Working in the Family Business
by Jack Wald | May 17th, 2020

Acts 1:3-11

Luke, a Greek physician, wrote a history of the ministry of Jesus and the early church. The first half of the book is the Gospel according to Luke and the second half is the Book of Acts. It doesn’t take long for Luke to get to the heart of the second half of his book. In the opening verses of Acts Luke tells us that Jesus spent forty days with the disciples teaching them about the kingdom of God. And then, as he prepared to leave them to ascend into heaven, he told them in verse 8,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This is the heart of the book of Acts. It is the theme for the book of Acts: “you will be my witnesses.” The rest of the book of Acts tells us how the disciples were witnesses to the ends of the earth. Verse 8 is also the index for the book of Acts. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem” covers the first seven chapters of Acts. “And in all Judea and Samaria” covers Acts 8:1-11:18. “To the ends of the earth” covers the rest of the book of Acts as the gospel moved outside the boarders of Israel and Samaria, the historical home for the Jews, and into the Gentile world, all the way to Rome.

Let me share with you three lessons from these verses.

First, We are called by God to work with Jesus in the family business. For most of history, if your father was a blacksmith, you would work with him when you were young and then over time take more and more responsibility until you were also a blacksmith.

If your parents had a grocery store, you were raised helping them and it was assumed you would take over the store one day. If your mother was a seamstress you would be trained so you could work with her in her business.

Joseph, the father of Jesus, was a carpenter so it was natural that Jesus was raised working with his father until he became a carpenter as well. I think part of the problem Jesus’ family had with Jesus setting out on his public ministry is that he abandoned his family responsibility when he left the family carpentry shop.

Jesus came to earth, was born to Mary and Joseph, and when he was an adult began his public ministry teaching about the kingdom of God. Jesus left the family carpentry shop and began his public ministry, joining his heavenly father in the family business of building the kingdom of God.

In John 4:34–35 Jesus said,
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

This is the work of God. In each generation he looks out at the world and sees the fields ripe for harvest. God looks to see who will be able to help him in his work. God asked Isaiah (Isaiah 6), “Whom shall I send?” and Isaiah replied, “Here am I. Send me!”

God the Father has long been at work in the world, revealing himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, leading Moses and Joshua, speaking through the prophets, and finally becoming flesh in a humble Palestinian home in Bethlehem. God began this work and Jesus said he was sent to finish the work of his heavenly father.

Jesus began his public ministry, announcing that the kingdom of God had arrived and gathered disciples who he sent out to teach about the kingdom of God.

This was the business of Jesus, carrying on what his father in heaven had started, bringing good news of great joy to all the people.

When we become aware of how deeply we are loved by God and surrender to him, we become his beloved daughters and beloved sons and as his sons and daughters, God asks us to work with Jesus in the family business, being witnesses for Jesus in the world.

It is not just in Acts that we read this call for us to be witnesses for Jesus in the world. In Matthew 28:19–20 we read the Great Commission:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15
[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Luke 24:46–47
[Jesus] told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

John 20:21
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

We are sent, but we are not soldiers in the army of God, despite what the songs tell us. It is true that Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3–6)
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

But that is just an analogy Paul uses. He goes on to use the analogy of being an athlete and then the analogy of being a farmer. But we don’t tell people they are athletes of Christ or farmers of Christ.

The problem with the analogy of being soldiers in the army of God is that soldiers are dispensable. The general sends them out to accomplish his military plan, knowing that a number of them will die, but that is ok because his military plan will succeed.

We need a more intimate, more caring image for who we are in relationship to God and that is what we find as we read through the bible. The dominant description for us as followers of Jesus is that we are in the family of God, in the household of God, children of God.
Paul writes in Romans (Romans 8:14)
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Glenn is leading a study on Wednesday nights from what I think is his favorite book of the bible, 1 John. He talked about this verse this past Wednesday, (1 John 3:2)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

There are many analogies used to describe our relationship to God but this is the dominant one: we have been brought into his family.

We are the beloved daughters of God, the beloved sons of God and it is our privilege and honor to serve with Jesus as he continues to do the work of his father in building the kingdom of God.

