When I graduated college I wanted to take an epic motorcycle ride with my dad before I moved out to Washington DC. In May my dad, a friend, and me rode motorcycles on a 230 mile loop starting in my hometown of Estes Park, Colorado. We rode up and over Trail Ridge Road, which is a beautiful ride that winds back and forth as it gets higher and higher and higher. It goes as high as 12,183 feet. Right now that road is closed because of snow, often higher than cars, but it had just finished melting on our trip. The snow–covered rockies were beautiful but I was freezing. I should have worn more layers.
We rode down the mountain and we were so eager to get some miles under our tires that we didn’t stop for gas and the next gas station wasn’t for 50 miles. As we were riding through beautiful views all around us but I kept worrying, “Am I going to run out of gas? Am I going to make it?” My motorcycle had a reserve tank that would get you a few more miles but I didn’t want to have to use it. I don’t know if I did or not but thankfully I did make it to the gas station. I was so happy I took a picture of it. After this we drove into a rainstorm and I started freezing again.
I wasn’t as prepared for this trip as I should have been. I didn’t wear enough layers and I didn’t have enough fuel. Although I enjoyed the ride, and the views, and this is a great memory, I think I could have enjoyed it even more if I had been better prepared. In the book of Acts, God is calling us to a grand mission to go out and share the message of Christ Jesus with our world. We’re going to encounter beautiful vistas, lives changed by Jesus Christ, God at work, but we’re also going to encounter difficulties and hardships, snow, rain, and running out of motivation. There are some things we need to do before the mission to be prepared and enjoy the journey.
As we continue Acts chapter one we will see how the disciples prepared to go on their mission, which will show us how to prepare for ours.
We need power for our mission. (Acts 1:8-9)
Before Jesus sends his disciples out to share the gospel (the good news about him) with the whole world, what does he promise? He promises power through the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 (NIV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Greek word for “power” is δύναμις (dune-a-mis), which sounds like our word for dynamite or dynamic. This power is the type of power than can…
- Transform people’s hearts (Luke 1:17);
- Conceive a baby in a virgin girl (Luke 1:35);
- Cast out demons (Luke 4:36; 9:1);
- Heal the lame and the sick (Luke 5:17; 6:19; 8:46);
- Perform miracles (Luke 10:13, 19; 19:37; Acts 2:22; 3:12; 6:8; 8:13; 19:11); and…
- Make people listen when the gospel is shared (Acts 4:7, 33).
This power is the Spirit’s power (Luke 4:14; 24:49). This power is Jesus’ power (Luke 22:69; Acts 10:38). Did you know that more of the sun’s power strikes the earth in one hour than the entire world uses in one year? Enough solar energy hits the earth in one hour to supply our whole world with power for an entire year. Christ’s power is even greater. If we’re going to be his witnesses in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, we need to access his power.
The original name for Acts is the “Acts of Apostles.” The Bible Project points out that “a more accurate name” is “The Acts of Jesus and the Spirit.” Aren’t the apostles and disciples doing all the work? The Holy Spirit is working through them. The work that takes place in Acts is first Christ’s work. He’s the primary worker. He’s the conductor. He’s the hero. Look at what Jesus does right after he gives them the mission.
Acts 1:9 (NIV) After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Where did Jesus go? This is what Jesus promised those who were condemning him at his trial.
Luke 22:69 (NIV) But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
When Jesus ascended into heaven he sat down at the right hand of God. He is seated in heaven right next to our Heavenly Father right now (Rev 5:13). This is a place of glory, authority, and power. Jesus is seated on his throne, ruling, and reigning, and taking care of business. In order to do his mission, we need his power. Why? Because…
Christ’s power is unstoppable. (Acts 1:12-26)
Do you remember what Jesus promised Peter in the gospel of Matthew?
Matthew 16:18 (NIV) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Jesus is going to build his church through the power of the Holy Spirit and the deeds of his people, and nothing will be able to stop it. Newton’s first law of motion says that an “object in motion stays in motion.” His law clarifies this is only the case if that object doesn’t run into something or encounter resistance. Jesus’ promise is even greater. He promises his church will keep growing and going despite resistance. How? Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to help them (Acts 1:4).
Acts 1:12-13 (NIV) 12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
All eleven disciples are present (Luke 6:14-16). Judas betrayed Jesus and is gone so Peter gets up and talks about why the disciples should actually number twelve.
Acts 1:15-17 (NIV) 15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.
Quoting the Psalms, Peter explains how the Spirit accounted for Judas’s betrayal (Psalm 69:25; 109:8).
Acts 1:20 (NIV)
“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’
This means God knew, and even allowed, Judas to betray Jesus. Judas was a part of God’s big plan. Evil cannot stop Christ’s plans. Christ causes all things—the good things and bad things, the things we don’t understand or can’t see past—to work out for good (Rom 8:28). Christ’s power is unstoppable.
There’s a story in the Old Testament of a young man named Joseph whose ten older brothers sell him into slavery. While in slavery, things seem to get better. He gets a good job and get’s promoted but then he gets betrayed again and this time thrown into prison. After years God raises him out of prison to become Pharaoh, King of Egypt’s, right hand man (Genesis 41:39-43). Then a famine hits the land and Joseph’s brothers who betrayed him come to Egypt for food. After they discover Joseph is still alive and ruling Egypt, they are terrified Joseph is going to kill them. But Joseph says this:
Genesis 50:20 (NIV) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joseph is the son who was betrayed, but God used it for good. Jesus is the Son who was betrayed, and God used it for our good. What happened to Joseph lead to the saving of many lives. What happened to Jesus leads to the salvation of many more lives. If you repent and believe in Jesus, your life will be saved too.
