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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
So we pick up the story. Verse 21: “Therefore, it’s necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us from the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.
Beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must come and become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
By the way, do you get their mission? Their mission wasn’t, “Let’s start a religion and be a little bit more moral than other people. Let’s start a religion and be really kind and nice. Let’s just start a religion and see if we can help the world out and make our lives more comfortable.”
They said, “No, no, no. There’s eleven of us and we’ve been given a global assignment. We are to be witnesses. We’re to, what we hear, what we see, what we experience of the resurrection. That there’s life after death. A Savior came, redemption occurred, reconciliation.”
I mean, these people are positive, focused, and missional. And then now, notice what happens. He says, “So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas and also Justus and Matthias. And then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show which of these two that You have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go to the place where he belongs.’ Then they drew lots and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven.”
Now, you might ask, you know, why would they draw lots? It’s because that’s the Old Testament way to discern God’s will when you’re not sure.
I mean, they knew both of these guys were qualified. But, from the time that Jesus was baptized by John to the time that He ascended, they’ve all been in these groups together and both of these guys are, as far as we know, very, very qualified.
And then there’s this very interesting word. It says, “But You, O Lord,” and there’s this very interesting word, “but You are the God who searches the heart.” Only You know. Who have You chosen, Lord? You know people’s motives. You know what’s going on down, deep inside.
And so because the Holy Spirit hasn’t come. And when He comes, what’s the promise? Jesus said, John 16, “He’ll guide you into the truth.” But right now, as Old Testament saints waiting for the Holy Spirit, they cast lots and what they did is obey the next thing that God showed them.
And what He said was, “Go pray.” They prayed. And they did it for ten days together. And then they said, “Oh, the Bible is clear that the next thing to do is not go, not talk. It’s to replace Judas.”
Now, here’s what you’ve got to understand. All through the book of Acts it is both descriptive and prescriptive. And so, what you do is you look through a lens and you say, in Acts chapter 1 we have Jesus giving His agenda for the planet to the very first followers of Christ.
This is exactly what you’re to do now. The question, then, is how do you take, what are the principles from Acts chapter 1 to what are Jesus’ words to us, His body, now, the twenty-first century.
And I’d like to suggest there’s four very clear applications to what Jesus wants this unstoppable tsunami wave of grace to build up in and through us and to go out from us.
Four things. Number one, we are to be confident in Jesus’ presence and purpose. You know, if there’s one thing I observe more and more about Christians, it’s like we have a self-image problem. We’re always concerned about what people think.
And, well, I can’t do that or I’m inadequate and, you know, I’m sure God uses other people but not really me. And there’s sort of this passive, the world’s a really hard, difficult. That’s not how they felt.
There’s a reason that Jesus, for forty days, taught them Bible studies about the kingdom reign of God and did miracles. Why? There’s a hundred and twenty of them and they’re going to reach the world.
By the way, two thousand years later, they’re doing pretty well. Why? They had confidence in the person of Christ. And they had confidence in the purpose of Christ.
Here’s the principle. The principle, from the very words of Jesus, “His Kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Now, that great movement of God from Genesis chapter 3 that went through the Old Testament and there were prophets and the Old Testament and then Jesus comes and there’s a supernatural birth and there’s a resurrection.
And then there’s movement of the early Church. I want you to know, this tsunami wave of grace, it’s going to happen and He’s going to return and you either jump on and ride that wave of grace and be a part of God’s Kingdom agenda or you’re a spectator and you watch it go by.
And the enemy of your soul will lure you into thinking that there’s security in a 401k or if you can get into that school, or have that girlfriend or that boyfriend, if your kids turn out like this. And seduce you into all kind of things that may be good things as a byproduct, but they’re not the unstoppable agenda.
And He calls you and He calls me to ride the wave. To get on what God is doing. Because it’s going to happen. It’s a done deal. The score. You may not know all the plays. The score is final.
And God wants you to know His Kingdom will come. And the key word is faith. His key word is, “Will you believe Me?” And so we need to be confident. We need to ride the wave.
