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The Story, Chapter 28: “New Beginnings”

August 6, 2017

The Story, Chapter 28: “New Beginnings”

Acts 1-10; 12

 

Intro: There is a book that no parent ever wants to read.  It is published by the Dept. of Justice and is titled: When Your Child is Missing.  

 

Key bullet points and action steps are on the cover of the book, like, “You’re not alone,” “Hope is essential,” “Trust your feelings and share them with law enforcement officials,” “Distribute pictures,” “Keep your focus,” “Exercise caution,” and the final exhortation is “Never stop looking.” The book tells the stories of four year old Shelby Marie Cox and six year old Colleen Nick. The parents of Jacob Wetterling have been searching for him since 1989. They post messages saying, “We’re still searching for you and we will never quit.” Parents will spare no expense as with resolute passion they search for their missing children. So does God.

 

God has lost children, children who have gone the wrong direction, lost their bearings, lost their place in this life and lost their vision of the next life. God initiated a massive, three-phase search and rescue strategy to find his lost children. The first phase was Israel. God wanted a nation through whom to show his character and to call people back to himself. 

 

The second phase was Jesus Christ. Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are lost and Jesus is the way back home. By his death on the cross and his resurrection, we can be reunited to our heavenly Father. 

 

The third phase is in The Story today—the church. We will be looking at the Book of Acts, which tells the account of the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ.

 

I.    The Book of Acts is the second of a two-book set written by Luke.  

    Let’s compare Luke 1:1-4 with Acts 1:1PPT 

 

    A.    The whole first half of  The Story  told us about Phase 1 of God’s search             for his children.  The Gospel of Luke describes the second phase: God             finding his lost children through Jesus Christ.

 

    B.    The Book of Acts, written by Luke and addressed to the same person,             Theophilus, as his Gospel, describes the third phase: God finding his lost             children through the church. Acts 1:8 lays out the theme that is lived out             and comes to life in the rest of the book of Acts.  PPT

 

II.    Acts begins with the coming of Pentecost

 

    A.    The disciples are gathered in Jerusalem.  They are waiting for what Jesus             told them would come next. Why Jerusalem? Because on the Day of             Pentecost about one million people would be in Jerusalem.  Witnesses to             bear the word of what had come to those who follow Christ.

 

    B.    So there they are, about 120 disciples of Christ, and they hear a mighty             wind and are they are anointed with tongues of fire as the Holy Spirit is             poured out upon them. (Acts 2:1-4). PPT

        And BAM!!  The 120 disciples become cross-cultural missionaries,                 speaking the     wonderful works of God in the languages of the world. (Acts             2:5-12). PPT

        And the results are:

        1.    The people are amazed at the miracle of the languages.

        2.    The burning question is asked: “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12)

        3.    The disciple who denied Christ three times, Peter, now filled with                 the Spirit, boldly declares the meaning of the events of Pentecost:                 Jesus is alive and he is Lord. Read Acts 2:14-36

 

    C.    The results are profound! Three thousand respond to Peter’s explanation             by repenting, being baptized, and becoming the first people in the birth of             the church. (Acts 2:37-41)

 

III.    This massive, diverse, multi-cultural crowd of 3000 believers becomes the unified     community—the church. If we read Acts 2:42-47, we see what that community         was like. PPT

 

    A.    Remember what God’s purpose has always been?  To reclaim his lost             children. So here we see God finding his lost children and then creating             among them a thriving family.

 

    B.    Bear in mind that these people are not like each other.  They are from             different countries, different social status, different occupations.  But all of             this diversity is shaped into astounding unity by the presence of the Holy             Spirit.

        

        1.    You might notice in Acts 2:42-47 that there are no singular                     pronouns. This was a community being born in which no one was                 out for themselves.     Every gift offered and used.  Every                     shortcoming met by others who were willing to help bear the load.                  There was not perfection.  The church - then and now - is not                 merely a collection of saved individuals; it is a community living in                 the Spirit of God.

        Let me share this illustration with you:

Max Lucado tells about an Episcopal priest friend of his, Jim Foltz, who is bishop of his diocese. Jim came to a Good Friday     service wearing a huge golden cross. Max was inwardly judgmental about Jim wearing the cross until Max heard the story behind it. Jim served many years in his congregation and when he became bishop, he had to leave the congregation     he loved. The congregation loved Jim and donated gold items that could be melted down and molded into a cross. In Jim’s cross were melted wedding bands, a friend’s ring meant for his bride, rings from widows and widowers, golden add-on beads, even some crowns from teeth. Over 242 different contributions made up Jim’s huge, golden cross. Stories of peace and pain were forged into a cross binding them altogether. 

The bishop’s cross is a picture of the church. When we hold a hand in the hospital, when a conservative loves a liberal, when a Hispanic loves an Anglo and an Anglo loves an African-American, when the young respect the elderly and elderly love the young, a cross is forged and visible for the world to see. 

 

Some of the items included in that cross may not be what some would think of as being useful to create something beautiful - crowns from teeth?  But all of these, combined and refined by fire, became this beautiful cherished cross representing the Christian community.  Isn’t that what God wants to do with us as a community of believers?

 

    C.    The new church met from house-to-house, eating meals together and             using their homes as places of God’s love.

 

1.    Because the Holy Spirit came upon the believers on that day of Pentecost, the church spread into Judea and Samaria as Jesus commanded. It was natural as people returned to their homes and if you’ve been witness to something like Pentecost, you’re going to tell people.  I bet that even those who didn’t believe went home to tell their family and friends of the crazy happenings they witnessed in Jerusalem.

 

        2.    Then in chp. 9 of Acts we witness the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.             And God had a mission for this man who had been persecuting the 

        church. Saul was renamed Paul, by God, and became a missionary to the             nations in the far reaches of the world. We will look at his journeys next 

        week when we gather at the park for worship.

 

Concl.  Here we are:  the church of Jesus Christ some 2000 years later.  Still on a mission for God, to be the avenue through which people come to faith in Christ.  Did you know that a military general’s command remains in effect until He issues a new command?  Jesus’ last command is in Acts 1:8 PPT. 

 

We have a task.  We are under that command.  We are called together to be the body of Christ and to work together to accomplish God’s will.  Every gift each of you has is to be employed to accomplish God’s will and desire.  How can we grow in our ability to live out God’s command to us?  Let’s commit to doing it together.

 

As we gather around this table this morning we come as a community.  The practice of observing this meal is one that Christ intended for his followers to take seriously and in it, we are to remember him.  Remember his love for us, his sacrifice on our behalf, his power to transform us, his power to raise us all from death to life.  Will you come today to this table, open to receive what the Lord wants to give you so that you are equipped to fulfill His mission in His world?  Remember that you were once a missing child. There are others and God is counting on us to let them know that they are wanted back home, to sit around this table with us and to partake fully of their Father’s love.

 

COMMUNION