The Story | Ch. 11 - His Church
Topic: Gospel Passage: Acts 1:1– 28:31
Introduction | What’s your Story?
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we continue our series, The Story looking at the narrative of the Bible from Creation of the world as good by a good God, Humanities rebellion against God rule and authority, God remaining just and good while God pursuing and being mercifully and gracious to His people. Making, renewing, clarifying, His promises through a family, then nation, redeeming the nation, promising a King, prophetically giving hope a new relationship with His people, then initiating the fulfillment of these promises by arriving on the scene in Jesus, living in our place, dying in our place, rising again to prove new life is available and assured. Jesus ascended and promises his return with the new heavens and new earth. So much of The Story has been anticipating and leading up to the arrival and work of Jesus, focusing on his life death and resurrection as THE key to the whole story that we now find ourselves on the other side of this key event in history but not yet at the end of the story. So today while still looking back at The Story we are looking at the second to last chapter, one that we are still in. This is The Story of His Church. We need to see how this chapter of this story opened and what the themes of this chapter are if we’re going to understand how we are going interact, what we should expect now, and anticipate in the future. Let’s go back. The Disciples have walked with Jesus for a few years. Went through the trauma of His trial and crucifixion only to be me with the joy and confusion of His resurrection. Jesus is alive, the tomb is still empty. Jesus has ascended to heaven and is on His throne but they and we are still in this place of tension of Jesus has achieved victory over death and yet we still experience death. Jesus paid for our sin on the cross, yet we still sin. Jesus talked about a kingdom reign defined by justice and righteousness and yet we are still part of worldly kingdoms that can rarely be described in those terms. We remember all these promises God had made to a family (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, but realize we’re not ethnically Jewish. We are in this place of Jesus risen… and Jesus returning. There has to be a purpose for this. What are we to do?
Part I | Great Transition, Greater Commission | Matthew 28:18-20
Matthew 28:18-19 | 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The cross and resurrection is THE turning point, after the resurrection, As Jesus is preparing to ascend returning to heaven, a great transition is taking place in how God’s is going to interact with His people. In the garden before the fall it was walking with them, after sin just separation. In the wilderness and Promised Land it was his presence in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and then the temple. His people were defined by the bloodline of a family and a royal rule of one nation. His interaction with the world is this nation would be a witness to other nations about how God interacts with broken sinful people. They were set apart to stand out, if people wanted to know about their God they would have to come, see, and experience. With Jesus, God in the flesh dwelled with His people the disciples, but the scope of God’s kingdom in the world and His interaction with His people could no longer be limited to one place. A transition is taking place where now God’s people are not set apart to stand out, but are sent out call people to Jesus. The witness of God’s relationships with His people is not come, see, and experience; but go, tell, and embody. The people of God and His kingdom are not defined by a family bloodline or external covenants but by faith in Jesus blood shed in your place and a new heart that beats for Him. It’s not twelve distinct but dis-unified tribes making up one nation (Israel) but it’s twelve unified but diverse disciples who are to scatter to go to all Nations, tribes, tongues, and statuses. Jesus is king and has commissioned, sent, charged, His people to make His kingdom known through preaching of the Gospel, calling people to repent of Sin, submit to Jesus, join His kingdom as citizens, saints, and family. That means we are ALL ambassadors of this kingdom. God isn’t interacting with the world through a nation Israel, but through His church of which all who pledge allegiance to Jesus as lord, God, savior and king are members of. Everyone is a member of some nation and if it’s not God’s then it’s a lesser kingdom and nation. We call people everywhere to renounce their earthly Kingdom and meet God as savior in Jesus or meet him as judge. This means we don’t invite people to make Jesus their King (like He’s getting promoted) but acknowledge that He is The King. Jesus isn’t a king in exile waiting for His people to rise up and put Him back on the throne. Jesus is on the throne and his people are exiles from the Kingdom who are to point others to reality of Jesus as king who saves and will return. So we don’t invite people to meet Jesus but inform them everyone will. As we make disciples we don’t encourage them to live better lives but call them to repent and obey Jesus. This takes boldness, clarity, graciousness, and gentleness, wisdom, and patience. If this seems difficult and overwhelming it’s because it is. Jesus says “behold I am with you always to the end of this chapter…” yet he ascended, what does it mean He’s with us, when he was physically present but is no longer? The disciples must have been a bit confused and felt inadequate for the task. There is a great religious complex in place that is opposed to Jesus kingdom spiritual, there is a great government opposed to sharing authority and allegiance with some unseen hidden kingdom. Jesus you preached to people and they killed you what about us? How will we overcome this opposition? The have a great fear.
