God’s Dream for Our Church
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - June 3, 2012
*God has a dream for our church, and we can discover this dream by looking back at the first church in Acts 2:36-47.
*Here’s the background: Jesus Christ has died on the cross for our sins and risen from the dead. The Lord then met with many of His followers at different times in different places over a 40 day period. Then Jesus ascended back up into Heaven, telling His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the promise of the Holy Spirit.
*Ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down in power. And the 120 believers flooded out into the street to proclaim the wonderful works of God. God miraculously gave them the power to speak in foreign languages, so the Jews gathered from all over the world could hear the good news about Jesus.
*Then Peter began to preach, and the church exploded with new members. Let’s start with the end of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:36, thinking about God’s dream for our church.
*Almost 10 years ago a young Youth Pastor told me about a conference he had just attended in Houston. He was really excited. And one of the things that touched him the most was something Bruce Wilkinson told them to do: “Get a dream from God that is so big that only God can take you there. Then ask the Lord to show you how to get there.”
*I have thought about that quote hundreds of times since then: “Get a dream from God that is so big that only God can take you there. Then ask the Lord to show you how to get there.”
*God wants us to have a big dream for our church, a God-sized dream.
-And as we look back at the first church, we can see how to dream.
1. First, dream of being a growing church.
*That’s the kind of church God wants us to be: a growing church. Peter reminds us of this truth in vs. 36, where he said: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
*Let them all know Peter said. Everybody needs to know:
-That Jesus is Lord!
-That He is the Savior of the world.
-That He died on the cross for our sins.
-That Jesus rose again from the dead.
*And in vs. 37, we see that everybody needs to know how to respond to Jesus: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’”
*Church: We need to speak and live so that people are compelled to ask this question to us: “What should we do about Jesus?”
*Peter had the answer in vs. 38 & 39:
38. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (or forgiveness) of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
*What shall we do about Jesus?
-Repent: Turn away from sin and selfishness.
-And turn to Jesus Christ.
-Put your trust in Jesus.
-Receive Him as your personal Savior and Lord.
-Then seek to follow Him in every area of your life.
*That’s what God wants:
-For us and our children.
-For people all over Caldwell Parish.
-And for people all over the world.
*God cares about all people! -- And vs. 41 reminds us that He cares about numbers, because this verse tells us that 3,000 people got saved that day.
-God cares about numbers, because each one is a precious soul.
-And God wants our church, His church to grow.
*So what should we do? -- One of the most important things we can do is invite people to church. Harold Lentz once said: “A study of new members who join churches has revealed that the vast majority of them were moved to join a church because someone invited them. This is by far the best method of achieving results.” And Harold asks: “How long has it been since you invited someone to church?” (1)
*There are people around us today who, when asked why they do not attend church, will answer, ‘Because we have never been asked.’”
-God wants us to ask them, and we can see this in His Word.
*After Andrew met Jesus, John 1:41&42 tells us that:
41. He first found his own brother Simon (Peter), and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ).
42. And he brought him to Jesus. . .
*Later on in John 1:
45. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46. And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
*Then in John 4, Jesus revealed who He was to a Samaritan woman at a well. And when she realized that Jesus is the Messiah...
28. The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,
29. "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"
*In all of these cases, lives were changed forever, because somebody gave an invitation. And God wants us to do the same thing.
*What a difference it makes when we invite people to church!
-I have really been blessed in my life.
-I have a wonderful family and wonderful friends.
-I have been able to serve the Lord for almost 29 years.
*I’ve gotten to go half-way around the world to tell people about Jesus.
-I got to lead my mother and my brother to the Lord.
-And I have received countless other blessings.
*Best of all, I know Jesus as my Savior. And I am going to live forever in Heaven.
-And all of these blessings have come my way, because in 1975 Georgia Canterbury simply invited me to come to church.
*And that’s what we all need to do, because God wants our church to grow. Who do you know that might say yes to a friendly invitation?
-Dream of being a growing church.
2. And dream of being a gathered church.
*One of the most important things the Word of God stresses in these verses is that the early church was gathered together. They gathered together for Bible study, fellowship, prayer and worship. Listen, for example, to vs. 42 and the first part of vs. 43:
42. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43. Then fear came upon every soul. . .
 Why did these Christians gather together? -- First it was for Bible study.
*As vs. 42 says, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” Or as the NIV says: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching.”
*Bible Study is certainly one of the most important keys to living the Christian life. There is no way for us to overstate the importance of studying the Word of God. No matter how long we have been a Christian, no matter how much we know, we still need to study God’s Word.
*God’s Word is like the ocean. We might have known how to swim for years.
-But there are places and depths we have never seen.
*And God’s Word is like a spiritual grocery store. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” There will never come a time to stop feeding on the Word of God. And many times, God wants us to feast on His Word together.
-The first church gathered for Bible study.
 They also gathered for fellowship.
*In vs. 42, “They continued steadfastly . . . in the breaking of bread.” Then in vs. 46, we read: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”
*The early church gathered together for fellowship in both large groups and small. This kind of fellowship is vital for us to be the dream church God wants us to be. And this is a big reason why we need to be warm and friendly to everyone who walks through the doors.
*Ken Marler told the story of his 94-year-old grandfather who lived with his 88-year-old wife just off I-55 in “It,” Mississippi. There was a sign on the road into town that said: “This is It”
*Ken said: “Every Thursday, my 94-year-old grandfather drives 20 miles to Wal-Mart in Hazelhurst. That is senior adult day, and he can get free coffee. He doesn't miss that day at Wal-Mart. When I asked my grandfather why he drives 40 miles for a free cup of coffee, he said, ‘Well, I like the free coffee. I also like the way the clerks hug on me.’
