The Gospel Unleashed - Unleashed by His Presence

Sermon Summary - 
This message begins a study of how the gospel, the good news of Jesus, was unleashed through the followers of Christ, and the New Testament Church. However, the underlying reason behind the unleashing of the gospel was the presence of God in the lives of those who followed Jesus during His ministry, His presence after His death, burial and resurrection, and His continued presence in their lives by way of His Holy Spirit. The main text for this message is the first five verses of the book of Acts which was Luke's second volume of a two volume work. The first volume was the Gospel of Luke, which is also referenced because of it's foundation for volume two. God's presence through His Holy Spirit is still the underlying factor that allows the Gospel to be unleashed in our lives.

Community Group Discussion Guide (Will be finished later today with additional Scriptures)

1. Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be an eye witness to the ministry of Jesus and to have experienced His presence literally? If you could go back and be a part of one of the events in Jesus' ministry, which one would it be and why? 

2. Jesus was God in the flesh and brought God's presence into this world in a unique fashion. The disciples witnessed, not only the teachings of Jesus, but also the way He lived what He taught. This showed them the heart of God. Had Jesus been hypocritical or a false teacher, His message would have died with Him on the Cross. However, remembering what He said and what He did unleashed the gospel in the lives of His followers even after His death. While we can't go back literally, how can a study of the life of Jesus help us experience His presence in our daily lives? (Hint:WWJD)

3. The disciples knew Jesus had died on the Cross. Some witnessed the event, but they all knew. They knew He had been buried. When they saw Jesus alive days later, and He gave them convincing proofs that it was Him, the gospel was unleashed in their lives so strongly that even under the threat of persecution or death, they would not recant. How has their testimony strengthened your faith?

4. Jesus told the disciples He would not leave them as orphans. He promised to send them another comforter or counselor. He also said He would come to them. Luke quotes the words of Jesus...“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my 
Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When the Holy Spirit came to the followers of Jesus, the gospel was unleashed in their lives. How has the presence of The Holy Spirit made a difference in your life?

Full Sermon Notes

Unleashed By His Presence

Your singing, Your whisper, Your word, Your touch, Your love! In order for us to experience each of these things we must be in the presence of God! The presence of God in our lives makes the difference! His presence is the game changer for a believer! His presence is the wind in our sails, our healing, our forgiveness, our hope, and all of these things are summed up in His name, Jesus! Let's pray and ask God to let His presence be with us today in a special way as we talk about how the gospel was and is unleashed by His presence!

The book of Acts was written by a man named Luke. The same Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke. He was not one of the twelve disciples, but a gentile physician who was a traveling companion of Paul on his missionary journeys. Back in their day, writers would classify their works as volumes so Luke is considered volume 1 and Acts is volume 2. Volume one, Luke's gospel was written to help gentile readers understand the good news about Jesus! He specifically wrote to one of his good friends. Listen...

Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Wow, what a friend. Luke wrote an entire book so that his friend could understand the good news of Jesus and that book has touched countless lives down through the years. Thank God for a guy like Luke! And even though Luke was a gentile, he thought it very important to show the ties between Jesus and the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah. "Things that have been fulfilled." Most scholars believe Luke got his information from Mark's gospel and through conversations with people who had been with Jesus and from Paul. He was inspired to write and record some things not found in the other gospels and other things from a different perspective. Same truth, different angle!

Luke knew it was important for people, both Gentiles and Jews, to understand that God had been working throughout history to redeem humankind from the fall! And why was God working so hard to do this? He wanted to be present with us like He had been with Adam and Eve before the fall walking and fellowshipping with them!
Luke was deeply concerned with making this connection for Gentiles and Jews. He knew the gospel, the the good news of Jesus would be unleashed if the people could see God's desire to be present with them. So Luke is the one who tells us about an angel appearing to the Shepherds.

Luke 2:9-11 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
A Savior, Christ The Lord! And Luke alone tells us about John the Baptist's father who gave this prophecy concerning Jesus...
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

How powerful is that? Is there anybody in this room who would like to be able to serve our Lord without fear in holiness and righteousness? That can happen when we allow the gospel to be unleashed by the very presence of God in our lives! In fact the very name of the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah was Immanuel which means "God with us." God with us! Matthew talks about this in his gospel. Luke knew this truth and sought to unleash the gospel with his telling of the story of the Messiah. So even though Luke was probably not an eyewitness to the events surrounding Jesus' life, he did an awesome job retelling those events in volume one of his two volume work! But Luke was an eyewitness to many of the events surrounding the unleashing of the gospel in the New Testament church and in Paul's travels! Luke realized he had witnessed a spectacular, supernatural event that was going to change the world! For that reason and with the inspiration of God, Luke writes volume two of his book to his friend Theophilus, The Book of Acts. The beginning of this book is our main text for today...