You need to begin to live in such a way where you expect God to do supernatural things. You expect Him to open the hearts of people you work with. You expect Him to provide your needs in ways you didn’t understand. You expect that things you think could never change in your marriage actually can.
And then you begin to step out and take steps of faith. And you know what? God will honor that. He’s pleased to. And without faith it’s impossible to please Him. But, boy, those who do? When we take tiny steps, our Father’s heart rejoices and He’s there to help.
The second part of God’s agenda for twenty-first century Christians is to be clear on your calling. What are we called to do?
The principle here is that every believer is a full-time missionary bearing witness to Jesus’ supernatural life in them.
Acts 1:8 is as true for us today as it was for them. You have received power. The Holy Spirit is in you. And the issue isn’t, are you going to “witness for Him.” You are a witness if you’re part of His family.
And all of us, and we have good days and bad days, but we’re either a dynamic, positive witness or a bad witness. There’s people that meet me, or meet you, or see me relate to other people and they come to conclusions about Jesus, the Church, grace, and life when they look at me and when they look at you.
And, of course, my prayer is that the great majority of that time it’ll be positive. But there’s a whole world out there, they just think Christians are nuts. They just think we’re narrow, prejudiced, bigoted, unkind, uncaring, racist.
And you know why? Because a lot of people who name the name of Christ are like that. And the breakthrough will come when legitimate followers of Christ, like you and me, when Christians live like Christians. But you’re a missionary.
What he had to help them understand back then was, it’s not about your political, national interest. And that’s true for us.
There’s a global agenda. And there’s lots of good causes. There’s this cause, this cause. And there’s lots of good causes that can get us off track. We have spent decades attacking rotten fruit. The rotten fruit of that in our society. The rotten fruit of that in our society. The rotten fruit of that in society. And the rotten fruit of that society.
Jesus says, “I want to go to the root, not the fruit.” When people’s hearts get changed, communities change. And the laws may change, the laws may not change, but the supernatural work of the tsunami grace of God didn’t come politically and it didn’t come legislatively. I think I just made up a new word.
But it came because people’s lives were changed. Key word here is “missional.” We’ve got to be a people, 24/7. I want to be a missionary in my home. I want to be a missionary in my neighborhood. I want to be a missionary where I work out. I want to be a missionary 24/7 where people see the love of Christ, the holiness of Christ.
But you know what? If we, you know what happens to churches? As soon as you get a little bit of success, we start thinking about: how do we protect our stuff? This group didn’t have any buildings, didn’t have any staff, didn’t have any money, didn’t have any DVDs, didn’t have any satellites, and didn’t have any Bibles. And they changed the world.
Why? Because they were missional. They weren’t trying to figure out, “Well, what works for us? And if we had a little bit more of this it’d be more comfortable.” They were saying, “The risen Christ lives in me now through the Holy Spirit and I’m on task and I’m a part of the tsunami grace of redemption and reconciliation.”
And by the way, this doesn’t mean that tomorrow you need to share the four laws or the bridge illustration. How about getting to know your neighbor’s names? I mean, how about just inviting some people over and say, “I’d love to hear your story. How long you been in the area?” Just befriend people. Be nice to people at work. Get out of the cubby hole mentality. My world, my stuff, my pressure, my emails. Be missional.
Third, He says be dependent on the Holy Spirit. I just want to remind you, we can’t do this. I can’t do it, you can’t do it. And the principle here is apart from Him, you can do nothing.
Jesus, the last time, when they turned the Passover to the Lord’s Supper for the very first time, He had already washed their feet, and then He walks with them and as He walks with them, they go to where He’s going to pray and this will be His last night.
And as they go there, He begins to talk about Him being the true vine. And His Father being the vinedresser.
And about, “All that you men need to know, I’ve taught you a lot. All you need to do is abide. You just need to be connected to Me. And the way you’re going to be connected to Me is going to be in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s going to be in the context of My words. And if you will just stay connected to Me, I’ll produce the fruit through you. Apart from Me,” this isn’t about getting rah, rah. This isn’t about your fleshly energy.
