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Final Preparations

40 Days with Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:13
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40 Days with Jesus Final Preparations Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-11 Pastor Pat Damiani May 26, 2019 NOTE: This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript. Let me ask you a question as we begin this morning: Which is more important – our worship or our witness? Or let me ask that question another way: Which is more important – gathering together as a body, or going out into our community? While it might seem unnecessary to even ask such questions, how those questions are answered have become a driving force in developing church models, especially in 21st century America. On one hand we have the worship-focused churches that believe that since the church consists only of disciples of Jesus and that the only people who can genuinely worship God are those disciples, that our churches should be designed to cater primarily to believers. Those churches can tend to be very inwardly focused and their worship can often be very intimidating to outsiders with its “Christianise” language and rituals. At the other end of the spectrum are what are often known as “missional” churches who claim to focus on the mission of making disciples that we talked about last week, although I think they tend to think of that mission much more narrowly than we discussed last Sunday. Those churches tend to be so outwardly focused that in their attempt to be attractional to outsiders, they often go overboard in their attempts not to offend those outsiders. And often their worship can become so casual that it loses its sense of awe and reverence. By now, you’ve probably sensed that, taken to an extreme, both of those approaches have their drawbacks. So how do we strike the proper balance between our worship and our witness? And how do those two elements – worship and witness – relate to each other? This morning we’ll attempt to answer those questions. So as we read our passages in just a moment, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes out for the words “worship” and “witness” and think about how Jesus intends for them to work together. This morning we conclude our current sermon series – 40 Days with Jesus. Over the last six weeks we’ve been studying the encounters Jesus had between His resurrection and His ascension to the Father 40 days later. Although there is relatively little written about that time period in the New Testament, we have seen that we have enough information to piece together at least a rough timeline of what happened during those 40 days. And we have undoubtedly discovered that there are some very practical things we can learn from those encounters to help us in our daily walk with Jesus. Today, we’re actually going to be looking at two passages, both written by Luke, that have some overlap as they describe Jesus’ final earthly encounter before He ascends to the Father. Together these two passages represent Jesus’ final preparations for His disciples before He leaves them to return to His Father. We’ll begin at the end of his gospel account in Luke 24. Although we’re going to focus primarily on the last three verses, I’ll begin reading in verse 44. [Read Luke 24:44-53] Luke isn’t really concerned with the timeline here so he groups several events which likely covered several weeks all into one paragraph. So we have to rely on what we can learn from some other passages to get an idea of the timing. Everything up through verse 43 records Jesus’ visit to the disciples in Jerusalem on the night of His resurrection. But the timing of the events recorded beginning in verse 44 is not nearly as obvious. What we do know for sure that the command given in verse 49 to stay in Jerusalem had to have occurred after the disciples had returned to Jerusalem from their trip to Galilee and that it had to occur near the end of Jesus’ 40 days on earth after His resurrection . The command to proclaim His name to all the nations in verse 47, sounds a whole lot like the command He gave on the mountain in Galilee that we looked at last week in Matthew 28. But what we can’t determine for sure is whether Luke is describing that same event or, what seems more likely to me, that this is a message that Jesus gave to His disciples on multiple occasions as the time for His ascension approached. It is also clear that verses 49-53 are describing the same events that we’ll look at in just a moment in the opening verses of the book of Acts. Since Luke wrote both this gospel account that we just read from and the book of Acts, it seems here that he is using a literary device that is actually quite familiar in our culture. How many of you have ever watched a television program where after the end of one episode they show scenes from next week’s show? Those previews are usually very brief and are intended to motivate you to tune in next week to get all the details. Essentially that is what Luke is doing here at the end of his gospel. He gives us a sneak peek at the opening of his second book – the book of Acts. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the beginning of that second book. [Read Acts 1:1-11] We often talk about the “finished work” of Jesus to describe the fact that on the cross, Jesus finished the work of providing the necessary payment for our sins. But as we see here, Jesus’ work was still not finished. Notice the word “began” in verse 1. What Luke is telling us here is that all Jesus did during His earthly ministry as recorded in his first book, what we know as the gospel of Luke, was only the beginning of what Jesus would do and teach. So the beginning of Acts does not mark the end of Jesus’ ministry, it merely serves as a transition to His next phase of ministry, which is going to be carried out by his disciples. And as we saw last week, that includes all of us who have put our faith in Jesus. