We Can Change Our World!
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 10, 2012
*I like what Mark Twain said about change many years ago: “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” (1)
*I like that saying, but it’s not always true is it? -- No. Some change is good! This is especially true of spiritual change.
*And Church: The wonderful truth is that WE have the power to change our world! In these verses we see God using His people to change their world. The early churches impact was so great that in Acts 17:6 we see rioting unbelievers crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”
*The early Christians changed their world, and we can change our world today.
-God’s Word shows us why.
 First: We can change our world, because the church belongs to Christ.
*This church and all true Bible-believing churches belong to Jesus Christ. But people tend to forget this truth, especially when the church goes through hard times.
*And the early church definitely went through some hard times. Verse 19 tells us that they were scattered abroad by persecution. It was a terrible persecution that started when Stephen was murdered.
*Stephen’s death alone looked like a terrible defeat for God’s church. He was one of the first deacons, and a shining star in the early church. Acts 6:3 tells us that these men had to be full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom. Acts 6:5 tells us that Stephen was also “full of faith.” And listen to what happened after these first deacons were chosen:
7. . . the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:7&8)
*Stephen did great wonders and miracles among the people. Acts 6:10 tells us that the enemies of the Gospel “were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” But now Stephen was dead. He was stoned to death after false witnesses accused him of blasphemy before a corrupt court.
*That alone was a terrible tragedy to the church. But now the persecution spread like wildfire. Listen to this report from the New Living Translation:
-First in Acts 8:1-3:
1. Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria.
2. (Some godly men came and buried Stephen with loud weeping.)
3. Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail.
-Now in Acts 9:1&2:
1. Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath. He was eager to destroy the Lord's followers, so he went to the high priest.
2. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them -- both men and women -- back to Jerusalem in chains.
*Things looked bad. But Satan never has the last word on the church of God! And his plan totally backfired. Satan’s plan backfired, because the believers who ran away from Jerusalem ran everywhere preaching the good news about Jesus! That’s what we see in vs. 19: “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.”
*These early believers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Church, sometimes that’s what we have to do. And we can do it, because the church belongs to Christ. Down through the ages, God and His people have often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
*Think of Moses and the Children of Israel with their backs against the sea.
-The greatest army in world was bearing down on them.
-It looked like they would die in the wilderness.
*I like the way they showed it in the old 10 Commandments movie.
-Charlton Heston was Moses.
-And Yul Brenner was Pharaoh.
*Of course they didn’t follow the Scripture exactly. In the movie, Yul’s wife was Moses’ old girlfriend. And after Moses rejected her advances, she told Yul to go get Moses’ blood on his sword. Yul replied: “Yes, I’ll bring it back -- to mingle with yours.” And he went out with his armies. But the Lord God parted the Red Sea! The Children of Israel crossed over. And Pharaoh saw his army swallowed up as the sea closed.
*Pharaoh went back to kill his conniving wife. But as he drew back his sword, she said: “First show me the blood of Moses.” He lowered his sword, and quietly said, “It’s not there.”
*“Why?” She asked. -- And Pharaoh’s replied: “Because His God is God!” (2)
*Church: Our God IS God! -- So He and His people have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat many times!
*Think of Jesus on cross:
-It’s the middle of the day, but the sky is black.
-The wind howls.
-The ground quakes.
*The disciples who have not scattered look up to see Jesus beaten beyond recognition, and about to die. In Matthew 27:46, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And in John 19:30, Jesus cried, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
*But three days later, it’s resurrection morning!
-Christ arose in victory over death and hell!
-God and His people snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
*But what about you today? Is your back against the sea? Is the day dark for you?
-Don’t give up, because if you’ve trusted in Jesus, you are part of His church.
-You belong to Jesus.
-God and you can still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
*We can change our world, because the church belongs to Christ.
 And because the Word of God still works.
*In Isaiah 55:11, the Lord says: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
*God’s Word works. And we can see His Word at work in vs. 20&21. There some of the scattered believers came to Antioch and spoke to the Grecian Jews about Jesus. These Christians were preaching the Lord Jesus. And vs. 21 says, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”
*The Word of God worked two thousand years ago, and it still works today.
1. So Christians, we must stand on God’s Word.
*When things go wrong, we can get discouraged. We can start to doubt.
-The believers in the early church surely got discouraged.
-They could have started to doubt God’s Word.
-But they stood on the Word!
-And we should too, because God’s Word will stand forever!
*Frank Harrington told a story about his friend, Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier. It was from her days as a grad student in Germany, just after World War II. Elizabeth and her husband were riding their bicycles from southern Germany to Denmark. They saw evidence of the war’s devastation all along the way.
*One day they stopped for lunch by the side of the road, and just across the road, they saw the ruins of a church. It had been shattered during the war. Only one wall of the church still stood. But on the spot where the altar had been, someone had nailed together a crude wooden cross.
*And on that one remaining wall, a unknown German Christian had written in chalk the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (3)
-God’s Word will work forever! -- So, we can stand on His Word.
2. And we should stretch for His Word.
*These early Christians stretched themselves. They were going farther and farther, reaching out to new people. And that’s what we need to do.
*Before Jesus went back to Heaven, in Acts 1:8 He told His disciples: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
*Aren’t you glad He didn’t stop with Samaria? -- We all would have been left out!
-God wants us to take His Word “to the ends of the earth.” But that’s a stretch for us. and stretching is not always easy.
*Some of us have been snow skiing. I remember one of the times I went. I think it was the last time! My best friend was right behind me on the ski lift. He was 6’5’’. I was 5’7’’ When you got off the ski lift, you went down this little hill about 20 feet to a fence. And somehow his skis went in between mine. Then he did a split. And let me tell you I really did a split!
