Be a Disciple Who Makes a Difference!
Be a Disciple Who Makes a Difference!
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - March 23, 2014
*Think about someone who has been a blessing to you. It could have been today or back when you were a little boy or girl. Surely there have been many blessings in our lives, more than a few people who have made a difference in your life.
*I was blessed by the sympathy cards we read after we got home Friday night. And it might have been three, but I think it was four different men who offered to give me a ride to the airport last Monday.
*Godly, Christian people have made a difference in our lives countless times, and our world needs more Christians like that, Christians like Barnabas in the Scripture tonight. How can we get there? How can we be disciples who make a difference?
1. First church: It's by the grace of God.
*We can make a difference only by the amazing grace of Almighty God! Barnabas clearly saw God's grace at work in Antioch. As vs. 21-23, say:
21. . . The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
23. When he came and had seen THE GRACE OF GOD, he was glad. . .
*Barnabas saw the grace of God and we can see it too. We can see God's grace when He used a terrible persecution to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. The devil was trying to crush and kill the young church. But it was as if God blew on a dandelion, and scattered the good news seed all over that part of the world. Then a great number of people got saved!
*But we can also see God's grace when even one person gets saved, because no one has ever been saved except by the grace of God. As Paul told the church in Ephesians 2:8-9:
8. . . By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.
*Joseph Thayer defined God's grace as "His good will to us, His merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps them, strengthens them, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, and affection, and kindles them to exercise the Christian virtues. . ."
*Of course, the greatest place we can ever see the grace of God is on the cross of Jesus Christ! By the grace of God, Jesus died on that cross to take the punishment for our sins. God's grace is needed by all, and it is available to all who will trust in the Lord.
*Pastor Martin Dale remembers a time when Billy Graham was on French TV. That French commentator said, "Dr. Graham, the whole of France is watching you. You have two minutes to prove to us God exists."
*Billy Graham replied: "I can't do that, but I can tell you what I do know. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life." (1)
*Grace really is G.R.A.C.E. -- "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." And by the cross of Jesus Christ, we can have all the grace we need.
*James Kennedy certainly knew about the grace of God. Dr. Kennedy was one of the greatest pastors of our day. He started "Evangelism Explosion" which helped many people come to Christ. Dr. Kennedy also took a very strong stand for family values.
*But back in the 1950's, James Kennedy was an instructor at an Arthur Murray dance studio. He also led a drunken, immoral lifestyle. When James started dating a Christian girl, she asked him, "Where do you go to church?" He replied, "Nowhere. You don't have to go to church to be a good person." Then, with an air of arrogance, he said, "You can be a good Christian without going to church!" But the girl wisely replied, "No you can't!"
*Years later, Dr. Kennedy said, "That was the first time anyone had ever challenged my little pet saying. I was taken aback, and it made me re-think everything I believed."
*A week later, Kennedy was asleep in a drunken haze. When he woke up, he heard a preacher on the radio. He got up to turn it off. But before he got to the radio, he heard the preacher ask this question: "Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God, and he asked you: 'What right do you have to enter my heaven?' What would you say?"
*That question stopped Kennedy in his tracks. He sat back down on the bed and listened as Dr. Donald Barnhouse shared the gospel message. Right then and there, James Kennedy completely surrendered his life to Christ.
*The next day, as he was shaving, he looked at himself in the mirror and kept saying, "I'm forgiven! I'm completely forgiven! I'm going to spend eternity in Paradise with Jesus!" He was so happy, so grateful. Right then and there James said to himself, "I want what happened to me to happen to as many people as possible." James started going to church with his new Christian girlfriend. And for over 50 years Dr. Kennedy showed his appreciation for Jesus by loving service to the Lord. (2)
*Looking back, we can clearly see the grace of God at work in James' life. We can see it in that bold statement of truth from James' new Christian girlfriend. And we can see God's grace in the radio sermon James didn't even want to hear. Both of these things happened because of the wonderful, amazing grace of God!
2. How can we be disciples who make a difference? -- By the grace of God. And by firmly gripping the Lord.
*This is what Barnabas urged the believers to do in Antioch: Keep holding on to the Lord Jesus Christ. (By the way, Barnabas' given name was "Joses." But we can call him the "Son of Encouragement," because that's what his nickname "Barnabas" means. It was given to him by the early Christians in Jerusalem, because he was such a strong source of encouragement to the church.)
*And it is extremely important to notice how Barnabas encouraged the Christians here in vs. 23-24:
23. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
24. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
*Barnabas encouraged those Christians to "continue with the Lord." The KJV says "cleave unto the Lord." The NIV says he "encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." And the Amplified Bible says he "continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them all to cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart."
*The idea is to be intentional and persistent about holding on to the Lord, remaining close and loyal to the Lord, getting a good, strong grip on the Lord, hanging on to Jesus with all our heart, because He is worthy of our trust and devotion.
*This holding fast to the Lord is necessary as long as we are in this world, because although believers are born again with a new nature in Christ, we also have the old nature lurking about in us. The Bible calls it "the flesh" or "our old man." And although Romans 6 tells us our old man was crucified with Christ, it doesn't always seem to get the message. That's why we see Paul struggling in Romans 7, and sometimes we see ourselves struggling today.
