Acts Series #37
Back to the Beginning: When Church Was Church
Don't Take Your Eye of The Ball
Acts 19:20-35; 20:7,12
Let me say up front that today's message will be a little different than normal. I generally try to break down the passage and learn just from what it says alone.
Well … as I studied this passage, I took a different route. I really just want to talk to you today.
André Crouch used to sing a song, "Jesus is the answer …"
I am afraid that in the church today we have taken our eyes off the ball in many ways.
Jesus told us to GO and make disciples to GO and be his witnesses.
We aren't witnesses, TOO OFTEN, because we don't have anything to say!
If we haven't SEEN transformation, we can't witness to transformation
If we haven't seen marriages saved, addicts freed, alcoholics dried, pagans converted, sinners set free, then we can't WITNESS to it.
Disciples are people who have STOPPED going their way and taken up the way of Christ. That is TRANSFORMATION
We have taken our eyes off the Ball if we are placing our HOPE in the political landscape of America
"oh if we can just get the right person in the White House, in the Houses of Congress
Our Hope is in the Gospel not in the Courthouse, the Houses of Congress, or the White House.
Our Hope is in the proclamation and reception of, the gospel into the life of a person, who is then regenerated by Jesus Christ and made into a NEW CREATION, that's TRANSFORMATION
Changing the Government when needed is a noble endeavor, but don't take your eye off the ball.
A kinder gentler government just leads to a kinder, gentler, satisfied lost world
A socially conscious government just leads to better fed, better cared for lost people
An environmentally conscious government just leads to a greener, easier to breathe, nation of lost people
We cannot expect that if we just change the government it will change the moral and spiritual health of America.
We have taken our eye off the ball, or worse yet we have lost our FAITH in POWER of the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.
///-Dollar Bill -\\\
IS Jesus Christ the Answer for the World today?
Is JESUS the WAY or is there another way
Is Jesus the TRUTH or is there another truth?
Is Jesus LIFE or is life found in something else?
The HOPE for America rests in transforming lives
I have News for you today …
The Gospel STILL Changes Lives.
and Changed Lives change marriages, and changed marriages Change Homes, and Changed Homes change Schools, and Changed schools change Cities, and Changed Cities Change States, and Changed States Change Countries and changed countries change the world
I'm not hear to today to exegete this passage and give you all the Greek text and the message, I'm here today to make some observations about society and transformation
Sometimes we are so busy looking at trees that we miss the forest …
When AJ was in the First Grade I was coaching AJ's soccer team and I started coaching a group of boys that I had the pleasure of coaching through fall and spring mostly soccer but also baseball for 6 years and 12 seasons of youth sports.
Well we had this one boy named Chris Jamison. Chris was 6 years old and taller than Lisa. He was a BIG BOY too. Chris had been born with some problems with his feet and had difficulty running fast, but he was in sports to gain confidence and grow. Well … because of his size, Chris played Center fullback, which is a defensive position. I had special instructions for Chris. You stand about 15 yards in front of the goal, BUT any time one of their players crosses mid field alone … you run straight at him, as hard as you can, and you put your foot on the ball and kick it.
Well many times it would result in a loose ball rolling and Chris kicking it to the other side of the field, but other times, a kid would be dribbling the ball up the field and here comes CHRIS, running straight at him, TWICE, sometimes THREE times their size, and invariably they would lose sight of the ball, run right over it, trying to avoid Chris, and he would kick the ball away.
Well church … there are BIG things that come running at us in society and if we are not careful, in our fear, in the distraction, we will take our eye off the ball and lose it.
We have been given the MINISTRY of RECONCILIATION, we have been given the MINISTRY of TRANSFORMATION … Our vehicle is the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ and if we are not careful we start trying to avoid the enemy, start even fighting the enemy and not putting the ball in the goal.
Paul taught us … "if anyone is IN Christ he is a NEW CREATION, the old has gone and the new has come"
IN these stories we've been reading of the early church, do you see what is happening?
When the Gospel of Jesus Christ takes hold in hearts and lives … things happen …
Let's read from Scripture in Acts 19:20, 23-41; 20:7-12
let me make a few observations of what we've been seeing in the book of Acts, as the gospel goes forth in obedience to the command of God and under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit
write these things down …
1. Lives were changed
I could call some witnesses before you today of lives changed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
·1 How about a Tax Collector named Zacchaeus - he went from consumed by money to giving ½ of his possessions to the poor and paying back where he had cheated 4x what he had taken.
