October 21, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
We’re going to take just a few minutes today and try to determine what all great men and women have in common. Let’s do this by a process of elimination. Let’s determine what it’s not, and maybe what we’ll have left over is the thing that everybody all over the planet, if we consider you to be a great person, you probably have in common.
I hope most of you would say it certainly can’t be beauty, because one of these days, beauty is going to fade, even for you ruggedly handsome guys in the room. There are entire websites of what people used to look like and what they look like today. So, let’s just face it. It’s definitely not beauty. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself that it could be intellect. Is it raw genius? Let’s be honest; I know people who have genius level IQ’s, who are like rocket surgeons, but they’re not smart enough to remember to put their shoes on when they leave the house in the morning. So obviously it’s not sheer genius. Is it fame? I hope most of you in this room would say it’s definitely not fame, because the crowds are fickle. They’ll love you one day, and they’ll hate you the next. Don’t believe me? -then just look at the Dixie Chicks and R Kelly. They’ll love you today, but they’ll hate you tomorrow. The crowds are fickle, and fame doesn’t make you great.
Well, what does that leave? Is it power? Go back and look at the history books, and you’ll see example after example after example of men and women who, when they had power, they misused it, abused it, and used power against people. It’s definitely not power. So perhaps its wealth. Maybe just having a ton of money will make you a great man or a great woman. If you really think it’s wealth, go talk to the guys who ran the Sears and Roebuck Company, at one point the largest corporation in the world, that just declared bankruptcy. Money comes, and money goes. It’s not power, wisdom, beauty, intellect, or money.
So, what do we have left? I’m going to give you the answer. It doesn’t matter what time of life, how old, how young, how rich, how poor, how beautiful, or how ugly; great men and great women pursue a great mission. It is pursuing that great mission that really leads to greatness. Sometimes pursuing that mission brought power, fame, and wealth with it, but often times it doesn’t. I’m talking about the kind of guys like William Wilberforce or women like Joan of Arc, who two hundred years after she’s gone, people are still telling her story. It’s because of the kind of life that she lived and the kind of mission that she chased after. It’s the kind of life that he lived and mission that he pursued that made that man the kind of man that we still tell stories about long after he’s gone. You see, it’s a great mission that really makes great men and great women.
I’m convinced God has given the greatest mission in human history to his people, and when his people are passionate about that mission, it changes lives. -not just the life here on earth, but changes life for eternity. I consider one of the greatest leaders in our generation in America to be Colin Powell. Colin Powell used this analogy when he was leading teams. He reminded the teams to not chase after the latest management fad. That stuff will not work. His exact quote was, “The situation will always dictate which approach is going to best accomplish the mission. Chase the mission, and let management serve the mission instead of letting the mission serve the management.”
What we’re going to do for the next few minutes from the Bible is go through a process of elimination to determine, how do I make sure that I’m following a great mission? How do I make sure that I’m not chasing the wrong goal? -that I’m not pursuing the wrong dream? -that I’m not living for the wrong things? Because at the end of my life, the last thing that I want to do is to realize all of that energy was for nothing. All of that energy was exerted for the wrong purpose. Today we’re going to take a look in the Bible from Acts chapter one. We’re going to take a look at God’s mission that he handed to his people and what God now expects his people to do with that mission.
We can accomplish God’s mission by…
I. Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit
While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.”
God’s people can accomplish God’s mission. I am convinced we can do it in our lifetime if we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. If you try to do this on your own, it’s not going to work. If you do this with God’s power and by his Spirit, nothing can hold you back.
Basically, in verse four, Jesus is saying, “Don’t do anything. Stop what you’re doing. Stay right here and just wait patiently, because in just a few days I’m going to fulfill the promise that people have been waiting for thousands of years for. This is the thing that the prophet Isaiah prophesied about. This is the thing that the prophet Joel described when he prophesied. This is what the psalmists described in their poetry. This is the moment that all of human history has been waiting for. I’m about to do it really soon. Don’t do anything until I send my Holy Spirit.” I think what Jesus is hinting at here is that by your own power, you can’t accomplish spiritual ends. You can accomplish some really human things, but you can’t accomplish anything until (verse five), until his Spirit comes. I want you to hear something. What Jesus is promising is not that his Spirit will come alongside you, but that his Spirit will be inside of you.
