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Acts #1 (chapter 1:1-11)
The Book of Acts
How to Finish Christ's Work
Acts 1:1-11
Tonight, I want to begin a study of the book of Acts with you, and I realize that scares some of you.  After spending two years in the 16 chapters of the book of Mark, you must wonder how long it will take to cover the 28 chapters of Acts!
To be honest, it kind of scares me also.  But I hope to be able to cover it at a pace slow enough that we can grasp it's meaning and quickly enough that we don't get bogged down in the details.
Now, Luke is the human author God used to record the book of Acts. It is the second volume of a two volume set. The Gospel according to Luke is the first.
In fact, before the Gospels were compiled and kept together as we know them, it was not uncommon for Luke's account of the Gospel and the book of Acts to travel together and be circulated as companion volumes.
That makes sense because they were both written to the same person and both share the same purpose, to present the person, teaching and work of Christ, first through Christ Himself, and secondly, through His body called the church.
In fact, notice the similarities between the introduction to the book of Acts and what we read in the book of Luke:
Acts 1:1-2
Luke 1.1-4
Both are addressed to someone named or titled Theophilus. We do not know who this person is. Scholars have posed several thoughts on the matter.
Some suggest it was written to the church, and believers in general. 
I tend to believe it was written to an individual for the purpose of convincing them of the truthfulness and importance of the Gospel with the intent that it would also be an account for other to read as well.
Some feel that it was written to a Roman official, possibly someone overseeing Paul's trial, or even Paul's trial attorney because of the title of "Most Excellent" given to Theophilus in the opening verses of Luke's Gospel.
We need to keep in mind, also, that Acts is not just a history.  It is also a defense of Christianity. And what we discover is that both volumes have the same purpose because to whomever Luke was writing, his goal was to convince them of the truthfulness and importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their purpose is to present to its readers what Jesus began to do and teach.
That is interesting because the Gospel of Luke ends with Jesus' ascension, His leaving earth and going back to heaven in the sight of His apostles by rising through the clouds, and the book of Acts opens with that same event.
Luke shows us what Jesus began and what He did while He was here. Acts shows us what Jesus continues to do, even though He is no longer here walking this earth.  And as I said, it is obvious that there is work to do and it is expected that the church will be busy doing it.
Now that leads me a thought I want to use by way of introduction to our study.  I wonder sometimes if churches and Christians really understand what they're doing.
Some seem to live their lives as if they are just passing time until Jesus comes.  Others think in terms of earning rewards and making sure their good outweighs the bad.
Others are busy and active and serving, but it's done in the context of growing the church or even reaching people for Christ. 
But Luke introduces a thought in these opening verses that has the potential to revolutionize the way we do what we do when he talks in terms of us helping the Lord Jesus Christ to finish the work that He began.
Is that not a sobering thought?  The greatest work ever done on earth was the work begun by the Lord Jesus and that work has now been entrusted to people like us to finish.  That is a sobering thought.
We talk a lot about the finished work of Christ, and we should because just before His death on the cross, Jesus announced that He had finished the  work, and that's exactly what He did.  HE finished the work of redemption.
When he finished the work on the cross, it meant there was nothing to be added to it. There was nothing that you or I could do to add to that, it's done. Salvation is a finished work, and we thank God for it.
But did you ever think about the fact that Jesus left some things unfinished? 
Notice what we read in Acts 1:1
Isn't it interesting that while we talk so much about the finished work of Christ, we never pause to consider the fact that the finished work of Christ actually was the beginning of some things. 
So what is it that Jesus only began? He began to do and teach and the Book of Acts tells the story of how that work was continued through the Apostles.  And it wasn't over when their time of earth was finished.  In fact, it continues until Christ returns which means  
we are in the process right now of finishing the work which Jesus began.
And Luke begins by saying, "Theophilus, I wrote to you earlier about all that Jesus began and now I am happy to report to you what He is continuing to do through His followers."  And that's what the whole Book of Acts is all about...finishing the unfinished work of Christ. 
So what is necessary for us to continue the work?  In the next few verses, Luke identifies six things that are needed for you and I to finish the unfinished work of Christ.
