Message 1
Nigel Tomes
February 16, 2008
Goshen, Indiana

[00:00] This may scare some of you. We're not going to share the same kind of way as we write. So don't worry. I'm going to share for about thirty minutes or so. I hope we could be very relaxed. This is a little bit different conference, which is very good. The singing together, the being together, is not peripheral to what we're doing. It is a crucial element. There is a ministry in music that can help us, open us up, help us touch the Lord, be drawn to the Lord. That is very important among us. I hope we can have more appreciation, and we're going to have more opportunity later and also this evening. I think that will open new areas like Mark said.

[01:12] I'd like to begin. We're going to have a kind of tag team. We'll see if it works. I'm going to start off for maybe 30 minutes. Possibly one of the others--Vern is here, John is here--they're going to try to follow. Now they may feel, "This is impossible. It's impossible to follow," and hand the baton back to me. That's possible. We'll see how we go here.

[01:41] Okay, I'd like to start us out. I'd like to refer you...if you have a Bible, if you'll open to Acts chapter one. If you don't have a Bible, don't worry. I'm going to read to you from chapter one. Let's not read every verse. Let's kind of go along. I think this can help us. And like Mark shared with us, Acts is not a textbook. It is not a manual that you can apply in that kind of way. And I think part of the reason we, at least some of us, have experienced difficulty is when we do take Acts as a kind of manual and we draw certain hard and fast lessons from that and ways to do things, then you find out it doesn't work. It's not that easy. Rather, what we should pick up from Acts is to see how the Lord moves and how His people cooperate with Him. And that may result in different things happening. I think if we can pick up that kind of way to cooperate with the Lord, then that will help us, instead of having a manual. Because Acts is not a manual. It is not a textbook. It is a narrative; it is a story. Right? Do you like stories? Most of us do. We may think it's too simple. I read that when I was 10 years old. My mom read it to me. No. There are principles and lessons that we can learn, how to follow the Lord, how to cooperate with Him, and what the Lord wants among us today. Hallelujah! Right? That's why it's good. I have been in Acts a lot this last year or more, and I enjoy it more because today it is much more applicable to me, probably to you, than it was. Why? Because our situation today matches more what was happening in Acts. We don't have everything figured out and they didn't have everything figured out. And they didn't know how things would unfold, and we don't either. Hallelujah! We found out It's not that simple.

[04:25] So just let me read to you. I think I know many here. If I don't, I'm Nigel. I grew up in England, then went to the U.S., then I married my wife--the best thing I ever did--in Chicago, and we moved to Canada. We were in London, Ontario, and later in Toronto where we've been for the last about thirty years in Canada. So we're from Canada. We hope you still receive us. Any time it snows or gets really cold, you turn on the TV, they say, "There's an Arctic air mass that's coming down from Canada..." You say, "Boy, those Canadians are at it again." We're not that bad. Don't blame it on us. Anyways, let's go to Acts. We're subject to the same stuff you are.

[05:35] Let me read to you, you just follow along or just listen, that's fine. Let's jump in at verse three. "Jesus presented Himself alive to His apostles after His suffering by many irrefutable proofs. He appeared to them through a period of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God. And as He met together with them (literally, it is as He ate salt with them, which is interesting), He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which He said, you heard from Me. For John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now. So the ones who came together asked Him, saying, Lord, are You at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Lord has set by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Verse 9: And when He had said these things, while they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him away from their sight. And while they were looking intently to heaven, He went. As He went, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you beheld Him going up into heaven. Verse 12: Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet. Verse 13: And when they entered, they came into the upper room where they were residing. Peter, John, the eleven. Verse 14: These all continued steadfastly in one accord in prayer together with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. Verse 15: And in those days, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers, and said, there being a group of persons gathered together, about 120, he said, Men, brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of David concerning Judas--OK, we have to replace Judas. Verse 23: And they proposed two, Joseph and Matthias. Verse 24: And they prayed and said, You, Lord, know of the hearts of all men. Show us which one. Verse 26: And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was counted with the eleven apostles.