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, Luke gives us some more detailed information here in Acts about the event he described at the end of his gospel account. First Jesus commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem because in just a few days they were going to receive the Holy Spirit, just as he had promised on several occasions before His crucifixion. But the disciples, even after all Jesus has been telling them, are still expecting Jesus to be a conquering Messiah. They are under the impression that Jesus is returning to the Father for a very short time and then He is going to return and usher in His kingdom and empower them to assist Him in conquering the Roman government. But Jesus reminds them of what He had told them just before His crucifixion. No one other than God the Father, not even Jesus Himself, knows when Jesus will return and establish His earthly kingdom. However, Jesus is going to empower His disciples with the Holy Spirit in just a matter of days, but for a completely different purpose. The reason they are going to receive that power is so that they can be His witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, but eventually to the entire known world. Hopefully by now you’ve seen why we needed to look at both these passages together this morning in order to develop the main idea we’re going to focus on this morning: In order for us to see how this works, let’s first go back to the end of Luke where we read that in response to His ascension, the disciples worshiped Jesus. And they did that with great joy. But their worship didn’t end there on the Mount of Olives. They returned to Jerusalem, only a couple miles away, where they continued to worship continually in the temple. This was quite a change for these disciples who had previously lived behind locked doors, afraid of the Jewish leaders. Now they are out in public, worshiping Jesus. Why the big change? I think it had to be because there was no longer any doubt in their minds that Jesus was who He said He was all along – God in the flesh, the King of heaven and earth. And I think that they were also confident that this was not the last time they would see Jesus. He had given them the assurance that He was going to prepare a place for them and that he would return to take them there to be with Him. So we observe here that before they ever embarked on their task of being witnesses for Jesus, they worshiped. And if you keep on reading in Acts you will see that the disciples there in Jerusalem kept on meeting together for the purpose of worship right up until the day of Pentecost 10 days later when they received the Holy Spirit and embarked on their mission of being witnesses for Jesus. I would suggest to you that worship is the fuel that makes our witness effective. In fact, in a moment, when we talk about what it means to be a witness for Jesus, we’ll see that it just isn’t possible to be a witness regarding something that we haven’t personally experienced ourselves. Or as it’s worded in our big idea this morning… Witness without worship is ineffective. Let’s turn now to the idea of being witnesses. Let’s look first at verse 48 in Luke chapter 24. There Jesus tells His disciples: You are witnesses of these things. The first thing we need to do here is to define the word “witness” because we’re going to see it again in Acts 1. The underlying Greek word simply means “someone who sees an event and reports what happens.” So it’s very similar to the way we use that word today to describe someone who would do that in a courtroom, for instance. It is also the very same word from which we get our English word “martyr”, which is appropriate since so many in the early church lost their lives as a result of testifying about Jesus. Jesus tells His disciple that they “are” - present tense – witnesses of “these things”. So what are “these things”? Everything they have experienced for these last 40 days as they make final preparations to carry out the mission that Jesus has entrusted to them. That would include the fact that they have been eyewitnesses of His resurrected body as well as all that Jesus has been teaching them from the Scriptures about his ministry, death and resurrection. These are all things that the disciples have seen and heard with their own eyes and ears that they are now in a position to report to others. Now let’s turn to Acts 1 again. Notice what Jesus says in verse 8: …you will be my witnesses… Now that the disciples are “witnesses” because they have experienced Jesus personally, they “will be” – future tense – witnesses by taking what they have observed and proclaiming it to others. You will notice in both Luke and Acts that Jesus does not emphasize what we are to do as His disciples, but rather who we are to be. He does not use the word “witness” here as a verb, but rather as a noun. He does not say “You are to witness…” or “You will witness…” He says that we are and will be “witnesses”. Do you see the difference? I know that might seem like splitting hairs, but I think it is actually quite significant. If I only view “witnessing” as an activity I am to do as a disciple of Jesus, it’s easy to make excuses for why I don’t do that. “I don’t know enough.” “I don’t have time.” “That’s not my gift.” “Somebody else will do it.” But if Jesus has called me to be a witness, that is a lot harder to ignore. By now, some of you are probably thinking “I get that. But how do you come up with the second part of our main idea from these passages?” Worship without witness is incomplete Granted, that is not stated implicitly here, but if we consider what it means to worship, I think we’ll see why that is indeed the case. If you’ve been here at TFC for any time at all undoubtedly you’ve heard me share my favorite definition of worship, the one developed by Louie Giglio in his book The Air I Breathe: Worship is… our response, both personal and corporate to God – for who He is! and what He has done! expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live. When we think about worship like that, it is obvious that worship is so much more than what we do together here on Sunday mornings, although that is an important aspect of worship. As we often say, complete worship requires both revelation and response. Or as Louie puts it, it requires focusing on who God is and what He has done and then responding with both our words and our actions. So let’s apply that definition to today’s passages. The disciples were witnesses as Jesus revealed to them who He was and as they observed the things He had done, including being raised back to life after His crucifixion. And then they became witnesses for Him as they responded to that revelation by sharing it with others with both their lips and their lives. So I hope that you can now see how these passages reveal that… HOW TO BALANCE WORSHIP AND WITNESS IN MY LIFE 1. Spend time with Jesus Up until this sermon series, I’ve never really spent a lot of time thinking about this time