This past week was Boss’s Day. I hate this holiday. It’s the most worthless holiday ever created. In fact, I’m convinced the greeting card industry created this holiday because they just want you to buy their cards. I think instead of taking all of that time signing that card and giving it to me, you could be working. No, I’m just joking. Imagine that you have a boss who gave you a job to do and your boss expected you to do this impossible mission. Imagine that you have a boss like that. Some of you are saying, “I don’t have to imagine, Jeff. I work for that person.” Not only did they ask you to do something impossible, but they asked you to get it done tomorrow. Now, you’re going to go home tonight, and you’re going to think to yourself this guy wants to get me fired, or she just wants to get rid of me because there’s no humanly way possible I can accomplish what they’re asking me to do.
I think, if the disciples really understood what Jesus was saying, they would be thinking, “There’s no humanly way possible, Jesus, we can do this. It’s impossible.” -until you factor in the Holy Spirit. Because what Jesus says in verse five is, “Not only am I going to give you the power to do this, not only is my Holy Spirit going to come alongside you and give you his power, but he’s going to be inside of you. He will be with you, and it is through his power that you accomplish my mission.” Want to know what my mission is? It’s to be a witness with the Gospel, making disciples until everybody on the planet has heard it. Church, I’ve said it to Calvary before I’ll say it again, I am convinced we can accomplish this mission in our life time if we’ll do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we try to do it on our own, it’s going to be a miserable failure. But, with the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s people are unstoppable. That’s really what you see in the book of Acts.
If you were here last week, you probably noticed we’re only five verses into the book of Acts, and the Holy Spirit is already showing up more than once in these first five verses. Obviously, this book is all about the Holy Spirit and what happens when the Holy Spirit moves in and takes up residence inside a person’s life. First Corinthians chapter one describes this paradox. It says that God intentionally, purposefully chooses weak things or weak people, and then he gives them incredible power so that the strong people would look at it and say, “I don’t get it; how are they able to pull off what they’re able to pull off?” To confound the strong, God intentionally uses the weak.
Maybe the best example I’ve ever heard about this was by a British soldier named Ian Thomas, who started Torchbearers Ministry and Capernwray here in the states. Ian Thomas used to say it this way: “The Holy Spirit is like the wind on a sailboat. Put your boat in the water, use all of your skills, use all of your energy, use all of your intellect, do everything that you can, but you can’t make that boat move until the wind pushes against the sails.” Ian Thomas would say, “I think what Jesus is saying, is that the Holy Spirit is the wind that pushes the sails.” When he’s blowing, nothing can stop God’s people! When God’s people have God’s Spirit, they have the power to accomplish his mission. I’m convinced you have the power to do it in our lifetime, church.
II. Recognizing our purpose
The second thing that Jesus does here is he gives you a purpose, a singular focus to live for. Perhaps you recognize the name Dave Ramsey, a financial expert. Ramsey made this statement: “Without a mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize that it was leaning against the wrong building.” It is a singular focus. It is a purpose to pursue a great mission that I’m convinced makes great men and women. So here it is, Jesus’s famous last words before he leaves earth.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
I want you to just imagine in your mind how devastating this question must have been to Jesus. Put yourself in Jesus’s shoes for just a second. What they’re asking him is, “Jesus, we saw your ministry. We heard your message. We watched you do miracles and heal people. We were totally distraught when we saw you die on the cross, and we thought that was it. We thought it was over, but then three days later, you came back to life again. Jesus, we’ve been hearing since we were little boys and little girls that you’re going to be the Savior of Israel. So, are you now finally coming to restore and to save Israel?” I can’t help but think there’s a lot of really selfish thought in this question. Maybe what they’re saying is, “Jesus, I thought you were coming back as king. If you’re the king and we’re your faithful subjects, doesn’t that mean that we’re kind of in your court and we get rich and we get powerful when you get rich and you get powerful?”