Number one is
1. The Right Message
verses 1-2
The primary thing you find Jesus doing in His earthly ministry was bringing the truth to the world.  He made it His responsibility to make sure people had the proper information. The message had to be right.
So until the day, He was continually and constantly preaching and teaching.  Sometimes it was done one on one; sometimes it was in small group settings; sometimes it was to massive crowds.  Sometimes it was through an object lesson or in regard to what someone had said or done.  But He was continually giving them the Word, speaking of things pertaining to the Kingdom.
And the reason He did that was so that the world would have the proper message. 
And the church needs to remember, you and I as believers need to remember, you can never continue and finish the work of Christ unless you are delivering the proper message. 
Right content is the foundation of any faithful ministry. And that's why all through His ministry, He poured that message out. That message is recorded in the gospels and commented on in the rest of the New Testament.
And the better we know the gospels and the better we know the commentary on the gospels, which is the Epistles, the better able we are to defend the truth. 
That's why the Bible says, "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed." The Lord continued to speak His truth, and it behooves us to know that truth.
By the way, don't miss what Luke says at the end of verse 1.  Notice he is writing about what Jesus began BOTH to do and teach.  Whatever Jesus taught, He also did.  Don't tell me what you're going to tell me unless you show me that what you tell me is what you are. Practice what you preach.
And in both life and word, Jesus began with the proper message.
Second, if we're going to finish the work that Christ began, we have to have
2. The Right Manifestation
verse 3
Jesus knew it wasn't enough just to have information. These disciples needed a personal encounter with the resurrected, living Lord.  So what did He do?  Luke says, "He showed up!"  He appeared to them for the specific reason that they might know that He was alive.
We won't take the time to read all the accounts, but you know how it went down.  In John 20, the disciples are huddled away in fear.  The Bible makes sure to tell us the doors were shut and locked.  The disciples were so afraid, and they thought, "Oh, the Messiah is gone."
They were scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.  Everything has fallen apart, and all of a sudden, there is Jesus in the room with them!
Next week, the same thing happens all over again. In a few days, He and Peter will have a sit-down chat over breakfast about what it means to love and serve the Lord and before His ascension, over 500 people will have seen that He was sitting upright and taking nourishment!
Why? Because it was necessary that they know that He was alive." Why? Because a man, in order to carry the work of Christ, has to have a vital, unshakeable confidence that Jesus is alive!
We cannot finish the unfinished work of Christ unless we are convinced that Jesus is alive and we know that experientially. The doing of His work flows out of a vital reality of Christ in our lives and unless we're seeing and feeling and knowing and fellowshipping and sharing with Him, we'll never be involved in doing what He did.
You can't be a secondhand witness. You can't give somebody else's testimony. You can't pass on Scripture that is irrelevant to you because you've never personally met Jesus Christ.
You say, "Yeah, but I can't see Him." Well, you don't need to see Him.  Peter says, in 1 Peter 1:8, "Whom having not seen, you love." We pick up our Bibles, and there He is!  We kneel down to pray, and He shows up!  We have all the evidence we need that He is alive!
And out of that confidence that He is alive, flows the desire to take His message and share it with others!
Thirdly, we need to have
3. The Right Might
verse 4
Verse 4 seems a little ironic when you think about it.  Jesus says, in so many words, "I want you to continue my ministry by preaching this gospel message that I've been preaching and teaching you about for three years. You know that I am alive.  You've seen Me.  You've touched Me.  I want you to take this message to the world.  But I want you to do it by waiting right where you are in Jerusalem.  Don't do anything yet!"
So what are they waiting for? Jesus tells them to wait on the Promise of the Father. Don't jump out there in your own strength. Just wait for the Promise of the Father.
So what is the promise of the Father?  Jesus told them what the Promise of the Father was in Luke 11:13 when He said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that asks."
The Promise of the Father is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said He couldn't come unless Jesus left and when that happened the Comforter would come. 
And the next thing He said seems a little odd. 
