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South Fellowship Church

The Movement – Never-ending Story – Acts 28

March 29th 2015listen to last Sunday’s worship set. After 28 chapters, the book of Acts ends with the Apostle Paul in prison still preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Acts doesn’t end with information or answers; it ends with an open-ended invitation. As with any great story, the end is really just the beginning. The story that Jesus is writing through His church continues today, and we get to play a part!

What will be our verse?
What might God do through us for His name and His glory?

Welcome to the never-ending story!

 

NEVER-ENDING STORY

Well, I know you are very disappointed that this is the final message in the book of Acts.  It’s flown by, hasn’t it? Thirty-seven messages as we’ve journeyed in the book of Acts. Then you come in on the very final message of the book of Acts and the sermon is entitled “Never-ending Story.”  You probably think to yourself, will the series ever end?  And the answer is….sort of!

About a year ago, we started this series and we jumped into the book of Acts and we said that really the framing for our study of this book was that we’re jumping into a stream that’s been going for a long time as followers of Jesus.  That the book of Acts points us back to the fact that we have a foundation that’s forged in the past.  That it invites us to this reality that there’s a power available in the present.  That power is the Holy Spirit that shapes and guides this book.  Also, as we’ll see today, the book of Acts presents us with a vision that presses towards the future.  In many ways, as we come to Acts 28 and we come to the end of the book, we really find ourselves at the beginning!  That God, the same God who, through His Spirit, writes this book, is not done telling His story.  That this book, the book of Acts and the Scriptures as a whole, is a dynamic book—not static!  That they are grounded in ancient truth and yet, point us to a glorious future.  So if you’re joining us for the first time today, yes, you jump in at the very end of the series, but as you’ll see, in many ways the end is just the beginning.

Let me give you a brief summary of what we’ve sorta been through over the last 37 weeks.  Dr. Luke is the author of this book that is a history, an account, of the way that God shapes and forms his church.  It’s an account of the way that God sends the Holy Spirit into the life of the believers. That Spirit drives them, shapes them, forms them, births the church and launches the church on mission.  That’s what we’ve been studying over the last 37 weeks.  These 28 chapters span more than 30 years…..three decades of history.  We have things that take place on three different continents.  We have the church that’s birthed in Jerusalem, on the continent of Asia.  We have the gospel that continues to go forth as Paul takes it to the ends of the earth.  He sets up shop around the Mediterranean, in Europe.  We also see in Acts 8 the Ethiopian eunuch is converted to Christ, comes to know the Lord, and then goes back and serves in his hometown.  So we have Asia, Europe and Africa all represented in this book.

We have 14 churches planted by the Apostle Paul alone, but we know that many other churches find their roots in this time period.  We have the Apostle Paul traveling over 10,000 miles on missionary journeys by land and by sea.  We see in Acts 2 and Acts 4 the blueprint for the church—-the fact that the church is this beautiful, subversive, generous, gracious community.  Where people are invited in, where they say to the Caesar, who’s tagline was Caesar is lord, there’s none other than Jesus!  Jesus is Lord, Jesus alone is Lord.  Thank you very much, Caesar, but we don’t need you, we have each other.  They pointed each other to the Scriptures, there was a teaching, there was learning, there was this beautiful ethos that started to develop among this community of believers.

We see the church develop leadership.  We see the church develop vision and we see the church continue to move forward.  That’s the story we found ourselves in over the last 28 chapters of the book of Acts.  In this book, here’s what we see:  We see the work that Jesus continues to do through the Spirit and the formation of His church.  And today we come to the end.  We come to the end of this book, but as you’ll see as we jump in, it’s not an ending that you and I are necessarily comfortable with.  It’s not an ending that has a nice little bow on it.  Or the curtains are drawn and we’re like okay, let’s move on to what’s next.  That’s not the ending that Dr. Luke gives us to this book.

Will you turn with me to Acts 28 and we’ll jump in at verse 23.  Paul has finally arrived in Rome.  It was his prayer, it was his hope.  He didn’t arrive like he thought he would; he arrived as a prisoner after a shipwreck, but he finally gets to Rome.  He finds himself there on house arrest.  And on house arrest, people come to him and they visit and he’s going to continue to teach them.  We’re going to pick up in Acts 28:23, where there’s a number of prominent Jewish leaders in the city of Rome who come and visit the Apostle Paul in prison and house arrest.  When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.    Just a confession:  My wife and I just watched “Mockingjay, Part 1” the other night, to our own detriment.  {She picked it, I’ll just say that.}  Two hours and 3 minutes of my life I’m not getting back, friends.  We got to the end of it and it was like wait, part one, are you kidding me?!  When I jump into something I do it with both feet, I dedicated six years of my life, every Thursday, to watching “Lost.”  “Lost” was this wonderful story and there’s debate about what happened, but you get to the end of it and the end is really the beginning.  It beautifully follows the story arch, don’t get me wrong. I think they nailed it!  There’s no other way to end that, but it ends with you going I want a little bit more.  Just give me a little bit more.  It’s this film technique called “cut to black”  where they leave you going (groan) there’s gotta be more.

The Scriptures use this technique often.  Jesus tells a parable about a son who comes to his father and asks for his inheritance.  The father gives him the inheritance and he blows it all, comes back home and is welcomed by the father.  A party ensues…they kill the fatted calf.  There’s dancing and music.  The story ends with the older son standing in the field saying I won’t go in.  Completely unresolved.  People went away going I think he may have been talking about me.

The book of Jonah.  The prophet Jonah is called to go to Nineveh to preach the good news of who God is and what God has done.  At the very end of the book of Jonah, Jonah 4:11, after he has been wildly successful as an evangelist—against his own desires, right?  {That’s putting it mildly.}  He gets swallowed by a whale, barfed up on dry land, goes and preaches.  Not exactly the most willing evangelist you’ve ever met in your life, okay?  At the end of it, he’s sitting under this little tree and here’s what it says:  And should not I pity Nineveh, {This is God speaking to Jonah.} that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”   You go look in your Bible!!  There’s nothing following that!! You have to be thinking my kids stole Jonah chapter five, right?!  It ends open-ended!

If you look in your Bible in the Gospel of Mark, there’s 20 verses in chapter 16, but there’s a little note after verse 8 that says most of the best, earliest manuscripts don’t include verses 9 through 20.  And they don’t, none of them do.  It wasn’t part of the original.  This is the way the original ends, verse 8:  And they went out and fled from the tomb, {This is after the resurrection of Jesus.} for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.    That’s it!  Done!  It was so difficult for people that later transcribers had to add a nicer, cleaner ending.  Which is what we’d like to do, isn’t it, sometimes?  The story ends a little bit prematurely, in our mind, and we go well, we could come up with a better ending.  I love the way that Eugene Peterson, the great pastor and scholar, puts it when he says this (writing about the book of Mark):  “He (Mark) has just brought a completely new genre of literature into being, a “gospel,” but instead of wrapping it up as a finished product so we can admire his genius, at the last minute he steps aside and hand us the pen and says, ‘Here, you write it, write a resurrection conclusion with your life.”  What a brilliant statement!!

It’s the same thing the book of Acts does.  It doesn’t give us all the answers and would you agree with me, we live in a culture and a time that likes the answers.  You think about the way we build our education around information.  Here’s a list of things you need to know.  Here’s a list of facts you need to know.  Here’s a list of things that you need to get into your head.  I think this is a good thing, but it’s starting to change.  Basically, what we view as the end or the destination is the answer.  Scriptures often don’t invite us to have the answer, they invite us into the story.  The Scriptures are as much about invitation as they are about information.  About inviting us in, not with a nice, tidy bow that is wrapped at the top at the end of the story….where the credits roll and the people live happily ever after.  But an invitation into a story, to step IN TO it.  I think it’s made it hard for us in modernity to really accept this and wrestle with this, because, in many ways, faith is a list of things we believe.    We believe this about God, we believe this about the Spirit…..and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.  I’m just saying that if you go back and read the Scriptures, that the early followers of Jesus, I’m convinced, were more interested in inviting people into a story than they were about giving people all the answers.  And so the book of Acts ends and you go there’s gotta be more! And I can assure you, there’s no Acts 29, at least in your Bible.

