Sermon Outline (Adult)
Week 4: United in peace, for the world, we are called to serve globally.
By Karen Ingebretson
“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” (Acts 1:8).
Introduction: Gifts and Promises
Talk about a gift that was important to you, funny, or goofy.
In Word by Word, Marilyn McIntyre writes: “Even the best gifts come with an unexpected cost. Every gift changes something—the shape of the day, the balance of the relationship, or just the space available on a shelf or in a drawer. To receive it is to accept that shift, slight or dramatic, and to make an adjustment.”
Describe how a gift you’ve received brought a shift, change, or adjustment to your life.
Acts 1:8 speaks of a gift that radically changed the first disciples’ lives—and it radically changes our lives today.
Promises change the shape of our lives—commitments you’ve made or that have been made to you. Promises impact decisions and direction. What do the promises you make look like? That you will bring food to someone’s house, help with homework, pay a bill or loan? Give a friend a ride to a doctor’s appointment? Love and care for parents, grandparents, children?
Promises are part of the fabric of our lives and relationships. Broken promises break trust. Kept promises build trust. Jesus is the ultimate promise-keeper.
Outline of Acts 1:1-8
Read Acts 1:1-8.
Luke wrote the book of Acts to explain what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. The setting is post-resurrection, pre-ascension conversations.
- “He 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” (v. 3, NIV). Jesus appeared to his followers to help them understand what was going on.
- He also gave them instructions: “Do not leave Jerusalem…wait for the gift my Father promised….you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (vv. 4-5, NIV).
- The gift from God comes in the form of a promise. The Holy Spirit is promised to Jesus’s followers (v. 5). He will give them what they need to carry on his kingdom work in the world (v. 8).
- The Kingdom of God
When the disciples heard “kingdom of God,” they equated it with the earthly kingdom of Israel. They asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6, NIV). They still wondered if Israel would rule again on earth. But Jesus had something bigger in mind.
I wonder if Jesus felt a bit frustrated with them. He had spent the past three years leading, teaching, and demonstrating the good news of the kingdom of God. He had spent time hanging out with people on the margins, healing the sick, the lame, the demon-possessed, upsetting the religious leaders, speaking words of hope and love and grace through the proclamation of forgiveness. What he’d been about the past three years was anything but political.
After he conquered death, Jesus spent 40 days reminding, explaining, and describing the kingdom of God—the realm and rule of God, characterized as life as God intends (see Reggie McNeal, Kingdom Collaborators)—and they still didn’t quite get it.
- Themes of Jesus’s Conversations
The kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit—these are themes Jesus and his disciples have discussed and encountered before. But In light of the resurrection, the significance of these realities deepens and expands.
- In Acts, Jesus’s followers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to carry out the purposes of God, to build his kingdom in the world.
- These first followers were faithful to Jesus’s instructions in Acts 1. They trusted Christ’s words, waited for the Spirit, and carried out his mission together to the ends of the earth.
- Our presence here today is evidence that Jesus’s followers throughout the ages have taken this commission seriously.
- We, too, are called to embrace this mission of Christ followers.
- Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus surrender our lives to his love, grace, and forgiveness. We are also called to be witnesses of God’s kingdom.
- The church receives the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite around the purposes of God, to carry out Jesus’s mandate to build the kingdom of God in the world.
Power of the Holy Spirit
- The promised gift of God is the Holy Spirit.
- When the Spirit comes, power comes upon the disciples.
Power—dynamis in Greek (where we get our word dynamite)—is not of human ability or strength or will, but dynamic, explosive, earth-shattering, mountain-moving power that comes from God.
- The power of the Holy Spirit brings change.
A fundamental shift at the core of who we are that transforms our lives, shapes our days, deepens relationship with God and others, and impacts the church worldwide.
- It’s a personal
As Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in his teaching, the Spirit will counsel, teach, fill, strengthen, communicate.
- John 3:16-17 points us to God’s heart for people from every nation—men, women, young, old, rich, poor—welcoming all into relationship through Jesus Christ. To be saved means knowing God’s rescuing power. To be saved is about forgiveness of sin and living into a life of deliverance and hope. To be saved is about living each day filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Include a story of personal change—from your own life or someone from your church community.
- It’s a communal
Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he called people, families, and communities to himself. This life of faith was never lived alone, independent, or isolated from others.
- Life in Christ is always about connection to the community of believers, what we now know to be the church. Acts 1:8 calls the community to be witnesses together, to neighbors, to enemies, to people all around the world.
- Community relationships can be difficult. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the church is united, able to be together in mission. Being together in mission is a noble cause and a challenging one. Only through the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit is unity in diversity made possible.
