In This For Good

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They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers. (‭Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭14‬ MSG)

Commitment is crazy scarce in our culture these days. When things get rocky people run for the hills. If that sounds like you then you’re in good company.

When Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26) his disciples scattered. They just flat split. Even Peter, his best friend, sold him out, denying him when the going got tough.

If you have ever split, quit, or cut your losses—which narrows it down to just about everyone that breathes oxygen and falls under the description “human being”—then you and the disciples have a lot in common. They were quitters. But they didn’t stay quitters.

In the Book of Acts the early church historian Luke paints a vivid picture of a dedicated body of brothers whose undying devotion to the Gospel flipped the world upside down. But it’s the same guys that left Jesus high and dry in the Garden. What changed?!

They experienced the resurrected Jesus. They had quit on Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t quit on them. He walked right into the room, declared his identity, deity, and design for their lives, and charged them all with a Holy Mandate, a Great Commission.

Each of them made an about face. They went 180. They flipped the script, settled their heart’s compass on true north, and went ALL IN.

They agreed. They were in it for good. Hell or high water. Pain, persecution, and martyrdom would follow all of them. Every last one. But they agreed. They were in it for good. Because Jesus makes quitters into world changers.

If you struggle with commitment, you don’t need more guilt. You don’t need better reasons to stay in the mix. You need an encounter with the risen Jesus. Ask. He’ll help. He hasn’t quit. He’s in this for good.

December 2 – Peter Preaches Jesus

Read: Acts 2

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24 ESV)

By all human accounts and logic, it would seem as though Jesus left the future of human destiny in the hands of eleven men. It would seem. And certainly they each played an epic part. But the apostles are neither the story nor the point of the story—though each were proclaimers of the story.

Peter was a fisherman, who became a follower, who became a leader. He made the eventual transition from fishmonger to fisher-of-men. But there were many bumps on his journey.

Peter made numerous mistakes. He was brash. He was stubborn and dense. He was both an agitator and a coward, a brawler and betrayer. Peter was a tumultuous wreck of a man with only one notable trait among a laundry list of scruples. Peter loved Jesus.

On the day that Luke recorded in the second chapter of Acts, a day often referred to as the Day of Pentecost, Peter changed. Gone was the fumbling disciple and scrambling coward. Peter arose a leader. A preacher. The proclaimer.

Jesus had promised a power would come. And while in person God was with them in limited form, on the Day of Pentecost God revealed himself in a new way. It changed everything. The Holy Spirit emboldened, encouraged, and equipped a once-dull fisherman to stand up before a crowd, in a city full of people that had just murdered his master, and challenge the status quo.

Peter preached Jesus, and thousands responded.

December 1 – The Ascension

Read: Acts 1:6-11

While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:51 ESV)

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. (Acts 1:9 ESV)

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19 ESV)

After years of traveling together, teaching, healing, preaching, and working. Jesus was gone. He left. Even death had not kept him from them, his disciples. Impossibly, he had returned to spend another month with them. But as the month drew to an end he encouraged and blessed them one more time, and was then taken away into the heavens. He ascended.

A lot of belief systems talk about an ascension. They talk about the possibility of you or I making our mark on this life in such a way as to gain unfathomable understanding. That through doing so we would ascend. Ascension in these religions is about the power of a person to overcome their limitations. It is a self-serving action devoid of a larger interpersonal purpose.

Jesus ascension was real. He was there, and then he was pulled away into Heaven. People saw it, they talked about it, they believed it, they wrote about it. It happened. It was a true historical event that actually took place.

Jesus didn’t ascend under his power, but by the power of the God the Father. He was called away to again be in the presence of God. He went ahead to prepare an eternal home for his followers. And I believe that one day, just as he ascended, he will descend again to gather his people to himself. Jesus ascended not for personal gain, but for providential purpose. Just as he gave himself in life, and in death, he even now he gives of himself in eternity.

November 30 – Cram Session

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. (Acts 1:3 ESV)

Having been part of university life for nearly half of my life there are certain aspects of collegiate culture that are almost second nature to me. Cramming is something that I hear about all the time, it’s not usually called that anymore, it’s usually referred to as an “all-nighter” these days, but they mean the same. Both are when someone stays up all night before a big test to spend time studying.

Jesus allowed his disciples one final cram session. It was a 40 day all-nighter. One last shot for them to learn and latch on to the principles and passion that would be needed to steer the burgeoning Christian movement.

The resurrection changed things for them. It invited revelation and understanding surrounding the three previous years the eleven had spent in community with Jesus. It have context for all that Jesus had talked about. And it pushed them out the door toward their final lifelong test.

Jesus had one more season to train, teach, and mentor. He took a little over a month to do it. They learned from the master himself. The test was coming!

November 29 – Witnesses

Read: Luke 24:44-50

You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:48 ESV)

Jesus appeared to the eleven on Mount Olivet. During his final instruction before he left he recounted the purpose for which he had came. He reiterated the part of the disciples to come. And finally, he stressed to them the uniqueness of their calling.

Many people experienced Jesus during the numerous public appearances of his ministry. An unknown number were the recipients of miracles at his hands. But only a handful of men were chosen to be called witnesses.

They watched, saw, and partook in Christ’s ministry in ways that were unique to their experience. They received personal instruction and encouragement from Jesus. And when the torch was passed they were responsible for all that they had witnessed.

What have you witnessed?

November 27 – All Authority

Read: Matthew 28:16-20, 1 Corinthians 15:6

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18 ESV)

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:6 ESV)

Jesus appears to the eleven apostles and five hundred believers on Mount Tabor. He charged them to share his message. He gave them guardianship of the Gospel. And he encouraged them to rely on their representative authority based on his own complete authority.

Jesus is the ultimate authority. Many passages outlined by the Old Testament prophets speak about the ruling servant king, the Messiah. John the Apostle’s oft studied Revelations describes the story of the One and Only Jesus returning for his Bride, the Church, and initiating his eternal reign of authority.

On a practical level, we can live, love, and laugh just a little bit freer today knowing that any authority we possess is a gift from our greater authority. Jesus holds the key to the Kingdom of God. He holds the power of the Creator. He holds All Authority.

November 23 – Jesus Sends

John 20:19-23

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21 ESV)

The resurrected Jesus stood in the midst of the disciples as they hid out in the Upper Room. They were afraid of the other Jews, and for a good reason too. The Jews had just held a sham trial and then executed Jesus right in front of everyone.

Jesus appeared to them, and then charged them with the mission of reaching the very people they were fearful of. The journey of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was to begin in Jerusalem and then make its way around the world.

Jesus sent his apostles out to the nations. They carried the message all over their world. What message is Jesus charging you to carry? Where is he sending you?