Maybe they care about their country; maybe that’s what the question is, and they’re saying, “Jesus, I thought you were coming back. I thought you were going to make Israel great. I thought you were going to rescue Israel. Is now the time that you’re going to rescue Israel?” I’m convinced this cut him to the bone because Jesus is probably thinking to himself, “Guys, how could you miss it so bad? I did rescue Israel. I rescued Israel, not from the Roman government; I rescued men and women from themselves. I rescued them from their sin, and it cost me my very life. I didn’t just rescue Israel. I rescued everybody. Anyone for all time who will ever turn to me and trust me and me alone. I rescued them already. How could you possibly wonder if it’s still going to happen? I’ve already done it.” Jesus’s answer to this, I think, shows a little bit of his frustration.
The word witness will show up thirty-nine times in the book of Acts. This is a really big deal. Acts basically describes the dominoes that start to fall, and this verse starts to become accomplished when God’s people are living for God’s purpose, not for their own selfish ends and selfish purposes. When you start witnessing to your next-door neighbors, pretty soon you won’t have any next-door neighbors to talk to because they all know Jesus. Then they start witnessing to people in our city, and pretty soon there’s nobody else in our city to talk to because they all know Jesus. -then our state, our country, and eventually it goes to the ends of the earth. Then and only then have you finished Jesus’s mission. Don’t make the mistake of living for the wrong purpose. Don’t make the mistake of chasing the wrong dream. Don’t make the mistake of pursuing the wrong goal. It’s going to disappoint you. You just may end up getting it and realizing that you were chasing the wrong mission all along.
Dan Cable, a famous business leader and author, wrote an article recently in the Harvard Business Review. The title of the article was The Most Powerful Lesson My Cancer Taught Me About Life and Work. Isn’t it interesting? This business leader learned more about life than he did about work when he was diagnosed with cancer. Dan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Twenty or thirty years ago, this would have been a terminal diagnosis. He sat down with the doctors, and they laid out a treatment plan. This was going to take really severe chemotherapy. This was going to be really rough. Dan started to go through the chemotherapy.
In this article, he talks about how miserable he was. He said, “My doctor basically jerked me by the shirt collar and said, ‘Dan, you’re looking at it the wrong way. Yeah, you’re in pain. Yes, your miserable. We’re introducing a poison that seems to be destroying your body. But Dan, you need to stop focusing on you right now and start remembering why you’re going through this cancer treatment. It’s so that you can see your daughter grow up. It’s so that you can watch her get married. If you will start focusing on that, you’ll be able to face the chemo that you’re going through today.’” In this article, he wrote this sentence. he said, “My advice is, don’t wait until you get cancer to focus or improve your story on what you’ve been doing all along.” Instead, focus right now. Pursue a great mission right now. Don’t wait until you’ve got cancer to start to ask the question, am I really chasing the right goal? Am I really pursuing the right dream? Is this really what God saved me and left me here on planet earth to do?
God gives his people power through the Holy Spirit. He gives his mission to Jesus’s people to finish Jesus’s mission. When Jesus’s mission is finished, then he’ll come back again. Perhaps this would be devastating if Acts ended at verse eight, but it gives us a great promise starting in verse nine.
III. Remembering Jesus’s promise
After he had said this, he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.”
Do you see this question that the angels are asking? They’re basically saying, “Hey, why are you doing standing around here? It’s time for you to roll up your sleeves. You’ve got some work to do. This same Jesus who left you is coming back, and he’s coming back the exact same way that you’ve seen him go. He left from earth and was taken up into the heavens. When he comes back, he’s going to come back visibly from the heavens to earth to claim his people and then to end human history as we know it.” Until he comes back again, you’ve got a chance to make an impact. You’ve got a chance to reach your friends, your family, your coworkers, or your next-door neighbors. Let me remind you, when he comes back again, it’s too late. So, until that day happens, you’ve got some work to do.