How we do that depends on our gifts. In a family business some work in sales, others in research & development, some are bookkeepers, others work in the shipping department, some do clerical work and others work in manufacturing. Where you fit in a family business depends on what gifts you have.

In the family of God we are not all evangelists. We are not all preachers. We use our spiritual gifts of encouragement, giving, caring, administration, healing, exhortation, prophecy, whatever gift we have been given, to build the family business.

The mission statement in our family business is this: We are witnesses for Jesus in our home town and wherever we go in the world. We have different gifts but we use those gifts to carry out the mission statement of the family business.

Some of you are students, others are teachers, diplomats, or business people. Some of you work in homes cooking or cleaning. Others are raising children and managing a household. We have different jobs, different career paths, but we all have the same mission, the same call. We are witnesses for Jesus where we live, where we work and to the ends of the earth.

I feel the need to remind you, as I have often done before, that it is part of our witness for Christ to excel in the jobs, the work we do. We need to put time and effort into being good students, good employees, good bosses. But all we accomplish in our work will be left behind when we die. It is for this reason that our mission to be witnesses for Christ in our work needs to be our highest calling.

How we work, how we care for people in our work, the values and ethics we display in our work, our integrity at our work, all these are more important than our success in our work. Unlike some others in the world, as followers of Jesus, we will not do anything to be successful.

We are called by God to work with Jesus in the family business. Second, the message we carry to the world is that the kingdom of God has come and is coming.

Verse 3
After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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.

For forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he convinced them over and over again that he was alive, that he was not a ghost, that he was really and truly alive. And he taught them.

He had been teaching them for three years but now in the last days of his earthly life he taught them with a particular focus. He did not teach them about what it would be like when he returned. He did not teach them about the end times. He did not teach them about a lot of things the church today tends to focus on. He taught them about the kingdom of God.

What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is proclaimed most eloquently in the Sermon on the Mount. The kingdom of God announces that the reign of God over all of creation has come. The earth has been the devil’s kingdom, but now that rule is being replaced. In a world of suffering, it is good news that the suffering of this world is on its way out. In terms of a movie about the wild west of the United States, “There is a new sheriff in town.”

Matthew describes the opening of the public ministry of Jesus: (Matthew 4:23)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Later in Luke 8:1 Luke describes the expansion of the ministry of Jesus.
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,

When Jesus sent out the twelve by themselves (Luke 9:1–2)
he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

In the same way we are sent out by Jesus into the world to proclaim the kingdom of God.

We live in a world of uncertainty, sickness, disease, cruelty, all manner of suffering. When Chris preached a few weeks ago about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, he pointed out that when Jesus saw Mary and the others crying because of the death of Lazarus, (John 11:33)
he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” The word “troubled” means deeply disturbed, offended. Chris pointed out that Jesus was not annoyed with Mary and her friends for crying, he was offended by death itself. Death is not how it is supposed to be. Illness is not how it is supposed to be. Suffering is not how it is supposed to be. The suffering in this world breaks our hearts and it breaks God’s heart.

Jesus announced that the kingdom of God had come, but the kingdom of God came into a world that resists it. The devil has ruled over this world and into the darkness of his rule came the light of Christ when he was born in Bethlehem. The spiritual battle intensified as the devil fought to resist Christ and maintain control of his world. In a magnificent defeat, Jesus broke the power of death, the devil’s greatest weapon. Despite this defeat, the devil continues to fight against the growth and expansion of the kingdom of God on earth.

This means that the kingdom of God has come and at the same time we wait for its fulfillment. The kingdom of God is here but not yet. That is the contradiction we live in and the reason we struggle so much in our Christian lives.

We wait for and long for the kingdom of God described in Revelation 21:3–4
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

When Jesus was teaching the disciples about the kingdom of God in the forty days between his resurrection and ascension, they asked him,
Verse 6
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

This was not a totally strange question for them to ask. Jesus had just told them they were going to be baptized by the Holy Spirit and in their minds, that meant the kingdom was near. They had expected Jesus to overthrow the Roman occupiers of Israel and that hope had been dashed when Jesus died and was buried. Now with all the wonder of his resurrection, perhaps Jesus would finally restore Israel to its former greatness.

So they asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

John Calvin commented that “there are as many errors in this question as words.”

