Sermon Series: What Do We Do Now? Part II ~ Seeking Justus

The twelve apostles were now eleven and needed to choose a replacement for Judas. You never know when God has an opening you are supposed to fill. Are you ready? Will you answer His call or will you tell God, “No?” Really?

Sermon Series: What Do We Do Now? Part II ~ Seeking Justus ~ May 12, 2019 ~ Acts 1:21-26

We are on our second week of the “What Do We Do Now?” sermon series, because I still believe that oftentimes after we come to a faith in Christ, we’re all excited and enthusiastic, sometimes we wonder now, what’s next? Alright, so I believe in Jesus, I’m saved, my sins are forgiven; what do I do now? Well, last week we talked about sharing the gospel. One of the things we’re supposed to do is tell others about Jesus Christ, evangelize. We did some evangelizing this past Wednesday. We went down to Bushnell Park. I ended up handing out seven invite cards asking people to come. I don’t see any of them here this morning. Oh, well. But we’ll keep on trying! The awesome thing was, the first three people I talked to were already saved. When I got to the question on my questionnaire of, “So, what do you think happens after we die?” They said, “We go to heaven.” I said, “Well, why do you think that?” “Because God sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, and I confessed my sins to Jesus, and I believe, and when I die, I’m going to heaven.” And I’m like, Praise Jesus! Problem solved; I’m done! It was awesome. But we still invited people to come, that’s one of the things we’re supposed to do now: share the gospel.

This morning, we’re going to look at the second thing that we’re supposed to do. We are in Acts chapter 1. Judas is dead. He hung himself in a field purchased with the thirty pieces of silver that he got for betraying Jesus. “Akeldama,” in Aramaic means, “field of blood.” So, Judas hung himself in the field of blood. Now, knowing that Jesus does not do anything unintentionally, but rather there is purpose in every word, meaning in every action, in every choice that He makes, the apostles know what needs to happen next. Jesus chose twelve apostles; now there are only eleven. Please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God. Let us pray.

Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story.
It is also our story.
Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand,
and our hearts that they may be transformed.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, we are in Acts 1. Peter says:

“So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus – from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.
(Acts 1:21-26)

Cast lots. What is casting lots? Well, they talk about casting lots seventy times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. I could go into some long exegesis or theological discussion about casting lots, but suffice it to say, more often than not you could think of casting lots similar to flipping a coin. So, is it Barsabbas – is it Justus – or is it Matthias? Heads or tails? And the reason they did that is because they understood God is sovereign. He’s in control of everything – good, bad, or indifferent – including, if you’re going to flip a coin, whether it’s going to come out heads or tails is His will. Casting the lots, if they were some sort of dice or whatever it was, they were certain that the result of casting the lots was the result God had intended. So, that’s what they did to discern whether they chose Justus or Matthias.

We don’t do that anymore, because we have the Word of God and we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These things guide us now. We don’t have to flip coins anymore; we don’t need to cast lots. Notice, however, they still had some requirements for the position. Peter says, “We must choose a replacement from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus.” The candidates had to meet some sort of minimum requirement before they could be considered; just like we, today, have requirements for important positions of authority and influence in our lives, including in our government.

For instance, did you know there is a reason why a person has to be a minimum of 35 years old before they can run for President of the United States. Why is that? Well, modern times, neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, okay? (Now, I know there’s a lot of parents out there going, “Oh! That explains a lot!”) It’s true. The brain is not fully developed until age 25. Now, the framers of the Constitution didn’t have access to neuroscientists, they didn’t know that; they just used something that was in very short supply then and is even rarer today – it’s called common sense. They were able to witness, to see people 25 and younger making decisions, and let’s be honest, when we look back and think about all the monumentally stupid things we did before we were 25, we know that’s true as well.

I mean, we can’t help it on some level. I really understand it. I get it. We are all idealists when we’re young. That’s what the hippie movement was all about. Flowers in our hair, make peace not war, and all you need is love. Personally, yes, I grew my hair long; I wore bellbottoms and a peace sign around my neck; and I liberally used the phrase, “man!” “Hey, man!” “What you doing, man?” “Wanna go out, man?” “We can do this, man!” But truth be told, I was really just in it for the music. The music was awesome! But we were idealists – the unformed pre-frontal cortex of my brain had me believing we were going to change the world. Every generation thinks like that. They’re going to change the world. Every generation thinks they have all the answers. If only those old farts did what we said to do, everything would be great! We’ve all gone through it.

Today, it’s the environment, right? It’s the Green New Deal. Yeah! We’re going to power all the earth’s industrial economies with windmills and solar panels! We’re all going to be living like Mad Max: Fury Road when this is all done – when the young idealists finally think, “maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.”

But I get it. We’re all idealists. Perhaps that’s why the Bible says:

Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.
(Job 12:12)

It also says:

The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.
(Proverbs 20:29)

The truth is, there is simply some wisdom you can only get by seeing more sunsets. Life experience comes with living life, and the longer you have lived life, the more life experience you have to share. It’s just a fact.

