How far did God have to go to reach you? Some of us came to Him quickly and easily as children, others not until late in life. But taking that first step toward God was not the end of the matter. However and whenever we came to Him, as life progressed, we found that holding on to Him is a challenge. Events happened that caused us to question Gods goodness or power. Doubts arose about the historical truth of what we had embraced. People argued with us or ridiculed us for our childlike trust until we felt foolish for believing things we couldnt prove. And if that werent enough, at some point we found our obedience to Christ got us in trouble. To remain loyal to Him cost us something that mattered to us. We had to let go of something or someone in order to hold on to Him. And the more we became aware of the worlds genuine hostility toward our faith, the more we understood that real persecution might be a price wed have to pay. So, our walk with Christ not only started with a choice to believe, it has required many choices to believe along the way.
These first few verses of Acts remind us that God doesnt abandon us to struggle alone with these issues. His Holy Spirit is always with us to refresh our faith, but He also sends us people to come after us when we wander and stand beside us when were weak. Amazingly, Luke wrote the Book of Acts to strengthen the faith of one man.
What does Luke say?
(v1) Luke addresses this document to someone named Theophilus, just as he did the gospel he wrote earlier (Lk 1:3). The name is probably a pseudonym meant to protect the identity of a man who held high political or military position because Luke adds the title most excellent. Elsewhere in Acts he applies this same title to Felix the Roman procurator of Judea (Ac 23:26; 24:3) and Porcius Festus, his successor (Ac 26:25). The name Theophilus literally means one who is loved by God, and is in itself an explanation of why Luke took the time to write this detailed history. Someone was sincerely inquiring about Jesus Christ and His church, and because God loved him (and us), He had moved upon Luke to investigate everything carefully and to write it out in consecutive order so that Theophilus might know the exact truth about the things he had been taught (Lk 1:3, 4).
(v1-3) See DBS
The Good Shepherd
God is looking for those who are looking for Him, and He will go to great lengths to reach them. Every soul is precious to Him, and if we wander away this Shepherd will leave the ninety and nine and go out onto the hillsides to search for His lost sheep. He doesnt passively wait for us to find Him, He comes after us. This aggressiveness is an essential part of His nature, and He wants to use us in the process, Listen:
False shepherds: Ezk 34:1-10
The true Shepherd: Ezk 34:11-15
The Good Shepherd: Jn 10:11-15
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because He is a hired hand and not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know Me
and I lay down my life for the sheep.
The Ninety-nine (Lk 15:1-7)
His shepherds heart
Because professional clergy are such a part of our thinking, we can read these passages and assume they apply to people with titles, but they are meant to apply to each of us. In some way each of us shepherds a flock, there are people God has trusted into our care (parents, teachers, coaches, employers, managers, neighbors, medical personnel, small groups
). So the Lord wants to put His shepherds heart into each of us. He calls us to be our brothers keeper. Listen to these two commands:
1) Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual (listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit), restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one anothers burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1, 2)
2) Jesus says when we become weak or fail, we dont have to get saved all over again, but neither should we ignore what happened. We need to address the dust that accumulates as we walk through life, and not by ourselves. We are to care for each other in these matters. In other words, Im responsible for your feet, and youre responsible for mine. When you sin or become weak in faith the Shepherd will send me to wash your feet, and when I sin or become weak in faith the Shepherd will send you to wash my feet (Jn 13:1-15).
Luke modeled this principle for us by washing the feet of a man he called Theophilus. He went to an enormous effort to do careful research and write a history of Jesus Christ and His Church. Of course, he knew others would read it, but he was willing to write it for one.
1) Has someone ever come after you when you were struggling? What did they do to help you?
2) Name the flock you are called to shepherd. Who has God entrusted to your care?