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The Keys to A New Beginning


Acts 1:1-23


Jim Davis




  1. How many times have you dreamed about starting over—dreamed of a new beginning in life? I can assure you that most of you are thinking of how our New Year could be different. We are thinking about making some crucial changes.
    1. Many of you have probably given up on resolute changes because you think a new beginning only happens in your dreams.
    2. A new beginning is our only hope, for life moves forwards not backwards. It is what we do today that will make a difference tomorrow.
  2. We see a new beginning in progress as we open to the first chapter of Acts. Here Jesus helps his disciples cope with their misunderstanding, failures and desertions in an effort to give them a new beginning.
    1. Jesus has just spent forty days with his disciples in his post resurrection ministry. He is seeking to move these weak self-centered disheartened disciples into a new beginning.
    2. He has spent forty days with them explaining the message of the kingdom (Luke 24:45).
    3. He is depending upon them to turn the world upside down with the message of salvation. That would certainly be a new beginning.
  3. We must not lose sight of what is happening in Acts 1.
    1. Too often we only note the results of what is happening. We note the apostles receiving the power of Holy Spirit, 3000 baptized, Lord adding to the church, etc.
    2. We fail to see why they had such a powerful new beginning on Pentecost.
    3. If we will stop and think about why these things are happening as the book of Acts unfolds, we will discover the keys to a new beginning for ourselves, and the church.


I.                   Trusting In God’s Plan


A.     The disciples were able to do what they did on Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts because they trusted in the plan of God.


1.      No one said it was easy, but it is simple.


2.      We make it difficult because we don’t understand God’s ways.


3.      We often refuse to proceed with our lack of understanding.


4.      Fear of not knowing what God is going to do holds us back.


B.     We are afraid of new beginnings because we do not understand the intricate details of God’s plan.


Acts 1:6-9

“ So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’


“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.’


“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. “ (NIV)


1.      Jesus told them that God had a plan, but he never told them how God would accomplish his plan.


2.      He simply tells them to go to Jerusalem—It doesn’t sound all that exciting to these troubled disciples.


a.       Jerusalem place where they crucified Christ.

b.      Place where they were careful to lock the door when they assembled after Christ’s death on the cross.

c.       Place where they had denied Christ.

d.      They were afraid of the people in Jerusalem and wanted to go back to Galilee.

e.       They are told that they would be witnesses in Judea and Samaria. Taking the gospel beyond the Jewish nation was certainly a problem because of the racial tensions.


3.      Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem.


a.       Initially, they stood gazing into the heavens after Jesus’ ascension.

b.       They were like many of us who spend our time gazing into the scriptures dreaming about a new beginning.


John 5:39-40

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (NIV).


C.     The angels said, “Why do you stand here gazing up into the heavens.”


D.     God’s plan must be put into action. We must get on with God’s plan for there is no backup plan.


1.      Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just stand there.”


2.      The first century disciples experienced renewal when they followed God’s plan. You can’t go wrong if you seek to build your life on God’s plan.


E.      Throughout Acts chapter one, we see the disciples seeking to follow God’s plan.


1.      They return to Jerusalem.

2.      They seek to appoint someone to take Judas’ place.


Acts 1:15-17

“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus- he was one of our number and shared in this ministry” (NIV)


Acts 1:20-26

"For," said Peter, ‘it is written in the book of Psalms,


"'May his place be deserted;

let there be no one to dwell in it,'




"'May another take his place of leadership.' 


“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."


So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles” (NIV)


3.      Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem. What do you do while you are waiting upon the Lord? You follow God’s plan!!! You do what you know to do in the present without fretting over the obstacles in your future path.


4.      God has a plan, it isn’t essential to understand all the intricate details of his plan—all you have to do is follow the plan—God will work out the details.


5.      For many waiting is a terrible thing. Many of us who spent time in the military called the military a game of hurry up and wait. We were always in a hurry to get to where we were going—only to find ourselves standing around waiting for something to happen when we got there. However, the time waiting was usually spent in preparation for the command to move.


6.      We don’t like waiting in a fast food line. However, waiting on God is much different. We must spend those hours preparing ourselves for the moment God does move.


F.      Nothing happens by chance. We must believe that God has a plan that will work. The apostles discovered a new direction by getting themselves in tune with God’s plan.


1.      Our plans must not interfere with God’s plan. Paul had a plan for preaching the gospel to a lost world, but he changed his plans when he received the Macedonian call (Acts 16:6-15).


a.       Paul wanted to go Mysia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So he went to Troas. It was then that God called him into Macedonia.


b.      When he arrived in the Roman colony of Philippi, he discovered that God was opening the hearts of the people to receive the message.


c.       If your resolutions for your life aren’t working, perhaps God is calling you to follow his plan for your life.


