2/8/15: The Greatest Story Ever Told: ACTS (1)
“Your mission, should you decide to accept it…”
Each episode of the 1960s TV series “Mission:Impossible” began with that invitation. The first disciples of Jesus received a similar invitation from their Lord just before he ascended to heaven: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
This Sunday in 12:13 we embarked on a 5-week study of the Book of Acts. We began by reviewing some principles for biblical interpretation that we learned while studying 1 Samuel in November. We then talked about one specific question that arises when interpreting New Testament narratives like Acts: Is the 21st-century church supposed to look and act just like the 1st-century church? When Acts describes practices that characterized the early Christians, should we assume that God wants us to imitate those practices?
- Does he want us sharing all our possessions with other Christians?
- Should we always preach the gospel to Jews before Gentiles, as Paul did?
- Should we lay our sick family members on the sidewalk outside the church in hopes that they will be healed when the shadow of a passing pastor falls on them?
What we learned in class on Sunday is that the Book of Acts can talk about a practice without teaching that we have to follow that practice ourselves. When Scripture teaches us to follow a certain practice (e.g. witnessing, Acts 1:8), we must obey. But where it only describes the practices of other believers, we have flexibility in the way we shape our own practices (while learning important lessons from their example).
The big idea of Acts is this: The good news about Jesus Christ is UNSTOPPABLE! It spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and ultimately to the end of the world. For 2,000 years it has conquered those who tried to crush and silence it. Throughout the centuries it has passed from believer to believer all the way to us. And now our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to witness wherever we go to the life that is found in Christ.
I ended with a challenge to the class. I asked them to talk to someone this week about what Jesus has done for them. (That’s all that witnessing requires — it can be scary, but it’s simple!) It could be someone at school, an extended family member, a neighbor, a member of a sports team, or even a little brother or sister. I then asked them to e-mail me a brief description (100 words or less) describing the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of their interaction. I want to receive this by noon on Friday (including a picture of the student) so that I can share some of these “Mission Moments” with the class next Sunday.
We may not be required to sell our possessions and share them with everyone in the church, but Acts makes it clear that we are called to be God’s witnesses in the world, beginning in our own backyard. I am eager to see how these young disciples respond to this Mission:Unstoppable!