Category Archives: Acts

Mark 6.1-7

Title: An Abbreviated History Lesson on Church Structure

Text: Acts 6; 1 Timothy 3

Introduction: Thank you Larry, for reading Scripture today.

I’ll be floating between two passages: Acts 6 and 1 Timothy. So bookmark those two passages. Actually, I’ll start in Acts 6… show some history throughout Acts, Make my way to 1 Timothy and back again.

What a blessing this is! We get to talk politics this morning! I don’t mean the politics of our national government, Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, or anything like that. I mean church politics! Politics is normally a dirty word, but it doesn’t have to be. Google says: Politics are the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power. If that is the definition, no wonder people hate politics. If that is the definition, then there is no place for politics in the church. People hoping to achieve power have no plac in church leadership. Indeed, Christ says that we’re to be like him and he came as one who serves and is the servant of all. Mark Dever says: Politics is the science of organizing life together. That’s pretty straightforward: The science of organizing life together. That works for families, teams, committees and yes, churches.

Church polity is something we should address regularly. You should know how your church functions: what are the rules that govern our assembly and what keeps us unified? What protects our unity and works against schisms and divisions? So, let’s bow our hearts before the Lord and ask for his protection of this body and his blessing over the preaching of His Word. Pray

I want you to know that this isn’t something I dreamed up. This has been a real concern for the church for nearly 2000 years. As a young pastor, I did what the churches and pastors before me did. I saw inconsistencies, and because of my nature, I questioned many of these inconsistencies that I saw. It has only been since coming to Calvary 11 years ago and never – never being a part of a healthy church, that led me on a journey, a quest to discover what makes a healthy church, well – healthy.

The following is some of what I discovered. Some of you may be hearing this for the 1st time. For others, this will be a review. Let’s begin with a brief history lesson from Scripture on church polity.

I.      A History of the Need for Structure (Acts 6)

exp.: Our first experience is found in Acts 6. The Apostles are the leaders. The Lord has put them in place. He commissioned them. But soon, all of these believers begin experiencing problems: problems that threaten their unity. It could be racial, ethnic, social… who knows? But, it threatens their unity. Furthermore, the Apostles are not able to do their work – to accomplish their task. So we learn #1 – that problems expose the need for structure. So, they come up with a solution. Let’s observe the process in Acts 6.1ff; rd 1a; Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number… Let me pause there and ask a question: Does this sound bad or good? Man, I want this problem! Jah hear? Calvary’s having problems! uh-huh, turns out they’re increasing in number, pretty dramatic I hear. So many baptisms the city is threatening to cut off their water. Well, numbers do create problems in that they expose areas of weakness and a need for structure. Rd 6b; a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. That’s complaint #1; there seems to be a problem with languages. Those who speak Hebrew are getting 1st dibs and the Greek-speaking widows are being overlooked. Here’s complaint #2, and it comes from the leaders. But, notice this, they want to make sure everyone knows their complaint. So… rd v 2a: summoned the full # of disciples! When everyone gets there, well then… look what they have to say: It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Let me just say that it’s not right is very similar to the phrase it’s not fair. Now, obviously you are getting my tongue in cheek presentation of this situation.

Here’s our first application of the day: Problems aren’t bad. It’s how you handle the problems you face that can be bad. And these guys handle the problem right. And from the way we observe these guys tackling their problem, we gain some insight into how we should handle our problems. Again, problems are bad, just the way we handle them can be. So, what do we learn from them:

  1. Church polity should be handled in a congregational way. They involve the Congregation. Church, you select 7 men from among you and we’ll appoint them to this duty. The Church selects 7 men and the apostles put them to work. From this we learn that we are congregational. Yes, we have a pastor, but he isn’t the pope. You can amen that if you want, it won’t hurt my feelings. No one man or woman should ever run the church. Ever! Congregational means that we vote on what we do. The church always has the last say. Always. The church votes on a budget in December. That is your approval for teams, committees, and ministries to do what they do. You, the church, also approve those teams. The deacons form ministry teams, the elders pick teachers and you, the church, give your approval of them all. It all launches from the church. We are congregational. As the year progresses, we find ministry opportunities, we find problems that arise and if it isn’t in the budget or the church hasn’t given the assignment to a team or group of people, then we come back to the church and seek your approval. That is how it is supposed to work.
  2. Relationships are vitally important. One group isn’t more important than the others. Listen, Ladies & Gentlemen, This isn’t about the food – it’s about the relationships. In our text, it might just be that those who were doing the work didn’t speak Greek or weren’t as fluent. More than likely, the Greek-speaking widows being overlooked was a symptom of a deeper problem. Who knows? But from this, we learn that nothing is more important than relationships. So, whatever you’re working on as a team – if there is a breakdown – check your relationships – my guess is somebody’s feelings got hurt. Mend the relationship!

Now, there is something important about church history here that I need you to see: Before this moment in Acts 6, the only leaders were the Apostles. One office in the church: Apostles. Now, there is a 2nd office in the church: Deacons.

Rd v 3-4; The offices are getting some structure now. The Apostles say: Here is our job and this is yourn. And, in order to do this job, you should be qualified. So, don’t pick just anyone! The men who are handling this situation are so overwhelmed they can’t do both. They’re qualified, but they need more men. These men don’t need to do their job of preaching and teaching, but they should be godly men nonetheless. So… qualifications must be set. We need qualified men to complete this task.

  1. Men of good reputation
  2. Men full of the Holy Spirit
  3. Men of Wisdom

ill.: I read this week that The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. I wondered, is this true? Let me repeat it: The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. That isn’t the purpose. My guess is the purpose of the church is the glory of God. Edmund Clowney says the mission of the church… He then continues with an explanation.

  1. Worship: We sing the Word, We pray the Word, and We preach the Word.
  2. Discipleship – teaching the Word.
  3. Evangelism – reaching the world with the Word.

These Apostles are saying that their mission is being compromised. They are unable to do their work in the Ministry of the Word because they’ve been caught up in ‘waiting tables’. That work, which isn’t being done very well, is making their task of preaching and teaching to suffer. Nothing is getting done very well.

Once a church begins to practice the ministry of the Word, it experiences growth. Growth creates problems. The more people you have, the more problems you have. So, they have to get organized. They need to get some structure here.

Rd v 5-7; please note v 7; what continued to increase? The Word of God! With that, there is an increase in conversions, which of course means they’ll have more problems and they’ll have to work those problems. But they’re good problems, No?

Well, the church grows and more problems occur. We’re not told of all the details, but we learn of the solutions by what we read. Turn to Acts 11.19-30; the church grows and determines to help with a problem down in Jerusalem. V 30 tells us that the church has now added another office: Elders. We can only make assumptions now as to what has happened. We don’t really know. They’ve not appeared before now. But, now, what we have in the early church, at least at this very early stage, is three offices: Apostles, Elders, and Deacons.

Let me quickly give you a time reference. Acts 12 – with the death of Herod and the work of Josephus – allows us to date Acts 12 at about 44 AD. If you take a later date for the crucifixion, we have these offices being used in the church within about 10 years. If you take an earlier date (which I do), then you see the infrastructure of the church being established no later than 13 years of Christ’s Great Commission. I think it would be fair to say that the structure for the church was set within the 1st decade of the Church’s (Capital C) existence.

You’re in 11.30; look at Acts 14.23; rd 15.1-6; Apostles and Elders are taking care of the doctrinal issues of the church. They’re handling the problems that are arising. Together. What we will see as the 1st century moves on and closes out, the apostles will fade from the scene. They will die and they will not be replaced. And, as the apostles fade from the scene, we see three offices narrowed down to two: elders and deacons.

app.: I want to take a moment to say that many Baptists are uncomfortable with elders. I understand this, but this saddens me. Did you know that many Baptist churches in the world had elders until the mid-1800’s. Our 1st two confessions or statement of faith’s had elders and deacons listed as the two main offices. So, historically, Baptist have had two main offices in the church: elders and deacons. What caused the change? My educated guess would be Manifest Destiny and the need for circuit preachers.

Many Baptist churches struggle today because they have an unhealthy church polity. They have become comfortable with tradition, and so, they neglect the Scriptures. In their defense, let me say that many Baptist churches function without elders. These churches have dynamic leaders serving as pastors who use some of the deacons as elders. And truthfully, I’m ok with that. It isn’t what I would choose, but that works for them. However, with that being said, I think many Baptist churches have a system of government that is wicked and evil. It is self-serving. Men are placed in leadership positions that should never be there. Men are made deacons and deacons then begin to run the church in the absence of a pastor or elders. That method, that form of government continues and it becomes cyclical. Pastors rotate in and out as the deacons then rule the church with an iron hand. And these congregations slowly die because these deacons can’t see that they were never intended to lead the church in this fashion.

t.s.: Let me show you the structure as we find it later on – some 20 years or more later. And this is point #2…

II.    The Structure of the Church (1 Tim 3.1-13)

exp.: 1 Timothy is a manual for churches and pastors on structure and polity. Paul’s main concern is the Ministry of the Word. He’s concerned about unhealthy doctrine being taught in the church at Ephesus. Look at chapter 1.3; don’t let certain individuals teach a different doctrine. Rd v 5; our aim here is love. And it pours forth from this beautiful triad: a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. There are those who don’t have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. These people are rd v 6-7; now hones in on his purpose: rd v 8-11; Sound Doctrine = The Gospel. A Healthy church has sound, healthy doctrine, which is the Gospel of Christ. The Church then is a picture of the Gospel to the world. If you really think about this, this is what Paul is saying to Timothy – and to the believers at Ephesus: The Church is the Gospel made visible. Therefore, protect it. That is why Sound Doctrine is vital.

Paul then presents the Gospel in a short testimony: v 15 is the thesis statement here: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…

In Chapter two Paul discusses they way believers should act, but look at chapter three. Here, Paul presents the structure that has been established over the next 20-25 years from Acts 12 on… You can see the same thing in Titus.

Chapter three establishes two offices for the church:

  • Elders – Let me introduce them to you, especially for the guests. (Active & Inactive)
  • Deacons – Deacons – (Active and Inactive)

In comparing the two, not just here, but throughout the New Testament, we find one main difference between the two offices. You ready for this? A deacon is to be held to the same basic qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Let that sink in for a moment. A deacon is to be held to the same qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Why this one difference? Answer: Because of their responsibility. Elders are given charge of Sound Doctrine. They are responsible for the spiritual aspects of the church. They must give great care to their teaching and to those they place in positions of teaching.

