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Spirit and Flesh

The Waiting

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(6/2) Today I want to talk about waiting. And I wonder if any of you are impatient? You don’t like traffic. You don’t think that a check is an acceptable way to pay in a checkout line… particularly if they can’t find a pen. Have you ever thought or said: "Hurry up!" Have you ever said that to a microwave? Are any of you like that?

Well today, I want you to know, there’s something on your horizon: an opportunity that’s set before you, the next season of life, and maybe it’s something you’re excited about, something you’ve been waiting for. And so, if you’re like me you just want to get to it… just tell me what to do… get out of the way… because I’m going to git er done. You see, that’s me. I can be patient because that is the fruit of the Spirit, but I don’t like this four-letter word called "wait". But it’s a word that Jesus uses, which means I’m wrong.

And what we see in the book of Acts, in chapter one, is that the people had been waiting for Jesus. You see, God made us, we sinned against him, death came into human history, a promise was made that Jesus was coming in Genesis chapter 3, verse 15. So how long did they have to wait for Jesus to come? Four or five thousand years maybe? That’s a long wait… That’s way worse than 2G or dial-up, right? Anybody remember dial-up? That’s a serious wait. And so then Jesus comes, he lives without sin, he dies for our sin, he rises from the dead. And we see in the beginning of Acts that he appears, he gives evidence of his resurrection, and he tells them, "Wait" (Acts 1:4). Let’s read it together:

Acts chapter one, verse one begins, "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

12 "Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."

You know, after all the burgers I’ve eaten in my life, when they say, "You are what you eat" it's a little scary, because I must be the world's biggest hamburger. Once in high school I won a competition with some friends and choked down six Big Macs. But seriously, even today, sometimes my schedule leaves me no choice, sometimes I'm stuck with something like a fast-food burger. But, every once in a while, and I love this time of year… because I get to enjoy one of those juicy, mouth-watering, tasty, real burgers cooked on the grill. And you know the difference between pre-cooked and fresh cooked. You know the fresh cooked takes a little longer, but it sure does taste great! So when it comes to eating well, it’s worth the wait.

In the Bible, Jeremiah says, "When your words came, I ate them. They were my joy and my heart's delight…" (Jeremiah 15:16). He’s excited about getting direct nourishment from God's Word. When God spoke to him he got his spiritual food fresh and not pre-cooked… and today, we live in a age, when time is really precious. We want to have our time with the Lord, but we want to have it quick; sort of a microwave Jesus time. So we grab a devotional Big Mac or Whopper, because it's better than nothing. But the heart of our intimacy with the Lord is when you go direct… you go to Him… you get your Bible open and you speak to the author. And honestly, it takes a little longer, just like fresh cooked burgers do, but it's so much better. It’s worth the wait!

That's why Jeremiah says, "When your words came. I ate them. My joy, my heart's delight..." David in Psalms 119 prayed, "Show me wonderful things from your law O Lord." What a prayer to pray! Every day, "Lord, show me some wonderful things from your Word, make it come alive in my heart, make it come alive in my mind, and make it come alive in my life today." And then wait… don't let busyness or spiritual laziness rob you of the fresh cooked meal God is preparing just for you.

This morning we read in Acts that Jesus appeared for forty days, giving evidence of his resurrection, and he told his followers, "You’re going to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth. I’ve got something huge for you to do… a global mission... go tell everybody that I’ve come, but… but what’s he say? "Wait!"

Waiting is hard isn’t it? Some of you are students? School is almost out! Waiting is hard.

Some of you are single, and you might have met that one, but you’re not sure yet. Waiting is hard. But you’ve gotta wait, ‘cause you want to do what’s right, you want to experience God’s best!

So what do you do when you’re waiting? What are Jesus’ followers going to do? You know, Jesus comes; he dies for sin; rises from the dead; appears to the people for forty days proving that he’s conquered Satan, sin, death, and hell… proving that he’s satisfied the wrath of God. And he gives them the biggest mission... Jesus gives us the biggest mission in the history of the world and he tells us to wait for the Holy Spirit’s power. At that time, the believers do three things that are good patterns for us to learn from… three things: gathering, praying, and unifying.

1. Gathering

First we read that "they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:12-14).

So they’re gathering in a room upstairs… we don’t know where it is… but we do know… what we do know is that everybody’s got names. Luke gives us a list of who is there and there’s one group that is particularly noteworthy; "Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers."

Now for those of you who are not yet Christian, and you’re skeptical, I know that the resurrection of the dead is unusual, but that’s why we call it a miracle… that’s why we made a holiday around it… it’s the sort of a thing that doesn’t happen all the time. So what I want you to see is that we don’t just believe this because we find it interesting, but because there are reasons and evidences historically that are very compelling when gathered together.

And one of those is right here. Jesus’ mother Mary and his brothers are gathered together in the early church. Now this is Jesus, her Son, their big brother, and they’re together with the church worshiping him as Creator, Lord, God, and Savior.

Now for those of you who are mothers with sons; how many of you would publicly worship your son? How many of you would publicly say, "My son never sinned and he’s God." But here we find Mary worships him as God and Savior.

How many of you have a big brother? And how many of you, if you had to choose between him being either God or Satan, you’d probably choose Satan? How many of you could stand up and say, "My big brother is without sin"? And you probably have the emotional and physical scars that say otherwise, right?

Well, during his earthly life, Jesus’ family thought the same. You know, he’s out there preaching, teaching, water skiing without a boat, declaring himself to be God, and the Bible says, "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’" (Mark 3:21). So they wanted to take him home and lock the door. They wanted to keep him where nobody could find him. They thought that he wasn‘t doing well.

