We concluded the Face to Face series this week dealing with the question – Now What? Now that Easter is over and we are firm in our decision to follow Christ…now what?
The audio should be posted later this evening – barring any technical issues.
Eight years ago this August, my life changed forever. You see, eight years ago this August, my family size increased. Eight years ago this August, Christy and I welcomed Aiden into this world. And my life hasn’t been the same since then. No amount of classes, books, websites, or sage advice from experienced parents can even begin to truly prepare you for that moment when you hold this new life in your hands for the first time. It is a life-changing experience, to say the least.
As overwhelming as it is, you still have nurses and doctors and family members around to hold and nurture the baby. There’s a safety net there and you start to think, “This parenting thing isn’t going to be so difficult after all. Piece of cake.” Eventually, however, the nurses return to their stations and the parents, uncles, and family friends who had been so helpful in the early stages have all gone one place or another. Although we were ready for some calm after the mad rush to see and welcome the baby, inside I was begging them to stay. And as my mom left the hospital room for the afternoon, I thought Don’t leave! I don’t know what I’m doing! Christy was asleep. I couldn’t believe everyone would just leave me alone with this baby that I had come to realize I knew very little about. And I found myself alone with this new life that is completely helpless and completely reliant upon me. And I thought, “OK – maybe this whole parenting thing isn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. Now what?”
I had many of those ‘Now what’ moments early on in my parenting experience. One moment sticks out more than any other. Although we weren’t alone, I was met head-on with this reality that I really had no idea what I was doing. It was the afternoon and a staff member at the church in which I served had come to see our bouncing baby boy. He held Aiden for a few minutes and then looked at me with a strange look on his face. “Uh, Dad,” he said to me. “Someone needs his diaper changed.”
It was time for me to step into action. I had seen people change diapers before. When I was younger, I had helped my Aunt and Uncle change my cousins’ diapers on many occasions. How hard could it be? I tried to play it cool as I took my son out of the staff member’s arms and put him on the changing table. OK, Now What? I thought to myself as I tried to figure out what to do next. Apparently my cluelessness was pretty obvious. So my co-worker decided he would help – he ran and got a nurse. And Christy decided she’d help, too – by videotaping the entire experience.
So, as my loving wife is recording this for posterity, I’m fumbling around trying to figure out what to do next. I tried to keep one eye on the changing table, making sure Aiden didn’t somehow fall off. And with the other eye, I looked all over for the diapers. OK – found the diapers…now what? Wipes! I need wipes! Where are they?…found them…now what? I stood there with the diaper in one hand, the wipes in the other, looking at my son lying there helpless on the changing table while Christy chuckled. Now what? I kept thinking as I realized I was absolutely clueless as to what to do next. Now what?
After what seemed like an eternity, the nurse finally came into the room and gave me a quick lesson on the fine art of diaper changing. I had never felt so embarrassed and relieved at the same time. Embarrassed that I couldn’t even figure out how to change a diaper – the first of many times where I’ve had to admit that I certainly don’t have this parenting thing figured out. Relieved because…well…my son finally had a clean bottom.
You get a sense as you read the account of Jesus’ return to heaven after his appearance to the Apostles that they had a similar experience to mine when I stood before the changing table for the first time. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Acts 1. Acts is the 5th book in the New Testament. It’s the story of how God continues to be present here on earth, even though Jesus has returned to Heaven. It’s the story of the beginnings of the church and how it started as a small group of believers and has turned into a worldwide movement. It’s an inspiring and challenging story. Since we’re looking at Acts, let me take this moment to offer this little promotion – we’re working through the book of Acts verse by verse on Wednesday nights. I encourage you to check it out some Wednesday evening. We meet every Wednesday evening at 6:30 in the church basement. I encourage you to check it out this week.
OK – back to Acts 1. If you don’t have your Bible with you, you’re welcome to use the one found in the pew in front of you. Acts 1 is found on page 947 in that Bible.
As we’ve seen the last few weeks, Jesus has appeared to many of his followers on different occasions, showing them that what he said would happen had actually happened; and that the rumors were true – Jesus had truly risen from the dead! They knew he had died a horrible, painful death and was buried in a sealed tomb. But now they knew that the very same Jesus was standing before them in flesh and blood. And so like they did before, they followed him however they could.
Read Acts 1:3-10a
It’s not too much of an assumption that the Apostles here had a similar reaction to the one I had as I stood at that changing table. Now What? They’d spent the last 40 days trying to make sense of what had happened – to figure it all out. And they thought they had figured it out. In verse 6, they asked, “Is this when you’re going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” They’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. And this is the only thing they could come up with. When Jesus didn’t give them the answer they expected, they probably thought, “OK – now what?” It was all so confusing.
And then he was taken up into the sky. It’s apparent that they were still thinking, “Now What?” So they stood and watched, looking intently into the sky.
They’d experienced something like this before. Keep your thumb here and flip back a few pages to Luke 9:28-36. This is an event in the life of Christ known as the Transfiguration.
