Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Who Why & How - The choosing

This message was preached by Debbie Vartak at Word of Grace Church on May 3rd, 2020. To listen to the audio please click.

A Very Good Morning.
And whilst WOG’S SOCIALIZING is hitting the charts, I have a Quiz question also….
You have a very important task to be done….. Who would you choose? How would you do this or Why would you choose the person?
ACTS 1:12-26
We are looking at a portion of scripture that holds deep truth for us today; in our times and circumstances as Christians. But let’s take a look at where it is placed in the scripture and why Luke or the author of The Book of Acts thinks it necessary to enter these details at this point.  This passage is hidden between 2 very important events 1) the Ascension and 2) Pentecost.

Let's read Acts 1:12-26.
The book of Acts is
a)     about Luke establishing the most important foundation or truth of our belief : The Resurrection
b)     and about the credibility of the witnesses (or people) handling this truth with a mission to carry the message of Jesus to Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost pasts of the world – to pass it down and on the basis of testimony and witness, people would become believers, i.e. Christians.

Who were these men handling this very important and dynamic truth? And what were they like?
And to answer these questions, let us look at 3 points that you and I can remember – so write them in your books – What qualified them as witnesses, They demonstrated in belief and action why they were chosen to fulfill this task.

A witness is one who has personal knowledge of something that occurred. They were to execute an important task and were to be also persecuted and executed. 

vs 14 tells us What kind of people they were.
As instructed by Jesus in Acts 1:4,  THEY FOLLOWED WHAT WAS COMMANDED TO THEM
-        DO NOT LEAVE JERUSALEM ( NOT THE UPPER ROOM for Luke 24: 53 adds to Acts 1:13-14  )

But what was Jerusalem like? And why do we look at these men as men of obedience?
Jerusalem was where on Sunday before the resurrection, crowds had entered Jerusalem for the Passover. It was a thunderous sound that emanated

-when they shouted “Hosanna in the Highest… in the name of the Lord”….
-and then a few days later they were shouting “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”,
-and as if that was not enough, they refer to him as an infidel and get Roman guards to secure the tomb. 
-Jesus rises, the soldiers are paid to hide this and to put the blame on the disciples
Jerusalem was in a frenzy. People were now waiting for Pentecost or the Feast of Harvests or Feast of Weeks as it was referred to.
Jerusalem was a dangerous place. They had identified Peter in the courtyard and said…. Were you not with him…you are a Galilean.

They were confused with the crucifixion but believed with Thomas when they saw he was resurrected.

But they did not question the command of Jesus.  They did what was asked of them. They went back to Jerusalem from Mount Olive. They went and gathered in the Upper Room ( the definite article seems to refer to the same room Jesus broke bread with them.

It was a large room ( I mean really large …. As approx. 120 of them were living there) they gathered in it.
120 of them
-        The eleven apostles
-        The women
-        Mary the mother of Jesus
-        Jesus’  brothers ( approx. 4)
-        And most probably 70 disciples

120 people – different characters, different backgrounds, different views, different statuses and upbringings and beliefs.  120 PEOPLE BUT WITH ONE THING COMMON – TO OBEY THE COMMAND OF GOING BACK TO JERUSALEM, WITH ONE COMMON PURPOSE THAT THEY STAY UNITED AND IN THIS UNITY THEY SAW STRENGTH.

Who did they comprise of?
-Peter who had denied Jesus and had been forgiven and reinstated after spending time with Jesus in Galilee after the resurrection.
-Jesus’ brothers – He is insane – that is what they termed him, but had had a change of mind and heart
-Mathew the tax collector – bribes and cheating people were part of his everyday job
-Simon the Zealot  - the political agenda of these was to target the tax collectors and kill them for sport
-Men so fearful that they all fled at the sight of Jesus being betrayed

They acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus and they obeyed him. They now knew that they must FORTIFY THEMSELVES for what was to come. –  the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so they could be Jesus’ witnesses.
They had had the greatest example and hands-on experience as they walked with Jesus for 3 years and witnessed His life. – They saw Jesus rise early in the morning …. 3.30 – 4.00 am and go and seek the Father, giving himself to prayer and they knew the secret and followed.
 What did they pray for ?, one may ask since the Ascension had just taken place…. What did they pray / Why did they devote themselves to prayer and supplication? They were taught well….

