How God Wants to Grow Our Church
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 23, 2014
*Think about the answer to this question: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to seeing our church grow?" Church: We need to be more committed than ever before. A five-minute look around our country or our community makes that clear.
*We need to be more committed than ever before to help our church grow. If we're a 2, Lord make us a 4! If we're a 4, Lord make us an 8! We need to be more committed, because the Lord is fully committed. On a scale of 1 to 10, He's a million, right? God wants His church to grow! And in this Scripture He shows us how He does it.
1. First: God will grow our church with the same kind of men we see in this Scripture.
*God will grow our church with the same kind of people we see in vs. 24-33, so what kind of people do we see here?
 In vs. 24-26, we see someone who highly exalted Jesus Christ.
24. And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.
25. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.
26. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man.''
*Peter was saying: "Stand-up! Don't worship me. I'm not God. There's nothing really special about me. I'm just a sinner like you. If you really knew me, then you would know I even denied the Lord on the night before He was crucified. I'm a sinner. But I'm a sinner saved by grace! I am a sinner saved by the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ!"
*Peter never forgot who he was, and who Jesus was. Peter was always careful to give the glory to God. We saw this demonstrated back in Acts 3, when Peter and John went to the temple to pray, and they met a beggar who had been lame from the day he was born.
*Listen to what happened when the man asked for money:
6. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.''
7. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
8. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them walking, leaping, and praising God.
9. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.
10. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
11. Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed.
12. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
13. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
14. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,
15. and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.
16. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all."
*In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter said: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
*And Peter opened his second letter with these words:
1. Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2. Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:1-2)
*Peter never forgot who Jesus was, and Peter never forgot who he was. Yes, he was an Apostle, but Peter would have said, "I'm just a sinner, saved by grace."
*You may have heard of Garrison Keillor on NPR. He was the creator behind the weekly radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." Keillor told the story of his Thanksgiving dinners as a child. His Uncle John usually gave the prayer, and that caused everyone to squirm.
*As Keillor said, "Everybody in the family knew that Uncle John couldn't pray without talking about the cross and crying. . . Sure enough, Uncle John prayed, talked about the cross, and cried. Meanwhile, the rest of us shifted nervously from one foot to the other and longed for the prayer to end." Then Garrison added this powerful observation: "All of us knew that Jesus died on the cross for us. But Uncle John had never gotten over it." (1)
*That's the way Peter was. And God still uses people like that today: Christians who have never gotten over the cross, Christians who highly exalt the Lord.
 God will also grow our church with Christians who have obedient hearts.
*We see Peter's obedience in vs. 27-29:
27. And as he (i.e. Peter) talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together.
28. Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?''
*Peter could have said, "Lord, I am not going to that heathen Roman's house, no matter what! I don't want to go, and I don't even know why You want me to go." But Peter had an obedient heart, so in vs. 28-29, he said:
28. . . "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. . ."
*That's the kind of obedience God can use to grow His church, and God will grow our church with Christians who have obedient hearts.
 He will also grow our church with people who are seeking the Lord.
*Cornelius was the seeker in tonight's Scripture. In vs. 29, Peter asked this Roman soldier: "For what reason have you sent for me?'' And starting in vs. 30:
30. . . Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
31. and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.
32. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.'
33. So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.''
*Everybody needs Jesus! Unfortunately, not everybody is willing to listen. But Cornelius and the people with him were ready. And the good news is that at least some people around us are ready today.
*People are ready, because as Sam Shoemaker used to say, "Everybody has a problem, is a problem, or lives with a problem." Bill Bouknight pointed out that "in the absence of Christ, millions of persons are in the clutches of addiction and materialism." And Bill said, "I don't see anybody doing very well without Jesus. . . On top of that, two billion people have never even heard the Gospel." (2)
*In John 4:35, Jesus told His followers to "lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" Church: The fields are still white! And God wants to grow our church with these seekers.
2. God will grow our church with the same kind of men we see in these verses. He will also grow our church with the same methods.
*The Lord will grow our church with the same two basic methods we see in vs. 23-24. Remember that the men from Cornelius had found Peter at Joppa, and God had already told Peter to go with them.
*So in vs. 23-24, we read:
23. Then he (i.e. Peter) invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
24. And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.
*How is God going to grow His church today? We can do all kinds of things. We can have all kinds of special events. But when you get down to it, there are only two basic methods God uses.
 And the first one is we have to go.