I think, in the day and time we live in, we need to embrace this, Church.  This is not a bad thing.  This is not an evil to fight.  This is an invitation from God that we have this unique opportunity to step back into, because information does not carry the same weight that it used to.  You can get on your phone and, if you have access to the right data bases, get all of the information that I used to plan this message.  Now, as someone who teaches on a weekly basis, that’s humbling.  Here’s the deal, I don’t think at any time soon someone’s going to knock at your door and try to sell you an Encyclopedia Britannica.  I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I think the church needs to embrace this invitation, not just to all the answers…..the answers are important, don’t get me wrong…..but an invitation to the STORY that the way the book of Acts ends.  Maybe there’s more power in this than we’ve realized.  Maybe there’s more power in invitation than we’ve realized.  Maybe formation begins with invitation, not just information.  What if….what if our goal as followers of Jesus was not to give people all the answers, but to live such a counter-cultural life that we invited people into the story??!!!  What if that was our goal?  Not just to have all the right answers, but to live a life that demands that people ask and wrestle with questions.  I love the way that one of my favorite authors and pastor, Dallas Willard, puts it when he says this: “The trouble with the way we teach doctrine is that we say, ‘you should believe this whether you believe it or not.'” Is that not true?  That that is the way we talk about faith—you should believe this because it’s right, whether you really believe it or not.  But I think what we see in the book of Acts and what we see all throughout the Scriptures, is not just an invitation to believe something but to be a part of something.  Both are given in the Scriptures.  Unfortunately, to our detriment, I think, we’ve only rested on one.

But the book of Acts ends, chapter 28.  And it ends beautifully.  It follows the story arch it set out to tell.  Luke does not abdicate his responsibility as a storyteller.  In fact, I think he tells the perfect story.  And when I use that term I’m not saying that it’s untrue, I’m simply saying that it’s true in its facts, but it’s even more true in what it says to our lives.  He tells a GREAT story!  Listen to the way it starts out:  In the first book, {which he’s referring to his Gospel Luke} O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, {As if to say, I’m simply continuing the story that Jesus, although he died and was risen and has ascended to Heaven, He is not done writing His story with His church through His Spirit….first verse, that’s what he says.  Third verse says that Jesus came and taught the Apostles for forty days.  What was the content of His message? He talked to them for forty days…speaking about the kingdom of God.  Now, what does Paul end the book of Acts telling them about?  The kingdom of God.  He ends it in jail, preaching the same message that Jesus begins this book preaching.

Verse 8 (Acts 1)…You may have memorized this one.  It may be sort of a part of your calling as a follower of Jesus.  It gives us some of the structure of the book of Acts.  Jesus says: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.    Now if that’s your thesis for this book, does it not end perfectly?  It doesn’t end with “The End”.  In fact, on the contrary, it ends with an invitation.  It ends with this is just the beginning.  Paul’s in jail, but he’s preaching and this gospel goes forward without hindrance.  Nothing can stop it.  {Look up at me just a second.}  Jesus is still writing His story!  The end of the book of Acts does not mean that He is done.  In fact, the way the book ends invites us to believe that WE are a part of what He continues to do.

So, here’s the way I’ll say it for us this morning and we’re going to wrestle with this a little bit.  But here’s the truth of the matter, friends, the Scriptures don’t only tell us the story of Jesus.  That’s not their intention..just to give us a bunch of information.  The Scriptures don’t only tell the story of Jesus; they invite us into the life of Jesus!    You see, stories can either end a conversation or they can begin one.  The book of Acts ends with this wonderful, beautiful invitation:  Will you join?  Will you jump in?  Will you be a part of this God who, although this story ends in this parts, continues to write on the pages of the hearts of people who call Him Lord and King.  Look at the way that the great New Testament scholar N. T. Wright puts it: “The authority of the Bible is the authority of a love story in which we are invited to take part.”

The book of Acts ends with this question: Will you give your life to this story?  Will you jump in, not just put your toes in the water, but will you jump in BOTH feet because God is still at work, God is still moving?  Jesus is still continuing to do through His Church, through His Spirit, what the book of Acts records for us happened in the first 30 years.  He’s still doing it.  He has not ended.  Do you know what?  Your story, your life will be given to something….all of us give our lives to something.  We’re designed to be clingers of sorts.  We attach our energy, our time, our resources and our money to things that either cause our lives end with us or cause our story to continue the ripple effects into eternity.

My 87-year-old grandmother passed away this week.  Went home to be with the Lord.  My picture of her is of her in her robe, standing behind her breakfast nook cooking breakfast and making coffee.  She usually stayed in her robe til about noon because that was not a job that you needed to check off the list and get done, but that was a process by which you engaged the people in your household.  Even if it was just her husband, she still did it.  I thought about my grandma this week and I thought about her servanthood and the way she attached her life to the people in her life and to the God that she served.  I was reminded of the reality that our lives will be attached to something.  The question is will it be trivial or will it be eternal?  Will it be a story that continues to go on?  Will we attach our song to the song that has no end??  Or will our story end with us??

The question, I think, that you may wrestle with or I may wrestle with is: how do we do that?  In a very real way, what does that look like?  I’m glad you asked!  I don’t know what I would have done for the next 15 minutes if you hadn’t!  Let me point out a few things that happen in Acts 28 that show us how we graft our story into, by God’s grace and mercy, the story that has no end.  Because the book of Acts does not provide us with an ending. It provides us with an invitation.  So how do we jump in?  Acts 28:3, Paul is still on the island of Malta.  They had a bit of a treacherous ride there.  There was a shipwreck.  They swam to the land and verse 3 we pick up their story.  When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. {Let’s be honest.  How many of us, at that point, are praying viper, kill me?! I might!  There’s a shipwreck, you swim to dry land, you’re building a fire and a snake bites you?!!  You can’t make that up!}  When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer.  Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.”  He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.  

Number two, picking up in verse 15.  He finally gets to Rome.  Paul had written to the church in Rome.  He’d written to the church in Rome two times saying I can’t wait to get to you.  Finally, after years of waiting and years of praying and years of wondering is this going to happen, it happens for him.  Verse 15.  And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us.  On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.  And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.    Don’t you just wonder if, as he walks into Rome, this overwhelming joy of saying God, thank you.  You’re good on the promise.  You were faithful to deliver what you stirred in my heart, that I longed to see happen, that I might preach the Gospel in the center point of the known world.  And God, you’re faithful.  Here’s the thing…it looked nothing like Paul thought it would look like.  He’s a prisoner when he gets there.  It doesn’t happen in the way that he crafts that it would happen, but Jesus is good and I think He’s looking for people who would be DREAMERS.  I think He’s looking for people that would ask the Spirit what’s the hope you’ve planted in my heart.  What’s the desire that you’ve given me?  And as He affirms that in us to trust that He would be good, that He would be faithful on His promises.  I don’t know how many days, evenings and nights Paul lay awake in bed wondering is this gonna happen?  God, are you going to be good on your promise?  Did you just stir this in me, this hope to preach there, this hope to go there, this hope to let me down?  Or are you going to be good on what you said?  And you see, most of us, we step out of the story God is telling, when we let the dreams He’s given us die.  I meet with people almost weekly, that at one point….here’s what I thought, here’s what I prayed into, here is what I long to see Jesus do and we let the dream die.  Can I just tell you, it didn’t happen overnight for Paul.  It will not happen overnight for you, most likely, but don’t let the dream die.  Keep praying for that kid who’s wandered away.  Don’t let the dream die.  Keep longing that Jesus would use your life as you reach out to people with the hope of the Gospel and the glory of Jesus.  Keep longing for Jesus to use your life.  Don’t give up on the dream, because when we give up on the dream we step out of the story.  Paul doesn’t step out.  He keeps hoping, he keeps praying, he keeps longing and Jesus is good on His promise.