That’s what his family thought about him until he rose from the dead. And then Mary and Jesus’ brothers recognized, "He is God. He conquered death. We saw him die. We saw him rise. He is who he says he is."

So, James and Jude, two of Jesus’ brothers, become pastors. They both write books of the Bible proclaiming that their brother Jesus is Lord. And here they are, part of the early church, worshiping him as God. Why are Mary and his brothers, these devout Jewish men worshiping Jesus as God? Because he is God and he rose from the dead to prove it.

So, many see him… a few follow him, and they gathered together. God’s people need to gather together, right? So they gather together on Sunday… they gather together during the week… and what do they do? They pray.

2. Praying

And I want you to see that praying precedes doing. This is interesting, because here is a bunch of people who don’t even have an airplane… commanded to reach the nations… they’ve got a lot of work to do… and they’re praying. They have a lot to do, but they’re not wasting their time; they’re investing their time in prayer. It says it this way: they were "constantly in prayer". It was ongoing, constant, and united. It was their priority, and it was involved in the course of their day.

But you see, what tends to happen in Christian circles today, is that when we make a mistake, we pray... "I know God will fix it". After we’ve made a mess… after I ruined everything… I’ll pray... "He’ll take care of it". But God wants us to pray first… to pray before we do… because God is calling them just as God is calling us to bring the gospel to the nations. There’s work to do, but it has to be preceded by prayer. You see, we could pick the wrong work, we could do it the wrong way, at the wrong time, and make all kinds of mistakes.

So praying needs to come first; before the going and doing. And we can’t ever lose sight of this: prayer is a miracle. Here’s what’s amazing: when we pray, we’re communicating from our world into that world which Paul called the "third heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:2). It’s miraculous, so if you’ve prayed, you’ve participated in a miracle. I’m not certain exactly how all of this works, but somehow I can speak anywhere, at any time, and God can hear. I can take my requests, needs, fears, and frustrations and share them with a living, caring, loving, God, who’s made me with a soul to be one with him.

And all of this is a miracle made possible through Jesus Christ. You see, other people in other religions pray, but their prayers don’t get beyond our world, because we need a mediator, we need someone who has passed through the heavens to connect us to God, to connect us to our Creator, to connect this fallen world to that perfect spiritual world. And that one is Jesus. "We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" (Hebrews 4:14). He’s our mediator.

So, what the early church knows, is that Jesus has gone to heaven, he’s entered into another realm, but he promised he’s not abandoned them as orphans. He said he would never leave them nor forsake them, so they could still talk to him through this miracle of prayer. And he’s available, he’s willing to hear, and answer our prayers. So, they’re gathering and they’re praying before they start doing anything.

And this is important, because the primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do something… but to allow God to do something with us. It’s not to move God; it’s to move us. It’s not to change God; it’s to change us. It’s not to tell God something he doesn’t know; it’s for God to tell us something that we don’t know. You see it’s not to change the heart of God; it’s to change our hearts.

The prayer here is not to get God to do something. It’s to get God’s people in agreement and in alignment with what He wants them to do. So, prayer is inviting God to change us… that his perfect will would be done in us… so the church is gathering, they’re praying, and the result is its unifying.

3. Unifying

It’s unifying. It says that, "They all joined together constantly in prayer" (Acts 1:14). This word "together" is biblical language for unity. And Jesus prayed for you and I, he prayed for us in his prayer recorded in John 17, he says, "Father, I pray that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:11).

Jesus prays that they, the Christians, would be one as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one God. One God in three persons. And Jesus prays that we, as God’s people, would be one… one heart, one mind, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one mission… that we’d be one. So we pray with believers so that we might become unified with them. Like the first believers, we gather together, we pray together, and we become unified.

Prayer has a powerful effect in that way. And let me just say this. Suppose a husband and wife are not getting along, they don’t agree… A family is divided and there’s too much drama… A church is experiencing conflict and contention… what’s the answer? Gather together and pray together, because gathering, plus praying, equals unifying.

You see most of the time, we don’t have a unity problem; we have a prayer problem that reveals itself as a unity problem. Because people who pray together stop trying to manipulate and force their way upon others. When we pray, we’re saying, "Jesus, what do you want? Help us to agree in your will. Have us think as you want us to think, have us to act as you want us to act." So our unity is not in one of us pressuring or compelling the other, but each of us submitting to one another "out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21).

So, these first believers are not wasting their time; they’re investing their time gathering and unifying through prayer so that when the Holy Spirit does come, they’re ready to go, they’re ready to make disciples, and they’re ready to serve the nations… together. And today, you and I are in an amazing season of human history where the church has been unleashed by the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to the nations, to plant churches, to make disciples, to tell people that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, that he is alive, that he forgives sin; and that he is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Today, we’re waiting, and I’m firmly convinced that if we don’t have regular seasons of gathering and praying, we won’t experience the unity that is required to complete the mission we’ve been called to.

So, as we close, the question is not, "Are we going to act like the early church?" The question is, "Will I respond like Peter, John, James and Andrew; will I respond like Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers?" This morning, I invite you to come to Jesus, to be forgiven, to be used for God’s mission, to be restored to God’s plan for your life. If you’re alive, it’s not too late.

In a moment, we’re going to give you an opportunity to respond. We’re going to take Communion, remembering Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. And then we’re going to close with a song as we celebrate our God who loves us, and so we rejoice together in the waiting.

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