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Extreme Makeover, Spirit Edition

Acts: The Work of the Spirit Through the Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God sent the Holy Spirit to empower his Church for kingdom mission.

Notes & Transcripts

Introduction

Acts 1:1–11 ESV
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. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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.”
Rebuilding projects are common, large scale and small scale. I remember back in the early 90’s during the Clinton administration they came up with this idea of empowerment zones. There were parts of Harlem and neighborhoods in Brooklyn that were designated as “empowerment zones.” The idea was to encourage business to open, expand and hire local residents in these distressed neighborhoods to help renew and revitalize them and make them into attractive places to live and work. These neighborhoods were in need of a “makeover.” In those cases, sometimes the makeover means displacement.
Some of us in here have taken on “makeover” projects in our own homes. You bought the house knowing that it needed some work. There were projects that had to be completed for the house to be just as you wanted. In fact, it doesn’t matter where you live, house, condo, apartment, tent, you can quickly think about things you’d like to do to make the place better.
So whether it’s a large scale government project or your own personal restoration plan, we all get the fact that stuff falls apart, and when it does, restoration is necessary and a plan has to be put in place. We accept it as a fact of life that things fall apart and become in need of repair. Even though we know this to be true, we don’t necessarily like it. We wish that things, including us, didn’t fall into disrepair.
Dennis Johnson puts it well in his book The Message of Acts,
Still, it bothers us that things fall apart. We buy a new house—the drains back up. We buy a new car—it’s scratched in the parking lot or the dashboard clock loses time. Clean air and water get polluted. It’s easier to foul a coastline with crude oil than it is to clean it up. We ourselves fall apart. Sickness, fatigue, stress, and depression take their toll. Sometimes, with a heavy investment of dollars, expertise and energy, malignancies and infections can be turned back, and decaying organs can be repaired or replaced. But it’s always an uphill battle.
Years ago there was a TV show titled, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The storyline always centered on an individual or family with a house in disrepair who didn’t have the means to restore it. The repair, rebuild and restore crew would come in and make over the entire house in about a week. It was also always the cause that the people who received the new house had been in need of a makeover for a long time. They’d been fighting this uphill battle for a long time.
Well, you can probably figure out where I’m going with this… Things have fallen apart in God’s world…(i.e. roads that always seem to be under construction) But one of the things that the Bible shows us is that God has his own extreme makeover plan. And even though it can seem like a never ending uphill battle, the kingdom of God has broken into this world and is overcoming it. God’s extreme makeover is taking place by the work of his Spirit in the lives of his people. That is the theme that runs through this book of Acts. We’re describing it as The Spirit of God at Work in the World through the Church. And as we work through the first eleven verses of Acts this morning under the title, Extreme Makeover: Spirit Edition, we will see Luke beginning to introduce this theme for us. God sent the Holy Spirit to empower his Church for kingdom mission.
As we talk about God making over the world, we’ll see these two major points, God is Making Over the World (vv. 1-3); God is Making Over the World by His Spirit (vv. 4-5); God is Making Over the World (vv. 6-7); and God is Making Over the World by His Church (v. 8).