Part II | Great Fear - Greater Power | Acts 2:1-11
Acts 2:1-11 | When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
For a small eclectic group of disciples more closely resembling the Island of Misfit Toys than The Avengers, this is a weighty commission with little chance of success without divine empowerment. After the ascension of Jesus, receiving the great commission, they don’t start preaching and planting church but huddle and hide. Fear has led to disobedience, the fearful faithful gathered in Jerusalem and God the Holy Spirit came upon them. Here is not a new character, The Spirit hovered over the waters in creation and spoke/worked in the OT, but the Holy Spirit (3rd member of the trinity of God) is now present and working in a way He wasn’t before. Unlike the current poplar song “You are welcomed here” the Holy Spirit didn’t stand outside the door a knock and politely wait for disciples to invite them in. He kicked the door invaded them individual and collectively sent them to preach the gospel! Former cowards become bold preachers. You have this scene in Jerusalem with the feast of Pentecost remembering the giving of the law on Siani and there are people from all over the known world who because of the equipping and emboldening of the Holy Spirit are now hearing the Gospel of Jesus as King. People who can go back to their cultures and countries, preach and plant churches to reach “The nations” Many thousands begin to believe. They’re baptized they repent of sin, they form a new community. This moment of the Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost is a shadow (or rather reversal of) of an earlier chapter of the story building the tower of babel where people were working together in one place for their Glory apart from God and God confused their selfish efforts with different languages. In this case God is unifying people in a place to scatter to proclaim His glory and the joy of people working with God. This new community thrives in Jerusalem as a Gospel Community but they haven’t done much “going”. It begins to meet persecution. Fleeing harm, Christians begin to scatter and with them the gospel spreads. Met by Jesus one of the chief persecutors becomes an unlikely convert and becomes a powerful missionary planting churches across the known world. This should lead the church to great boldness. Commission from Jesus, Holy Spirit conversion of many but it’s not quite that simple. The history of the church is one that is complex and at times confusing.
Part III | Great Tension Greater Hope | Various
We should be bolder still than them because we have a couple of millennia of history behind us that as the Gospel flourishes so does the church, God’s people, and the world around it. Yet we know things aren’t perfect. We know there hasn’t always been a straight line of progress of the Gospel. In fact we have many times where the church has fallen into corruption, complacency, but has responded with resiliency and reformation, not evolving or morphing into something new but always returning and remembering the key truth of The Story. This chapter is also challenging because it is one that is defined by the tension. We need to rightly recognize this otherwise we are going to have expectations not met or not respond properly with the people and places we are called to engage and our own hearts. Three key places of tension are:
Tension in Mission - God so loved the world. John 3:16 The mission field is an object of God’s love, God’s pursuit, and our affection. The great commission isn’t given because God hates the world and doesn’t want it’s best. God loves the world and the people He created. But we can’t fall into the ditch that everything or everyone in the world is great and that love looks like affirmation and acceptance of every activity and attitude. Because we also read in 1John 2:15 | Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. This is people, culture, and systems that stand in opposition to God’s rule and the influence of His people. The world has a mission to and a gospel too and a story too… That what you believe and want matter more than what God says and wills. That abundant and flourishing life will be found the more you rebel and reject God working for your independence rather than submit and obey to a God good and resting your dependence. Yet we are left here, and Jesus prays for His people, His church not that we would be taken from the world but kept from the evil one. As Jesus is sent, in love, so we are sent to love, and proclaim the one who first loved us.
Tension in the church - Ephesians 2:17-22 | 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
We are people with access to the God the Father through God the Son empowered by the Holy Spirit.
No longer strangers and aliens. We’ve been brought from all different walks of life and backgrounds to be joined into a new house hold a kingdom. One that is not defined by our personal preference but is built on a firm foundation with Jesus as the cornerstone, along with God’s word. The church, and churches are to be built on Jesus! We are being built by God! The church isn’t a project of men but a building of God, a building made up of individuals who are now joined together buy Jesus and the Gospel. Growing into a Holy Temple (that is the dwelling place of God! Being built by the Holy Spirit, so we shouldn’t be surprised when the church endures. Thrives, and enjoys effectiveness. But we also know that life in the church is challenging, the growth in breath and depth can often be stunted and seem disjointed. Why is this?
