Monday, March 31, 2008

Acts 29: Another Day Another Riot

Easter is over. For followers of Jesus things have been happening. We’re going to be looking at those very happenings that are still affecting us today. The events just after the resurrection of Jesus Christ are found in Acts.

Welcome to Acts- the twilight zones of our heart- liminal space of the early church. No comfort zone.

‘Safest Place On Earth’ and ‘Dangerous Church'.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Acts, like other books of the Bible are often broken up into little sections that we can wrestle with them. But would we do that to a symphony? Today we’re going to look at the first 8 bars of Beethoven’s Fifth? Makes no sense.

Scripture is more like symphony than we often realize.

May the love with which you’ve loved us truly become our reality, and may your wisdom penetrate our hearts Lord Jesus.

Acts truly is about a whole new way of doing life. It’s about a way of life that for some of us, we’ve long forgotten about & for others we’ve never truly experienced.

A bishop of the Church of England long ago said, “Everywhere Paul went there was a riot; everywhere I go they serve tea.”

Bishop Tom Wright has said that Acts is literally, Another Day Another Riot. Something explosive was happening every day.

Western Christians often wonder, ‘where’s the dynamite?’ or as John Wimber wrote, ‘where’s the stuff?’


Where is this life changing radical way of being led by the Spirit? Here it is in Acts. For us it’s Acts 29.

The dog races down in Florida. You know, they train these dogs to chase an electric rabbit, and one night the rabbit broke down and the dogs caught it. But they didn’t know what to do with it. They were just leaping around, yelping and biting one another, totally confused about what was happening. Well, I think that’s a picture of what happens to all sorts of people who catch the rabbit in their life. Whether it’s wealth or fame or beauty or a bigger house, or whatever, the prize isn’t what they thought it would be. And when they finally get it, they don’t know what to do with their lives. This is a huge factor in finishing badly: people need a rabbit that won’t break down. But that’s not something the superficial values of this world can really give them.
Dallas Willard

You don’t catch this rabbit- He catches you! He's more like the ancient Celts version of the Holy Spirit, the wild goose. They liked the wild goose over the dove because it seemed way too easy to domesticate a dove. You don’t own or possess a wild goose. You don’t own the Holy Spirit- He owns you!

Ezekiel 36:26-27
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

This is what the Spirit driven life is all about!

Luke was writing a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. The G of L was all about Jesus and the coming Kingdom. Acts is how this Kingdom shows up. It begins in Acts 1 with Jesus doing some more teaching about the Kingdom after the resurrection (v. 3) & it ends with Paul in Rome teaching about the Kingdom of God.

“This is how the Kingdom comes.”

The sovereign, saving, healing, justice bringing, hope fulfilling reign of God.

The disciples ask Jesus, “Is it at this time that you will restore Israel?”

Jesus answers nothing about going to heaven when you die. His answer is more along the lines, “There is another King & His name is Jesus.”

When a new king was announced heralds went out and proclaimed it to the four corners of the Empire. These witnesses, you & I, are commissioned & empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The medium is the message. You don’t take this Kingdom by force. Though bad things will happen, amazing events & happenings will carry the day.

God is claiming the world as His own.

What would it look like if God was running the show here at Hope?

What would it look like if God was running your life?

What would it look like if He were in charge of my family?

What would it look like if God was running this country?

MacLean’s Magazine article: “Jesus has an identity crisis: scholars are casting new doubt on the divinity of Christ- and even wondering if the church would be better off without Him”.

This is one of the reasons why we have to unlearn some things. Here is a proposal to jettison Jesus from the Church- the organization, the denomination, the building, the common life. You can’t do it- although we try all the time. The message to the seven churches in Revelation is what happens when we try & take Jesus out of the church: He stands and knocks and wants back in!

This really is no different than churches, Christ followers who do their own thing, going off on their own whims, dreams, and desires, for any number of reasons.

“Who Stole My Church?” New book by Gordon McDonald. Maybe Jesus is asking the same question.

We’ll see how that pans out for the early Church.

Jesus ascends after instructing the disciples. When Yuri Gagarin first encircled the globe as a Russian cosmonaut he announced, “There is no God. I didn’t see Him out there.”

That’s not the reality we see Luke explaining here. He means that Jesus went into God’s space. Heaven & earth are the two interlocking domains of God’s creation.

Luke 24:36 (John 20:19) Jesus appears to the disciples and they think He’s a ghost. He has His wounds, but is alive & even eats!