Verse 5
Here we're introduced to the concept of the baptism of the Spirit and we won't take the time to develop all that means, but He was talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit through a supernatural encounter that takes place at the moment of salvation.
And for these first believers who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ who did not receive the Spirit the way you and I did, Jesus says, "Wait!  Don't do anything until He comes because. . .
verse 8
That's why they were to wait. If you try to dconinue the work of Jesus without the Holy Spirit, you won' have the power or energy to do it. 
So in essence Christ is saying to his disciples, "I want you to finish My work and I'll provide everything you need to get the job done. I'll provide the message so you'll know what to proclaim.  I've provided the proof so you will be convinced I'm alive and I'll give you the power to do it. 
And we have the same things available to us.  We have the right proclamation right here in the Word of God. We have the right proof in that we know Jesus rose from the dead. And we have the right power through His Holy Spirit. 
Well, there are three more things in this text and we'll save those for next time.
We have all the evidence, plus the fact that He lives within us. We also have the proper might. He's given us His Holy Spirit. And His Holy Spirit has the power to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, right?
But there's something else he gave. He said,
Fourthly, you also need
4.  The Right Mystery
verse 5
Now when they heard Him say "not many days from now", it must have really flipped their trigger!  They are thinking in terms of the coming kingdom.  They are waiting for Christ to take over the world.  He has now arisen from the dead and He says they will be empowered to do His work in a few days.
They didn't know there would be a 2,000-year parenthesis period called the church age.  They didn't have any idea about that. They figured, "The Messiah is here. He's risen from the dead. He's alive and we are about to see the fireworks start."
What they needed was an adjustment in perspective so notice what happens in
verse 6
And I love His answer
verse 7
What He really said was, "None of your business."
And there we find the proper perspective. We don't need to know when Jesus is coming  I know Baptists well enough to know that if we knew the time, we'd just mess around until the time was close then try to catch up then. 
If it was a long way off, we'd waste time and procrastinate; if it was near, we'd be in a panic, so He doesn't tell us. And He says, "You don't need to know that.  Don't worry about those details, just continue the work." 
Which leads to the fifth thing which is
5.  The Right Mission
While we're waiting for Him to come, and as long as we've got the message and the manifestation and the might, what do we do? What is the Christian supposed to be doing?
Do the work He began to do and teach. ? Our mission is to be a witness to Christ.
By the way, you do realize that you don't get to decide if you will be a witness or not, you just decide what kind you're going to be. You are one, either good, bad or indifferent. You see, the Holy Spirit is the lawyer for the defense. Christ is on trial, and the Spirit calls you into the court of the world to give a testimony, and you're giving some kind of testimony through your life. 
Every Christian is a witness, and you have the power to be a dramatic and effective witness if you're really walking in the Spirit.
By the way, the word "witness" is the Greek word from which we get our word "martyr".  Do you know how we got that word? Originally it meant a witness. But so many Christians died giving testimony that it became synonymous with dying. A martyr started out just to mean somebody who gave his testimony, but Christianity gave that word its definition. So many of them were slaughtered for their testimony.
And Jesus says "you shall be witnesses unto Me in every part of the world" and we're giving some kind of testimony. I wonder what kind you're giving? I hope it supports the case for Jesus Christ.
6. The Right Motivation
verses 9-11
If ever there was a motivation for serving Christ it is that He is returning.  And the fact that He's coming motivates me because I don't know how much time I have left.  If I'm going to get anything done, I better do it now! 
It occurs to me that one day the work of Christ on earth will be finished.  And some generation of believers will be alive and serving when it happens.
It might be us.  Wouldn't that be something?  To be the Christians alive on earth that usher in His return?   
I don't know if it will be us or not, but I know this:  Jesus has given us everything we need to finish His work.  We've got the right message in the completed Word of God, the right manifestation in the living Christ, the right power in the indwelling Holy Spirit, the right mystery in that we don't know when He's coming, so we work all the time occupying until He gets here, the right mission, we're His witnesses, and the right motive. He is coming to reward us who are faithful.
The only thing we have to add to what He has provided is commitment and availability.  May God help us to do it for His glory. 
Let's pray
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