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About this series
God's Agenda for Planet Earth (including you)
Sometimes it's confusing to try and figure out God's agenda for a world in turmoil, much less make sense of your unique purpose in His bigger picture. Yet God has a specific calling for each of us, and learning to walk in that calling propels us to take steps both large and small that DO change the world. This series, drawn from Acts, examines the Biblical truth about God's agenda for planet earth, His perfect timing and what all of it has to do with you. You'll learn how to recognize how God's plan unfolds in your life and in the world around you, and how to avoid the "grace stoppers" that can destroy God's work in your life.More from this series
Do you realize that you’re sitting in this seat today because approximately two thousand years ago there was a group of about one hundred and twenty Christ followers who had just seen, literally, Jesus ascend into heaven and the last thing they remember He said was, “Don’t go do anything. Go to Jerusalem and wait.”
A hundred and twenty mostly uneducated people, they’d followed Christ, for forty days they had had conversation, over five hundred witnesses had seen the scars, the holes in His hands, the miracles.
And He said, “Now, don’t go do anything yet. What I want you to do is I want you to wait.”
And I don’t know about you but I kind of read between the lines. Peter seems like a go-getter. You know what I mean? And I’m thinking, like, day one he’s thinking, “Okay.” Day two, “Mm, it’s still okay.” Day four, “Like, I got a job. Like, how long are we going to be here?” And then outside those walls, I mean, Jesus was not a popular person and His followers weren’t popular so thinking there’s fear and anxiety out there and there’s hope and expectation.
And then I bet, like, day seven or eight they’re thinking, “Now let me get this right. There’s a hundred and twenty of us in downtown Jerusalem and we’re going to take the world, right?”
And they’re looking at each other going…and then, day nine, still nothing’s happening. And then, bang, something big happens.
One of the most difficult things for me in my life and probably a lot of you is waiting. For some, right now, it’s like you’re in a relationship and deep in your spirit God says, “No, wait. This isn’t the right time. Don’t move forward.”
For others, you’re scrambling, you need a job, you’re thinking about a different job, and you’re not really sure and everything just impulsively wants to say, “You know what? I’m just going to make this happen.” God says, “No. Wait.”
For some of you, you’ve prayed and you’ve said, “Oh God, this is the time, this is the season. We kind of waited to have kids and now we’re really ready.” And apparently God isn’t because you don’t have any yet, right? And it’s been a year or maybe two and you start thinking, “What’s the deal?” Waiting is really, really hard.
I have read this over and over. It’s out of a book The Knowledge of the Holy. And he says, “To believe,” this is something to consider, this gives me perspective when I’m waiting. “To believe actively that our heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good, and our everlasting wellbeing, brings to the soul a veritable benediction.
“Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, always secretly afraid that we’ll miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart. There’s a better way.”
And then he gives it. “It’s to repudiate our own wisdom and take instead the infinite wisdom of God.” It’s to come to the point where you say, “I believe there’s an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, compassionate Creator who cares about me,” and here’s what the wisdom of God is. Here’s classic definition.
The wisdom of God is because He loves you and He’s in control and has all power and knows all things actual and possible, He brings about the best possible results, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. That’s His plan for your life.
God, in your situation, in your relationships and in your work and in your ministry, in the dreams that He’s put in your heart and your future, He desires for you to say, “I want to do life Your way.” And what He says is, “I will take responsibility to bring about the best possible results, in the best possible way, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. But you need to trust Me.”
Because sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Often it doesn’t look that way. Those apostles? I’m thinking it didn’t feel that way day number eight. I’m up in this room, I’m praying, I’m supposed to wait.
I want you to remember that God’s plans are perfect. Just write that down. It’ll do something for your soul. Just remember no matter where you’re at, you know, God’s plans are perfect.
Second, God’s timing is perfect. You may think it needs to happen now. Guess what – often He’s preparing you for something better, something bigger, something that’s really right instead of just close.
And third, can you guess what God’s methods are? You got it. They’re perfect.
Very interesting little passage is tucked in Ephesians chapter 3. And it’s one of those that, candidly, just as I was studying for this, Paul writes in chapter 3 verse 8 and it goes something like this. He says, this is a loose translation. “I can’t believe that God chose me – I’m the least deserving of all Christians – to take this message of His love to all the world. But He chose me that I could share this great message in order that even the angelic principles and power, when they see the birth of the Church would see the manifold wisdom of God.”