Verse 23 he’s in jail on house arrest.  When they had appointed a day for him, {All these Jewish leaders are going to come and question Paul. They have the authority to either say let this guy go, or put him on trial.} ..they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers.  From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.     So here’s what he does in jail, in chains, chained to a Roman guard.  He says, “Alright Jewish leaders, we’ll just use your book.  Is that cool with you?  Let me show you why you should believe in the slain, risen Lamb, Jesus the Messiah.  He is what your hope was in throughout the ages and God has been faithful.”  All he has to do is say I was a bit off…I just ate some bad pita.  And they’d say let him go.  But he doesn’t.  In jail, he continues to preach Jesus.  Here’s what we see:  Not only are people who graft their story into the story of God….not only are they persistent and not only are they dreamers, but they’re also people who are BOLD (RISK-TAKER), who are willing to stand on their convictions, even when life gets real difficult.  And the truth about the Apostle Paul is that he was convinced about the message that he brought.  He was connected to the giver of the message.  He was overflowing with love for the people who he delivered the message to.  And if we’re going to live lives of boldness, which I think our culture needs us to do, it’s not going to be when we pull up our bootstraps and go I’m going to be bold.  That’s not what it takes.  It takes people who are convinced of the message, who are connected to the messenger and who absolutely love, not as projects but as people, the people that we have the honor of delivering the message to.

Here’s the last thing that we see in Paul’s life.  Verse 25: And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: ”’Go to this people, and say, “You will hear but never understand, and you will see but never perceive.”  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’      Here’s what Paul does.  His final act in the book of Acts is saying listen, I know you’re standing in Rome right now as Jewish leaders, but the Scriptures talk about you.  The Scriptures testify about you standing in this place right now.  So what he does is takes the ancient Scriptures that are, at this point, centuries old and he pulls them into the present and says you’re standing in what Isaiah talked about. This is a prophetic announcement by the Apostle Paul.  It’s what all people who graft their stories into the story of God do.  They operate in this.  Now, you’re going to think I’ve either gone too far or not far enough, but here’s what Paul does as he stands in the prophetic.  He takes the Scriptures and he applies them to the people he’s interacting with.  He says this is where you stand right now.  God was talking about you!  And anybody that finds their story in the story of God, I think has to read the Scriptures at least, first and foremost, for themselves in that way.  But then as the Spirit stirs in us, we get the invitation from God to say that the people around us, sometimes the culture, this is where we stand.  Because here’s what we’re convinced (about).  We’re convinced that this isn’t the end of the story, but that it’s the beginning.  That we’re invited not just to read about God, but to interact with God and to walk with God.  And not just to tell the story of Jesus, but to enter into the life of Jesus.  The great Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, said, {He calls this the prophetic imagination.  Where we have the opportunity and the invitation from God to say what might the world be like.} “The people we later recognize as prophets are also poets.  They reframe what is at stake in chaotic times.”

I think God’s looking for people who hear His voice and declare a better tomorrow.  Who step into the void between what is and what could be and say God is still at work.  He’s still writing His story and, in some mysterious way, he’s using your life and my life as a part of that.

I love being the pastor at South.  I think in many ways, we embrace this reality that God is still at work, that He is still telling his story.  I love the way that Sunday after Sunday and Life Group after Life Group, we gather and we declare the goodness and the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we wrap our hearts and our lives around His life.  And we open our church and we serve the homeless.  We declare the story is still being written.  When kids are loved and pointed to Jesus, we declare the story is still being written.  When you reach out with your time and with your energy and your resources and you come along people who are hurting and say there’s a better tomorrow on the horizon, the story is still being written.  When you give your life to somebody who’s maybe a little bit younger or maybe not quite as far along and enter into a mentoring relationship with them, you’re declaring the story is still being written.  Moms, when you sacrifice daily—get up early, get up throughout the night—you’re declaring the story is still being written.  People that gather together and write songs on a weekly basis and do art on a weekly basis in this body, declare the story of Jesus is still being written….there are songs still left to be sung!  People who are reaching out and inviting neighbors and inviting friends to come to celebrate the risen Christ.  I got an email from somebody this week who said she’s only been a part of South for about a month, but I absolutely love it and I’m inviting 20 of my family members to come with me to Easter Sunday celebration.  The story is still being written!!  It’s why the book of Acts doesn’t end with a nice clean bow, with curtains that close and credits that roll.  We do NOT read the Scriptures in a way that says happily ever after.  We READ the Scriptures in a way where God says welcome to the party!

And so the book of Acts ends with Paul in jail proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about Jesus….with all boldness and without hindrance!  Isn’t that great?!  Luke adds that in for us just so we don’t think that the Gospel is in chains—-Paul’s in chains, yes.  But he says no, this story is going forward with boldness and without hindrance.  It is the never-ending story!  And when we attach our story to His, we enter into something that is eternal.  As with every great story, the book of Acts ends in a way that invites you to begin.  It’s not just a clean ending, it’s a beautiful invitation.

We’re going to close our time this morning, wrestling with that invitation.  What’s your verse?  What’s your part of the story that God might want to write through you?  He’s building His church, make no mistake about it, but for some reason He invites us to be a part of it for our joy and for the glory of His name!  What verse might He write through you?

Let’s pray.  Lord, in some ways, I think we long for that clean, nice ending.  The happily ever after where the credits roll up.  But, Lord, I thank you that you’re so much better than that.  Rather than giving us information you give us an invitation and not just all the answers, but a beckoning to come and to follow as You build your church, as You build your kingdom.  As you bind up the broken-hearted.  Provide freedom to the captives.  You invite us to play a part.  Lord, we’re surprised at that and yet overjoyed at the same time.  Would you stir in us a verse….what verse might You write through our lives?  And we’ll give you all the glory and all the praise.  It’s in the beautiful name of Jesus we pray.  Amen and Amen.

The Movement – Never-ending Story – Acts 282020-08-20T23:38:53-06:00

The Movement – Shake & Shape Acts 27

March 22nd 2015listen to the music from this weekActs 27:1-44 – Shake and Shape. Storms. We all face them, but very rarely do we face them well. The difficult thing about walking through pain in life is that it often comes out of nowhere and creates situations in life that are out of our control. However, God often does some of his most powerful and formative work in our lives through the storms. It is often the situations that shake us most severely that end up shaping us most significantly!

Transcript:

My kids, all three of them, love art.  They’re all artists.  I’m sure they’ll grow out of it, but they are right now.  I’m just kidding, I hope they don’t.  We have this one sort of art piece at our home.  What they do is squirt paint onto this piece of paper that’s on a spinning wheel and you push the lever underneath and the paint that started out as a blob turns into a beautiful piece of artwork.  Anybody seen these?  Paint starts as a blob and when you push the little thing it starts to spin around.  And as it spins, the paint disperses into an arguably beautiful pattern.  As I was reading our passage of Scripture, Acts 27, this morning, what I see happening in the Apostle Paul’s life is a similar phenomenon.  You may have experienced it in your life as well.  That sometimes God uses difficult seasons in life to spin us around and the result of that shaking from the hand of God or something He allows to happen in our life is a beautiful piece of art.  Let’s all agree at the onset that we hate this!  We do, don’t we?  This is a difficult thing to walk through.  Nobody likes to be shaken like this.  Nobody just in our natural being goes you know what, thank you for the storm! thank you for the trial!  God has to do something in our hearts and our lives to make us and cause us to respond this way.  Every single one of us in here though, we’re going to walk through seasons of life that are shaking, are a storm like we’re going to read about in the Apostle Paul’s life this morning in Acts 27.  Every single one of us will walk through them.  The question is will we walk through storms in a way that produces something in us or in a way that takes something from us?  And our approach to that, at the onset, will be what determines what comes from that storm.

We’re going to jump into Acts 27.  As you can see from this map, the Apostle Paul starts in Caesarea and he’s gonna travel throughout the entire chapter and end up in Malta by the end of the chapter.  It’s quite the journey. And on the way, he’s headed to Rome, like he dreamed about doing, in order to preach the good news of the Gospel.  But he’s going to Rome, I don’t think, in a way that he would have dreamed or in a way that he would have imagined.  He’s going as a prisoner.  He had this dream in the core of his soul—one day I will stand before the Romans and proclaim the good news of the Gospel, as he says in Romans 1.  But how many of you know that sometimes God gives you a dream but the way that it takes place and the destinations along the way don’t quite look like what you think they would look like??  I’ll take the chuckle as that you can relate!  That is the Apostle Paul’s story.  He dreams of preaching in Rome and indeed, God will fulfill that dream and that calling to him, but it doesn’t look anything like what he thinks it will look like.  And we’re going to join him on the ship this morning as he’s a prisoner traveling towards Malta, where the chapter will end, and it’s going to be met with some tumultuous seas.

