The Here and Now

Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 5:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Praise the I AM.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 1:1-11 (ESV).

His Suffering

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 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.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, left his throne in heaven, came to earth, and was born in the likeness of men. At the age of about 30 he began his earthly ministry. He chose 12 disciples to join with him in ministry who he trained and discipled. Jesus healed the sick and the disabled, raised the dead, delivered people from demonic possession, and he comforted the sorrowful. He preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life, and he taught the cost of being one of his followers. He taught that we must deny ourselves, die daily to sin and self, and follow (obey) him. He said his sheep listen to his voice and they follow (obey) him. When he told his followers that they must participate with him in his death, many deserted him never to return, because they said his teaching was too hard.

Jesus had admirers, followers and enemies. His enemies were among his own people and even from within his own family and faith. Primarily they were the religious leaders of the Jewish people. They came down hard against Jesus over and over again. They didn’t like him for many reasons, some of which were that they were jealous of him and his popularity, and he served as a threat to their own positions of power. They despised him because he told them the truth about their sins. They didn’t like him because he didn’t follow all their rules. And, they hated him because he claimed to be God, which is who he is.

They hated him so much that they plotted to take his life. They arrested him, falsely accused him, gave him a mock trial, spat upon him, mocked him, beat him and then hung him on a cross to die, as though he was a common criminal. They thought that would put an end to his message and to the threat he posed to their own positions of power, but it didn’t turn out the way they had planned, because they didn’t realize he was and is exactly who he said he was.

When he died, he crucified our sins with him. And, just as he had told them that this would happen, he was raised from the dead – triumphant over hell, Satan, death and sin. He appeared to many people who served as witnesses to his resurrection. During these appearances, his followers were encouraged in their faith, and they went on to spread his gospel message and to see many more people come to faith in Jesus Christ, turning from their sins, being born anew of the Spirit of God, and walking no longer according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit

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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

When Jesus was with his disciples, before he was crucified, he told them that he was going to be delivered up to death, but that he would come back to life, and that he would then go back to the Father. Yet, he comforted them with the knowledge that he would not leave them as orphans. They had left everything to follow Jesus. He had been their lives for over three years. I am sure they wondered what they would do once he was gone. He told them he would send them the Holy Spirit, who was then with them, but would be in them. The Spirit would teach them all about Jesus, and he would remind them of everything Jesus had taught them. Jesus also told them that he was going to prepare a place for them, and that one day he would come back to take them to be with him, and they would be with him always.

The people who followed Jesus when he walked the face of this earth were in a unique situation that has not been copied since then. They believed in Jesus while he was on the earth before the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell them. So, when he left this earth, and then sent his Holy Spirit to live in them, and thus they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, separate from having believed in Jesus, it was because of the historical situation they found themselves in. The Holy Spirit was not yet given to believers to indwell them prior to Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, at which time he then did send the Holy Spirit to them. So, we must be careful that we don’t build doctrines around historical events, but rather we build our doctrines around the teachings (instructions) of scripture.

What I mean is that all those who followed Jesus when he walked the face of this earth had a separate experience with the Holy Spirit, because of their unique situation in history. Yet, since that time, all who have followed the Lord Jesus have been baptized in the Spirit at the time they believed in Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. The teachings of the writers of the New Testament from Romans to Revelation bear this out to be true. Our baptism in the Spirit is our salvation, i.e. it is our new birth, and it is then we are indwelt with the Spirit, transformed through new birth, and are empowered with the Spirit to be Christ’s witnesses.

His Witnesses

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 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.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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’ disciples were much like us. They lived in flesh bodies. They had finite minds which often could only see things in a physical realm and had difficulty grasping, at times, the spiritual realm. They were still looking for Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom, but Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world, though one day he will reign on the earth following the time called the Tribulation, after which Satan will be bound for 1,000 years. Also, Israel is now all those who have faith in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile by birth. Through Jesus’ death he destroyed the barrier between Jew and Gentile, and he made us one “man” in Christ. So, the division is no longer Jew and Gentile, but is the saved and the unsaved. So, the kingdom of Israel is now the church, the body of Christ, and it is a spiritual body, not a physical body, though it is comprised of physical people who are followers of Jesus Christ (See: Romans 9:6b-8; Gal. 3:10, 16, 26-29; Gal. 4:22-31; Eph. 2:14-18).

Jesus dismissed their inquiry by telling them that it was not for them to know the times or seasons the Father had fixed by his own authority. Then, he focused their attention on the “here and now.” Sometimes I wish I could see things that are not for me to see, at least not right now. Sometimes I wish I could see into the future and know what is going to happen, but some things are not for me to know. I just have to trust my Lord, that he knows best, and that he will work out all things for my good, according to his purposes and for his glory. I believe that is where the disciples were. They wanted to know things that were not for them to know right then. They were to focus their attention on what God had for them now, and to trust him with their future. Don’t we all need to hear that and believe it?

The “here and now” that Jesus would have them focus their attention upon was that he would be sending them the Holy Spirit, and when they were baptized in the Spirit, they would then be empowered of the Spirit from on high to be Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world, beginning at home and then taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. And, that is what he would have us focus our attention upon, too, not waiting for the Holy Spirit, if we are already in Christ by faith, but us yielding the control of our lives over to the Spirit in allowing Jesus’ life to be lived out through us in us being his light to the world around us. As well, Jesus said something similar to this as one of the commands he gave his followers before going back to the Father. He said to them,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Praise the “I AM!” / An Original Work / February 24, 2012

Jesus, my Savior, full of compassion,
Glorious in power, mighty in strength;
Gracious Redeemer, mighty deliv’rer,
My heart adores Him. Praise to His name!
Perfect salvation my Lord provided
When He died for my sins on a tree;
Crucified my sins; conquered in vict’ry,
When He arose, so I could be free!

I am so thankful for His forgiveness;
Grateful that He chose to pardon me,
Giving me new life full in His Spirit,
So I can serve Him; His servant be!
Walking in daily fellowship with Him,
Obeying Him whate’er He commands;
Forsaking my sins, living in freedom,
I will endure with Him to the end!

He gives me peace and calm reassurance
In times of sorrow, or in distress.
His grace is sure, and oh, how sufficient
To meet me in my need for sweet rest.
Oh, how I love You, Jesus, my Savior.
My heart longs for You where’er I am.
Your word is precious; speaks to my spirit;
Brings comfort, healing. Praise the “I AM!”