Deacons on the other hand are concerned with the physical aspects of the church. Their leadership is to care for the physical. In Acts we see them caring for the widows. They are to be no less godly than the elders. They are to be no less holy. The standard of character is just as high.

In Acts 6 the qualifications are simple:

  1. Men – I mention this because this is the only place I find this; later, we’ll see deacons and deaconesses. I know we don’t have them in the Baptist church, but I suspect that is more from culture than God’s word. Let me say, I’m not advocating for deaconesses today, I’m just saying in Scripture we find deaconesses. Let’s set that aside for a moment and focus on Acts 6. They were to be Men.
  2. A good reputation: which by the way, is with those inside the church and outside the church.
  3. Full of the Holy Spirit – don’t pick lost men. Don’t pick ungodly men.
  4. Wise – men full of wisdom. This means they use their knowledge well.

Already, you’ve limited the amount of men who can serve. But 1 Timothy 3 gives us more. Rd v 8

  1. Dignified: that is, they are worthy men, honored men, respected in the church and in the community.
  2. Not double-tongued: picture a forked tongue, like that of a snake. A tongue that offers curses and blessings. Not like that.
  3. Not addicted to much wine: I think this means not an alcoholic. They are not controlled by alcohol. It isn’t that they won’t have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after mowing the lawn. It is that alcohol doesn’t consume them.
  4. Not greedy – for dishonest gain. That’s important. Our deacons serve as counters of the offering. They rotate regularly each week. But it is more than that. Your deacons will be responsible for contracts, hiring out work to be completed. You don’t want to pick men that are out to get a kick back.
  5. Solid Believers. They hold to this faith – this mysterious faith of ours with a clear conscience. And that faith is evident in their daily lives.
  6. They’ve been tested. Don’t put an unproven man into this position. The men you pick should be men who’ve proven themselves in these areas already. They have been faithful over time.
  7. Their wives must be qualified. Don’t pick men whose wives are gossips or busy bodies. I have known men who couldn’t serve as deacons because of their wives. Their wives must be like them – dignified, honorable, not diabolos, and faithful in all things.
  8. The deacons should have a stable marriage and home life. Some people take this to mean ‘having been married one time’. They say a divorced man shouldn’t be a deacon. I don’t think that is the definition here. Let me explain. The Gk simply says: a one-woman man. μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες; That doesn’t help us. No, I don’t think this means one woman at a time. I think there is a principle here – not a letter of the law. The principle is finding men who are faithful and trustworthy. They prove that over time. For a man to be married to the same woman for 20 years can be a sign that he is faithful. That may not be the case, but it is a sign. So, you take all of these character traits, these qualities and you establish a pattern of faithfulness, honesty and integrity.

app.: Please hear me: I’m not saying every man who has been married longer than 20 years is deacon material. I’m saying that is one sign. Their wives must also serve as a sign. Their testing over the years is another sign. Their faithfulness as solid believers is another sign. The fact that they’re not greedy or alcoholics are more signs…and the list goes on.

t.s.: You take all of these quality characteristics and size the man up. And you pick from there.

III.    An Appeal: The Church must pick some men to serve as deacons.

exp.: It is time. In the coming weeks, the deacons will present you with a list of names. They’re going to ask you to:

  • Pray over these men. The list will not be exhaustive. You can pray over each man and his family.
  • Use this passage as a checklist. Mark off men who don’t size up. See which men rise to the top.
  • The deacons are going to ask you to select a number of men to serve with them. I don’t know how many. It could be three. It could be seven. But based on your prayers and your evaluation, select men to serve. The deacons will then assess the men you’ve chosen. They’ll find out who is willing to serve, because you may select some who will say no. They will bring back a final list of those you’ve selected, that they’ve interviewed and determined fit and ready to serve. You’ll then have the final say with a vote.

One final word: don’t assume that men who’ve served before will automatically serve again. If you don’t select them, then they won’t be asked to serve. That is vital. Deacons serve only at the pleasure of the church. Deacons don’t go get deacons. They don’t ask their buddies. They don’t even ask men who’ve served before. They will follow your directions. So, pray, evaluate, and choose – men from among yourselves and we will appoint them to this duty of service.

Conclusion: I mentioned earlier that the church is the gospel made visible. That message is that Christ died for sinners. Paul claims to be the worst of all sinners and even he found forgiveness – his testimony is to the goodness and grace of God. I want to offer you that grace and forgiveness.

 

 

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Acts, Church Polity, Leadership, Mission Statement, Scripture, Sermon

Acts 6.1-7/1 Tim 3.8-13

** This sermon Audio is located in the Special Topics Player…

 

Title: An Abbreviated History Lesson on Church Structure

Text: Acts 6; 1 Timothy 3.8-13

Introduction: Thank you Larry, for reading Scripture today.

I’ll be floating between two passages: Acts 6 and 1 Timothy. So bookmark those two passages. Actually, I’ll start in Acts 6… show some history throughout Acts, Make my way to 1 Timothy and back again.

What a blessing this is! We get to talk politics this morning! I don’t mean the politics of our national government, Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, or anything like that. I mean church politics! Politics is normally a dirty word, but it doesn’t have to be. Google says: Politics are the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power. If that is the definition, no wonder people hate politics. If that is the definition, then there is no place for politics in the church. People hoping to achieve power have no plac in church leadership. Indeed, Christ says that we’re to be like him and he came as one who serves and is the servant of all. Mark Dever says: Politics is the science of organizing life together. That’s pretty straightforward: The science of organizing life together. That works for families, teams, committees and yes, churches.

Church polity is something we should address regularly. You should know how your church functions: what are the rules that govern our assembly and what keeps us unified? What protects our unity and works against schisms and divisions?

I want you to know that this isn’t something I dreamed up. This has been a real concern for the church for nearly 2000 years. As a young pastor, I did what the churches and pastors before me did. I saw inconsistencies, and because of my nature, I questioned many of these inconsistencies that I saw. It has only been since coming to Calvary 11 years ago and never – never being a part of a healthy church, that led me on a journey, a quest to discover what makes a healthy church, well – healthy.

The following is some of what I discovered. Some of you may be hearing this for the 1st time. For others, this will be a review. Let’s begin with a brief history lesson from Scripture on church polity.

I.    A History of the Need for Structure (Acts 6)

exp.: Our first experience is found in Acts 6. The Apostles are the leaders. The Lord has put them in place. He commissioned them. But soon, all of these believers begin experiencing problems: problems that threaten their unity. It could be racial, ethnic, social… who knows? But, it threatens their unity. Furthermore, the Apostles are not able to do their work – to accomplish their task.

  • So we learn #1 – that problems expose the need for structure. So, they come up with a solution. Let’s observe the process in Acts 6.1ff; rd 1a; Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number… Let me pause there and ask a question: Does this sound bad or good? Man, I want this problem! Jah hear? Calvary’s having problems! uh-huh, turns out they’re increasing in number, pretty dramatic I hear. So many baptisms the city is threatening to cut off their water. Well, numbers do create problems in that they expose areas of weakness and a need for structure. Rd 6b; a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. That’s complaint #1; there seems to be a problem with languages. Those who speak Hebrew are getting 1st dibs and the Greek-speaking widows are being overlooked. Here’s complaint #2, and it comes from the leaders. But, notice this, they want to make sure everyone knows their complaint. So… rd v 2a: summoned the full # of disciples! When everyone gets there, well then… look what they have to say: It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Let me just say that it’s not right is very similar to the phrase it’s not fair. Now, obviously you are getting my tongue in cheek presentation of this situation.

Here’s our first application of the day: Problems aren’t bad. It’s how you handle the problems you face that can be bad. And these guys handle the problem right. And from the way we observe these guys tackling their problem, we gain some insight into how we should handle our problems. Again, problems are bad, just the way we handle them can be. So, what do we learn from them:

  • Church polity should be handled in a congregational way. They involve the Congregation. Church, you select 7 men from among you and we’ll appoint them to this duty. The Church selects 7 men and the apostles put them to work. From this we learn that we are congregational. Yes, we have a pastor, but he isn’t the pope. You can amen that if you want, it won’t hurt my feelings. No one man or woman should ever run the church. Ever! Congregational means that we vote on what we do. The church always has the last say. Always. The church votes on a budget in December. That is your approval for teams, committees, and ministries to do what they do. You, the church, also approve those teams. The deacons form ministry teams, the elders pick teachers and you, the church, give your approval of them all. It all launches from the church. We are congregational. As the year progresses, we find ministry opportunities, we find problems that arise and if it isn’t in the budget or the church hasn’t given the assignment to a team or group of people, then we come back to the church and seek your approval. That is how it is supposed to work.
  • Relationships are vitally important. One group isn’t more important than the others. Listen, Ladies & Gentlemen, This isn’t about the food – it’s about the relationships. In our text, it might just be that those who were doing the work didn’t speak Greek or weren’t as fluent. More than likely, the Greek-speaking widows being overlooked was a symptom of a deeper problem. Who knows? But from this, we learn that nothing is more important than relationships. So, whatever you’re working on as a team – if there is a breakdown – check your relationships – my guess is somebody’s feelings got hurt. Mend the relationship!

Now, there is something important about church history here that I need you to see: Before this moment in Acts 6, the only leaders were the Apostles. One office in the church: Apostles. Now, there is a 2nd office in the church: Deacons.

Rd v 3-4; The offices are getting some structure now. The Apostles say: Here is our job and this is yourn. And, in order to do this job, you should be qualified. So, don’t pick just anyone! The men who are handling this situation are so overwhelmed they can’t do both. They’re qualified, but they need more men. These men don’t need to do their job of preaching and teaching, but they should be godly men nonetheless. So… qualifications must be set. We need qualified men to complete this task.

  1. Men of good reputation
  2. Men full of the Holy Spirit
  3. Men of Wisdom

ill.: I read this week that The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. I wondered, is this true? Let me repeat it: The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. That isn’t the purpose. My guess is the purpose of the church is the glory of God. Edmund Clowney says the mission of the church… He then continues with an explanation.

  1. Worship: We sing the Word, We pray the Word, and We preach the Word.
  2. Discipleship – teaching the Word.
  3. Evangelism – reaching the world with the Word.

