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May 15 2022 Becoming Better Witnesses in our Context

Acts is a continuation of Luke. He wrote them as a 2-volume set…

We will be going through the book of Acts this summer. We are asking different people to share and read, and plan, and serve – it is more than Sunday morning services – it is like, how do we bring what they did 2000 years ago and bring it into our world.

June – introductions and Pentecost

June 12 – Prayer – 14 of the first 15 chapters, Luke talks about prayer. For each theme, there is a word we will look at – for Prayer, it will be ENGAGE – to be more engaged as a community in prayer.

Body life and community – Acts 2 and 4 – the word will be GATHER

Third theme – Care for the poor and needy – the word will be IDENTIFY – to identify where the needs are in our church and how to begin meeting those needs.

Fourth theme - Holy Spirit – EXPLORE – how we can be involved with the Holy Spirit more.

Fifth – Gospel – there are 7 gospel sermons in the book of Acts – the word is COMPARE – we will compare how they preached the gospel with the way we preach the gospel.

Six – Suffering and persecution – EXILES – how we are meant to be strangers and Aliens in this world. Our citizenship is not of this world, this is not where we belong.

Seven – the breaking down of human barriers – Unity and Division – INCLUDE/EXCLUDE

That is our plan for the summer – which of these are you excited about? You can be involved in all of them if you want!

Luke 24: 44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Very similar phrase as to the women at the tomb, and road to Emmaus – and from last week – the Bible Project – it all points to Jesus. That must be our focus. In every encounter with Luke, post-resurrection – this phrase appears. Then in 45:

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,

All of the disciples had to have their minds opened – just like the guys on the road to Emmaus –

You know – the elevator speech – how would you share the gospel with someone? The gospel condensed is right here – the death and resurrection of Jesus. We preach a person, not a presentation. Yes, we may make a presentation of the gospel, but we must not think it is about a presentation – it is about a person.

47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. (That should be a reminder – we’ll look at that momentarily).

Repentance – turning. We will talk more about this this summer in the book of Acts. Do we use the word repentance like they did? Hint: Maybe not!

His name – TO ALL NATIONS.

When you hear TO ALL NATIONS – what do you think?

Reaching the world? Global missions? Going to other countries – Africa, SE Asia, etc.… these are all good applications of the verse. But another question we should ask – What did the disciples hear?

Nations? Is the word, Gentiles. And that is important. In Luke and Acts, Luke demonstrates – the Jewish people – what was important to them was who was excluded from the kingdom of God and who was INCLUDED. The disciples would have recognized that the gentiles would have been excluded – and Jesus is telling them – now they must be included.

Yes, we think global missions – but we must include those Jesus included – and only exclude those Jesus excluded from the kingdom – Luke sees this as an important theme. He brings this out in an ingenious way – Bible Geeky moment – Luke is showing the vertical equality and inclusivity of the kingdom. Jesus includes people up and down the social, political and economic ladder. Even zealous radicals, Roman soldiers, some religious leaders, tax collectors – were all included.

In Acts, Luke focuses on the horizontal inclusivity – Jew, Gentile, slave, free, men, women – and Luke shows that they are all included – all equal – and even more – they are all ONE!

God said they shall become one (speaking of marriage) – but that oneness is just a picture of our oneness with Christ and our oneness with one another.

Jewish people had a perspective that went like this: Israel, plus Yahweh – against the world. But that has never been God’s purpose.

All the way back to Abraham – a blessing to all the nations – to all the world. But Israel never fulfilled that. In fact, they went the opposite way.

Jesus was saying – Yahweh + Israel FOR the world.

We need to take this to the church – some see it as the church + Jesus against the world! But Jesus made it clear – Jesus plus the church FOR the world!

Those two ways of thinking will fight against one another. They will constantly embattle with one another.

Whom did Jesus exclude? Those who refused to believe in Jesus. There you have it.

The next phrase in this – and if we turn to the next slide…

you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.“ (Acts 1:8)

Why Jerusalem first? It is the place of God’s glory – the Temple was there. The book of Acts is the story of two temples. John Ference will be talking about that in a couple of weeks. The Temple is where heaven and earth met – the place of salvation – it all starts in Jerusalem – Where Jesus completed the story of God – but that is just the beginning – from there until the remotest part of the earth.

Luke’s gospel begins in the Temple (after the genealogies) – and then Nazareth – then Back to the temple for circumcision – and then to the remotest part of Judea – Galilee –

He set his face to go to Jerusalem from Chapter 9 on.

He has to go through Samaria (Acts 1:8 reference) – Then Acts reverses the whole thing.

Witnesses – you are witnesses of these things. The purpose of this movement – notice He says witnesses and not witnessing! What did they witness? His life, death, teaching, and resurrection – that is the gospel. That simple – that becomes their simple message.

Here is the question – the application then – how do these apply to us 2000 years later in the remotest part of the earth? Even though we think we are the center of the earth – we are the remotest – Ohio – is the remotest (probably Iowa…) –

We did not personally witness any of these events – we did, however, experience the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through faith. Our witness is based on a faith experience. We are called to proclaim this historic event – this gospel, this good-news – through our personal faith experience.

We are to tell the story of the gospel PRIMARILY – through our faith story. People need a person who witnessed it. The disciples were there. They touched his hands – Thomas got to touch the hole in his side – and even though we were not there, we need to be that type of witness. Diagrams, booklets, roman roads are all helpful, but should never replace our faith story – that we not only tell and proclaim, but to live out.

One way to do that? Include the ones the world excludes. Tear down the barriers and dividers.

Welcoming sinners of every kind through the gospel into the kingdom – that is what Jesus did. Through His life, death and resurrection.

The gospel, the good news – that message – never changes. How we communicate that message – adapts and changes to the world we went to

That is missiology 101 – the message never changes, but when you go into a different country – you adapt the message to the people you are talking to.

In closing – 49

49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.“

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; (Acts 1:8)

We can do all this only through the power of the Holy Spirit. I think that is why this message this summer will be so important – we need to incorporate the power of the Holy Spirit into our witness – bringing the Spirit to our world.


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