Sky-Gazing

 6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 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.” 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.”  (Acts 1:6-11)
I don’t know what you are looking forward to the most about post-lockdown church? Personally, I can’t wait to be back in the room with my Christian friends to worship God together. I love our church prayer meetings on Zoom and I sing along with the best of them, but I can’t wait to be caught up again in corporate worship. Maybe you feel the same way too?

That’s why I find it a little sobering what the angels say to the first Christians when they step out of lockdown to watch the ascension of Jesus back up to heaven. It was surely an amazing worship moment. They were witnessing the ascension of Jesus! I don’t blame them for standing there for ages, just looking up into the sky. But the angels took a different view. They had been waiting for this moment for millennia and they seem to be a little frustrated with the desire of the first Christians to make their church life one big worship celebration. “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” the angels ask them. They hadn’t stepped out of lockdown to become sky-gazers. They had stepped out of lockdown to carry on Jesus’ mission in the world.

The first Christians took this angelic rebuke seriously. They went back to the city and refused to become head-down, hope-they-don’t-notice Christians who practised their religion in private and kept it to themselves in public. They became bold and unstoppable in their proclamation of the Good News about Jesus. Michael Green comments in his excellent book, ‘Evangelism in the Early Church’ that “Neither the strategy nor the tactics of the first Christians were particularly remarkable. What was remarkable was their conviction, their passion, and their determination to act as Christ’s embassy to a rebel world whatever the consequences.”

They remained worshippers, but they didn’t settle for being merely worshippers. They also became bold and fiery witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Saviour. They emerged out of their lockdown to build a very different world. They came out of lockdown and announced to their friends and neighbours that the Kingdom of God had finally come.
  1. Do you find it easier to be a worshipper or to be a witness?
  2. Witnesses speak. It’s what they do. There is no such thing as a mute witness. So isn’t it encouraging that Jesus promises us in Acts 1:8 that God’s Spirit empowers us and transforms us into courageous witnesses of Jesus?
  3. When did you last worship God in song? When did you last witness to a nonbeliever? On the basis of your answer to those two questions, might Jesus be calling you to surrender your life to the truth of Acts 1:8 today?
Lord Jesus, I really want to be your witness. I don’t find it easy to open my mouth and to tell people about you, which is why I am so grateful for your promise in Acts 1:8 that your Holy Spirit will fill me in order to transform me into a courageous witness to your Gospel. Please help me to open my mouth today and to speak your words of encouragement and truth to the nonbelievers all around me. I ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.
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