Our Part in God's Story

Acts 1:1-11 The Story of the Ascension and why it is important

Goodbyes aren’t easy, especially if the one leaving will be gone for a long time.
There are some famous goodbyes that most of us have seen footage of.
Babe Ruth, Richard Nixon, and here is a good bye that you may not remember but Lou Gehrig addressed the fans. 


On June 21, the New York Yankees announced Gehrig's retirement and proclaimed July 4, 1939, "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium. Between games of the Independence Day doubleheader against the Washington Senators, the poignant ceremonies were held on the diamond. In its coverage the following day, The New York Times said it was "Perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field [as] 61,808 fans thundered a hail and farewell".

In Acts 1 Jesus is saying goodbye to His disciples…for 3.5 years they’ve been intimately intertwined, thru good times and bad! He had changed their lives! They’d never be the same.

They spent 40 incredible days together after the resurrection…and now it’s time to say goodbye, He’s leaving, He’s going home…and He tells them to do His work in the meanwhile (v. 8) He has given them His great commission, to go into all the world with the gospel.

As He left the earth ascending into heaven He left behind some things. In our text passage for today I want to point out 7 things that Jesus left behind when He ascended to heaven. Jesus said in John 19:30, “ is finished...” He was saying that the atonement for sin was finished. That tells us that nothing more need be done. Salvation is complete in Christ. But the first thing He left behind was:

1. An Unfinished Task        

“In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach. . .”                            Acts 1:1 NLT

The book of Acts was written by Luke who also wrote the Gospel of Luke. He wrote the first one to tell the story of Jesus and he wrote the book of Acts to tell the story of the church. Obviously the point he is making here is that in the gospels we read of the beginning of Jesus ministry not the end.

It reminds me of Churchill’s words in November of 1942, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Jesus left behind an unfinished task.

A. His Task Was Not Finished. (Luke 19:10) "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." As long as there is one person in the world that has not heard and been given the opportunity to follow Christ His task is not done.

B. He Left The Task To Be Finished By His Church  (Mat 28:19)

We have taken you back time after time to Matthew 28 because it is there that Christ states clearly the mission of the church as He is preparing to leave this earth. Two weeks ago I preached a sermon about this very mission. We are to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey the things that Christ commanded.

1. The mission fields of the world (including America) cry out, “unfinished”.
2. The remote areas of every city and town cry out, “unfinished”.
3. The weeping of the unsatisfied soul cries out, “unfinished.”
4. The voices of your neighbors cry out, “unfinished.”
5. You have some loved ones who cry out, “unfinished.”
6. Perhaps your own soul is crying, “unfinished.”

2. An Unchallenged Message.

“During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3 NLT

The message of salvation has never been successfully challenged.

A. Man will challenge it. Man loves to try to find ways for salvation other than submitting your life to Christ. Paul writing in Galatians 1 talks about this, “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.[c] You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 

 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.

B. Satan will challenge It.  The devil lives to destroy the message of Christ because if lived out it will transform your life and change you. Following Christ means that we become like Him and that means His message reaches the world.

C. The Culture will challenge It. I would simply challenge you today to filter everything you watch, read and listen to through the perspective of God’s word. This world is not a friend to the message of Jesus Christ and in fact the entertainment offered for us in this culture is for the most part in direct conflict with the word of God and teachings of Jesus Christ.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT

3. An Unquestionable Love

“During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3 NLT

No one can question the love exhibited by the Son of God.

He gave His life that you and I might live forever. 

He gave His body at the whipping post.

He shed His blood for an uncaring world.

He left His home in heaven and came to a world of sinners who rejected Him and nailed Him on a cross.

He cried out to the Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

He bowed His head in shame and suffering and then died for a world that hated Him and wanted nothing to do with Him.

That’s unquestionable love. There is no one in this room who would do that for a world of people who do not care. Unquestionable love. He died for you. He loves you.

4. An Unmistakable Plan

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NLT

A witness is sworn to tell the truth of what he / she saw or experienced. Sometimes we get the plan wrong. It is an unmistakable plan. We are to be witnesses--not a super salesman, attempting to persuade the person with our ability. Alone without the Holy Spirit we will be ineffective in our witness.

Here’s the plan:

A. We Are To Witness First In Jerusalem. That is our surrounding area or hometown and community. 

1. Our neighbors.

2. Our co-workers.

3. Our friends.

B. Judea - That is farther out from home base, into some of the outlying towns. 

C. Samaria - That is still further out…our nation.

D. The Uttermost Part Of The Earth - That is world missions.

What role are you playing in this plan? Every time we leave this building and go out and serve it feels right. The Community Blitz Saturday was amazing. I walked away from it thinking for the rest of the evening that this is the church I love. These are the people that I want to do life with and be in community with. These are the people I want to serve with. We just covered our neighborhoods with love in Jesus name. Only God knows the glory He received from our time together.

5. An Unshakeable Testimony

6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”  7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.

