The In-Between Years - Part 4

Series: The In-Between Years

May 17, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years - Part 4

I’m Pastor Brad and thanks for joining us today. You probably notice things look a little different. We are recording at church again in preparation for coming back together on campus soon.

The staff and leadership are working right now on our phase-in plan which we’ll announce at the end of this month. Until then, we’ll keep things online-only. Thanks, BTW, for filling out those surveys. They were very helpful to us. Thanks also for your support. Navigating these difficult times is hard and your encouragement has been a huge blessing.

Like you, I can’t wait to meet face-to-face again.

Well, we are in a series called The In-Between Years: a look at the church in the book of Acts.

Let’s pray and we’ll continue on…


This message is kind of part 2 to last week’s message. Or maybe it’s me just preaching it the way I wished I had. I realized I barely touched on what I really wanted to say. So let’s go back and see if I can do a better job.

If you recall, Jesus had been resurrected from the dead and went around for forty days appearing to the disciples, teaching them about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  Acts 1:4–5 (ESV) 

The promise of the Father was that new work of his Spirit beginning in Jerusalem. Where before his Spirit had come upon people and been with people, now the third person of the Trinity would dwell in them. This first outpouring and infilling of God’s Spirit described as fire baptism brings the birth of the church in Acts 2. All of this is preparing us for that.

Look at verse 6…

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Acts 1:6 (ESV)

If you remember from last week, this had been on the disciples minds ever since they figured out Jesus was the Messiah. God’s covenant people had been waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah to come and establish God’s kingdom on the earth and reinstate His people to their former status as it was prophesied. 

Jesus was surely the Messiah, so surely it was finally time for armies to be formed and generals assigned. It was time for the Romans to be overthrown and the kingdom to be restored to Israel with God’s glory and favor returning to Jerusalem.

The disciples had the right idea just the wrong schedule. Jesus was the Messiah and he would lead armies; he would conquer and set up his kingdom on the earth, but not till later. So… 

7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  Acts 1:7 (ESV)

Jesus answered in a way that redirected them to what’s most important now. It’s not meant for us to know these things. They are surely coming. BUT….

8 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 (ESV)

This is the most important verse in the book of Acts. It’s also one of the most important in all the Bible because it reveals what we receive and what we will be during the in-between years, the time filling Jesus’ first coming and second, the era we Christians are living in right now. 

In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his disciples that they will receive power, but not just any power. It’s God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. That’s what makes the difference. I know I’ve mentioned the Spirit half a dozen times or more already in this new series, and I’ve just barely started. That’s not an accident.

God’s greatest works require his Spirit above all else, whether it’s creation in the beginning or coming to us in the flesh with the birth of Christ or establishing the church in Acts 2. God spoke through the prophet Zechariah saying.. 

6 … Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”  Zechariah 4:6 (ESV) 

We might translate that this way: Not by man’s might, not by man’s power, but by God’s Spirit. That’s how he’s always worked.

As we look at the church in book of Acts we will be impressed with what the church is able to accomplish with mere men and women. The miracles not only of healing and such but the way the gospel changed hearts and upended the civilized world. Listen to what the people of ancient Thessalonica said of the first Christ-followers…

6 …“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,  Acts 17:6 (ESV)

It wasn’t the disciples might, it wasn’t the disciples power, it wasn’t the disciples intellect or skill that turned the world upside down; it was the Spirit of God working in and through them.

CH Spurgeon said…

And now, dear friends, let me counsel you. The grand thing the church wants in this time, is God’s Holy Spirit. You all get up plans and say, “Now, if the church were altered a little bit, it would go on better.” You think if there were different ministers, or different church order, or something different, then all would be well. No, dear friends, it is not there the mistake lies; it is that we want more of the Spirit. It is as if you saw a locomotive engine upon a railway, and it would not go, and they put up a driver, and they said, “Now, that driver will just do.” They try another and another. One proposes that such-and-such a wheel should be altered, but still it will not go. Some one then bursts in amongst those who are conversing and says, “No, friends; but the reason why it will not move, is because there is no steam. You have no fire, you have no water in the boiler: [there’s no power] that’s why it will not go. There may be some faults about it; it may want a bit of paint here and there, but it will go well enough with all those faults if you do but get the steam up.”

But now people are saying, “This must be altered, and that must be altered; but it would go no better unless God the Spirit should come to bless us. You may have the same ministers, and they shall be a thousand times more useful for God, if God is pleased to bless them. You shall have the same deacons, they shall be a thousand times more influential than they are now, when the Spirit is poured down upon them from on high. That is the church’s great want, and until that want be supplied, we may reform, and reform, and still be just the same. We want the Holy Spirit, and then whatever faults there may be in our organization, they can never materially impede the progress of Christianity, when once the Spirit of the Lord God is in our midst.[1]

We will be impressed with the early church’s power, but we will also be depressed because we don’t see that kind of power today, at least not in the good old US of A. Surely, some things in Acts are peculiar to the birth of the church and relate to a special and unrepeatable transition period as the church is established and grows, but much is not. There’s no indication in Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit’s power would wane or die out.