These Apostles are saying that their mission is being compromised. They are unable to do their work in the Ministry of the Word because they’ve been caught up in ‘waiting tables’. That work, which isn’t being done very well, is making their task of preaching and teaching to suffer. Nothing is getting done very well.

Once a church begins to practice the ministry of the Word, it experiences growth. Growth creates problems. The more people you have, the more problems you have. So, they have to get organized. They need to get some structure here.

Rd v 5-7; please note v 7; what continued to increase? The Word of God! With that, there is an increase in conversions, which of course means they’ll have more problems and they’ll have to work those problems. But they’re good problems, No?

Well, the church grows and more problems occur. We’re not told of all the details, but we learn of the solutions by what we read. Turn to Acts 11.19-30; the church grows and determines to help with a problem down in Jerusalem. V 30 tells us that the church has now added another office: Elders. We can only make assumptions now as to what has happened. We don’t really know. They’ve not appeared before now. But, now, what we have in the early church, at least at this very early stage, is three offices: Apostles, Elders, and Deacons.

Let me quickly give you a time reference. Acts 12 – with the death of Herod and the work of Josephus – allows us to date Acts 12 at about 44 AD. If you take a later date for the crucifixion, we have these offices being used in the church within about 10 years. If you take an earlier date (which I do), then you see the infrastructure of the church being established no later than 13 years of Christ’s Great Commission. I think it would be fair to say that the structure for the church was set within the 1st decade of the Church’s (Capital C) existence.

You’re in 11.30; look at Acts 14.23; rd 15.1-6; Apostles and Elders are taking care of the doctrinal issues of the church. They’re handling the problems that are arising. Together. What we will see as the 1st century moves on and closes out, the apostles will fade from the scene. They will die and they will not be replaced. And, as the apostles fade from the scene, we see three offices narrowed down to two: elders and deacons.

app.: I want to take a moment to say that many Baptists are uncomfortable with elders. I understand this, but this saddens me. Did you know that many Baptist churches in the world had elders until the mid-1800’s. Our 1st two confessions or statement of faith’s had elders and deacons listed as the two main offices. So, historically, Baptist have had two main offices in the church: elders and deacons. What caused the change? My educated guess would be Manifest Destiny and the need for circuit preachers.

Many Baptist churches struggle today because they have an unhealthy church polity. They have become comfortable with tradition, and so, they neglect the Scriptures. In their defense, let me say that many Baptist churches function without elders. These churches have dynamic leaders serving as pastors who use some of the deacons as elders. And truthfully, I’m ok with that. It isn’t what I would choose, but that works for them. However, with that being said, I think many Baptist churches have a system of government that is wicked and evil. It is self-serving. Men are placed in leadership positions that should never be there. Men are made deacons and deacons then begin to run the church in the absence of a pastor or elders. That method, that form of government continues and it becomes cyclical. Pastors rotate in and out as the deacons then rule the church with an iron hand. And these congregations slowly die because these deacons can’t see that they were never intended to lead the church in this fashion.

t.s.: Let me show you the structure as we find it later on – some 20 years or more later. And this is point #2…

II.   The Structure of the Church (1 Tim 3.1-13)

exp.: 1 Timothy is a manual for churches and pastors on structure and polity. Paul’s main concern is the Ministry of the Word. He’s concerned about unhealthy doctrine being taught in the church at Ephesus. Look at chapter 1.3; don’t let certain individuals teach a different doctrine. Rd v 5; our aim here is love. And it pours forth from this beautiful triad: a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. There are those who don’t have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. These people are rd v 6-7; now hones in on his purpose: rd v 8-11; Sound Doctrine = The Gospel. A Healthy church has sound, healthy doctrine, which is the Gospel of Christ. The Church then is a picture of the Gospel to the world. If you really think about this, this is what Paul is saying to Timothy – and to the believers at Ephesus: The Church is the Gospel made visible. Therefore, protect it. That is why Sound Doctrine is vital.

Paul then presents the Gospel in a short testimony: v 15 is the thesis statement here: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…

In Chapter two Paul discusses they way believers should act, but look at chapter three. Here, Paul presents the structure that has been established over the next 20-25 years from Acts 12 on… You can see the same thing in Titus.

Chapter three establishes two offices for the church:

  • Elders – Let me introduce them to you, especially for the guests. (Active & Inactive)
  • Deacons – Deacons – (Active and Inactive)

In comparing the two, not just here, but throughout the New Testament, we find one main difference between the two offices. You ready for this? A deacon is to be held to the same basic qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Let that sink in for a moment. A deacon is to be held to the same qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Why this one difference? Answer: Because of their responsibility. Elders are given charge of Sound Doctrine. They are responsible for the spiritual aspects of the church. They must give great care to their teaching and to those they place in positions of teaching.

Deacons on the other hand are concerned with the physical aspects of the church. Their leadership is to care for the physical. In Acts we see them caring for the widows. They are to be no less godly than the elders. They are to be no less holy. The standard of character is just as high.

In Acts 6 the qualifications are simple:

  1. Men – I mention this because this is the only place I find this; later, we’ll see deacons and deaconesses. I know we don’t have them in the Baptist church, but I suspect that is more from culture than God’s word. Let me say, I’m not advocating for deaconesses today, I’m just saying in Scripture we find deaconesses. Let’s set that aside for a moment and focus on Acts 6. They were to be Men.
  2. A good reputation: which by the way, is with those inside the church and outside the church.
  3. Full of the Holy Spirit – don’t pick lost men. Don’t pick ungodly men.
  4. Wise – men full of wisdom. This means they use their knowledge well.

Already, you’ve limited the amount of men who can serve. But 1 Timothy 3 gives us more. Rd v 8

  1. Dignified: that is, they are worthy men, honored men, respected in the church and in the community.
  2. Not double-tongued: picture a forked tongue, like that of a snake. A tongue that offers curses and blessings. Not like that.
  3. Not addicted to much wine: I think this means not an alcoholic. They are not controlled by alcohol. It isn’t that they won’t have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after mowing the lawn. It is that alcohol doesn’t consume them.
  4. Not greedy – for dishonest gain. That’s important. Our deacons serve as counters of the offering. They rotate regularly each week. But it is more than that. Your deacons will be responsible for contracts, hiring out work to be completed. You don’t want to pick men that are out to get a kick back.
  5. Solid Believers. They hold to this faith – this mysterious faith of ours with a clear conscience. And that faith is evident in their daily lives.
  6. They’ve been tested. Don’t put an unproven man into this position. The men you pick should be men who’ve proven themselves in these areas already. They have been faithful over time.
  7. Their wives must be qualified. Don’t pick men whose wives are gossips or busy bodies. I have known men who couldn’t serve as deacons because of their wives. Their wives must be like them – dignified, honorable, not diabolos, and faithful in all things.
  8. The deacons should have a stable marriage and home life. Some people take this to mean ‘having been married one time’. They say a divorced man shouldn’t be a deacon. I don’t think that is the definition here. Let me explain. The Gk simply says: a one-woman man. μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες; That doesn’t help us. No, I don’t think this means one woman at a time. I think there is a principle here – not a letter of the law. The principle is finding men who are faithful and trustworthy. They prove that over time. For a man to be married to the same woman for 20 years can be a sign that he is faithful. That may not be the case, but it is a sign. So, you take all of these character traits, these qualities and you establish a pattern of faithfulness, honesty and integrity.

app.: Please hear me: I’m not saying every man who has been married longer than 20 years is deacon material. I’m saying that is one sign. Their wives must also serve as a sign. Their testing over the years is another sign. Their faithfulness as solid believers is another sign. The fact that they’re not greedy or alcoholics are more signs…and the list goes on.

t.s.: You take all of these quality characteristics and size the man up. And you pick from there.

III.    An Appeal: The Church must pick some men to serve as deacons.

exp.: It is time. In the coming weeks, the deacons will present you with a list of names. They’re going to ask you to:

  • Pray over these men. The list will not be exhaustive. You can pray over each man and his family.
  • Use this passage as a checklist. Mark off men who don’t size up. See which men rise to the top.
  • The deacons are going to ask you to select a number of men to serve with them. I don’t know how many. It could be three. It could be seven. But based on your prayers and your evaluation, select men to serve. The deacons will then assess the men you’ve chosen. They’ll find out who is willing to serve, because you may select some who will say no. They will bring back a final list of those you’ve selected, that they’ve interviewed and determined fit and ready to serve. You’ll then have the final say with a vote.

One final word: don’t assume that men who’ve served before will automatically serve again. If you don’t select them, then they won’t be asked to serve. That is vital. Deacons serve only at the pleasure of the church. Deacons don’t go get deacons. They don’t ask their buddies. They don’t even ask men who’ve served before. They will follow your directions. So, pray, evaluate, and choose – men from among yourselves and we will appoint them to this duty of service.

Conclusion: I mentioned earlier that the church is the gospel made visible. That message is that Christ died for sinners. Paul claims to be the worst of all sinners and even he found forgiveness – his testimony is to the goodness and grace of God. I want to offer you that grace and forgiveness.

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Follow Me: A Commissioning Service

Title: Follow Me – A Commissioning Service

Text: Acts 13.1-12

Introduction: Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re at T-minus and counting! There is excitement in the air. I’m pumped. If you’re not, we need to pray for you. This small congregation has surrendered itself to the Lord in the area of missions and God is doing mighty things! What, you say? Some of you don’t know what I’m talking about? Let ‘splain!

In Early August of 2011, I saw that the Executive Director of the SBTC was planning on issuing a challenge to Texas Baptist. Here’s what the Article read: Grapevine, August 9, 2011.

GRAPEVINE: The Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention granted $1 million from reserve funds to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and encouraged churches in Texas to “embrace” 1,000 of the 3,800 unengaged people groups identified by Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board.

With over half of the world’s 7 billion people having little or no access to the gospel and the 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups having no one telling them about Jesus, the IMB encourages local churches to begin with church-wide focused prayer.

This challenge would be for churches in Texas to embrace 1000 UUPG: Unreached, Unengaged People Groups. I had no idea what this was. So I had to do a little research. I called the convention headquarters in Dallas and ask them what this challenge was all about. I found it interesting that the folks there new very little of what the challenge was going to be. They could only tell me that we would hear more about this in the coming days.