-        They prayed ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’
-        They prayed for the promise that they were told was to arrive
-        They prayed according to the scriptures
-        They prayed for courage and boldness and strength… they knew what lay ahead - 

WITNESS in Greek is ‘Martyrs’ (one who has had a dramatic encounter with Jesus which was life-changing) and the person would give a first-hand witness of what he had seen and heard which would bring with it persecution and even death.  

-        Luke 24:53 says they went into the temple and praised God, blessed God, Extolled him.
-        They prayed and readied themselves


We are in a similar situation and so were they. But what attitude did they have? Let us read and remind ourselves.

From the prayer and supplication and waiting on God, Peter was led to follow the scriptures and witness its fulfillment.
But Peter was quite illiterate… He was a fisherman……??
-        Like every male Jewish child he was schooled in the study of the scriptures from childhood
-        He knew the old testament
-        He heard Jesus read and explain the Psalms, the scriptures in the temple
-        He heard the sermon on the mount
-        He heard Jesus quote the scriptures.

Ps 119:11 says I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you….Peter knew the word of God by heart and it was in his heart stored away for a time like this.

And so he stands up and quotes this word from Ps 109: 8.  He says David, led by the Holy Spirit spoke these words and prophesied about a time to come….. the very same that had occurred in the Garden when Judas betrayed Jesus and sold him for a price of 30 pieces of silver. ‘ Let his ……….Let his place be taken by another’.

With conviction and as their leader he says that the apostles were to be 12 men and they were only 11. 12 men ready to experience the very important outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He explained his action was in line with the word of God, prophesied beforehand about what Judas would do and now in the absence of Judas what they must do… a man appointed in the place of Judas.

Zachariah says in Zach 11:12,13 that he had done work for his employers and he addresses them and tells them… If you want, pay me or don’t. And they paid him for the work he had done … 30 pieces of silver …. The price of a slave… Zachariah had done work worthy of a much, much higher wage. And God commands him and tells him to give it to the potter's house ( the temple). Peter goes all the way to say why Judas must be replaced.  He was NO MORE AN APOSTLE. HE WAS NOT TO BE COUNTED WITH THEM ANY LONGER

He says in vs 17 he was counted among us and divinely appointed to a calling – the highest of its kind. It was NO ORDINARY CALLING AND COMMISSIONING

But Judas like every one of the disciples did not understand ….. Acts 1:6 says. He was poor and covetous. AFTER THE RESSURECTION ….When they were assembled, they asked Jesus when will your kingdom be re-established…. The passion version says…Every time they assembled they asked this question.     
Judas had died inwardly, much before he died physically. Spiritually his fall began, when he is smarter than the rest, understanding that wealth, position, and rulership in this world was never going to be his.  It was not on the agenda of Jesus. And he sought to then make it happen by stealing the money from the kitty, or common purse of the disciples since he was their treasurer. Each time he took some he forfeited his honor.

A)     At first, he was disappointed at what he saw and realized and he began to fall with stealing
B)     His disappointment soon led to him becoming disillusioned…. Jhn 12: 5-6 says ….This perfume could have been sold for 300 denari and given to the poor….. when actually he was a thief
C)     This disillusioned prisoner was then deceived …. Which is satan’s biggest weapon…? Betray Jesus and you will earn wealth to have a property of your own 

