Lloyd Ogilvie, the former United States Senate Chaplain, tells a story from his college days about sailing onboard the magnificent pleasure ship, The Queen Mary. This ship had a very storied history and he imagined what it must have been like to sail on her in what must have been her prime. She was built as a luxury vessel and made her maiden voyage in 1936, but from 1940 to 1947 she became a military troop ship. During World War II she carried up to 15,000 troops at one time. Lloyd Ogilvie explored as much of the ship as he could and pondered her rich past.
Years later he went aboard The Queen Mary a second time, but now she was a floating museum docked permanently in Long Beach Harbor, California. Her gigantic engine was gone as was most of her sailing equipment. Souvenir shops now lined her deck and the dining and lounge areas had been adapted for special groups and for conventions. Her cabins were refurbished hotel rooms and actors had been hired to play the parts of officers and crew, complete with professional British accents. Ogilvie was understandably disappointed in this second trip aboard The Queen Mary. In his own words he described what happened: “While on board The Queen, I reviewed a documentary movie about how she was built and the way that she served through wars and changing history. The movie ended with a triumphant, but somehow tragic, statement supported by an upsweep of dramatic music – ‘The greatest ship that ever went to sea is now the greatest ship to come and see.’ The words were still on my mind the next day when I greeted the congregation of my Hollywood Presbyterian Church after worship and a woman visitor from Iowa made a comment which she meant to be a compliment. The similarity to the closing lines of the movie made it just the opposite. She had heard about Hollywood Presbyterian Church for years and had been inspired by the influence of its preaching and programs upon America. With excitement she said, ‘I have waited for years to visit Hollywood Presbyterian Church to see all of the great things that used to there.’” Ouch!
Of course, great things were still happening at the church, but this well-meaning woman’s words serve as a warning to every church leader and to every congregation. The church of Jesus Christ must not become like The Queen Mary: once impressive for her youthfulness and for her abilities, but now impressive as a museum piece to come and see. The church of Jesus Christ is meant to be a ship that is ever healthy and ever sailing on the sea of this world to advance the name of our Lord Jesus.
We have studied Luke’s account of the Spirit’s work in the early church for more than sixty weeks here, at Bethany Baptist Church. It is possible for some of us to read Acts thinking, “I want to know all of the great things that God used to do in His church.” That is not our mind. No, we have come to our study of the Book of Acts with another thought, “I want to know all of the great things that God wants to do in His church today.” That is how we approach this study of the Book of Acts.
In our study we discovered that God’s plan is to use ordinary people to accomplish His miraculous work. That is why Luke’s record is entitled “The Acts of the Apostles;” ordinary men and ordinary women recorded in this record doing extraordinary things through the power of God’s Spirit.
These Apostles and these women of this record are no longer with us and if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, God intends to use you today for His present work in this present age. The title of this message is “The Acts of the Modern Christian”. I wish to finish this study in Acts by stepping back and looking at the big picture of what we have learned. We will be flipping through the Book of Acts quite a bit in this study so keep your Bibles ready and your fingers nimble to turn the pages to follow along.
The life of the local church depends upon the individual member’s life in God, so the church is as effective at advancing and exalting the name of Jesus as you and I are effective at living life, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, in godliness. We will consider six specific acts of the modern Christian that are essential to life in God. I do not consider this list to be exhaustive, no many more things could be added to it, but I am convinced, from our study in Acts, that all of these are necessary in our lives for a healthy and vibrant church.
Consider the first act: a commitment to personal evangelism. We have read from Acts that the Gospel launched like a rocket out of Jerusalem and quickly, in less than thirty years, this message spread throughout the entire Roman Empire and took hold all because Spirit-empowered men and women embraced the commitment to personally witness to Jesus Christ. They became passionate about personal evangelism and about telling others that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior; that He died upon the cross for their sins, that He rose the third day to give them eternal life, and nothing was going to stop them from telling this message, from telling about their Savior, telling that God loves sinners and that He sent into this world His own Son to provide a way, to offer forgiveness to sinful men and women, so that they could come to know Him and live eternally with Him
Luke begins the story this way in Acts 1:8,
8 “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.”
