Necessary Time (sermon text version)

Time is one of those things we never get back.  Once it has passed us by, it’s gone forever.  We’re living in the flow of it, we’re changed by it, we can try to resist it, but it keeps on rolling along.  It’s like a river pressing against both banks, moving ever downstream, its currents changing so that no one ever steps into the same river twice.

Time is relative—at least that’s what Einstein talked about when he said, “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

It didn’t take Einstein to say what we can actually know from the Bible.  Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

Einstein talked about time a lot.  And I’m not sure Einstein was being completely serious when he said that “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”  If there was no time, how could you even tell?  Could you tell time?  How could you tell what time anything was happening?  Like the man who was getting sleepy while driving, so he pulled over into a parking lot to take a quick afternoon nap.  His car was parked dangerously close to a jogging path and a runner came up to the car, woke the man up and asked what time it was.  He said 2:15, the jogger said, “Thanks,” and ran off.  The man began to doze off when another runner came up, tapped on the window and asked what time it was.  The man said, 2:25.  The runner said “Thanks” and ran off.  The man looked out his window and saw a whole bunch of runners in an endless stream so he made a sign and put it in his window, saying “I don’t know what time it is!”  He began to doze off contentedly when suddenly a tapping on the window woke him up and the runner smiled and said, “I do.  It’s 2:35.”

Time.  Who can understand it?

clock handsScholars write volumes and researchers write dissertations on the relationship of God and time.  Suffice it for our purposes today to say that Time means nothing to an eternal God who exists outside of time, over time, and beyond time…except that He gave us the sun moon, and stars for marking time.  And He did it, not for Himself, but for our benefit.  Because for mortal man, we see our lives as days ticking away.  Or like that old soap opera tag line “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.”  Yes, from the moment we’re conceived, we’re terminal.  At game over, we will all die.  Time is what we have.

Or as the Psalmist says,

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Whether we’re talking about Central Time, Daylight Savings Time, Greenwich Time; whether we’re living on Tulsa Time, Military Time, Civilian Time, Island Time; whether we’re focused on Work Time, Play Time, or Summertime, there is a kind of time that is important to God for our sakes.  Let’s call it “Necessary Time.”

What is “Necessary Time?”  If time is like a river, Necessary Time form the tributaries of circumstances and individual preparation meet together to form a mighty river, coursing toward the end of days.  Necessary Time is the relative time played out as the days of our lives, and how we choose to spend them.

Today’s passage of Scripture tells us about Necessary Time, specifically as it applied to replacing Judas as an eyewitness of Jesus Christ. But Necessary Time also applies to us as generations of witnesses, far downstream from where we’re at in the book of Acts.

I know it seems like we’re going painstakingly slowly through the book of Acts.  It will only be this way through Chapters 1 and 2, although we may spend more time on a few others along the way because of the wisdom contained in it and its importance for the Church.  Chapters 1 and 2 lay the groundwork for the entire era of the Church, the complete book of Acts, the New Testament as a whole, and therefore, it’s worth our time to take our time.

Today we’ll look at qualities of “Necessary Time” as it relates to people.  Specifically I want to look at past, present, and future that we might call the Necessary Time of History, Maturity, Synergy.

In our passage Acts 1:20-22, Peter recognizes the flow of time going all the way back to the OT, saying Acts 1:20 “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,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ 21 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, 22 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.”

In our passage, Peter recites the Necessary Time in the past, History (foretold in the Psalms), and connects them with the events of the present moment.  It is necessary, he says, to replace Judas.  Scripture doesn’t tell us why it was necessary, only that Peter appealed to Scripture and concluded it was necessary:

  • Could it be that 11 disciples didn’t match with the original 12 and therefore everyone would be focused on the one who got away instead of focusing on the mission of the Church or worship of Jesus?  In other words, he didn’t want the numbers to be a distraction?
  • Could it be that he saw the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel in history and how they reappear in heaven and maybe Peter remembered that Jesus taught that there was a connection?  One example is in Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Maybe it’s continuity.
  • Could it be that Peter felt the void in incomplete numbers and knew from God’s word that God likes fullness, completeness?

All of those are possibilities, but what I want for us to see is that Peter appealed to the Scriptures telling us past history…that in the flow of time…it is necessary.  Necessary time God used forming the circumstances of history that Peter used to reach such a conclusion in the present moment.

Have you ever been waiting for something to happen?  Maybe you felt like you were twiddling your thumbs or killing time waiting to be recognized for the talents you have.  Maybe you were waiting to be employed again and it seemed like unemployment was going on forever!  Maybe as you look back on your life, you see a time that you waited and waited and only when the prayer was answered did you see all the orchestration that went into things coming together perfectly.  Hindsight is 20/20 and History displays necessary time.

After all, it’s His Story and the time we spend waiting is time God is spending working, bringing all things together so the circumstances are ready for forward movement.

That’s what was happening in our passage.  In the flow of time, Judas was gone and void was left.  How does one go about filling such a spot?  Well, again the focus is on time.  Among those who had been with Jesus the whole time of His ministry—from baptism to ascension—one of those would have had the necessary time for forming a testimony.

Baptism to Ascension—the whole time of Jesus’ public ministry–it was time Jesus spent coming and going and teaching.  In order to replace one of the 12, this person needed preparation time.  Necessary time with Jesus.

