Recommended Reading: Acts 1:6-11, Acts 2:14-47
I’m sure you saw enough Easter posts last weekend and for the weeks leading up to last weekend. I know I did. But what about life after Easter? We know that Jesus is risen, and we know that He is coming back someday soon, but where does that leave us right now, in the present?
In my mind there is a timeline. It starts at Genesis and goes through all the books of the Bible until it finally finishes up at Revelation. Jesus’ death and resurrection is, of course, near the end of this timeline. The Bible doesn’t tell us a whole lot of narrative after that. We see the apostles do a few things–and they are amazing things–but after that it skips to the end of the world with Revelation.
You and I reside in that space between Jesus’ resurrection and the end of the world. I believe that our stories are important to God, too. He has planned good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), and He has planned them for a reason.
I was reading through Acts 1 the other day and these two verses stood out to me:
While He was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” -Acts 1:10-11
It seems like the believers were sort of dumbstruck. Their friend and Savior had just been taken up into heaven. They had Him back for forty days and then He was gone, and they were left staring up at the sky with their mouths gaping.
I think that’s where we all start out, if we’re being honest.
Luckily the disciples had the angels there to snap them out of it and remind them of the bigger picture. What follows is the book of Acts, full of signs and wonders and powerful testimonies of the early church.
After the Easter service I felt compelled to write about what comes next–now that our Savior is raised to life and sitting at the right hand of the Father in glory…where does that leave us?
The example of the early church
I think there is a lot to learn from the first believers. These were people who had walked this earth alongside Jesus in the flesh. They probably knew a thing or two about His priorities.
So, what do we do as we wait for His return?
1. Gather together.
Who else remembers all of the bickering the disciples did while Jesus was there? It seems like they were always fighting about something super important, like which of them was the greatest. –Sarcasm- But as I read this passage I can almost palpably feel the bond they share. They are unified by the strongest connection in the world: Jesus. On top of that, they are likely sharing in some unique blend of sorrow, fear, and anticipation.
They then gather together with all of the Christians in the world–I mean, that number was like 120, so it wasn’t even a megachurch or anything, but still–and just prayed like there was no tomorrow.
This was serious praying, you guys. Prayer was now their only connection to Jesus, and they were taking full advantage. I think they were probably better at praying than anyone has ever been since because they were talking to someone who they used to be able to see. Isn’t that mind-blowing?
What if we prayed like that? Like we were just having a conversation with our Friend and Teacher who we’ll see again someday? What if we, like the disciples, believed that everything we asked for would be given to us (John 14:13-14)?
We see Peter rise up as a leader and mouthpiece in the first couple chapters of Acts. In verses 15-26 he addresses the crowd concerning Judas’ replacement. Then he addresses a much larger crowd in Acts 2:14 and begins to open-air preach. We all have different gifts useful for building up the body of Christ, and that is one reason it is important not to try to walk the Christian road alone. Peter couldn’t have done it by himself, and neither could Thomas or Andrew or Philip or the new guy, Matthias.
2. Get ready.
The first step to getting ready is obedience. Jesus instructs the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father–the Holy Spirit–and the very first thing they do is return to Jerusalem. Has God asked you to wait somewhere? Waiting is hard, I know, but He always has a reason.
The second step is preparation for the Kingdom. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the ten bridesmaids. Five of the bridesmaids took oil for their lamps when they went out to wait for the bridegroom; five were foolish and did not. When the foolish bridesmaids’ lamps started to go out, they had no choice but to leave and buy some more oil…and that is when the bridegroom came. The point is, the Kingdom of God is something you don’t want to miss out on. Prepare your heart now and be on the watch for God to move.
The third step is to ask God what else He has for you. He had tongues of fire and violent winds in store for the believers during Pentecost. In Acts 2:14-21 we see Peter remind the crowd of the words of the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.”
Outpour of the Holy Spirit. Prophecy. Visions. Dreams. Signs on the earth.
Are we asking God for more of these? Do we even believe He still does these things?
If these are truly the last days–and if the last days started 2000 years ago, then I would argue that we can confidently say that these are the last days–then God is waiting for faithful followers who He can entrust with these things.
Are we ready to see them happen? Or are we content to live our comfortable Christian lives?
“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” -Acts 2:36
God wants to make Himself known. We just need to be ready to partner with Him in doing that.
3. Baptize and make disciples
Who remembers the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20?
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, tot he end of the age.
And that is exactly what Peter does–right off the bat.
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” (A common and valid question) Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.” -Acts 2:37-41
Gospel preached. People baptized. Fear gone. It’s fun to contrast this with Peter’s denial of Jesus in John 18:17-25. Such growth can happen in such a short period of time.
Done and done.
Obviously we’re not all called to open-air preach like he did, but we are called to not hold in the Good News. What does that look like for you?
Make sure you have an answer for anyone–especially a new believer–who asks, “Brothers [or sisters], what should we do?” Make sure you can tell them about baptism and discipleship!
4. Encourage, support, and strengthen
The believers’ lives after Jesus ascended into heaven was no joke. They stood in front of councils and risked their lives to proclaim the name of Jesus. They experienced persecution the likes of which most of us have never seen. A huge portion of them were executed.
It was critical that they had one another.
Jesus said that if we love Him, the world will hate us. Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 1 that those who share in Christ’s resurrection will also share in His death, His sufferings. Even though we may not experience it to the extent the early believers did, the truth is we need each other.
Acts 2:42-47 gives some practical examples of how they supported one another:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
The early believers…
- Were devoted to teaching and fellowship
- Were devoted to breaking bread together and prayer
- Were filled with awe because of the signs being done
- Had all things in common
- Sold their possessions to distribute the earnings to whoever needed them
- Spent a lot of time together
- Had glad and generous hearts
- Praised God
- Had the goodwill of all the people
- Were growing in numbers.
Does this sound like your church? Are there a couple of bullet points up there that strike you as especially important? What could you do to make them more of a priority among the people you fellowship with?
Prayer is a great place to start if you don’t see this kind of unity in your community. God can radically transform anything, especially His body.
So, friends, where does that leave us?
Exactly where God planned for us to be.
We get to proclaim His name amidst the darkness and suffering of this world; we get to be the city on the hill and strengthen other believers. We have access to a ridiculous degree of love and power, and we have the hope of an eternity in heaven.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Until next time,