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1st March 2015
In our new preach series, Acts of Courage, we will start to see how strongly characteristic of the Early Church courage was. We want to explore how this kind of courage can be used in all situations, whether it's in the face of failure, grief, conflict, or generosity, praying for the sick and proclaiming the gospel, and how the same Spirit and power of God is with us today.
Luke, the writer of Acts, poses a very important beginning to Jesus' teaching and ministry in his account, the gospel of Luke, but his "sequel", the book of Acts, shows the dynamic spread of the gospel to the known world within just 30 years.
Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:45-53 describe the same events and we see the overlap of three things: Jesus and the forgiveness of sins; the call to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth; and descriptions of the Holy Spirit and His power. In Acts, we begin to see how the Early Church is filled with the Holy Spirit and how they courageously begin to fulfil Jesus' commission of going to "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all the ends of the earth".
Michael Green says that "Neither the strategy or the tactics of the first Christians were particularly remarkable. What was remarkable was their conviction, their passion, and their determination to act as Christ's embassy to a rebel world whatever the consequences."
In Acts 1:1-3 and 9-11, Luke shows that the Christian message centres around the person of Jesus. His language stresses that he was concerned with the truth and wanted to write an accurate account of what had been happening. He reinforces that Jesus had risen from the dead by verifying the physical proof of his actions. The reason for this is that the message of Jesus' resurrection is central! Without it, there would be no victory over death and sin.
Afterwards, when Jesus ascends into Heaven, it isn’t just a dramatic spectacle: it shows that we have been united with Him, and that we will see Him again. As the story of Acts unfolds, it's clear that the disciples found incredible strength in knowing Jesus would return. They had a hope that went beyond the grave, and so do we.
Jesus' ascension marked only the start of the commission. The apostles were called to be witnesses of all Jesus had done, spreading the gospel to the ends of the Earth and making disciples. This is also our mission until Christ returns. In the world today there are an estimated 7000 unreached people groups and as a part of New Ground, we're called to reach nations and cities in Europe -- it's great to be a part of what's happening at our "end of the earth". But we're also called to think about people closer to home. What about the people in our communities and workplaces, those we have to change our diaries to reach, and those who aren't far away from us but have different cultures, backgrounds or life experiences?
We are called to be courageous, because Jesus equips us for the task. Although this is a commission way beyond our abilities and resources, Jesus promises us that "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." (Acts 1:8). The apostles then, and us today, have been clothed with power and equipped for service. Just as God gave them everything from boldness, the ability to do signs and wonders, and prophetic insight to setting others free and endurance in the face of persecution through the power of His Spirit, so we have the same equipping available to us.
Posted by Paul Mann