Preparing Your Life to be Used by Jesus
In Acts 1:9-26 Jesus prepares his first band of followers (120) for His mission by rooting them in the gospel, meeting them in prayer and appointing leaders for the mission. In this, we too can learn how to prepare our lives to be used by Him. Next week: the Spirit comes.
The book of Acts describes what Jesus continued to do from heaven through his people by his Spirit, following his resurrection and ascension (1:1-2). It describes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the foundation of the Christian church, and the expansion of gospel (i.e. good news of Jesus) to the edges of the known world – through normal, every day – even unlikely – people. The book of Acts marks the beginning of the story that we’re writing the next chapter to in our generation in our city as we plant this church, Downtown Cornerstone.
Last week we examined how Jesus’ mission is historically-true (e.g. good news vs good advice), witness-driven (e.g. proclamation + demonstration) and kingdom-focused (e.g. not territorial and national, but spiritual and international).
Today, Jesus prepares his first band of followers (120) for His mission. As we take a closer look, we’ll learn some principles for how we too can prepare our lives to be used by Jesus.
#1 Jesus’ people are GOSPEL-DRIVEN (vs9-11)
Of the four most important events in the life of Jesus – his birth, death, resurrection and ascension – the last receives the least amount of attention. You’ll have a hard time finding a “Celebrate the Ascension!” card at Hallmark. Yet, without the ascension, Jesus’ life and work are like a bomb left undetonated.The ascension is crucial for the distribution of the benefits of Jesus’ work being made available worldwide and the empowerment of His mission through His people.
The ascension makes Jesus the forerunner of “new heavens and new earth” (Isa 65:17, 66:22; 2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1) Heaven is not a location w/in our universe, as though it were just beyond the bounds of our galaxy. Rather, in the Bible, “heaven” & “earth” are two dimensions of God’s creation; interlocking spheres of God’s reality. Currently, “heaven” is God’s dimension and “earth” is our dimension. In other words, this means that everything in our world, has another dimension/reality.
God’s plan is for new heavens/new earth joined together once for all. It will be then that the two realities/dimensions of “heaven” and “earth” will become one and form the “new heavens & new earth”. (Isa 65:17, 66:22; 2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1) This means, that heaven not just happy place where God’s people go when they die, leaving earth behind. Heaven, God’s dimension, will be our temporary home after this life BUT the united, renewed, new heavens and earth is our eternal destination. (adapted NT Wright, Acts for Everyone, 11)
Q: Where does the ascension come into this? Luke mentions ascension twice (Lk 24) which means it must be important. The risen Jesus is the first and, so far the only person who is fully at home in both dimensions, “heaven” and “earth”. By his life, death, resurrection & ascension we now anticipate the time when everything will be renewed & united.
Currently Jesus’ home is in heaven until time comes to create the “new heaven and the new earth” at which point Jesus will continue to be central figure in this new, restored and perfectly renewed place. The mind-blowing news is that now, by faith in Christ we begin to experience this heavenly dimension (grace, love, hope, joy). Fingerprints of the other dimension/reality become part of our lives.
“[God the Father] raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is name, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Eph 2:21-23
Luke wants to make sure that we see particular things in this section. First, he wants to make clear to the reader that Jesus’ ascension was seen. (vs9x2,10,11×2) Second, this ascension was bodily, not merely spiritual. Third, Jesus was seen being bodily taken away by God as symbolized by the cloud. Clouds are symbolic of God’s presence thru out OT. (Ex 40:34; Dan 7:13; Lk 9:34-36, 21:27) Lastly, Luke wants the reader to know that Jesus will come back (a reference to Jesus’ eventual second coming.)
The ascension makes the benefits of gospel (i.e. forgiveness) available worldwide. This is why Jesus tells his disciples…
“It is to your advantage if I go away, for it I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you…when the Spirit comes he will guide you into all truth.“ John 16:7,13
So, in this way, the ascension serves as the detonator for everything Jesus did. The ascension takes who Jesus was and what he did and releases into the universe and our lives w/ all of its healing power. Jesus benefits and presence are no longer limited within physical time and space, rather they are available to all.
Practically, what does this mean?