Acts 27:9.  He’s begun this journey.  He’s left Caesarea and we pick up…..Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, {That’s the Day of Atonement—the Fast of the Jewish people.} Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot  and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, {If you have your own Bible, circle the word majority.  They’re gonna make a decision based on a majority vote.  May I propose to you, never a good way to make a decision?!  It typically leads to where they’re going to find themselves.} on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.  Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor {so they took the anchor up} and sailed along Crete, close to the shore.  

What’s going to happen next is Paul and his traveling companions are going to encounter a storm.  What leads up to that encounter with the storm I think is fascinating.  And you and I are going to find ourselves in storms at some point in life and I think what precedes them will happen in most of our lives.  Sometimes it’s just going to be NATURE.  The fact that we live in a fallen world means that there will be storms in life.  It just happens.  It’s not of our own doing, it’s not our own bad decisions, it’s not God punishing us, it’s simply the fact that we live in a fallen world.  Sometimes you get a call from a doctor that just isn’t what you hoped to get.  It’s part of living in a fallen world.

But if you look closer, I think there’s some things also that we’ll see start to come to the surface and they’re things you may or may not be able to relate to that lead us into storms also.  One, Paul steps up and says we probably shouldn’t do this.  The other sailors and the centurion completely ignore him.  You may have walked into some storms in life where people surrounded you in love and said wouldn’t do that…wouldn’t go there if I were you.  And part of what leads us there is this prideful arrogance.  I know that it’s happened to other people.  I know there’s a graveyard of ships waiting right along this bend of people that tried to do this pass at the same time I’m trying to do it, BUT…..we’re bigger, we’re better, we won’t get caught, it’s not going to happen to us.

The other thing you see is in verse 13 that says a south wind starts to blow gently.  So there’s this calm.  And what nature seems to suggest is this would be a good time to go.  Even though in their head they know I shouldn’t do that, we shouldn’t go there, there’s a graveyard of ships waiting who’ve tried the exact same thing. What they do is they look at all their surroundings around them and go it seems like God’s in this.  Even though it’s ridiculous and it’s crazy, let’s go for it!  And they’re DECEIVED into taking a journey they should have taken. Look what happens, verse 14. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, 

When you walk through a storm in life, you start to see the things around you differently, don’t you?  You start to see the things that at the onset of the journey seemed like they were necessary, but when the storm comes they become trivial.  Some of the things we invest our life in, some of the things we invest our time in, some of the things we invest our money in—-one call from the doctor can change the way you see those things, can’t they?  They can.  The things we thought at the onset were essential become trivial.  And here’s what the storms of life do:  they PURIFY our PRIORITIES.  We start to look at everything around us differently.  And the things that really matter are the things we can’t throw overboard and everything else is fair game.  One phone call from the doctor makes you hug your kids a little bit tighter, doesn’t it?  You watch a movie that stirs something in you and you pray at your kids’ bedsides a little bit harder.

We were in California in 2008.  The housing market bottom fell right out of it.  And people that were living in million dollar homes saw them foreclosed on and sold for a fraction of what they bought them for.  To a person, every single one of my friends that found themselves in that experience would say, you know what, we lost what we thought was everything, but it turns out it wasn’t really anything.  It was just a home that we lived in;  and there’s things that are more important to us.  It happens in our physical life, it happens spiritually, too, doesn’t it?  After 9/11 and the World Trade Towers fell, church attendance rocketed, shot up 25% the next Sunday and it was up for about a month.  But people were shaken to this place of saying what’s really important in my life?  {Will you look up at me for just a second?} You don’t have to wait for the storms to come to evaluate what’s really important.  You don’t.  And you don’t have to wait for the storms of life to craft and to build your life around those things.  Friends, our actions always reveal our affections.  The things we make time for are the things that are most important to us.  And some of us, I propose, myself included, need to do a little bit of deck clearing.  To just say, why am I pouring time and energy and resources and money into things that don’t matter?  Just an honest confession with you:  When I walk in my door after a day at work, why is the first thing I do is check my email?  And immediately ignore the things that I say are most important to me?  I’m confessing….I’ve gotta do some deck clearing.  Maybe you do, too.

I read this study recently where they studied the way food tasted to people.  People that were distracted and watching TV and people that were just sitting and eating.  And they were somehow able to isolate that if we distract ourselves while we eat our food doesn’t taste quite as good.  Amazing!  So the big takeaway this morning is don’t watch TV while you eat, right?  But I think that it’s a bigger principle, a bigger picture.  That the more we distract ourselves and the more things we have that matter to us, the less actually really does matter to us.  If everything’s important, nothing is.   Our propensity to just do more, more, more, more, more and think that’s better is absolutely from the pit of Hell.  And one of the things that God, in His grace and mercy, reveals to us through the storm is you have a lot of things on deck that you could do without.  Toss them overboard!!  Get rid of them!  Cut ties with them!  Whether you’re in the storm or not.  May God purify our priorities to lead us to His joy and His goodness.

Here’s the way the story, the passage continues.  Verse 20.  When neither sun or stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.   {They’re like…we give up! We’re done!  Professional sailors tossing in the towel saying we’re gonna die out here.  And here’s one of the reasons why.  For us, the sun and the stars are a nice addition, they’re beautiful!  We get 300 days of sunshine a year (praise be to God!).  The stars….isn’t it wonderful to go outside and look up at the stars at night and go God, you’re glorious, you’re beautiful,  you’re grand!  And they’re a beautiful part of creation for us.  But for the people on that boat, it was their map.  It wasn’t just a nice addition to their life.  If they didn’t have the stars and the sun, they had no clue where they were going!  They were lost!  So what we see is not only do storms purify our priorities, but they also help DETERMINE our DIRECTION. Notice, if you will, that as the skies grow darker and as the clouds come in and the fog grows and they have no clue where they are, as the skies grow darker their ears grow more and more open to the goodness of the Gospel.  Listen to the way Paul capitalizes on the situation.  verse 21}   Since they had been without food for a long time, {‘Since’ ties us directly back into…in light of the tempest and the storm that they find themselves in, Paul is going to start to preach.  He’s going to start to preach because sometimes we don’t know that Jesus is all we need unless He’s all we have.  Listen to what he says.}  ..Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me {Just a quick timeout.  I want to propose that if you’re a lady in this congregation this morning and thinking about getting a tattoo of a verse on your body…..may I propose Acts 27:21: Men, you should have listened to me!! Just saying.  No wives elbow your husbands; Kelly is sitting in the front row so she can’t elbow me!} …and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. {I believe that the Message version says, “I told you so!”}  Yet now I urge you to take heart, {He says this is the moment that everything you think you built your life on is vanishing before your eyes…}  …for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For this very night there stood before me an angel of God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar.  And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.  

WOW!!  Sometimes it takes the storms of life coming in and blinding us to the point where we say alright, God, I CAN’T trust in myself anymore—’cause I have no clue.  I am NOT sufficient in and of myself.  I am often a distracted person.  I’m often just confident in my own self and I am numb to the reality that all the while you’re going will you follow me, will you chase after me, and yet my own map seems to serve me pretty well.  It’s those times in life, the storms of life, where the rug is ripped out from underneath us, where we’re finally open…God, where are you leading?  Because I have no other options.  God, where do you want me to go?  I don’t have a Plan B for what I just heard.  I love the way that the great songwriter and poet, Rich Mullins, puts it when he says: “I don’t know where you’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, where I’m lost enough to let myself be led.”  I don’t know about you, but for me it takes a lot for me to release my hands off of the reins of my life.  And I think what people say as they walk out the other side of a storm…..I think the woman who sat across from me in my office and said, “Cancer’s the best thing that happened to me!”……I think what she’s saying, I think what he’s saying is I’ve reprioritized my life around the things that are really important AND I’m allowing God now to determine my direction.  I am aware that at any moment He could take my life from me.  And so why not let Him have it?  We live under the illusion of control so much of our lives.  But I think what we see in the midst of the storm is…..God, you’re the only one who’s in control and help us craft and shape and mold our lives around you, not a lot around our own striving and our own achievement.  I love the way that the psalmist writes it when he says this: Your word (O God) is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (Ps. 119:105)   So when all the worldly wisdom says hold on to bitterness, we’ll be people who forgive. And when all the worldly wisdom says hate those who hate you, we’re going to love for and pray for our enemies.  And when the day looks dark and as they say, we’ve given up all hope, we’re going to continue to walk with and continue to be faithful because He is our God and in every season of life He’s good!!!

