What is Jesus doing?

Acts 1:1-14

 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Tulips-III | London, England | April 2023

This really happened…

A small Lutheran church in another state has recently called a new pastor. They had raised money for a needed expansion of their facilities; specifically for a place for the youth to gather, study, and connect. But some have decided that they don’t want to expand their facilities because they like it the way it is. They don’t want more people coming to their church. I’m not making this up!

At a leaders retreat the church secretary grew more and more concerned about the way in which the conversation was going. We were talking about opening the doors wider, inviting more people to attend, and enlarging our church’s footprint and influence in the community. Finally she couldn’t hold back any more. “We don’t just want all these people to come in, do we?!?,” she said…in a fearful and anxious voice. I’m not making this up!

Someone near and dear to me (not Diane!) remarked to me years ago about her church. She said, “I’m not sure I want our church go grow. We’re big enough.” I’m not making this up!

If, in the first and third case the conclusion was to plant more churches that would be one thing. But it didn’t seem to be the case. Self-serving fear and a lack of love will guide such thinking. A smug self-righteousness will prevent people from rejoicing when more and more people come to a church. And don’t even talk to me about getting upset when someone sits in your pew!

Sadly, however, there is a little of the older brother (Luke 15) in each of us. Push hard enough and we’ll all succumb to a selfish desire to have a life of ease where we don’t have to engage people different from us, or welcome real sinners into our midst.

Thankfully that is not God’s attitude. The entire book of Acts is testimony to the fact that God wants lost people to be found, and all people to be saved. God has been on a mission since the Fall into sin. When Adam and Eve hid themselves behind fig leaves and in the darkness of the garden, God went looking for them. “Adam, where are you?” he calls. He seeks them out. All this culminated in the incarnation. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

Now that Jesus’ work on earth has been completed, he leaves the task to his followers. And he promises the 11 and us, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” You are I are testimony of the truth of this promise. And it must not stop with us.

In fact, it will not stop with us. The message of the gospel will be preached to the end of the world and the end of the age. We can try to stand in the way, but we will not succeed. We will not thwart the plans of God, for this is of the highest priority with him. He wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

It could be a selfish desire to have things the way we want it with little care for the lost and dying. It might be fear of people we do not know or who will be difficult to love. Perhaps we just don’t understand the Great Commission and how it applies to all of us. Some of us may just be ignorant of God’s heart and mission.

Whatever the case, we must repent of anything that stands in the way of others learning about Jesus and being brought into fellowship with him, and do all we can to help others to learn of Jesus and believe in him. I’ll be reflecting on this great challenge and awesome opportunity and honor this week. I hope you will too!

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