I love that little pronoun “my” in that Verse that indicates both our authority as witnesses and the message that has been given to us. We consider, first, our authority. When Jesus says, “You will me my witnesses,” it tells us that He is the One who is sending us out. We have been commissioned by the King of kings and the Lord of lords and there is no greater authority on the face of this earth than Jesus. Certainly, other human authorities may disagree that we have the right and the authority to tell this message, but Jesus is the One who has sent us out and His authority is incontrovertible.
In Acts 4:18 and following, you remember Peter and John before the Sanhedrin? The Sanhedrin was not pleased that they were proclaiming this message so boldly. In Verse 18, we read,
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
They were saying that this was their life’s commitment and they were not going to stop. In Acts 5:27-32, the same thought appears. Again, the religious leaders threatened prison and to do harm to these men and they said, in Verse 28,
28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…”
This was an order given by their authority, but I have to ask the question: have we filled Peoria with the teaching of Jesus Christ? Can we say that others will look and say, “This community is filled with the Gospel and we don’t like it!”
We read in Acts 5:29,
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Whenever we are witnesses, please know that you are never alone being a witness, for wherever you are a witness the Holy Spirit is right beside you witnessing along with you to that person: that man, that woman, or that child. The Holy Spirit is taking your words and applying them directly. We know that that is true because that is the power of the Gospel.
Not only do we have the authority because we are Jesus’ witnesses, but also because Jesus said, “You are my witnesses.” We have our message. We tell people about Jesus and we witness of Him and to Him. We do not create the message that we give. We don’t think, “What do people need to hear about God and what can I tell them?” No, we have already received what people need to know about God and what we are to say. We do not succumb to the temptation to change the message to suit the biases of unregenerate hearts. No, we reject such an approach because we understand that the Gospel in itself is powerful to bring salvation and to change it would be to reduce its power, perhaps completely, so that it would have no power to change lives and no power what-so-ever to bring salvation. There is a great danger of people responding to a message that we have changed, but in responding to this message they seem to take on the label of Christian, and yet, not ever be regenerated and be born again and that is a risk that we refuse to take. So, we faithfully and boldly proclaim the message as clearly as it has been given to us; handed down to us by Christ’s Apostles.
This message that God has given us is a hammer that smashes stony hearts to pieces so that they might be receptive to God. It is a steel plow that breaks up the hardened soil of the soul and our message is simply Jesus and all of His glory and Jesus and the perfection of His work. Follow with me some examples. We will just look at a few of them in Acts 2:22 and 24. What is the message?
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
Then we read in Verse 36 and following,
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
We turn to Acts 3:13, and again Peter is speaking,
13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate…14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of (these things).”
Then we read in Verse 19,
19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”
What is this message that God has given to His people? That is the message that was certainly delivered all through the first eleven or twelve chapters to the Jews, but what about to the Gentiles? There is a change in the context of a Gentile audience. We turn to Acts 13, when the missionary era was launched when Barnabas and Saul were sent off from the church in Syrian Antioch. In Verse 32, we read,
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”
It is always about the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Then we read in Verses 38 and 39,
38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”
Friend, if you have never repented of your sin and have never embraced Jesus Christ as your Savior, please understand, this is God’s call and this is God’s message to you. It is not a message made up in the mind of some preacher long ago, or in the mind of some preacher today, or in the mind of a neighbor or friend who keeps talking to you about the Lord and Savior. This is God’s call upon your life today: you must repent of your sin and turn to Jesus. He is Savior and He is Lord; that means He is King and has authority over everything and this is the message of the Gospel. From the beginning to the end, we have found that all throughout the Book of Acts. We get to the last verse of the Book of Acts and what do we find in Acts 28:31,
31 Boldly and without hindrance (Paul) preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses,” (Acts 1:8) and this is the one note that we continue to tell others. It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; that He is Savior and Lord, that He died upon the cross, that He rose again the third day, and He offers us life if we repent of our sin and we turn to Him in real faith. God calls us to have a consuming passion for personal evangelism.
Once when walking down a certain street in Chicago, D.L. Moody stepped up to a man who was a perfect stranger and he said, “Sir, are you a Christian?” The man replied, “Mind your own business!” D.L. Moody said, “That is my business.” The man said, “Well, you must be Moody!” Wouldn’t that be great that other people around us know that we believe that this is our business? It is our business to tell others about Jesus Christ.