Are we spending this Necessary Time with Jesus?  Where does it rank in your day’s priorities?  Not only is the history leading all circumstances through necessary time, but the time required for someone to be useful to God is also necessary.

However, this is not a fixed time frame, but a relative one.  Length of time is only one measure of Necessary Time.  People are individuals and our learning and experiences reflect that.  Some people can be Christians for 20 years and go to church every week like it was their religion.  They sit in the pews and they listen, or at least they look like they do.  But length of time is not enough, as the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly– mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

Or as the author of Hebrews says, Hebrews 5: 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

love the lord your god deutNecessary Time isn’t just a quantity of time (which we all experience the same 24 hours in a day).  No, it’s what we do with that 24 hours.  Necessary Time is a quality of time.  It’s the amplitude of the time wave.  It’s how high your sights are and how deep your roots go and you progress through the flow of time.  Necessary Time is a maturity thing.

For Peter, he was looking for someone who had been part of the ministry the whole time, from the baptism under the water to the ascension into the clouds.  Amplitude.  Maturity.  Time spent, yes.  But more than that, it was how the time was spent.

Notice in verse 22: For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

It doesn’t say a witness of the Crucifixion, but of the Resurrection.  The word “must” tells us that this is necessary.  It is necessary that someone who has familiarity and maturity in the course of time become something new.  No longer a bystander seeing the same history as everyone else, this person has the personal maturity coming together and becoming something even more powerful:  a witness.

Now is a good time to say that Peter is talking about someone who had been an eye-witness of Christ to be an apostle-type-of-witness, something none of us would qualify to do.  None of us have seen Jesus in His lifetime.

But the same principles of History and Maturity come together in our lives, too.  They can apply to us just as they did in filling the spot of Judas.  In order to be witnesses, we need to acknowledge the History shown in the Bible.  We need to have the preparation of reading the Word and praying and being like the Bereans who we will discover later in Acts 17:11 “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  This Paul is the same one who wrote the vast majority of the New Testament and yet, the Bereans were examining the Word to make sure Paul was telling them the truth!

Necessary Time of History.  Necessary Time for Maturity.  But there’s also Synergy—that coming together for the purpose of forward movement.  This person being chosen to replace Judas must become a witness WITH US of His resurrection.

Synergy is when the whole is more than just the sum of its parts.  The disciples as the Church will be far greater than just an adding up the disciples.  Because there’s synergy.  They’re all working together to be a witness.

Interestingly, the Body of Christ doesn’t look like me.  It doesn’t look like you.  It looks like us, working together to be far better together than any of us alone.  But it requires Necessary Time.

Necessary time for all of us!  Working together!  But it doesn’t just happen without Necessary Time of History and Necessary Time of Maturity, the two tributaries that join together to be the mighty river.

So the questions each of us must answer are:  How am I doing at knowing God’s Word, History, His Story?

How am I doing at growing in Christian maturity?  Knowing Jesus and living it out as mature followers of Christ who can move on to solid food?

How am I doing at synergy so that the parts of the Body all work together toward the goal of witness?

Important questions about what we’re doing with the time we’ve got.  It’s necessary time, a relative notion of flow and amplitude.  History… Maturity…Synergy.

Take those thoughts as your homework assignment for this week as you look at how you spend your time.  Once there was a professor who came into class with an empty jar.  When the class assembled, he put golf balls into the jar and asked if it was full.  No more golf balls would fit, so the class said “Yes.”  He brought out and added a bag of pebbles that fell in between the golf balls and asked “Is it full?”  The class said “Yes.”  Then he produced sand that fell in between the pebbles and asked, “Is it full?”  The class was silent, not wanting to be wrong again.  Then he produced water which filled up the areas between the grains of sand.  Lastly, he produced a pitcher of water that filled up the last of the space.  Finally, it was full.  But here’s the lesson: if you added the sand first, focusing on small and less important things, you’d have insufficient room for the golf balls in your life, those things that are big and important.

I’d argue that there is no better use of time than to devote it to learning the history in God’s word, growing in Christian maturity and devoting yourself to working together alongside others in the Church in which we’re better together.  Synergy –the Church—all of us together is greater than the sum of you and me working at odds or independently.  History.  Maturity.  Synergy–  You could even write those three words down in the section for Notes we added into your bulletin this week.  Write them down.  History.  Maturity.  Synergy.

And then write down this passage of Scripture:  2 Peter 3:4-12.  2 Peter 3:4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

This same Peter who wrote about History, Maturity, and Synergy in filling the void in the group of 12, is the same Peter who talked about the day of God and said that we can speed its coming by living holy and godly lives.  Sounds like Necessary Time of maturity and witness, does it not?  We can hasten or speed the day of Jesus’ return.  By making the most of the Necessary Time.  Knowing that history is leading the point of Jesus’ Return.  Our maturity in Christ and our working in powerful synergy will make for effective witness as we complete the numbers of those who will be saved before Jesus comes back.  In the fullness of time He will return.  Until then, we have 24 hours a day of Necessary Time for History, for Maturity and in Synergy.  The Bible encourages us to make the most of time.

What will you do with your 24 hours?


This message was first preached at Plymouth Congregational Church in Racine, WI on September 7, 2014 by Barbara Shafer.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on September 11, 2014

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