First of all, they asked, are you going to restore.” They were still expecting a political and territorial kingdom. Under the humiliation of Roman occupation, they dreamed of the glory of Israel when David was king and wanted that kingdom restored.

Second, they asked, “are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were expecting a national kingdom. In a world where every country had their own national god, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was their national God. Jesus had risen from the dead and clearly demonstrated that the God of Israel was the supreme God of all the other national gods.

Third, they asked, “are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Everything had happened so quickly. Jesus marched in triumph into Jerusalem. He had clearly raised their hopes that his kingdom was about to be established when he cleansed the temple. And then he was arrested, crucified, and buried. The hope and heightened expectations of the disciples crashed to the ground. But just a day and a half later he rose from the dead and appeared to them. They were on a higher high than they had ever experienced. Everything now seemed possible. Now that Jesus was even more powerful they wanted to know how soon Jesus would establish his kingdom.

Jesus responded to their question.
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus told them it was not for them to know the times or dates the Father has set. Unfortunately, the church over the centuries and much of the church today has ignored this teaching, this admonition of Jesus. So much time and energy has been and is wasted by fruitless speculation about when Jesus will return, time that could be much better spent proclaiming the kingdom of God and encouraging the church to draw near to Jesus in an intimate relationship of love and service.

The disciples asked Jesus when he would restore the kingdom of Israel and he told them they would not know the time or date. What Jesus did tell them is that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them. What the disciples did not understand is that the kingdom of God is spiritual in nature. It is not a territorial kingdom. Jesus said to Pilate when he was being questioned, John 18:36)
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

The kingdom of God is spiritual in nature. Second, the kingdom of God is international in its membership. “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus was Jewish. The disciples were Jewish. But they would soon discover that God cannot be restricted to any nation. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also God of the Gentile world.

The kingdom of God is spiritual in nature. The kingdom of God is international in its membership. Third, the kingdom of God is gradual in its expansion. The disciples asked, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

They wanted the kingdom established now, but Jesus told them not to worry about time and dates. They would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and then there would be a process as the gospel was taken to the nations of the world. That process has continued through the centuries of the church and more time is still needed to fulfill what Jesus said would happen.

The disciples wanted to know when they would be able to enjoy the fruit of their relationship with Christ. They wanted to know when the Romans would be kicked out and they would be at the center of the new ruling leaders. They wanted to know how they would materially benefit from the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. Jesus responded by telling them that they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit and serve Jesus by being his witnesses. The disciples’ question was how will things benefit us and Jesus’ response was to let them know how they would serve him.

We are called by God to work with Jesus in the family business. Our message we carry to the world is that the kingdom of God has come and is coming. Third, what we do as we carry the good news of Jesus to the world is not primarily a matter of technique. Any spiritually significant work we do in the family business is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spent three years teaching and training the disciples. He taught, healed, delivered people from demons while they watched him. Then he encouraged them to teach, heal, and deliver people from demons while he watched them. Then he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal and deliver people from demons while he supported them from a distance.

He had an extensive discipleship course with practical training exercises. After three years they were prepared to do what he had been doing. When they returned from their ministry in the towns and villages of Palestine just a few months before Jesus was crucified and resurrected, they were excited. (Luke 10:17) “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Now, after the resurrection, in all the astounding, amazing excitement of those days, Jesus spent forty days teaching them about the kingdom of God. At the end of those forty days, they were excited, pumped-up, eager to begin going out into the towns and villages of Palestine to continue the ministry of Jesus, and what did Jesus tell them?
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

This is like halftime in a football game, either American football or what Americans call soccer. The team gathers in the locker room and the coach speaks to them. He goes over strategy, tells them what they have to do in the second half. He gets them excited, pumped-up, ready to charge out and win the game and just as they are jumping and shouting, “Let’s go! We can do it!” he tells them, “Wait.”

Peter Wagner writes, “Here were the disciples who had been with Jesus personally for three years. He had thoroughly instructed them through both deed and word in theology, in ethics, in worship, in healing the sick, in casting out demons and in other forms of ministry. He had sent them out on their own for supervised field experience. And yet, this superb training apparently had not fully equipped them for the task Jesus had set before them. Knowing the right thing to do is not enough. Supernatural power is necessary for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.

