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Monday, April 18, 2016

On A Mission From God

Acts 1:6-8
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Introduction
            I am on a mission from God!  Now you say it:  “I am on a mission from God!”
            Do you believe that?
Jesus empowers his followers to successfully complete the mission of the Church and he gives us a plan for how to accomplish it.  The mission of the Church is to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Acts 1:8 gives us a plan to accomplish the mission.  Jesus said, “You will receive power… And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…”
            I want you to notice something about this passage.  Jesus is trying to re-focus his followers on their mission.  They were so caught up in worrying about all their problems.  Notice in verse 6 it says, the apostles “…kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
            Israel was only about the size of New Jersey and they had almost always been subject to domination by foreign empires like Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.  As God’s chosen people, they yearned for God to intervene with supernatural power on behalf of Israel.
            Jesus tried to help his people see that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom where love of God and love for your neighbor is what really matters.  In the Lord’s Prayer, he taught them to pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”  So the Kingdom Jesus seeks to usher in is a kingdom where the will of God is done on earth the same way it is done in heaven. 
The religious leaders of Israel rejected Jesus’ Kingdom and crucified him.  Now Jesus was asking his disciples to carry on his mission—even if it meant a similar fate.  They were afraid and overwhelmed with the mission at hand.  How could they carry on Jesus’ mission?  The disciples yearned for Jesus to personally fix all the problems in their world.
            People today are also yearning for something.  In our community and even in our nation, people are yearning for something.  Some yearn for our nation to turn their hearts back to God.  Some yearn for our community to be more prosperous.  Some yearn for a government that is more responsive to the wants of the people.  Some yearn for a church that is energized and growing.  Sometimes, we look around at the mess around us and we think, “The only way for things to turn around is for Jesus to come back and intervene with supernatural power.”  We are a lot like the disciples in verse 6 who kept asking, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 
            We might ask the question like this:  "Lord, has the time come for you to free the United States and restore our kingdom?" Or we may ask  Lord, has the time come for you to free Whitefield County and restore our kingdom?"  Or we may ask  Lord, has the time come for you to free Pleasant Grove and restore our kingdom?"

Tell People About Jesus
            Jesus understands our anxiety, but he wants his followers to shift their focus.  He answered his disciples question by saying, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times [i.e. when Jesus will return and set up his Kingdom]...” 
One Day, Jesus is going to come back, but Jesus doesn’t want us to wait around and do nothing in the meantime.  Jesus wants his followers to stop focusing on the obstacles between us and the Kingdom of God and focus on the mission.  And so he states a plan of action to start working on, “Be my witnesses…  Tell people about me everywhere…”  And he even goes on to give them steps to follow—start in Jerusalem, then spread out to Judea, then go on to Samaria, and then expand to the ends of the earth.
            In the midst of the struggles of daily life with the problems of the world looming around us, it’s easy to feel like we can’t make a difference.  Jesus gives us a clear mission to focus on and a plan of action so we don’t get bogged down in worrying about all the tertiary problems around us.  It’s not complicated.  The mission is:  Make disciples of Jesus Christ.  How do we do it?  “Be my witnesses…  Tell people about me everywhere…”
            I am on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus!  Now you say it:  “I am on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus.” 

Empowered by the Spirit
            I used to think, “How can I make a difference, Lord?  I’m just one person.”  Perhaps you ask that question sometimes too.  “How can I make a difference?”  Do you realize, you are a powerful tool for Jesus Christ!  Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”  The Bible tells us that every person who believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has the power of God living in them.  That power is the Holy Spirit.  It is the actual Spirit of God living inside you.  It enables you to understand what Jesus wants you to do.  It enables you to be a faithful witness who wins people to Jesus because of the things you say and do.  It enables you to do amazing things!
            I am on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives me the power to do it!  Now you say it:  “I am on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives me the power to do it!”
            Jesus’ wisdom just amazes me sometimes.  He doesn’t let his Disciples off the hook and he doesn’t let us off the hook either.  When we say, “Lord, when are you gonna come down here and fix this mess for us?”  His response is, “Don’t you worry about that.  You just get out there and be a witness!”  For some reason, he doesn’t want to fix everything by himself (though he definitely could).  Jesus wants us to work at it.  There must be a lesson for us to learn in our participation.  Maybe our participation is part of the healing process—for us and for the world—kind of like spiritual therapy.  We have to do our part. 

Conclusion
            Be a witness.  You don’t have to beat people over the head with a Bible.  A witness is someone who tells people what they've seen.  Have you seen Jesus do something in your life or at your church?  Then tell someone.  You don’t have to go to Africa.  Start right where you are.  Tell your spouse.  Tell your children or grandchildren.  Tell your neighbor.  Tell your co-worker.  Simply tell them what you know.  Have you experienced Jesus’ love?  Tell someone. 
            Now say it again:  “I am on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives me the power to do it!” 

Now get out there and do it!!!

Afterward
If you haven’t experienced Jesus in your life, then maybe you need help opening your eyes to see him.  I’d like to talk with you about that.  Seriously.  Send me an email or call my church office.  I want to talk with you—in private and confidentially.  I bet together we can discover some amazing things Jesus has done, is doing, or is going to do in your life.