Carl Lawrence relates the eyewitness account of two young Chinese ladies in their early twenties who came to faith in an underground church in China. Just a week or so later, the pair reported that God had called them to go minister on Hainan Island off the southern coast of China—thousands of miles away.

Other believers cautioned them to get some training before they went, but they felt compelled by the Spirit to go right away and just trust God to lead them. The elders of the house church finally agreed to give them their blessing and sent them out.

Two years later the young women came home and reported to the church. They reluctantly got up and apologized for their “unfruitful work.” It seemed they had won only three thousand people to Christ and started only thirty house churches. The astonished leaders asked what method they had used. All the women could reply was, “Every morning we just read God’s Word and prayed, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us what to do. Whatever God’s Word spoke to us, that is what we did. We only obeyed.”[2]

That’s some Acts 1:8 mojo going on there, and it’s still happening in the world if you know where to look. Just ask missionaries. 

Jesus said they would receive Holy Spirit power and he said they would be his witnesses.” The power of the Spirit was given not just for the sake of imparting power. It was given so the disciples could be Jesus’ witnesses.

Being witnesses of and for Jesus and his kingdom is way more than just going around sharing the four spiritual laws with people. It’s more than just winning souls so we can all to heaven when we die… as important as that is.

This is where I blew it last week. I mentioned this but I didn’t explain it well. It probably sounds like I’ve lost my mind saying being witnesses for Jesus is more than just getting people saved. The Baptist motto for a long time has been “it’s all about evangelism.” That’s what we’re known for. Let me stress again that evangelism is an undeniable and indispensable part of being witnesses but it’s still just a part of the bigger picture.

Understanding what God’s kingdom is, or at least trying to, is helpful here. I covered this Wednesday night.

The kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven is referred to indirectly in the OT and outright in the new. Jesus preached this message concerning himself: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

It’s hard to nail down exactly what God’s kingdom is because it’s all over the place in the Bible. It’s something that’s always been and always will be. It’s something that is and yet not yet. And it’s something bound up in the person of Jesus. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

It’s hard for us to grasp that. Nothing can be all those seemingly contradictory things at once, so we zone in on what makes sense, perceiving the kingdom of God as being more spiritual and unseen than literal, as being more in the future and not so much now.

But God’s kingdom is that and all those other things. It’s future and hoped for as well as concrete and present. It’s bound up in the person of Jesus, the present and coming king who will set up his literal eternal kingdom on the earth, restore Israel, and rule over all the nations forever. It’s a future hope that has meaning and effect and power this very moment.

And part of being Jesus’ witnesses is about living as citizens of that kingdom right now which somehow actually influences the timing of when Jesus comes back to set all things to rights. The Apostle Peter wrote about how to live in the in-between years in one of his letters…

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  2 Peter 3:1113 (ESV)

Did you catch that? Our conduct as Christians actually hastens the coming of Christ’s return. That conduct is not just living holy lives, it’s also using whatever influence we have at home at work, wherever, to make this fallen world as much like God’s kingdom as it can be. 

That’s why I say often that Christians were never intended to just wait for the future coming of God’s kingdom. In a big sense it’s already here through the brith, death, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. We aren’t just to hope for it, we’re to pray for its coming, to live like it’s citizens, and to work at making this world like it’s going to be when it does. This is just as much being Jesus’ witnesses as openly sharing our faith.

When we do this, we hasten or hurry up the day when God the Father turns to his Son and says, “It’s time” and the in-between years come to an end.

Acts 1:8 is the heart of what it means to be the church, the assembly of God’s called out ones. Acts 1:8 tells us that…

The in-between years are about being witnesses of God’s kingdom in the power of the Spirit.

Conclusion: Like all of God’s word, Acts 1:8, one verse, tells us so much in so few words. You know what else is in this verse as we close?

A divine outline of the book…

8 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 (ESV)

You can take the spread of the gospel in Acts and break it down by chapter according to this.

It begins in Jerusalem, it spreads to the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria, and then to the end of earth. And that last part, it’s still going on. Just like the six word memoir of Jesus in verse 1, this divine outline in verse 8 is left open ended. The church is still working on that.

Let’s close with something Jesus said that will make a whole lot of sense right now…

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  Matthew 24:14 (ESV)

What have you done with the good news of God’s kingdom?

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1857). Independence of Christianity. In The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 3, p. 340). London: Passmore & Alabaster.

[2]David Jeremiah, God in You : Releasing the Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Life (Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Publishers, 1998), 37.

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