Here’s what I eventually found out: A UUPG is an unreached, unengaged people group. There were at that time over 3800 UUPG’s in the world. The Classification of a PG or A people group: is a group of people bound together by a common Language and culture. What makes them common is that the gospel can move within this group unhindered. However, when the gospel encounters boundaries and barriers that hinder its transmission – then evangelism stops. The people within the boundaries would be called a people group. Now, when less than 2% of a population within a specific people group are Christians, then they are considered unreached. As of yesterday, according to the Joshua Project, there are 6564 unreached people groups. They may have churches, pastors, missionaries, Bible studies–but there is less than 2% of that population is considered Christian–then these people are unreached.

A population is considered unengaged when within that people group there is no pastor, there are no churches, there is no Bible study, they have no missionaries working among them. So A UUPG is a people group that has no missionaries – no Bible studies – no pastor and less than 2% of the population is considered Christian. The latest number I could find on Unreached, Unengaged People Groups is that the # has dropped over the last 4 years from 3800 UUPG’s to 1,568 people groups.

Well, a presentation was made to the church–and it appeared to me that the church embraced this challenge. We set our sights on keeping this before the Lord in prayer. Where would he have us go? Who would he have us Focus on? We began by looking at three areas of the world where our current missionaries were serving: Africa, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. One by one we were able too narrow the field down to a focus on East Asia. Then, we looked at three UUPG’s located near some missionaries we know. After nearly a year of prayer, we found our people.

In October 2013 we sent a vision team to look for this UUPG. It was a long journey, but very rewarding. After three days of travel as we pulled into a local village in the mountains, we saw with our own eyes the people you are looking at in pictures on the screen.

This vision team came back and reported to the church that it just isn’t practical to send teams each year. What we need is “boots on the ground” there, to coordinate our efforts – to be there to receive our people on short-term mission trips. Let me show you something cool.

What you are looking at is inside a brochure entitled The Top 31 UUPG’s ***** ***** *****. Go down a few pages to our UUPG. That picture and that information is accurate with what we found and saw.

Today that brochure becomes inaccurate! Because, listed in this group is our people. The people group we’ve chosen. Today we are going to commission two of our very own people to go as missionaries to this UUPG. Indeed, they are no longer called an un-reached, Unengaged people group. Today they’ve become a UPG – simply an unreached people group. And with the blessing and favor of our God, in the coming months and years, we will remove that final U. They’ll simply become another People Group of the world.

Transition: And this brings me to why we’re here today – to commission this couple that we’ve asked to serve on the mission field to help us engage and reach our UUPG. Let’s open our Bibles to Acts and take a look at what a commission service is all about.

In Acts 13, we see a church being successful – we see a church doing and being what a church is supposed to be doing and being. We see it from the inside and we see it from the outside. How do I know it was successful? How can that be measured?

We find these people were so Christ-like in their deportment that the community around them called them Christians, or Little Christs. I’m sure they heard: they’re just like their Lord.

Then, in our passage, we see them doing the work that a church has been called to do.

Observe the church at Antioch. You’ll find two areas of work:

  1. The Work of the Church in obedience to the Great Commission.
  2. The Work of the Holy Spirit in light of the Great Commission.

Transition: Let’s look first at the Work of the Church. Allow me to put it in the form of a question:

What precedes going on mission?

  1. The Work of the Church in obedience to the Great Commission.

Let’s look at their Spiritual Leadership: rd v. 1; note: names; Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, Saul (Paul); What are they doing? We find 4 actions on the part of the Leadership: Worshipping & Fasting, then, Laying on of hands and sending them out.

  • Worshipping – there are 4 words in the NT translated worship
    • προσκυνέω: to kiss the hand; meaning to bow;
    • σέβω: this deals more with attitude toward someone; As in to ‘revere’ someone or something; This is something that happens to me when I hear a testimony. I’m moved inside, at the greatness and kindness of God. He amazes me.
    • θρῆσκος: Thray-skos; It’s like three in spanish w/ kos on the end; Col 2.18; every other time this word is used, it is translated It has the connatation of ceremonies;
    • λατρεύω: Eng.: liturgy or liturgical; it mean service and is used to describe the work of the priest in the Temple. In other words, worship is an action – it’s not passive. I could lead you in a responsive reading time. Give thanks to the Lord our God and King. His love endures forever. For he is good he is above all things. His love endures forever. This is the word being used here. These men were leading their congregation to Worship the Lord.

app.: we often think of worship in the 1st two manners: bowing, reverence; but we don’t think of our worship in terms of our service. These leaders were worshipping the Lord in their service to him; Cont. reading v 2-3;

  • Fasting & Prayer: I have asked the elders to join with me in fasting and praying for you today. I think most people consider our work to be done in the office or in meetings and in planning things, etc. Acts 6.1-4: But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” This should be our priority.
    • According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and Hebrew Bible, the word ‘prayer’ in Acts 6 can also be translated ‘worship’. It is a picture of someone bowing on their face before God and offering supplication. That same word is used in our passage in v 3;
    • Ministry of the Word is preaching and teaching. Paul warns Timothy time and again to keep a close eye on his doctrine, making sure his preaching and teaching is sound and healthy.

I have two reason for placing an emphasis on this today.

  1. It is a reminder to the church of what the elders are called to do.
  2. It is a lesson of what you’ll be doing.

exp.: your basic function is to serve as a church planter – the Bible calls this an Apostle. We’re commissioning you today to go to our UUPG and ultimately, plant a church. Our hopes and dreams are that you’ll share the gospel; people will be saved under the gospel; they will be discipled under the gospel and they’ll be obedient to the gospel and serve faithfully the gospel; leading many to Christ. Wah-Lah, that’s a church! You’re doing the work of Paul. You’re being sent out to plant churches in the midst of our UUPG. And on the Great Day as we’re gathered around the throne, we will see members of our UUPG there next to us worshipping God. Many of them your friends – people you’ve prayed with and taught.

Look back at v3; here’s a third action

  • Laying on of hands: BTW: this is a participle also. Lit.: fasting and praying and laying their hands on them. According to Hebrews 6.2, this was an elementary doctrine in the early church; it basically conveys the idea of blessing and commission. It was seen in Scripture when Jesus was healing people and when people were receiving the Holy Spirit. Paul experienced both when Ananias laid his hands on Paul – his sight returned and he was saved. Not only that, but he received his commission at the same moment. He was told he would be Christ’s witness to the Gentiles and kings and to the children of Israel.

Transition: Leadership is seen in their worship, or service, their fasting and prayer, their laying on of hands and then sending them off.

  • They sent them off. Breaking this down grammatically, this is the verb. The work this leadership group did was they sent them off on a mission. They way they did this is described in their worshipping and praying and laying on of hands. The word here in the Gk isn’t your typical word for sent them on their way. You see that in v 4. The Holy Spirit is actually doing the sending in this passage. The literal translation, the literal wording for what they did is they released them or they set them free.

App.: Mom and Dad, in your position as leaders, this is what you’re supposed to do: set them free. Like doves in your hands, throw them up to the Lord and let Him send them.

– Now, we’ve seen the work of the church, mainly through the leadership at Antioch. I’m sure others were there participating, worship, praying. But now, I want to focus in on the most important part of what is being done. And in doing so, I’m going to turn my attention to this young couple. I’ve asked the question: What precedes going? The answer is the work of the church through its leadership. 2nd, question…

What involves going? The Work of the Holy Spirit in light of your calling. You experienced this in His calling you to this service. In this section I’ve outline three actions on the part of the Holy Spirit. Rd v 2; #1…

  1. The Holy Spirit Calls – here’s a tip: Don’t go if you’re not called. Because if you do, you’ll go alone. (Those who went up to Ai in Joshua ) v. 2
    1. The Calling is the only thing that sustains you when:
      1. The Journey is long; v. 6; 1st they traveled by boat. Then they crossed the whole island (which is 100 miles long and some 60 miles wide).
      2. Facing opposition v. 8; you’re headed to a place you’re not wanted by some people; You’re sure to face opposition. Without the Holy Spirit’s call, you won’t make it.
  • Some will abandon you; v. 13; you know the story… this damaged the relationship John Mark had with Paul for many years.

Ill.: My prayer chair: I’ve have felt the struggle of those who hate me even from within the church. I’ve been asked to consider leaving: You sing well, you lead worship well and you’re a great preacher, so why don’t you grab your guitar and hit the road. The funny part of that story is that woman became one of my biggest supporters and loved me like a mom loves her son. At the end of my ministry there I would drive out to her house and drink coffee with her, while watching the sun come up.

App.: at those times, when people abandon you, when they insult you – even from within the church – you’ve got to go back to your call. I suggest you get a prayer chair – or something that takes you back to that calling. When you feel unsuccessful, that’s ok – you weren’t called to be ‘successful’ – go back to your calling. I could go on and on; however, let’s move on… #2

  1. The Holy Spirit Commissions – v. 4; the word here is accurate; whereas the church released them or set them free, here the Holy Spirit does the sending. A couple of notes:
    1. I think its interesting that they went to Cyprus because that is where Barnabas was from (Acts 4.36). I’m sure he had a desire to see his people saved. He was also familiar with the Island and the people.

I’m glad you served here first. Your ministries at Calvary and the ***** ***** has demonstrated your passion for ministry. Many people just want to go, but don’t serve where they are first.

  1. Sent w/ a mission; a task to do on behalf of the Holy Spirit. This is vitally important: you cannot go where the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead; you must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Acts 16.6-10

He will protect you. He will open doors for you. He will close doors for you. He will go before you. This is a 3rd time we see the Holy Spirit in this passage; look at verse 9

  1. The Holy Spirit Empowers – v. 9; understand that your work, what you do – must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Look at a couple of different areas:
    1. For Preaching – v. 5; proclaiming the Word of God – taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these lost people. You need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. No matter how smart you are, no matter how eloquent you become in their language, no matter how gifted and talented – if the Holy Spirit doesn’t empower you then you’re just bring them your best dog and pony show. You might as well take your unicycle and bowling pins to juggle. But, if the Holy Spirit of God empowers you, then the powers of darkness will be defeated.
    2. For Teaching – v. 12; people will get saved as you teach in the power of the Holy Spirit. You must pray that God will take your limited human teaching and exalt it to a place that can be used by you. Don’t worry so much about being creative. Do worry so much about being witty and cute. Concern yourself with the written word of God.
      1. 1 Timothy 3.16 – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
      2. Once you’ve led some people to Christ, they must be discipled. Dallas Willard, author of the Divine Conspiracy and Hearing God has said that success in ministry is having a vital relationship with God and the capacity to pass it on to others. That capacity comes from the Holy Spirit.