See, God has a wise plan for you, He’s got a wise plan for the planet. But the big thing on His agenda, after Jesus died and was risen from the dead, was this birthing of this thing called a supernatural community.
I don’t want to use the word “church” because buildings come into your mind and history comes to your mind and religious activity. I want to talk about a relationship of a dynamic group of people connected to God.
If you’ll open your notes, what we’re going to learn, we’re going to see the wisdom of God as we watch.
The apostle Paul says, “Part of the whole plan was to reveal this manifold wisdom of God by how Jesus births His Church.”
He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father. And the very first thing Jesus does, He sent the Holy Spirit. This is the game plan. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is going to come. Come as prophesied.
If you have your Bibles, open to Acts. Acts chapter 2. Are you ready? This is the story of the birth of the Church.
Chapter 2 verse 1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound, like the blowing of a violent wind, came from heaven and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
“Now, they were staying in Jerusalem. God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. And when they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment because each of them were hearing them speaking in their own language or dialect.
“Utterly amazed, they asked, ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hear them in our own language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya near Cyrene. Visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts or proselytes,’” Gentiles who became Jews, “Cretans and Arabs.”
And then they declare, “‘We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.’ Amazed and perplexed they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” Like, what’s going on here?
Now, there was a second group. “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They’ve had too much wine.’” Now, you need to understand, this is a festival day. To get the picture, I put in your notes, when did this happen, how did this happen, why did this happen?
When this happened, right now, it happened about nine o’clock in the morning. Now, festival days, there were three major festivals. Think Woodstock that’s holy. Okay? I mean, thousands of people coming from everywhere. As you could see from all those locations into Jerusalem. It’s packed. There are animals; there’s sacrifices.
And there were three major festivals. There was Passover, there was this Pentecost, and then later it was the Feast of Tabernacles. And so it’s packed. So God waits for the perfect time, Pentecost. Penta – get it? Fifty?
So, it’s fifty days after the Feast of Weeks, which was that other one. They celebrated the harvest. And so over time, Pentecost became the time where they celebrated the giving of the Ten Commandments.
Out of Leviticus 19 they had determined that this was just about the time when Moses gave the Ten Commandments. So God’s timing and His wisdom is on the day when the city is filled with Jews and proselytes from all around the world, exactly on that day when they’re celebrating what? The first covenant.
And the first covenant, now we’re to the how. Do you remember how it came? The people were out of Egypt, they go to Mount Sinai, and then they’re on Mount Sinai and Moses brings all the people together and they rope things off around.
And then there’s this blast, there’s this sound. Oooooooo! And the horn, it grows louder and louder and louder. And things begin to shake and the people hear this sound and they’re trembling.
And then pretty soon there’s smoke that comes out and fire, right? Remember? From the mountain? Mount Sinai. And then there’s an earthquake. And then God speaks, you hear His voice.
And in the first covenant, He gives a nation His word. He gives them the Ten Commandments, Moses leads them, and the goal for Israel is to be a blessing to all the nations as God works His will through this nation, Israel.
On this day, where they’re celebrating and remembering that, did you notice what happens? It’s not that a wind blew. What’s it say? It’s the sound.
Have you ever been where wind’s blowing? I been in Texas with, you know, tornadoes and stuff outside the door. You know, funnel cloud and you just hear, Whooooo. It was the sound.
And this sound, it says, “And they heard,” it’s in a tense in the Greek that has to do with they started hearing it and it escalated louder and louder. I think what happened is they got out of the upper room and they heard this sound and pretty soon they’re looking at each other and there’s flames above them.
The sound, the fire, and then pretty soon what’s happening? Out of their mouth they’re speaking in languages they’ve never learned. And fifteen cited different countries are over there going, “We’re hearing the praises of God in our own language.”
So notice what God’s doing. He’s connecting. This is the why. He’s connecting the first covenant with the second covenant. In the first covenant the sound displayed God’s power. The fire represented His presence. And the voice was His revelation.
Using exactly the same things now, what? It’s not a nation and where’s the fire? It’s not on a mountain. It’s in every individual.
Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 37 both promise that when the Holy Spirit comes, He would live inside of people; take up residence in them and the new covenant would start. God’s perfect plan, His perfect timing, in His perfect manner.
Here’s the lesson: God’s timing and methods are wrought in perfect wisdom both then and now.
A passage I memorized a number of years ago when I struggle with, “God, what are You doing? I just don’t get it. I just don’t get it. I mean, as far as I know, I’m doing exactly what You told me to do and it is not going well.”