*Listen to part of the Apostle Paul's struggle in Romans 7:15-24:
15. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
16. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
17. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
18. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
19. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
20. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
22. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
23. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
*What is the answer to our spiritual struggle? The answer is Jesus! So in the last two verses of Romans 7, Paul said:
24. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25. I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
*Barnabas knew that the key to a strong Christian life was getting as close to Jesus as we possibly can. And Barnabas not only talked the talk, He walked the walk. In vs. 23, Barnabas was glad "when he came and had seen the grace of God." He was rejoicing, he was full of cheer. He was happy for the right reasons. Then in vs. 24, Barnabas "was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." He was full of goodness, and he was full of God! He was full of faith, and he was full of fruit, as a great many people were added to the Lord.
*But how did Barnabas get so full? It's because He had taken a long daily drink of the Lord. Barnabas had already been taking the great advice he gave to the Christians in Antioch: "Cleave to the Lord." Jesus Christ really is the answer to all of our problems!
*The Navigators tell about an informal prayer meeting that blossomed in the White House during the 1970s. Some of those high-powered leaders gathered for inspiration, encouragement, and the opportunity to pray together. Somewhat surprisingly, Arthur Burns began attending. He was the chairman of the Federal Reserve System. Arthur Burns was also a Jew, so those who typically led the prayer time would not call on him to close in prayer.
*One week a newcomer led the prayer meeting, and before thinking about it, he asked Mr. Burns to lead the closing prayer. Some of the regulars glanced at each other and wondered what would happen. But Mr. Burns immediately reached out to join hands with those around him, and began what became the most memorable prayer of all those meetings. Arthur Burns said, "Lord, I pray that you would bring Jews to know Jesus Christ. I pray that you would bring Muslims to know Jesus Christ. Finally, Lord, I pray that you would bring Christians to know Jesus Christ. Amen." (3)
*Everybody needs to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! And every believer needs to know Him more and more, getting a good grip on the Lord. Hang on to Jesus with all your heart, because He is worthy of our trust and devotion!
3. How can we be disciples who make a difference? -- By firmly gripping the Lord. And by going where the Lord leads.
*All the wonderful things that happened starting in vs. 22 happened because Barnabas was willing to go. In vs. 22, Barnabas was willing to go as far as Antioch. And Barnabas was willing to go as far as the Lord wanted Him to go, so down in vs. 25-26:
25. . . Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
26. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. . .
*Barnabas went all the way to Tarsus to encourage Paul to come help in Antioch. That was a trip of 100 miles by sea or 150 miles by land. And beyond the distance, imagine how hard it was to find anybody in that time. Barnabas probably had to travel on foot, with none of the modern technology we get to use every day.
*Also remember that this was a big stretch for Barnabas, because Paul had been one of the chief persecutors of the church. And even after Paul got saved, the church was not too eager to accept him. But by the grace of God, Barnabas saw the change and the potential in Paul. So back in Acts 9, Barnabas vouched for Paul before the church in Jerusalem. And now he encouraged Paul to come help the church in Antioch.
*Think of the wonderful difference we see even today, because Barnabas was willing to go for God. And we must be willing to go where the Lord leads. That may be across the room to pick up the phone to invite someone to church. It may be across the street to help a neighbor. It may be across the office to witness for Jesus. It may be across the ocean to go on a mission trip. Or it may be to talk with a relative you gave up on a long time ago.
*We shouldn't go anywhere the Lord doesn't lead, but God wants everyone to go somewhere. And we should go everywhere the Lord leads us to go.
4. How can we be disciples who make a difference? -- By going where the Lord leads. And by gathering together with other Christians.
*What a difference this made in vs. 26! In this verse, "When (Barnabas) had found (Paul), he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." Many people were saved, and many Christians grew strong, because they gathered together to worship the Lord, learn, teach, help, and love one another.
*I get to see the same kind of things happen almost every day: Great things happening in the lives of God's people, because we have gathered together, and we are together in Christ! This kind of gathering will change our lives and our world.
*Pastor Louis Valbracht shared this testimony from one lady who was changed. He called her "one of my alcoholic friends" and said, "In the last year, she has come from the far country. And she was way off in the far country, -- tragedy, despair, shame, and desperation haunting her life. Today, she is completely sober and has been for months. She is happily married, joyfully in communion with God and the Church.
*I asked her how things were. Her face was radiant when she said, 'Wonderful! I didn't know things could be so wonderful!' That's the song of reconciliation. The gap is closed. The breach is healed." (4)
*Church: That's the kind of difference God wants to see in us. And that's the kind of difference He wants us to help make in other people. How can we get there? How can we be like Barnabas? How can we be disciples who make a difference?
-By God's amazing grace.
-By firmly gripping the Lord.
-By going where the Lord leads.
-And by gathering together with other believers.
*May God help us to do these things! Let's go to the Lord in prayer.
(1) SermonCentral sermon "Wheelbarrow Faith" by Martin Dale - John 3:1-17
(2) SermonCentral sermon "A Good Man" by Leland Patrick - Acts 11:22-24 - Source: SermonCentral contribution by Marc Axelrod
(4) Adapted Sermons.com sermon "The Most Beautiful Word" by Louis Valbracht - 2 Corinthians 5:20b