God is Making Over the World

To say that God is making over the world is a really big claim. At some level it seems silly to say given everything that we know and experience. But Luke wasn’t delusional and he wasn’t kidding about what he writes in this book. Acts is the second volume he wrote about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. His first volume was, of course, the Gospel of Luke. He says to Theophilus, the same man to whom he wrote his gospel…(rd. vv. 1-2)
second volume he wrote about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. His first volume was, of course, the Gospel of Luke. He says to Theophilus, the same man to whom he wrote his gospel…(rd. vv. 1-2)
In the first book I wrote about all the things, O Theophilus, which Jesus began to do and also to teach until the day he was taken up—after he gave commands to the apostles through the Holy Spirit, those whom he chose.
until which day—after he gave commands to the apostles through the Holy Spirit, those whom he chose—he was taken up.
Notice a couple of things. In the introduction to his first volume, the Gospel of Luke, Luke says to Theophilus in ch. 1:3-4
Luke 1:3–4 ESV
it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
LK
Luke 1:3 ESV
it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
“it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
So, first, Luke’s reasoning hasn’t changed. He wrote his gospel to give certainty about who Jesus is and what he said and did. What’s obvious is that the life of following Jesus is not a life free of doubt. We need certainty. He still wants Theophilus, and us, to have certainty. Luke knows that certainty comes from the Spirit of God confirming in our hearts the truth of God’s word. Did you catch what he wrote in v. 2 of our text? Jesus gave commands/instructions to the apostles through the Holy Spirit. This is Jesus instructing his apostles after his resurrection and before he was taken up, before his ascension. This is that in-between time. And Luke says that the resurrected Jesus gave these commands to them through the Holy Spirit. Jesus says to the apostles in vv. 4-5 of our text,
Don’t depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father which you heard from me. For John baptized with water, but you all will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not long after these days.
Next week we’ll see the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. But Luke is saying to us in v. 2 that the Holy Spirit was active before Pentecost. The commands Jesus gave the apostles after his resurrection that came out of his mouth were given through the Holy Spirit. What’s the point? The point is that if those commands were going to be received and believed that had to happen by means of the Holy Spirit. You will never receive nor believe the words of Jesus without the work of the Holy Spirit.
The second thing I want us to notice naturally follows. He’s not just writing so that we can have certainty about what Jesus did and taught, but about what Jesus continues to do and teach.
Luke says he wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up. That is, until the day he ascended to his rightful place, his throne and seat at the right hand of God the Father. The implication is that this book is about what Jesus continued to do and teach in this world after his ascension. His ascension was not the end of his activity in his world. In other words, Jesus is still at work, here and now. This book is called Acts for a reason. It’s historically called the Acts of the Apostles. But it’s the ongoing words and work of Jesus through his Spirit by his apostles and church. Acts helps us to see how Jesus continued to back then, still continues today, to exercise his presence and authority in spite of his physical absence.
The exercise of his presence and authority, everything Jesus began to do and teach, was focused upon the kingdom of God. In Jesus says to the apostles,
Luke 22:28–29 ESV
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,
The apostles are now engaged in kingdom mission. From beginning to end every detail of Acts is about the message of the kingdom of God. It is about the kingdom of God breaking into and overcoming the world.
that his Father had assigned him a kingdom, and that he was assigning a kingdom them. The apostles are now engaged in kingdom mission. From beginning to end every detail of Acts is about the message of the kingdom of God. It is about the kingdom of God breaking into and overcoming the world.
Did what Luke says in v. 3 hit you? Did you recognize the impact? He says that Jesus presented himself alive to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself to them after his suffering by many proofs. His death on the cross wasn’t the end, and his apostles knew that as an undeniable fact. They were eyewitnesses to his resurrection. But here’s this thing tucked in at the end of the sentence. He appeared to them over forty days. And what did he talk with them about over the course of those forty days?
Over forty days he appeared to them and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.
His subject matter was the kingdom of God. In those forty days he spent with them after his resurrection Jesus had a one track mind. There was only one subject that they needed to be instructed in through the Holy Spirit, and that subject was the kingdom of God.
This instruction was necessary because what the apostles needed was to have a one track mind like Jesus. The most important thing for them had to be the kingdom of God. Well, what in world is the kingdom of God, and what’s so important about it to consume forty days?
Vos - “To Jesus the kingdom exists not merely where God is supreme, for that is always and everywhere true. But where God supernaturally carries through his supremacy against all opposite powers and brings man to the willing recognition of this.”
Jesus is telling his apostles that the Father’s extreme makeover plan is in effect. There is going to be some supernatural carrying through of God’s supremacy against those forces opposing it. And they’re going to see people have no choice but to recognize it. And the apostles have to get that singular message ingrained into their heads and hearts because those forces opposing God’s supremacy are very real. So, watch this. The book begins with Jesus instructing his apostles on the kingdom of God. Let’s go to the back of the book and take a peak at the end.
singular message ingrained into their heads and hearts because those forces opposing God’s supremacy are very real. So, watch this. The book begins with Jesus instructing his apostles on the kingdom of God. We’re at the beginning of the sermon series, but let’s go to the back of the book and take a peak at the end.
In chapter 28, the apostle Paul is in Rome under house arrest. Look at what the last two verses of the book say…
ACTS28.
Acts 28:30–31 ESV
He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Paul is under house arrest but he’s proclaiming what?…
The kingdom of God speaks to God's claim on the entire creation and his purpose to rescue, repair and restore it. And even if those who carry that message are bound, and detained, and hindered, the message itself cannot be hindered. The makeover plan is in full effect.

