Compelling Joy

June 8, 2008 ()

Bible Text: Acts 2:17


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God has an unstoppable vision for reclaiming the Creation in Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has secured and set in motion the full restoration of this fallen creation that will culminate in a new heavens and new earth. Jesus’ reign will one day banish all the brokenness in this cosmos and completely renew the creation from top to bottom. God has a great ending for His Story and a great destiny planned for his people. The staggering vision of the future is one where The Knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea – countless people who know and love God; People would have renewed hearts that fully love what is truly lovely and from which all sin and corruption would be banished; Relationships would be transformed and healed so there is no division or discord among people or nations (swords in plowshares); No one would suffer lack, there would be no  poverty, suffering, sickness, injustice, oppression; and ultimately death would be destroyed and banished having no place in this new world. Every last enemy that would oppose this staggering vision will become His footstool. The is the beautiful and enduring ending; But the ending is already beginning. This is the point of God’s Spirit being poured out – Acts 2:17 – the last days, the beginning of the ending. Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work among a people, God wants to unleash this staggering future into the present (not fully but truly). These first Christians understood this and it shaped their identity. God’s future had already broken into the present, not yet fully, but truly. They knew that they were intended to experience in increasing measure now what God would one day bring about its fullness. These first Christians became a people among whom the future was being previewed. The very things this world is destined for was being experienced in increasing measure among and through them. So that multitudes of people in their cities were embracing Christ and being reconciled to God in personal relationship. Relationships were being renewed and divisions disintegrated as the Spirit created unity unknown in that day that crossed gender, economic, racial barriers. The outcast were brought in. The sick were miraculously healed and those in the bondage of demonic oppression were liberated. The poor were provided for so that no one suffered lack.  The first church was evidence that the future is making an appearance even now. God’s ultimate vision for his creation is finding expression even now – a little bit of heaven is happening here. And with every expression of that future came great awe and wonder and joy (read Acts 3:1-10 and Acts 8:7-8).

The Church has not changed in its identity. We are still the people among whom God longs to move giving evidence that He is present healing the creation, moving it closer to its destiny. The Spirit works in us to bring God’s ultimate future into God’s urgent present, so that just like among and through the earliest Christians, sickness is healed, the oppressed are delivered, the bound are liberated, the poor are enriched, the fallen restored, the broken healed, and righteousness and justice established. When he does that, we experience joy and wonder and cities feel the impact of it.

So, why don’t we experience more of God’s increased activity unleashing the future into our present? What is keeping us from experiencing the wonder creating activity of God’s Spirit turning us into a compelling people of joy and celebration? How do we begin to experience more and more in our present what this world is ultimately destined for?
*Faith – Is God willing and able? The bible does not simply describe what God has done in the past, or what he will do in the future, but what he stands ready to do in the present among a people who believe that he is willing and ready to unleash the future into our present. A people who believe him for it. Read Luke 4:16-21; Jesus has inaugurated a period in human history, an era of God’s increased saving, healing, restoring activity. But in Mark 6:5 we see the people missed it because of their unbelief. They missed out on the saving activity of God because of their lack of faith, their unbelief. Paul picks up this same language of the year of the Lord's favor in 2 Cor 6:2. A time of God’s favorable disposition and movement in the world to bring salvation, deliverance, healing and blessing in his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. The early church knew they were living in this time. Faith draws the future into our present.
*Obedience – Joy does not come from what you should have done. Joy comes when we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives with obedience. The Spirit is prompting us all the time, but are we listening and responding? He will not entrust his increased activity and increased presence to those who will be embarrassed by it. To repeat from last week – Are you resisting him out of fear of the fall out? What is God prompting you to do: Share the story of Jesus with a co-worker; mentor a student; move to a broken neighborhood and invest in people there, work among and pray for the sick trusting God to comfort and even heal them, fund the digging of wells, sponsor an orphan, adopt a child – when you do these things you are confronting the brokenness of the world and saying, “that looks nothing like God’s staggering vision for the future. That looks nothing like what this world is destined for. I have to do something about it.” Don’t wait for the church to program it. You are the church. It does not happen merely through programs but through people who long for the future to be unleashed in the present, trust God to do it and take the risk of responding to him.
Conclusion: We must not overlook the significant out of our desire for the sensational. We have to have eyes to see God at work all around us. God will not entrust great works to those who fail to rejoice over the more common ones. If we are faithful with the little, he will make us faithful over much.

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Sermon Speaker:

JR Vassar

Former Lead Pastor, Apostles NYC