Acts Series #48
Back to the Beginning: When Church was Church
A Twenty First Century Church
Well New Life Baptist Church … we are finally ending this journey through Acts
The Resurrected Christ commissioned the Church to be on mission as his witnesses
He then filled them baptizing them with the Holy Spirit and Fire.
The church grew exponentially as the gospel was preached
The young church grew in relationship and maturity
Then Christ used persecution from outside forces to scatter the church throughout the world
Peter was freed from tradition to preach the gospel to all men and the church followed his lead
Saul a persecutor of the church met Christ on the Road to Damascus and became known as Paul and became the driving force to carry the gospel throughout the world, planting churches and teaching the truths and mysteries of the Kingdom of God
Through persecution of the same leaders who crucified Christ, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and transported to Rome to stand trial before Nero.
Read Acts 28:16-31
He was placed under arrest but allowed to live in his own rented house while awaiting trial.
And many that have read this book have always thought it a strange place to end this story.
Why didn't Luke tell us the rest of the story of Paul
Why didn't he record the end of Paul's story
Well, I can't answer this question other than to say that the story wasn't about Paul
This is the story of Christ and his church
This story was intended to teach and record the church of the Lord Jesus Christ …
With that in mind, with our goal to learn as a 21st Century church, from the 1st century church … I believe this ended in a beautiful way as Paul's Prison House Church gives us a model of what every church should be doing till Jesus comes …
I have a book in my office of instruction for Golf and the Christian Life.
Wally Armstrong is the writer, he is a teacher and a former touring pro. He tells of playing at the Los Angeles CC for the first time. There is a hole on the back nine where you can't see the fairway from the tee box. But more than 480 yards in the distance stand 3 palm trees behind the green. He asked his caddie, "where do I aim" and his caddy said, aim at the palm trees and you will be in the fairway. He did and he was. But his caddie told him a story about the great golfer Ben Hogan. When he played that course for the first time he asked his caddie the same thing, "where do I aim"? His caddie had the same answer, "aim at the trees in the distance" Ben Hogan replied "which one"?
Now that's the difference his focus was honed down to the specific tree.
The Book of Acts is large and we have looked at 49 different things … if we are to aim at the book of Acts, we might ask, "which one" well, today we can narrow all of that aim down to a simple formula
A twenty FIRST Century Church is Evident in …
1. Welcoming All People
There is nothing more central to who Jesus Christ is, the heart of The Father, than for the Church to Reflect Heaven as a Place where all are called to Christ. Heaven will be a place where every people group, rich and poor, young and old, black, brown, white, green, red and blue, intelligent and not so, weak and strong, socially connected and social outcast, powerful and powerless, and everything in between.
God chose Israel as his unique people, and God chose the church as his holy nation, NOT so that they would be religiously elite, but to be a display of his splendor and to call those apart from him, to him
20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.' 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him."
The Purpose of God's choosing and blessing of Israel was to reveal himself to the world
and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
God picks us up out of the Ash heap of life and anoints us with gladness
He takes us out of our mourning and gives us a heart to praise him
He takes us off shifting sands and plants us with deep roots as a firm Oak of Righteousness
FOR THE DISPLAY of his Splendor
God doesn't choose to exclude, he chooses to include
God knew us from the dawn of time and called us to himself, justified us, sanctified us, and glorified us for a purpose
To Call all to himself
His plan is the same with his church, in that area, as it was with Israel
1 Peter 2:9,10
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
We have been chosen, we have been made into a royal priesthood, a holy nations, God's special people … NOT because of who we are
We were in DARKNESS
But we have been called into light
We were NOBODY, not even a group of people
Now we are God's people
FOR A PURPOSE
That we may DECLARE his praises … to WHOM? To Each other? To Gather and have a Spiritual Pep Rally?
NO! to declare to the world, those who do not know him. To declare to people who are in darkness, separated as nothing and nobody.
Paul was welcoming all who would come - "welcome" means to "embrace heartily or accept gratefully"
1. Engaging those who would reject - v17 sent for the Jewish Leaders - You would think that the people Paul would be avoiding at ALL COSTS would be the Jews in Rome. It is the Religious Jews that led to Paul's arrest in Jerusalem. So, cut your losses, and move on to other people right?
Not for Paul … Welcoming all, communicating with those who he KNEW would reject the gospel. A church like the 1st Century church is not afraid to welcome those who are hostile to the gospel - It wasn't that Paul received them ONLY as they came to him. He REACHED OUT to them. He arranged to minister to them.
A church that welcomes all reaches out and creates opportunities to reach those who are by nature rejecters of the gospel
Also welcoming is ..