- It’s a personal
- The Hindustani Covenant Church, based in Pune, India, is radically committed to the good news of Jesus. One of many challenges in their context is the reality of the caste system. The church moves into communities to bring peace and reconciliation among castes through many forms of community development, education, healthcare initiatives, and church planting. Through its tangible witness of impact, relationships are transformed and people ask, “Why are you here?” “Why do you care?” And the church gives witness to the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, giving hope for eternity. Towns are changed, bridges are built, and people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
- Acts 1:8—Christ’s call is for followers to be witnesses of God’s kingdom and of personal transformation and change. To what does my life give witness?
Jesus conquered death, and in his resurrection reveals he is King and Lord of all. God’s kingdom has come and is coming in Jesus, and we are witnesses to this truth. Paul casts a vision in Philippians 2:10 that one day all people will acknowledge this truth, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (NIV).
- Christ transforms our lives and changes our community relationships within the church and beyond.
- Share stories about how you see the Holy Spirit moving in our lives, in our communities, in our world.
- Begin as witnesses to people we bump into each day—our family, neighbors, fellow students, friends, coworkers.
- Acts 2 describes the witness saying that on the day of Pentecost, the apostles were “declaring the wonders of God” (v. 11). What wonders has Jesus done in your life? How is Jesus transforming your life, your family, your struggles, your future?
- Jesus’s plan for this kingdom work will reach the world.
- Theologian N.T. Wright reflects on this passage and says, “Jesus gives the apostles an agenda—Jerusalem first, then Judea (the surrounding countryside), then Samaria (the hated semi-foreigners living right next door), and to the ends of the earth” (Acts for Everyone, Part One).
- Motivated by God’s love for the world, we follow the disciples’ lead. The Holy Spirit gives us power to leave our comfort zones, leave the comfortable space in which we live—and to bring the good news of God’s reign to next-door neighbors, to those who are not like us, to the ends of the earth.
- How do we begin to respond to this mandate to be witnesses?
- Tennis legend Arthur Ashe described greatness saying, “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.” We can learn from that perspective. Pay attention to needs around you in the places you live and work.
- Spend time praying, asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide. Is there somewhere else you are being called to go?
- “E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), an American missionary in India, had an effective evangelistic ministry with the intellectuals of India and through his writings became a mentor to many other Christian ministers in Asia. In his youth he struggled with whether he was called to be a lawyer or a preacher. He finally decided that he would become a preacher and be ‘God’s lawyer’—‘to present his brief for him, to plead his case.’ Many relatives and friends came to hear the first sermon he preached in his home church. After six sentences, he made a mistake, using a nonexistent word, ‘indifferentism.’ He saw that it brought a smile to a young lady in the audience—and his mind went blank! After a long silence, he managed to blurt out, ‘Well, friends, I’m sorry to tell you, but I’ve forgotten my sermon.’
“He began to walk back to his seat in the first row in shame when he heard God telling him, ‘Haven’t I done anything for you?’ He replied, ‘Why, yes, of course you have.’ ‘Then couldn’t you tell that?’ came the question. ‘Perhaps I could,’ he said. So, instead of taking his seat, he turned around in front and said, ‘Friends, as you see, I can’t preach, but you know my life before and after conversion, and while I can’t preach, I do love the Lord, and I will witness for him the balance of my days.’ Jones says that he ‘said some more things like that to fill in the awful blank.’ After the service, a young man came up to him and said, ‘I want to find what you have found.’
“Jones did ultimately become God’s lawyer. He immersed himself in Scripture and India’s culture… effectively presented the claims of Christ to the intellectuals in that country…real preaching is testimony.” (From NIV Life Application Commentary: Acts, by Ajith Fernando)
- Create space each day for listening prayer to pay attention to the Holy Spirit. Invite God to speak to you about personal transformation, about where he is leading you to be a witness for the kingdom.
- Pray each day for people you connect with a regular basis, that they may be open to hearing the good news of Jesus’s love.
- With your small group and within your church community, make time for conversation about where God is leading us to carry out his work “to the ends of the earth.” What is next in our being faithful to this kingdom work?
Called to embrace this mission of Christ followers, the church receives the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite us around the purposes of God, to carry out Jesus’s mandate to build the kingdom of God in this world. May we live each day, attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, aware of the people and places Jesus is calling us to be witnesses of his love, forgiveness, and grace.
- Pay attention to the Holy Spirit—where is the Spirit meeting, transforming, leading you today?
- Pray for awareness and openness to the needs of people around you. What good news do people need to hear? How might your story point them to Jesus?
- In the normal rhythms of life, where do you see Jesus at work? What does the kingdom of God look like—life as it’s meant to be? How might you be part of what Jesus is doing in these places?
- As a community, with whom is Jesus calling you to connect? What borders—neighbors, enemies, cultures—is the Holy Spirit inviting you to cross? What’s the first step?