And then I remember Romans 11:33: “Oh the depths of the knowledge and the wisdom of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.”
I’m reminded that a lot of life is like looking at the back of a tapestry with all the threads and knots. And God, in His perfect timing, is orchestrating people. And sometimes, I wasn’t ready.
And then you turn that tapestry over and you see something very beautiful that He’s making.
God’s wisdom, His timing, His plan is perfect for you. But He wants you to trust Him. If any man asks for wisdom, God says, “I’ll give it to him generously.” But here’s the condition. You have to come asking for wisdom like this: “If You’ll show me what to do in this relationship, if You’ll show me what to do in this decision, if You’ll show me what to do with my future, if You’ll show me what to do in this financial issue, if You’ll show me, I’m signing up in advance to do whatever You say.” God says one hundred percent of the time He’ll show you.
With most of us, you know what the struggle is? I kind of want God’s wisdom to decide whether I like it or not. Right?
“Hey, God? Do You really want me to date this girl? And if you say ‘no’ I’m going to do it anyway.” “Hey, God? Do You really want me to get my priorities in order and get out of debt? Well, if that’s Your will I’m going to go with plan B still.”
God says when you come like that, you don’t get His wisdom.
But who could know better for you than someone who is all-knowing, all-powerful, sent His Son to die in your place, has a great plan for your life and mine? What we learn first is, He sends His Spirit and He sends His Spirit to display His wisdom.
So my question for you is in what situation do you need to trust God’s wisdom? I mean, just right now. If you jotted underneath there right in the notes. Would it be a relationship, a job, your future, timing, a big decision, healing? You know, a loss that you’ve got to work through?
What is it that you need to say part of today God’s will is you say, “God, I need Your wisdom and if You’ll show me, I’ll do it.”
Second thing He does is the Holy Spirit spoke through an uneducated failure, the message of life. Now, this is amazing. Now, remember God’s manner, His ways are perfect. I don’t know about you but I think if I was going to launch this tsunami wave of grace to reach the whole world, I’d find the best communicator, the most educated person, I’d do it at just the right time and, you know, maybe have big jumbo screens and everything.
Instead, God chooses Peter. Peter betrayed Him. Peter failed. And what we know later from this book he was very uneducated. But God’s ways are perfect, right?
He knew we would come later. And He knew that he would put His message inside our hearts and He would want us, in every walk of life, to share with people and really love them and care for them. And He knew we would say things like this, “Well, I’d really like to, you know, kind of, I really would like to share the love of Christ with some people but, I mean, if they ever found out, I mean, all the stuff I’ve done and how I’ve failed, I mean, God could never use me.”
And God says, “No, no, no, no. My first message came through a guy who blew it as bad as you can blow it.”
And then the other one we say is, “Well, I’d really like to share and help some people but I’m just, I’m not very educated biblically. I haven’t been to Bible school; I haven’t been to seminary.” Isn’t it interesting?
We’re going to hear Peter’s message. And his message is going to be about what? The resurrection. He’s going to tell them, first of all, this thing that just occurred where your eyes are open and your jaw is dropping and you’re hearing these wonderful works of God in your own language?
First, let me tell you why that’s happening. I’m going to explain that. Second, after you understand this phenomena that’s happening in verses 14 to 21, starting in verse 22, he has a message.
And as you can see in your notes his message is about the proof of the resurrection and he’s going to give four specific proofs that Jesus actually has come back from the dead and therefore, what he said really is true.
Let’s pick up his explanation, verse 14. “Then Peter stood up,” right? People are going, “What’s going on?” And others are going, “They’re drunk!” “He stood up with the eleven. He raised his voice.” This is the guy that was afraid of the servant girl. The Spirit of God makes a difference, apparently.
“And he addressed the crowd, ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who are in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you. Listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose, it’s only nine in the morning. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.’”
And now he quotes Joel chapter 2 verse 28 and following. “In the last days,” this was a promise God gave Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on” who? “all people.”
In the Old Testament, this Holy Spirit was given to certain people, at certain time, for certain jobs. That’s why, when David, remember when he sinned with Bathsheba? In Psalm 51 and he’s confessing his sin one of his requests are, “Please don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me.” The Spirit of God did not live inside of every believer in the Old Testament.
But he says, now, all the people will be filled. “Your sons, your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams; even on My servant both men and women I will pour out My Spirit in those days and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and billows of smoke; then the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Peter says two major things. He says, number one, this thing that you see? Those tongues of fire? That noise? Hearing in different languages? This is exactly what Joel said the last days have begun.
