Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jesus' New Apostle: Who Was? Who's Next? (Acts 1:16-22)


“[Prayer meeting] went on for several days. During this time, on a day when about 120 people were present, Peter stood up and addressed them as follows: ‘Brothers, it was necessary for the Scriptures to come true concerning Judas, who betrayed Jesus by guiding the mob to him… So now we must choose someone else to take Judas’ place and to join us as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Let us select someone who has been with us constantly from our first association with the Lord – from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us into heaven
(Acts 1:16, 21-22, The Living Bible)

Judas’ life was very tragic. Judas was “chosen to be an apostle” (v.17) but he betrayed Jesus. After he “bought a field with the money he received for his treachery,” he then “falling headlong there, he burst open, spilling out his bowels” (v.18). But Matthew 27:5-7 explained that Judas “threw the money onto the floor of the Temple and went out and hanged himself… the chief priests talked it over and finally decided to buy a certain field…” Is this a contradiction account? No, I think when Judas hanged himself, his dead body fell headlong (head first). And when the Scripture said Judas bought a field it was actually the chief priests who bought it using Judas’ treacherous money because they cannot take back the ‘blood money.’ So, technically, the field bought by and belong to Judas. No contradiction. The point is: Judas betrayed Jesus, he then hanged himself, and his money was used to buy a field.

The apostle Peter realized that someone should be appointed to take the place of Judas, who had fallen into sin, and committed suicide. He remembered two verses in the book of Psalms and one particularly says “Let his work be given to someone else to do” (Acts 1:20, Psalms 109:8). Interpreted as someone should take Judas’ place as an apostle. For me, it is a terrible thing to do works for God in the beginning but because of sin – continuous sin without really repenting from it – God rejected him and have another take it over. May this will not happen to us!

So the apostles lead by Peter selected two men who had also been with the Lord Jesus from the beginning and were witnesses of His baptism, death and resurrection. Their names were Joseph Justus (also called Barsabbas) and Matthias (v.23). Then they “prayed for the right man to be chosen: ‘O Lord, you know every heart; show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas the traitor, who has gone on to his proper place” (v.24-25). Then they cast lots and the lot fell on Matthias, who was therefore numbered with the apostles [although we never hear of him again]. Casting lots? No, we don’t need to do that anymore. Now that the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures has been given, we don’t need to cast lots to know God’s will. But we do need to know these, as a conclusion:

#1 Being an ‘apostle’ or as Christ’s follower in general, doesn’t guarantee good ending. Don’t be like Judas, who betrayed Jesus in the end. We need to keep believing in Him; #2 God already chose who would become our leader. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to pray but all the more this should encourage us to pray so that God’s will become our will’s [Note: Many people nowadays claim to be an ‘apostle’, these are the qualifications outline by Peter: 1) He must be someone who have accompanied the apostles all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them; 2) He must be someone who are there beginning from Jesus’ baptism to the day when He was taken up to heaven; and 3) He must be someone who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. Now, are the self-claimed ‘apostles’ today fulfilled these criteria? Fyi, I believe in apostolic ministry] and; #3 Though you might not be the chosen leader, like Joseph Justus, in Christ you are chosen of God! Amen.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jesus Unites Us: Why Prayer Meeting is Very Important? (Acts 1:12-14)


Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 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. They joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers
(Acts 1:12-14,
NIV)

Lord Jesus ascended to heaven (1:9) from the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. After the angels told the apostles that He would surely come again, they returned to Jerusalem, about 5/8 mile or about 1 kilometre (my NIV note) away. They stayed there as Jesus had commanded (1:4) and spent the days in “constant prayer” in an upper room. I noticed that Jesus’ disciples had a habit of praying together. This was part of Jesus’ legacy to them. Remember when they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)? Jesus examples of constant prayer had influenced His disciples all over the world. Prayer is a wonderful privilege and every true Christian should seek the Lord’s face in prayer every day.