Acts 1:1-5 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach
until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them
over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my
Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke starts off by reminding his friend of his first book about Jesus. It was a book about

His Presence During His Ministry

Acts 1:1-2 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach
until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

Can you imagine Luke and Paul talking about how they wish they could have been there in person, in the flesh, when Jesus was doing His ministry and teaching His messages? Luke had met Jesus through the testimony of others and Paul had met Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus. I bet they must have said a hundred times, "Wow those 12 disciples were the lucky ones, huh?" Can you imagine waking up every day for those three years of Jesus' ministry and knowing you were going to literally be in the presence of Jesus Christ? Luke may have even referred back to a part of John's gospel and said, "And sometimes they didn't even get it! They didn't realize Jesus was the very presence of God right there before their very eyes!" Paul quips, "I love Mark's story about the storm, you know, when they were with Jesus in the boat." Luke, says, "yeh, yeh!" Paul continues by quoting Mark's words…"

Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Again, I can just imagine Luke and Paul shaking their heads. One of them might have even said this…"You know, if Jesus is in your boat, what are you worried about? He's got this!"  Then I can hear them talking about how even others could see something special in Jesus. They knew something was different in the way He taught and spoke truth. Paul says, "Yep, Mark also said...

Mark 1:21-22 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.
The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Luke says, "Yes I remember Mark saying that."
Folks, Jesus' authority came as a result of not just what He said, or how He said it, but by what He did! When Jesus was present on this earth in the flesh, He showed us the Father's heart by the way He lived. He loved the sick and not only healed them, but was willing to touch the leper with all of his sores! When He was around the hungry He had compassion on them and fed them. Those who had doubts and fears, Jesus responded by accepting their mustard seed of faith! You see the gospel was unleashed before the book of Acts. Why do I say this? Because, what gave those early gospel proclaimers such passion and effectiveness was this...
It was what they had seen Jesus say and do, or what people like Luke, and Paul, had seen in those who had been with Jesus and from the amazing stories they proclaimed about Jesus! Had Jesus not been the real deal, or had He not lived what He preached, then the gospel would have died with Him on the Cross. But He was genuine and people saw that in Him! In fact, Luke reported something that happened when Jesus died on the Cross, also found in Matthew and Mark's Gospel...

Luke 23:44-47 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour,
for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
The centurion had experienced the presence of God even in the death of Jesus and became a believer. It changed his life!

Now let me say this. One of the things that troubled the disciples the most before Jesus died, was they feared losing His presence with them. But Jesus had reassured them with these words...

John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Jesus assured them of His presence with them even out into eternity! But they were filled with questions and especially after witnessing the crucifixion. But we know Jesus showed up after His death and burial in powerful ways and it served to unleash the Gospel in the followers of Jesus in such a astonishing way that it changed their world.

His Presence After His Death and Resurrection

Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them
over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Jesus' presence after His death and resurrection would serve to give the followers of Christ a boldness and courage that even in the face of death and threat of persecution they continued to unleash the truth of the Gospel, the good news that...

John 3:16“... God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

And you may not realize this, but Luke's gospel tells a story that we only find in his gospel and it has to do with the difference the presence of Jesus made in two people's lives and subsequently many others. Luke 24:13-35 It's one of the coolest stories in the Bible. Check it out...

Luke 24:13-35 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;
but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know
the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet,
powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;
but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning
but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.
Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.
But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together
and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

I love that story so much! It thrills my heart! But you may be thinking, "Pastor Larry, that's great but that was them, that was then, this is now and what about us, what about me. How can I experience the presence of Jesus in my life? I want that too! I need that!" Well, I've got some more good news for you today! And what I'm going to tell you unleashed the gospel in the lives of Jesus' followers back then and what your about to hear will unleash the gospel in your life today if you believe.

His Presence Through His Holy Spirit

Acts 1:4-5 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my
Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus had promised His disciples that He would not leave them alone. Listen to His words in John's gospel…

John 14:16-18 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—
the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  
But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

And you might notice that Jesus said "I will come to you!" The Holy Spirit is The Spirit of Jesus! That's why I don't talk about the Holy Spirit as if He were some kind of inanimate object or force. He is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the very Spirit of Christ and He is how Jesus can live in your heart and my heart at the same time. Is this concept of The Holy Spirit only found in the New Testament? No indeed. Even Moses understood the absolute necessity for God's presence to with him and the Hebrew people. He made one of the most powerful statements in regards to the Spirit of God and the presence of God that has ever been spoken. What I'm about to read to you should be your heart and attitude as well.

Exodus 33:12-17 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.
You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.
Remember that this nation is your people.”
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?
What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Do you want the gospel to be unleashed in your life? Do like Moses and ask God to teach you His ways that you may know Him. Not just know about Him, but know Him in a personal, daily walk, daily talk, daily leadership way. Let His presence go with you and give you rest, and be so earnest in your desire to be led by The Holy Spirit that you are willing to pray as Moses did...

Exodus 33:15b-16 “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?
What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

That should be your heart cry! It should be the heart cry of our church! If it is, rest assured, God will grace us and empower us with His presence. And what happens when you look up and realize your Heavenly Father is right here with you, you will find a confidence way better than self-confidence, security in the face of any fear, a personal counselor and consoler to give you peace in the midst of life's storms, and the power to overcome anything Satan may throw at you. Oops, I think I just gave you next week's sermon outline! The Gospel Unleashed Through His Power!  Let's pray.