Monday, November 14, 2016, 6:28 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 1:1-11 (ESV).
He Had Given Commands (vv. 1-3)
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
The book of Acts was written by Luke, as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit (See: 2 Pet. 1:21). His first book, to which he refers here, is the Gospel of Luke, one of the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – which are the first four books of the New Testament, in the Holy Bible (the Holy Scriptures). The book of Luke tells the story of Jesus’ life, from birth to his death and resurrection, and then to his ascension back into heaven.
According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus began his earthly ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, teaching the people in the Jewish synagogues. Early on in his ministry he quoted to them the words of Isaiah 61, which were a prophecy concerning their Messiah who was yet to come. He told them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Basically, he announced to them that he was their promised Messiah, though I don’t believe they understood that at that point in time. Yet, multiple times throughout his ministry on the earth he let them know that he was the Messiah they had been promised, the fulfillment of prophecy, and that he was God, which is one of the main reasons they killed him, because he claimed to be God.
So, what types of things did Jesus teach while he was on the earth? What specific commands did he give to his disciples before he was taken up to heaven? He taught love for our enemies, patience in suffering, obedience to accompany confession, putting his words into practice, self-denial, the crucified life, humility of spirit, and repentance – turning from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God (See: Ac. 26:16-18). He also warned of judgment, confronted people with their sins, and called them to repentance and to faith in him. He, as well, taught them concerning the events of the last days, and warned them not to fall into the trap of deception, but to always be watchful over their lives, to make certain they are following their Lord in obedience, and are not going their own way.
Waiting for the Promise (vv. 4-5)
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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, he comforted his disciples concerning his death and resurrection, and the fact that he would be leaving them to go back to the Father. He said,
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:15-18).
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn. 14:25-27).
When Jesus ascended back to heaven, after about 40 days, he did send his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers, just as he had promised. When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, via turning from sin, and turning to follow Christ in obedience, in surrender to God’s work of grace in our lives, he fills and he empowers us with his Holy Spirit. Thus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” which is what our physical baptism (with water) represents. Our old lives of sin are done away with, and we now walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the pattern of the world or our sinful flesh (Ro. 6-8).
You Will Be My Witnesses (vv. 6-11)
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The Holy Spirit comes upon us when we are born again (from above) of the Spirit of God in regeneration (renewal). The Father draws us to Jesus, we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ taught, and we respond in faith, which is a gift of God, but one we must appropriate (to take ownership) to our lives. We die with Christ to our old lives of living for sin and self, and we now live to his righteousness – all in the power and working of the Holy Spirit now dwelling within us. We should, if we have truly been born again, now desire to live for God/Jesus, and not for ourselves or our own self-pleasure. His desires now become our desires; his thoughts our thoughts; and his passions our passions. We want to do what is pleasing to him, because we love him, and because we are so grateful for all that he has done for us.
When we are empowered of the Holy Spirit of God in renewal, we are the Lord’s witnesses. Our very lives speak that either we have truly had a transformation of God in our lives or that we haven’t, and that we are just mouthing empty words. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, not just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. A saved life is a transformed life of the Spirit of God away from a lifestyle of sin to a lifestyle of walking (living) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God and the Word of God now living within us. This doesn’t mean we now live in sinless perfection, but it does mean that our walk (our lifestyle) has changed, that we are, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and that we are, by the Spirit, putting on Christ daily and walking (conducting our lives) according to God and to his Word.
So, our lifestyles, our actions, and our behaviors speak loudly as to whether or not we have truly been born of God in death to sin, and in resurrection to newness of life, which is to be lived to God. In fact, actions speak louder than words, so we should always strive in the power of the Spirit within us to make certain that our actions match our confession, not perfectly, but consistently and progressively. This takes place as we are being conformed of the Spirit into Christ’s likeness, and we are being made holy, and as we continue in Christ and in his Word, and we continue to cooperate with God’s work of grace and transformation in our lives.
Yet, our lifestyles are not to be a substitute for our speaking our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel. Many people look for an easy out from having to share Christ with people, mainly because they know they will be rejected and that they will lose friends, and that people won’t like them. But, what does that say about us if this is what we do? It says we care more about our own reputations than we care about Christ and the lives of other people. It is very popular in Christian circles now to teach that if we just smile and we are nice to people that this suffices for our witness, but that is a cheap substitute for telling people about God’s saving grace. Even non-Christians can smile and be nice to people. We need to live what we believe, but we also need to speak what we believe so that others can be saved, too.
One day Jesus is going to come back to judge the world and to take his followers to be with him for eternity. And, just as he was faithful in sending his Holy Spirit, as he had promised, he will be faithful to do all that he said he would do with regard to these last days and concerning our going to be with him for eternity. So, we need to make sure, first of all, that we are truly born again, that we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and that we have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, and that our lifestyles match our confession.
John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). So, repent of your sins today, if you have not already, and trust Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of your life, and follow him wherever he leads you. Then, tell others of his grace, too, so they may be saved.
His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014
Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.
Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.
Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.