February 3, 2023

Just the Beginning

By Skip Heitzig

We all know the story: Jesus ascended into heaven at the end of the Gospels. But we have the sequel to the Gospels in the book of Acts, where it says, "The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen" (Acts 1:1-2).

Note the word began. That word suggests that the work of Christ is not over. The Gospels depict what Jesus began to do and teach, and the sequel (Acts) shows what Jesus continues to do and teach. How does He do that? How can Jesus continue to do and teach anything if He ascended into heaven? By the Holy Spirit He promised (see John 14:26; 16:7).

The implication is that the book of Acts is not a closed book. Sure, it ends with chapter 28. But it's still going on, because Jesus is still working throughout history in the lives of His people. The Holy Spirit is still present with us today, indwelling us and empowering us.

I love the thought that the book of Acts is what Jesus continues to do and teach through the apostles. It's called the Acts of the Apostles; that's the title that has been given to it. I prefer to look at it as the Acts of the Holy Spirit, because after "[Jesus] was taken up…He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen." So the finished work of Jesus was on the cross. The unfinished work of Jesus continues through the generation of the apostles, and then the next one, and the next, all the way down to our generation.

From those forty days after Jesus rose from the dead to the time He ascended into heaven, Jesus taught His disciples and spoke to them about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And in Acts 1:4, Jesus told the disciples, "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." They were to wait for the Holy Spirit to baptize them, indwell them, and empower them for service. This was vital because the Holy Spirit is necessary to do the job God has for you.

Then in verse 6, the disciples asked Jesus, "'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.'"

I love these guys. They're so human. Even after the resurrection, with the promise of the Spirit, they were far from perfect. They were still growing. I hope that gives you a little encouragement. God is always working with us, and He will work through us, despite our imperfection.

Essentially, the disciples were asking, "When is the kingdom going to be restored?" And Jesus responded, "I want you to think about the job I have for You to do." It's the same for us today.

We want to know what's next. It's good to be informed, but the important thing is to do what God wants you to do right now.

I came out of the Jesus Movement, and I thought Jesus was coming by tomorrow, or maybe next week at the latest. And I like that thought of the imminent return of Jesus. But He didn't want His followers to check out and wait for Him to show up. He wants us to be busy about His business. Our Lord said, "Occupy [or do business] till I come" (Luke 19:13, KJV).

Jesus' ascension was just the beginning. In His parting words to the disciples, He said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit, our promised helper, works in and through us. May we allow Him to use us to proclaim Christ to our families, to our friends, in our workplace, and wherever we go in the world.

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