The Savior's Next Step for Our Church
Acts 1:12-26 (Initial reading: vs. 8-14)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 19, 2013
*This is last week's issue of "The Baptist Message," and the headline for this article is: "Hankins Delivers Sobering News to 2020 Commission." It tells us that from 2000 to 2010, Louisiana's population grew by about 60,000 people -- to more than four and a half million. But in the same time period membership in LBC churches declined by 45,000 people.
*Comparing 2010 to 2000, baptisms of adults were down by 1,258. Youth were down 420. And children were down 960. Dr. Hankins also noted that since 1980, the baptism of children is down 42 percent. And Sunday School average attendance is down by 20,591. Worse than that, "average attendance of teenagers in our churches has dropped a staggering 67,639 since 1980. . ." (1)
*That is sobering, disturbing news for us. But we want our church to grow! We want our church to grow, because God wants our church to grow.
*But how can we take the next step? -- Acts chapter 1 happened just a few days before the first real growth of the church. And here God's Word shows us how to take the next step.
1. First: Carry out the Lord's commands.
*This is what the Apostles did in vs. 12: "Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey."
To understand their obedience in vs. 12, we have to look back at vs. 4&5, which say:
4. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which,'' He said, "you have heard from Me;
5. "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.''
*Why did the Lord command them to wait in Jerusalem? -- Well, vs. 11 reminds us that these Apostles were "Men of Galilee." So there could have been a natural pull for them to go home. On top of that, the Lord knew what was going to happen on the day of Pentecost. Many thousands would be there for the feast, and three thousand of those people were going to be saved! So the Lord wanted His Apostles to be in the right place to reach the most people with the gospel.
*Jesus cares a whole lot more about reaching people than we do, or ever could. He will lead us to the best possible place to reach people. But we have to carry out His commands.
*We need to follow the advice Jesus' mother gave the servants in John chapter 2. There at a wedding in Cana they ran out of wine. And Mary gave this great advice: "Whatever Jesus tells you to do. -- Do it!"
*The question is: How committed are we to obey the Lord? "Reader's Digest" told about a mom named "Pat." One day, she caught her little boy eating out of the sugar bowl. Pat fussed at her son, and said, "Don't ever let me catch you doing that again!" Her little boy replied, "I'll try, Mommy, -- but I can't always hear you coming." (2)
*At least he was honest. We've got to be more committed to DO what the Lord tells us to do. The disciples obeyed the Lord. They returned to Jerusalem, and waited for the promise. But why should we obey? Why should we do anything for Jesus Christ? It's because of all He has done for us! It's because of the cross!
*How can we take the next step for our church? -- We must carry out the Lord's commands.
2. But also pray with passion.
*We must renew our passion for prayer. This is the message for us in vs. 13-14, where the Bible says:
13. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son (or brother) of James.
14. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
*There are 3 highly important things to notice about our prayer in these verses.
 The first is our commitment to prayer.
*That word "continued" in vs. 14 carries the idea of something faithful, diligent, courageous, steadfast. These Christians were devoted to prayer, persevering in prayer, and constant in prayer. A.T. Robertson said they "stuck to praying for the promise of the Father until the answer came." (3)
 God wants us committed to prayer. But He also wants our cooperation in prayer.
*As vs. 14 says they "all continued with one accord in prayer." Church: That can't mean they agreed about everything in life. You won't find a group of 12 people who agree on everything, much less 120. But in the big things, in the things that mattered, they were absolutely united.
*So Albert Barnes said: "There were no schisms, no divided interests, no discordant purposes. This is a beautiful picture of devotion, and a specimen of what our worship together ought to be. It was also a beautiful illustration of Psalm 133:1, where God's Word declares: 'Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'" (4)
 God wants our cooperation in prayer. But vs. 14 also tells us something about the content of our prayer.
*Luke tells us that "these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." That word "prayer" just means "asking." But this word was only used to describe asking God for help. The word picture here is bowing before the Lord. We bow before Him to give Him the glory and praise He deserves! We bow towards Him to draw close in worship. We bow before Him in reverence. Plus there is the understanding in this word that there are some needs that only God can supply.
*"Supplication" means having a need and asking for help. But the root word is "to bind," so there is great strength here, like binding ourselves with chains to our purpose in prayer. Supplication kicks prayer into high gear. It is praying with urgency.
*But when we make our supplications, we also bind ourselves to God and His perfect will. We know that we are in the best Hands with God. And we are willing to accept the answer He gives, even if it's not the answer we want. (5)
*Elisa Morgan saw a perfect picture of this in her 11-year-old daughter's prayers. This mother was troubled one night, because her friend's teenage daughter had suddenly come down with a mysterious illness: The girl's hair had started falling out.
*The sick girl's name was Amy. And Elisa asked her own daughter Eva to pray for Amy. That night young Eva simply prayed, "Jesus, please hold Amy's hair on her head." Over time the doctors experimented with different treatments, but Amy continued to lose her hair. And Eva continued to pray: "Jesus, please hold Amy's hair on her head."
*But after six weeks the doctors found that Amy had an extremely rare disorder where hair loss can be complete and permanent. And that night, Eva's prayer was different. She said: "Dear Jesus, if you won't hold Amy's hair on her head, would you please hold Amy." Only 11 years old, but she got it just right: "Father, Thy will be done." (6)
*How can we take the next step for our church? -- We must pray with passion.
3. But also believe the Bible.
*We must have complete confidence in the Word of God. This is the lesson for us tonight in vs. 15-20, where God's Word says:
15. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,
16. "Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;
17. for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.''
18. (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.
19. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20. "For it is written in the book of Psalms: 'Let his habitation be desolate, and let no one live in it'; and, 'Let another take his office.'