God is Making Over the World By His Spirit

God is indeed making over the world, and the next couple of verses help us to see that he’s doing it by his Spirit. In conjunction with his instruction about the kingdom, Jesus gives them an order. And this order informs them that this kingdom work will happen because of his presence with them in the person of the Holy Spirit. God is making over the world by his Spirit. vv. 4-5
And he commanded, while staying with them, “Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Father’s promise which you heard from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not long after these days.”
For John did indeed baptize with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not long after these days.”
At the end of Luke’s gospel Jesus is with his disciples after his resurrection, and he introduces this promise to them in vv. 46-49,
Luke 24:46–49 ESV
and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
LK “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Here at the beginning of Acts Jesus issues the same orders. Let’s back up a bit. When John the Baptist came on the scene preaching to Israel all around the region of the Jordan river, he proclaimed to them a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. When they asked John if he was the Christ, Luke says in 3:16,
Luke 3:16 ESV
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Here at the beginning of Acts Jesus issues the same orders. Let’s back up a bit. When John the Baptist came on the scene preaching to Israel all around the region of the Jordan river, he proclaimed to them a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. When they asked John if he was the Christ, Luke says in 3:16,
Let’s go back a little further. In the prophet looks forward to a day when the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. The prophet Joel looks forward to a day in when the Lord will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, even he says, on the male and female servants.
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Isaiah 32:15 ESV
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Let’s go back a little further. In the prophet looks forward to a day when the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. The prophet Joel looks forward to a day in when the Lord will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, even he says, on the male and female servants.
the prophet looks forward to a day when the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. The prophet Joel looks forward to a day in when the Lord will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, even he says, on the male and female servants.
When we’re talking about the kingdom of God, we’re talking about God’s promise of a new creation, of his promise to rescue and restore, to renew and rebuild. And it has always been the case that central to his makeover promise and plan is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
God’s reconstruction plan through his Spirit is all through the Scriptures. What Jesus says here in Acts and the fulfillment of his words is what enables the apostle Paul to instruct Titus to remind the Christians in Crete that
Titus 3:4–6 ESV
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared—not because of works we’ve done in righteousness; rather, according to his mercy—he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirt, whom he poured out upon us lavishly through Jesus Christ our Savior. ()
So Jesus tells them to wait; to stop going in and out of Jerusalem, to wait there for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom work they were being commissioned to do could not be done in the strength of their flesh. It’s the Spirit’s work. What happened? Ten days after Jesus spoke these words the Spirit was poured out. What Jesus said would happen did happen.
We shouldn’t be confused. We’re not looking for some fresh outpouring of the Spirit like what happened at Pentecost. Yes, we want to be led by the Spirit, but Paul could tell Christians that God has lavishly poured out the Holy Spirit upon us already. In he prays that the Christians in Ephesus would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward those who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. He’s praying that believers know that the same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead was at work in them. The power of God who raised Jesus from the dead is a person; the Holy Spirit. So we don’t spend time praying for an outpouring, praying to receive the baptism of the Spirit. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, the Spirit’s already been poured out, you’ve already been baptized.

God is Making Over the World

What we need to be reminded of is that God’s makeover plan is for the whole world. I used to love the cartoon Pinky and the Brain. They’re genetically enhanced lab mice who live in a cage at Acme Labs. They live in cage, but every episode Pinky would ask, “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” Brain would say, “The same thing we do every night Pinky—try to take over the world!” Pinky was thinking to small. He lived in a cage, and he thought like somebody who lived in a cage. Brain always had to expand his thinking and his vision. Of course, Brain had plans for evil world wide domination, so this isn’t a perfect analogy, but the apostles’ response to Jesus in v. 6 showed that even after forty days of dialogue and instruction on the kingdom of God, they were still thinking like folk who lived in a cage. And Jesus has to expand their thinking.
They come together and they ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” All this restoration talk and the promise that the Spirit is going to come and make it happen has them enthused. But they’re thinking this thing is about Israel getting back on top. This kingdom of God thing is about God being for Israel. It’s about our rising to the top of the world again as a people, both politically and militarily. We’re going to be large and in charge! Johnson,
"The disciples' ethnocentric focus on Israel's military-political ascendancy was far too small. In order to coincide with the Father's plan, their mental picture of the Messiah's kingdom would have to be magnified far beyond the boundaries of their imagination. They needed to see the expanding horizons of the Lord's work of rescue, repair, and restoration, embracing not only Israelites, but all peoples, in a triumphant conquest of grace."
Listen please. If the apostles, who were there talking and eating and having fellowship with the resurrected Jesus for forty days, still had a kingdom focus that was too small, is it any wonder why you and I struggle with the same thing? Why do we often find this unhealthy mixture as if the goals of the kingdom and the goals of America were the same thing? Why is it often the case that the church acts as if the most pressing spiritual problems have political solutions? It’s often because our focus is too small.
Yes, God’s kingdom advances into every sphere of life. So Christians must be kingdom minded people when it comes to how we think about politics, and how we exercise our civil rights. We should be kingdom minded people when it comes to how we engage with everything, politics, art, athletics, academics, recreation, whatever it is. Because God’s kingdom is not simply “spiritual,” but it’s “material” and “physical” as well. God’s rule is not just over “spirits,” but over people, places, time, history. But Christians can function with same error. They equated the kingdom with Israel. We can make the mistake of equating God’s kingdom with the Church. Here’s what I mean. We can labor and live as if God’s kingdom goal is for the Christians to be on top. No. God’s goal is for him to be on top, and to make that known to the world.