[08:38] That is chapter one. Of course we jumped some of the details there. I think this is interesting and applicable. The apostles have been with Jesus for three-plus years. They have learned how to follow Jesus when He was with them. Then, of course, the Lord went to the cross. He was crucified. He was resurrected. And then He spent 40 days with them in resurrection, it says training them, speaking about things of the kingdom of God. Then Jesus ascended physically from them, so they entered into a new phase, right? There was a new situation that they had never experienced before. This is why, in one way, I think it is applicable to us. Why? Now it is a whole new ballgame. They knew how to follow Jesus when He was with them humanly. When Jesus went to Galilee, you went to Galilee. When He said, "Let's go over to the other side," you got in the boat. When He said, "Remain here while I pray," you remained there while He prays. There's a certain way to follow the Lord. The Lord was the leader; they were His disciples. They were students; they were the learners, and they followed the Lord. There was a certain way.

[10:18] Now, after His death and resurrection, there's a whole new situation. Jesus is not there with them physically. He had been with them. He shared with them. Then you'd's clear from the text...they did not know exactly what to do. They had their concepts. So He talked to them. Even after all that time, their question was--we may say, "You dummies! What is wrong with you?" They said, "Lord, are You at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?" We would think, "Where did you get that from? Have you been sleeping?" But it's clear they had their concepts and their history from their background. They had a lot of stuff. Their feeling was, "We're Jews. The Lord came to Israel. Lord, we want to know what You are doing with Israel." Of course the Lord is saying, "No, no, you didn't get it." There's a new situation. But don't blame them. Look, when Jesus was in the flesh, basically, He never got out of Israel, remember? So they are not so clueless. Jesus spent His time basically in the land of Israel and almost had nothing to do with the Gentiles. So why would they think at that point that He had anything else in mind but Israel. But of course we know Jesus did! Hallelujah! So they are not as clueless as we might imagine. But I think it shows us they had their concepts, their understanding, but the Lord wanted to lead them farther. What He had in mind was something much more than before. He was expanding their horizons. So the Lord's reply was, "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, but you will receive power when the Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses from Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth." So this is a time of transition. The Lord is trying to help them transition from their concept. Their concept is Israel, the Lord's concept is, no, the ends of the earth. Their concept is where we are. The Lord's concept is, "No, this is going to go to the ends of the earth." Their concept is the kingdom here. His concept is, "No, it's a matter of the Holy Spirit." The Lord is helping them make a transition. Hallelujah!

[13:15] Brothers and sisters, we need to make a transition! It may not be as radical, but certainly it is a transition. I've been in the church life since 1972. My goodness! Maybe some of you have been around longer. Well, what happens? You're with a group of believers. Yes, the Lord is doing something, but the longer you're in, you pick up a few decades of history. Even you started out, you didn't know nothin'. You didn't know anything, to say it properly. But then you have experiences. Habits and practices...this thing develops. I came into the church life, when we said, "We're not here for doctrines! (singing) We don't care for the doctrines that will kill us dead. Hallelujah, we're freed in our spirit instead!" Okay, we're not here for doctrines, but 35 years later I would say--my goodness! -- Virtually no Christian group has more doctrines. You say you don't care for doctrines? Sorry. You have doctrines about everything. You have nine kinds of sanctification. You have five kinds of forgiveness. Most groups don't have that. They just have forgiveness. So sorry, don't tell me you don't have doctrines. You have a lot. They are like the barnacles that come on the ship. The ship comes through the seas--of course, today we're not a seafaring nation. But anyway, the ship goes through, the barnacles accumulate on the ship. Well, okay, we picked up a lot of stuff. Just like the disciples. Out of their experiences they picked up good things. They had many experiences. But they also picked up other things. Some things were helpful, and some things were not helpful. As the Lord brought them into a new sphere, a new realm, a new era, then they needed to make that transition. How were they going to do it? For sure, they need the Lord's help. We do too. So the Lord was trying to help them.