Moody was called “Crazy Moody” because day and night he was speaking to everyone about Jesus and how to be saved. Do we long to be called “crazy”? How it would be wonderful if people would call me “Crazy Boerckel!”
I gave to you in an earlier study, in the message at the end of Acts 28 on personal evangelism, a challenge. I don’t know how many of you took up this challenge. I know many of you did because you told and how encouraged I am to hear reports of God’s word and God’s Spirit making a real difference, but the challenge is simply, couldn’t we set aside and say, “God, by your grace I commit myself to telling one person each week for one month about Jesus Christ.” That is four people, but it is one person each week. You may say, “I already blew it because I didn’t tell anyone this week.” There is good news. There is a new beginning and it is possible to tell two people this week and catch up, but let us take up this challenge.
There was one woman my wife was talking to one Sunday afternoon. She had taken up the challenge and said, “God, by your grace I am going to share Jesus Christ with one person this week.” Sunday afternoon she received a phone call and it was a sales call. She said that she was always getting calls from one particular company and she said, “I decided instead of letting him tell me about the product he was selling, I was going to tell him about Jesus, and I said, ‘Let me tell you about something before you tell me. I want to tell you…’” She went through the entire evangelism explosion outline and the entire Gospel with this man. The man didn’t pray at the end of the conversation to trust in Christ. One benefit so far, she said, that company that used to call her home almost everyday, she hasn’t heard from yet!
There is another dear woman in our church who approached me and said, “Pastor, I took up that challenge. I have been working with my company for years and I have never told my co-workers about Jesus and I decided that this week I was going to tell one of them.” She said, “I started talking to one and pretty soon a couple more gathered and there were about four by the end of it. all were sitting around and I had the opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ.”
Friend, it is vital that we commit ourselves to witnessing to the glorious name of Jesus Christ. In Acts 20:24 Paul says this,
24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
Could we say that that is our life’s passion and that we want to finish the race and complete the task? What task is that? It is the same task that was given to the Apostle Paul: to testify to the Gospel, the good news, of God’s grace. God can use you, friend.
The second act that we look to is a love for Christian community. This is say that in Acts Christians were committed to each other as new community of God’s family. Their fate was not so individualistic in the sense that they thought of their relationship with God apart from their relationship with others in God’s family. No, not at all! Throughout the Book of Acts they always thought of their relationship with God in connection with each other and a connection to the group. In Acts 2:41-42 we read,
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship (the koinonia [Greek])…
There was “a number” of God’s people. They knew the number and they recognized that when they come to God they weren’t just adding “one to God and one by myself”, but they were added to a number; they were added to a group. They took an interest in each other.
In the church of Jesus Christ God creates a new family that sets us apart to serve Him and to worship Him together. If you happen to be a mother with grown children how sad it would be if one of your children came to you and said, “I love you, but I have no interest in getting together with my other brothers and sisters to celebrate this day. I desire to have a relationship with you, but I have no desire to have any relationship with my brothers and sisters in this family. They have disappointed me in my past and I don’t really need them. I don’t need them to have a right and good relationship with you.” I know that for some families this is a reality and if you are a mother in that specific situation you know the heartache because you knew when you gave birth to those little ones you gave birth to them in the context of family and your joy is found as they, together, enjoy the context of family. How it grieves the heart of God when individual Christians who are born again into God’s family say, “God, I love my relationship with you but I really don’t want to have very much to do with others in your family; others you have adopted, others that you have brought through the work of regeneration into this family with me.”
In Acts no Christian becomes disconnected from the local church. The reason for that is no Christian can grow apart from a connection to a local church. In Acts we see the record of the growth of God’s church and the growth of God’s people, and growth always comes in the context of God’s new community together. Always we see individual believers working together in God’s Spirit and in love to advance the name of Jesus. You might ask, “Where is that?” Let’s look at some verses. In Acts 2:46 we read,
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…
In Acts 4:32, and following,
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection…34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet…
This affected the way that they viewed their possessions.
In Acts 13 the missionary era begins and does it begin with individuals saying that they wanted to get out into the uttermost parts of the world and proclaim the Gospel? No, it begins in the context of the church together.
1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
This began the work of world missions.
