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8th March 2015
There is some very specific detail in Acts 1:12-26. Luke tells us what happened after Jesus has ascended. He informs us that the followers of Jesus were praying together in "one accord" – there was unity in the church before the Holy Spirit fell.
Luke gives us a recipe for unity: prayer. I once held a grudge against someone and a friend challenged me by asking if I had considered praying God's best for that person. It's hard to keep holding onto a grudge when you are praying for someone! Likewise, if you feel distant from church, come along to corporate prayer times. It will do you good. The disciples were "devoted to prayer".
Oswald Chambers writes: "We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defence. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don't want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of 'good time' is seldom in sync with ours."
In the passage in Acts 1, Peter validates what is about to happen by referring to the Scriptures. Nothing comes as a surprise to God. When God says something will happen, it will happen. It could be a long time off, but it will happen. The Bible is full of promises and all of them have come or will come to pass. No word of God returns void (Isaiah 55:11).
The language of heaven is promises, but the language of the devil is lies. All sin is sugar-coated with 30 pieces of silver, but it leads to destruction, humiliation, and death, as it did for Judas.
Peter outlined the criteria for replacing Judas (verses 21-22). They cast lots because it was cultural and biblical. There are many examples in the Bible of God ordaining events through the drawing of lots. The apostles prayed for the outworking of God's plans through this process. However, it is the last time it is seen in the Bible because after this the Holy Spirit fell and then decisions were made by His guidance.
The main criteria for choosing a replacement for Judas was the heart. You can go to church every week and do lots of things on the outside, but we can miss relationship with God. God is interested in our heart. Christianity is not a talent audition; it's a heart condition.
So there's the detail. That's one half of a good Bible study. But then it's really helpful for us to take a step back and look at God's big story. For example, we can ask why there needed to be 12 apostles – why did they need to replace Judas anyway? God had always intended and wanted to tabernacle (to dwell) with His people. It started with one man, Abraham, but was always about a vast number of people who would come into God's blessing and family.
After Abraham, God sets apart a nation for Himself that is formed of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was once a time when you would not have been in the people of God – you would not have been acceptable, had it not been for the blood of Jesus Christ. But when Jesus arrives, He doesn't negate the past but He says that all of it was leading to Him, and now whoever puts their trust in Him can become part of His people!
The promises of Abraham are now your promises! His inheritance is your inheritance! It’s amazing that a promise of an inheritance passed down through Abraham, a frail old man, unable to have children, will result in a river so vast and so wide, a torrent so powerful, that it will have an impact and be a blessing to all who encounter it.
I believe that Acts 1 is a turning point in God’s big story. You once were not a people, but now you are a people. Do you want to know how to be courageous? You can be courageous, because you are now God’s child, in God’s place, under God’s blessing.
Posted by Aled Cousins