Igniting a Fire
In 1983, a 50 year old tradition was quietly dropped by the U.S. House of Representatives when they decided to end this tradition of the reading of the Farewell Address by George Washington. You see, what would happen every year is that every other year, a Democrat and a Republican would get up and read this Farewell Address. Well, some of the Representatives were excited that they stopped doing this because they said many of the times they would read to an empty crowd or an empty audience. “It is too bad,” said one GOP aide, “but it is time that this is sent to the trash can.” The Calgary Herald said, “In the past years, it is almost a religious act that the address must be read, through war and storm for a half century, a member of each cabinet had been chosen to read the address, but nobody listened to George Washington’s Farewell Address.”
Sadly, something similar is happening today in Christianity because many people aren’t listening to Jesus’ farewell address, right? We become callous and numb because we hear it so often, but Jesus’ address is a plan on how to make disciples of all nations. And I think it is an appropriate charge for us today, as much as it was even back then.
Now you have to understand, as we journey in through the book of Acts, turn with me to Acts Chapter 1, and when you are turning there, let me give you a little back story on the book of Acts. Acts is a history account of the working of the Holy Spirit on earth. Jesus ascends into heaven to be with the Father at the right hand. And now the book of Acts tells of the acts of the Apostles empowered by the Spirit of God to carry out the mission of God.
You know what the book of Acts is? It is really a book that will eliminate any excuse you have as to why you can’t participate in the Great Commission. That is really what it is, because you are seeing ordinary men and women being used by God in an extraordinary way, right? Whether you are rich or poor, whether you are intellectual or slow, whether you are wise or whether you are foolish, God can use you. And the same way He used these men and women, He can use you today. And that is my prayer today, is that you would see this plan that Jesus gives the disciples as if He was giving that plan to you today to carry out the Great Commission. And as we have learned from last week and we will see again this week, we can’t lose because the battle has already been won.
Acts Chapter 1 Verse 4. When you get there, say “Word,” as we begin. The Word of the Lord. “While Jesus was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. ‘This,’ He said, ‘is what you heard form Me; for John baptized you with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many day from now.’ So when they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.’” Watch this. “’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”
Father, we pray that You will bless the reading of Your Word, and more importantly, the exposition of Your Word that we would hear from You and not from me. As we leave this place, we would not say what a great sermon or a great speaker, we would say we have heard from a Great God. We love you and we ask it in Jesus’ name. And everyone said, Amen.
As we examine this text, I want to give you two truths that will apply to your life today and here is the first one. God’s purposes are bigger than your plans! God’s purposes are bigger than your plans! What we are going to see in this section is that Jesus is basically telling the disciples to wait upon Him. And as you know, waiting is a difficult thing to do. You see, the disciples wanted to know when the end was coming. They wanted to make plans. They wanted to know when the prophecy was going to be fulfilled. And Jesus is basically saying to them, you don’t need knowledge, you need power. You can’t blame the guys, they were going to get a seat in one of the twelve thrones. And so they were excited, right? When are we going to come into glory? And Jesus says, Don’t spend all your time trying to predict the future. As for you, you go and tell people that I am coming back. And I love what Jesus says, you don’t need knowledge, you need power from on high, a power that is not within yourself. And He warns them, Listen, slow down.
And I think today, some of you need to hear that. Slow down and wait upon the Lord. Jesus said, don’t go out and start your own ministries. Don’t set up a 501(c)3. Don’t start a fund raising campaign. Listen, slow down and wait for My plan to unfold because I have a plan here and sometimes My plan is different than your plan. And Jesus says, I want you to wait for Pentecost. God had a plan that He would unite all the Jews from the four corners of the world that would come together to Jerusalem for Pentecost to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now Pentecost is an interesting feast. If you study the festivals of Israel, you realize that Pentecost is one of the three pilgrimage feasts. Now why is that important? Jews were required under the three pilgrimage feasts to return to Jerusalem from wherever they were to celebrate this festival of Pentecost. And so God knew that He would have a captive audience of people from all tribes, all tongues and all nations that would come together at Pentecost. And He basically says to them, I want you guys to wait ten days.
Now, how do I know that from the moment Jesus says, wait upon the promise of God, how do I know it is ten days? Well, all you have to do is read your Bible. Look at Chapter 1 of Acts, look at Verse 3. “After Jesus had talked to them, He suffered many things, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
Now, from the time of Passover which was the day Jesus died until Pentecost, the Jews would count the omars or the days. It is kind of like we count the day to Christmas. Anybody have those calendars on the wall with your kids. As a child, we used to have those. We would count the days until Christmas. I used to try to get ahead and try to trick my Mom and pull the things out and she would say, No, it is not Christmas yet. But that is what I would do because I was excited about Christmas. They didn’t get excited about Christmas, they got excited about Pentecost, okay?
And so what they would do is they would count the days from Passover to Pentecost which was 50. So Jesus appears to them for 40 days. We can deduce that 40 minus 50 is 10. They have ten days to wait. I don’t know about you but it was probably the longest 10 ten days of their life. The Man that they had seen and followed and heard from had been killed. They had seen Him come through walls and had seen Him miraculously appear before them, and now they are ready to start this ministry and Jesus says, listen, hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait!