We turn to Acts 20:7, and there is this wonderful story of this man named Eutychus who became sleepy in church and we learned the lesson about those who fall asleep in church. It says,
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
It was their habit to break bread, but it was on a Sunday, so they changed even the day of worship from the Sabbath, Saturday, to the first day of the week, Sunday, as early as the 1st Century. This was a long sermon, it was a hot room, it was packed and Eutychus became sleepy. We have to commend Eutychus because he was there and he wanted to be there and listen but he physically became exhausted, and we should be understanding of that. We continue in Verse 11,
11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.
There was such a community and such a connection and such a love between them that they said, “We don’t want to let you go. We don’t even want to let you sleep because we know this is our last night being with you.” They wanted to enjoy the fellowship as much as they could, even if it cost them a night’s worth of sleep.
Then in Acts 20:36-38, Paul is saying good-bye to the Ephesian elders. This is the last time he is going to see these precious people and we get a glimpse of what that community must have been like by the parting, when it says,
36 …he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.
They all gathered together because they were bound together by God’s Spirit. But, they also realized that they would not see his face again in this worldly plane; that they would have eternity with him, but they still wept because they enjoyed the fellowship of the saints so much.
I ask you, and this is vital for your individual success in glorifying God through your life: how devoted, how committed, and how much love do you invest in Christ’s community? If you attend a church, but you are not neck-deep involved in relationships within that church and you are not neck-deep involved in the work of God in that church and in ministry through that church, you are missing God’s intention for your life. I cannot say it more plainly or more boldly; you are missing God’s intentions for your life and as a believer who is somewhat disconnected, even though you may be attending, if there is still that disconnection and you read the Book of Acts and say, “That is not the relationships I enjoy in the church of Christ. That is not the kind of partnership I have been having with others in Christ’s church to advance the glory of God,” then please understand that you are one of those who do contribute for the potential of the church to become a floating museum.
Wherever the people of God become disconnected from each other, it is impossible for that people of God to come together to be able to advance the name of Jesus Christ. That is the way that God intends for us to accomplish that task.
The third act is a trust in God’s sovereignty. We look at Acts 17 and Paul is speaking on Mars Hill in Athens, at the Areopagus. Look at what he says about God to the pagans who don’t know God,
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
All through Acts we learn of a God who is 100% in control of all matters in the past, present, and future. He knows the future, not simply because He can see into the future, but because He decrees the future. He ordains the future. He plans the future and He is effective in working out His plans. The believers in the Book of Acts trusted in the God who is sovereign over the heavens, the earth, and everything in it. As a result they looked at life through the lenses of God’s sovereignty and they perceived the present circumstances because of God’s sovereignty and they were confident about their future because of God’s sovereign acts in the future and for the future.
There are two illustrations of this. The first is in Acts 4, during the persecution which was just beginning against Christianity. In Verses 24 and 24 Peter and John are released from prison. However, they are still being threatened, so what do they do in Verse 24 – they begin to pray. A trust in God’s sovereignty always reveals itself through a heart of prayer.
“Sovereign Lord, “they said,” you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
” ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together against the Lord
They were in a tough spot but they said, “We know who you are, God.” Verses 25 and 26 quote an Old Testament passage (Psalm 2:1,2) and they say that they already know that this is what God is doing, “You already said that the nations will rage against you and against those who follow you and that is exactly what is happening. You decreed it and it is happening and we recognize that this is not the result of some circumstance that surprised you and surprised us, that there was a negative response and we are put in this unfortunate and unlucky situation.” No, they said, “You planned this from the very beginning of time and you ordained it. You prophesied of these things.”
In Verse 27, we read,
27 “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”
Peter and John were saying, “They were only following your righteous, wise decrees in crucifying your Son.”
The second illustration we use is Paul on that ship in the open sea during a hurricane. In Acts 27:23 and following, Paul was able, with confidence, to tell them what was going to happen because God decreed what was going to happen and He revealed that to Paul. He said,
23 “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.’”
The angel goes on to explain to Paul that they will suffer a shipwreck but that all of their lives will be safe. How does Paul know that? It is because God ordained the storm. God ordained the breaking apart of the ship. God ordained and decreed the rescue of every man on that vessel, so he trusted in God’s sovereignty.
