Our Own Place
OUR OWN PLACE!!!
Acts 1:24, 25 (15-26)
February 3, 15, 2008 – NRSBC-UCC
In the Scripture passage before us we observe the first ever “church business meeting.” The small group of 11 men who had witnessed the ascension of Jesus had now become a “congregation” of more than 120 “members.” At some unspecified time during the believers’ 10 days of prayer and fellowship between the ascension and Pentecost, Peter the acknowledged leader of the apostles “took charge.”
Peter put the events concerning Judas’ betrayal and suicide into biblical perspective by explaining how it was necessary for the Scriptures to be fulfilled, and then he called the believers to the task of choosing Judas’ replacement, something he also said was necessary (Acts 1:21).
Peter’s allusion to King David (1:16, 17) references the Holy Spirit-led predictions or prophecy recorded in Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8.
The church offered the names of two men who met the spiritual qualifications laid out in verses 21 and 22: Joseph called Barsabas, and Matthias. Then they prayed. It is the language of the prayer that gave us the Bible thought for today’s homily.
And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell that he might go to his own place." (Acts 1:24, 25)
Judas is the most tragic character in the New Testament. He is also its most perplexing problem. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts draws a veil over his ultimate fate. He just tells us that Judas “went to his own place.” He had never been really one with the company of disciples Jesus had gathered around Him. Judas had always had a secret purpose of his own.
The question is often asked, “Was Judas ever saved?” Keep in mind that Judas was one of the Twelve. He was an apostle. He sat at the feet of Jesus and was taught the Good news of salvation for three-and-one-half years. He saw Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead, open blind eyes, walk on the water, and feed five thousand with five barley loaves and two small fish. He was among the twelve disciples who were given power to cast out demons, heal all manner of sickness, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and preach the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 10:1-8). Judas did all this, but he was never saved. The Bible says in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Judas fell, but not from salvation.
Peter tells us in the prayer “He fell from the apostleship that he might go to his own place.” That is, Judas chose his own path; a decision which determined his destiny. His choice had unintended consequences: “He went to his eternal doom”
The Object Lesson:
There is a principle here which is at work in our lives. We, too, “go to our own place!” We find our own level according to the secret desire or motive which is in our hearts. We tend to gather around us the kind of people who are one with us in spirit (soul brothers/sisters). We read literature and hear the voices on our landscape that feed our egos. We create our own little world.
Our children are brought up together in the same home. They have the same teaching, the same opportunities. But as they grow older, and leave the home place, each one “goes to his own place. One begins the chase for money and pleasure. Another looks for ways of serving people. Another, it may be, breaks completely away from the family traditions, and indulges his or her lower tastes and inclinations.
Oliver Wendell Holmes compares it to the course of two rivers. They flow in different directions until a whole continent divides their waters. So people take their different paths in life according to the mindset of their souls.
We go to “our own place” in character as well as in circumstances. We become in fact what we are in heart! Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, “A good man out of the good treasures of his heart brings forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasures brings forth evil things.” Again, we become in fact what we are in heart!
The “prodigal son” in the parable (Luke 15) broke away from home, went to the far country and then drifted at last into the swine-field. He went to his own place.
The same process goes on, thank God, in the opposite direction. If we are really in search of righteousness and love we are potential candidates to get them. Our desire for the way and will of God in time decides the course of our life. If we really try to find God’s will and become what He intended for us to be, He will bring it to pass.
This is not “positive thinking” or “possibility thinking” or self- hypnosis as some people have suggested. It simply means that we have surrendered our lives to the power of spiritual forces. We have just opened the way for God to enter our lives.
When Jesus was on the Mount with Peter, James and John, we are told that “as He prayed His countenance was transfigured.” It caught the reflection of the glory of God. When Stephen was being stoned, “he saw the heavens open and Christ standing at the right hand of God.” And then we read that as they looked on his face they saw it, “as it had been the face of an angel.”
And when they listened to him, they heard him pray for his enemies. His prayer was an echo of the words of Christ on the Cross. But it was more than an echo. The spirit of Christ had changed the very texture of his soul. We become possessed in time of the spirit we secretly desire. Unfortunately this happened also to Judas.
Conclusion: The most important question we can ask ourselves is what is the secret longing of our hearts? It was this that made the Psalmist pray, “Search me, O God, and try my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and see if there is any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:24). And if we find to our shame, that we are not looking for the kingdom of God, Christ can change that desire.
The “self” at the center can be replaced by the love of Christ. Even if our deepest need be just to know our sense of need, and our only desire is to have the desire for Christ, He can start with us there. If we really pray, “Lead me in the way everlasting.” He will take us by the hand and lead us into our own place in His Kingdom. Apart from Christ...
Life has no purpose
Questions have no answers
Problems have no solutions
Minds have no peace
Hearts have no assurance
Love has no meaning
Sorrow has no end
Sinners have no salvation
Prayer has no authority
Preachers have no message
Saints have no victory
The Future has no hope...and
Heaven has no glory...!
I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day; Still praying as I onward bound, “Lord plant my feet on higher ground.”
My heart has no desire to stay Where doubts arise and fear dismay; Though some may dwell where these abound, My prayer; my aim is higher ground.
Lord, lift me up, and I shall stand, by faith, on heaven’s table land; A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.