There’s this really interesting verse in (Acts) 27, we read it already.  It’s in Paul’s speech to these sailors, but listen to what he says: Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. (v 22)  Now, good news or bad news?  All depends on whether or not you can swim!  The sailors look at each other and go praise God????  Billy, can you swim?  No! But there’s a promise in here; either we’re going to learn how to swim or we’re going to crash really close to the shore {which is what really happens. There’s people who grab on to pieces of the boat and paddle in.}  But I can imagine looking at each other like I don’t know if I’m suppose to celebrate that or lament that.  But I’m with you in it, Paul!  Can I just say to you, if our hope is in the boat it’s always going to let us down.  And storms of life will always draw out where our feet stand.  And if our hope is in the boat—if it’s in anything other than God—it will (the storm) reveal that and God by His grace and because of His love is going to slowly, gently take away the things we rely on and point us to the only thing we can trust in.  So they feel the ground underneath their feet start to erode.

Here’s what the storms teach us….the storms stir in us.  They FIX our FOUNDATION.  They not only change it, as they fix it from being built on something that’s incorrect or wrong or unworthy, but storms FIX our foundation.  They plant our foundation firmly on the only thing that will last through the storms.  The boats that we often cling on to are:  safety and protection; clean bill of health.  The boats are things we can trust and things that carry us along.  Things that make life worth living.  They may be a paycheck or bank account, but inevitably those boats are going to get a hole in them someday.  They are.  It’s just a matter of time.  And so people who can, in all honesty, say the storm or the trial was the best thing that ever happened to me, I think they’re people who are saying we cleared the deck, we reprioritized life in such a way that the things that are most important to us get the most time from us.  They’re people that have said back to God, God, I don’t know where you’re leading, unless you’ve led me here, where I’m lost enough to let myself be led (Rich Mullins).  Where are you leading?  Where are you going?  I’m with you, I’ve got nothing else to cling on to.  And they’re people that say we’ve built our lives on a lot of things other than Jesus, but what the storm revealed is that You’re the only thing that will stand.

At the end of his beautiful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to his listeners this: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)   There’s two constants in Jesus’ parable here.  One, in both of the stories the storm comes.  And it will for every single one of us.  There’s not one person sitting in this room who is exempt from the storms of life coming.  Either by our own bad decisions or by the world we live in—-a fallen world where it’s sin-permeated.  It’s just part of being alive.  That’s one constant in the story.  The other constant in the story is that everybody is building a house.  Everybody’s constructing a life.  That’s not a question for anyone in here.  The question is not are we building a life?  The question is are we building a life that will stand when the storms of life come?  The thing that determines whether or not the house stands is simply where it finds its foundation.  May I propose to you and to us that we don’t need to wait until the storms of life come to reveal where we build.  We don’t need to wait for the storms of life to tell us we’re building on something that will not last.  It’s simply a question of what’s most valuable to me?  What do I love and what if it were taken away from me?  Would I be absolutely devastated to lose it? Part of the beauty and the power of the storms of life is they give a new foundation for our feet to stand on and they give a new home for our heart to abide in.  That’s what they do.  When the boat disappears, we have this beautiful opportunity to renew our trust in the God who won’t.  To rely on His presence in ways we previously hadn’t.  And to trust in Him as the God who will deliver us “safe to shore”.

People that can say, “Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me.”  Or the trial in the marriage that we walked through and almost didn’t make it through is the thing that we build on today.  (Those are) People who walk through storms….they don’t just survive storms…they THRIVE in the midst of them by saying listen, there’s some things on the deck we’ve just got to clear off and we’ve got to prioritize in light of who God is and in light of what God’s done. They’re people who say let the storm reveal the fact that God, I’m not following after you and really I’m trusting in my own wisdom and worldly wisdom, but not in the guiding and mercy of Jesus and Him alone.  And they’re people that say God, you’ve taken away the boat, but my HOPE is not in the boat.  It’s in you and in you alone.

I’d like to propose to you two things as we close.  One of them is simply this:  Jesus has already conquered the biggest storm you will ever face!  And in two Sundays we’re going to celebrate Easter, where Jesus walks out of the grave and the check clears “PAID IN FULL”!  By faith you stand in His grace and His righteousness and His mercy and you stand before the throne of God pure, holy, spotless and blameless.  It is the biggest storm you’ll ever face and He’s already calmed it by His very words: They’re with me!  They’re under my blood.  I have paid it all!

The second thing in closing I’d like to propose to you is this:  That God will not always PROTECT YOU from the storms.  If you ever hear someone say that He will, they’re simply lying to you.  How do I know that?  Just look at Scripture.  God will not always protect youfrom the storm, but he will always produce something beautiful in you through it! If you’ll run back to Him and say, “God, I believe that you’re good and I believe that you’re at work. How do I follow you even in this?”  I don’t know what you’re walking through this morning, but I do know that what the enemy wants to use for evil, God designed to use for good.  And that some of the ways that He does that is that He allows us to see what’s really important.  And He allows us to wrestle with this what’s guiding my life question.  How do I make my decisions?  And finally, sometimes He’ll take the boat away to reveal where we stand and to fix it firmly on Him, the Author and the Perfector of our faith.

In closing, I’d just like to pray over you Eugene Peterson’s Message version of James 1:2-4.  Would you open your palms and just raise them to the sky, symbolic of: God, we believe you’re in the storm, we believe you’re working in the storm and whatever you want to take from us and whatever you want us to receive from You, we’re open.   So, consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of any situation prematurely.  Let it do its work in you so you may become mature and well-developed, and not lacking in anything.  And Jesus, that is our prayer this morning.  That we would be mature followers of Jesus.  And Lord, as hard as it is to pray, we invite you would you use even the storms of life to make us and mold us more into the image of Jesus.  We’re all going to walk through storms, we’re all going to walk through trials.  The question isn’t whether we’ll walk through them and survive them, the question is whether You’ll work something in us that produces joy everlasting as we walk.  That’s our longing.  So if our priorities are jacked up, Lord, would you show us that please? And would you let us clear…help us clear…give us vision to clear the deck.  What are the things we need to throw overboard?  And Jesus, if we’ve lost our way, may we admit to being lost enough to let ourselves be led.  And if they’re things we’re trusting in other than You, may they sink beneath our feet and may we reaffirm our trust in the only thing that will stand the test of time and all of eternity.  And that is the very work, blood, of King Jesus.  God, we know You’re not going to protect us from every storm of life, but we also believe and we also trust that You’re going to produce fruit in us through the storms as we walk with You.  You’re that big and You’re that good, so we’ll trust in You with everything we have. It’s in Your beautiful, power name that we pray.  Amen.

 

The Movement – Shake & Shape Acts 272020-08-20T23:40:09-06:00

The Movement – Evidence of Hope – Acts 26:1-32

March 15th 2015listen to the music from this weekEVIDENCE OF HOPE

(Intro – Ryan talked about his “temporary” lapse in judgment that lasted four years—high school! In his freshman year of high school, he was caught on video surveillance at Target for attempting to steal CDs. He was told they would press charges against him and he would have to go to court. He stood before a judge and pled guilty. Ryan said that anytime they had an hour and a half surveillance footage on you there wasn’t any other options! By God’s design and sense of humor it was the thing that directly led to his first job at a church. He had to do community service, so he worked for his church as a “chair stacker.”)