*Stretching can hurt. But it’s the only way to change our world! And God’s Word will work to the uttermost parts of the earth, so we should stretch for His Word.
3. And going along with that, we must share His Word.
*In these verses, they were telling the Good News about Jesus Christ, and that’s what we must do. Now, there are many ways to share.
-You can use a tract.
-You can go through the Scriptures about God’s plan for salvation.
-You can use that 5-finger witnessing tool that I use.
-You can give your testimony about how you were saved.
-You can give a testimony about what God is doing in your life right now.
-You can tell people about our God-blessed church, and invite them to come.
-You can offer to pray for someone in need, and help them in the name of Jesus.
-Taking time to care.
-Taking time to talk about Jesus Christ.
-And letting people know the difference God’s Word has made in our lives.
*We all can share the Good News about Jesus!
*A couple of weeks ago, my uncle in Dallas called to tell me that he had been going through some old papers in their house. And he found an envelope instructing him to return some of those papers to me. This week I picked the box up at the Post Office, and found a letter that had been written to my great-grandmother. The letter came from a man named W. Hamilton Moss, and it is dated May 11, 1886.
*It’s one of the oddest letters I have ever seen, because Mr. Moss seems to have had only one sheet of paper. When he filled it up front and back, he began writing upside down in the margins. I want to share parts of his letter today, because it has 3 great testimonies. And they all remind us that God’s Word works.
*You need to know that the man who wrote this letter was recuperating from lead poisoning. Toward the end of the letter he explained: “You asked what ailed me. The doctor called it the effect of lead poison from our lead pipes; said my gums showed it. We have not used any of the water since, but bring it from the brook to drink and cook with.”
 The first testimony is about stretching a bit for the Lord.
*That’s what my great -grandmother did, and Mr. Moss’ letter started as a thank-you note to her:
My dear Miss Torrey,
-I cannot tell you how much good your letter did me, coming as it did when I was unable to do anything, but lie still and think. It’s at such a time that we most prize any little kindness shown us.”
*Think for a moment about someone who needs some of this kindness from you. It could be a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor or one of the many people on our prayer list.
 The second testimony is about standing on God’s Word in the face of hardship.
*Listen to Mr. Moss’ Godly testimony: “I was confined to my bed eight weeks, have been about the house three weeks, but have not been away from home.
-I do the light work, am gaining in strength, though it is slowly.
*It requires a ‘deal of patience’ to be so long regaining the strength we lose, when at our best we have so little. But our dear Savior knows just what discipline we each need and how much, and He will not suffer the fire to burn too fiercely, or too long, -- only ’til He sees His face reflected in us.
*We pray to be more like Him. Can we then complain of the method He takes to make us so? -- No! No!! -- But consider our trials as ‘messengers of mercy’ to draw us nearer to Him.”
*During the hardest time of his life, Mr. Moss kept firmly standing on the Word of God.
 The third testimony is about a young woman who was dangerously wasting her life, but then was saved, when she trusted in Jesus Christ! Her life was transformed. She began to grow in Christ. And she shared her faith with everyone she could.
*Mr. Moss wrote: “During my sickness Mrs. Collier came to see me twice. I cannot but feel that she is a growing Christian. She seems to have an earnest desire that her former companions may be brought to Christ.
*She told me of her visit to Rufus Damon’s (wife). She was very low with jaundice and has since died. (Mrs. Collier) said that as she looked upon her emaciated form, and thought of her without hope, she was so thankful that she was led in health to give her heart to God. Mrs. Collier talked with her in respect to the need of a change of heart. (She) felt very anxious for her, (and) walked up to see her four miles.
*I think if those who were so faithful in laboring in the Sunday school . . . see no other brought in, they cannot but feel paid for the evidence which they see that a good work has been wrought in (Mrs. Collier’s) family. I doubt that there is any family more regular to church and prayer meeting. They walked down twice Sunday, making about 8 miles! -- I wish they could have a horse; am afraid it will be too much for Mrs. Collier.”
*My great-grandmother, Mr. Moss and Mrs. Collier all speak to us from the grave today. They tell us about the life-changing power of the Word of God.
-Stand on it.
-Stretch for it.
-Share it every way you can!
*And the hand of the Lord will be with us, and a great number will believe and turn to the Lord.
*We can see the Hand of the Lord at work in our world.
-But have you seen His Hand at work in your own life?
*You can only get to Heaven by the Hand of God. His Hand was stretched out on the cross to die for you. Then He rose again forever. And now His Hand is reaching out to offer forgiveness and eternal life to you. Open your heart to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you trust in the Lord, He will surely save you.
*Christians, we have trusted in the Lord, so we are going to Heaven!
-But what are we going to do along the way?
*God wants us to change our world. -- And we can!
-So stand on God’s Word.
-Stretch for His Word.
-And do everything you can to share God’s Word.
*Would you please bow for prayer?
(1) Bible Illustrator for windows - Topic: Change - Date: 41998.1278 Title: Change Isn't Popular - Source: Mark Twain - “Leadership,” Vol. 15, no. 3
(2) “The Ten Commandments” - Movie directed by Cecil B. DeMille - 1956
(3) Elizabeth Achtemeier, Pulpit Digest: “Sure Promise” - Inver Grove Heights, MN: Logos Productions, Nov. - Dec. 1995 - p. 9 - (Source: Peachtree Presbyterian Pulpit - Advent Series: “The Messiah!” - #1 - “The Promised Messiah!” by W. Frank Harrington, Isaiah 40:1-5; 9-11 - Dec. 1, 1996)