period between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension to the Father. But over these last six weeks, I’ve come to appreciate just how important the encounters Jesus had with His disciples during that time were in order for them to be prepared to carry out the mission He was going to entrust to them. What is especially interesting to me is that during this time, as far as we can tell, Jesus only appeared to His disciples. He didn’t go and appear to the Roman government officials. He didn’t go taunt the Jewish religious leaders who had wrongly charged Him. He didn’t appear in public and do miracles to try and convince others to trust in Him. While He certainly could have done any of those things, it was more important for Jesus to spend time with His disciples and for them to spend time with Him. The same thing is true today. If I want to be an effective witness for Jesus, the most important thing I can do is to spend time with Him. As we’ve seen this morning, in order to be a witness for Jesus, I first have to witness Jesus myself. Obviously we don’t have the privilege of seeing Jesus face-to-face, at least not while we’re still living here in this world. But what we do have is the written accounts of those who did get to see Him face-to-face and to witness all that He said and did during His earthly ministry. And in many ways, that is actually even better because we don’t just get to be with Jesus for a few short years, we get to fellowship with Him through His Word every day of our lives. 2. Spend time with other disciples Another aspect of this 40 day period that really stands out to me is that in almost every case, Jesus appeared to the disciples as they were gathered together. There were only a very few times when He appeared individually to one of His disciples and for most of those occasions, we actually have little or no detail of what occurred then. I think Jesus did that because He knew that these disciples were going to face great opposition and persecution as they carried out the mission He had given to them. And when that happened, they were going to need each other. The author of Hebrews had that same idea in mind when he wrote these familiar words: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV) Our worship and our witness are strengthened when we gather together as a body because we can encourage each other and stir each other up to love and good works. And in a world where persecution of Christians is rapidly increasing, that is something we are going to need more and more. And just an hour together on Sunday morning, is not nearly enough. We all need to be making time to be with each other throughout the week. That could take a lot of different forms – everything from a small group Bible study to getting together for coffee to helping someone with a project to doing something you enjoy doing with other disciples of Jesus. 3. Don’t make it too complicated Up to this point, I’ve avoided using the word “evangelism”. For one thing, it’s not found anywhere in these passages. But even more importantly, I think that word tends to stir up fear for many of us and the reason it does that is because we’ve made it much more complex and complicated than it should be. The idea of being a witness is actually pretty simple. It just means to observe something personally and then share what we’ve observed with others. We’re probably most familiar with how that works in a courtroom. But in our culture, we’ve even made that much more complicated, haven’t we? Before the days of high priced lawyers, being a witness in a courtroom was pretty simple. The witness just testified to what he or she had observed. But today, it seems that, especially in high profile cases, attorneys often go to great lengths to “prep” their witnesses so they will be ready to answer the questions the other side will use to try and make people doubt that testimony. In the early church, none of the disciples, with the exception Paul, who was a Pharisee, had any formal training, other than what Jesus had shared with them from the Scriptures. They merely told other people what they had seem with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. And that is all that Jesus expects from us as His disciples today. We merely need to share our own personal experience with Jesus. Now I’m not saying that we can’t benefit from some training, or that we shouldn’t know the Bible well enough to share the gospel, or that we don’t need to make any kind of preparation at all. I’m just pointing out that being a witness is not dependent on those things. Peter gives us some great guidance here: but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15–16 ESV) Here we see one more important aspect of being a witness. We just need to be prepared to be a witness when we are called to do so. None of us here this morning would go down to the courthouse tomorrow and go into a courtroom and announce that we were there to be a witness. We would only be there as a witness if the court had called us to do so. While there may be times where it is appropriate to share our faith in a more public manner, most of the time, being a witness just means that we are ready to give an answer when we are given an opportunity to tell people about the difference Jesus has made in our lives. And that is something we should all be able to do. What will you do today to make sure that your worship fuels your witness and that your witness completes your worship? • Will you commit right now to spend more time with Jesus this week? • Will you commit right now to schedule some time to be with other disciples this week? • Will you commit right now to not making this whole idea of being a witness more complicated than it needs to be and just being ready to tell others about what Jesus has done in your life? Discussion questions for Bible Roundtable 1. What are some of the dangers when a church becomes either overly “worship-focused” or “witness-focused”? What are some things we can do to keep a proper balance? 2. Jesus spent 40 days with His disciples after His resurrection. Why do you think He did that? How is that relevant to us? 3. How are some ways that spending time with other disciples strengthens both our worship and our witness? Can you give some personal examples of how this has worked in your life? 4. Why is it important to not make “evangelism” too complicated? What are some practical ways to guard against that?
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