In the book of Acts we’re going to skip a few chapters from where we’ve been. We left off on Acts 21 last week. We’re going to jump to Acts 26 this week. In between, Paul’s on trial for what he did in walking into the temple. If you were to ask different groups of people why Paul’s on trial in the passage we pick up in this morning, you would have a different answer based on each group you surveyed.

If you were to ask the Jewish people why Paul is on trial, they would have said that he’s on trial because he’s violated the Jewish law. Because he’s desecrated the temple, he brought a Gentile into the temple—he’s not allowed to do that. And he’s steering people away from the hope that’s in Moses and in the law and in the prophets and pointing them to Jesus. That would have been their reason.

If you were to ask the Romans why Paul was on trial, they would have said Paul’s on trial because he’s creating a disturbance in the city—both Caesarea and Jerusalem. He’s just creating all sorts of chaos. If there’s one thing the Romans didn’t like it was chaos. If you were a person that they thought was leading people in that direction, they would simply take you outside the city and kill you. They were gracious to Paul—-they put him in prison because he’s a Roman citizen and he finds himself on trial.

What’s really interesting, though, is not why the Jews think he’s on trial. And not why the Romans think he’s on trial. But the fascinating thing is the way that Paul, with his very own words, tells us why he’s on trial. Listen to what he says. He’s appearing before King Agrippa, who oversees the whole region for Rome, and he is going to have to give his defense. So he has a listening ear from the king and Paul, in one of his longer speeches in the book of Acts that Luke records for us, is going to tell us why he’s on trial. Starting in verse 4 of chapter 26 of the book of Acts. My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. {So he goes, hey, I was 1) consistent and 2) public with the way I lived out my faith in the Old Testament Scriptures. Verse 5.} They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. {In the book of Philippians Paul is going to say hey, I am a Hebrew of Hebrews. I was circumcised on the eighth day. I was born in the tribe of Benjamin. I was zealous for the law. So if you’re sorta ticking boxes, Paul says, I checked them all! I was accomplishing everything that a good Jewish person would set out to do. And then he tells us why he’s on trial. Verse 6.} And now I stand here on trial because of my HOPE in the promise made by God to our fathers.

So the Jews would say hey, you’re on trial because you violated the law and you desecrated the temple. The Romans would say you’re causing a disturbance so we need to put you away. But Paul, if you were to ask Paul to boil it all down for us and tell us why do you find yourself for the last two years in a jail cell, why are you there? Why are you on trial before us today? Here’s his answer—-I’m on trial because of the HOPE that I have. I read that this week and I had two thoughts: 1) every single one of us will find ourselves at some point on trial for the hope that we have. For some of us it may turn out to be exactly like Paul where we’re literally on trial—we may go in that direction in this country, I don’t know. But all of us will find ourselves at the point in life where we have to give a defense of our hope. Are we the type of people who have a hope that sustains in the dark difficult days of life OR are we people that have a hope that’s fleeting? You will stand trial for your hope. The question is not will we stand trial like the Apostle Paul did; the question is will there be enough evidence to convict us?! Will there be enough evidence to convict you of being a person of hope.

Hope is a difficult thing, isn’t it? I looked it up in our dictionary—just an English dictionary. We have over TEN ways that we define the word hope. Which means we have no idea what it means! Because if there’s ten definitions there’s really none that really encapsulate what this word carries. We use it in a ton of different ways, don’t we? I hope you have a good day! I hope you get a new job! I hope the health scare turns out all right. I hope everything goes well and ………fill in the blank. We use it in all sorts of ways. Hope can be, if you’ve ever tried to have hope especially in the difficult, dark situations of life, you know that having hope can be like trying to wrestle a wet eel! Right when you think you got it, it slips right through your hands. Doesn’t it? Any amens in the room? It’s hard to hold on to, isn’t it? For two reasons. We have this wrong perspective of hope. Oftentimes we think hope is simply a fairy tale. So we’ll use it that way, won’t we, the word hope. It’s this idea that we have of something that may or may not happen in the future, but when it really boils down to it we have NO conviction in our heart and soul that it actually will. Let me give you an example. I hope the Rockies will win the World Series! {Laughter} And your response shows that you hope the same thing and that we’re using hope in such a way where NONE of us believe that’s possible! I hope Colorado, at some point, gets a restaurant that carries delicious carne asada! I hope! Probably not going to happen, but I hope it does. We use it that way, don’t we? I hope I get a new job. I hope we get a new house. I hope things work out with the spouse that doesn’t seem like it’s going to. Really what we mean by hope is it’s a fairy tale.

The second way we often use hope is based on circumstances trending in a certain positive direction. The job’s going well so I hope I’m going to get a promotion. The relationship is going well and I hope it leads to this. I hope there’s reconciliation, I hope it leads to marriage, I hope…I hope…I hope. And what we have is a hope that’s centered on circumstances changing and trending in a good direction. I was trying to find out what do people out in the world say about hope? If we’re bordering on hopelessness, what do people suggest. In a psychology journal, here’s what I read this week. If you’re struggling with hopelessness, here’s what you should do. Set some goals, try to accomplish those goals, and when you do YOU will be filled with hope. Now, anybody else wanna poke some holes in that with me??! One, what do we do if we don’t achieve the goals? We’re in a worse position than we were when we started. We went from hopeless to despair. If we do accomplish the goals, our method of having hope is to continue to have goals and now I need to set bigger goals, better goals, higher goals and eventually, I’ll have to set goals that I have no way of accomplishing. I want to propose to you that that may not be the best way to go!

So, for followers of Jesus, if it’s not hopes and wishes and fairy tales and it’s not circumstances, where can we build our hope? What is the hope that a follower of Jesus can have that when the trial comes they’ll find us guilty—-of being people of hope?? Here’s what Paul says. And now I stand here on trial because of the hope I have in the promise made by God to our father, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! {The reason I stand before you is because I am a person, a man, who’s built my life on and I live in hope specifically, listen to verse 8…} Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

So here’s what Paul says. He’s going to describe distinctly Christian hope for us. Not fairy tales and wishes and not circumstances trending in a great direction, because we both know that one phone call can change all that, right? So what’s the hope that holds us? Here’s what Paul says, that hope is simply, yet complexly, this: Hope is the life-shaping FAITH AND PRACTICE that God is GOOD ON HIS PROMISES! And listen, as a Body, we’re sorta in a season where there’s been some people that have just gotten some absolutely devastating news! A number of you. And where do we run and where do we turn when things get difficult like that? When life gets real like that? And when hope gets slippery? Where do we turn?? Paul would say we don’t turn to our circumstances and we don’t turn to what we see with just our own eyes. Where we turn is we turn to God who is absolutely wholly, 100% every single time, good on the promises he makes!!

I love the way that Dallas Willard, the pastor, author and philosopher, puts it when he says: “Hope is the confident anticipation of good.” So let me ask you, do you have that kind of hope? Confident anticipation of good—-I would add…because of the promises of God. Here’s the difficult part with hope. If hope is the confident assurance in faith in practice that God is good on his promises, in order to be people of hope we need to know what God has promised, don’t we? I’ll answer for you—-yeah, we do! You cannot be a person of hope if you don’t know what God has promised. There’s a correlation, there’s a tie between understanding what the Scriptures say about God and you, and being a person of hope. You can’t be a person of ignorance and be a person of hope. You cannot be a person of Biblical illiteracy and be a person of hope. You can be a person of wishes and you can be a person of circumstances. But if hope is directly tied to building our life in faith and practice on the good promises of God, we have to know what he’s promised, do we not? And one of the reasons hope is so slippery for us, friends, is because we haven’t really grounded our hearts and our lives in what God has promised to be true……about you, about me and about what Jesus has done on our behalf. I’m still intro, but I want to just invite you to soak in the promises of God for a moment. Let’s just let them wash over us!

That His blood is sufficient to cover our sin.

That we stand before Him holy, spotless, blameless.

That He promises to work everything {now eyes up at me just a second.} I know you’re walking through some difficult times, but He says I love you enough to work EVERYTHING together for your good. I know that stings and I know that hurts some of you, but He’s going I’m working, I’m in it, I haven’t left you. Not height nor depth nor angels nor principalities or things present or things to come will be able to separate you from my love! You’re a child of the King! Redeemed by His blood! The Holy Spirit lives in you! And He is good to you!!

