What Now?: Just the Beginning

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” (Acts 1:1-2)

We are picking up the story of Jesus about 40 days after he rose from the dead. The resurrection must have been the high point of the disciples’ lives (and ours, come to think of it). But as Jesus got ready to leave them, they were also thinking, “Now what?”

road_350Here in Acts, Luke describes those days to us in just a few verses, picking up from where he left off in the book of Luke. We’re going to listen closely for a few days to what Jesus said to the disciples before his exit to try to hear what he might also be saying to us about what we should do with our own lives from here on out.

Think: In as few words as possible, what would you say is your big “P” purpose in life – or your top two or three, anyway?

Pray: Ask God to help you to understand how the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection should change the way you live your own life now and in the future.

Do: Read Luke 24 to catch up to what happened from Jesus’ resurrection to this moment in the story.

What Now?: Be Convinced

“After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)

I never blame anyone for doubting that Jesus came back from the dead. It takes real faith to believe that the impossible happened. But you must believe it to be a Christian, and you must be convinced about it to be willing to lay your own life on the line.

road_350The disciples didn’t have to just believe it; they saw Jesus alive again with their own eyes. And He didn’t just appear to them briefly in a vision or floating in a dim mirror. They didn’t need high-tech ghost hunter tools to catch a glimpse. He wanted them to be convinced that he was dead and then all the way alive again – to give them the courage to give their own lives for him.

So he kept appearing to them for over a month. He kept letting them confirm his real, physical life with their eyes and touch and even watching him eat.

And in case they would one day worry that it was some kind of grief-induced hallucination among the 11 of them, Paul tells us that Jesus showed himself to over 500 people at once after he was dead and alive again. (See 1 Corinthians 5:3-8.) They could always confirm that lot of other people saw him, too.

Think: How does believing that Jesus was raised from the dead change the way you live your own life for him? How should it change the way you think about death?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God for helping you to be convinced in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection from death. Ask him to help you live like you believe that you’ll be resurrected, too.

Do: If you haven’t, yet, read 1 Corinthians 5:3-8.

What Now?: Wait

“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ ” (Acts 1:4-5)

This week, we’re walking through a few verses about Christ’s last 40 days before he left the planet.

road_350Notice first: More evidence that Jesus was really, physically alive: He ate! Ghosts don’t eat. Real, living men eat. Jesus came back from the dead to breathing, eating life.

Notice next: He told the disciples to wait for a gift, the Holy Spirit. He didn’t want them jumping into any kind of ministry until the Holy Spirit came to give them real power. In other words, he didn’t want them to serve him with the best they had to offer; he wanted them to live for him with the best power God had to offer.

He wants the same from us.

Think: If someone asked you to explain it, why would you say that Jesus called the Holy Spirit a gift from the Father? What makes the Holy Spirit a gift?

Pray: Ask God to help you to serve him with God’s power through the Holy Spirit, not with your own strength.

Do: Read how Paul describes God’s gift of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 1:21-22.

What Now?: The End?

“So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’ ” (Acts 1:6-7)

One of the reasons Jesus’ crucifixion seemed to catch the disciples off-guard is because they believed all along that he had come to set up his kingdom on earth, to overthrow the Romans and return Israel to her glory days, just as the prophecies say he one day will.

road_350Now that he had died and come back to life – with that kind of power available to him – was it finally time to put Israel back on the map? “Really: What happens now, Lord?”

Jesus is clear: You don’t get to know that, but the Father has set a date. The kingdom will come at the perfect time. That leaves them – and us – waiting for the final resolution. In Romans 8, Paul says that waiting is painful, but we can also be patient as we trust our Father’s strength, heart, and wisdom.

In the meantime . . . tune in tomorrow.

Think: Do you ever have a sense that you’re waiting for God to bring justice, to bring resolution, to bring us all home to be with him, to finally make everything right? What makes the waiting harder and/or easier?

Pray: Thank God that his timing is perfect even when he doesn’t tell us what it is. Ask him to help you trust his timing.

Do: Read how Paul described our painful and patient waiting in Romans 8:18-27.

What Now?: The Mission

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The questions had been hanging in the air for 40 days: “We believe you are the Messiah. We’ve been following you, learning from you, for three years. We saw your die and return to life; we know you are the Son of God. We know this changes everything forever.”

“Now what?”

Jesus finally gives his disciples their mission right before disappearing into the sky. 1) You will receive the power of God. 2) You will tell my story here, there, and everywhere.

You and I have a similar mission to represent Christ in every corner of our world. We need the power of God to do it, and the day-to-day details aren’t the same for each of us. But there is an answer to “now what?” for us: Use God’s power to let everyone you know see Christ in you, how he has made it possible for you to be forgiven and become God’s child with a brand new purpose and future.

Think: How would you describe God’s purpose for your life between now and when you go to heaven? How much responsibility have you taken to be his witness in your world?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God for the power of the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witness in every corner of your world.

Do: Read Matthew’s last recorded words of Jesus to the disciples in Matthew 28:16-20.

What Now?: Going Up

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9)

We’ve spent this week walking through Jesus’ last few days before leaving earth, which finally happens in today’s verse. It’s Jesus’ last in-the-flesh miracle. Theologians call it “the Ascension.” To me, it sounds like flying. And that’s cool.

road_350Technically, we’re told Jesus was “taken up,” so maybe he wasn’t the one doing the flying. Either way, he added gravity to the list of natural laws he had effortlessly broken to make the point that he is, in fact, the Son of God.

So where did Jesus go? Peter saw the disappearing act with his own eyes and later said this about Jesus’ next stop: “Jesus Christ . . . has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:21-22)

So what does he do? Well, here’s one thing: “Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

That’s where our Lord is right now – but it’s not the end of the story. Tune in tomorrow.

Think: What surprises you about how Jesus made his exit from earth? How much more seriously would you take his words in verse 8 if he instantly flew into the sky after saying them?

Pray: Thank God that your Lord is right now sitting in heaven at God’s right hand interceding for you.

Do: Read and ponder Acts 1:8 again, Jesus’ last words to his disciples before disappearing into that cloud.

What Now?: He’s Coming Back

“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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.’ ” (Acts 1:10-11)

You almost feel bad for the disciples. They’re always playing catch-up to whatever Jesus is talking about or doing, right up to the very end. He tells them not to leave Jerusalem. He says the Holy Spirit will come on them and give them power. He says they will be his witnesses everywhere.

road_350Then he flies up into a cloud! Then some angels show up and say, “Why are you looking at that cloud?” Because Jesus just disappeared into it, that’s why!

But Jesus knew they needed more answers: So he sent these two angels to fill in the gaps. To let them know he was gone to heaven. And to let them know he’s coming back in the same way someday. To let them know the story isn’t over, yet.

What now? Use the power of the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witness in this world. And keep watching the sky, getting prepared, waiting for him to come back and make everything right once and for all.

Think: Do you have an expectation that Jesus could come back “in the same way” at any moment? If you did, how would that change the way you live today?

Pray: Thank God that Jesus is coming back someday. Ask him to help you to live like it could be today.

Do: Read on in Acts for the wild, amazing story of the early days of the Christian church.