January 2, 2022
What if I said that This year could be the best year of your life? That this could be the most excellent year you ever walked this planet. But how this is to come about may not be the way you’d normally think about it. Normally, when we think about a year being a good year or a great year our thoughts drift toward what we would make it so. Like, this year being the year that Covid finally goes away. Now, that would make it a great year, but would it make it your best year? Or perhaps this year might be the year where you finally take that dream vacation to the Mediterranean or that Cruise to Tahiti. Now that may be an absolutely amazing experience, but will a dream vacation make for your best year ever? Or maybe this could be the year you get your handicap down to the lowest it’s ever been, or you get your highest rating in pickle ball, or you finish writing that book, or restoring that classic car – you fill in the blank. Will accomplishing a life-long goal make this your best year ever? Maybe.
But what if I told you that God had something entirely different in mind for you that could help make this your best year ever? And what if I told you that it has more to do with running after God’s dreams for you rather than chasing after your dreams for yourself? You see, that’s what Jesus’ first followers discovered, when they thought they had it all figured out. They thought that now that Jesus had risen from the grave, Jesus would change their world. No longer would the powers to be call the shots, now Jesus would call the shots, there’d be peace on earth goodwill toward men, and life would be great. Well, at least that’s what they thought for a while. They thought Jesus had risen from the grave to usher in God’s Kingdom once and for all. God’s enemies would be vanquished, wrongs would be righted, life would be as it should be, and everyone could relax and enjoy the good life with Jesus. Now the thing about those thoughts, was that this was the disciple’s dream. This is what they were hoping to see happen. They believed Jesus had risen from the grave to give them the life of their dreams…
But they had no idea of God’s dream for them. And sadly, what was true about those first disciples is often true about us. We think we know what is best for us, but in the end God’s ways are always better. So, what better way to start the new year, then to reacquaint our thoughts with God’s thoughts when it comes to God’s dream for us. And to do just that, I want to encourage you to open your Bibles to Acts 1:6-8, where we’re going to see Jesus reveal not just God’s dream for us, but for all mankind. And along the way, we’re going to see how God has made it possible that this might just be the best year ever – not just for you, but for everyone around you. But first we’ve got to deal with the problem that keeps us from running after God’s best for us.
What’s that problem? It’s the problem of Missing the Point: Allow me to set the context for the verses I’m about to read. It’s been 40 days since Jesus had risen from the grave. During this time Jesus has made a number of appearances before His disciples. He met with them in the upper room on the day of His resurrection. He met with them by the sea of Galilee and fixed them breakfast. He met with them on the Mountain and gave them their Great Commission, and every time he met with them, he would teach them more about the Kingdom of God. But now in Acts 1, he’s meeting with them one last time, and as we’re about to see, they’ve completely missed the point about what Jesus was teaching them about the kingdom of God. Let’s read the text: So, when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. Acts 1:6-7
Did you catch it? Even though Jesus had been teaching his disciples about His kingdom, they believed that now Jesus had risen from the dead, he was going to take his rightful place as Messiah and restore the Kingdom to Israel. They thought Jesus was going to take David’s throne, overthrow their Roman oppressors, and establish a physical reign as King, and they were going to get in on all the physical blessings of Jesus’ kingdom right now. But they missed the point. Why? Because they were fixated on their dreams for Jesus and were clueless about Jesus’ dreams for them.
Now, let me ask you: Do we ever do that? Sure. We’re just like those disciples. We love Jesus. We think Jesus is pretty amazing. We worship Him. Why? Because He’s done so much for us. He’s saved us from judgment. He’s forgiven our sins. He’s given us eternal life. He’s reconciled us to the Father. He’s adopted us into His family. He’s given us His Spirit, and He’s placed us in His Church. And when we think about all Jesus has done for us and given to us, we too can miss the point. We can get so fixated on all that Jesus has done for us, that we can fail to grasp all He wants for us. We can be just like those first disciples who were so fixated on their dreams for Jesus, that they were clueless about Jesus dreams for them.
And what we end up with is a self-centered form of Christianity. We begin to think that Jesus only exists to benefit us. And when we think that way, we can begin to miss the point of what life with Jesus is all about. What can happen is this: when things don’t go the way we expect them to go, we start to think God is holding out on us or punishing us. Then, rather than trust Him when life throws us a curve, rather than thank Him for being with us in our suffering, we get frustrated with God or angry with God or even lose faith in God because God isn’t fulfilling our dreams for us. And whenever we get frustrated, angry, or lose faith in God because things don’t work out the way we want – we perpetuate a faulty view of God. The same view the disciples had at this moment. They mistakenly thought God was there to fulfill their dreams.
That’s why they were expecting Jesus to usher in the kingdom now. But they missed the point. So, Jesus immediately corrects their thinking by saying: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8
In other words, Jesus flips the script: Rather than fulfilling their dreams, Jesus reveals God’s dream for them. And how He does it is by introducing His followers to their place in God’s story: That’s why Jesus said to them “But you will receive power… when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
What Jesus is doing here is awakening His followers to the new reality of God’s plan for His people in the Church age. The reason God’s Kingdom will not be established at this time, is that in just a few days, the Holy Spirit is going to come upon them all, and the Church will come into existence. Now, through theChurch, God’s kingdom will take up residence in the hearts of ordinary men and women, and together they will have one purpose: to be His witnesses in the world!
That was God’s dream for them. And this is God’s dream for you. What I’m talking about is FINDING YOUR PLACE IN HIS STORY! Listen again to Jesus’s words like you were hearing them for the very first time: “Butyou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” Acts 1:8a Who is Jesus addressing? Literally, “you all.” This is a plural pronoun. Jesus is speaking to anyone who is following Him, anyone who is trusting in Him, anyone who belongs to Him. In the immediate context, he’s speaking to those right in front of Him. The Holy Spirit had not yet come. But on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did come upon them and remain. And today, the only difference between you and those first followers, is that the moment you receive Jesus by faith, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just come upon you, He comes to live in you.