They replace Judas with another disciple because God is showing you can’t stop his plan. The Bible identifies the 12 tribes of Israel as the people of God in the Old Testament and Christian believers as the people of God in the New Testament. Jesus chose 12 disciples (apostles) to signify that this new thing was a continuation of the old thing. Revelation 4:4 talks about the twenty-four elders seated on the twenty–four thrones surrounding Christ’s throne—12 tribes, 12 disciples, one continuous people. When we step back and see the big story God is telling it shows just how powerful and unstoppable God’s plans are.
God has called us to a big mission—to make, mature, and multiply disciples in Westford, on our frontlines, across social and cultural barriers, and even in foreign nations (Acts 1:8). I have two questions:
- Do you believe Jesus has the power we need?
Do we really believe Jesus can change lives? Do we believe Jesus can work through us to change lives in Westford and on our frontlines (our everyday places) and around the world? If yes…
- Do you want Jesus to empower us for our mission?
Do we want to be led by the Holy Spirit? I don’t think that’s a quick yes because God doesn’t give us the Holy Spirit so that we can just have nice Christian lives. He empowers us so we can go out into a fallen and broken world, live for Jesus, and tell others about him.
We need power for our mission. Christ’s power is unstoppable. How do we access the power of the Son?
His power comes through prayer. (Acts 1:14, 24)
What do the disciples and the women and Mary the mother of Jesus do right when they get back to Jerusalem after seeing Jesus ascend into heaven? They pray.
Acts 1:14a (NIV) They all joined together constantly in prayer…
The NASB says, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer…” Here we find 120 followers of Jesus continually pouring out their hearts to their Heavenly Father. Jesus ascended on the 40th day and the Holy Spirit came on the 50th day at Pentecost. We get this image of those 120 people constantly praying together for those ten days.
Acts 1:24 (NIV) Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen
They covered their leadership decision in prayer and cast lots because they trust Jesus to make the ultimate decision. That doesn’t mean we should cast lots today. We have the Holy Spirit and wisdom and Godly brothers and sisters in Christ we can ask for advice. The twelve apostles wanted to make abundantly clear that Jesus was still head of his church and would decide what would happen.
Before we go on mission or choose church leaders or try anything as a church, we have to pray. Do we pray because it makes us “better Christians?” No. We pray because we want to know God. We pray because we want to experience the Holy Spirit. Prayer is not an end in itself. Prayer is the means to an end, knowing and experiencing Jesus.
As a church, we want revival. That means we want lots of people to come to know Jesus. But are we willing to pray for it? Here are some of the ways we are already praying at Cornerstone.
- Prayer Network: Emails-based prayer requests group.
- Friday Night Community Group (6:30-8pm): Weekly gathering to pray.
- Sunday Morning Prayer (8-8:45am): Prayer for mission and church.
- Elders & Deacons Meetings: We pray before meetings, sometime 30-45 minutes.
- Other Prayer: Personal, one-on-one, community group, ministry team prayer times.
This should encourage us that we have places we are praying at Cornerstone, but it should also challenge us because I know some of these prayer times are struggling. I know we’re all busy so it can be really hard to stop and pray as a church body, but something special happens when we do. Jesus said that when two or three gather, he’s with us (Matt 18:20). I want Jesus to be with us. When he’s with us, stuff happens.
Paul also says to “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17). That means we can pray as we go. When you’re on your frontline, pray for your coworker to come to know Christ. When you’re going to the grocery store, pray for the cashier to meet Jesus. When you’re going to Dunkin Donuts, pray for staff to know Christ. When you’re driving through Westford or Littleton or Acton pray for homes as you drive by them—that those who live there would hear the gospel, repent, believe, and be saved, and that if it’s his will he would use you to share the gospel with them.
Before the mission… we need power for our mission. Christ’s power is unstoppable. His power comes through prayer.
I want to close with a story of prayer leading to revival. Some might say that revival never comes without prayer. Here’s a story that shows prayer can lead to revival. I hadn’t known about this one before so maybe it’s new to you as well.
For eight years a sculpture of a man praying on a park bench inviting those walking by to join him was outside Columbus Circle in upper Manhattan. The sculpture is called “Invitation to pray” and now resides at a local Christian college.
This sculpture is of a man named Jeremy Lanphier. Jeremy Lanphier lived in New York City in the 1800s. He became a Christian and began telling others about Christ. He worked as a “clothing wholesaler” during the day but talked with people and gave out tracts after work. Pretty soon a church hired him to visit members, witness around the church, and hold Bible studies. It drained him spiritually but he felt recharged if he spent his noon hour in prayer. He realized if prayer could recharge him it could recharge others, so he handed out 20,000 flyers to a noon prayer meeting, but nobody came.
He knelt down to pray. 30 minutes in a man joined him, then another and another. Every week more and more joined until he had to rent a bigger building. Pretty soon he had “forty businessmen” praying with him every day. A financial crisis struck the city and more and more people began joining noon and evening prayer gatherings. The newspapers picked it up then people in other cities, “Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland” began praying. Thousands of people began praying and this contributed to “as many as a million people [being] converted or renewed in the revival that followed.” We need power for our mission. Christ’s power is unstoppable. His power comes through prayer.
Pastor Jonathan Romig preached this message at Cornerstone Congregational Church. You can download a PDF copy of this sermon above, which includes endnotes and references, or share it through Apple podcasts or Google Play Music. Read the story of our church here.