Open your bibles to the book of Acts chapter 20, verses 28 through 32 and stand with me as I read this passage of Scripture.
Acts 20:28-32 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, ESV
· My subject ‘Care for the church of God’, by being alert.
· In this world that we live in things happens, sometimes we can forecast it and at other times it comes upon us unexpected.
· Some of these things will happen to our amazement, enjoyment and happiness.
· And other things will happen to our detriment, bereavement, and unhappiness
· Speaking to the Elders of the church, Paul exhort them to ‘be alert’ and he states this as; “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
· The elders, the bishops, the pastors, have been given the authority, by the Holy Spirit, to oversee, direct and care for the church of God.
· We have looked at how this is done;
o In Ephesians 4:12 it is accomplished by the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (the work of service)
o Listen at how it was done in Acts 2:42-45 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. ESV
o The flock, devout men according to verse 5 of chapter 2 of Acts, submitted themselves to the authority of the apostles, men that these devout men had earlier called Galileans and drunken Galileans at that.
· You may correctly ask, pastor what is the point of all of this?
· The point is that in this time where there is an erosion of authority and society as a whole is antagonistic toward any authority, you must fight through the temptation to join or be a part of that way of thinking.
· It is easier now days to look past the spiritual calling and see just the man or in our case the men and when that happens it easy to make worldly comparisons;
o I’m just as old or older
o I’m just as educated or more educated
o I’ve studied the Word of God just like or more intently than
o I’ve gone through some things even more than
o You’re not a woman so how can you know
o The world ain’t like it was when you were young, things are different now
· From among your own selves will arise men and or women speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
· Today, I would like for us to see an illustration of this from the Word
· And when we look at this passage I want you to see that in the alertness of the pastors, it is not planned for them to do it all.
· In fact there are spiritual priorities to our ministry.
· Before we go there; let me share an event from our history
o While still at the Rose Ave. location, when the people who wanted to purchase the land was meeting with the community and the Brentwood City Council, I attended one of the TIFF meeting, on a Wednesday evening.
o I brought back the information for the church fellowship as to the news about what was to happen at the next few meetings.
o I thank God for the preaching and teaching of His word because equipping of the saints had taken place. They knew authority and they knew priority.
o The deacons spoke with me to say that I should not be attending those meetings, my place (my priority) was at the church (the meetings were scheduled on Wednesday nights), they further pointed out that one of them would attend in the name of the church and bring back any information that would be useful for the church body.
o The unequipped would have a problem with someone or anyone criticizing the pastor about anything that the he does.
o But to the equipped, it turns out to be a blessing and a time for rejoicing
· Now let’s look back to an earlier moment in the book of Acts to a passage that is familiar to most of you. Acts 6:1-7 and listen; Acts 6:1-7 1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. ESV
· Notice, my brothers and sisters that this is a time when the Lord is really blessing the church; ‘in these days when the disciples were increasing in number.’
· Be reminded that our commission is to make disciples.
· So many times we are excited when someone say that they want to join or they are a candidate for baptism.
· That’s just the start, here in this passage you have an increase of the student body
o Men fellowship - Increasing
o Women fellowship – Increasing
o Young men outreach – Increasing
o Growth Group – Increasing
o Wednesday night service – Increasing
o In their situation the daily distribution – Increasing
o Rejoice – Yes!
o Praise the Lord – By all means!
o But stay alert, pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock (the increasing flock)
o Why? Well in the same verse we find;
· A complaint from within the fellowship arose.
· On this side of glory, we must deal with the sin nature that is a part of us.
· It doesn’t matter how weed free your lawn is, in time a weed will popup some where in your lawn.
· Sin is just that ugly. Disciples growing and increasing, and we have a daily distribution, listen at how it got started.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, (a daily ministry – church everyday) attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ESV
But it does not stop here, it gets better
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. ESV
· My brothers and my sisters this is a wonderful time and a blessed time, look at what the Lord is doing for His church but in the midst of all this blessing there is a complaint.
· And it is not a formal complaint but the Greek word that describe this is (‘gong-goos-mos’) meaning
o A whispering, grumbling talk in private, murmuring, or secret displeasure not stated openly
· It could be easily overlooked in light of all of the blessings
· But care for the church of God by being alert
o Alert to the Holy Spirit’s guidance
o Alert to the situation at hand that may not be seen or heard
o Alert to the divine solution
o In other words being aware to trust God with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths
· This is bigger than a minor neglect it is racial or social in nature
· It may seems easier for the twelve to just solve it themselves or just appoint someone of their choosing to get the job done right (their own understanding) but instead they called a church meeting (we don’t like them)
· Can you picture the scene all of the Hellenist on one side, the Hebrews on the other side and those who don’t know what’s going on in the middle.
· It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
o There is a priority in our ministry
· Most if not all books on theology dealing with ecclesiology, the study of the church, points out that there are marks or characteristics of the true church and at the top of every list that I have studied is the true preaching of the Word of God!
· I see that supported here, there is a real situation here that has crept into the fellowship, Acts 20 predicts it, but here it is happening, ‘from among your own selves there are men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.’ And the pastors are aware of it have the authority to deal with it, but the priority is the preaching of the Word.
· How many times have pastors blown it saints by leaving the preaching, coming out of the pulpit, to serve tables?
o Hard times should bring hard preaching
o Difficult times should produce difficult preaching
· But the overseers, the pastors, today are all over the place we are everywhere and doing everything except in prayer (hard and difficult prayer) and being in the pulpit preaching the Word of God, in season and out of season. Amen!
· The twelve point out ‘we will continue to speak out by the preached word but you pick out from among yourselves seven men with the following qualities’;
o Good repute, full of the Spirit, and wisdom
o Whom we will appoint to this duty
o But we (the twelve, the pastors) will devote (concentrate our time) to prayer and the ministry of the Word
o True Church in action! Are we there New Hope?
· And what they said pleased the whole gathering
o Can you see it in your mind’s eye
o Chairs moving closer together
o Embracing, hugging, smiles where there was once frowns
· This sentence ends with the statement; ‘and they chose.’
· Notice no confusion, no disagreement and that is so because the saints had been equipped for the work of the ministry and as a result the church is edified and God is glorified. The fellowship has the authority and the knowledge to chose.
· New Hope what about you?
· If we came before you and said we need more deacons, so pick out from among you men (your brothers) who are of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty of being a deacon of New Hope Baptist church, could you participate?
o Do you know one another well enough to be able to make such a selection
o Would there be agreement among the fellowship concerning the one’s selected
o What does good repute means to you?
o What is your meaning for full of the Spirit and wisdom and is it the same meaning that is taught here?
· Their result, the men picked all had Hellenistic or Greek names and one was a Gentile proselyte.
· They set them before the apostles and they prayed and laid hands on them (they ordained them)
· But even more the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. People are watching and taking notes on what we are doing here at 4450 Edmundson
· What can we learn here
o Every member of the church may not have been aware of the complaint but they trusted the authority of the overseers, the apostles, the pastors.
o Are you one who needs all the details before you do something or can you listen to the directions of Brad, Willie or myself
o We your leadership are not getting younger but we are getting older. When the time comes for the selection of new deacons or pastors, can you participate because you know the fellowship or what?
o Be aware that because the Holy Spirit has appointed us to this task, there will be times that God will give us something and you may feel that somebody had to tell us that. Not so, because God is indeed telling us something. (Thank you my sister Virgina)
· And through it all New Hope, you know what I am going to say now, we must learn and we must be reminded to;
· Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths
· Let us pray