Lord’s work in vs. 1 is that His work continues.
*Luke mentioned the things that Jesus BEGAN to do. And I’ve always loved that phrase, because it reminds us that God’s not finished yet! Jesus Christ is certainly at work in our world today. And you can trust that He is at work in your life today, even though it may be hard to see at times.
 The work of Jesus Christ continues. And it is colossal!
*Jesus Christ is not doing a puny, little work in His universe. He’s doing a God-sized thing! And Luke reminds us of this truth in vs. 3, where he said that Jesus "presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs."
*The KJV says Jesus "showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs." The AMP Bible says that Jesus "showed Himself alive after His passion (His suffering in the garden and on the cross) by [a series of] many convincing demonstrations [unquestionable evidences and infallible proofs], appearing to them during forty days and talking [to them] about the things of the kingdom of God."
*John Gill explained that these infallible proofs included the fact that Jesus ate and drank with His disciples. What a blessing it must have been to eat with the resurrected Savior! Church: We're going to get to do that some day.
*Jesus also walked and talked with them in a free and familiar manner. Plus He showed them His hands, feet and side so they might see the scars which the nails and spear had made. In this way Jesus proved to them that He was not just a ghost or a spirit, but was really alive in the same body that suffered on the cross. (2)
*Jesus Christ certainly died on the cross. But He also certainly rose from the dead, and He is alive forevermore! That’s a God-sized work. And God is still at work in our world today: healing sick people, helping hurting people, saving souls, transforming lives and meeting all of our needs!
-Jesus wants us to see the importance of His work.
2. And He wants us to see the importance of His words.
*In these opening verses, the focus is not just on Jesus’ works. It is also on His words. Jesus Christ had a lot to do. But He also had a lot to say.
*Please listen again to vs. 1-3, where Luke said:
1. 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.
*In vs. 1, Jesus began to teach, and He is still the greatest teacher the world has ever seen! John Phillips said: "It was the beginning of a new kind of teaching."
-In John 7:46, some of the Temple guards who heard Jesus said, "No man ever spoke like this Man"
-And Matthew 7:28&29 wraps up the Lord's Sermon on the Mount by saying:
28. And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,
29. for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
*Jesus "taught them as one having authority." And John Phillips asked: "Where in the world is to be found anything to compare to the Sermon on the Mount? Who ever told stories like Jesus: The Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and much more? Who ever had such a grasp of the future?
*Jesus' teaching was marvelous, saturated with Scripture, pungent, understandable, practical, loving, true, and convicting. It was delivered with compassion and courage and with a total grasp of all the factors of space, time and eternity. And all was given in complete harmony with His Father and the Holy Spirit. . ." (3)
*Jesus began to teach. And He wants to teach us tonight.
 In vs. 4&5, Jesus teaches us about the promises of God:
4. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which,'' He said, "you have heard from Me;
5. for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.''
*That great promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit surely came to pass. And we can always count on the promises of God!
 Jesus teaches us about the promises of God. Then in vs. 6&7, He teaches us about the priorities of God:
6. Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?''
7. And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
*Sometimes we have a tendency to major on the minors, or concentrate on things the Lord wants us to leave alone. But the Lord has a way of getting right to the heart of the matter. The Lord has ways to focus our hearts on His priorities.
*In vs. 7, Jesus spoke to focus our priorities. Then in vs. 9-11, He sent His angels to again focus us on His priorities:
9. Now when He (i.e. Jesus) had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
11. who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.''
*In other words: "Don't just stand there gazing. Get busy doing what Jesus has told you to do!"
 Jesus teaches us about the priorities of God. And in vs. 8, He teaches us about the power of God.
*There the Lord began by telling His Apostles: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." God wants us to know that there’s no way we can do His work in our own strength. But He will give us the power we need to live for Him.
*Jesus teaches us about the promises, priorities, and power of God. There is soul-saving, life-changing, heart-healing power in His Word.
*Robert Morgan reminds us of this truth in the story of a wonderful Christian friend. Her name was Agnes Frazier. For 50 years Agnes and her husband Emit had read the Bible and prayed together most every morning at the breakfast table.
*On the day that Emit died, Agnes went to bed thinking that she could never again start the day with this devotional time. But the next morning she bravely sat at the kitchen table. Agnes opened her Bible to the spot where she and her husband had quit their reading 24 hours before.
*It was Isaiah 54, and the words that stood out to her were from vs. 5: "For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name." Agnes smiled and said, "Thank you, Lord." (4)
*That day, she learned another vital lesson from the Lord's Word. And as long as we are in this world, the Lord wants to teach us, too.
-Jesus wants us to see the importance of His words.
