30 Years That Changed The World
Acts for today...
Week 2: Loves cutting edge
Begin by reading the whole of Acts 4 together
There was a man who was walking along the beach when he noticed that the high tide had washed hundreds of starfish up on the shore. He realised that they would soon die being out of their natural habitat. He began to pick up one at a time and throw it back into the ocean. Two youths came up to him and began to taunt him. "Why are you doing that," they heckled, "there are hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Do you really think you can make a difference?" The man picked up a starfish, threw it into the ocean and replied, "It made a difference to that one, didn't I?"
“It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission that has a Church in the world!” (Mission-Shaped Church p85)
We constantly need to be reminded that it is the WORLD, not the CHURCH, that is the primary arena for God's activity.
John 3:16,17 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God's heart for the world is LOVE ... but the world can only know God's love if His Body ... the Church ... demonstrates it.
Peter ... writing to Christians in a minority situation ... threatened by persecution from those opposed to the gospel writes ...1 Pet 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
· How do you feel about talking to others about your Christian faith?
· What does the word EVANGELISM do to you?
· Does it excite you? Or ...
· Does it terrify you?
The very word "Evangelism" can strike terror into our hearts ... it conjures up all kinds of FEARS ... "if someone asked me about my faith, I just wouldn't know what to say." FRUSTRATION ... "I know I ought to be able to say something ... but I can't. "FAILURE ... "why can't I? What's wrong with me?" Most of us would say "Well I'm not an evangelist ... so how can I help someone to find Christ?" The answer is that every Christian believer can help someone else find Christ, whether or not we have the gift of an evangelist. PROVIDING (and this is the one and only condition), you really know Him for yourself.
You see, Evangelism simply means "sharing God, or sharing Jesus with someone else" ... or as someone put it: "one beggar, telling another beggar where to find bread!" BUT you simply cannot share what you do not have yourself. Did you notice the comment of Peter and John's accusers in Acts 4:13?
Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
· Could that be said of you and me?
· Do people "take note" that you and I have been with Jesus ... that you and I are Christians ... do they even know you're a Christian?
You see, many 'professing Christians' never bear witness to Christ to other people, because they have no witness to bear. They don't know the living Christ in their own experience."It's only out of a full heart that the mouth will speak" said Jesus (Matt. 10:34); and if my heart is frankly empty of God, and empty of Jesus, it won't easily speak about Him. Or if it does speak, it won't do so with much credibility or enthusiasm. But if the Spirit of Jesus really IS in our hearts ... then every single Christian believer can help others find God.
Why are Christians called to share the good news of God's love with others?
Let me give you THREE reasons:
1 Because Jesus says so
In John 13:13, Jesus says this to his disciples: "You call me teacher and Lord, (def. of Christian according to Paul in Rom 10:10) and rightly so, for that is what I am ... (v17) now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
Why should I tell others about God? The answer is simply because Jesus says so! If Jesus IS Lord, then his subjects must do what he says. And what does Jesus say? (as we saw a couple of weeks ago)
Matt 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. .... And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
NOW, every Christian loves those last recorded words of Jesus in v20 "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
It's the kind of verse that you find printed on those lovely posters with flowers and cats on them, which you can stick on your wall! "surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." And that's true of course ... Jesus does promise to be with us always and in all things ... and that's great. BUT we can't take Matt 28:20 out of context.
Actually I missed out v19 when I printed the passage out ... did you notice?!
Matt 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
We love v20 .... but we aren't so sure about v19!
You see if we are to be accurate in our understanding of the "Great Commission", it's in the 'going' for Jesus of v19 that we're promised the 'presence' of Jesus in v20.
It's as we go for Jesus ... as we speak for Him in the world that He promises to be with us. And that's encouraging for those of us who feel we wouldn't know what to say!
The Church is God's strategy for the world ... and you and I are members of Christ's Body, the Church .... and we are to speak to the world about Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ says so.
2 Because the world needs us to
God speaking to the prophet Ezekiel: "I have made you a watchman" (Ezekiel 33:7)
The prophet Ezekiel was given a two-fold task by God of: Speaking the words God gave him, and warning the people when the enemy was about to attack
God calls the Church to engage in that same two-fold ministry ... the world needs us to speak God's words to the world, and to warn them of the enemy.
And as we look around us, we can see the mess that the enemy has caused. Everywhere we look we see family life breaking down, relationships broken, the loneliness, the pain, the lost-ness of people's lives. As we look around us we can see what the enemy has done. People are living without hope in the world, because they are living without Christ. And the reason they are living without Christ is that they simply don't know about Him!
Romans 10:14 “... how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
· Do you have beautiful feet for Jesus?
· If YOU & I know the reality of Christ in our lives, then we cannot keep Him to ourselves ... no matter what people may throw back in our faces.
God is calling His people to be a watchman ... "to speak and to warn"
The third reason is this ...
3 Because we can't help it
Back to our reading from Acts 4.
When Peter and John were arrested after healing the lame man at the temple in Jerusalem, they were released and charged never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. I wonder what you and I would have said if we were Peter or John? "Sorry, I didn't mean to cause any trouble!"
Look at what they actually said in vv19,21
They couldn't help talking about Jesus because Jesus was so much a part of their lives.
· What are the things that you like talking about most? Gardening? Gold? Football? Motor Racing? (I put this one in for Simon!!) The latest movie in town?
We can't help talking about the things we love doing
· But what about Jesus? Is the same true when it comes to talking about Him to our friends, and those we work with?
Peter & John ... and the other first disciples couldn't help talking about Jesus ... that's why the church grew and grew and grew.
The Church is God's strategy for the world ... it was true in the first century ... it's still true in the twenty-first century. Just take a look at the rapid growth of the first church …
· On the day of Pentecost the church boasted 12 members. By the end of the evening service there were 3,012!
· At the end of Acts 2, we read "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
· Acts 4:4 "Many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about 5,000."
· Acts 5:15 "more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number."
· Acts 6:1 "In those days the numbers of disciples were increasing."
· Acts 9:31 "The church was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord."
· Acts 11:21 "The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."
v24 "Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord."
· Acts 14:1 "Paul and Barnabas spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed." v21 "They preached the good news ... and won a large number of disciples."
· Acts 16:5 "The churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers."
· And so it goes on!
And so it must continue to go on today ... here in Ashtead ... and you and I are privileged to be a part ... because the Church (that's you and me) is God's strategy to reach the world.
Spend some time praying together for those you live and work with who are not yet Christian believers. Ask God to give you opportunities to speak for Him this coming week.
Finish by praying this prayer together ….
Christ has no body but ours,
No hands, no feet on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Ours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Ours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Ours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Ours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but ours,
No hands, no feet on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but ours.
St Theresa of Avila
Bob Kiteley, 24/05/2013