Now, new ideas, fresh ideas – they are essential, they are vital, they are crucial to making sure that a church does not become stale and lifeless. Why is that important? No one wants to become part of a dying church, for the same reason no one buys a timeshare in Cape Cod in February! Season’s over! And people know that. People know when they walk into a church and they can sense, season’s over here. So, the energy and the creativity of youth is a blessing and it is important… but so is the wisdom and the age of experience. That must not be overlooked either.

So, here, Peter says, “we need to have someone who has been with Jesus from the start – from the moment when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist until the time He ascended into heaven. He needs to be a firsthand eyewitness to the life and ministry of the Son of God.” I don’t know how many people qualified for that position; they nominated two. They focused on two: Joseph, or Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias (who apparently wasn’t important enough to have three names). They cast lots. They pray. They leave it up to God. Matthias is chosen.

What does this tell us? Well, from Justus’ viewpoint, it tells us, obviously Matthias colluded with the Russians to steal the election! No. It tells us that oftentimes, whether at church or at work, or in any number of situations, there is more than one person qualified for the job. Both Matthias and Justus were qualified for the position. So, we need to remember – perhaps you did not get that promotion this time, or that job this time – for a reason! God is in control.

We have elections here for various leadership positions at South Church every November. Not everybody gets elected. We should not get mad. We should not get angry. We should not get hurt if we don’t get chosen this time around. God has a reason. He is sovereign. He is in control. He is also omniscient; He knows what happened, what is happening, and what’s going to happen. No one is saying that you are unqualified. There was just more than one qualified person available. So, we have to trust God in His wisdom that this was just not the right time for Justus.

Who knows? Perhaps there was an upcoming situation that Matthias had some talents or gifts which were going to be needed to address that situation? Maybe there was an upcoming situation in your life that was going to require your full attention. Maybe there’s an illness of yourself or someone in your family that was going to require some time of yours. Maybe there was an unplanned death which changes your role and your responsibility within your family unit. Maybe you’re deciding whether or not to go back to school and here’s the moment to go for it! Or maybe there’s another job that is just for you. I don’t know what the reasons are that Justus did not get the position, but God does.

Maybe the position was not what you thought it was. Most of you know that prior to coming into the ministry, I worked for the United States Postal Service for fifteen years. One year, I was working in Newburyport Massachusetts, and we had our own little local union – APWU local 1109 – and they asked me to run for president of the local union. I thought to myself, wow, I’m kind of a young guy, that’s a bit of an honor. Okay, I’ll do it. So, I got nominated, I got elected, and I won! So, here I am, the president of APWU local 1109, and every single time I went into the Postmaster’s office to talk with him about some infraction or whatever that an employee had done, I found myself agreeing with the Postmaster! “I know, Don, I think he’s a horrible employee too; however, I’m the union president, so I’ve got to fight for him!” And this kept happening over and over again. Finally, after a number of months, we had a union meeting, and I stood up and said, “Guys, I’m sorry. You need to find someone else to fill this position, someone who believes in this contract from cover to cover, someone who’s going to fight for you ‘til the end, because the truth is, I’d fire half of you!” and I resigned. It wasn’t the right position for me. It wasn’t the right job for me. I wasn’t a Christian at that point. If I’d have prayed, if I’d have sought God’s wisdom, He might have revealed that to me. Maybe He let me have the job to teach me a lesson, I don’t know. There are lots of reasons we don’t get what we want. That is Justus’ point of view.

Do we trust Him, though? There are lots of reasons God chooses certain people at certain times. Do we trust Him, or do we doubt Him? That’s a question we have to ask ourselves.

Now, on the other side of the coin, we have Matthias’ viewpoint. Matthias’ viewpoint is that you never know when God has a job that you are supposed to fulfill. Now, the Bible does not say whether or not Justus or Matthias knew they were being considered for this position. Matthias could have been completely surprised when he was told he was the new twelfth apostle. You may be completely surprised as well when God asks you to do something – here at South Church, at work, at home, in some other capacity of your life. Please understand – God knows what He’s doing. The only question is, are you ready? And if not, why not?

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, he is teaching about Jesus, and by chapter 5, Paul is getting a little frustrated and he writes this:

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.
(Hebrews 5:11-12)

Look, if you are new to the church, or if you are new to your faith, it is completely understandable that you need more training, you need more time. But if you have been a Christian or a church member for 2, 3, 4, 10, 15, 20, 50 years, and you still do not feel ready to answer God’s call, I have something for you. [Takes out a baby bottle.] And a question: WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING? What do we come here for, just to waste an hour and a half? That’s why we no longer eat baby food, that was part of the theme here this morning.