If you count how many of the apostles left after Jesus’ ascension, you’ll find out that there is one person missing – Judas Iscariot. He wants his own agenda and political version of messiah, thus rejected Jesus as the Suffering Messiah. He also loved money rather than Jesus, fall into temptation by listening to Satan’s lies and sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. When Judas realised what he had done, he didn’t repent but went out and killed himself. Both Peter and Judas denied Jesus. But as for Peter, he quickly repented of his sins and was restored with the apostles and become their leader again. Others who were praying in the upper room were “the women” who had loved and followed Jesus faithfully. One of them was “Mary the mother of Jesus,” and with her were “his brothers” [Jesus’ step-brothers, refer to Mark 6:3 for their names]. These brothers did not believe in Jesus at first (John 7:5) but after His death and resurrection, they realized that He was truly the Son of God, the Saviour of the World.

Now, imagine this with me: imagine the different kind of people gathered in the upper room (Close your eyes first, and imagine). Let me just select few of them here – Peter was very impulsive and acted cowardly, but after this he became bold and courageous; James was selfish, conceited, vengeful and fiery, but after that he became committed apostle for Christ and courageous even to the point of death; John was like his brother, James, very judgmental and power-craze but after that he became bold, loving and compassionate; Thomas was so doubtful and inquisitive but then he became courageous and faithful to the end; Simon was a Zealot, which means he was very patriotic and loyal to the nation but he became a changed man, passionate and sacrificial in his service for Christ; Judas (or Jude) and James, the brothers of Jesus, were very sceptical of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God soon became leaders of Jerusalem church and both authored the Epistle of James and Epistle of Jude; among “the women” was Mary Magdalene, who has been identified as a sinful women (perhaps a prostitute) and was possessed from seven demons, now became a faithful follower of Jesus and being listed as having a leadership role among the women.

All of them “joined together constantly in prayer” (1:14). This is very encouraging to me – and I hope to you too. Their Lord and Master is one, Jesus; their common faith and love is one, Jesus; their uniting power is one, Jesus. Even though we come from difference sets of background, gender, race, ideology and status like Jesus’ disciples – in Christ – we are one. Praying together (or prayer meeting we called it today), have the power to unite us together. As we pray, we wait for God to act among us. Oh yes!

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus' Ascension: Between Heavenly and Earthly Visions (Acts 1:9-11)


It was not long afterwards that [Lord Jesus] rose into the sky and disappeared into a cloud, leaving them staring after him. As they were straining their eyes for another glimpse, suddenly two white-robed men were standing there among them, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has gone away to heaven, and some day, just as he went, he will return!’”
(Acts 1:9-11, The Living Bible)

In John 1:14 we read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. In John 16:28 Jesus said that He had “came from the Father into the world and will leave the world and return to the Father.” Jesus came a long journey into this world to do His Father’s will. Here Jesus is going back to heaven, to His Father. Jesus loves His Father and we know that the Father loves His Son. This love exchange should make us very glad because indeed, God is love!

The apostles were so surprised that they stood there staring in amazement up into heaven. So two angels (two white-robed men, no doubt were angels) appeared to them and told them plainly that this very same Jesus would come back again in the same way as He had gone into heaven. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (NIV). What can we understand from this passage? I want to quote John R. Stott commentary in The Message of Acts (1990) here:

First, Jesus will come again. “He has gone, and they must let him go; he will return in his own good time, in the same way… There will be important differences between his going and his coming. Although his coming will be personal, it will not be private like his ascension. Only the eleven apostles saw him go, but when he comes ‘every eyes will see him.’ Instead of returning alone (as when he went). Millions of holy ones – both human and angelic – will form his retinue. And in place of a localized coming (‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’), it will be ‘like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other’” (page 50).

Secondly, the angles implied, until Jesus comes again, the apostles must get on with their witness, for that was their mandate. “There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when they had been commissioned to go to the end of the earth. It was the earth not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers. The vision they were to cultivate was not upwards in nostalgia to the heaven which had received Jesus, but outwards in compassion to a lost world which needed him… First, Jesus returned to heaven (Ascension). Secondly, the Holy Spirit came (Pentecost). Thirdly, the church goes out to witness (Mission). Fourthly, Jesus will come back (Parousia)” (page 51).

Obviously for us today, we must remember these 2 important truths: #1 Heavenly vision: Our hope is sure! Jesus is alive and He will come back again to unite us to have fellowship with the loving Father.  And #2 Earthly vision: Between Jesus’ going and coming, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we must go into the world for Jesus! Amen.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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