[16:24] They had the Lord's word. Let me just say this in passing. "Who are we?" is the theme. I think we might get sued for misleading advertising. Who are we? Let me answer that. In Acts, they did not ask, "Who are we?" They didn't sit down and discuss, "Who are we?" It was not a matter of self-identification. No, in Acts the Lord told them, "Go! Go! Don't sit there and analyze, 'Who are we?'" So that might be a clue. [From audience: Let's change the name of the conference to "Go."] So I think it would be good--re-read Acts. See, they were not that clear who are we. They did not sit down and define themselves--We're this, we're that, we're the other. No, they're following the Lord. So the way to identify themselves and each other, they didn't say, "Oh, we're in Jerusalem. Okay, we need to be the church. Let's be the church. Let's take the ground." That's not in Acts chapter 2. They didn't sit down, say, "Let's take the ground. Let's register a name. We're going to be the church in Jerusalem. And let's establish a Lord's Table and have a ground-taking meeting." I'm sorry. They didn't do that. Isn't that a little different than us? What did they do? They are trying to follow the Lord. And in the beginning, they said, "Who are we? We're disciples, we're this, we're that, we're the saints." You look at the way they described themselves. It says when Peter was put in prison, when he got released, he went to his own. Remember? His own what? You look in Acts. We say, "His own people." People is in italics. He simply went to his own. His own what? See? He's not that clear. Yes, his own folk, his own people, his own kind. The point is that it wasn't that clear. They were disciples, they were the saints. Even the outsiders, Saul, said, "I want to go to Damascus and arrest those who are of the Way." The Way. And that comes up six or seven times in Acts. They're called the Way, mostly by outsiders--the Jews, the people. So it's not that clear. Eventually they did get clear, "Who are we?" Yes, eventually they're identified as the church--the church here, the church there. But my point is, the way things unfolded was not sitting down and analyzing, "Who are we?" The way is, we follow the Lord, we cooperate with the Lord, we touch the Lord. Eventually we will be who we're supposed to be. And we will be that. Doesn't matter, you sit down and analyze and claim, "We are this," your claim does not make you that, necessarily. The real question is, "What are you?" Eventually if you are really that, people will give you the name, because that's what you are. You won't have to claim, "We're this, we're that." You won't have to argue, "Yes, we are." "No, you're not." There will be something there people will name. So this is how things unfold.

[20:44] So, I feel personally that, what should we do, this is a good principle to follow: "Lord, we want to follow You today. We want to learn how to be believers, be Your people, be whatever You want today." And this has never been done before. How to be God's people, or whatever we are in Goshen in 2008, in 2009, 2010. It's not been done before, has it? It hasn't. Because time goes forward. So we're learning to follow the Lord today. And it's how to be believers here in the twenty-first century. We're not in the first century. So yes, we can learn principles, but you can't simply say, "Okay, Acts has this, let me pick and choose a few things, put them together, that's what we are." It doesn't work. It's not going to work like that. We tried that. No. We need to follow the Lord today. What is the Lord doing today?

[22:00] So the Lord ascended, then they went back into the city. They went into the upper room. Many people feel...Actually that...It's interesting, they went to the upper room where they were residing, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, etc.; It lists the disciples. The upper room. Now, most people feel that is possibly, even probably, the same upper room as they had the so-called last supper before Jesus was crucified. They went back to the upper room, and they began to pray. Why do I bring that in? I think it's interesting, number 1. Number 2, think back of the upper room before. The book of Acts was written by Luke. Luke also wrote the gospel of Luke. Now in the gospel of Luke, how did they first get to the upper room? In the gospel of Luke it's interesting. It's more detailed than other gospels. It says the Lord told specifically Peter and John, Go into the city. Here's how to find the room. Here's a clue. You need to find the upper room. That's where I'm going to have the Passover, and that's where He's going to set up the Lord's Table, and share a lot, His final words. Now, how to find the upper room? The Lord said, "Go into the city." Here's a clue. "Look." For who? "Look for the man with a jar, a pitcher of water. There's a man. You will see a man with a pitcher of water. Follow him." My guess is (it's probably right) that was not that common. If you go to Africa--some of us have--in Uganda, you drive along the road, who carries the water? The children, the women. And that's probably the case there. What was unusual, there's a man carrying the pitcher of water. Follow him, go to that house, ask the guy in charge, he'll show you the room. That's according to Luke, Luke chapter 22.

