Tomorrow 2007 will be thrust upon us, and there isn’t anything that we can do about it. The calendar will turn, time marches on, and it is not subject to mankind’s influence in any way. We can say time seems to drag when things aren’t going our way, or we will say that time flies when we see something wonderful come to an end. The days march forward. The things of Christ, the Christian and the church are to be marching forward too. We sing songs like Marching to Zion, Onward Christian Soldiers, and Lead on O King Eternal. The Bible is replete with admonitions to go forward for the cause of Christ.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Phil 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Going Forward in the Old Paths. Progressing without being progressive.
Jeremiah 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls….
As a matter of fact, when we are not going forward, or going backward, we consider that in a negative way. We use words like living in the past, regressing, and backsliding. The Book of Acts is the account of the Apostles going forward in the power of God. We consider the words of verse one of this book we see that Luke mentions a former treatise. That would be the Book we call the Gospel of Luke, and now we are getting part two of his writings.
We will see how God empowers and uses the local church again and again. We will witness the Godhead at work in individuals as they desire to see God glorified in their lives. This morning I want to consider our text as I preach a message called, “Going Forward.”
1. The Work of the Lord (1-5). Many times when I say the work of the Lord, I am referring to the work of the local church, or you doing your part as His child. But this morning I am really meaning the work of Jesus which Luke first wrote about in his Gospel, and is now continuing in the Book of Acts. The things which Jesus began to do and teach. Luke understood, like we do today, the Cross was not the end of Christ’s ministry, but a landmark that we refer back to over and over to get our bearings Concerning the work of Christ, those 33 and a half years on earth were just the hem of the garment, and now Christ’s teachings and works live on through the Holy Ghost. One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is His ability to teach us the things of Christ.
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. We can teach with certainty and authority the words of Christ because He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs. One of the last things recorded in the Gospel of Luke is the account of the Emmaus Road. He was seen by Mary and the women, by Peter, the apostles in the upper room, to over 500 believers at once, and to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. And then He witnesses of Himself in Revelation chapter one.
Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. To the best of my knowledge, only the Christian has the backing of a resurrected Saviour behind his teachings. For 40 days Jesus spent time teaching the Apostles about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the hearts of His willing subjects.
Luke 17:20-21 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. When you read the recorded teachings of Christ after the resurrection, you can see the emphasis of the kingdom. To Peter He said feed my lambs; feed my sheep. Spiritually nourish those who belong to me, that they may grow in grace, and come to a better understanding of my kingdom. Each of the Gospels record what we refer to as the Great Commission—To go forward making disciples—populating the kingdom with new subjects. How is that done? By teaching what Jesus taught.
Matthew 28:18-19 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: One of the ways that we ensure that work of the Lord goes forward is to wait on Him. He told the disciples to wait for the promise in Jerusalem. What promise?
John 14:16-18 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling will empower us to understand more than we could ever imagine. The Holy Spirit continually stirs up our minds to teach the things of Christ. They could not bear it, because they did not have the indwelling Spirit yet.
John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, “He shall glorify me” (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, “Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,” but always, “Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace.”
Christ’s desire is for us to teach what He taught.
2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. We have no need to look for anything new, we have all we need in this old Book. Any teaching outside of this Book takes us outside of the will of God.
Rev 22:18-19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. There is a reward at the end of this life for staying by the stuff. Persevering, enduring. Going forward in the work of the Lord.
2. The Witness of the Believer (6-8) Empowered.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Isaiah 54:2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
3. The Wonder of it all (9-11) Can’t you see these followers of Christ looking up into the heavens? I know the angels are going to tell them to get busy in the work, but for a moment they stopped and considered the wonder of Jesus Christ.
There is the wonder of sunset at evening, the wonder of sunrise I see. But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me. O the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all, just to think God loves me. If we fail to consider the wonder of Jesus, we will not go forward for Christ.