Why God's Church Matters
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - June 23, 2013
*Don't you love our church? We are blessed to be part of a church where people love God, love His Word, and love each other. But as we look into the Word of God tonight, remember that we are not just part of Grayson Baptist Church. We are part of the church that we see right here in the pages of the New Testament. We are part of the church of the living God. And that makes all the difference in the world.
*The great tragedy is that we are surrounded by so many people who just don't get it. When it comes to the church, their attitude ranges from ho-hum indifference to open hostility. They have no idea how important God's church is to Him and His world. But God's church matters!
1. God's church matters first of all, because we are witnesses of God's mighty works.
*As Peter said in vs. 32, "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses."
*Now, we may not have seen what Peter saw. But if we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we are witnesses of God's mighty works. From vs. 32, we are witnesses that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead three days after He died on the cross. And from many other places in the Bible, we are witnesses that Jesus died on that cross for us. We are witnesses that Jesus took all of the punishment for our sins when He died for us!
*For example, Isaiah 53:4-6 says:
4. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
*And Colossians 1:13-14 tells believers that God the Father:
13. . . hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14. In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
*On top of this, we are witnesses that Jesus Christ has been exalted above all other men. Jesus Christ has been exalted above all other men, because He is the only begotten Son of God who became a man, and lived a perfect life. The God-man Jesus Christ is the only man in history who could die on the cross for our sins. And He is the only man who could rise again to conquer death forever.
*As Peter said in vs. 33-36:
33. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
34. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand,
35. till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'''
36. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.''
*Surely King David was one of the greatest heroes to these devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. But Peter told them about someone infinitely greater than King David. He told them about the Lord Jesus Christ. He told them about the King of Kings!
*And in vs. 34-35, Peter exalted Jesus with King David's own words from Psalm 110. There David reported a Heavenly conversation, where God the Father spoke to God the Son. And David said: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'"
*God the Father has exalted the God-man Jesus Christ above all other men! That's why the Apostle Paul could say this about Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11:
5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.
8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
9. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
10. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
11. and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
*Church: We are witnesses that Jesus Christ has been exalted above all other men! We are witnesses. As Jesus told the Apostles in Acts 1:8, "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.''
*Rick Warren explained: "All God wants you to do is to be a witness. What is a witness? -- A witness is somebody who just tells what they have seen. 'I saw this, and then I saw this; and this is what happened.' And a witness tells what happened to them. You see, you are the expert on your life. Nobody can be a better witness on your life than you. Nobody can be a better witness of what God has done in your life than you." (1)
*If we know Jesus as Lord and Savior, then we are witnesses of God's mighty works, not just 2,000 years ago, but in our lives today. Think of the difference that Jesus has made in your life, when He saved your soul from hell, when He gave you eternal life, when He helps you every day. Nothing could ever mean more to us than what Jesus Christ has done for us.
*Jim Irwin found that out in a most unusual place. Jim was one of only 12 men who have ever walked on the moon. Even as a child, Jim had a dream of going to the moon. And because of his dream, he first became an Air Force test pilot, and then an astronaut.
*Jim Irwin flew with Apollo 15, and on July 26, 1971, he fulfilled his dream of walking on the moon. Jim was the seventh man to ever do that. But while he was standing on the moon, looking back at our world the size of a blue marble, Jim felt the presence of God like never before.
*It was an experience that literally changed his life. Jim Irwin left the space program and devoted himself to telling people about the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. By the time of his death in 1991, Jim had told countless people about Jesus. Many people came to put their trust in the Lord. And Jim Irwin was absolutely right when he often told them: "Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon." (2)
*We will never walk on the moon. But we know the same Jesus who changed Jim Irwin's life! And we are His witnesses too. God's church matters because we are witnesses of God's mighty works.
2. It also matters because we have the answers to life's greatest questions.
*We see this truth in vs. 37-38, where the people began to respond to Peter's message:
37. 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?''
38. Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
*The great questions of life: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Does anyone love me? Is there life after death? What must I do to be saved? In vs. 37, those people in Jerusalem put it this way: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?'' What shall we do about our sins? What shall we do about Jesus? This is life's greatest question. And Peter had the right answer in vs. 38: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (i.e. the forgiveness) of sins."
*In short, the answer is Jesus! Turn your life over to Jesus and put your trust in Him. Jesus is the answer for the world's troubles today. And there is immeasurable trouble in our world today.
*James Kim reported on some surveys conducted back in 1990. They found that 65% of all Christian high school students were sexually active, 75% of all high school students cheated regularly, 30% of all high school students had shoplifted in the past 30 days, 45-50% of all teen pregnancies were being aborted, 3.3 million teens were alcoholics, and 1,000 teens tried to commit suicide ever day.
