Today we‘re continuing our message series called “Beyond Borders.” The title Beyond Borders comes from the 2017 Assembly of God World Missions theme. Beyond Borders speaks of going beyond the borders of our city, beyond the borders of our country, beyond the borders of safe countries to reach the lost in the ends of the earth. This week, we’ve put up some banners to remind ourselves every week of Assemblies of God World Missions which we support. And to remind ourselves of our responsibility in personally carrying out the same purpose where we are. The purpose statement of Assemblies of God World Missions is “So All Can Hear.”
Romans 10:14 (ESV) How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
As believers, our primary responsibility in life is to do everything we can so that as many people as possible can hear the good news of Jesus Christ. This purpose statement is also the purpose of Life Church. Our purpose here in St. Louis is So All Can Hear, in our city, in our country and around the world. In the front banners, we have the four-fold mission of Assemblies of God World Missions. These mission statements are how the God-given purpose is being fulfilled.
In your bulletin is a Fact sheet about Assemblies of God World Missions, we’re going to take a look at. Inside you can see the 6 regions of the world that Assemblies of GodWorld Missions operates in. The US in which we live is supported by Assemblies of God US Missions. Notice the staggering number of spiritually lost and unreached people groups in each region. Yet, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are seeing through Assemblies of God World Missions 1 new believer being added to the church every 37 seconds, a new church being planted every 95 minutes and a new minister enlisted every 73 minutes. On the back page, you see the current results of 69 million people in 367,000 Assembly of God churches around the world.
So, you are part of something much bigger than Life Church. We want to take the vision and passion that motivates Assemblies of God world missionaries and make a difference in our city. Our long-term vision is to reach the lost in St. Louis, build a 500 seat sanctuary on this campus and plant multiple satellite churches across the metro area. How are we going to do it? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to put these four mission commands, so that all can hear.
Today, my message is entitled “Concentric Circle Outreach.” And we’re going to be talking about how Assemblies of God missionaries reach the entire world and how we can reach St. Louis. Our text for the day is found in the first chapter of Acts. The book of Acts is a pivotal and extremely important book in the New Testament. Acts comes after the four Gospels and before the letters of Paul and the other apostles. So, Acts marks the transition from the ministry of Jesus on this earth to the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the church.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of churches and denominations wrongly interpret Acts and so miss out on the secret of the power of the Holy Spirit for missions. The common and wrong interpretation of Acts is that Acts is simply a record of early church history that has no real relevance for us today. The correct interpretation of Acts, held by hundreds of millions of Spirit-filled believers around the world, is that Acts shows us how believers and church should function today in the power of the Spirit. And we’re going to see the proven in the very first verse of Acts which shows us that …
Acts 1:1 (ESV) In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
The book of Acts was written by Luke who also wrote the Gospel of Luke. Luke writes here that the Gospel of Luke dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. This statement implies that the book of Acts records what Jesus continued to do and teach. Yet we will see today, that Jesus ascends into heaven by the ninth verse of the first chapter of Acts. So, how can Jesus continue to do and teach if He is in heaven? The book of Acts was written to describe how Jesus’ ministry of teaching and supernatural miracles continued through the power of the Spirit in the church.
Of course, the same people who say Acts is not for today, also say that the miracles of Jesus are not for today either. Yet, as we read the book of Acts, we see the believers performing the same types of miracles of healing, deliverance and even raising the dead, as Jesus had done. The rest of the New Testament, assumes the supernatural aspect of the church’s ministry as an extension of the supernatural ministry of Jesus in the Gospels and the church in the book of Acts. The point is that everything that Jesus began to do and teach in the Gospels, continues in the church for those who believe until He returns.
Acts 1:2-3 (ESV) until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
Before He ascended into heaven, He gave commands to His apostles through the Spirit. We’ll be talking about the commands He gave immediately before the ascension today. After Jesus rose from the dead, He remained on the earth for forty days. During that time, He did two things. First, He showed that He was truly risen from the dead and alive. Showing Himself to the apostles and many others during those forty days. He allowed people to touch him, he ate with people, he talked to people. He proved that He was alive, that the resurrection He had predicted had indeed happened. The second thing that Jesus did during those 40 days was to continue to teach His disciples about the kingdom of God. So, in the first three verses of Acts, we see that Jesus mission will continue after He ascends into heaven.