John Wesley, who was a leader in the great awakening in the 18th century, was ordained as a minister and served as a missionary to the colony of Georgia in North America before he returned by boat to England. Shortly after his return, he was in a meeting where the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans was being read when he felt his heart “strangely warmed” and his life changed.

He was a minister and missionary before he had a personal relationship with the God he preached. He had been trained in how to read the bible and preach and teach from it. He understood that the gospel needed to go out into the world and so he set off for the new colonies in America.

John Wesley was well trained and had developed ministry skills. What he was missing was the power of the Holy Spirit in what he did.

There are people who know the bible better than most of us and can preach eloquent sermons, but where is the spiritual fruit of what they do?

Our work for Jesus in the world is not primarily a matter of technique and training. Technique and training are good and helpful, but people without technique and training are sometimes more effective in taking the gospel out into the world than people with technique and training.

Remember the man who was born blind and his healing in John 9. The Pharisees questioned him and despite his lack of education and training, he was a powerful witness to the Pharisees. They asked him if Jesus who healed him was a sinner. (John 9:25–27)
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

We go to Bible school and seminary. We take discipleship classes. We listen to great teachers and preachers on the internet. We read books about all aspects of living a life for Christ. These are important and I encourage you in all these things.

But if you are not abiding in Christ, if you are not drawing closer and deeper in an intimate relationship with Christ, if you are not holding on to Jesus in the midst of struggles and difficulties, if you are not cooperating with the Holy Spirit in his work to transform you from sinner to saint – then all the work and study you do will mean nothing.

Why persevere in having a devotional time each day? Especially if it seems meaningless? You read a chapter or two, say, “I know that,” put it down and get on with your day. Why bother reading the bible? Why keep trying to hear from God?

We persevere because we need the life and energy that comes from being attached to Jesus.

Jesus used the analogy of being attached to a vine. (John 15:5)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

If the branch is attached to the vine, the lifeblood of the vine pours into the branch. If the branch is cut off from the vine, it withers and dies.

There are people who have highly developed techniques and can seem to have effective ministries. They may fill the church with bodies, but what is happening in the supernatural realm? Is the church growing in its earthly kingdom or growing in the kingdom of God?

We can look impressive on the outside, but if we are not abiding with Christ, if we are not opening ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, we are dying on the inside and our ministry to others will be without significant spiritual impact.

When we surrender to Jesus we are filled with the Holy Spirit but the problem is that we leak and need to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.

We abide in Christ and pray that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is how the spiritual lifeblood we depend on continues to flow.

[Jesus] said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The disciples watched Jesus rise up in the air and disappear behind a cloud. They stood there, transfixed, and who can blame them. How long would they have stayed there, looking up in the sky, wondering if there was anything else to see? I think a long time, but suddenly two angels stood beside them.

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?

That doesn’t sound like a very good question to ask. The answer is obvious. “We have seen Jesus do a lot of incredible things, but we have never seen him do this before.” They were still trying to process what had just happened.

The angels told them, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

This is a call to action. “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Jesus has ascended. It is time to act. Halftime is over. It is time to charge out onto the field to win the game.

Their first task was not to charge out into the towns and villages of Palestine. Their first task was to wait in Jerusalem. Stay there. Wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised he would send.

Waiting is an important part of our Christian life. Next week we will talk about the waiting period in Jerusalem before the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples.

For this week, I encourage you to reflect on your work with Jesus in the family business. How are you doing? Is the mission statement for the family business, “We are witnesses for Jesus in our home town and wherever we go in the world,” your mission statement? None of us is perfect, but how are we doing as witnesses for Jesus in our home, at our work?

I don’t want you to beat yourself up as you reflect and evaluate your life. Be gentle with yourself, but be honest and let your evaluation become part of your prayers this week.

Renew your devotional life. If you have been struggling, pick up your bible and pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you read. Hold on to Jesus. Abide with Christ. Pray once again to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

It is an honor and privilege to be at work in the family business, working with Jesus as he seeks to bring people he loves into his eternal family. Be encouraged. Serve him with joy, you deeply loved daughter of God, you deeply loved son of God.