Church – give me your attention for a moment. Pay careful attention to what I’m about to declare, because I’m going to ask you to affirm it with your voices and with your bodies when I’m done.

Commissioning Service for Our missionaries

Minister:  Beloved, today we recognize the ministries of this couple and consecrate them to a special task in the service of Jesus Christ. Hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit shall abide; so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

Missionaries, please stand.

Minister: In humble reliance upon divine grace, do you make it the supreme purpose of your lives to give of yourselves unreservedly over the course of the next two years to the work of Christ in your appointed field among this People Group?

Missionaries: We do.

Minister: Missionaries, in the name of this congregation, Calvary Baptist Church of Tyler, TX, I commend you to this work and pledge to you our prayers, our encouragement, and our support. May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you, that in this and in all things you may do God’s will in the service of Jesus Christ.

****Bring up two chairs: have the couple stand and face the congregation.****

Minister: Beloved, I commend to you this couple whom we this day have commissioned to be God’s servants as a part of the continual sharing of Christ’s great commission on Earth. If you agree with what I’ve said – if you promise to regularly pray for this couple, to encourage through letters, emails, gifts at times of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, to continue to support them through giving and even going to be with them when possible – will you signify your pledge by standing to your feet.

Missionaries,  Look at that support for you.

Church, you may be seated.

Minister:            Prayer of commissioning (Elders, other missionaries, the church)

**the names and the places and the people of our UUPG has been removed for security reasons.**

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Filed under Acts, Commissioning Service, missions

Discipleship: DNA

Title: Discipleship: Getting the Job Done

Text: Acts 11.19-30

CIT: The Church at Antioch had been Evangelized and Discipled so well, that they naturally wanted to serve when the time came.

CIS: that we as a congregation, and as individuals would be looking for that one person to ‘disciple’

Introduction: A Marine recruiter took the stage in front of a high school assembly after the other service recruiters had given long-winded speeches about why the students should join their respective branches.

The Marine recruiter simply looked out over the audience for a few seconds and said:

“I don’t think I see anyone in this room that has what it takes to be a United States Marine. But if any of you think you can prove me wrong, I’ll be at that table over there.”

The Marines got more recruits that day than all other branches combined.

There is something about a challenge – Or should I say there is something to being challenged. Most people want to do better than others. We want to feel that we’re above average when we’re compared with others. It doesn’t stop as individuals. We do this as members of teams and owners of businesses. We do this as churches.

Ill.: It seems to me that when I’m asked about Calvary, the question that is asked most is: how big is your church? Translation: how many people come to your church? Well, I’m not convinced that numbers alone is the measure of a healthy church.

Today we’ll look at a church and how it found success. And, to be quite honest, I was surprised at what I found:

Turn to Acts 11.19-30; In this text we’ll find three parts to an healthy, active church;

  1. Evangelism (19-21)
  2. Discipleship (22-26)
  3. Mission/Ministry (27-30)

This is the outline, but I’ve structured it differently… evangelism and evidence. 1st,

1.     Evangelism (19-20)

exp.: rd v 19a; A persecution arises and forces many believers to flee. I like the Greek – it paints a picture with the words; the word translated scattered is a farming word. It is what farmers would do when sowing their seed. It’s as if the writer is letting us in on what God is up to behind the scene. You can almost picture God’s hand sowing the seeds of faith in broader strokes. Rd 19b; These persecuted believers were at first sharing only with Jews, but something cool happens in the next verse; rd v 20; for the 1st time, we see a concentrated effort in sharing Christ with non-Jews;

1st, let’s look at this word: Hellenist. It’s found in 6.1, in reference to the Greek speaking Jewish widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The 2nd time we see it is in 9.29, when Paul comes to Jerusalem after his conversion and preaches Christ to Jews who are only Greek speaking. The context gives us a clear understanding of this. But when we come to Hellenists in 11.20, we see the context leads us to understand that for the 1st time, someone other than Jews is being targeted with the Gospel. There is greater emphasis placed on this with the word εὐαγγελίζω – preaching boldly in the name of Jesus. If you transliterate that word, εὐαγγελίζω, you get Evangelism;

ill.: C.H. Spurgeon is credited with saying: In the Roman Empire, all roads led to Rome. In the Bible, all texts lead to Christ. No matter what Scripture you’re reading, there is a message of hope and something that points us back or toward Christ. And so when reading Scripture – What a great opportunity to εὐαγγελίζω!

app.: Here is a simple reason to commit to reading the Bible with someone: Evangelism. Sharing the good news. Did you know that many people don’t want to go to a church. They’re uncomfortable with it. However, many people wish they knew the Bible better. Believers and non-believers alike.

t.s.: now, there a second part to this and it really runs inside this first point; however, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to make this point #2 and it is:

2.     Evidence (22-26)

exp.: rd v 21; note the two parts: 1st, God’s favor is upon them and 2nd their numbers show that! The 1st part of this echoes my verse for this year: Ps 90.17: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! That has been my prayer since I came across it on Sabbatical. I pray it almost every day. Will you pray that with me? …that God’s hand would be with us and that we would begin to see people committing their lives to Christ? We can do our part, but if God doesn’t bless – it’s all for naught. Pray: Indeed, Lord, Let your favor be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! And 2ndly, Let this evidence be found in us! May we see untold numbers of people committing their lives to you!

Look at v22; in v 22 we find set of words most common to the LXX; you get the idea of what this means when you read Mt 10.27: 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. Jesus is of course speaking there. But here, there is this idea of whispers about the church at Antioch coming to the ears of the church in Jerusalem – Did you hear that Believers are sharing Christ with Gentiles – and some of them are actually getting saved? “Whispers in dark”; this adds weight to our thought about these Hellenists being non-Jews, that is Gentiles. This is something new, something different.

So, what do they do? They send Barnabas – good, ole Barnabas – Son of Encouragement – to check things out. Why? Who are they? There is some wording here that doesn’t really translate into English. It’s the idea that this church in Jerusalem, being what it was at that time, when they heard of this, sent Barnabas. I think that’s an interesting statement by Dr. Luke. How would that apply to us?

Well, 1st off: we have a responsibility to check on those who are coming to faith through our ministry. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s a huge responsibility. We’re recording this, so I want to be careful. But let me ask: how are we following up on the people who get saved through our ministry. From Pine Cove to the Pacific Rim, how are we actively following up on reports that someone has accepted Christ? I’ve heard some reports about people being saved. You have, too. Let’s ponder that for a while – while I push on into verse 23.

Rd v 23; What did he find? Evidence!

  • He saw the grace of God! He saw God’s favor had been poured out on these people. Which of course, echoes the above statement that God’s hand was with them. Next,
  • He rejoiced! He was glad.
  • He encouraged them to remain faithful to the Lord w/ steadfast purpose.

Ill.: Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, tells the story of a church being revitalized. It was during his tenure teaching at a seminary. He was asked to step in and fill the pulpit. So, he did. It was a hard experience, but it was well worth it as many people were reached.

On my last day at the church, Harold, the over 80 year old deacon chairman poked me in the chest and said, “Preacher, I still don’t like the music and the kids are breaking everything.” And he was right. The more activity you have in a church, the more likely things are going to be broken.

Any disconnected church that seeks to reengage with their community will find the experience to be messy. There may be mud on the carpet, smudges on the walls, dirty bathrooms, or broken vases. The way of church life to which your people had grown accustomed will suddenly change.

So there we were, Harold with his finger in my chest and me looking at him trying to figure out this confrontation. Still making eye contact, he teared up and said, “I still don’t like the music and the kids are breaking everything, but it was worth it.

App.: a church that chooses to reach out to its community and to the world needs to know that this work is messy. It is. But like Harold said – It’s worth it.

I think Harold is a bit like Barnabas – able to see the good in things. I made a few notes about Barnabas, that I felt like each person who chooses to disciple others, should emulate:

  1. His Character: Wisdom, joy, encouragement – that is, an encourager of others. 2nd, his…
  2. His Attributes: rd v 24; good; full of the Holy Spirit; Full of Faith – faithful, yeah, but I like full of faith; rd v 24; another attribute – discernment: seeing what is needed; and having the wisdom to act on that. His Character, His Attributes, His Sacrifice. Rd v 25-26a;
  3. His Sacrifice: Invest in the lives of others…
    1. Yourself – What I mean by this is: it takes someone – why not you? Most of us like the group setting; probably because we don’t have to go very deep – just let others do the talking. Consider one to one.
    2. Your time – rd v 26; a whole year; ;
    3. Meet together – this isn’t a fb Bible study; sorry ladies, I mean no offense; but, I’m asking you to do more than ‘friend’ someone. I’m asking you to sacrifice yourself on the behalf of another; sacrifice your time; give of yourself – be vulnerable, be transparent;

Here is an area I think we’ve failed at as believers. We’ve tried to make people think that being a Christian means everything perfect. It is not. Indeed, my guess is that we have just as many problems, concerns and issues as the rest of the world. The difference comes in how we handle those problems, concerns and issues. We don’t respond like the world does. And, that’s part of what you’re teaching when you meet with someone. And that’s the next area where sacrifice is made.

  1. Teaching – Specifically, God’s Word; As I’ve repeated over the past couple of weeks: this is our standard – the measurement by which we measure our lives.

ill.: We’ll delve more into this on May 17th for those that are interested, but for the moment let me just add what it means to meet and teach someone.

  1. Read the text – This is what it says.
  2. Discuss the text – This is what it means.
  3. Apply the text – this is what it means to me.

app.: There are believers out there who would like to grow in Christ, but don’t know how. Spending time reading God’s Word with them will open doors for you to teach, share and invest in their lives. Discipleship; this is our main area of focus this morning – investing our lives in someone else.

t.s.: this text concludes with one last section – mission/ministry

3.     Mission/Ministry (27-30)

exp.: rd v 27-30; Maybe this is another area of evidence? I think Calvary is doing this well. Sunday night, May 17th, I’m going to invite you to the church to talk about reading the Bible one-to-one. I want to challenge you now to find someone and invite them to meet with you regualarly – one a week, once every two weeks, at lunch, on Saturdays for brunch, just whenever you can make the time. The goal isn’t to meet with someone to encourage you and then to meet with someone who needs your encouragement. We’re just trying to start something here. I’m calling it DNA (Discipleship and Accountability) Sunday night May 17th, we’ll meet to talk about all of this. To conclude, I want to give you 4 reason to consider DNA.