·2 Or A demon possessed man from Geresa … he lived in the tombs, he couldn't be bound, he cut himself and ran around screaming through the graves. After meeting Jesus, clothed, in his right mind, and then he went into a 10 City Area proclaiming the good news of Christ
·3 Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea both men of influence and religious training … they went from seeking out Jesus in secrecy and fear to openly receiving the body of Jesus for a burial
·4 The Centurion assigned to Jesus on the Cross … probably part of his beating, mocking, jeering, cruelty … but after the death of Christ … he stood at the cross and praise God saying "surely this was a righteous man"
·5 Peter, James, John, the disciples went from untrained, unschooled men, to men boldly speaking for Christ no matter the consequence
·6 Saul was breathing out murderous threats one day and proclaiming Christ wherever they would listen three days later
I could call many of you today to talk about the Transformation power of Jesus Christ
·7 In these recent chapters we've seen a demon possessed girl walk away from her lucrative business
The Gospel is a transforming Gospel that changes the lives of people
The Second Observation is that with the assimilation of the gospel …
2. Society is Changed
1. remember that the accusation about the Christians in Acts 17 was that they had "turned the world upside down"
2. In Chapter 19 those who owned thousands of dollars worth of books on pagan spells and incantations burned them …
3. Remember me telling you about John Adams, aka John Alexander … a fleeing criminal who was part of the crew that mutinied against Captain Bly in the latter part of the 18th Century. Remember he went to the Island of Pitcairn and there his shipmates ended up murdering each other in jealousy or dying of alcoholism and disease. But John found a Bible and devoted himself to Christ then to teaching his children, and those orphans and widows of the shipmates, the truth of scripture and the good news. When they were discovered a few years later, they were found to be godly, educated, peaceful, loving people … because of the power of the gospel.
But let me tell you the REST of the story … About 100 years later, a false Christian teaching dominated the island and true Christianity was abandoned and today virtually no one on the island is an active Christian and society has changed
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and faithful teaching and preaching is our only hope for true and lasting change in our society
Political change is needed … but without Christ … change will not be lasting …
You cannot legislate heart change …
4. I believe that where we have fallen short in the needed societal change was trying to legislate morality and Christianity. I understand the heart and point in fighting for change … we fought a Civil War over slavery and rightfully so, but at that time Revival Fires had been burning in America and sweeping the globe.
5. Where I believe many political leaders fell short was counting on legislation to bring lasting change. Legislation WAS needed … and STILL is needed on issues, but if we don't change the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, legislation cannot bring people together and it cannot bring lasting change.
In May of 1858 as revival fires were burning … of 800,000 residents in NYC, 50,000 new converts were reported. It was reported that in many New England towns no unconverted adults could be found
In 1857-1858 it was said that 50,000 people were coming to Christ every week across America
If we want society to change … vote your convictions, push for justice and equality, but the HOPE lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ
Prayer was the key factor as Revival Fires burned …
In that time of revival one Methodist paper wrote "few sermons were needed, lay people witnessed, seekers flocked to the altar; experiences were clear, converts had holy boldness; religion became a social topic, family altars were strengthened, mighty testimonies were abundant, conversions were marked with seriousness.
Prayer was a key factor as lay people overshadowed the clergy.
One estimate was that there were 1,000,000 new converts in a population of less than 30,000,000 in the U.S. and another 1,000,000 nominal Christians were revived.
Revivals were around the globe. In Ireland in 1859, there were 100,000 converts, crime was reduced with some towns having no crimes and no prisoners in jails. A large whiskey distillery in Belfast was put up auction because of lack of business and a local gambling track went from 10,000 in attendance to 500.
In Wales 100,000 out of 1,000,000 were converted.
Constables were reprimanded for being at prayer meeting to which they replied "no one is at home, no one is in the streets, the prayer meetings are the only thing happening in town."
In Scotland the revival was for reaching from ladies of influence to ladies of the night, school boys, farmhands, drunkards, gamblers, even it was noted an awakening among "simpletons" as they were called as the mentally challenged thought unreachable were embracing faith in Christ.
At least 1,000,000 people were converted throughout the UK in 1859 and missionaries were sent to inner China and all over the world.
Revivals were reported with 250,000 + converts in Sweden and Norway and movements in Australia, Africa, The West Indies, and India.
And yet today the moral fiber of the UK has fallen as churches are emptied and the gospel has failed to be preached.
And you see what has happened in America as the validity, reliability, and relevance of the Word of God has been under attack for the last 100 years and a generation of preachers went
from Gospel Proclaimers to Conduct Counselors.
Do we want to change Society?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ breaks strongholds, Restores marriages, Sets Addicts Free, changes lives
Is Jesus still the answer for the world today or NOT?
We should be GIVING Answers to Washington, instead of Looking for answers FROM them!