Anything that you start in the flesh you have to remain and sustain in the flesh. Anything that is launched in the Spirit is maintained and sustained by the Spirit.
This is about trusting God to do supernatural things in you and through you as you, before God, in community, on mission, allow the Word of God, by the Spirit of God to take birth in your heart and you take steps of faith and obedience. Key word here is prayer.
I had a chance to speak at Liberty University last Friday. And a young twenty-four, twenty-five year old who went to school there and now works in, sort of, the convocation department of, you know, they have about ten thousand students that come in the basketball arena every Friday for devotions. Actually, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
And I had a chance to speak to those students. But, you know, came in kind of late and so we got to talk to this young gal and, you know, within, like, you know, it was about a fifty minute ride and Theresa and I got out of the car and thought, “Man, she is one godly, amazing, young woman.”
And you know how you meet someone and you think this conversation went way deeper than we should ever go in, like, fifty minutes.
And then we got to know them just a little bit and we met her boyfriend and a little bit of their journey and then, you know, we had a fifty-minute ride back. And it got way, way deeper. And I just thought, I mean, it was like I know their vision is to have eighty-five percent of all their students graduate and go into “the marketplace” as representatives and ambassadors for Christ. I said, “Man, if they produce people like her, they are going to shake the world.”
And as we were going she said, “You know, I grew up in a good Christian home and, you know, it was a different story. You know, I’m close with my dad, my mom and dad are still married. I had devotions. I went to this Bible college and, you know, it was pretty, pretty strict in some ways.
“But, you know, I got up every morning and I read the Bible.” But she said, “One day, the president of our school did something that changed my life.” I said, “What’s that?” She said, “He held up this tiny, little book. It was an old, old book by E.M. Bounds called The Power of Prayer.
“And he challenged us in chapel. If you will read this book and then pray ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes at noon, and ten minutes at night, just for six months, I’ll give you this book.”
She said, “I just felt like God prompted me so, you know, I went down and I picked up this book.” And if you’ve ever read the book, I mean, it’s like, whew. It’s a really powerful book on prayer. Very challenging.
And so she said, “You know, I was reading my Bible, candidly, I was a very good, moral person.” She goes, “I read that book on prayer and I began to see God’s promises and to expect supernatural things. And, you know, ten minutes doesn’t sound very long. But, like, for ten minutes deeply and then ten minutes at noon and then, like, ten minutes at night.”
She goes, “My life changed. My view of God changed. I saw God doing things I’d never seen before. I came out of a good home, I’m in a Bible school, I was reading the Bible. But the power of God. The supernatural power of God and my view of Him and what He could do and what He wanted to do with me. It was revolutionized when I began to really pray.”
That’s God’s agenda for us in the twenty-first century Church. We need to be confident, we need to be clear, and we need to be dependent. And probably the greatest evidence of my dependency, and your dependency is the depth, extent, and even, at times, length of your prayer life.
If it’s always on the run…and there’s two kinds of prayer. There’s the deep, secret prayer. You know, I mean, you get in your room, you sit quietly before God, there’s adoration, there’s confession, there’s thanksgiving, there’s intercession for others. And then there’s quiet listening, Lord, what would You want to say to me? Do You want to give me direction? Do You want to convict me? Do You want to show me anything?
And then there’s the get in your car, in meetings, traveling, talking with God throughout the day. I’m talking about that first kind right now.
How are you doing with that? That becomes a part of the culture more and more and more and more and more and your personal culture, you’ll see things happen that you think only happen to other people. Be confident. Be clear. Be dependent.
And finally, be obedient. But not in general. Be obedient to today’s truth. Did you notice those early disciples? I love this. Peter didn’t say, “Hey! Jesus said we’re supposed to reach the world. Come on, guys! Let’s go for it!”
What did he say? What’s the first truth? You just go and what we learned, for about the next ten days, and you just go pray. In fact, just wait. And while they’re waiting, Peter says, “Well, is there anything in our Bible,” he had the Old Testament, “is there anything in our Bible that we should be doing now?”