Friends, the great application is this: we need not worry nor be anxious about life’s circumstances for our God is in control and we can say, “Blessed be your name!” His decisions are perfect and we will not second guess Him, but we do cry out to Him. It is appropriate, in the midst of our trust in God’s sovereignty, to grieve, to mourn, and to sorrow at God’s decreed plan because it does include pain for us often, but none-the-less, we do not let go of our trust and we do not let go of our confidence. This truth has huge applications for us.
In the previous message I mentioned John Piper’s response upon finding out of his prostate cancer. He wrote an article entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer!” Since then, a friend of John Piper, by the name of David Powelson, also found out he had prostate cancer. He has added to that article. If you haven’t seen that update I encourage you to look on the web or we can make it available to you. I want to read Point One, those of Piper’s words and then of David Powelson’s words. Piper says, “You will waste your cancer if you do not believe that it is designed for you by God. It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, He permits for a reason and that reason is His design. If God perceives molecular developments becoming cancer He can stop it or not. If He does not He has a purpose. Since He is infinitely wise it is right to call this purpose ‘a design’. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains, but he is not ultimate.”
David Powelson now comments, “Recognizing His designing hand does not make you stoic, or dishonest, or artificially buoyant. Instead, the reality of God’s design elicits and channels your honest outcry to your one, true Savior. God’s design invites honest speech rather than silencing us into resignation. Consider the honestly of Psalms, of King Hezekiah of Habakkuk 3. These people are bluntly, believingly honest because they know that God is God and they set their hopes in Him. Psalm 28 teaches you passionate, direct prayer to God. He must hear you. He will hear you. He will continue to work in you and your situation.”
Beloved, there is tremendous confidence that comes from the knowledge of God’s sovereignty.
Let us look at the fourth act which is a devotion to God’s revelation. This is a constant theme. The people of the Book of Acts are people of the Book. In Acts 2:42, it says,
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…
and the Apostles were always teaching the Scriptures. If we look in Acts 2 alone we will see, in Verse 16, Peter quotes Joel. In Verse 25, Peter quotes David and in Verse 34, Peter again quotes David. The Apostles themselves were men of the Book, so we cannot get away from this theme.
Acts 6:2 tells us that the elders of the church were saying that it was not right for them to wait on tables to help the widows, but in the midst of it neglect the Word of God. It would be right for someone and there needs to be someone who waits on tables and helps the widows and the orphans, but if it causes them to walk away from the ministry of the Word of God that is a bad thing for the church. There is a priority upon the ministry of the Word in the church, but there is also one in the individual lives of the individual believers.
Constantly in the Book of Acts we have progress reports of numbers being added to the church, but also these progress reports that indicate the health of the church often say, “and the word of God spread,” so we that, in Acts 6:7, Acts 12:24, and Acts 13:49, the Word of God grew and spread throughout the region.
This devotion to the word was not just for the leaders, but it was for lay people; for individual members of the church. That is why in the church in Berea, in Acts 17:11, these precious Berean believers, as they were listening to Paul, Paul says,
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.
In January we asked you to read through the Bible this year or at least read a chapter a day. I know that by May, many of you said, “I made it through January, but February hit and it got tough.” Here is the great news: there is always an opportunity for a new start. No one says that you have to read through the Bible from January to January. You can read it from May to May so let’s begin again. We have to take up this call to be devoted to God’s revelation and we must ask ourselves, “What part of my life and my day does the Word of God have?” I believe that you and I cannot walk by faith and live in truth unless we devote ourselves to the Scriptures and read the Scriptures every day. If we are not in the Word everyday I believe that we will be deceived and we will be tempted and drawn away from God and His plan.
The fifth act is a dependence upon the Holy Spirit. How can I know if I am dependent upon God’s Spirit? The greatest evidence of a dependence upon God’s Spirit is your prayer life; it is whether or not you call out to God. It is easy for us to say that we are depending upon God’s Spirit, but then we ask, “Am I praying and if I am not spending time calling out to God in prayer then I am not depending upon God and His Spirit.”
In Acts 1:24 and 25, we find that the record begins with the disciples huddled in a room praying to find out who should be the replacement for Judas. In Acts 2:42, we read,
42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In Acts 4:24, when persecution broke out, what did they do? They got together and they began praying, “ …they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,”
Their one concern was that the Word of God would go forward.