They’re all promises! And they’re promises that if we can get them in our soul and in our hearts in such a way that they will start to change our life! Paul goes I’m on trial because of the hope I have. They’re going to find him guilty. I don’t know about you, but I hope they find me guilty, too. Of being a person that hope has gotten so deeply inside of that it naturally gets out of me. I love the way that he says this in verse 8, because he’s gonna sorta tie his hope to one distinct event. He says this: Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? So here is his hope. His hope is on the good promises of God as found in the person and work of Jesus WALKING OUT OF THE GRAVE! That was the hope of the early church, friends. It wasn’t the hope of Easter. It was the hope that they built their faith on. That this God speaks life into dead things. That he speaks hope into hopeless situations. That he creates out of NOTHING things that come into being. Not just in the universe at large, but in our lives, too. So he says come to me, I’m good. I love you. I’m for you. If you’re on trial for your hope, would there be enough evidence to convict?

Paul goes on in this chapter of Acts in his defense in front of King Agrippa to give us some ways that we can see the hope that’s in his soul coming out in his life. These are evidences of hope. These are things that the jury would look at and say yeah, this guy is a hopeful person. He’s guilty! I want to propose to you that there are things that should come out of our lives too if we are people of hope. Four things I want to give you as we look at Paul’s defense in front of King Agrippa here in the book of Acts. Chapter 26 continuing in verse 9. I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. {Now, you may have a shady past, I might have a shady past, could we all agree it’s probably not all that shady? He (Paul) was going I was putting Christians to death because of their faith in Jesus. Verse 11.} And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. Here’s what Paul says. I was a person so committed to the Law and I was a person so committed to the Old Testament Scriptures and the way that he read them. I was so committed to THAT, but I was not a person that was committed to love. I would put people up on trial just because of their faith in Jesus and I would cast my vote to kill them.

But then he becomes a person of hope. (TRANSFORMATION) Then he gets introduced to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and this hope gets so deep inside his soul he finds himself on trial for it. Part of the evidence that convicts him is that I (Paul) am a changed man. I use to be this blasphemer. I used to be this angry person. I used to put Christians to death, he says, but then I encountered the living Christ and I’m changed. We still believe this message of the cross and redemption, grace and mercy found in Jesus changes people. We do! We wouldn’t exist as a church if we didn’t believe that whole-heartedly. That when hope gets deep down inside your soul, it changes you. Not overnight, but over time. And we believe that your HISTORY does NOT determine your DESTINY! That Paul’s history didn’t determine his destiny. He was an angry blasphemer. He was a murderer, by way of casting his vote towards innocent people. But God takes his life. And God pulls it out of the pit. And He does the same thing in lives of people today, too. Anyone just wanna raise your hand and say yep, that’s me? I once was this—in my former life I was this—-but now God has redeemed me and the lie the enemy wants you to believe is you will always be who you are. The power of hope says that does not have to be true. He’s good and when hope gets in you it changes you. I’ll just prove it to you. Have you ever met a young man who thought or hoped he had a chance with a beautiful woman? And they change, don’t they? All of a sudden this guy’s like grabbing doors—-hey, can I help you? Can I carry that for you? If they’re in high school, they may start doing their homework or they start working out. They’re a changed person, right? We do the same thing at work if we think a promotion is on the horizon. We’ll work a little bit harder, won’t we? We’ll do a little bit better job. We’ll follow through on everything we say we’re going to do. Why? Because when hope gets in you it changes you.

The same thing happened with the Apostle Paul in his life and his walk with Jesus. Listen to the way the prophet Isaiah will talk about hope. Even youth grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31) They’ll become a different type of person. They’ll be able to walk through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that God is with them. They’re changed—they’re different. We use the terminology “Gospel transformation” here. It’s simply means that we’re convinced that when the hope of what Jesus has done on Calvary’s hill gets into your soul, you change. So we’ll keep pointing you back to Him.

Here’s the way that Paul continues. Verse 12. In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ {It’s an idiom. It’s a way of him saying why are you swimming against the stream.} And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’ It’s the third time in the book of Acts that Dr. Luke has recorded for us Paul’s testimony. His story. The way that he became the person that he is. Paul loves sharing this. Whether he’s on trial, whether he’s just sharing the good news with people, he points back to this event. I was walking, I saw a light, I was knocked to the ground and I met Jesus and I’m different because of it. People of hope aren’t just people who are changed, they’re people who have an ENCOUNTER (EXPERIENCE). People of hope are people who meet Jesus. It’s as though hope in the good promises of God and his provision in Jesus Christ—it’s as though when we really believe that it takes us and puts our hand in Jesus’ and the information we have about Jesus isn’t just head knowledge, it starts to become heart knowledge. And it changes us from the very inside out. Paul says one of the evidences that I’m a person of hope is that I have met the living Christ. Do you know that Jesus’ invitation to you isn’t come and find out a whole bunch of information about me? It’s not. Information is important and you can’t have hope without it, but it is NOT the end. In fact, Jesus says to a bunch of Pharisees who love the Scriptures….he says hey, you search the Scriptures and you know the Scriptures, but the Scriptures point to ME and you refuse to come to me and have life! It’s not about just knowing ABOUT Jesus, it’s about KNOWING Jesus. Walking with Jesus. Being transformed by Jesus. Allowing Him to speak to you and say listen, you’re off base, you’re walking in sin, you need to repent, you need to come home. These are all by-products of building our lives on the hope that exhibits itself in an encounter with the living Christ. If we aren’t people of hope, I would submit to you we’ll never be people of encounter. Of experience of walking WITH Jesus, not just talking about him. Are you tired of hearing Christians just simply talk about Jesus? I am. Without really knowing him.

Paul says hey, one of the evidences to convict me is I met him. I walk with him. He lives his life through me Galatians 2 would say. And indeed, what he says in the very beginning is God raised him from the dead, his implication here is Jesus is alive. We’re going to celebrate it in a few weeks, friends. We’re going to celebrate the Resurrection together, but the implications of the Resurrection are absolutely huge. It means that you and I, we can have friendship with Jesus. We can know Him, we can be known by Him. We can walk with Him. This is the hope. This is the hope that Paul grounds his life in.

Christianity is always more than an experience, but it’s never less! I think it begs us to ask the question: What’s your story? How’d you come to know this Jesus, if you have? How’s He called you out of darkness into light, as Paul says? How’s He spoken redemption over your life? Do you love to tell your story? Paul loved to tell his. I think it not only led him to hope, but it stirred a hope that just resonated in his soul.

He goes on and says in verse 16: But rise and stand upon your feet, {This is what Jesus has said to Paul.} for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—-to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. {That’s good news, yes? The message—turn from darkness to light—-this is a message of hope.} ….that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

So here’s his third evidence. One, I’m a transformed man, I’m different. Two, I have walked hand-in-hand and do walk hand-in-hand with a good God, whose name is Jesus Christ. I’ve met him. And finally he says, God lit up my life with PURPOSE. If you find people of hope, you will always find people of purpose. People of hope can’t hold it inside.

Illustration: Kelly and I made some rookie mistakes when we were young parents. Still do. One of them was we would tell our kids early on about something fun that was coming later on. Like hey, in two weeks your grandparents are coming!! Don’t ever tell your kids what you’re going to do!! Here’s what happens for those next two weeks: What are we going to eat while they’re here? What are we going to do while they’re here? Are we going to go swimming? Are we going to get to go play at the park? Are we going to, are we going to, are we going to??!! We’re like grandma and grandpa aren’t coming anymore!!! We’re done!! We aren’t over making this mistake. We made it recently, too. POINT: The hope gets inside of you of the good future and there’s just questions and there’s anticipation and there’s excitement and you want to be a part of it.

This is what Paul says. Hope got inside me in such a way that it sent me and the life-shaping hope built on the promises of God is always a SENDING hope. I love the way that Emily Dickinson put it in one of her poems. “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers {as if to say it causes you to fly}, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops—at all.” If you find lazy people you will find hopeless people every time. But if you find people who are invested, people who are driven, people who long to see God move and work, you will always find people of deep and abiding life-changing hope every single time.