But that is how God works all the time, right? He is never in a rush. He is always on time but He is never on our time, it seems like, right? He tells Abraham, I am going to give you a promise and the promise is, you are going to bear a son. He will be the father of many nations. All the nations will come through him. Your descendants will be like the stars of the sky. But wait. How long did he wait for the promise to come true? Twenty-five years! He was 100 years old when he saw the promise.
Noah preached righteousness for about 90.…I am sorry, Noah built the ark. He preached righteousness for about 120, but he built the ark for about 90 plus years. He built the ark as they ridiculed and mocked him.
Joseph was given this command by God…or given this dream. Hey, listen, your brothers and your family, they are going to bow down to you one day, but then you have to wait. You are going to be captured in a pit, you are going to be imprisoned in a cell and then you will rise to power. How long is it going to take, God? Eleven years, right?
And we know what happened to Moses and the Israelites, right? God said, you didn’t learn the lesson in the beginning. I will make you walk for four decades until you get it. Jesus Christ, people overlook Jesus, but think about Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate and Jesus waits how many years before He begins His earthly ministry? 30 years! He didn’t have to wait, but He waited. Why? Because God is a God of order. God’s plans are sometimes different than our plans, right? And I think what He is showing us here and that is what Jesus is about to show us, is that He has a plan. God’s timing is best because there are just some things that you cannot learn in a hurry. Discipleship, for example, can never be microwaved, right? It is crock pot recipe. Crock pot recipe takes time. Did you ever walk into the kitchen when it is just about done? It has a distinctive smell to it, right? You are not going to learn perseverance, you are not going to learn steadfastness, you are not going to learn endurance, you are not going to learn things like patience in a hurry. The only time God is ever in a hurry in the entire Bible is when the son of the prodigal, the prodigal son runs to the father and the father who is a picture of God, runs to him. The only time God is ever in a hurry is when a repentant sinner turns back to Him. However, God works in our waiting. Let me say that again. God works in our waiting.
You see, I believe life is kind of like a puzzle and every person has pieces of their life that they are holding in their hands. You have pieces and I have pieces now. And here is the problem, someone has stolen the box cover with the picture on it. So we can’t see what the end result looks like, so we just have all these puzzles and so we are trying to piece together the pieces of our life and we just can’t see how they go together. But over time as a Christian, I think some of you can testify to this, you look back at your life and you realize, God didn’t waste any piece, right? Every piece that He entrusted to you has been formed and fitted together for His glory and for a purpose, right?
Friends, God works in our waiting. When Jesus tells the disciples to hurry up and wait, He is saying, listen, you can go out and preach the gospel now and you will preach to some. But I am about to give you a captive audience of thousands and thousands of people to preach the gospel to, but before you go, you need to have power for your ministry, right?
And that is the second point I want to make. I want to show you God’s purposes are bigger than our plans. But God’s power is greater than our programs. Boy, if we can get this. God’s power is greater than our programs. Success in the ministry of the kingdom of God (don’t miss this) is not based on your ability, it is based on God’s empowerment. And sadly, I have to admit to you, there have been times in my ministry when I have done things in my own power. I know you can probably admit the same. How many things have we done in our own power and our own strength?
Jesus is about to give us a church growth strategy that is very different than our own. He gives it to us in three ways. This is what He says. The first one is this: I want to show the promise of the power. The promise of the power. “But you will receive power.” You will receive power. He gives a future tense promise there. That word “power” is the Greek word “dunamis” where we get the English word “dynamite.” Right? You see, you are going to have all the power you need, you just have to wait upon Me. And it shows us that God’s power is always connected with His presence.
But this is what God said in the Old Testament. If you study the Old Testament, you realize that God always promised His people that He would be with them. He did that with Moses. He said, Moses, I am going to be with you. Exodus Chapter 3, Moses is stuttering. He says, How am I going to tell Pharaoh, the President of the world at that time, to release Your people? And God says, Don’t worry, I will certainly be with you. And this will be the sign to you that I have sent you. When you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain. Did God keep His promise? Absolutely. He led them by a fire at night. He led them by a smoke cloud by day. He was always with them.
I could pick a lot of different prophets, but let me pick Jeremiah. Jeremiah was given a ministry that many of us would never accept. He was given a ministry to preach to the stiff-necked people of Israel, to turn from their wicked ways. It would be the equivalent of standing up to America and say, You turn. And guess how many converts he had in his ministry, over the lifetime of his ministry, guess how many people turned back to the Lord because of his preaching? A whopping zero! How is that for success? How is that for church growth, right? Let me give you this ministry. You are going to preach your whole life and nobody is going to listen, right?
But God gave him a promise and I think this is the reason Jeremiah was able to finish to the end. Listen to what it says in Jeremiah 1:7. “Do not say, I am only a youth, for to all to whom I send you, you shall go. And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them. Why? For I am with you, to deliver you, declares the Lord.”
You see, the Old Testament saints experienced the power of God at certain points in their life. After Jesus died, here is the promise that He is saying. The Spirit of God will indwell us permanently and then, at the end of time, we will be in the presence of the Spirit and the power of God forever. Aren’t you glad of that? Revelation 21:3, “Then I heard a loud voice from the throne of heaven saying, Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”