In Acts 7:59, we read,
59 “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
In Acts 10:9, as Peter was in prayer, as was his daily habit, God revealed to him the acceptance of the Gentiles into the covenant people of God.
We could go on and on, but the point is that these individuals, and corporately, prayed to God. the church, when Peter was in prison, got together and they were praying to God for the release of Peter when God supernaturally intervened and caused Peter to be released. The truth is that we don’t have wisdom to make our own decisions. We don’t have the strength to endure our trials. We do not have the power to overcome our temptations. We will be deceived and we will give ourselves to sin. We will become ridden with fear if we do not depend upon God’s Spirit and pray, both individually and corporately.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
For some time I have called upon you as a church family to come together once a month for “First Prayer,” on the first Wednesday. Could it not be a commitment that every Christian could make? I know some of you cannot because of your schedule, but isn’t that something that we could say, “Yes, I am devoted to this. I am not going to sit home and do my own thing the first Wednesday of the month. I am going to come to church either at 6:30 in the morning or 6:30 at night.” I praise God for the response of God’s people in the church towards that. We have about fifteen percent of our congregation that comes on First Prayer and that is a little over 150 people. I praise God for that, but at the same time I think how much more would God bless His people if we, together, would have a sense of dependence upon the Holy Spirit and say, “We need to come together to pray.” I call you to that.
The last act, but certainly not the least, is a passion for the glory of God. This is the focus. The church was not excited about growing for church-growths sake. It was excited about growing so that the name of Jesus would be advanced through the world. Look at Acts 21:13. There are many illustrations, but I want you to see one that reflects the passion for the name of Jesus. They plead with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. They know that he is going to be imprisoned and that he might possibly die. They are weeping over this decision and he asks, in Acts 21:13,
“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
There are two implications. When we are passionate about God’s glory the church becomes excited about world missions. The second implication is that when the church is passionate about God’s glory it becomes excited about growing and about seeing more people becoming worshippers and being discipled.
I need to state these two implications because often they are a challenge to the minds and hearts of evangelical believers today. One will say, “I want our focus to be here, locally. We have enough needs right here.” That is true, but the heart that is passionate about God’s glory will say, “I am not content to allow the name of Jesus to be exalted only in my local area through my ministry, personally, but also to the ministry of us as a church. No, I want to see people go to Ecuador, South Africa, Asia, from this church and through this church throughout the whole world.” Why, because Jesus is worthy of being worshipped all throughout this world.
Another may say, “I want our church to stay small. I don’t want it to grow.” But, we say, “We cannot have that mindset.” Why? Is it because we are pursuing vain glory and we don’t want to be known as a large church? That is not it at all. We don’t care anything about those things, but this is why we want to grow, whether we start with twenty people or whether we start with 1,000 people, we want to grow from wherever we are. Why is that? It is because we believe that in this community there are people who don’t know Jesus Christ, who are not worshipping Him, who are not recognizing how wonderful He is, and they should because He is worthy, and we won’t stop until every person in this community who should be worshipping Jesus is worshipping Jesus. That is why we are filled with a passion for God and for His work.
Friends, the call of the Bible is: Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone be the glory now”.
Look at these six acts again and consider you own life in reflection upon them and consider:
• your personal commitment to personal evangelism;
• your love for God’s community and for Christ’s church;
• your trust in God’s sovereignty;
• your devotion to Gods’ revelation;
• your dependence upon the Holy Spirit; and
• your passion for the glory of God.
There is much to think through there, but I would like for you to check just one of those and say, “God, this is the one area in which you have touched my heart. Would you change me and would you help me with this one area?”
Friend, do you know God? Are you ready to meet Him? God has an offer to you of forgiveness in life through Jesus. Call out to God who is willing to be gracious and merciful to you. Call out upon Him now; He will meet you and He is not far from you. You might think He is so far away because of the way you have lived your life, but He is not. He is eager and ready to save. Call out upon Him, even today, and say, “God, I need you. I know that I am a sinner. I know that you are the great Savior. Save me!” He will do just that as you call out upon Him in faith.
Friends, let us not become the “greatest ship that ever went to sea and now is the greatest ship to come and see.” May God save us from such an end and He will do it as we are faithful to acts that are essential to our life in Him.