As we’ve seen in Part 1 and Part 2 of this mini-series, Jesus is totally unchangeable – the same yesterday, today and forever – and has a Kingdom that, unlike every earthly kingdom, is totally unshakeable. Now we will see that He has empowered His Church to spread the Good News of His Kingdom everywhere. This is our mission, and nothing can stop it!…
Let’s start by briefly making 4 vital statements (expanded elsewhere) that will put things in context and explain why the mission is unstoppable:
- Our mission is the outworking of God’s eternal purpose. The original commission to Adam was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) and God’s desire to see his people fill the earth is seen repeatedly thereafter. Our great commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) is a re-statement of this great purpose.
- Our mission is continuing what Jesus started. The Gospels record “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1) and Acts shows the early church continuing all He’d started, as they proclaimed and proved He is King and has defeated every enemy.
- Our mission is the very reason Jesus sent His Spirit. Acts 1:4-8 makes clear that the whole purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to empower His disciples to be His witnesses in spreading the gospel.
- Our mission is the key to Christ’s return. Jesus declared He will come again and “the end will come” only when the good news of Kingdom has been preached in every nation (Matthew 24:14).
Since the purpose of God will always prevail, and Jesus will finish what He started, and His return is never in doubt…we can be assured that our mission cannot be thwarted – it is unstoppable!
Now, if you’re anything like me, it will also help to know: What does this look like in practice? How will it happen? How do we move from theory to reality? And how can we play our part?…
The story of the healing at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-12) provides some answers to these important questions. This story is positioned: immediately after 3,000 people are initially added to the church (Acts 2:41) and then more are added “every day” (Acts 2:47); and immediately before a further 2,000 are added (Acts 4:4) – and in fact it’s this event that triggers the second wave of growth. And this story is here in the middle of these things by design, to tell us about “one day” that illustrates “every day”, about one man who was saved and added as an example of thousands of others, and to describe one supernatural act that was typical of the “many signs and wonders” prevalent in the church (Acts 2:43). And, as such, it contains keys that help us become part of unstoppable mission and growth in our communities and churches. Let’s look at 5 things we see here:
Firstly, the story shows that our mission is not our meetings! This miracle took place as Peter and John were on their way to pray (verse 1). God moved in power outside the meeting, because that’s where the need was! Our mission doesn’t depend on our buildings or our meetings; we can play our part at any time in any place! We are never ‘more spiritual’ or ‘more usable’ when we are worshipping, praying or fellowshipping with others; in fact, as far as mission goes, we’re probably much more useful when we’re not in a meeting! Meetings aren’t a substitute for mission; good doctrine isn’t an alternative to good deeds; and our great community must not distract us from our Great Commission! If we want to turn our world upside-down we must let Him turn our church inside-out!
Secondly, we must not miss the moments. Peter and John arrive at the Gate at just same time as the lame man (verse 2); God creates ‘a moment’ when they find themselves sharing the same small patch of planet earth! None has planned it, but Peter and John know how to make most of every opportunity; and are alert to this ‘moment’ and available for God to use them at any time in any place. Jesus had told them to “Go and make disciples….” And promised “You will receive power…. you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…” And now here they are: in Jerusalem and ready to be used! Participating in the mission means being ready for the many ‘moments’ God will bring our way.
Then, thirdly, we must look and listen. Peter and John listened to the man’s request and then “looked at him intently” (verse 4). If we’re going to recognise these God-given opportunities we must attune our senses to what’s happening around us: there’s always something to see and hear; every situation and conversation alerts us to a heart-cry if we look and listen carefully. Peter and John were ‘present in the moment’, and gave this man their time and attention. Playing our part means taking time to notice and care about the need that’s all around us.
Fourthly, we must be ready to give what we’ve got. In response to what they saw and heard, Peter simply gave the man what he had (verse 6). He gave him Jesus, and a miraculous healing in His Name. Simply sharing what we have, passing-on what we’ve discovered and allowing our lives to overflow is the very heart of our mission! And note that Peter and John gave away what they enjoyed “every day” (Acts 2:42-47) to a man who’d spent his life begging “every day” (Acts 3:2) – and from then on no day was ever the same again! It’s a great picture of a thriving church sharing the goodness of God with a barely-surviving world. When we keep it simple and give what we’ve got…the mission is unstoppable!
And then lastly, we must help people up and let them hold on. Peter reached out and helped the man up (verse 7) and let him hold on as they took him into the gathered church (verse 11). It takes great courage to lift up a lame man! But also to share your story, offer to help, sit and listen, ask if you can pray…. But note that it was as he lifted him up that healing exploded in the man’s body! God moves when we step-out. This man expected nothing more than a hand-out, but Peter offered an outstretched-hand. He was present in the moment. It’s a reminder that Jesus embraced people, sat with them, fed them, wept with them, calmed their storms, touched and healed them. And He’s just the same today!
Let’s be sure nothing stops us from opening-up our lives, reaching-out and helping others in… and so playing our part in this great co-mission! In this way we can outwork God’s purpose, continue what Jesus started, enjoy His empowering and hasten His return!
(An extended video version of this message is available here)