It is fascinating to me that even the first disciples were preoccupied with the return of Christ. Often the church community can go down this trail and get sidetracked. You can study the book of Revelation until your eyes dry up but you are never going to understand it clearly. You can chart it out, map it, and do your best to figure out where we are in the continuum of time but you will still have the words of Jesus saying the dates and times are not for you to know. In essence the Bible says, Quit worrying about it and get to work doing the mission I left you to do.

 9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. Acts 1:6-7, 9-10  NLT

There is a lot packed into these verses. These disciples would never recover from what they saw that day. The testimony of Christ as He passed into heaven was solidified by two angels. He did His work on earth and completed it that we might know Him through salvation. Now He leaves behind the testimony of His work for us to follow His example.

6.  An Unstoppable Force

 “Men of Galilee,” they said. . .”  Acts 1:11a NLT

Next Sunday we are going to look at what happened in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit descended into the hearts and lives of these disciples but let me just say that Christ left behind 12 leaders and a total of about 120 followers and they turned the world upside down.

Let me just take a little side note here for a moment.  When I read these words this week, “Men of Galilee,” it reminded me of something that I think needs to be periodically said in these days. Basically the society we live in as done its best to emasculate men. I have never seen so many confused men in all my life. We have raised a generation of emotionally sensitive boys that are more in touch with their feelings then they are the fact that they are men. Men should be men and women should be women. I’m not talking about men that are mean or abusive but I am talking about not being ashamed to be a manly man. God made us to be men not nervous little whiney specimen’s with uncalloused hands and delicate emotions. Nowhere has this been more evident in the last 50 years or so then the church world. In most churches, men have sat back and allowed the church to become feminized right down to the décor. ƒº  I have always wanted to build a log church somewhere.

For just a moment I would like to call men to be men.

I call for you to be godly men and lead your families by living godly lives.
I call for you to be holy men that follow Christ and pursue holiness
I call for you to be

William P. Merrill, 1911; first published in the Presbyterian news¬paper The Continent. Merrill wrote:
Nolan R. Best, then editor of The Continent, happened to say to me that there was ur¬gent need of a bro¬ther¬hood hymn…The suggestion lingered in my mind, and just about that time I came up¬on an ar¬ti¬cle by Ger¬ald Stan¬ley Lee, en¬ti¬tled “The Church of the Strong Men.” I was on one of the Lake Mi¬chi¬gan steam¬ers go¬ing back to Chi¬ca¬go for a Sun¬day at my own church, when sud-den¬ly this hymn came up, al¬most with¬out con¬scious thought or ef¬fort.

Rise up, O men of God!
 Have done with lesser things.
 Give heart and mind and soul and strength
 to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O men of God!
 The kingdom tarries long.
 Bring in the day of brotherhood
 and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O men of God!
 The church for you doth wait,
 her strength unequal to her task;
 rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!
 Tread where his feet have trod.
 As brothers of the Son of Man,
 rise up, O men of God!

If men ever find the passion to lead and be men the church and the world will be turned upside down. We will be an unstoppable force.

7. An Unfailing Promise

“Men of Galilee,” they said why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:11  NLT

When I think of this I am reminded of Gen. Douglas McArthur. He was in charge of the South Pacific Theatre and was stationed in the Philippines. During the latter days of WW2 Gen. McArthur’s men had taken a beating and he withdrew them and moved them to Australia for a time of rest and retraining. As he boarded that DC9 in the Philippines those people looked to him as though he was a departing savior. He made his famous statement in saying, “I shall return.”

Several months passed by and one day the people of the Philippines heard the roar of airplanes and looked up into the sky and saw the sky was filled with American airplanes. Gen McArthur kept his promise.

2,000 years ago Jesus stood on a mountain overlooking Jerusalem and said to His disciples:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3 NLT

This is the hope of our salvation. This is the rock we rest on. Jesus Christ promised to return someday. For some that may cause fear and trepidation but for those that have embraced the mission of Christ and seek daily to live for Him it is a cause for celebration and hope.

Pastor Mark Thompson of Faribault, Minnesota, suffered terrible knife wounds from an assailant in his home, in October 1988. One of the many consequences of his difficult recovery was being forced to miss watching his son Chris run in the state cross-country championship meet. Pastor Thompson commissioned his brother Merv to go in his stead. 

According to the account in the St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch, Mark told his brother, "I can’t be there to see Chris run. So I want you there at the beginning of the race. Holler a lot. ... Then at the end, I want you to really cheer loudly. And I want you to make your voice sound like mine." 

Merv heeded the advice, and Chris ran a strong race, finishing second. Merv, also a pastor, discerned the theological truth in the story. "That’s what Jesus wants us to do." he said. "Make your voice sound like mine."

I just have a feeling today that there are some people in this room that needed to be reminded of the reality of Jesus Christ and your connection to Him. We are going to stand and sing an old hymn that is full of hope and security today for those that know Christ.

Blessed Assurance


The seven points of this sermon were from a sermon originally crafted by Jerry Shirley