To a first century Jew heaven and earth would come together in the Temple.

Revelation 21: especially v22: I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Luke is announcing that according to Jesus, “The whole world is now God’s domain, His Kingdom.”

Acts 1-12 looks at how the new Kingdom relates to Israel & Judaism and then from Acts 13- 28 it shifts a little more to the Gentiles, the non-Jews.

You can imagine a concert at Rexall; pick your favorite band, or tenor, whatever. The night of the performance some street musicians show up, and pretty soon they’re getting reviewed, they’re getting the attention. That’s what’s happening here.

In Acts 12:21-25 the King of the Jews is replaced. Rather dramatically I might add.

The early Christ followers were, ‘Destructive of Jewish institutions and a troublesome element in the Empire.’ Acts is about kingdoms in conflict!

Acts 13- 28 we see Jesus as Lord of the world. Acts 28 seems to end, dot dot dot…

What’s going to happen next?

You and I are what are happening next.

Jesus upstages the Temple, in Jerusalem, in other areas and finally in Rome!

Jesus is the true Temple where heaven and earth come together. And some churches are going to replace Him!

Jesus followers claim that heaven is already here and we see what it looks like when we get together, ala Acts 2!

Acts 2 has similarities to 1 Kings 8 and Isaiah 6, Temple scenes.

The Spirit of the living God has full reign in Acts 2.

Spirit filled engagement with every culture. As they discover they are the place where heaven and earth overlap, Luke anchors it to early church life in 2:42-47. Remember, no institution, no building.

North American thinking leans toward a highly compartmentalized view of life. We have our professional lives, our private lives, our recreational lives, and our church lives. Yet, wise brothers and sisters in other parts of the world do not think this way, nor did the early Christ followers. They saw life as one seamless whole. An integrated view is far more biblical.

Acts 2:42-47 are signposts that you’re on the right track- Apostles teaching, breaking bread, prayer and fellowship. The name of Jesus carries power, real power.

Some title this book, 'Acts of the Apostles'. Its more like Acts of The Holy Spirit for the dominating theme is the power of the Spirit manifested in & through the early Christ followers.

Acts 7:51
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

Acts 7, especially 7:54-56. Jesus is the place where heaven and earth come together. See Stephen’s stoning ala Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them.”

This is all about giving allegiance to the Lord regardless of circumstance. In the middle of this we find Saul. He was a deep conservative, a fundamentalist, and a heresy hunter. He was a religious Bounty Hunter!

The Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Ezekiel 1- the throne chariot.

This was likely what Paul was mediating on during his travels as was common for a Pharisee at the time. Look at what happens in Acts 9!

Paul and the sea was a parallel to the great classics like Homer & the Odyssey.

Luke has 24 chapters, and after chapter 9 Jesus goes to Jerusalem. In Chapter 19 He arrives in Jerusalem and Chapter 23 is the crucifixion, 24 the resurrection.

Acts 13 onward Paul is journeying gradually to Rome. Luke weaves a theology of the cross right into the narrative. The shipwreck of Paul is equivalent to the crucifixion (27:9- after the Day of Atonement)

The cross is a part of the journey; Acts 27 is a whole chapter on it. The gospel has to grow through fire and water to get to Caesar & Rome.

Jesus really is Lord.

What is the fire and water of your life that the gospel must get through?

What is the cross that is woven right into the fabric of your life & journey?

The messengers of Jesus are to be reckoned with! We are those messengers.

Imagine being a magistrate & hearing that Paul is coming to your town. Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth and Jerusalem, the mother of all riots.

At Paul’s trial (Philippi) to everyone’s surprise he gets off. Acts 16:16. This is a story where spiritual warfare has economic consequences. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, slavery…

They sing in prison. Another day another riot. They are ordered released 16:36- 'Excuse me we’re roman citizens.'

16:37- early Christ followers were very concerned how people carried out their authority and power. The church has a role to say, “You’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Jesus For President: A different kind of campaign. A different kind of party. A different kind of Commander in Chief.

Spirit driven leadership. What a thought!

Paul’s mission is stated in Acts 20:22-24
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

What’s your mission as given by the Spirit?

If you're not sure I trust that the Spirit will make it more clear as we walk this journey together.

Jesus keeps working through His faithful and loyal followers. Jesus keeps working through His faithful local communities. We embody heaven and earth.

The trials and tribulations are ours. The vindication is His.

Another day another riot. Follow along in N. T. Wright's brilliant work, Acts For Everyone.


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