We are beginning a new sermon series on the book of Acts. The book of Acts answers the question of “What next?” after the sacrificial phase of the plan of redemption. What happened next after Jesus rose from the grave and returned to heaven was the rise of the Holy Spirit. The Book of Acts is the story of the birth of the church. It is the Gospel applied in power. It’s about the old temple of stone and marble being replaced by temples made of flesh, and it contains eyewitness accounts of the rise of the Holy Spirit.
Fast facts about Acts:
- Earliest title is simply “Acts.” It is not a full history of all apostles. Only Peter, James and John play leading parts, and much of the book is devoted to Paul, a convert.
- Breaks down into three parts: Based on its geography. The church was established in Jerusalem (1–7), the church was enlarged in Judea and Samaria (8 –12), and the church expanded to the remotest part of the earth (13 –28).
- Author is Luke, the physician. (See Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2)
- The book covers a 32-year period from AD 31-63, and includes the reign of four emperors—Tiberius (14-37); Caligula (37-41); Claudius (41-54); and Nero (54-68). Despite the ups and downs of corruption and demagoguery, the times of the Roman empire still provided favorable circumstances for the spread of the gospel. And the most favorable circumstance was the rise of the Holy Spirit! The same is true for us! Regardless of politics and pandemics, the times are still providing favorable circumstances for the spread of the gospel-including the universal language of the internet. But the most favorable circumstance is the rise of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Acts is a book of PROMISE. Rewind to John 14:16, 18 and Acts 1:4-5. The book of Acts is about the promise being fulfilled. It’s about what happens when God shows up! A church where the Holy Spirit is rising lives by the promises of God.
The Book of Acts is a book of PURPOSE. Rewind to Matt. 28:19-20. The purpose of the church is not to have programs or committees, but to make disciples and baptize. A church where the Holy Spirit is rising knows its purpose.
The Book of Acts is a book of POWER. Acts 1:8 is the theme of the entire book. You can’t read these pages and not see the power of prayer, the power to heal, the power to raise the dead, the power to cast out demons, and the power to grow churches and expand the kingdom of God. But we have to ask, where has this power gone today?
When your iPhone reaches 20 percent battery power, a Low Power Mode prompt will show up on your screen. In Low Power Mode, new mail will not be automatically fetched. The screen brightness will be slightly reduced, and you will notice a slightly slower performance of your phone.
The Western church has been functioning in Low Power Mode for a long time. And in this mode “downloads” of power from on High are restricted until we are fully charged. Aren’t you tired of having no power? Lord, I want to be a fully-charged Christian, not a low-power Christian. A church where the Holy Spirit is rising has power.
The Book of Acts is a book of PRAYER. You’ll see prayer everywhere. A church where the Holy Spirit is rising receives power through prayer.
The Book of Acts is a book of PASSION. The book of Acts is a book of action—actions of the Holy Spirit and the actions of those moved and filled by the Holy Spirit. It’s not called the book of thoughts, or the book of debates, the book of proposals, the book of committees, the book of plans or policies. It’s the church on fire. Without passion we will inspire no one. A church where the Holy Spirit is rising has passion for Christ and His mission.
Of course it is also a book of Persecution, Perseverance, Proliferation and Praise. A church where the Holy Spirit is rising will experience them all.
So why Acts? Why now? Because the promise, purpose, power, prayer, and passion of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in this book, is something we must have. If we want the Spirit to rise in our experience; If we want to go with Jesus on His impossible mission, we must be ready for ACTION—the acts of the Holy Spirit. Are you ready?
A year ago our world changed. A year later we stand on the dividing line of history—pre-covid and post-covid. The last time the world stood still, from the ashes the church was born, and the Holy Spirit shook the earth. Now, from the ashes of Covid 19 it’s time for the church to be born again and once again shake the earth with the power, grace, and love of God. It is not time to go back to “normal”! With a Resurrected and soon-coming Jesus, what army or virus on earth can stop us? None! But only if the Holy Spirit is rising in our lives and ministry. We must find our story in the story of Acts (the 29th chapter), and it is my determined purpose to find it there with each of you.
Pastor Randy Maxwell