We are already 1/3 of the way into our challenge to read the New Testament this year. I pray the four gospels have grown your love for Jesus and all that he has done for us. In May we will begin reading through the book of Acts, one of my personal favorites. I love reading the accounts of what God can accomplish by the power of His Spirit though the lives of those who love Him.
The book of Acts starts out in 1:8 with Jesus restating the Great Commission, commanding his disciples to go share the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Then for the rest of the book, we see the disciples going forth boldly to accomplish that mission. They preach the gospel and plant churches in Jerusalem (chpts. 1-7). They preach the gospel and plant churches in Judea and Samaria (chpts. 8-12). And they preach the gospel and plant churches to the ends of the earth (chpts. 13-28) with the gospel reaching as far as Rome.
As I read through this book, I am always challenged by two questions. First, has the good news of what Jesus has done for us changed my life to the degree it changed these first disciples? As I read of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Stephen’s testimony before the Sanhedrin, and Paul’s missionary journeys, I cannot help but see a difference in their boldness in the Spirit and joy in Christ as compared to mine. To see them endure such incredible suffering as they preached the gospel, and yet come away with an even greater desire to live for the gospel, humbles me often. Clearly these men were rooted in Christ’s love, filled with the Spirit, and motivated by what Christ had done for them.
Therefore, as we read through the book of Acts, I encourage us all to be asking the Lord that He would similarly drive the love and joy of Christ deep into our hearts, that He would fill us with the incredible power of the Spirit, and that we would be motivated by the good news of the gospel. That living in light of the gospel would not just be SOMETHING we CAN do, but ALL that we would WANT to do with our lives.
Secondly, as I read the book of Acts, I am always challenged by the question, “What could God accomplish through our church today?” I am not necessarily talking about 3,000 people coming to know Christ in one day here in Muscatine. But could we see the Lord daily saving men, women, and children? Could we see radical generosity? Could we see Christian communities make authentic fellowship with each other a high priority? Could we see those same communities go out and share their faith? Could we see Christians respond to persecution not with anger but with the preaching of the gospel? Could we see cities renewed, new churches planted, and changed lives?
I believe we can.
In fact, I believe we will. Here. In Muscatine.
But it will not happen by just passively waiting around for God to show up. Yes the disciples waited in the upper room until the Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost. But they had also spent four years with Jesus growing as disciples. They had left everything behind to learn the Scriptures, to spend time in prayer, to serve others, and to grow in their love for Jesus. When Jesus arose from the grave, they fully understood the gospel and it had taken root in their lives. They were ready to live it out.
So, in fact, these two questions are related. What could God accomplish through our church today? The answer: It depends on how much the good news of the gospel has changed our lives. Radical change, gospel change, in Muscatine begins with radical change in our hearts. Will we let the gospel change us, so that God might use us to change this city?