God is Making Over the World by His Church

Jesus backs them off of worrying about being on top. He rejects their speculation about times and seasons. “It’s not for you to know times or seasons the Father has set by his own authority.” Jesus doesn’t reject their concept of restoration. He rejects their right to know when the kingdom is going to come in full measure. So, in a sense he “depoliticizes” them. He replaces their political aspirations with his call to kingdom mission. He does so because what we find in v. 8 is that in this kingdom mission, God is making over the world through his Spirit by his Church. (Read vv. 7-8)
And he said to them, “To know the times or seasons which the Father has set by his own authority does not belong to you. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, even until the end of the earth.”
Jesus says to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” What will they receive power for?
When you read through the book of Acts, you come across a lot of wonderful and mighty works of God. People are going to be speaking in different tongues. The church in Jerusalem will grow by 3,000 in one day. The lame and the sick are going to be healed. Immediate judgement and death are going to befall Ananias and Sapphira, when they lie to the Holy Spirit. Stephen is going to have a vision of Jesus in glory. Philip is going to be carried away by the Holy Spirit—like the tractor beam in Star Trek—from the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert to Azotus. Peter is going to raise Dorcus from the dead. Paul is going to raise Eutychus from the dead. Chains are going to fall off, prison doors are going to miraculously unlock. Paul will survive a poisonous snake bite. And on and on it goes. Folk read these things and think that these are the things that should be normative for the church. These are the things that, if the Holy Spirit is really working, we should be seeing today. That the Holy Spirit empowered the church for the purpose of all of these miraculous things. And look, God is able to do the miraculous whenever and wherever he pleases.
The corrective for that thinking is at the beginning of the book out of Jesus’ own mouth. The purpose of their receiving power when the Holy Spirit came was to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, to the end of the earth. The purpose of the power was for worldwide kingdom mission. The purpose of the power is to know that Jesus didn’t just send the church out on her own and say, “Ok guys, you’ve now seen the fulfillment of the promise. I’m alive. That should be enough for you. Now go forth with that knowledge.”
A few years ago I read a blog post by a pastor named Mark Roberts titled, “The Mission of God and the Missional Church.” In this article he describes the IMF - the Impossible Mission Force - that’s at the center of the Mission Impossible movies. If you’ve watched the movies, or remember the TV show, the IMF always gets the job done through human ingenuity and technological knowhow. Then, Pastor Roberts writes,
"As human beings we also face an impossible mission, but one that is truly beyond our potential. The problem: human sin and its results. The mission: to undo the dire effects of sin, to bring reconciliation between us and God, and to extend that reconciliation to all creation. In the quotable phrase of N.T. Wright, it’s the mission of “putting the world back to rights.” This mission’s degree of difficulty? Utterly impossible. No amount of human cleverness, no collection of spiritual gizmos and disguises, will mend the breach between us and God, and heal all that is wrong with the world."
He’s so right. The kingdom mission that Jesus gives his apostles, and that comes down to his church as those who follow the apostolic teaching, is to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth; to bear witness that he is the only God and Savior; that he is putting the world back to rights, bringing it under his divine glory and authority; that kingdom mission would be utterly impossible had not the Spirit been given to empower us for it.
Our challenge is to continually be moving away from a contentment with simply “knowing” that Jesus is still with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, but to live by that knowledge. So that what we know to be true has an impact upon everything we think and do. Like those neighborhoods that were labeled “empowerment zones,” by the government and were given resources for empowerment because things had fallen apart, Jesus Christ has made his church an empowerment zone by sending his Spirit. And the power and presence of the Spirit is for the work of kingdom mission in every sphere of life. God is making over the world. And he is using his church, empowered by his Spirit to do it. When Jesus returns and consummates the kingdom, the makeover will be complete. And there is not one aspect of this creation that will not experience complete renewal… This renewal is taking place when the technology available to us is enabling molecular geneticists, like Ann Gauger, to examine the vast detail of the sequence data being communicated at the cellular level, and conclude that the more we learn about life, the more it points us to design and to God. This renewal is taking place when men graduate from Helping Up Mission, and are restored to life and faith in Jesus Christ after substance addiction or homelessness…This renewal is taking place when we don’t simply know “about” the Spirit’s power, but when we live by the Spirit’s power.
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