*We have to go to the lost people and tell them about Jesus Christ. This is what Peter was willing to do, and this is what we must be willing to do. Maybe it's a relative or a friend or a co-worker. Sometimes, like in this Scripture, it will be a total stranger that God puts in our path. And it may be stressful, but God will show us what to do and say.
*Pastor James McCullen gave a most unusual example, when he said: "Recently I acquired the recorded testimony of a lady who at one time owned and operated an abortion clinic. She stated, 'I have been involved indirectly in 35,000 abortions.'
*The clinic she partly owned experienced some significant management problems, so they called in a management consultant. He laid out a strategy that seemed helpful to the clinic owner, and she was impressed with this consultant.
*She noticed a real serenity about him. She called it a very unusual peace, and one day she asked him: 'Are you by any chance a preacher?' He said, 'Yes.' And in dismay she then asked, 'What are you doing here?' He replied, 'The Lord told me someone involved in this clinic needed to get out, and I was supposed to help.'" (3)
*God would probably have to put His handwriting on the wall for me to go into an abortion clinic. But that lady did get saved. She got out of the abortion business, and she started actively serving the Lord.
*I'd be shocked if the Lord sent one of us to an abortion clinic, but He might. God will show us where to go, because He wants His church to grow!
 And God uses two basic methods: First, we have to go, and second, we have to invite them to hear.
*God wants us to invite people to hear, and Cornelius shows us this crucial method in vs. 24. Here God's Word tells us that "the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, AND HAD CALLED TOGETHER HIS RELATIVES AND CLOSE FRIENDS.
*Nothing can help a church grow more than what we see right there: "Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends." Cornelius invited his relatives and friends to hear about Jesus. And that made all the difference in the world!
*In the fall of 1975, my co-worker, Georgia Savoie invited us to church. I was saved about two months later, because somebody invited me to church. Later on, our three children were saved, and my mother was saved, because somebody invited me to church. Mary and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary this year, because somebody invited me to church. Countless blessings of love and goodness have come in my life, because somebody invited me to church.
*And God is going to give us opportunities to invite people to church, but we have to do the inviting. We must invite people to come!
3. And God will grow our church with the same methods we see here. He also will grow our church with the same message.
*It's the same message that Peter started to preach in vs. 34-36:
34. Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.
35. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
36. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all.)"
*Lord willing, we will take an in-depth look at Peter's message next time, but tonight I just want to stress two things:
 First, there is no partiality in this message. The Gospel is a message for all people.
*It is a message for all the peoples of the world. As the KJV says in vs. 34: "God is no respecter of persons." He cares just as much for the garbage man as He cares for the governor. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." God is willing to save anyone who will humbly turn to Him, and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
 The Gospel is a message for all people. And it is a message of peace.
*In vs. 36, Peter talked about the word "God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all.)" God wants us to have peace: Peace in our hearts, and most of all, peace with Him.
*God wants us to have peace, and this peace must come through Jesus Christ. As Romans 5:1 says to believers: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." God wants us to have peace, and we know that it came through the cross.
*King Duncan made a great point about the peace we can get from the cross. In John 20, Jesus had already died on the cross for our sins, and was now risen from the dead. Verses 19-20 tell us that:
19. . . The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you.''
20. Now when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
*King Duncan wrote that "Jesus said to his disciples, 'Peace be with you.' But notice what he did next: 'He showed them his hands and his side.'" (4)
*Church: Jesus wanted them to know, and He wants us to know that our peace comes through the wounds that He took for us That's why in Ephesians 2:14, Paul could say that Jesus "is our peace."
*Bruce Larson told how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ, and he said: "For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often, I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden.
*'Now that's one way to live,' I would point out to my companion, 'trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me.' On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little statue of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. (5)
*Church: That's the message. Our crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ can carry the whole world in His hands! So, we can safely trust in the Lord and He will give us peace.
*God wants to fill our church up with more people like that. God wants our church to grow! And He will grow it:
-With the same kind of men we see here.
-With the same methods we see here.
-And with the same message we see here: "Peace through Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all)!"
(1) Sermon "Standing in the Light of the Cross" by Bill Bouknight - Good News March-April 2002, p. 21 - Source: Sermonillustrations.com email 03132002
(2) Sermons.com sermon "A Personal God in an Impersonal World" by Bill Bouknight - Luke 2:1-14; 15-20
(3) Cross & Crown Sermons "Jesus and the Quality of Humility" by James McCullen - John 13:1-20
(4) Adapted from Dynamic Preaching sermon "Finding Peace" by King Duncan - John 20:19 -31 - Sunday 5 in April 2004
(5) SermonCentral illustration - Source: Bruce Larson, Believe and Belong