3. And He wants us to see the importance of His witnesses.
*This is the third great theme in the Book of Acts. And we see this in vs. 8, where Jesus said: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.''
*God calls us to be His faithful witnesses. All Christians are called to share the good news about Jesus. What Jesus said in vs. 8 was not just for the Apostles, and we know this, because they have been in Heaven for almost 2,000 years.
*What Jesus said in vs. 8 is for everyone who knows and follows the Lord. In the NAS: "You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
 All Christians are called to share the good news about Jesus, starting in Jerusalem. That’s right here at home with our friends, our family, neighbors, and co-workers: The people right here in Caldwell Parish.
*Jesus said, "You shall be My witnesses." And Rick Warren explained: "Notice Jesus doesn't say, 'You will be my defense attorney.' He doesn't say, 'You will be my prosecutor.' He didn't say, 'You will be my salesman.'
*You don't have to defend God. You don't have to be a salesman for God. All God wants you to do is to be a witness. What is a witness? -- A witness is somebody who just tells what they have seen. 'I saw this, and then I saw this; and this is what happened.' And a witness tells what happened to them.
*You see, you are the expert on your life. Nobody can be a better witness on your life than you. Nobody can be a better witness of what God has done in your life than you. So God says, 'I just want you to tell other people what's happened to you, what's happened in your life. And I want you to start with the people close to you.'" (5)
*There is a great example of this in Luke 8, when Jesus healed a man who was possessed by demons. After the Lord healed him, the man really wanted to go with Jesus. But the Lord sent him back to be a witness in his own hometown.
*Listen to God's Word in Luke 8:38&39:
38. Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying,
39. "Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.'' And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
*That man did exactly what the Lord wants us to do.
 Jesus wants us to be faithful witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea. That’s our state. And there are many opportunities for us to help share the good news in Louisiana.
 Jesus wants us to be faithful witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. That's across our country, and across all cultures. And this probably shocked the disciples, because I can’t think of a bigger religious and racial divide than between the Jews and Samaritans.
*Remember in John 4, when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well. She was shocked that He would even speak to her.
 Jesus wants us to be faithful witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
*We can go today like never before in history! And we all can’t all go. But we can all get involved. And we should get involved, because everybody needs Jesus!
*Back in 2000, Rick Warren was reminded that people all over the world are hungry for the Good News. Their mission team met with some of the professors at Peking University. It’s the Harvard of China, with 50,000 students. Every communist leader in China is educated there.
*After the meeting they took the number two leader of the university out to lunch. Rick called him "Joe". He had been a math professor there for 50 years. As they talked, Rick found out that Joe was dying of a brain tumor. At that time, Rick’s dad was also dying of cancer. So he said, "Professor Joe, my dad is dying of cancer, but he's not afraid to die, because he's made his peace with God. He knows where he's going when he dies."
*Then Rick began to tell him a story about a man who took his son and his son's 3 best friends to the carnival. He bought a roll of tickets. And at each ride, he would give a free ticket to his son and his 3 best friends. Then they would move on to the next ride.
*But about the fifth ride, he looked down and there was a new little hand sticking out for every ticket. He looked down at this little kid and said, "Who are you?" That little boy said, "I’m your son's new best friend. And he said that if I was his friend, his father would give me a free ticket." The dad in the story said, "You think I gave him a ticket? You bet I did."
*Then Rick Warren said this to the dying teacher: "Professor Joe, your Heavenly Father, God, has a ticket for you to heaven. It is a free ticket. You can't earn it. You can't buy it. You'll never deserve it. It is free. The only way you'll get it is by being a friend of His Son, Jesus Christ."
*Warren looked over at this man who had been on the staff of the leading university in China for 50 years. And with trembling lips and tears, the old professor said: "I would like one of those tickets."
*Rick replied, "All right. Let's just finish our meal; and when we finish, we can hold hands, and you can invite Jesus Christ into your life." And that's exactly what they did. Fifty years of Communist indoctrination could not fill the hole in his heart that only Jesus can fill. (6)
*Everybody needs Jesus! So here in the Book of Acts, Jesus wants us to see:
-The importance of His work.
-The importance of His words.
-And the importance of His witnesses.
*Let's focus on these great truths as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Andy Mason, firstname.lastname@example.org, "Leadership Magazine" -- "to Illustrate" - Source: "Dynamic Illustrations - April, May, June, 2001 - Topic: Church
(2) Adapted from "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - Acts 1:3
(3) Adapted from "Exploring Acts" by John Phillips, p. 12
(4) Robert J. Morgan - More Real Stories for the Soul. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, S. 7
(5) Adapted from 40 Days of Purpose - Week 6