Perception, Power, Purpose


A great deal on engineering goes into creating a roadway. Planning, drawings, surveys, planning, GANT charts, and the rest. There is equipment work, bedding to compact roadway to lay with expansion joints, decisions about the camber of the road etc. It still can’t be safely driven on until the asphalt is laid and the markings, signs, lights, and the rest are in place. Let me suggest that Christ Jesus—firstborn from the dead—has built a wonderful way to venture home to where we belong.

In His Ascension, Jesus gives us and His disciples some key information about our trip home. Until the Holy Spirit came there were no signs marking lanes, or where the shoulder runs off into the dirt. There was no signage for what was off the various exits, These safeguards and directional signs is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Ac 16:7; Phi 1:19), as we seek to be obedient to the call of Christ.

This is a great place to be this week because next Sunday is Pentecost so preaching about the Holy Spirit is timely. Yet, for some a week or two about the Holy Spirit is more than enough and the reason for that lack of trust, faith in, and reliance upon the Spirit of Jesus comes out of the problems we have with perspective, power, and purpose.

Problem of Perspective

I can’t draw worth beans and one reason is I don’t understand ‘perspective’. But the problem of perspective is more than an issue for artists. It is something that affects every man, woman, and child. Our ability to perceive properly is directly related to our human sin. In Romans 1 Paul talks about how humans devolved into lawlessness and in 1:22-3 he says, 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" ESV.

Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of gods worshiped by people some not even realizing they are doing it. Many of our gods, the ones which we unknowingly pay homage too are positive. Jobs, families, vacation, even health can be an unrealized idol we worship. Our failed perception labels it ‘the great American Dream’; being loving, or some other label.

KINGDOM PERSPECTIVE is the correcting influence of Christ on our lives. The disciples go into this time with their Lord asking, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" v4. They show their fallen perspective with their immediate, wish-fulfillment, sin based--even our noblest gestures are touched, and “bent”. A term used by C.S. Lewis to describe the complete and utter failure which occurred at the Fall.  

We are concerned with the “now”, but God’s perspective is eternal, long-range and not dependent on any “if/then scenarios”. Yet, His detailed attention is down to the smallest atom. Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie wrote of Jesus, “He knew that the new kingdom people had to be those who could wait for the Lord’s best, and on His time schedule (Ogilvie 37).” He called this time the “period between the lightning and the thunder (ibid). Do we trust God’s perspective? Are we okay with not knowing?

That is God’s design for us and we do well to remember that God is always is on time, and in time—never late, never early (ibid).

Problem of Power

Our culture celebrates power, grabs power, seeks power, and abuses power. And that is our human experience since creation. Jesus’ closest friends were seemingly unable to keep their eyes off the new Davidic kingdom. Israel would be free and powerful. “Restore” is to bring back something into its original state of existence. To "reestablish, restore; cure, make well; send or bring back (Newman)” is another stab at explaining the varied meaning of this word.

KINGDOM POWER is God’s earth-shattering take on a redefinition of what power is and how it is used. This power is given not grabbed. It is poured out freely upon the undeserving. It is immensely expensive and yet freely given.  It can’t be paid back for it is an act of Grace. God’s love demonstrated to us and through us.

A month earlier, Jesus had demonstrated what Kingdom power looked like when he washed the disciple’s feet during dinner. John recalls the post-meal discussion

“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 16 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
As the “rich young ruler” walks away, Jesus teaches us that, as impossible, as it seems, God is a God of the impossible. Peter asks, “we have left everything and followed You. What then will we have?” Mt. 19:26-27 to which Jesus concludes His teaching in v. 30, “but many who are first will be last and the last first”

The Kingdom of God turns the world upside down in every way. It changes hearts and governments. It shakes up families and politics. It confronts individual, cultural, governmental, and every other place where sin is found. It comforts all in need, builds up those torn down, and is the reality of God’s presence in our lives and the world.

One way in which Kingdom Power has touched and transformed lives and neighborhoods is by investment in families. Lake Pointe Church in Dallas invested $27K. A church in Wyoming, Michigan spent $18K and a Los Angeles church last Christmas surprised the congregation by spending $53K. Their total investment paid off just shy of 10 million dollars of medical expenses for those in their community where they are crushed under that load. One pastor commented that such debt made their lives impossible, “Most of these folks are in poverty levels or below poverty levels and there’s no way that it can be repaid, but they feel the creditor banging on their doors (Allen).”