This would be a tragedy if Jesus is gone hanging out in Heaven and there’s no record of him ever having anything to do with his people ever again until he comes back. That’s not what we read in the Bible. That same Jesus, the commander in chief, is in Heaven commanding his armies right now. That same Jesus is giving his Spirit to move his people so that they, in the power of the Holy Spirit, can make a huge impact. Jesus is saying, “I am coming back again, and I’m coming back again in the same way that you saw me go. Until that day happens, I’ve got work for you to do. So, roll up your sleeves and get to work until I come back again.”
I think a lot of people can make the mistake of focusing on the wrong thing right now. They’re worried about themselves. They’re worried about what she’s got and I don’t. Or, what about that person over there? They’re focused on the wrong thing. They’re pursuing the wrong goal. Jesus is saying, “This isn’t the promise that I have waiting for you. No, no, no. The promise that I have waiting for you is much better than what you see here on earth. It’s only waiting for you after your last breath. After you step foot into Heaven, then you get the reward. Until then, I have some work for you to do, but don’t forget you’re not doing it by yourself. You’re certainly not doing it by your own efforts. You’re doing it with God’s power and by God’s Spirit. He goes with you. The great promise of Heaven is just be faithful. Do what I’m challenging you to do. Finish my mission, and then I’ll come back again. I’ll take my people, and they’ll spend eternity with me. They’ll hear the words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
I’m going to wrap up with a true story about Napoleon. At the time Napoleon was conquering the world, he seemed to be unstoppable. He was a brilliant military leader. Napoleon had a habit of on the spot promoting people and giving them a battlefield commission when he noticed valor. Napoleon was on his horse one day patrolling up and down the lines. He was looking for somebody he could reward. Along the way, his horse got spooked, and the horse took off like a shot. It started to run so fast that Napoleon let go of the reins, and his life started to become in jeopardy. One of the privates at the very end of the rank saw this happening. At the last second, the private jumped in front of the horse and grabbed the reins and brought the horse back under control. Napoleon looked down at him and he said, “Thank you, captain.” He grabbed ahold of the reins and kept right on riding. Now, this private knew exactly what that just meant because Napoleon was notorious for this. He dropped his rifle and he walked over to the tent where all of the staff officers were meeting and planning the next battle.
The private walked in and started asking questions. The general he was standing next to was furious and said, “Who on earth do you think you are, private, to stand in my tent and to ask questions like this?” And he said, “Well sir, to be honest with you, I was just taking up my new responsibilities. Now I’m supposed to plan. I’m supposed to decide what happens to my troops next.” The general said, “What do you mean? And by whose authority?” And he said, “Well, I was just promoted, and now I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next.” The general said, “Who on earth had the audacity to promote you?” That private said, “That man on that horse right over there.” The general said, “Please forgive me, captain, I had no idea. By all means. Come on over to the table.”
You see, what God has done for his people is not give them some mission that you’re barely holding on by your fingernails. You’re just barely surviving. No. God has given his power, God has given his purpose, and God has given his promise. He wants his people to conquer. He has given you a battlefield commission and given you an incredibly important mission. Maybe Maya Angelou said it best when she said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive; it’s to thrive.” God has left his people here on planet earth so that they will change the world. He’s giving you the opportunity to finish his mission, and I believe we can do it in our lifetime. Great men and great women pursue a great mission. The greatest mission of all time is the kind of mission that’s not just going to change your neighbor’s life, but it’ll change their eternal life.
• I realize that God’s mission was to rescue me from my sins for the first time. I surrendered my soul to Jesus today.
– I haven’t been trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit lately. Pray for me to renew my dependence on him this week.
+ I will make the promise of eternity with Jesus the source of my joy this week.
- Describe a recent example when the Holy Spirit gave you the power to deal with difficulties.
- If our purpose as Christians is to make disciples, why do so many people seem to spend so little time and energy on this endeavor?
- How far does Jesus want us to go to reach people? (Be specific. Hint: re-read Acts 1:8)
- Why is it so easy to forget about the promises of Heaven?
- What difference does it make at work tomorrow that Jesus is coming back again?
- Read 1 Thes 4:16-18. What does the manner of Jesus’s departure suggest about the manner of his return? Why should this give us comfort?
- Pray that we would live by the power of the Holy Spirit this week.