It is the task of the church to make Jesus’ dimension (i.e. the heavenly dimension) known in our dimension (i.e. the earthly dimension) by make the invisible kingdom visible. WE get to demonstrate to city what it looks like to live under rule/reign of Jesus…b/c one day all of creation will.
This should humble us because it means that we are the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in our city. But, it should also encourage us, because we have an authority that is not our own. Our authority is from him that he has entrusted us to proclaim (in the gospel) and demonstrate (through radical service). This should radically alter our worldview in how we view life, view relationships, and view our story.
#2 Jesus’ people are PRAYER-DRIVEN. (vs12-14)
The period immediately following Jesus’ ascension, we are told (Lk 24:50-52; Acts 1:12-14) was marked by worship and prayer. Why was that? Is that a minor detail or is something more happening here? All who follow Jesus are called to be a people of worship and prayer. Why? Because it is in these acts that we share in the heavenly dimension (vs the earthly dimension), where Jesus is. In a very real way, after the ascension, the story of Jesus’ followers takes place in both dimensions.
“Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” Lk 24:50-52
“The very thing we are allergic to – our helplessness – is what makes prayer work. It works b/c we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own…[the truth is] prayer is simply not important to many XNs b/c Jesus is already an add-on.” Paul Miller, A Praying Life, 55,59
Prayer is an acknowledgment that we need an in-breaking of the heavenly dimension in our earthly dimension. Until you are convinced that this life isn’t about you, but Him, you won’t take prayer seriously. Until you are convinced that you can’t change your heart, you won’t take prayer seriously. Until you are convinced that you can’t control your life, you won’t take prayer seriously.
#3 Jesus’ people are LEADER-DRIVEN. (vs15-26)
It is easy to get distracted with the details and miss the basic principle in this section. As they waited for the promised Holy Spirit, they asked God to identify leadership. In other words, they were asking him to raise up the right leader. If we look over the history of the church, one of the things we’ll see is that personal/corporate revivals occur through God-appointed leaders. The task he assigns to us is his business, not ours. Our role is to be faithful wherever we may be.
Jesus’ people are GOSPEL-driven, PRAYER-driven, and LEADER-driven. How will/does that shape your life?
- GOSPEL: How will you grow in your understanding of what is true of you by faith in Jesus? Ex. Join a community, discipleship group, Bible-study, books on reading list, etc.
- PRAYER: What can you do to more diligently seek his presence in prayer? Ex. Learn from others, A Praying Life (Paul Miller), pray the scriptures, etc.
- LEADER: Practically, how can you be more faithful in stewarding the gifts God has given you? Ex. start serving, be faithful where you are before aspiring for something you think is “more important”
This is how you prepare your life to be used by Jesus:
- Through the regular study of Jesus and your identity in Him
- Through the regular working in the truth of Jesus, in your life, through prayer
- Through the regular working out of the truth of Jesus, in your life, through faithful service
Don’t get stuck staring! Start moving and trusting.
Until Jesus returns and bring forth the dawn of the “new heavens and new earth”, our age is primarily marked by Jesus’ mission and invitation for all to hear and respond to his offer of forgiveness of sin and life with Him, starting now. In this, it can be easy to forget that there is a human being (albeit, fully God and fully man) ruling the universe. This Jesus knows you, loves you, understands you, has died for you, currently intercedes for you, rules for you and is preparing an inheritance for you. How could you reject such a gracious king? We’re created to live for something bigger than ourselves and any storyline that we could possibly write for our lives. My hope and prayer is that, as a newly forming people, we would trust Jesus more deeply, pray more earnestly, and faithfully work out the gifts he has given us – and watch Him do what only He can in our city.
“The mission of the church, the reason we exist, is to bear witness to the present reign and rule of Christ, who is at the right hand of God. If we try to do it in our own power, we will fail. The reason for the outpouring of the Spirit is not to make us feel spiritual. It is not to give us a spiritual high. It is so that we can do the job the Jesus gave the church to do.”
RC Sproul, Acts (St. Andrews Expositional Commentary),27
“The Church is the pilgrim people of God. It is on the move – hastening to the ends of the earth to beseech all men to be reconciled to God, and hastening to the end of time to meet its Lord who will gather all into one…It cannot be understood rightly except in a perspective which is at once missionary and eschatological.”
Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God, p25