Colossians 1:24-29 | 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Here is Varsity Church planter Paul, who wrote half the New Testament, and as he’s writing to a church he’s saying “he is rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake.” That ministry in the work of leading and building the church that God calls us to do will be met with challenges. God call us to work together in the mission of the Gospel in the planting and establishing of churches and to make the word of God “fully known” because the church is being built up as household of God where not everyone knows everything we are always learning and being reminded of the truth of the Gospel. That we’re not a group that in this chapter of The Story ever arrives but are always learning, forgetting, misapplying, and growing. This means we need to be Preaching, warning, teaching who “everyone!!” with all wisdom. In order to present everyone mature in Christ (we are not mature) we read this is toil and struggle….. We shouldn’t be surprised when churches struggle, when they die and are reborn, aren’t perfect, when God redeploys people, when people have it all together and need to be warned, taught. We navigate this tension by remembering it’s there and here.
Tension in ourselves
1 Peter 2:4-12 | 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
So here we are, God is building in us. We are God’s temple. We are a holy, chosen, precious, people. Once scattered by sin now united by Christ. Possessed for a purpose to point others to Jesus as ambassadors. We’ve been called to from darkness to light we were once objects of wrath but because of Jesus in our place we are now objects of mercy. And YET!! We are still in a place of great tension.
External Verse 11 says (while citizens and ambassadors) we are sojourners and exiles… This means we’re not yet home, we’re not in a place of peace and rest. When you’re a sojourner or exile in a foreign land you’re going to experience tension as you interact with the world. Internal verse 11 don’t say all the tension is external but actually calls us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” who is that? It’s you!! The you that is opposed to the rule and reign of Jesus and still wants you to be the hero of your story wants you to take charge of your story. It doesn’t say which sorta disagrees that you follow Jesus or sends a frowny face emoji on your posts, it says your flesh is waging war against your soul. Not a politically correct rules of engagement avoid civilian casualties war but an all out we want to destroy you war. That is a powerful tension, but one God can call us to fight not because we’re powerful to overcome it but because the consequences is defeat. It requires us to lean more into His power in us. That Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, that empowered weak men to preach the Gospel to a hostile world and plant churches in the face of opposition that has transformed billions of people for a couple of thousand years across all continents dwells in you to fight the passions of your flesh. For your joy and abundant life yes but look at the motivation given for pressing into the tension and engaging with the battle. To keep our conduct among the gentiles honorable so even if they don’t like you they have to give glory to your God. A missionary motivation for pursing holiness. So they can see God is good and great. That’s what we call Gospel Living.
Trusting in Jesus
Because Jesus says the gates of hell won’t prevail against the offensive nature of the church we can continue to advance the mission of God’s people to proclaim the gospel knowing the mission will be fruitful as we are called to be faithful.
Because Jesus says he is washing his bride the church with the water of the word so she can be presented holy and blameless we can trust the church will always be reforming and being reworked but always moving to the destination of looking more like Jesus.
Because we’re told He who began a good work in you will be faithful and just to complete it on the day of our Lord we can know the tension in our hearts will we be resolved in glory at our death or His return.
A new age has dawned, but a final age of perfection is still longed for. Enduring many seasons of persecution and complacency, the church continues to emerge stronger. This is the chapter of The Story we find ourselves in today. It is a chapter defined by a holy tension of “already but not yet”. We are after the death and victorious resurrection of Jesus, but before His glorious return and final victory. The Story gives us roots back to promises for Adam/Abraham and long for a future hope. This is our chapter. Our chapter has a purpose, so until He returns we will keep preaching and keep planting. Telling everyone and reminding each other and ourselves to Trust Jesus.
Risen, ascended, and promising His return, Jesus’ people remain for a purpose. Preach the Gospel of His kingdom, baptize those who believe, make disciples, and plant churches.
The work of salvation was finished on the cross but the work of kingdom expansion had just begun. Jesus presence has been given to His church through the Holy Spirit. Despite unremarkable people and remarkable opposition Jesus church grows spreads and flourishes.
Intro | We live in a time of tension between Jesus resurrection and His Return. This is our place in the story.
PART I | The Church faces persecution
Because there is still sin and not final restoration there will be opposition to the Gospel. God uses this to both strengthen and spread His church.
We are people who endure.
PART II | The Church is in a new age.
Sin is forgiven, Mercy and grace are experienced. God reigns.
We still experience struggle with sin and death (Romans 6-8)
PART III | The Church is in the already and not yet.
We are in the tension of our old life and new life.
We are part of a new community centered in the Gospel. We remember and we press forward.
Repentance, forgiveness granted and proclaimed
Jesus ascends to Heaven we have hope of return.
More in THE STORY
February 10, 2019The Story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration
April 30, 2017The Story | Ch 12 - His Return
April 16, 2017The Story | Ch. 10 - His Resurrection