2. Answering those who would listen - v22 "we want to hear your ideas" - creating opportunities and then sharing will all who would listen
3. The Gospel is for Everyone - v 28 - A church that segregates the gospel is NOT a church like the 1st Century Church, is not a church that reflects the heart of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit
So, a 21st Century Church like the 1st Century Church Welcomes ALL People
We say at New Life Baptist Church that we are a church for everyone, a church like Heaven
The Second Critical Component that Paul exhibited in Rome that our Church must emulate is … He was …
2. Boldly Preaching the Kingdom
Paul said "I believe in the hope of Israel" --- Believing in the infallibility of the word of God - He is a God of his Word, you can Count on him, you can bank on him
A. Preaching with Boldness and Without Hindrance
There are 4 words here that we need to see …
1. Preaching - kerusso /kay-roos-so/ to be a herald, to proclaim after the manner of authority and gravity that must be listened to and obeyed
a. a herald is a representative of the King who calls out a message of importance.
b. it is NOT the message of the Herald it is the message of the King
c. The Church that is like the New Testament church has NO AGENDA than to proclaim the message of our King
d. we can do nothing more or less than speak the message that Christ gives us with authority and urgency
The story goes that the messenger was sent to the King's dungeon to tell the executioner that a pardon had been granted a prisoner who was scheduled for the executioners blade. On his way through town, there was a carnival, jugglers, magicians, acrobats, and the like. He stopped to watch the crowds and the fun. By the time he made it to the King's dungeon, it was too late and the man had been executed. The King asked the Messenger why he failed to deliver the lifesaving message and he replied "I was so busy watching the crowds and having fun that I forgot for a moment the message I was sent to deliver
2. with Boldness - the word is translated "confidence" in the KJV and "Openness" in the NASB - it is the word parrhesia /par-rhay-see-ah/ freedom in speaking, unreservedness, frankly, without concealment, without ambiguity or circumlocution -- now that last word is NOT a word I have ever used before. But it's meaning is an important challenge for us. It means, the use of unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea; or evasion in speech
In other words, we are to get to the point, don't waste your words, don't be evasive, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ without reserve, frankly, without concealment, freely and openly
3. without hindrance - akolutos /ak-o-loo-toce/ it literally means "no man forbidding him" - I will just say this, that more often than anything else, the greatest hindrances to the preaching of the gospel with boldness come from within the church not from without. The greatest hindrances to the preaching are often people's discomfort or desire to control the way the gospel is proclaimed
"Pastor I really think you should preach THIS way"
"Pastor, I really don't think you should say that"
If the Pastor is in tune with God and under the leadership of Christ, he is ONLY delivering the message that the Father has given him and the greatest thing the Church can do is support the message AND the messenger. Give him freedom, give him support, give him encouragement, give him permission to proclaim, as given by God, and according to his personal giftings and bent or style
B. Preaching the Kingdom of God
1. The Kingdom - basileia /bas-il-i-ah/ royal power, kingship, dominion, rule; not to be confused with an actual kingdom (place) but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom; the territory subject to the rule of a king
2. In vv 26,27 Paul was teaching and challenging them from Isaiah 6:9 -
The point is that it is NOT enough just to hear and see about Jesus Christ, there must be the internalization
a. The heart was seen as the seat of understanding and will
b. If we just have information about Jesus but it does not change us then it is useless
c. If we just have an experience with Jesus but it does not transform us into his people, the sheep of his pasture then it is wasted stimulus
Information about Christ must translate us into people under the dominion, the Kingdom of God and of his Christ
2. We cannot proclaim an "I'm OK, you're OK" gospel
3. We cannot be preaching that we just simply have to Believe in Jesus either
4. What does the Word say?
Romans 10:9,10 "If we confess with our mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' AND believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved"
5. We must be preaching with boldness, clarity, and without interference …
a. The Lordship of Christ
b. Leadership of Christ
c. Ownership of Christ
It is our responsibility to preach the FULL MEASURE of the Goodness
The good news is that Jesus Christ owns us two-fold --- once because he made us and twice because he bought us with his shed blood at the Cross
The good news is that when Jesus Christ is allowed the authority to Lead us and give us the guidance we need; when Jesus guides, our life moves in a God-ordained direction from an omniscient and loving ruler
The good news is that Jesus is a Good Lord, he deserves to rule, he is Lord of Heaven and Earth and he should be Lord of your life as well. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, we are to call the world to bow the knee NOW in surrender instead of bowing the knee at the end of all things in defeat.
