Beyond Beginnings

Pastor Jim Drake
On Mission  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:17
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A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Ohio for a friend’s funeral. The last time I had seen his oldest son, he was a little toddler in diapers. Now, he’s taller than me with a big-old mountain man beard and a child of his own. Kids grow up, don’t they? I know that’s not exactly the most profound thing I’ve ever said, but it’s true. Can you imagine what would happen if they didn’t? Actually, there are a handful of people in the world who really never do grow up. TLC did a show on them a few years back called “My 40-year old child.” At the time, there was a 40-year old Australian named Nicky Freeman who was developmentally no different than a 10-year old. And there’s a 10-year old girl from Montana named Gabby Williams. She weighs around 11 pounds and hasn’t developed much beyond a newborn in any way. The condition they have is so rare that doctors don’t even have a name for it. Peter Pan might be a fun fantasy—but it wouldn’t be if it was real, would it? Babies are supposed to grow into toddlers. Toddlers are supposed to grow into pre-schoolers. Pre-schoolers are supposed to grow into school-age kids. As much as it terrifies parents, school-age kids are supposed to grow into teenagers. And teenagers are supposed to grow into adults. That’s what’s supposed to happen. Anything that gets in the way of that development is abnormal—and everybody knows it. A 10-year old in diapers with a baby bottle is not normal. A 40-year old who looks and acts like a 10-year old child isn’t normal. So why in the world would we think it’s normal for a person who has been a believer for 5 or 10 or 50 years to have never developed beyond a new believer? That concept should be as foreign and freaky to us as a 10-year old newborn or a 40-year old child. But it’s not, is it? As a matter of fact, it’s so common that it doesn’t even register with us—much less shock us. Last week when we started our study of the book of Acts, we started looking at Luke’s introduction to the book. That introduction covers the first 11 verses of chapter 1. Last week we got through verses 1-7 and this week we’ll finish up the introduction. We split it up that way because in the first seven verses, Luke reflects on all the things that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach. All those things are the beginnings of our salvation. But verses 8-11—and really the rest of the book—are talking about what happens after we’re saved. In other words—what happens beyond the beginnings of our salvation? In John 3, Jesus compares salvation to being born again. But newborns aren’t supposed to stay that way, are they? So new believers are expected to grow. We can’t stay in the beginnings of our faith forever. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we need to get off the bottle and start eating solid food. And then he says this in 6:1, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” If Jesus has saved you, that’s wonderful! You have been born again! But newborns grow. You have been given a great beginning. But we’re called to go beyond beginnings. Going beyond beginnings means that we are driven by the need. Look at verse 8:

ACTS 1:8

Last week, we spent the first six verses reflecting on the cross, the resurrection, the promise of the Holy Spirt, and the hope of Jesus’ return. In other words, we looked at all the things that are ours from the moment of salvation. So I want you to pay particular attention to the way verse 8 starts. It starts with a “but”. It’s the same word the infomercial pitchmen use when they’re selling stuff on TV—“but wait! There’s more!” There’s more to our salvation than just getting saved, isn’t there? As a matter of fact, we’re called to go beyond the beginnings of just learning everything that Jesus did and taught. We’re called to become witnesses to everything He did and taught. Once we’re saved, we become driven by the same need that drove Jesus. And what drove Him? In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus came to seek and to save lost people. If you’re saved, then that means He sought you and He saved you. And it also means He’s calling you to do the same thing with other people. When He saves us, Jesus calls us to seek lost people—not run from them. Not hide from them. Not fear them. Not bash them. He calls us to seek them. Because that’s the only way that we can save them. Jesus provided the means of salvation when He died on the cross and rose again. And He makes that provision available to ALL who will believe. But in Romans 10, the Bible makes it clear that no one will believe unless somebody tells them the gospel. No one will believe unless somebody witnesses to them. And listen to me—that’s not something you pay me to do for you. God called me to this church—not so that I would be your witnesser-in-chief—but so that I would train all of you to be the witnesses that Jesus saved each of us to be. Why? Because the need is so great that all of us had better be on mission. Jesus saved you to be his witness in your Jerusalem. That’s your local area—the place you work, your school, your neighborhood, your community. Jesus also saved you to be his witness in your Judea. That’s a little bit wider area than your regular circle. It’s your community, your town, your county, even your region. Jesus also saved you to be his witness in your Samaria. That one’s a little bit tougher. Because that one requires you to step way out of your comfort zone. Your Samaria is all those people around you who don’t look like you or talk like you or act like you. It’s someone of a different ethnicity than you. It’s someone of a different socio-economic status than you. It’s someone who’s tatted up from head to toe. It’s someone who is living in sexual sin or gender confusion. Being a witness in your Samaria is going to make you uncomfortable. But the same grace that saved you is the same grace that will save anybody. Jesus also saved you to be a witness to the end of the earth. That means you need to pray for global missionaries. It means you need to give to support global missionaries. And it means that you need to be willing to become a global missionary—or encourage your kids or grandkids to become global missionaries. Why is it so important? Because millions and millions of people are dying and going to hell every day. 3.1 billion people live in places that have been completely unreached with the gospel. And, statistically speaking, 6 out of 10 of your neighbors are unchurched. Probably closer to 80% don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. The need is great. Going beyond the beginnings of salvation means that you are driven by that need to be the witness God has called you to be. It also means that you are fueled by faith instead of sight. Look at verse 9:

ACTS 1:9

Can you imagine what a terrifying time that must have been for the disciples? First, their master, the one they’d committed their lives to, had died a horribly gruesome death. But then He rose again and walked with them and ate with them and taught them just like the good old days. And then, after almost a month and a half—while He was standing there talking to them, He was gone. Right in front of their eyes, He ascended into heaven. We think about how amazing it must have been to see that happen. But can you imagine how terrifying it must have been? Jesus was gone. He went from standing right in front of them to fading off into the sky until eventually He was completely hidden in the clouds. They couldn’t see Jesus any more. They couldn’t touch Jesus any more. They couldn’t audibly hear His voice any more. They no longer had his physical presence. The only thing they had was his promises. But that’s enough, isn’t it? Jesus promised them that after he left, he would send another comforter. He promised them that the power of His Holy Spirit would come upon them and give them everything they needed to accomplish the work He had commanded them to do. He had made them promises. And even though they couldn’t see Him, they could trust Him. Do you know what that’s called? It’s called faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” They couldn’t see Jesus any more. But they had something far more valuable and powerful than sight. They had faith. But here’s the thing—we know we need faith to become saved. Romans 10:9-11 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” That’s called saving faith. That’s the beginnings of salvation. But going beyond the beginnings of salvation means that you have to go beyond just simple faith in the resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit. You have to have real faith that God is still with you. He’s not like a cosmic train conductor who punches your ticket and moves on. This isn’t about sitting around waiting to go to heaven. Going beyond beginnings means that your faith didn’t just save you for some event in the future—your faith fuels you for the work Jesus saved you to do. Your faith fuels you to be witness Jesus has called you to be. Your faith fuels you to accomplish the mission He’s called you to do. Your sight will tell you that you can’t do it. Your sight will tell you that you don’t have the right personality. Your sight will tell you that you’re too old or too young or too poor or too busy or too messed up. But when you go beyond the beginnings of salvation, you’re not bound by what you see, are you? You’re fueled by faith. You’re fueled by faith that when Jesus saves you, His Spirit lives in you. You’re fueled by faith that Jesus rarely calls the qualified—but He will always qualify the called. You’re fueled by faith that Jesus always finishes what He starts in you. You’re fueled by faith that you’re able to do things for Jesus that you aren’t capable of doing—in order that His strength will be displayed in your weakness. Going beyond the beginnings of salvation means you’re not bound by all the limitations you see—because you’re fueled by faith. When you go beyond the beginnings of salvation, you’re driven by the need and you’re fueled by faith. You’re also motivated by His return. Look at verses 10-11:

ACTS 1:10-11

Can’t you picture the disciples just silently standing there? Mouths hanging open. Straining to catch one more glimpse of Jesus. Scared. Confused. Numb. Frozen in time. And then after who knows how long—a couple of men appeared out of nowhere. The text doesn’t say, but we assume they were angels. By the way—they were needed because the Holy Spirit hadn’t been given to them yet. God had to speak to them externally because He wasn’t living in them internally yet. That would happen a few days later. Keep coming and we’ll hear all about that in a few weeks. But for now, they were given a promise. As a matter of fact—they were reminded of a promise that Jesus had already given them. Those men reminded the disciples that Jesus is coming back. Now—do you think they’d forgotten that promise already? I don’t. I think that information was still filed away in their heads. But head knowledge is different than actual expectation, isn’t it? As a matter of fact, I’d say that most of us in this room have a head knowledge that Jesus is supposed to come back some day. But judging by the way we live our lives, are we living in eager expectation of His return? Are you living your life like Jesus will return at any moment? That doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be staring into the sky waiting for the rapture. That’s the beginnings of belief. But we’re called to grow beyond the beginnings of belief. And growing beyond the beginnings of belief means that you’re motivated by Jesus’ return. You live every day of your life with the real expectation that today could be the day. And because you live with that eager expectation, you’re motivated to be busy doing the work that He’s called you to do. We’re not motivated by the fear of losing our salvation—because once Jesus saves you, He’ll never let you go. We’re not motivated by trying to work our way into favor with God—because you’re already clothed in the perfect righteousness of His son. No—we’re motivated by the fact that we want to do everything we can do to be pleasing to Jesus when He comes for us. Because He is—soon. The only question is—are you ready? And when I ask that, of course I’m asking if you’re saved. That has to be the first thing. But I’m really going beyond that. Have you gone beyond the elementary doctrine of Christ and gone on to maturity? Are you driven by the need to be a witness for Jesus? Are you fueled by faith to do things that you aren’t capable of doing apart from the power of God who lives in you? Are you motivated by the eager expectation of Jesus’ return? Are you doing everything you can to be pleasing to Him when He comes for you? If not—then today’s the day to start making that happen. Today’s the day to start growing up. Quit standing around with your head in the clouds staring into space. Get off the milk and get on to some meat. And by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in you—start to get on mission.

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