[24:24] Now why do I mention that. You may say, "That's an interesting fact. What's the point?" The point is this. Christians like to allegorize the Bible. We did a lot of that in the past. There was one in the 1930s, there's a brother, you may have heard of his name, his name is Coates, C. A. Coates. He's a Brethren writer whom some would know. He wrote a letter to a new believer. The new believer was asking him the question we have--how to follow the Lord today, what is the proper group of believers to meet with today? That was the question. C. A. Coates wrote a letter in response, and he didn't know at the time, but eventually his letter would appear on the internet. So be careful what you write! That letter's on the internet with the title, the title of the letter--it's like one page--the title of the letter says, "Follow the Man with the Pitcher of Water." C. A. Coates gave this young brother advice, Here's what we should do today, follow the Lord, who to meet with. Actually his conclusion is, here's some advice: Follow the man with the pitcher of water. Now you may say, You're talking in code. Yes, he was. Or you're talking in allegories. But if you know where Coates was, and who C. A. Coates met with, you know the allegory. C. A. Coates met with the exclusive Brethren in England in the 30s, exclusive Brethren. I came from Brethren background, Plymouth Brethren, so I know a little. And I came from England. I grew up with the Brethren, not that branch. The situation: They developed a teaching in the 20s and 30s that said God speaks through one man in every age. God speaks through one man. He is today's Paul. He is the oracle of God. He is the man you should follow. They developed that teaching. Who was the man at his time? There was a leader, actually American. His name was James Taylor. James Taylor was the leader among the Brethren when Coates said how to meet with the right group, how to follow the Lord, eventually his advice is, follow the man with the pitcher of water. What does that mean? Follow James Taylor. That's what it meant.

[27:31] That may sound a little familiar to you, because I think history repeats itself. The teaching that God only has one man on the earth and that God only speaks through one man was not invented in the 1980s. That teaching has been recycled a few times, and it came up in the 30s. Here's one manifestation. So here's a teaching how to follow the Lord: Find out where God is speaking, and God only speaks through one man. That is the so-called teaching of the minister of the age. Now, I would say this. Why do I bring this up? Because even if you take the analogy, you take that, which you well may not, to follow the man with the pitcher of water was before the Lord's resurrection. After the Lord had resurrected, there's no more man with the pitcher of water. That man came on the scene once and only once, and disappeared. So that is not a lesson or principle you can apply in your Christian life. God may use different people. I'm sure in most of our lives, all of our lives, God uses people to help you--help you get saved, help love the Lord, help you consecrate, help you know God's will, help you in the Christian life. Yes, God uses people, but you and I do not become their disciple. No, in the New Testament, we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We don't follow a man with a pitcher of water, because in Acts, there is no more man like that, and there's no more pitcher of water. That's not the way to do it. So brothers and sisters, we're in Acts. We're after the Lord's resurrection, after the Lord's ascension. We're not back in the Gospels. So that doesn't work. So we need to learn from Acts how to follow the Lord.

[29:44] Then, number one, here's a good guide: be together. They were together. And they prayed. It's good to pray. That's a good way to follow the Lord.

[30:00] Then, that we have the Bible. And I like this. You know, we have half a chapter, half the chapter in chapter one--I don't know if you ever thought about this--Why is this there? There's half a chapter saying, after they'd been praying for a while, Peter had a feeling, "There used to be twelve of us. Judas dropped out. Now we're eleven. We need to make it up. We need twelve." Think about that. Really, how important was that? Do you think that was a big deal? Is it really crucial? Did Peter think, "If we don't replace Judas, we only have eleven. That means the New Jerusalem will only have eleven foundations, not twelve. And that's really serious. The New Jerusalem will be unstable." Do you think that was Peter's realization? "So we need number twelve, otherwise the New Jerusalem is in trouble." I don't think so. You may have some feelings why Peter felt we need to replace Judas. Maybe among us we have some good ideas, but my point is this, here's my feeling: I don't know why they needed twelve. It really doesn't matter that much. What is the good thing about it--Peter found something in the Bible that applied to them. See, that's good. He found, "Here's a verse. Whoa, there's something in the Bible! I found a verse! Hey, and that verse applies to us! Look, there's a verse somewhere in the Psalms that says look, so-and-so, and his office let another one take. Hey, that applies to us! Look, we used to be twelve, now we're eleven. We need to do something. Here's a verse we can apply and should apply to us." That is the good thing that, brothers and sisters, I would suggest to you, that is a point. It's not, is this a crucial thing. If they don't do this will Pentecost be delayed? I don't think so.