Conclusion: let me ask: Why participate in DNA?

  1. Salvation: each of us knows someone who is lost and needs to be reached. This just might be a way to present the gospel.
  2. Sanctification: no doubt each of us needs to grow. None of us has arrived.
  3. Service: Right now, would you think of one person you are pouring your life into? Maybe it’s your kid. Maybe it’s your sibling. If there isn’t someone you’re meeting with regularly, will you begin to pray about doing just that?
  4. Substance: This comes back to the issue of a superficial church. How involved are we in the lives of others? Who are you meeting with regularly to share life with – as it pertains to Scripture? I basically want to challenge you to begin praying about developing a relationship that takes you beyond the superficial. Our Church is only as strong as a weakest link.

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A Charge to the Church (Ordination Service)

Title: A Charge to the Church

Text: Acts

CIT: The history of the church and its need for strong leadership.

CIS: A charge to the church at Tyler to support its leadership.

 

Let’s look at a quick history: at 1st, there were just the Apostles in leadership:

  1. The Apostles deal with the difficulties of the church themselves, that is, until Chapter 6. They needed help, so they ask for servants – διάκονος, deacons.
  2. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the story: The widows of the Greek speaking Jews were being overlooked; The Hebrew speaking widows were getting cared for and there was some hostility rising up in the ranks. Acts 6.3-4: 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. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering…

At this point there are two offices in the church:

  • Apostles – will devote themselves to prayer & the ministry of the Word.
  • Deacons – to caring for the widows.

 

1.     The Rise of Eldership: Now, somewhere between Acts 6.5 and Acts 11, a third office is created in the church – the elder. Acts 11.30 is the 1st place we see elders used in reference to the NT church. 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. We have no idea how this happened, but it makes sense. Elders are nothing new. The Jewish community had elders for centuries.

  1. Paul and Barnabas use this model when planting churches; Acts 14.23; And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. So, they planted churches, discipled new believers and appointed elders before leaving them alone.
  2. Indeed, this is what Paul told Titus to do in his letter to Titus (1.5): This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. So elders have something to do with order in the church, But we still don’t know much about what they do. Until the next chapter…

 

2.     The Exercise of Leadership within the Christian Context: In the next chapter, as the church deals with the issue of Gentiles needing to be circumcised and practice the law, we see two offices together: Apostles and Elders (15.2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16.4). I want you to note also how the church is involved in the process. And the Church; Apostles and Elders lead, but the church isn’t left out of this. The church welcomes them and gives approval to their work.

  1. So now we begin to see a little bit of their purpose and work: along with the apostles, under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, they are to deal with theological issues along doctrinal lines. It appears that these decisions were laid before the church (cf. v 22) for their approval.
  2. Acts 16.4 is the last time we see Apostles in the book of Acts. Now, to be sure, there were still Apostles. Paul is one and his ministry is the focus in the expansion of the church throughout the rest of the book. But what we do notice is that elders now take the place of the Apostles. There were only so many Apostles and as the church exploded across the Middle East and up into Europe, leadership needed to be established.
  3. So, we begin to see some of what elders are doing – we see some of their purpose. They are dealing with issues arising in the church. They’re leading and guiding the church in spiritual matters. Apostles, those who walked with Christ and witnessed his resurrection, are fading from the scene.

 

3.     The Plurality of Leadership in the context of a single congregation.Now, the next time we see the elders in Acts is when Paul asks for them to come to Miletus. Acts 20.17: Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. We see a pattern in this text: plurality of leadership in elders serving a local church.

  • Elders – plural
  • Church – singular

We see this pattern each time the elders are mentioned with the church.

  • 15.4, 22
  • 14.23; And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

 

4.     The Exercise of Authority: This is still yet another appearance of the elders. It occurs in Acts 21.17ff; the interesting part of this story, is that it relates yet another situation where elders deal with problems in the church. It appears that many Jews had come to know Christ through the years that Paul had served among the Gentiles. There were some who stirred up the Jewish Christians about Paul, saying that Paul taught that the Jews were to forsake their heritage, their traditions, the Law of Moses. Which, of course, was not true! James (not an apostle, but rather the Lord’s brother), and the elders encouraged and instructed Paul on what he could do to quell their fears.

Transition: So, from this beginning, we see the purpose of the elders is to serve the church by leading her in doctrinal matters and protecting her from division. Their job is to protect her from unsound doctrine. Keeping her pure and unified.

Listen to John Piper: In seeking guidelines from this incident for today’s church we would have to keep in mind that the office of apostle, being linked to the witnessing of his resurrection, was an unrepeatable office. The irreplaceable function of the apostles remains for us now in the apostolic word, which we have in the New Testament. Thus the leadership of the church using only the Jerusalem model would be a group of elders under the Holy Spirit in humble conversation with the apostolic word, the New Testament.

In other words, the apostles have all died. Their function is carried on by elders, who use the apostle’s teaching as recorded in Scripture to oversee spiritual matters in the church.

Transition: So, church, what does this have to do with today’s ordination service? My task today is to present a charge to you.

 

Conclusion: The Charge

1.       In light of Scripture and calling placed upon Phil and Joshua and Jason and Lyle and me, I charge you, Calvary, to follow your leaders. Hebrews 13.17 says: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

–       Obedience

–       Submission

 

Your 1st charge is to obey and submit. Really, there is nothing new here. Paul encourages us to already do that in our Christian relationships and in our marriages. Cf.: Ephesians 5.

 

2.       Furthermore, 1 Timothy 5.17-18 says: Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

 

Your 2nd charge is to honor your elders. Specifically, in this case, I’m charging you with the duty to honor Phil and his family. The text says he’s worthy of double honor. I’m asking you to hold him in high esteem. Don’t ever slander him or the elders. Hold him in the highest regard: in your speech, in your actions, in your service.

3.       The passage continues in v 19: Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Here is your 3rd Charge: Protect him from gossip, but also hold him accountable to the task he’s been given – as one who must give an account for his service. Elders are man and therefore subject to failure and sin. Elders are not perfect. They can be tempted to power and prestige. They can abuse their authority and responsibility to satisfy their own passions and pursuits. Protect them, but hold them accountable.

– Obedience

– Submission

– Honor

– Protection

– Accountability

 

The passage continues in v 22 and offers you the warning about laying hands on a man too soon. I don’t think that’s the case here. For us, it is simply a reminder of the practice to lay hands on and pray for God’s blessing for Phil’s ministry and service. Let us now have the ordained men, both deacons and elders, come and lay hands on Phil.

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Acts 11.19-30

Title: A Mission-Minded Church

Text: Acts 11.19-30

Introduction: Jane Nelson writes of Winston Churchill:

Winston Churchill was not intimidated by errors. When he made one, he simply thought the problem through again. Someone asked him, “Sir Winston, what in your school experience best prepared you to lead Britian out of her darkest hour?”

Winston thought a miniute and then said, “It was the two years I spent at the same level in high school.”

“Did you fail?”

“No,” replied Winston. “I had two opportunities to get it right.”

app: Often times we see failure in our attempts or circumstances. But the reality is that these are just experiences God is giving us that will come in handy in the future. More opportunities to get it right, you might say. I’m sure the Jewish Christians were questioning what was going on as they faced severe persecution for becoming Christians. How was God in this? They’ve committed their lives to God and now they were being scattered to every corner of the world.

Ill..: two weeks ago in Genesis 12, we read about Abram, who had committed his life to God and had faithfully followed his word to this new land that his offspring would inherit. And what did he find when he got there? A famine!

App.: we find a similar situation in Acts, as the church is growing in numbers rapidly. Read w/ me in Acts 8.1ff: And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. This doesn’t seem very fair for those who’ve given their lives to Christ. But look what happens in v4; Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

Indeed, that’s what we find in Chapter 11.19; rd 11.19; We find in the following verses a mission endeavor and the birth of a local church; So what does a mission-minded church look like? Well, I’ve divided this particular passage into three parts:

  • The Jewish Church is scattered
  • The Jewish Church sends out Barnabas
  • The Gentile Church becomes determined

Our Focus: on what a mission-minded church looks like. What does it endure? What characteristics pop out at you when you see it? How is it tested and tried?

My goal this morning is to present the text in outline form and then to move to some observations.

Transition: let’s look at this early church’s struggle to become mission-minded and learn from their story.

  1. The Jewish Church is Scattered (11.19-21)

exp.: in this passage,

  • The believers are scattered due to persecution (19); diaspora; through or on account of and spores or seed; it means to scatter seed, like a farmer; Matthew 13.3; There is this picture of God sowing his children throughout the land. Rd v 19b-20;
  • The believers preach Jesus to the lost (19b-20)

i.     Jews

ii.     Gentiles; the church is becoming indigenous; These are Jerusalem witnesses, they’re from Cyprus and Cyrene. Rd v 21;

  • God’s hand is upon their work (21); what a reminder to us that this work isn’t based upon our abilities or talents; I read a story this past week about Mother Theresa who was a guest in the midst of fame and royalty. Most folks were in their glamour and glitz, their fancy dresses and nicest suits, but MT was in her nun’s garb and it was being held together with a safety pin. When asked about her mission and if she felt she was successful. She said:  I wasn’t called to a ministry of success, but rather a ministry of obedience.

