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We are here as the people of God in order to advance the Kingdom in the power of the Spirit

Ever seen Back to the Future?  People love that movie as Michael J Fox/Marty McFly seems like he’s stuck in the 1950’s until Doc Brown (Great Scott!) helps him get Back to the Future.  In fact, our New Testament book, the book of Acts is a great Back to the Future kind of book because we live in a culture and society very much like the early Christians encountered:  poly-religious with a definite lack of absolutes.  Their pre-Christian culture (antagonistic towards the advancement of the faith plus mired in the Roman Empire) was very much like our own post-modern, post-Christian culture (antagonistic towards the Christian faith and mired in a technological, ideological empire)

Acts helps us to “reknew” the church by looking back to able to look forward to our own times.

In fact, we can call any study of the past like this a Back to the Future kind of trip because as we go back in time for observation, we can see what it’s going to be like in the future (2017).  Therefore:  to get a better grasp on how to navigate a boat in the waters of our own culture, we ought to go back and look at the early Church’s notes on how they navigated the Roman Empire.  The parallels are really amazing!  Why?  Because if you put on cable and think it’s rough out there today, it was even rougher navigating the Empire when the early church was being constantly persecuted and oppressed.

One other interesting point for today is that Acts chapter 1 falls right in the same calendar framework as we do today.  Acts 1:1-11 took place in the 40 days following the Easter Resurrection leading up to what we call Ascension (one of the step-child church holidays).  So right away, what do we see?  Jesus invested those 40 days in explaining what the cross and resurrection were FOR (not just what we were saved from) – the advancing revolution of the Kingdom of God.  In  the beginning though, it seems like the disciples must have slept more than actually listening to Jesus!!!

Remember the story of Rip Van Winkle?  Good old Rip attempts to take a nap in the woods to escape life’s responsibilities, ends up napping for 20 years, and awakes to discover the world had changed.  Once the colonies supported King George III and now George Washington was president.  He slept and missed the revolution.  No matter what he tried, Rip couldn’t bring back the past, it was gone.

I wonder what that story says about the church in our own cultural situation today.

This is why Jesus was investing quite heavily in His followers, preparing them for a world that would receive the Christian message with great hostility.  He wanted the people of God to know why they existed:  to advance the Kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It was out of the Easter resurrection revolution that we can identify with and proclaim: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  (1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV)

Why do we read and study the book of Acts in 2017?  Because it’s meant to reknew the people of God (US) in crazy kooky times like ours.  Acts is meant to reknew us with God’s knowledge that even though culture is rapidly changing and moving from modernity into post-modernity, God is still in charge and our faith needs to be in Him, not in culture, society or political leaders and their temporary agendas.

We are called to be His possession,  In order to proclaim His excellencies, not ours, Because He called us out of the darkness into His marvellous light through the resurrection.

It’s all part of not just what we are saved FROM, but what we are saved FOR.  As Jesus instructed the disciples, His words secondarily apply to us as well:  CALLED to live under the rule and reign of God (the Kingdom of God) (vs. 3)  CALLED to live in the power of the Holy Spirit (vs. 8)  CALLED to serve humanity, to be God’s witnesses (vs. 8).

You see, if all you believe is Jesus died and rose again just so you can go to heaven, you’re missing out on God’s bigger picture of life.  God’s hand created you to be you and put you right we you are in life on purpose.  Everything you do in life matters and is vitally important in terms of God’s revolution.  Satan and his squad were broken in power and impeached through the work of the cross. Col. 2:15

We can sleep through what this means for God’s earth OR we can be woke and understand that All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  (2 Cor. 5:18, ESV)

Over and over again in the book of Acts we’re going to see these same 3 principles

CALLED to live under the rule and reign of God (the Kingdom of God) (vs. 3)  At some point the disciples must have complained and said “Jesus can’t you talk about anything else?”  All you ever talk about it is the Kingdom of God!

But Jesus talked about the Kingdom 40 days non-stop.  Why?  Because the disciples needed a complete mind-flush that God’s revolution had started!  Geographically the disciples lived in Judea and Galilee, but culturally in govt./politics, the disciples lived under the Roman Empire.  Caesar was lord and meant to be worshipped!

Jesus was saying:  Hey guys, wake up! (#bewoke)  Meaning God’s Kingdom revolution was not physical or geographical nor political or morally philosophical.  Instead it was the rule and reign of God; that God’s reign was meant to permeate every aspect of their lives, not Caesar’s.   {The slogan was soon to come – Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.}  Back to the Future:  Whose rule are you living under?

What are the idols in your life, claiming you as their citizen, expecting you to obey?

CALLED to live in the power of the Holy Spirit (vs. 8)  You might say that sounds like a pretty heavy task, choosing to live under the reign of God!  Good because you can’t do it on your own!  Instead, God means to live through you in the power of His Holy Spirit.  This is our second theme from Acts:  you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.

What took down the Roman Empire?  There’s all sorts of reasons:  unending wars, all sorts of vices, plagues, corruption, and a lack of government discipline.  But really it was a group of every day followers of Jesus, women and men of all backgrounds, professions and jobs and education levels, all filled and empowered with God’s Holy Spirit.  How?  Because God the Father had started a revolution by raising His Son from the dead and then filling each follower of Jesus with His own personal Holy Spirit just like the prophets promised IN ORDER that His Glory (and not Caesar’s!) would fill the earth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back to the Future:  Whose power or spirit is empowering you through life?  It might be Red Bull or coffee or greed or relationships; someone/thing is empowering you.

CALLED to serve humanity, to be God’s witnesses (vs. 8)  The third theme we’re going to see from the book of Acts is that as the early Christians lived under God’s rule in the enabling of His Holy Spirit, they served humanity.  Why?  Because God really loves this planet and its people!  We then in turn are called to be testimonies of God’s love and demonstrate His love to those who aren’t yet reconciled back with the God who loves them

God calls this Earth good.  God sent His Son to die for its people and make all things new. The awesome thing is, you don’t need to go overseas to be a servant, just live out LOVE and HOPE where ever you already live.  Historically, the Romans figured out you can’t fight LOVE!  I wish I could remember the source of this quote – one of the number one indicators of how you are living in God’s Kingdom is how much you love other people.  Respect.  Dignity.  Acceptance.  Treating them better than they treat you.  Alleviating the suffering.

Back to the Future:  Just who are you serving in this life?  Scripture – Blessed is the one who considers the poor, the weak, the helpless because that’s who we all are outside of God’s merciful love and grace!

Let me conclude with one of the craziest images ever recorded in the Scriptures – Jesus spends the 40 days discussing, reviewing and teaching again and again the resurrection and the Kingdom.  He promises the Spirit and ascends into sky.

And what do we see the disciples doing in response?  They just keep on standing there looking up into the sky after Jesus is long gone.  So much so that the Lord had to send 2 angels to sort of God-smack them back to reality….  You Galileans, why are you standing here staring up into the sky?  {Even after 40 days, they forgot God’s revolution had started!!}

One last Back to the Future:  Just how different are we?  YES, in the power of the Holy Spirit and not just your own self,  Are you looking up in the sky for Jesus or are you already working with Jesus all around you?  The early church learned to quit staring into the sky and to get busy serving God and people.  They didn’t complain about Roman persecution, they knew God was greater!

We need that kind of reknewal type knowledge as well:  to recognize culture has changed, but God has NOT.  And just as He advanced His Kingdom before in the power of the Spirit, He desires to do the same through all of us, the people of God.  Let’s stop staring at the sky and in the power of His Spirit make His world a better place.