[32:46] But what is the point? How to follow the Lord: number one, pray. We need the Lord. "Lord, we don't know how to do it. We don't know how to want to say how to be the church, we don't know how to be Your people, we don't know how to follow You in 2008, today, where I am." We don't. We used to think we did. We used to be very clear, but now somehow we're not quite as clear. Hallelujah! Maybe the Lord's rejoicing. "You were too clear!" You had everything worked out, you had everything planned for the next 50 years. No, then the Lord...things happen. Now, praise the Lord, we're not so clear. So, what? We need the Lord! Hallelujah! So we can pray.

[33:40] Number two, brothers and sisters, we need to come to the Bible. What was Peter's point? The Scripture has to be fulfilled. Scripture has to be fulfilled. Brothers and sisters, we need to come to the word in a fresh way, in a new way, without thinking, we do not have all the answers, and everything has not been explained, because the Bible is infinitely rich. It is God's word. We haven't got to the bottom yet. It hasn't been fully applied yet, and the Spirit is living. The Spirit is here to open up and apply the Bible to you, to me, today, to help us today. So as we're going on on an individual life, we're in the Bible, the Lord can use His word to speak to you, speak to me. Then, brothers and sisters, how should we respond? We should respond, "The Scriptures need to be fulfilled." Maybe the Lord speaks this word to me. That is a real encouragement. The Lord gives you a verse. It's not just in your Bible. All the verses are in the Bible, but as we're in the word, as we're before the Lord, when the Lord takes a word and applies it to you. And maybe it's a word you read six months ago, six years ago, thirty years ago. But the Lord is living. I had that happen to me. A number of years ago I was considering, "Lord, what should I do? Ah, what's going on?" The Lord gave me a verse, a definite verse. I didn't remember where it was. I didn't remember the context, but the Lord gave me a verse which I had not read in years because it was in the Old Testament. I don't read the Old Testament that much. I read the New Testament more. But anyway, the Lord gave me a verse. That verse was for me. The Lord can use His word, and does use His word, to speak to us. How do we follow the Lord today? Not by following methods. We want to follow the Lord who today is the Spirit, and that takes prayer, and that takes the word. Nothing replaces the Bible. Nothing. Because the Bible is the Lord's living word.

[36:34] I know they chose two. Right? Think about this: They chose two. Did they do it right? "Then they cast lots." Is that the right way? Casting lots is like rolling the dice, isn't it? Do we roll the dice? Should I go to Goshen or not? Sixes I go. Or you flip a coin--heads I go, tails I stay. I mean, it's a little bit weird, see. You may say, "They didn't do it right." It was not their way of carrying it out, see. It's not a matter of the way. What's more crucial is their desire to follow the Lord, and if the Bible said so and the Lord applied it to them, they wanted to do it. That's the point. The Bible says so, the Lord applies that word to us, or to me, today, then I want to do it. Then how to work it out--actually, wasn't necessarily the best way, the proper way, to roll the dice, Matthias came up, so he got it. Actually, the Lord honored that. Some people, including where I grew up, some people say, "No, no." Maybe you've heard this. Some people say the disciples chose Matthias, but the Lord did not. The Lord chose Paul. Actually that's not right, if you read carefully. We don't have the time. No, because they were looking for somebody who had been with Jesus all the time from John the Baptist to the ascension. Paul doesn't qualify, so that doesn't work. Yes, they may have used what you and I consider the wrong way, but the Lord honored them and honored their desire to follow Him. So brothers and sisters, we may not chose the right way. Don't be that worried. If you want to roll the dice, go ahead. It's not a matter of the way. The crucial thing is we want to follow the Lord. If the Lord speaks that word to us, we want to apply it. And Matthias was numbered with the twelve. After that, it talks about the twelve. That means the Lord actually recognized him.