Sunday, 2 August 2015

Daily Reading: Acts 1v1-3

"In my former book, Theophilus, I write about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was take up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.  After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."

Acts is the second volume in Luke's two volume account of Jesus life and teaching.  Luke contains Luke's account, carefully investigated and recorded from eyewitnesses of what Jesus did before his ascension.  But Acts, the second volume, pieced together using the same MO, continues to record what Jesus did after he has risen and ascended.  That mean that Acts is not so much the Acts of the Apostles, as the continuing acts of Jesus through his apostles by the Spirit.  Jesus ascension does not mean he has finished his work here and now, far from it Jesus continues to be with his people, he continues to work and draw people to himself.  That means as we read Acts we expect to keep seeing Jesus as work, Jesus being preached, and Jesus drawing people to himself.

Luke is keen for us to see that Jesus leaves the apostles who he has chosen and instructed to establish his church, though he has not left them alone.  From Luke 9v51 onwards Jesus gives considerable time to discipling the twelve and others, teaching, training, mentoring, challenging, rebuking and explaining.  He does more of that after his death, just think of Luke 24 and the extended teaching he provides for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus doesn't reveal himself to them immediately, rather his real identity is hidden from them and instead "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."  If there was one conversation I'd love to have eavesdropped on in history that would be the one.  Jesus himself explaining how all of the Old Testament pointed to and was fulfilled in the events of the first Easter, and then their eyes being opened as he broke the bread.  Acts is the account of how these chosen apostles instructed by Jesus through the Spirit reach out with the good news of the gospel and in the process found the church.

Acts matters because it is our history.  Without this we are rootless and impoverished as churches.  It explains who Jesus is and how in the space of thirty years a miracle working penniless itinerant preacher from Palestine who was crucified (as the world saw it) became the founder of a movement that swept the Roman world.  Because Jesus is who Luke set out to show he was in his gospel, Jesus is God the Son made man, the messiah, the King of God's kingdom who died bearing God's wrath at man's sin though he was sinless to bring people to God.  And having done so he rose again from the dead bringing a new life and a new way of relating to God by faith as his forgiven and justified children.  Acts is the history of Jesus on his ongoing mission, at work through his people, to grow the kingdom and save many.

Jesus is who he claimed to be, there are many convincing proofs of his resurrection.  But Acts tells us he is not done with the world.  He is not a pampered prince cloistered in heaven indifferent to what is happening with his kingdom.  No Jesus is ascended and reigning at his Father's side and he is still at work, still on mission.  Luke's gospel tells us what Jesus began to do and teach until his resurrection, Acts is about what Jesus continued to do and teach as God's resurrected and reigning King.

These opening verses of Acts tell us that our church has a ruling and reigning king.  Jesus is not indifferent, he is not done with us, he is not simply waiting passing time until he comes back.  He is working, he is concerned, he has left us his standing orders for the church and poured out His Spirit on us.  That lends tremendous dignity to our gathering as his people.

We often sing these words at the beginning of our church service:

Come, people of the Risen King,
Who delight to bring Him praise;
Come all and tune your hearts to sing
To the Morning Star of grace.
From the shifting shadows of the earth
We will lift our eyes to Him,
Where steady arms of mercy reach
To gather children in.

Rejoice, Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice; O Church of Christ, rejoice!

Come, those whose joy is morning sun,
And those weeping through the night;
Come, those who tell of battles won,
And those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change,
And His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days
With the certain hope of peace.

Come, young and old from every land -
Men and women of the faith;
Come, those with full or empty hands -
Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing -
Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age:
“Our God is all in all”!

(Song by Keith & Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend)

It is the nature of our risen and reigning king that lends significance to our gathering as God's people. It's Sunday today and as we gather Acts tells us we gather as people of a risen King, a reigning King, an active King who calls his people to gather together united by grace.  To encourage one another, to spur one another on, to live out our identity as the Kings people as we carry that good news out into a needy world.

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