2.      Many in the church are waiting on the church to do something before they move. You will never discover a new beginning with this kind of waiting. Many are refusing to accept God’s personal plan for their lives. We are expecting the church to make God’s plan possible for us.


3.      I talked to a young family that moved to Florida. They were disappointed that the church in Florida is different than from where they moved. They are not going to church anywhere. Do you think they are following God’s plan for their lives.


4.      I have seen senior citizens of God’s kingdom who became disappointed with the church and stopped following God’s plan for their personal lives.


5.      Many are expecting the church to be something they are not willing to be, while failing to fulfill God’s plan for their lives.


II.                Trusting God’s Timing.


A.     You can’t believe in God’s plan without trusting in his timing. The disciples wanted to know God’s timing concerning the coming of the kingdom. They were told to wait upon God and trust in his timing.


1.      We know something about timing. How many business deals have gone sour because of bad timing.

2.      We study the scriptures, but growth comes at God’s timing.

3.      The disciples sought to force the kingdom upon the world, but the kingdom came in God’s timing.


B.     God gave us a plan, if we follow that plan, God will move in his own time.


C.     Try to imagine how frustrating it would be if he revealed his timing without a plan. We would literally break our necks trying to make things happen at the right time.


D.     God’s timing is perplexing—with God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day—however the Lord is not slack counting his promises (2 Peter 3:8-11).


E.      What was about to happen in Jerusalem on Pentecost had been planned in the mind of God before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:11). Israel had been waiting since the call of Abraham. The faithful are still, as they trust in God’s timing.


F.      How much easier would it have been for them to wait in that upper room if they had only realized that God had planned for them to be there before the world was created?


G.     Concepts like these we only debate—we seldom enjoy the reality of it all. Things happen in God’s timing when we follow his plan—but they can’t happen in our lives without following his plan.


H.     A new beginning occurs when we began to live in the reality of it all. The Psalmist writes, “O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress . . .” (Psalms 59:9).


I.        Power comes to those who wait upon God’s timing.


Psalms 130:5 

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. (NIV).


Psalms 27:14

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (NIV).


III.             We Must Trust God for the Results.


A.     The time we spend waiting upon the Lord is meant to be active times—not passive times. It is a time we work at what is at hand, rather than idly dreaming of what is to come.


B.     I saw a news sound bite revealing the tedium of a Marine’s duty in Afghanistan. He was encamped watching the horizon for escaping Taliban. But the Marine was shown cleaning the barrel of his rifle with a brush. The sand in Afghanistan can play havoc in the operation of a firearm. That Marine spent the present making sure he was ready for any life and death struggle that might present itself in the future.


C.     We are much like that Marine; in that we are following a God given plan for the moment, but we are trusting in God for the results.


Acts 1:12-13

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying” (NIV).


Acts 1:14

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (NIV).


Acts 1:24-26

“Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles” (NIV).


D.     The apostles were following God’s plan, they were trusting in his timing, but they were trusting God for the proper results.


E.      This is a powerful message for a person seeking renewal. It is a powerful message for churches seeking renewal. One version says that they made prayers and supplications. They were depending upon God to supply the needed results.


F.      I can only wonder if the doors to that upper room are still locked.


G.     You can have a drawer full of blueprints, but blueprints alone cannot make anything happen.


1.      They knew they had to be in Jerusalem.

2.      They knew that they would receive power from Holy Spirit.

3.      They knew all about water baptism.

4.      They were greatly anticipating how God would use them

5.      But they knew that God’s blueprint was powerless without prayer.


H.     Jesus prayed through blood sweat and tears. He knew God’s plan, but he prayed for the ability to carry it out saying—“Let you will be done.”


I.        When we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives it is always a prevailing prayer.


J.       Prayer gives us a new lease on life by directing our focus on the willingness of God to accomplish what we can’t.


1.      The disciples confess their inability to choose a man to take Judas’ place. So they leave the results to God as they cast the lots.

2.      The Bible says that if, “we ask anything according to His will,” He hears us.


K.    The disciples had sought their self-centered plans throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. Now they find themselves on center stage. I wonder if they could identify with the lines I am about to read.


I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for;

In spite of myself, my prayers were answered - I am among all men most richly blest.



Breaking free from self is not difficult—it’s impossible for Christians to do so without God’s leading. Trusting in God’s plan, trusting in God’s timing and trusting the results to God through prayer are only possible when we know that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. It is only then that we can experience spiritual renewal.


C. S. Lewis said: “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” I believe he is right.