So that, now, at this very moment, the Spirit of God is alive in you; the missionary Spirit of God that ignited a movement of grace and love in that first century, lives in your heart and in the heart of every believer in Jesus Christ. And it is this same Holy Spirit that makes us witnesses of Jesus Christ. Not just you individually, but us communally. As Jesus said, “you all will be my witnesses!” You who make up my Church, you are now my presence in the world, you are now my witness to this world. Why is this now true of you and anyone who belongs to Jesus? Because this is what God’s Word says the Holy Spirit does! “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me.” John 15:26
He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. John 16:14 The Holy Spirit is a truth telling, Christ glorifying, testifying Spirit. He exists to bear witness of Jesus. Therefore, if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, He can’t help but do what He has always done. The Spirit in you will bear the fruit of Jesus, will speak of truth about Jesus and will live to glorify Jesus!
This is why God gave us His Spirit. He gave us His Spirit so we might share the good news of Jesus with our world. In other words, the Holy Spirit is God’s missionary Spirit. And if God’s missionary Spirit lives in you, that makes you a missionary – that makes me a missionary – that makes everyone of here who call Rock Springs your Church family a missionary. And that is why our vision statement as a Church reflects this. We are people helping people become friends, family and followers of Jesus.
This is God’s dream for you. This is our place in His story. God wants us to turn the world on its head for Jesus through our witness. But we can’t do this on our own. We can’t do this out of our own wisdom, out of our own strength or through our own courage. No, We were never meant to do this on our own – but TOGETHER! This is the thing we miss in our individualistic culture. We think that being His witness is an individual endeavor. It is not. It’s a communal endeavor. Jesus put us together to be His witnesses together. That’s what it means to be His Church – His Church is simply the body of Christ assembled together: The arms and legs, eyes and ears, feet and hands of Jesus assembled as a community of grace, filled with the power of His presence, filled with the compassion of His heart, filled with the truth of His Word – filled with the life changing power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not simply a worship service, but a vehicle of grace and truth lived out through the changed lives of ordinary people like you and me. And when we live out the grace and truth of Jesus with one another – we are being His witnesses.
So one of the applications from this passage today is obvious: Finding your place in God’s story starts by finding your place in community with God’s people. And our main vehicle for connecting you in community is in a Journey Group. So, if you are not already part of a Journey Group, we want to help you with that. Remember, God never called you to be His witness on your own, but with His people. So over the next month we are going to introduce you to our community groups, have you meet and hear from our leaders and help you find your place in God’s story with others.
Another application has to do with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When Jesus made this promise, the next thing he did was ascend to heaven. These were His final words. So, what did these first followers do? For the next ten days, the disciples waited. But while they waited, they prayed. And after 10 days of waiting in prayer, God poured out His Spirit, the Church was born, and Jesus’ followers became His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the world.
So, a second application from this passage today is this: Finding your place in God’s story begins in a posture of prayerful dependence. Now, God has already poured out His Spirit – God’s Spirit lives in you if you’ve trusted in Jesus. But if we are going to fulfill His dreams for us, we need to let Him work in us. We need to rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to be His witnesses. And I can’t think of a better way to do that than starting this New Year in a posture of prayerful dependence. So let’s do that. Let’s make prayer a priority in our family. Let’s bend the knee together. Let’s cry out to God for His strength, His power, His love to fill us and move us to be His witnesses together. I can’t think of a better thing we could do as a Church. As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: We can do nothing on our own. But when God’s people pray, we can move the hand of God.
Then we can start Being His Witnesses in the World. That’s the goal of God’s dream for us, that, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8b This is the scope of God’s dream for us. God’s dream for us is to be His witnesses wherever we go in this world. Have you ever wondered why Jesus didn’t stick around longer? Why did Jesus not stick around for another 40 years and preach the good news to everybody? It was because He spent three years making disciples who would make disciples who would then make disciples: He chose them. He loved them. He taught them. He modeled the good news of the kingdom of God for them. Then He appointed them and sent them into the world to be His witnesses – and He still sends His people today.
So where is God sending us? He’s sending us next door – to love our neighbors and bless our friends. But He’s also sending us to make a difference for eternity to those who live around us – in places like Eloy, Arizona City or Florence. He’s sending us down the road to love on the people of Ocean Beach and help reach that city for Jesus. And He’s sending us to the dark places in our world who still need to hear of the love and grace of Jesus.
So, here’s where God’s dream for us is going to take on shoe leather in the coming year. Here’s where being His witnesses gets practical, tangible, and real. In fact, over the next six to seven weeks we are going to take a few minutes each Sunday to highlight our witness in each of the following areas:
In our Jerusalem: right here where we live here at Robson Ranch – the focus will be on our Journey Groups and how we can become a catalyst to bless our neighbors and friends with the gospel of Jesus Christ right here where we live.
In our Judea: next door in Eloy, Arizona City and Florence – the focus will be on how we will expand our ministry efforts beyond the Eloy Food Bank so that we are actually rubbing shoulders with people who need Jesus.
In our Samaria: down the road in Ocean Beach, California – the focus will be on what God would have us do next to serve and support the ministry of Regeneration Church.
To the ends of the earth: the focus will be on how God wants us to take on Operation Christmas Child this year and make it our own ministry. But it all begins by letting Jesus flip the script for you this year. So, my only question this morning is this: Will you let Him? May this be the year we chase after God’s dream for us… together.