Problem of Purpose

A 2016 survey of 18-24-year-olds found they reported “that having a clear purpose in life is a big part of being a "real" adult. The problem is, most young people don't feel like they've found that sense of purpose (Whelan).” I hate to burst their bubble, but many 50-70-year-olds don’t know what their purpose in life.
John Shedd commented that “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.” They were meant for the ocean and seas, to go where it can be dangerous and where disaster might strike at any moment.

You’ll hear a lot of ideas spouted by those in our world about one’s purpose. Washington Irving said, “Great minds have purposes; others have wishes” and when someone shouts out just “Follow your dreams” I cannot help but think of some of the nightmare scenarios I faced in my dreams. One author, when asked ‘What is the meaning of life?’ wrote, “it has none. Your life may feel like a big deal to you, but it’s actually a random blip of matter and energy in an uncaring and impersonal universe (Lawton).” What a horrid reality and if true then we are the biggest fools in the universe because we claim there is a spiritual reality in which we fit perfectly for we have been designed by a loving creator.

KINGDOM PURPOSE puts us out to sea; takes us to a strange new land; moves us to embrace a new identity, to become adopted by God. Then, as all this is happening God tosses water onto a grease fire and spreads us out as promised here and in Matthew 28. Verse 8 says, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." It also sets forth the way in which Acts is organized.

The way God moved His people off of dead center takes place in Acts 6 when Stephen, a deacon is grabbed by other Jews on charges of blaspheme. He is stoned and Acts 8:1 says, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”. Remember in Acts 1:8 Jesus’ imparts to us His purpose for our lives… “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 

When Jesus calls us ‘witnesses’ what does He mean? He means where are to share ‘History’ with the world—not history but His story. This year we lost a wonderful evangelist, preacher, and thinker Ravi Zacharias. Beginning with him there was a new approach to sharing God’s word to an uncaring world. In 1983 he was tagged by Billy Graham to address the first International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam. He decried the tendency to seek to “humiliate someone of a different worldview that we think unless we destroy everything, he holds valuable, we cannot preach to him the gospel of Christ (Fearon).”

That was not Ravi’s style. He engaged a person in life and earned the right to speak into their life the news of Jesus. An attendee at that conference said.+
“He saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered. People weren’t logical problems waiting to be solved; they were people who needed the person of Christ.” No one was reaching out to the thinker, to the questioner (Fearon).”
The way any and all of it takes place is through Jesus the Christ and our believing and trusting in Him.  Let’s pray.
 

Works Cited
Allen, Karma. "Michigan Church Says It Paid Off Medical Debt for Nearly 2,000 Families." ABC News. 2020. Web. 19 May 2020

Fearon, Matthew. "Obituary: Ravi Zacharias." Rzim.org. 2020. Web. 20 May 2020.

Johnson, Lauren M. "A Los Angeles Church Is Paying Off $5.3 Million Of Medical Debt in Its Community." CNN. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Lawton, Graham. “What is the Meaning of Life?” New Scientist (9-3-16)

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993:  Print.

Ogilvie, Lloyd J. Acts. Vol. 28. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.

Sarkar, Riddhi. "Texas Church Uses Donations to Pay Off $2.6M In Medical Debt for Families." ABC News. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Whelan, Christine B. "Seek Your Purpose Before Your Paycheck," Acculturated blog (5-23-16)

Works Consulted

Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation. VI. London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, n.d. Print.

Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.

Fearon, Matthew. "Obituary: Ravi Zacharias." Rzim.org. 2020. Web. 20 May 2020.

Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. “Reason, History, and Biblical Authenticity.” Christianity Today 1969 : 3–6. Print.

Johnson, Lauren M. "A Los Angeles Church Is Paying Off $5.3 Million Of Medical Debt In Its Community." CNN. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Ed. Donald A. Hagner. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

Lawton, Graham. “What is the Meaning of Life?” New Scientist (9-3-16)

McDormand, Thomas B. “Church and Government.” Christianity Today 1965 : 14–15. Print.

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993: Print.

Patowary, Kaushik. "Before the Internet, What People Asked New York Public Library's Librarians?" Amusing Planet. 2018. Web. 19 May 2020.

Ogilvie, Lloyd J. Acts. Vol. 28. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.

Sarkar, Riddhi. "Texas Church Uses Donations to Pay Off $2.6M In Medical Debt For Families." ABC News. 2019. Web. 19 May 2020.

Whelan, Christine B. "Seek Your Purpose Before Your Paycheck," Acculturated blog (5-23-16)

Witherington, Ben, III. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998. Print.

W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London: Marshall Morgan Scott; repr. 1981), pp. 137–39.


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