Read Luke 9:28-36.
They’re on a mountain – maybe even the same mountain…we don’t know…there’s a cloud…Jesus disappears…in the first one, Jesus comes back. But not this time. And as they looked intently up into the sky and realized that this same thing hadn’t happened before, it’s not a stretch to think that they were still thinking the same thing – Uh…now what?
And then they’re reminded of what they’re supposed to do. Read Acts 1:10b-11
The men in white are asking them why they’re still standing there because they’re supposed to be going back to Jerusalem. They’re going to be used to change the world. The implication of the question is that they’re supposed to be going – not standing around and waiting. And that’s what they did. In the following verse, we see that they did, in fact, return to Jerusalem.
The answer to their question – ‘now what?’ is to go. But that’s not all. Look back in verse 8 in the middle of the verse. You will be my witnesses. The Apostles were already told the answer to their ‘Now what?’ – they just needed to be reminded…go and be.
Many of us find ourselves reacting in the same way that the Apostles did when Jesus ascended into the sky: I know that Jesus came and died for me. Now What? I know that he was buried and came back to life three days later. I’ve seen the scarred hands and his pierced side. Now What? I’ve acknowledged that Jesus is Lord over all and have chosen to allow Him to be Lord of my own life. I’ve seen that church sign out front that said the same message for almost a month – “He is risen!” Now What? I’ve been there…done that…now what?
The answer to your question is the same as it was to the Apostles on that mountain – Go and be. We can look at it from another angle found in the Gospel of John, just a page or two before this account in Acts. In John 20:21, Jesus says “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And what was Jesus sent for? You can see it in his actions, but it’s put quite clearly in Matthew 20:28 – “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”
Just as Jesus was sent to serve, we have been sent to serve. To go and be. Following Christ doesn’t mean we gather ourselves into a holy huddle and shelter ourselves from a world that we know is an evil place. Following Christ means that we go. We go around the world, proclaiming the life-changing message to a world that desperately needs to hear it. But we don’t have to go around the world or even across the state in order to follow this part of our charge. It might mean going across the street and getting to know your neighbor. It might mean getting involved in something like First Choice for Women reaching out to women in times of need. It might mean volunteering with the Muncie Mission. It might mean mowing your neighbor’s front yard or spending time with someone who is lonely. It could mean going to a little league baseball game and spending time with the parents in the bleachers. To go means we take the initiative. We don’t wait for people to walk into these doors before we share the love of Christ with them.
The second part of the answer is to be. We need to be Jesus to everyone around us. We need to approach everyone with the heart of a servant. Preaching the good news of the life-changing message of Jesus Christ won’t make much of an impact on the general public anymore. Not that it’s not important – telling people about Jesus is very important. But if it doesn’t match up with how you are, it’s not going to make much of a difference. We aren’t supposed to just go and tell the Gospel. We’re supposed to go and be the Gospel. Our actions and our words have to line up. Christian author, Brennan Manning, who has written well-known books, like The Ragamuffin Gospel, and Abba’s Child, once said this about many people’s efforts to spread the Gospel: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and live another lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
In other words, we have to go and be.
There was a time when sharing the Gospel meant that you got into a debate with someone with the purpose of showing how becoming a Christian was a reasonable, logical proposition. While I certainly agree that there are times where that is the most effective approach…sometimes people need the logical, step-by-step progression in order to understand – similar to Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch found in the book of Acts. But there are other times where sharing the Gospel means merely showing acts of kindness to a stranger. In today’s society, first-time conversions are more likely to happen through a relationship and a person seeing the Gospel in someone rather than in merely hearing all of the facts. It’s the testimony of a changed life that impacts other people.
Because Jesus was physically resurrected and because Jesus physically ascended into heaven, Jesus Christ still has physical hands and feet. Don’t misunderstand that when I say that following Christ means that you become his hands and feet. But that’s what we are – the hands and feet of Jesus. We can’t wait any longer for people to come into our doors so they can hear the Gospel. We have to go and be. We have to be involved in our neighborhoods and in our community. As we continue to be shaped by our Creator, we can’t just stand there and wait for Jesus to return. We have a job to do. We aren’t just inviting people to come and see. We need to go and be.
Close: Hands and Feet – Mark Stuart
I want to be your hands
I want to be your feet
I’ll go where you send me
Go where you send me
And I’ll try – yeah, I’ll try
To touch the world like you’ve touched my life
And I’ll find my way
To be your hands
That’s my prayer this morning that we’ll find ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s time to stop standing around and waiting. It’s time to go and be.
You’ve seen some advertisements about our upcoming sermon series, Living a Life on Loan. That series fits in perfectly with the challenge we’ve been given to go and be. It’s all about how we can become more externally focused, sharing the gospel of Jesus with not only our words, but our actions. I hope you can make it back next week as we begin this exciting series.
If I can get the video of my first attempt at changing Aiden’s diaper converted to digital, I’ll be sure to post a link here so all can share in the joy of laughing at my expense.