And with treason, he fell from the highest calling to the lowest infamy…. Judas in today’s world is still synonymous with a traitor or betrayer.
So for 30 pieces of silver, he sold Jesus. But when Jesus was condemned - something he did not see coming…. Did Adam or Eve see it?  it’s the same trick satan plays………
He went out and committed suicide and hung himself…. Nowhere does it say on a tree…. But it is likely he did it in the Hinnom Valley, from a cliff…. but wherever, when he fell headlong his body with the fall was hit and his belly split apart and his guts gushed out.  It was in this state that he was found and buried in the field that was purchased with the blood money, the money he received for betraying Jesus.  Akeldama …. Field of Blood… let no one go there… let no one visit that place….let it be left alone.
While the other apostles asked Jesus about his earthly kingdom, their heart was towards Jesus and not to the offings from Jesus ruling as king… so they were prepared to listen and accept what Jesus had to say.  NOT JUDAS…. His heart was on the worldly ….. nothing spiritual interested him. That was something he did not understand and believe.
Psalm 109 : 7,8

When the wicked is judged let him be condemned
Let his days be few
Let another take his office.

Peter knew the word and sought to follow it and witness its outworking.

POINT 3 - They FOLLOWED the scriptures in its execution and fulfillment
Peter followed the right process in the execution and fulfillment of the scriptures.
The integrity of these witnesses was put to the test in this crucial time and THEY PASSED THE TEST.

A witness is watched very closely : Every action, every word, every response, is closely monitored and it determines if you are godly or ungodly.  There is no grey area…. Only if you ARE OR NOT.

Peter, the impulsive had had a talk with Jesus after the resurrection.
-        He was to lead. His past was never going to determine the future.
-        He had prayed in unity with the others
-        With supplication
-        Waiting on God
What do you mean by INTEGRITY?
-Peter did not promote his favorite candidate.
-He did not look and see and trust his instincts
-He did not go by what showed up in their behavior
-there was no lobbying …. Vote for me,  vote for me, no speeches to prove they were the right candidate, no testimonies to prove it

Thinking back on three years and on the basis of their/his calling, he put forth two very strong points. The candidate should have been present -
-        from the baptism of Jesus by John
-        to the ascension

And Barsabba nicknamed Justus ( Justus meant just or righteous…. Something that spoke of the kind of person he was, and Barsabbas …. Meaning born on the Sabbath)
And Mathias met these criteria.

Peter chose on the basis of these two criteria – for he knew such a candidate  had stood the test of time, dramatically experienced Jesus in the storm, when they wanted to hurl him off the cliff, when they wanted to stone the adulteress woman when He gave them power as the 70 to go out and heal the sick, cast out demons, etc.

They were there in the good and not so good times, WITH JESUS.
Mathias was just a face in a crowd of 70 disciples – that’s what most think he was – one of the disciples.  As one may conclude he was one of the 70 disciples empowered by Jesus, right from the time Jesus was baptized and through his entire 3-year ministry…what a rich experience. It was the case of the parable (Math 25:14-30) of the 1, 2, and 5 talents and their rewards….Because Mathias was no Peter, no John or James…. He was just another amongst the 70.

  BUT…. AND THE BIG BUT…. GOD SAW HIS HEART, HIS FAITHFULNESS, HIS LIFE that no one else knew about and the lot fell to his name.
And by the way, MATHIAS means the gift of God.

What is your book and my book of Acts speaking about me and us as WITNESSES
Let us pray that the world where we stand as witnesses see us as
-        Unitedly devoted to prayer ( take any slot or any time most convenient to you and join the PRAYER 24/7) this is the need of the hour.

-        Following the powerful, action-packed word as our guide…. Hide at least 2 verses per week in your heart that you may not sin that you may be scripture led like Peter. That you would never be led astray.

-        And execute His commands – obey them with integrity and according to the criteria laid down in the word of God – with cleanness of mind, heart, right attitude – God witnesses your faithfulness

And as I close I hope that your method of choosing a person for a very important task and God’s ways are the same – that they follow the same method and find the right criteria as laid down in Acts 1: 12-26.

Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again),  Spirit-filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking church in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that has people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the Great Commission into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service.  Word of Grace is a part of a wider international family of Churches called RegionsBeyond.To know more about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org. 

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