The moment the Spirit comes, we are living in the last days. And then he talks about that’s what you see right now. But Joel’s prophesy has, sort of, a near fulfillment and a longer fulfillment. He starts and says, “In the last days” but at the very end, did you notice?
It says, “In the glorious day of the Lord.” That phrase “day of the Lord” all throughout the Old Testament, later we’ll pick it up in the book of Revelation, that’s the final judgment of God when Christ returns. And that’s when some of these things about the sun being dark and the moon, they will happen then.
And so first and foremost he says, “Guys? All I want you to hear is God said this would happen.”
Now he starts his sermon beginning in verse 22. Here’s proof number one. The historical reality of Jesus. He’s just going to start out and say this phenomena, this event that we’ve had, I want you to know it’s rooted in that person that about forty, forty-five days ago or so, remember?
So he picks it up, he says, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge and, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”
Point number one: everything we’re talking about is rooted in this historical person, Jesus, that you knew and there were eyewitnesses and everyone knew He did all those miracles.
Point number two: they’re going to say, look, this was prophesied. The Old Testament predicted that this would happen to the Messiah.
And so what they’re going to do, they’re going to say, look, here’s the Old Testament teaching about the Messiah. Over here is all the experience we’ve had about Jesus. And they’re going to take this like a film and lay it over the prophecy and their experience and they’re going to say Old Testament truth, Jesus, one in the same.
So notice they’re going to give the Old Testament prophecy from David. You know, everyone, as a Jew, David was a great hero.
And so quoting Psalm 16, David said about Him, speaking of the Messiah, “I saw the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope because You will not abandon me to the grave nor will You let Your Holy One see decay. You have made know to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.”
“Brothers,” Peter says. He quotes that. He goes, “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and he knew that God had promised him on oath that He would place one of His descendants on His throne.”
“Seeing what was ahead,” in other words, “David, seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ that He was not abandoned to the grave nor did His body see decay.” God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of this fact.
And so he makes the point. It was prophesied in the Old Testament and then his third point is there’s eyewitnesses. This wasn’t done in a vacuum. He’s saying there were five hundred of us over the last forty days.
I mean, in any court of law, two eyewitnesses declared it’s true. There were five hundred of us. In fact, see these hundred and twenty people with the fire on top of their head speaking these languages they’ve never learned?
Every one of them is an eyewitness. In fact, I can just tell you, ten days ago we were outside and, wow, we watched Him go up!
And so he’s making a very, very strong case in this first sermon about why you can actually believe that Jesus in fact is the Messiah, that He died, and then He rose from the grave.
Now he’s going to go on. Look at verse 33. “Exalted to the right hand of God, He was received from the Father and the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out and that is what you see and hear. For David didn’t ascend to heaven and yet he said, ‘The Lord, Yahweh, said to my Lord, Adonai, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”
He’s basically saying, “This event that you’re seeing, it’s the fourth proof.”
And then notice what he calls for a decision. “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
And the word “Lord” there, you might circle in your Bible, it’s a word used for God. It’s in the phrase earlier. It talks, its reference is to Yahweh. And so, they’re making this point that Jesus was in fact fully human but fully God.
The Yahweh of the Old Testament. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. They’re making this point that He is, in fact, God and He is the waited Messiah. He was the hope of Israel. And so, he speaks to them and says, “Guys, you got a big issue on your hands. What are you going to do with this truth? This Spirit coming is evidence of all that Jesus taught.”
The lesson here is that the power is in the message not the messenger. You know, sometimes we feel like, If I could just speak better or if I just knew more.
Power is in the message. It’s not how cool you are. It’s not how hip you are. It’s not how much you know. It’s not your personality.
The power is in the gospel. If you will share it, people trust Christ. Because the Holy Spirit prepares them and the Holy Spirit is speaking to them and God loves them. He wants your mouth, He wants your heart, He wants your hands, He wants your eyes.
He just wants you and me to love people and then to have the courage to say, “Has anyone ever explained to you how to have a personal relationship with the God of heaven? Has anyone ever shared with you how you can have eternal life that it’s actually a gift? That’s not about religiosity, it’s not about a moral code, it’s not about philosophy, that God actually loves you and He made you.
You know what you’ll find? People will look at you and go, “No, no one ever has, would you?” And then you’ll think, “Well, I’m a failure and I don’t, I can’t say it very well.” And you’ll think, “Great! That’s you and Peter. You ready to roll?”
Question. What’s keeping you from sharing His message?