When we lived in Houston, the Christians gave AUSTIN an answer to recidivism of convicts released and returning to crime.
IN Houston, they started a Christian run prison with state sanction. It is called Innerchange. Men can serve, by choice, their final 18 months at this facility near Houston. They attend Bible Training daily. They are connected with local churches during their final months and they are released into the care of local Christians where help, jobs, and other needs are met helping return the inmates to normal lives focused on Godly citizenship as seen as the norm.
Transformation is the heart of the gospel and THAT is the BALL
Don't take your eye off the ball
As I was studying this week I got calls and a visit on different issues facing us from cloning to the opening of a restaurant with scantily clad women in our community. And we DO need to stand up for the truth and for decency … but while we take up these PROJECTS … don't take your eye off the ball … our FIRST project is to bring people to Christ … THAT will change society …
When people understand the worth of a human soul they won't clone it to harvest and discard the rest
And They won't lessen the dignity of a person with less than decent businesses …
But folks … we need to realize something else I observe in this passage
3. Society without Christ Resists the Move of God
1. be sure that when we keep our eyes on the ball and proclaim freedom to captives and bring the freedom and salvation of the cross … the forces of evil will be stirred and all those still under his bondage will rise up against us …
2. Jesus was crucified … Peter was jailed, Stephen was stoned to death. Every one of the disciples died a martyr except John but he was persecuted and exiled
3. In Acts 16 Paul and Silas were Jailed, why? Because transformation affected the pocketbook of the pagans
4. If we proclaim the gospel, and awakening comes to No. Co. and St. Louis the bars will be hurting for business, East St. Louis will lose some patrons to certain businesses, and the boats will be hurting. But if that happens those stuck pigs will squeal.
5. Here in Ephesus they threw a fit and rioted … until local authorities told them that they had no grounds and dismissed them. If we become serious about sharing the gospel … strap on your armor, the battle is coming.
Don't take your eye off the ball
Because … when the gospel is preached … WRITE THIS DOWN
4. LIFE REIGNS
The words JUMPED off the page at me in Chapter 20:12
"the people took the young man home ALIVE!"
Oh "but this is talking about a boy who fell asleep out the window and died and was resurrected …"
But folks isn't this LIFE and DEATH that we are talking about?
Without Christ the world is dead in Trespasses and Sins
If you had a pill for Cancer, would you take it to every hospital and pass it out to those people as good as dead?
Of course you would …
We have LIFE in the Gospel …
I want to hear the testimonies of Dad's coming to Christ and going back home ALIVE
Mothers returning as a new mommy a new wife going home ALIVE
I want to hear of dead marriages returning to the house ALIVE
Teenagers resurrected from a life of drugs going home alive
Children growing up alive because of the Gospel
Grandparents growing old in dignity and honor passing on truth because they are ALIVE
Shouldn't we be saying, "I went into the house of a dead man, but left the house of a living soul"
Shouldn't we testify that people come to New Life Baptist Church Dead IN sin and Dead to God, but they leave dead TO sin and Alive in Christ
Let it be so!
Jesus is alive … but what does it matter if we don't appropriate it and proclaim it
Don't take your eyes off the ball, New Life Baptist Church
The Good news is that Jesus Christ died to forgive and cleanse
The good news is that if we confess our sins … he is faithful and just …
The good news is there is no difference between Jew, Gentile, Man, Woman, boy, girl, black, white, or brown, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be Saved …
Don't take your eye off the ball New Life Baptist Church … my prayer is that every member of New Life Baptist Church will catch the fire to share the truth of Christ for the Transformation of a Life.
Closing in Spanish
Mis amigos latinos,
No quites los ojos del balon
Transformación es en Jesús Cristo solamente
Solamente en Jesús Cristo!
No en el Gobierno
No en la Iglesia
No en Nosotros mismos
No en Man¢ana
La energía para transformación / Esperanza de hoy / y Vida Eternal, adentro en Jesús Cristo
La mirada a Jesús y a usted sabrá la salvación y la Vida Eternal
Mire a Jesús
Crea en Jesús Cristo como su Señor y Salvador
Closing in English
Don't take your eye off the ball
Transformation is in Jesus Christ alone
Not in the government
Not in the church
Not in ourselves
Not in tomorrow
The Power for Transformation and life eternal is in Jesus Christ
Look to Christ and know Salvation, and life eternal
Believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord
Don't take your eye off the Ball …
Jesus is STILL the Answer
for the World Today …
Above him there's no other
Jesus is the way
Jesus is the Answer
for the world today …
Above him there's no other …
Jesus is the way