App.: God is at work, we simply trust that he’s moving before we get there. If folks reject the gospel, that’s not on us. What’s on us is to obey the call to share. A ministry of obedience. These folks from Cypress & Cyrene were being obedient. And look at the result; rd v 21;

  • Many Gentiles come to faith in Jesus (21); arithmos;  

Transition: Now, this is gonna be hard for the Jews to grasp! They’re not prone to be favorable to Gentiles. They’ve been taught for generations to be prejudiced toward Gentiles. Of Course, as we saw last week, that wasn’t God’s intention, but rather a result of the Jews misunderstanding what it means to be God’s people. So what do they do?…

     2.      The Jewish Church sends Barnabas (11.22-26)

exp.: to check this out; This is hard to believe, so,

  • Barnabas surveys the situation (22-24); rd v 22-24; What does he find? The Grace of God; favor or gift; this is going to create more problems in the future which will have to be dealt with; namely, do Gentiles have to become Jews before they can become Christians? For now, there is powerful evidence that God has indeed been saving Gentiles. What to do? What to do? rd 24b – the numbers are getting out of hand! Barnabas needs help and he knows just the man for the job; rd v25;
  • Barnabas seeks out Saul for help (25); Paul – author of some 13 books in the NT; former lawyer now looking for some work! Rd v 26a-b;
  • Barnabas and Saul Disciple the new believers (26); They meet together and teach these large number of new believers;

app.: I wonder if we’re missing this here at Calvary; in Tyler, Smith County? In TX; the US? It feels saturated here, so we’re not really preaching Christ, not really teaching large numbers. We’ve lost this somewhere along the way. This action was so foreign to the people in Antioch, that they began calling these folks…rd v26c; Christians – little Christs. I’m not so sure this is a derogatory term. I was taught when I was younger that this is a pejorative – a crude remark. But I don’t think so. Maybe if this term was used in Jerusalem by Jews, but this is a Greek term used by Greek speaking people.

Transition: No matter. They’re labeled because of their meeting together and studying together as Barnabas and Saul teach them. No look what happens to them – and quickly I might add…

     3.      The Gentile Church becomes Determined (11.27-30)

exp.: in this passage,

  • Antioch hears of the need (rd v 27-28); a great famine is coming – and, at the writing of this text, had happened. So, what do they do? they put their learning to work! Rd v 29;
  • Prepares the people to meet the need (29); each person gets involved, according to his ‘ability’ diakonian; Can I ask you today, are you living up to your ability? Are you serving up to your ‘ability’ within the church? That’s a question only you can answer… Well, look at what they do; rd v 30;
  • Sends out missionaries to serve the need (30); they did this, they pulled their resources and sent their gifts to the Jerusalem church. And that’s the last we hear of Antioch… No! rd 12.25-13.5
  • Doesn’t rest on it’s laurels, but sends them out again… (12.25-13.5)

They could have. They could have received a certificate from the church in Jerusalem for their fine work. They could have hung it proudly on their wall of fame at the home where they met. But they didn’t rest on what had been done. They listened to the Word of God and continued to serve.

Transition: So, nice story, but how does that apply to us? Well, let’s make some final…

Observations & Implications: A mission-minded church…

  1. Will face opposition
  2. Preaches Jesus
  3. Meets together
  4. Teaches others
  5. Reaches out in ministry & mission to meet needs
  6. Doesn’t rest on its laurels!

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Acts 9.10-18; 22.12-16

Title: 5 Steps to becoming a person God uses.

Text: Acts 9.10-18; 22.12-16

Introduction: Alister Begg tells the story of a lawyer with the last name Odd. Struggled with his name. Oddball, odd boy, oddyit, odd man. It was such a struggle, that when he died, he had specific instructions that his name was not to be put on his tombstone, but rather just the phrase: Here rests an honest lawyer. When people would walk through the cemetery, they would stop and look at his tombstone and say: That’s odd.

Some people just can’t escape their past.

History: Saul of Tarsus had been doing his best to stamp out the church. A zealous Pharisee, educated by what standards we would say today was a completed Master’s degree, was studying Law under the famed Gamaliel. As a young man, he was persecuting believers. His most famous, or should I say infamous endeavor against the church is at the stoning of Stephen.

In this message today we’ll look at a part of this incredible story, but not so much the story of Saul, as the story of a man who was used by God in Saul’s life. This month my sermon series has been the focus of Missions. The title of this series is Missions: A foundation. Three columns: Prayer; Obedience; Willingness; Acts 9.10-18; 22.12-15

Transition: concerning willingness and an open heart, I’ve found 5 steps in the life of Ananias that he went through in being used of God in the life of Paul. Therefore, I’ve entitled my message 5 Steps in Becoming a Person God Uses.

Step 1: The 1st step we see in this passage is the calling of Ananias. rd v 10;

1.     God Calls:

a.     He calls him by name: Ananias

i.     “here I am” is lit.: Behold me, Lord. ἰδοὺ ἐγώ, κύριε; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph to his dad, Moses to God, Samuel to the Lord.

app.: the kind of man God uses is a man who is open to the Call of God. I wonder if too often we’re quick to say, “God use me,” but never really open to the idea of being used. We want God to use us, but rather on our terms and on our turf. We get to pick the people and we get to pick the places. Note the Characteristic of a man used by God: WillingBehold me, Lord; Willing to go, willing to serve, willing to sacrifice.

Oh, to hear God’s people come to church on Sunday morning with this on their lips: Here I am.

ii.     V. 10 says: A “certain” disciple; so, he was a follower of Jesus; At this point we have to go to Acts 22.12 to find out more about this man.

iii.     Devout according to the Law; before Acts 15;

iv.     Favor amongst the Jews, in spite of being a believer – the Jewish community respected his devotion to God.

app.: Finding the favor of God and man isn’t a quick ascent. It appears that when one does justly, he loves mercy and walks humbly with His God – that man will find favor with God and his fellow man. Might I venture to say also that this doesn’t occur in a day or at one event? This takes years of faithfulness. It is earned. As well, you might note that even a man’s enemies will respect him, too. That is to say, they may hate him for his beliefs in God, but they will respect his integrity.

b.     The kind of man God uses: the one who is open and willing, and 2nd, the man who practices what he preaches; oh, yes, God can use anyone for anything. Think of Pharaoh. But it appears, time and again, that the vessel God chooses and uses is the clean, available vessel.

Transition: So, Step 1, we see the call of God upon the life of Ananias. Step 2, we see God’s Command to Go. Look back to 9.11

2.     God Commands: the 1st command is…

a.     Go  – lit.: having risen, Go; a “passive, imperative” which means he doesn’t go alone and he doesn’t go on his own strength – He goes in God. App.: we, too, go in the power of the LORD

b.     Specifics

i.     To the street called Straight

ii.     To the house of Judas; the 2nd command is…

c.     Look for (ζητέω): seek; Rd v 11b; Luke 19.10: the purpose statement of Jesus – For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. You ever think about that?

i.     Jesus said his purpose was to seek and save the lost.

ii.     We are the body of Christ.

iii.     We fulfill his purpose when we seek and save the lost.

1.     I’m proud of what we’re doing as a church.

a.     UUPG –

b.     UPG

c.     That’s what we’re doing as a body…

2.     How is it going for you as an individual?

a.     My Hope for America

Transition: Let me offer you this encouragement – we want to help you in anyway we can to fulfill your calling from God. But there’s more here than just the call and command. Once he calls and commands, he often confirms, like he does here with Ananias. Step 3, God Confirms;

3.     God Confirms:

exp.: rd v 12;

a.      Saul of Tarsus

i.     he is praying

ii.     he has seen a vision, too;

App.: God works in the lives of others, confirming in us His call and His Command to go;

1.     of Ananias – he calls him by name; 2nd, he gets specific…

2.     laying hands on him

3.     recieving his sight; Now, we’ve got to go back to Acts 22 for a little more insight to what happened. Listen to Paul: rd 22.12-16 12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.

exp.: Greek is lit.: Brother Saul, look up. And at that hour I looked up and saw him. That’s too cool! The word ‘came’ there tells us that Ananias did as he was commanded. Next, we see that Ananias is given a special message for him.14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.

App.: And isn’t that really all our testimony is? Our experience in Christ? But look, Ananias doesn’t just tell him what has happened to him and why, but he offers Saul the opportunity to surrender his life to Christ. Here is the challenge; rd v 16;

16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Transition: Go back to ch. 9; God Calls Ananias, he then commands him to go and search for Saul of Tarsus at the house of one named Judas. But Ananias pauses. And here we see another side of the Father – Step 4: His compassion in our weakness.

4.     God’s Compassion in a Crisis of Belief –

exp.: Crisis of belief is a term I’ve taken from Henry Blackaby – author of Experiencing God. If you’ve not heard, Henry Blackaby went missing last Friday. It turns out that he had a heart attack which left him confused and disoriented. He was finally located and is in the hospital last I saw. Please pray for him and his family; Rd v 13;

a.     Ananias seems confused or at least concerned: But I have heard (sometimes, What we are most aware of doesn’t match what God is calling us to do); He was probably not one of the fugitives, but has heard from those who have fled Jerusalem that Saul:

i.     He has done much evil (funny how people do evil in the name of God);

1.     the bombing this weekend in Nairobi, Kenya. 59 dead; 175 injured

2.     Suicide bomber bombs church in Pakistan 52 dead; 100+ wounded

ii.     He’s here to do more! Rd v 13-14; he’s under the authority to do evil in your name

But, look at God’s compassion at Ananias’ confusion, concern: rd v 15;

b.     The command is reiterated: Go – but this time, God is patient and let’s Ananias in on His plan.

1.     ὅτι – in order that; because

2.     γὰρ – cause or reason; I will show him…

I find this interesting that his suffering is the venue by which he will present the gospel. You and I know that it was through his suffering as a prisoner that we have so much of the NT.

app.: Suffering: Too often we run from suffering. We protect our kids from suffering and really, suffering is what drives us. Maybe your suffering will be a platform to present the Love and Grace of God. I don’t know. This stage of Acts is the stage where so many believers were scattered from Jerusalem throughout the known world. And once these believers were relocated, the gospel was preached. Listen, I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want you to suffer. But, I wonder if that might be the very way God’s message is communicated?

Question: why is it that we worry so much about that which we have no control over? Is not God in charge? Then let him be in charge. God does for Ananias what Paul tells Timothy God has done in his life: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2nd app.: so often, when people are suffering, God is at work in their lives. When they come to you or you’re sent to them, don’t bow to the PC god! Tell them how they can get their lives together! I’m so glad that Ananias didn’t think to himself that Saul was Jewish and Ananias was Christian and therefore, in order not to offend him, he’d just go help him get back to Jerusalem. He didn’t just buy him a bus ticket back to Jerusalem. He didn’t just rent him a room for the night or send him to the food pantry in town.

Transition: So, what does Ananias do… and this is step 5: he complies with God’s command.