Did you know the average age a person leaves their home today is twenty-seven? Phil was referencing this earlier; I couldn’t believe he was talking about it, I said, “That’s in my sermon today!” The average age is twenty-seven. I was married for nine years with three children by the time I was twenty-seven! We are not meant to stay in the nest forever. You see how birds do it when it comes time to learn how to fly? Boom! Figure it out before you hit the ground!

We’re not supposed to stay in the nest forever. We’re not meant to stay in the pews forever either. At some point, we’re supposed to fly.

Look, friends, today is Mother’s Day. Let me tell you, there is no school, there is no degree for mothers. There is no such thing as a bachelor’s degree in motherhood. You can read all the books; you can watch all the videos that you want to; you can carry around a sack of flour for a week. That’s what they used to do a few years ago, carry around a sack of flour for a week pretending it was a baby to prove the point of how difficult it is to pay attention to something 24/7 for a week! Nowadays it’s high tech. Nowadays they have lifelike little dolls that look like little babies, and they’re full of all kinds of electronic sensors and they’re gathering information because the teacher wants to know exactly what you did with this baby for an entire week! You know how I discovered that? One day, one Sunday, years ago, Ashley Casiano came walking in the meeting house holding a doll, and I’m thinking, “Here’s a chance to tease the snot out of her! She’s way too old for dolls!” So, I go over to her and I say, “Hey, how’s your doll?” and I pat it on the head [hard!] She goes, “Oh my gosh, what are you doing?” I said, “It’s a doll!” Then she explained it to me, she said, “I’m going to have to explain that to my teacher, I beat my baby!” I literally had to write her a note, I went in my office. “Please excuse Ashley Casiano, the Pastor is the one who smacked the baby!” But man, live and learn.

But I don’t care how much training you have – nothing can fully prepare you for this: “waaaaa!” Your children do talk to you. They say, “Mommy, I’m wet, I need changing.” “I’m hungry.” “My tummy is upset.” “I’m tired.” “I want you to pick me up.” “I have a fever.” “I’m not feeling well.” They do! But it just all comes out the same: “waaaaa!” There’s no training for that, folks. And you can’t change your mind. Baby’s here can’t send him back! That’s not how it works. I mean, at times moms can feel completely overwhelmed, can feel in over their head. So, what do you do mom? You just do it. Figure it out before you hit the ground. You just do it. You fly.

Now, look, as moms or as dads, as parents, we mess up. We make mistakes along the way. But with God’s grace and mercy, our children do survive into adulthood (a high percentage of the time). The same goes for when God calls us to a new challenge, and God asks us to fulfill a new opportunity at church, at work, wherever. He knows we’ll mess up. He knows we’ll make mistakes along the way. He’s God! But He still chose you. He still asked you. So, will you answer God’s call? Or will you tell God, “No?” Really? You would tell God, “No?”

Moses tried, right? “I don’t speak very well! You’ll have to ask my brother, Aaron!” Jonah ran in the opposite direction, right? He tried to run away from God. Jeremiah said:

“O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
(Jeremiah 1:6)

All three of them ended up being important prophets and a big part of God’s story in the Old Testament. You can try to tell God no. Good luck to you.

Peter didn’t think he was worthy. His initial reaction to Jesus was to fall to his knees and say:

“Oh Lord, please leave me – I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”
(Luke 5:8)

Likewise, Paul tells Timothy the same thing.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.
(1 Timothy 1:15)

God knows all of that – and He called you anyway. So, when God calls, say yes. He’ll take care of the rest.

Look, I was in the Post Office when I felt a call to go into ministry. You have no idea what level of stupidity that decision was. I had a good job. It was secure – I wasn’t going to get fired, when you’re a postal employee, you’re a postal employee until there’s a nuclear winter! I was never going to be rich, but you could raise a family on it, had great health insurance, and I was going to retire last October! God called. I went. Quit. Moved to Bangor. (My father-in-law was not happy at all.) While I’m in Maine, all of a sudden, I get called to serve the East Orrington Congregational Church, stayed there for nine years. It was a great church! Had a membership of 650. Every Sunday I came to church; 250 people were in the pews. It was the largest church in the state of Maine in the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. I was in way over my head! And then all of a sudden, in 2005, a congregation from South Congregational Church asks me to move here. Truth be told, we didn’t want to! We liked Maine (well, I liked the weather). We liked the situation we were in, but it was about saying yes. See, when I left the Post Office, it was like walking off a cliff. I had no idea what was going to happen. But He took care of us because we said yes. Now, here I am and He’s asking me to move again. Do I say no this time? Am I qualified? No. Am I worthy? Absolutely not. But all God asked of me was to say yes, and I said yes.

So, we’ve got to quit the bottle. We’ve got to start eating some solid food. We should be learning and praying and growing in our faith, just as we expect our children to do. We need to be ready, so that like Matthias, or Justus, whenever God asks, we can say YES! What do we do now? First, we evangelize. We share the gospel with others. Second, when God calls, if you are willing to say yes to the Lord, would you stand up and pray with me?