What are the implications for us today? We cannot ignore or disregard the commands of Jesus that He gave His disciples. Nor can we ignore or disregard the teaching by example of the book of Acts. In this country and around the world, we are seeing a great falling away of many who once claimed to be believers and of churches who once were at least partially following Jesus. So, let’s see how Jesus commands us to reach the lost.
Acts 1:4 (ESV) And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
Jesus’ words to His disciples were orders or commands. They were to wait for something call the promise of the Father which He had told them about in …
Luke 24:49 (ESV) And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Here we see why they were supposed to wait and pray for the promise of the Father. They needed power from heaven in order to carry out Jesus’ commands. Without that power, they would not be able to fulfill the mission. Notice that Jesus’ command was two-fold. Don’t try to do anything on your own, but wait until you receive this power.
Acts 1:5 (ESV) for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Now, Jesus spells out what the promise of the Father was. It was to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The disciples that Jesus was speaking to had already received the Holy Spirit, they were already born again, but they had not received Spirit baptism, a separate experience. Believers are commanded by Jesus to seek Spirit baptism.
Many argue that this command was only for the apostles, but as we read on in Acts, we see that this was not the case. Those who were praying and waiting for Spirit baptism on the day of Pentecost were not just the 12 apostles, but 120 disciples of Jesus. In the gospel of Luke 11:13, Jesus promises that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Many who don’t understand their Bible teach that all believers are automatically Spirit baptized when they are saved. This is not what happened with the first disciples, it is not what happened in the book of Acts and it is not what Jesus commanded or described. You must wait on and ask the Father to baptize you in the Spirit in order to receive the power Jesus promised.
At this point the disciples didn’t realize that Jesus was going to leave them. They still thought and were asking questions about a physical kingdom. Jesus responded …
Acts 1:7-8 (ESV) He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
There are still a lot of people spending inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out prophetic time tables and when Jesus will return. Jesus is saying here, don’t worry about or waste your time with that. I am returning when the Father says so. What you need to concentrate on is receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. You are going to need that power because I am commanding you to be my witnesses, not just in your home town, but in your region, in different regions and to the very ends of the earth. That’s the mission given to the first disciples and handed down to us today, who are 2000 years closer to Jesus’ return. The power of the Spirit is given to fulfill the mission that Jesus began. It cannot be fulfilled without this power.
Specifically the power of the Spirit is given so that believers can be witnesses to Jesus. What does a witness do? They tell others what they have seen and experienced. In fact, Jesus says that His disciples, His witnesses, will continue to do and teach the same things that He had done and taught.
Jesus lays out the mission’s strategy of concentric circle outreach in these verses. The innermost circle is the city in which you live. The next circle is the state in which you live. The next circle is your country and the final circle encompasses the entire world. The key is that we all are to be witnesses in our city. Yet, we are responsible for the other circles as well. We accept our responsibility by praying and giving to missions so that those who are called to serve in the other circles can be supported. Let’s watch a video of Assemblies of God missionaries in Northern Asia called “Making Connections.”
God wants each of us to not only support Life Church with our tithe, but to support our missionaries going to the ends of the earth with our offerings above our tithe. On December 10 you will have an opportunity to make a faith promise for your missions giving in 2018. We will have a special missionary guest who will be going to a restricted access country. Begin now to pray about what God would have you do.
As Jesus was talking to His disciples, He ascended up through the clouds into heaven. Two angels appeared and spoke to the disciples …
Acts 1:11 (ESV) and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus had given the orders for the church to complete the mission of reaching the ends of the earth. When the mission is complete, He will return. Jesus explicitly states this in Matthew 24:14 (ESV) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Only God the Father knows when the gospel has been proclaimed to all nations. As you can see from the number of spiritually lost people and unreached people groups, it seems we have a ways to go yet. But we can be confident that one day the mission will be completed and Jesus will return.
Today, we’ve looked at the mission that Jesus gave the church before He ascended into heaven. It was the same mission that He had, to seek and save to lost by teaching and doing the same things that Jesus had. In order to fulfill Jesus’ mission, we need the power of the Spirit available only through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The truth of Spirit baptism was largely lost in the church for almost 2000 years until rediscovered at the turn of the last century with the founding of the Assemblies of God in 1914. Since that time, world-wide missions has exploded with hundreds of millions of new believers being saved. Jesus’ mission’s strategy is of every believer being involved in concentric circle outreach, by personal witness in your circle and supporting those called to other circles through prayer and giving.
Our task is to carry out the mission so that all can hear. We advance the mission by reaching the lost, planting churches, training leaders and serving the poor. When the mission is complete, Jesus will return.