5.     Ananias’ Compliance

exp.: rd v 17a; I’ve labeled this:

a.     Making Tracks: Gk lit.: went out from and went into (moving forward); this matches God’s 1st command: getup and go!

i.     You can’t stay where you are and go with God, too! Max Lucado?

ii.     This might mean making changes to your life right where you are.

iii.     This might mean moving – literally.

b.     Ministry –

i.     Laying on of hands: v. 12; rd 22.12-16; “look up”; and “looking up, I saw him.” rd 9.17b;

ii.     Think about Saul’s predicament. He was blinded by a bright light; rd 22.6; a light brighter than the bright sun at noon! A voice has spoken to him. This is an arrogant man who is broken. He has to be led to Damascus by those who are with him. He is praying and seeking God’s direction. This moment has been so overwhelming for him. He’s broken and ready for God to do his work. Enter Ananias!

c.     Message – He tells him about Jesus – he challenges him to call upon his name. rd 22.14-16; this is why we go; yes, we go to serve; yes, we go to minister; But what good does it do to feed those in need, to meet the person at the point of their need, if we don’t tell them about eternity? I believe God uses our ministry for this purpose – to share a message from God.

Observations & Implications:

1.     God is at work in someone’s life. It might be yours or someone near you.

2.     Some people are trying to escape their pasts with no real future. God’s been preparing them for an encounter with you. Are you ready? Are you willing?

3.     Questions:

a.     Do you have an ear open to hear the call of God?

b.     Do you have a will that is obedient to the command of God?

c.     Do you have a life that is a living sacrifice in service for his pleasure?

I can’t answer those questions for you – only you can. Will you be honest and answer these questions before the Father?

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Acts 2-4

Title: Missions @ Home

Text: Acts 2-4

CIT: The NT Church was active in Mission work at home.

CIS: Missions really begins right where you are.

Introduction: Last week I began a sermon series on Missions. Specifically, this month I’ll be dealing with Missions: A Foundation. So what characteristics can be identified in a mission foundation?

Prayer (Mark 4.26-29) – the parable of the farmer who works, but leaves the harvest to the Father; we work in the physical realm like it all depends on us, but we must work in the spiritual realm by spiritual matters – prayer.

Obedience (Today) – Faithfulness and obedience continue the process of a strong foundation. This morning I want to identify seven (7) markers in the early church where faithfulness and obedience were demonstrated in their mission work at home. We find these markers in Acts, Chapters 2-4. The 1st marker is really more like bookends to these passages. They’re two separate events found in 2.1-4 and 4.31; read them; Marker #1:

 

Mission work at home:

  1. 1.     Is started with a movement of the Holy Spirit. (2.1-13)

exp.: Jesus had told them this would happen; Think about this for a moment: are there promises that you and I have from Jesus?

  • I will never leave you nor forsake you.
  • Lo, I am with you always…
  • Where two or more are gathered in my name…
  • Ask and it will be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door…

2 Peter 1: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. “His divine power has granted to us his precious and very great promises!” Q: Are we being obedient in patient awareness? As we gear up for missions at home and abroad… Let those two words echo in your mind, patient awareness. Rd 2.12-13; the work of God is evident to those who are watching!

app.: They may believe, they may mock, but they’ll be aware…

Transition: Mission work @ home is started (and sustained by the Holy Spirit). Marker #2: Mission Work @ home…

  1. 2.     Is established on the Word of God. (2.14-41)

exp.: we don’t have time to read every verse, but Peter’s sermon is replete with Scripture. You may notice that from the quotations, how they’re indented; basically he says: this may seem odd to you, but God told us this day would come; rd v 22-24 – that’s the gospel! He then quotes more Scripture to strengthen his message! Rd v 36;

  • He tells them what they need to hear in v 36, then
  • He tells them what they need to do in v 37, 38

* all from Scripture.

app.: that is so often too hard for us to do; we fear hurting people’s feelings; it’s not politically correct; They need to hear that:

  • God had a plan
  • God put that plan into play
  • Jesus was and is that plan
  • Now, they need to respond

ill.: I’ve only had a couple of times when sharing that someone asked me a question like v. 37, what shall we do. The best was a couple who was visiting our home. She had been reading the book, Left Behind and had many questions about Revelation. Our families had dinner together, then we sat in the living room. I said, you had some questions for me? She replied: well, it really all boils down to one question. How can I know for sure that I won’t be left behind? Boom!

Application: As the Spirit moves in our lives, we must be attentive to opportunities to share Christ. When the Holy Spirit has gone before us, the doors will just open up. Listen, you don’t have to be smart, you don’t have to be witty – just be faithful in sharing God’s Word.

Transition: because Mission work @ home is started with a movement of the Holy Spirit, is established in the Word of God and…

  1. 3.     Is validated in the fellowship of the believers. (2.42-47)

ill.: Lyle Skills said in the New Member’s class yesterday that we invite guests to our Business Meetings! We do this because our QBM are filled with laughter and excitement and warm fellowship.

exp.: These folks in Jerusalem are watching these weirdoes closely and what do they see? They see the validation of what they’ve been preaching in their lives! Well, What were they doing? Rd v 42

  1. They Devoted themselves to each other

i.     Discipleship

ii.     The Fellowship – the fellowship is the group, not an activity

iii.     The breaking of bread – that’s an activity.

iv.     Prayers

v.     Ministry to the body

  1. Signs and Wonders
  2. Shared their belongings as people had need

Summary in v 46f:

  1. Worshipping together
  2. Fellowshipping together
  3. Attitude
  4. Blessing
  5. Additions

 

Transition: Mission work at home is started with a movement of the Holy Spirit, is established in the Word of God and is validated in the fellowship of the believers. Plus, Mission work at home

  1. 4.     Is initiated when you care about those in need around you. (3.1-26)
  • The Lame Beggar

exp.: rd v 1; so they’re basically doing what they normally do at this time; rd v 2-4; I think it’s interesting that our normal response is to look the other way. We pull up to a red light and we choose not to make eye contact, hoping that they won’t approach. If they do, we simply keep our eye on the light, or on something in our car, etc. Those days were different: family and friends would help, no govt. assistance. But let’s not focus on that. Here’s what I want you to see. Ministry can only begin to happen when we actually see the needs. When people are content, for the most part, they don’t appear to me to seek for God. Now, I don’t like making broad, brush-stroke statements, because you can always find an example that doesn’t fit the mold; however, with that being said, God is usually at work in someone’s life, drawing them to himself through their circumstances. That is when it seems to me that people are most receptive. We must be sensitive to that. We must understand that God has been at work in their lives before we even say hello. Then, as God has been moving them to where He wants them, he has also been moving us to a place where we can be used. But that won’t happen if we look the other way.

Peter says he doesn’t have money to give, but he has something else very special and he offers it to this man. The man is healed. But that’s not the end of the story; rd v 9-12; Now, with eyes open, Peter and John see that God is giving them another opportunity. Peter once again presents the gospel. At this time, however, we don’t see a record number of people getting saved. We will in a few moments, but for Peter and John, they apparently don’t get to see the fruit because their presentation is interrupted by the priests, the temple guard, and the Sadducees. Rd v 4.1-3; I’m guessing, that because they’ve been arrested and put behind bars for the night, they don’t know what is happening outside the place they’re locked up in. But look at what happens; rd 4.4;

app.: It might work that way in your life as you begin to obey God in Mission @ Home. You might not see the fruit of your labor, but nevertheless, take advantage of the moments God gives and then trust that he’s using you. You see, God used them to touch the beggar, but also to touch the crowd. And, that’s the 2nd sub-point.

  • The Crowd that was stirred

Transition: Mission work at home is started with a movement of the Holy Spirit, is established in the Word of God and is validated in the fellowship of the believers. Plus, Mission work at home is initiated when you care about those around you. But there is a 5th marker, and that is Mission work at home is…

  1. 5.     Is experienced when you’re willing to take a bold stand for Christ. (4.1-22)

exp.: and that’s what happens to the disciples. They’re locked up overnight. They’ve got time to think about what they’re going to say. Rd v 5-10

  • If you experience success in ministry, blame Jesus! Let’s be honest here, you and I both know you didn’t do this, there has to be another explanation. There is, it’s all Jesus! But there’s a 2nd action you should take…
  • If you experience success in ministry, build upon it! rd v11-12; I love this passage – there is no other name by which you must be saved! Talk about bold! They’re speaking to the religious leaders who just a few weeks ago killed the Savior. You’d think that might shut them up! Which brings me to my 3rd sub-point…the 3rd action you should take.
  • If you experience success in ministry, be bold! Rd v 17-20;

app.: isn’t that really what ministry is? It’s simply telling others what Christ has done in your life, telling them what Christ has done for their lives, and the hope that you now have because of that work.

Transition: Mission work at home is started with a movement of the Holy Spirit, is established in the Word of God, it is validated in the fellowship of the believers, it is initiated when you care about those around you. And it is experienced when you’re willing to take a bold stand for Christ. Sixth, Mission work @ home…

  1. 6.     Is strengthened with cooperation in prayer. (4.23-31)

exp.: Now, this was my message last week; I basically pleaded with you to continue praying for our mission work. Three areas to be praying now,

  1. UUPG – in **********
  2. NBDF – church plant her in Tyler (a UPG)
  3. My Hope for America – Nov. 9th, 6:30 pm at your house.

How to pray for mission work at home:

  • Praise God – rd v 23-28; no matter what happens or how things turn out, God is sovereign and in charge! So praise him.
  • Pray for boldness: rd v 29; no matter what happens or how things turn out, pray that God would grant us the boldness needed to share his truths.
  • Pray to be used by God: Use us Lord to display your power and your glory; rd v 30;

transition: Mission work at home is started with a movement of the Holy Spirit, is established in the Word of God, it is validated in the fellowship of the believers, it is initiated when you care about those around you, it is experienced when you’re willing to take a bold stand for Christ and is strengthened with cooperation in prayer and finally, Marker number 7, Mission work @ home is…

  1. 7.     Is possible when we work together. (4.32-37)

exp.: this final passage declares the unity within the body. They worked together to ensure that every need was met.

  • We can tell the world Jesus loves them, but if they don’t see us loving each other, it sends a message of contradiction. Rd v 34a;

Observations & Implications:

  1. Faithfulness and Obedience are seen. They’re not just words we throw out…
  2. As we look at the church of the NT, we see the church we should be…
  3. The gospel is not just spoken, it’s demonstrated. Good news isn’t just heard, it’s experienced – that’s what makes it so good!
  4. Remember God has a plan; this passage clarified that twice for us (2.23; 28); God’s working that plan, and we get to be a big part of it!

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