I began reading the book of Acts again this morning for the umteenth time. Like many people, I am drawn to Luke’s account of the birth and baby steps of the church Christ promised to build upon Peter’s confession of faith in Matthew 16. I love the shock and awe, of course (flaming tongues, angelic jail breaks, well timed earthquakes, people literally dying after falling asleep in church – and then being raised back to life…) Every student of the Bible comes to the same conclusion at some point: truth really is stranger than fiction!
But the deeper reason I keep coming back to Acts is simply this: I long to see how the kingdom of God works in the life of real people, like me.
Here’s what jumped out at me today as I read Luke’s summary of Christ’s life in the first few verses of chapter one:
- He wrote about what Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven
- Jesus gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen
- Jesus suffered
- After his suffering, he presented himself alive to his apostles
Luke goes on to write about the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ re-commissioning of his disciples, but that will have to wait for another day. For now, let’s think about Luke’s introductory remarks.
Show and Tell
Luke refers back to the biography he wrote (we call it the Gospel of St. Luke!) and condenses it to these few words, “I wrote about what Jesus began to do and to teach”.
So, Jesus DID some stuff, and he TAUGHT some stuff. Let that just sink in for a moment…Jesus took action and lived an UP/IN/OUT in front of people, and then he taught them the true nature of God and his kingdom.
I don’t know about you, but in my attempts to imitate Jesus (especially while pastoring a church) I eventually defaulted to “teach stuff, and then teach MORE stuff”. Ouch.
Jesus had a plan
Whenever Sandi and I leave town for a few days, she writes out a detailed list of instructions for the kids and whoever is staying with them. These instructions always include schedules, meal planning, and specific things they need to get done before we come back. My wife has a plan, and she knows how to communicate that plan to our kids and those we entrust to lead them and care for them while we are gone. And, by the way, we are coming back and we really do expect our instructions to be followed…
So, Jesus gave instructions to his apostles because he had a plan. Do we have a plan?
Dallas Willard said the two most important questions Christian leaders need to ask are:
- What is your plan for making disciples?
- Is it working?
Taking up your cross
Luke mentions the suffering of Jesus. The plain facts are that he suffered in Jerusalem and died naked and alone on a Roman cross.
The call to follow Jesus is a call to die. As we grow into his character and competencies, there are many deaths that must happen along the way. Right now God is calling Sandi and me to die to a dream of serving together vocationally in ministry. Sandi begins a new, full time job next week. And, while we are grateful for the financial provision, we are mourning the death of a dream to coach and train leaders – and especially couples – together.
Dying doesn’t feel good.
No death? No resurrection.
“After his suffering, he presented himself ALIVE…” The call to follow Jesus is not only a call to die, but also a call to experience the resurrected life of Christ. The simple truth? There is no resurrection apart from death.
Sandi and I are believing that what God asks us to die to today, he will resurrect in the future. Of course, it may not happen in three days! God will take the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, and in his own timing infuse it with the very life of Christ and push it up from the soil.
What are you dying to today? Is your faith in our God of resurrection stronger than your fear of letting go of it?