*Do you think those statistics are any better in 2013? -- Not a chance. There is great confusion and trouble all around us. James Kim noted: "We live in a stress-filled, crisis-packed, angry, cynical, violent world. The million dollar question is: Does the church of Jesus Christ have anything to offer to this world? Can the church make a difference in this world?" (3)
*The answer is absolutely yes! And the reason why is because the church is the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ at work in the world today. In Ephesians 1:22-23, Paul tells us that:
22. (God the Father) put all things under (Jesus') feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,
23. which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
*And in Matthew 16:18, Jesus declared: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." That's why in Ephesians 3:20-21, Paul could lift up this great praise:
20. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
21. to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
*The church of Jesus Christ has all of the answers the world needs today, because Jesus is the answer! Christians: We are part of God's church. And God's church matters because we have the answers to life's greatest questions.
3. It also matters because we also have the help of His Holy Spirit.
*Peter stressed this great truth first in vs. 33, where he said this about Jesus: "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear."
*Now down in vs. 38-39, when Peter answered life's greatest question, he said this about the Holy Spirit of God:
38. . . "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission 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.''
*God the Father and God the Son are in Heaven right now. But God has not left us alone in the world! He has "poured out" His Spirit on His people. He has sent His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts when we believe in Jesus. God has not left us alone in the world! "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.''
*John 16:7-14 is a great place to see the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today. There Jesus said:
7. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
14. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you."
*Now if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is at work in your life, even when you can't feel Him. And we can stand on Jesus' promise in Luke 11:9-13:
9. . . "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
10. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
11. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
12. Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, HOW MUCH MORE WILL YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO ASK HIM!''
*God promised to give us the Holy Spirit. And when we opened our hearts to receive Jesus Christ, we received His Spirit.
*We are part of God's church! And God's church matters because we have the help of the Holy Spirit.
4. It also matters because we have great reasons to rejoice.
*Verses 40-41 remind us of this truth, as we see what happened next:
40. And with many other words he (i.e. Peter) testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation.''
41. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
*They received the word gladly. They received the gospel with great joy and gladness. And there are 3 kinds of gladness we can see here.
 First is personal gladness.
*Getting saved is the greatest thing that can ever happen in someone's life! And we ought to be glad. That doesn't mean we will be happy, happy, happy every day. But I wouldn't trade my worst day as a Christian for my best day before Jesus. And if you are a Christian, neither would you.
*But sometimes we forget how blessed we are! Sometime we are like the little boys in Africa that Vance Havner wrote about. They were playing marbles next to a creek. But they didn't realize that they were playing marbles with huge diamonds. (4)
*They had no idea of the value of what they held in their hands. And sometimes we lose sight of the true value of salvation. But we ought to overflow with joy, because we are saved! That's personal gladness.
 But there is also mutual gladness when we see others come to know Jesus.
*Those people in Jerusalem received the word with gladness. But don't you know the church was happy too! I can't think of any greater joy for a believer than to see someone else come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We have personal gladness. We have mutual gladness.
 And one day soon we will have eternal gladness.
*Of course all of these early Christians are in Heaven today. And before very long, we will join them too.
*I think of Dr. Diane Komp. She is a pediatric oncologist, who described herself as an agnostic/atheist when she first entered the medical field. But working with dying children gave Dr. Komp an unshakable faith in God.
*She tells of a typical case from her early years. Seven-year-old Anna had fought leukemia for 5 years. She had no more strength to fight. But moments before she died, the little girl suddenly sat up in bed and announced that she saw angels. A smile lit up her small face as she described their beautiful singing. And then this little child, radiant with joy, went home to be with the Lord. (5)
*Diane came to understand that little Anna had seen the Lord face to face, and now lives with him forever. Church, one day we will move to Heaven to live forever with Jesus. There can be no greater joy.
*We are part of the church of the living God! And God's church matters! It matters because:
-We are witnesses of God's mighty works.
-We have the answers to life's greatest questions.
-We have the help of the Holy Spirit.
-And we have great reasons to rejoice.
*Let's thank the Lord for His church as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Adapted from "40 Days of Purpose" by Rick Warren - Week 6
(2) Adapted from "In Other Words" - Winter 2001 (Produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington ~ Beaumont, Texas 77706 (800) 553-4697 - www.iows.net and Dave Dean, "Now is Your Time to Win," p. 122 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "There's God In Them There Hills" by James Merritt - Psalm 19:1-14
(3) Bruce Wilkinson, "7 Laws of the Learner" - Source: Online sermon from Trinity Presbyterian, The Colony, TX, Pastor James Kim - Aug. 29, 2004
(4) “Playing Marbles with Diamonds and Other Messages for America” by Vance Havner - Baker Pub Group - 1985-10-01
(5) Diane M. Komp, M.D. "A Window To Heaven" - Grand Rapids, Michigan - Zondervan Publishing House - 1992 - pp. 28-29 - Source: "HOW A CHRISTIAN GRIEVES" - I Thessalonians 4:13-18 - "Dynamic Preaching" sermon - 2nd Sunday in November, 2002