*In vs. 20, the KJV says: "For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take." In the original language, that word "bishoprick" is "episcopay." It's where the Episcopal Church got its name. And it just means "overseer," someone who visits to inspect, to look over. You can hear the word "scope" in "e-pi-sco-pay," and that's what it's talking about.
*There is much more we could say about these verses. But the key for us tonight is vs. 16, where Peter said: "Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus."
*The "Scripture had to be fulfilled." This reminds us that there is no other book in the world like this Book. The Holy Spirit told those men what to say. And many times they did not understand the long term significance of what they were saying.
*Verse 20 quotes King David from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. And these verses were written 1,000 years before Jesus was born! Plus there are more Old Testament Scriptures that prophesied about Judas, the betrayer.
-In Psalm 41:9 King David again prophesied about Judas. There David said: "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
-And 500 years before Jesus was born, Zechariah wrote:
12. Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.'' So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
13. And the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter'' that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter. (Zechariah 11:12-13)
*These fulfilled prophecies and hundreds more prove to us that the Bible is the miraculous, infallible, eternal, soul-saving, life-giving Word of God!
*How can we take the next step for our church? -- We must believe the Bible.
4. But also enlist and equip more help.
*We have to enlist and equip more people to serve the Lord. This is the lesson for us in vs. 20-23, where Peter said:
20. "For it is written in the book of Psalms: 'Let his habitation be desolate, and let no one live in it'; and, `Let another take his office.'
21. Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22. beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.''
23. And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
 People will surely have to be enlisted to serve the Lord.
*Matthew 9:36-38 tells us that:
36. . . when he (Jesus) saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
37. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
38. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."
*More workers for the harvest: They were needed then and they are surely needed today.
 God wants our church to enlist new leaders. But He also wants us to equip new leaders.
*These two possible candidates for Apostle had the best training possible. They had been with Jesus for 3 years! They had been with Jesus from the beginning of the Lord's ministry to the end.
*And none of us is equipped to be an Apostle. But all of us can be equipped to serve the Lord! That's because there are so many different ways to serve. Paul explained it this way in Romans 12:4-8:
4. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,
5. so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
7. or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
8. he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
*There is so much we can do: Witnessing and working, serving in Sunday School, the choir, Children's Church, the Nursery, and much more. Tonight, I am thinking of VBS starting 3 weeks from today. And over the summer we will enlist and equip as many people as possible to help with Upward Football.
*If you are a Christian, God has saved you and placed you here for a reason. We all need to get equipped to somehow serve the Lord! More workers for the harvest are surely needed today. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."
*How can we take the next step for our church? -- We must enlist and equip more help.
5. But also accept the Lord's assignment.
*We have to humbly serve as the Lord leads. We have to bloom where the Lord plants us. This is the lesson for us in vs. 23-26, where Luke said:
23. And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24. And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen
25. to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.''
26. And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
*Our first thought could be: "Not a great day for Joseph, the guy who wasn't picked to be on the first team."
*I wonder what happened to him. We don't know. We don't really know what happened to Matthias either. But we do know that God put the right man in the right job at the right time. And I have to believe that they both humbly served the Lord as well as they could. That's what we need to do.
*I love the story Max Lucado told about John Egglen. He was a tailor who was also a deacon in his church in Colchester, England. When John woke up on a January Sunday in 1850, the town was covered in snow. And he thought about staying home. -- Who wouldn't?
*But John wanted to be faithful. So he put on his hat and coat and walked six miles to church. Only thirteen people made it that morning: twelve members and one visitor. Even the preacher was snowed in.
*Someone suggested they go home, but John would have none of that. They'd come this far. They would have a service. Besides, they had a visitor, a 13-year-old boy. But who would preach?
*Well, John was the only deacon, so the job fell to him. And he preached, even though he had never preached before. John stumbled through his ten minute sermon. He read from Isaiah 45:22, where thus saith the LORD: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
*John closed his message by looking at the young visiting teenager and saying, "Young man, look to Jesus Christ. You have nothing to do but to look and live. Look! -- Look, young man! Look now!"
*It was just what God wanted the young visitor to hear. John Egglen said, "Look to Jesus!" And the young man did. Young Charles Spurgeon got saved that snowy day, and grew-up to become one of the greatest preachers who ever lived. (7)
*Thousands and thousands of people have been saved because of his ministry. And the church where he pastored in London is still going strong today, all because a man who had never preached before accepted the Lord's assignment.
*Amazing things will happen when we humbly serve as the Lord leads. And God will surely help us to take the next step, if we will:
-Carry out His commands.
-Pray with passion.
-Believe the Bible.
-Enlist and equip more help.
-And humbly accept the Lord's assignments.
*Let's go to God in prayer.
(1) "Hankins Delivers Sobering News to 2020 Commission" by Karen L Willoughby - The Baptist Message - May 9, 2013
(2) "Reader's Digest" - March 2003 - p.109 - Source: "In Other Words" - March 2006 #1 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington - Beaumont, Texas 77706 - 409 -866-2111 - www.iows.net
(3) "Robertson's Word Pictures" by A.T. Robertson - Acts 1:14
(4) Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible - Acts 1:14
(5) Adapted from SermonCentral sermons "Standing In the Gap" by Russell Brownworth - 1 Timothy 2:1 and "First of All, Pray" by Roger Thomas - 1 Timothy 2:1-8
(6) Elisa Morgan in "Christian Parenting Today" - "Christian Reader" - Vol. 34 - Source: SermonCentral sermon "Standing in the Gap" by Russell Brownworth - 1 Timothy 2:1
-"Hidden Heroes" by Max Lucado - August 11, 2006 (From When God Whispers Your Name - Copyright 1994) - www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/upwords/upwords-week-of-aug-11-17-1414475.html
-"DEVOTIONS IN THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT" by Peter Kennedy, Copyright 1999