Faithlife Sermons

Always Forward

This morning we’ll take a little break from Matthew 24, so turn to Acts 1.
I know today is Mother’s Day, and there are a variety of emotions that we’re experiencing. We want to acknowledge that this is ok. For some it’s a great day. For others, not so much. Regardless of where we at on the spectrum, for most of us today is different - this is not a normal Mother’s Day. Like Easter, this feels a little weird.
This is not the norm, and most of us have a desire to return to normal. And that’s where I want to focus this morning because some are asking what is the new norm, or will we ever get back to normal.
Understand that there are organizations and people of global influence who do not want us to go back to the norm. They have an agenda, and they now have more power than ever and they want to keep it, but that is different topic we need to address later, but not today.
Let’s talk about getting back to normal and what might that look like. I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’re going to return to what we call normal - and listen, that is not entirely a bad thing. New norms occur every day and new norms are not all bad. A new marriage, a new baby, a new job, a new home or a new city, retirement - whatever. These events come into our lives, they do shake us up a little, but they create new norms - which again, are not all bad.
I know a lot of us want to get back to normal - to reconnect with family and friends, to enjoy our freedoms, get back to church and we should. However, I think it would be unwise to return to normal without first asking God, what do you want us to do.
What do I mean? I think we need to be cautious about rushing backward - cautious of forcing ourselves into the way things used to be, or we’re going to doing the same old things. Let’s be honest, going backward to the old norm is not always best. Yes, some things are worth returning to, but not all things. Not everything we did as a church or individuals was fruitful or productive in making Christlike disciples or proclaiming the Gospel or carrying our out mission.
Let’s look at Acts 1, look at their situation, apply it to ours and go from there. Acts 1:6 is 40 days after the resurrection; right before Jesus’ ascension.
Acts 1:6 ESV
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
In a sense they were asking when can we now get back to normal - back to the way it used to be - back when Israel was in power, when we were our own nation and no one ruled over us - like in the glory days of King David.
A lot of people live with that mentality. Rather than accepting where they are in time, and rather than receiving whatever God wants them to do through them in their time, they want to go back to the good old days.
Where is the focus? It’s not Kingdom focused. It’s not “above” focused. It’s not even eternity focused.
I can’t speak for God, but I don’t think God is interested going backward. I don’t think He’s interested in our “good old days.” He is always moving us forward - toward Christlikeness, expansion of the Gospel, toward eternity and final redemption and justice. Everything God is doing in us and in this world is forward. Even when He digs up our past, it’s always for healing and forward momentum and Christlikeness.
We need to ask the question, is returning to normal the best thing for us and for the mission of God. I’m not talking about the economy or reopening businesses or interacting with one another like we used to. What I’m talking about how we function - how we live as Christians and as the Church. Is returning to normal best for the Kingdom and God’s purposes? Is it best for the Gospel?
I’m not convinced that going back to “normal” or picking up right where we left off is the best thing for the Church. Why do I say that? Look at verse 7.
Acts 1:7 ESV
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
The world is on a timeline moving toward a day - an event - toward Christ’s return. That much is fixed, but this doesn’t mean that God is dictating all events. He knows all the events that take place, but it doesn’t mean He is dictating. So, there is a day when everything comes to a climax, but between now and then there is this interaction between His sovereignty and our freewill (both good and bad) - and this interaction always moves us forward - never backward.
Thus, verse 8.
Acts 1:8 ESV
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.”
The Disciples were asking to go backward, but Jesus said, “No, we’re not doing that. We must go forward. There is a job to do, a Great Commission to participate in, and a Jerusalem and a Judea and a Samaria and a world to conquer.”
Listen to
Matthew 28:18–19 ESV
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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,
That should sound familiar because it’s a continuation of God’s original intent.
Genesis 1:28 ESV
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
That’s not just about popping out babies. It’s about conquering chaos - of taking the Garden of Eden (God’s Kingdom, the place where humanity and God enjoy relationship) and taking it out into the world. Genesis 1 and Matthew 28 - same thing: go, increase in number, make disciples, and conquer chaos. And that is always done in partnership with God and His people moving foward.
So the disciples were commissioned to go from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and beyond. But they were kind of partial to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was their norm, their comfort zone. So pay attention to what happened about 3, 4, 5 years after Jesus told them to go. Acts chapter 7 ends with the Jewish leaders killing the disciple Stephen in Jerusalem. The disciples have not really moved out yet. Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered - where? - throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria ….
What happened? The Church had a little shakeup. I’m not saying God caused the persecution, but He used it to push His people out of the norm, out of Jerusalem and into a new norm.
Acts 8:3–4 ESV
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
The new norm! Living in and preaching the gospel beyond Jerusalem just like they were supposed to. And shortly after this, Saul became Paul and became one of the greatest preachers in history, taking the message of Jesus Christ into the world - which created another new norm.
We could go on with numerous examples of church history where a shaking of the norm created opportunities for evangelism and revival - the expansion of God’s kingdom, but I think you get the point.
I’m not convinced that returning to business as usual is best. Well, what is best? I don’t know. What is the new norm? I don’t know. But in Hebrews 12:25-29, we see that God shakes things so that the unshakable remains. He will do things in our lives to get rid of things that we do not need. I’m not saying God caused this pandemic - I don’t believe so - but He can use it to shake the Church to get rid of the nonessential and unfruitful stuff, so that the new norm is better than the old.
I don’t know what the new norm will be. All I know is that going back to business as usual is probably not best. We need to collectively seek the Spirit. What is the Spirit saying to us? What is the new norm that He desires? We must follow Him into this new world -
Matthew 28:20 ESV
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Related Media
Related Sermons