I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Luke begins his second tome with a repetition and exposition of the Great Commission (Luke 24:47). It’s no accident that it is the outward movement of Christ – characterized by distinct and supernatural love and accompanied by supernatural miracles – that will contextualize everything to follow.
In Acts, Luke is trying to describe to Theophilus how Christianity expanded through the ancient world. But to do that, he first explains why Christianity expanded. Here, Luke builds a bridge – at once demonstrating that the Spirit of God is consistent with the person and direction of Jesus, and that the church can only be explained by Spirit-empowered witness.
Jesus taught the “kingdom of God” (Mark 1). The disciples ask if He will restore the “kingdom of Israel” (vv. 6). Jesus evades the question. And in that evasion, He refocuses the disciples on one thing – simple obedience. Obedience is the context of empowerment. I find that 90% of the challenge in witnessing to the world around us lies not in what we know, but in the purposeful intentionality to “go” to where God is calling (hint: He’s calling you and me to all the lost of the world – nearby, in our region, and into all the world). I find it encouraging that when I am intentional to put myself into situations where I am clearly the outsider, He is faithful to leverage insight and power to influence others.
I find that stepping out in faith is always a challenge. For whatever reason, my flesh constantly wants me to lie down, be comfortable, coast, or be satisfied with my number of friends. But this is not what Jesus called me to.
In those times, I remind myself of one cold, hard fact: I have eternity with my friends who are Christ-followers. I have a very short moment of time with those who don’t know. If these days aren’t seized, then I’ve missed the priority to which I’m called. Even Jesus said He came to “seek and save” the lost.
I also find it helps to remind myself that we are closest to those with whom we share foxholes. The Christ-followers I’m privileged enough to journey through life with are close to me precisely because we are both leaning in the same direction—forward. We mean to change the planet by introducing the world to the transforming person of Jesus Christ.
He reaches places we can’t go. But we can go to those who don’t know Him. This can be very alienating precisely because we see life so radically differently: through the reality of the kingdom of God. I am privileged to lean on those believers with whom I journey because they know what it’s like, and their encouragement sharpens me to not despair.
- First, set aside your personal agenda. The disciples tried to tie Jesus down to a very specific cause, which was the restoration of Israel. Theirs was a political and national longing. Their very identity was wrapped up in their culture. But Jesus’ agenda was much bigger and also much more challenging. No longer could they rely on their background or culture to have the world take notice. Instead, their impact would be intrinsically linked to their intimacy with the Spirit of God.
- Second, count the ways God actually performs miracles. In the West, we seek the supernatural as an exception to the rule. This is, however, a false seeking. The truth is the same yesterday as today. God works miracles with far greater frequency than we give Him credit for.
- We just tend to celebrate, move on, and forget about them. Don’t believe me? It took just a few days for the nation of Israel to start grumbling after God parted the Red Sea. So take some time and document how faithful God is to us when we are faithful to His leading. Notice the tie between you stepping out in faith and His Spirit at work in and through you to expand that faith.