The New Testament Church
1) Welcomes All
2) Preaches the Kingdom of God with Clarity, freedom, as delivering the Message of God
And finally …
3. Teaching About Jesus Christ
1. diadasko /did-as-ko/ to teach, to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses; 2 to instill doctrine; to explain or expound a thing
2. we must as a church be a church that teaches. Didactic discourses are discussions specifically designed to convey instruction as well as pleasure and entertainment --- that is to say that we want to teach, we want you to learn, but we want it to be engaging and enjoyable as well
B. About The Lord Jesus Christ
1. the Great Commission that Jesus Christ gave us is summed up in this phrase - "taught About the Lord Jesus Christ" --- Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
2. We are talking about
a. Discipleship - a disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another; a convinced adherent of an individual
b. it is the Imitation of Christ - Eph 5:1,2 - "Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"
Teaching about Jesus --- The Focus of EVERYTHING we teach should be to convey Christ
We are not here to teach you just how to be good people
We are here to teach you how to follow Christ
If we are teaching you about finances - we are teaching you how to follow Christ with your wealth
If we are teaching you music - we are teaching you how to honor and glorify Christ with your instrument or your voice
If we teach parenting - we are teaching you how to be followers of Christ in your parenting that you might raise children who follow Christ
If we are teaching you about how to have a good marriage - it is because your marriage should be a picture of Christ and the Church
Every aspect of our Teaching is, at the core, teaching about Jesus Christ … that is what the church of the Lord Jesus Christ does.
Remember Jesus prophesied in Acts 1:8 that the expectation for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we would lay our lives down, set our ministry focus on being his MARTUS - Martyrs -- that is, witnesses of Christ everywhere to everyone.
By welcoming everyone we gain the right, the authenticity, permission, and open door to then Proclaim the Kingdom and Teach About Christ
Welcoming / Hospitality / Care; plus Preaching and Teaching -
-- That's what we do in regards to the world and each other that is what we do.
That is what we are called to. It doesn't matter what else we do, it doesn't matter what our reputation is, it doesn't matter how well we worship.
If we do not Welcome, Preach and Teach … we are not useful to the Kingdom
If we Preach and Teach but do not welcome then we will be doing it to an empty house
If we welcome but do not preach and teach then we will be spiritually anemic or immature
We must do all three
As we have spent a year looking at what it is to be a New Testament Church.
But let me bring it down to You and to Me
Because a New Testament Church is full of New Testament Individual Christians
So as a Conclusion let me give you 9 characteristics of a First Century / 21st Century Christian
And you can then take inventory and see how complete your
Character is to be A (twenty) FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN
Eternal Life - called to salvation - and given eternal life
Engaged - commissioned - GO - we are not called to withdraw, or retreat, we are not called to hide in the church and hold down the fort till Jesus comes. We have been called to GO … go across the street, go across the country, go into the uncomfortable places go to the ends of the earth
Empowered - filled with the Holy Spirit - Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come when he left. Paul told us that we have the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come
Equipped - taught and trained - they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching - and if you will devote yourself to the teaching, implanting, and implementing of the Word of God in your life, you will be equipped
Empathetic - needs based ministry - when Jesus saw the crowds it says that was moved with compassion … it literally meant that his stomach turned. People engaged, filled with the Holy Spirit, are by spiritual nature full of empathy for those in need and without Christ. Paul constantly reminded them of what they were and where they had come from. Remember that we are sinners saved by God's grace. We were once darkness and now we are light
Encouraged - relationships with other believers, and God - The greatest earthly gift we have is each other. We comfort one another, we strengthen one another, we encourage one another, we sharpen one another
Eager - Remember the Berean Church, first called Christians. They had a noble character because they received the word with eagerness … We must be eager for truth, eager to share the gospel, eager to follow Christ
Employed - in the work of the Lord - remember that's what Christian means --- of the household of, under the employment of, in the vocation of
Emancipated - Free from sin and tradition - We are not bound to any earthly thing, any earthly tradition, we are not bound to the service of sin, we are free to follow Christ, free from the penalty of sin, free from condemnation
That's who we are in Christ Jesus
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, 'he who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.' 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved
When we began this Journey Jesus instructed us to be his witnesses
At New Life Baptist Church
Preach the Kingdom
Teach about Jesus
New Life We're heading in the right direction
We've got work to do
When Jesus ascended and the disciples stood there looking at the sky.
In Acts 1:11 Two Angels spoke and said "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into Heaven"
Now you know what to do …
Let's do it … Let's get busy … Till Jesus comes
We'll work till Jesus Comes
We'll work till Jesus Comes
We'll work till Jesus Comes
And we'll be gathered Home