*Once he happened to go to Wal-Mart on his birthday, and the clerks had planned a birthday party. A cake, candles, balloons, ice cream and a newspaper photographer were all there. Of course, there was free coffee too.”
*Ken then said: “Wal-Mart knows my grandfather. They know his name and when his birthday is. Now it is very interesting that my grandfather does not go to church. He is a Christian, and my grandmother doesn't miss church. But my grandfather just doesn't go. And I think I know why. At Wal-Mart he gets what he (didn’t) get at his church: Hugs, people knowing his name, birthday parties, a sense of belonging and being appreciated. You see, it doesn't matter if you are 4 or 94, you like this kind of attention.”
*Then Ken asked, “If my grandfather were in your church, would he get the Wal-Mart reception?” (2)
*Those first Christians were gathered together in warm-hearted fellowship. And God wants us to be the same way. They gathered for fellowship.
 And they gathered for prayer.
*Again in vs. 42: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” They continued in prayers. And then in vs. 43, “fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”
*Church: We may not have the apostles today. But we’ve got the same God!
-And He’s got the same power He’s always had.
*James Gilmour was the missionary to Mongolia who said: “Un-prayed for I feel like a diver at the bottom of a river with no connecting airline to the surface, or like a fireman [using] an empty hose on a burning building. But with prayer, I feel like David facing Goliath.” (3)
*Remember how David felt when he faced Goliath? -- In 1 Samuel 17: 45-46, David told the giant:
45. “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
46. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
*That missionary said: “With prayer, I feel like David facing Goliath.” That’s the way God wants us to feel! -- So we need to gather for prayer, knowing that God will do great things in answer to those prayers.
-The first church gathered for prayer.
 And they gathered for worship.
*Verse 43 tells us that “fear (i.e. Godly fear or reverence) came upon every soul.” There’s the worship. And we see it again down in vs. 47, where those Christians were praising God. But there is no praise without reverence. And there is no real worship without this Godly fear.
*Psalm 111:10 tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But today there is a spiritual famine of Godly fear.
-Can anybody have too much reverence for the Lord?
-Is there anyone here who thinks they have enough reverence for the Lord?
-We all need more reverence for God.
*In the early church Godly fear “came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” The order in this verse is interesting to me. You would think that the order would be reversed: signs and wonders and then the fear. But the reverence came first.
*And the good lesson for us here is this: The more reverence we have for God, the more we will see Him at work in our lives. The more reverence we have for God, the more we will see Him work in ways we never even expected.
*The early church gathered together in one accord for Bible study, fellowship, prayer and worship. And that’s what the Lord wants us to do.
-Dream of being a gathered church.
3. And dream of being a generous church.
*We see this truth in vs. 44-45:
44. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
45. and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
*Now there is no evidence that this was done in the other New Testament churches. In fact, the other churches later took up collections for this church at Jerusalem. But here you had a difficult and desperate situation.
*These Jews had come from all over the world for the Feast of Pentecost. They expected to soon go home, but they heard the Gospel, trusted in Jesus Christ, and decided to stay. Plus, persecution was just around the corner.
*The principle for us here is that as the Lord leads, we should generously help those who are in need. God wants all believers to be givers:
-Giving our time,
-Giving our talents,
-Giving our tithes and offerings.
*And if we are really growing spiritually, we will give.
-Dream of being a generous church.
4. And dream of being a glad church.
*We see this truth back up in vs. 41, where they gladly received the Word of God. But also look at vs. 46. There the early Christians were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,” (eating) “their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,”
*That word “gladness” in vs. 46 means that they had exceeding great joy. The word picture is someone literally jumping for joy. These early Christians were overflowing with joy over all they had in Jesus Christ.
*Jim Kane explained this kind of joy by saying: “Joy is tuning in to what God is doing around you, seeing the world through his eyes, picking up on His delight in us as His children. Anyone can find happiness for a while. Happiness depends on what is happening to you. Joy is different. Joy goes deeper. Joy is when your whole being sings because you have caught a glimpse of God at work.” (4)
*They had exceeding great joy. And in vs. 47, they were “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
*Now that was a glad church! -- And that’s the way God wants our church to be.
*I am glad to tell you that in many ways, our church is already a dream church. We have great fellowship, great Bible study in Sunday School, strong prayer warriors and many generous people.
*I also want you to know that this church is a dream-come-true for me and Mary. And that’s a fact. Some of us drove 15 miles or more to get here today.
- wonder how many other people in a 15-mile circle need to find our dream-come-true?
-May God help us to reach as many of those people as we possibly can.
*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
(1) “Preaching the Miracles” by Harold H. Lentz - CSS Publishing, Lima, Ohio, 1999 - Source: Online illustration from Sermonillustrations.com - 09072003
(2) Copyright (c) 1996 Baptist Press RNbp6223mrjB6223h6226 - Source: Adapted from #3654 - Online Christianity Today (America Online) - TITLE: “First-person: If Churches Were Walmart Stores” - AUTHOR: Ken Marler - DATE: 22395 - ENTERED: 41696 - TYPIST: David Holwick
(3) Sermons.com sermon “You Will Not Leave My Soul in Hell” - Ps 16; Dan 12:1-13; Heb 10:11-18; 31-39
(4) SermonCentral illustration: “Tasting the Fruit” contributed by Jim Kane