“Well, you know that passage in Psalm 69 is clear about the one who’s going to betray, I never saw that before but I’m sure glad you opened my mind to the Scriptures, Lord. And then that, you know, passage in 109 that we’re supposed to replace him.”
God’s will, today, is to obey the next thing. Now, I say that because, this is a confession, so please don’t think too little of me if I be just a bit honest here. There are times where God speaks very clearly to me about doing something. But I don’t want to do it.
So I read two more chapters of the Bible. He speaks to me about doing something and I don’t want to do it so I say to myself, “You know, honey, we’re giving to the church and Faith Promise, and Living on the Edge. You know what I think? Why don’t we just write a check here?”
He said, He tells me something He wants me to do and I think to myself, “You know, I wonder, I’m going to text so and so and just encourage them. You know, ‘Hey, brother, how you doing? Just was thinking.’ And I’ll pray for them right now.” And I really will.
You know? And I’m doing all these sort of things that are, kind of, good Christian sort of things that I know. But they’re not the next thing.
And sometimes we play games with God and, honestly, you know how you become a rigid, legalistic, uncaring, religious person that drifts far away from God and is convinced that you’re really close to Him is when you haven’t obeyed the next thing. Because your heart gets hard. And then you stuff all this religion in it. And then you play all these games.
If God tells you to confront someone and you read more of the Bible, you sin. So, if God is telling you, “You know what? You need…” Maybe there’s someone that you realize they’re drifting away from the Lord. “I don’t want to talk to them, God. You know, it might ruin the relationship, I don’t know what to say.”
If He’s telling you to talk to someone, to confront them, do it. If He’s telling you today, “You need to apologize to someone or forgive them.” Do it. Do it today. If He’s saying, “I want you to share the gospel with a neighbor or a co-worker.” Then, you know, we’ve got a relationship, I know, just, just do it. Get on your email and say, “Could we have lunch? Can I buy you a coffee?”
And then you open the question with, “Has anyone ever shared with you how much God loves you and how to have a relationship with Him?”
And if he says, “No, and I don’t want to” you’re off the hook. But do it! God doesn’t put those promptings in your heart unless He’s been preparing someone.
If God says to you, “Deal with the porn issue. Get counseling. Start getting your finances in order today.” Whatever it is, do it. Because if you don’t do the next step where He speaks, here’s the principle, Mark chapter 4, from the lips of Jesus: “If you do not respond to the light or the truth God gives you, then He’ll take away the truth that you have.”
If you respond to the light that He gives you, He’ll give you more light.
See, the organ of spiritual growth is not knowledge. Here’s the key word. The organ of spiritual growth is application. Jesus would say after His greatest sermon, “Let Me show you two kind of people. Some build on the rock, some build on the sand, it all looks the same, the activities are the same, there’s one difference. This group applies it; this group doesn’t.”
What would happen if every one of us just in quietness before the Lord said, “Would You just show me the next thing?” By the way, that’s why it’s hard to pray. You know why it’s hard to pray? Because when you get real quiet it reveals your spiritual poverty and my spiritual poverty.
And what it reveals is that, in other words, if I get real quiet, I have this deep down sense that I’m going to hear something I don’t want to hear. I don’t want to apologize to my wife. I don’t want to hear, “Go to counseling.” I don’t want to forgive my dad. He’s a jerk. Right?
I don’t want to get my finances in order. I know I got a lot of debt but, you know, gosh, it’s going to be a pain, I have to own up to some stuff. I don’t want to deal with my addiction.
But I’ll tell you this: you take the next first step and God will give grace and God will bring people and you’ll have freedom and you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free. And you know what? You’ll experience something you never experienced. Guess what – now you’re a witness.
See, because, when they took the early disciples and said, “Shut up! You can’t talk about this anymore.” They said, “Who should we obey? Man or God? We can’t stop talking about this Jesus.” Why? Because they were experiencing Him. You only experience Him if you obey the truth for today.