Listen to the way that some of the great missionaries of our rich history talk about this purpose, this sending. Hope gets in them in such a way that it, just like a sling-shot, launches them into the world to walk with Jesus. William Carey, the father of modern missions, a missionary in China said this: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

David Livingstone, a missionary in Africa, said: “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” A hopeful person, a person of purpose and calling and mission.

John Keith Falconer, a missionary to Yemen, said: “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”

C.T. Studd, a missionary in China {and can we all agree that with that name he’s gonna be epic}, said: “Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.”

John Piper, the great pastor, says: “To belong to Jesus is to embrace the nations with Him.”

I want to propose to you that we will never do that, we won’t even think about doing that, unless we’re people like Paul of deep and abiding hope who believe that what God has promised He will be good on. He WILL deliver, He WILL come through. And when that vision of the future gets inside your soul it just launches you and sends you. This isn’t a guilty ‘you need to share your faith more’. This is a please, invest time in knowing and abiding in the Scriptures and then the natural direction of your life will be Jesus, you are great and your hope is inside of me in such a way that I can’t shake it and I need to share it!

What I love about Paul is that he never deviates from this calling, even when he finds himself in jail. So two years he’s been in jail and he gets a hearing in front of King Agrippa and he is just as fiery as the day he went in, is he not? He’s like hey, I’ve had some time to think about this……..and I still think what I thought. Jesus is amazing! He walked out of the grave. His grace is sufficient. His power is in me and King Agrippa, it says in verse 28 and 29, you should turn and become a follower of Jesus! Why wouldn’t you? He is just as fiery and I love that!!

So, when hope gets in us it changes us, it transforms us. It leads us to an experience with the slain Risen Lamb, his name is Jesus. And it gives us a beautiful purpose in life. And finally, here’s what Paul says. Verse 22. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, {Anybody need the help that comes from God?} and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles. Two years later, his message is God has sustained me. God has walked with me. God has provided for me and I have lacked nothing. I have the help that comes from God. And that’s the fourth evidence of people who are people of hope. They’re people of PERSEVERANCE.

A life-shaping hope is always a life-sustaining hope. And when life gets difficult and when life gets dark and when life gets hard and when the phone call comes from the doctor and things aren’t going in the direction that you want it to go, the question is will we be the type of people who are grounded enough in the promises of God to say with Paul….I have a help that comes from God. And those hard times in life are the times when it’s most difficult to have hope and most necessary to keep it.

I love the way that the author of Hebrews puts this when he writes: We have this {and he’s talking about hope} as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…(Heb. 6:19) The picture is that the storm comes and the boat of life is getting buffeted by the waves of disappointment, by the waves of this isn’t turning out the way that I want it to, of the waves….for Paul it was jail. When that comes, he says, we have this hope as an anchor for the soul. A hope that enters in to the inner place behind the curtain. He says this is an intimate hope with Jesus where he speaks to you and says, I have not let you go! I am for you, even in the midst of the storm. I love you. My love will not let go, it will not run dry. I am at work. I will be at work. I’m good and I’m for you. {Look up at me just a second.} Some of you need to hear that today. That a hope that’s grounded in the good promises of God is a hope that the Scriptures say in Romans 5:5, “…will not disappoint.” And so I just want to encourage you. Some of you are going God I don’t see how you are at work in this. I don’t see how you’re moving. I can’t hear your voice. I don’t feel your hand. What I want to do is push you back to the promises of God that He says I will always be good on. ALWAYS! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. In the valley of the shadow of death and in the beauty of the mountaintop, I will not change!

I love the way that the pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., says it when he says, “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

So here’s the evidence stacked against Paul. He says I’m a changed man, I’m transformed. I’ve experienced, I’ve walked with the living Christ. He says I’m a person of purpose and calling and mission. Hope got in me in such a way that it stirred me to get it out of me. And finally, hope’s carrying me. Through the years of jail, he would say, he’s lacked nothing. He’s had a help that comes from God. So let me ask you, friend, if you were on trial for being a person of hope, and all of us will be at some point, would there be enough evidence to convict? Is hope that IN you that it gets out of you? As followers of Jesus, we’re invited to build our lives on the good promises of God, the future that he has already purchased by His Blood on our behalf. In closing, I want to point out that according to this passage and others that hope is a confidence in God’s promises, we’ve already talked about that. One of my favorite passages in 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that ALL of the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus Christ. So there’s not one promise—which is what ALL means—that lies outside of the work—both finished and future work—of Jesus. Not one! You’re never going to read one in the Scriptures! God’s promises equal Jesus’ work and His provision. Based on the fact that hope is a confidence in God’s promises and that God’s promises are Jesus, hope is not just I wish it will happen or I dream it will happen or if my circumstances go this way I can hold on. Hope is I’m grounded in the person and work of Jesus. He IS sufficient. He IS enough. He IS good. He IS present……right now.

Hope = Confidence in God’s promises

God’s promises = Jesus

Hope = Jesus

And so in closing, what I’d like to invite you to be is not to be people who just have hope, but I want to invite you to be the type of people who let hope have you! The work of Christ, that I want to propose to you, transforms you. That I want to propose to you, leads you to an experience with the living slain Lamb, Jesus Christ. That I’d like to propose to you, when it gets inside of you stirs you, messes with you, you find yourself doing things you wouldn’t naturally do. And I want to propose to you that on the darkest days of life He is the one who will walk with you, sustain you, love you, carry you all the way into the destiny He already purchased for you! Friends, let’s be a people of hope where when we’re put on trial for it there’s no doubt —- GUILTY!! I am confident in the promises my God has made and he’s kept in the work of Jesus, who walked out of the grave and gave us new life! I don’t know what situation you’re walking through right now, but I know the God who holds that situation and your hand as you walk it. Will you hope in Him?

Let’s pray. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, seated on the throne right now. Jesus, we love you. And we long not to be just people who have hope, but who step fully into it. Not making provisions if you don’t come through, but just giving ourselves to you because we believe you’re good. And that you’re good on your promises. Help us be people that know them. Help us be people who rest in them. Help us be people that are transformed by them, that experience them. That are sent by those promises of the goodness and that are sustained in the dark days of life by a deep and abiding hope in you and you alone, King Jesus. It’s in your beautiful, powerful name we pray. Amen.

The Movement – Evidence of Hope – Acts 26:1-322020-08-20T23:41:20-06:00

The Movement – Hurdles to Glory Acts 21:1-36

The Movement – Hurdles to Glory Acts 21:1-362020-08-20T23:42:33-06:00

The Movement – Faithful and Fruitful Acts 20

March 1st 2015listen to the music from this weekActs 20:1-38 – The Apostle Paul planted 14 churches that we know about, penned 13 letters through the leading of the Holy Spirit that are included in our New Testament, and traveled over 10,000 miles on various missionary journeys. What was it that allowed Paul to keep going through all that he encountered? He answers that question for us in Acts 20 by telling Ephesians elders what he built his life and his ministry upon.

The Movement – Faithful and Fruitful Acts 202020-08-20T23:43:45-06:00

The Movement – Fire and Ice

February 15th 2015listen to the music from this weekActs 19:11-41 – The church at Ephesus got off to quite the start! In fact, Luke’s recording of what happened in Ephesus is the best example we have of a city wide revival happening in the New Testament. If you’re hoping for revival, praying for renewal, or longing to see God move; take a listen to this message.

(Intro summary — Ryan described a “pizza lunch outreach” to high school students he had while a Youth Pastor in Aurora.  First the problem was ordering enough pizzas to feed the students!  Then it was keeping the quantity of pizzas warm!  A few too many pizza boxes were packed into the oven at the church.  According to Ryan, the church always needed a new kitchen!  In the middle of that lunch the fire alarm went off, the kids scattered, the firetruck came, the church got a new kitchen.)

What we did in that oven was create a tinderbox.  We created the perfect environment for a fire!  Cardboard pizza boxes right next to a hot oven element!  I think in a spiritual sense the city of Ephesus, that we’re going to dive into in Acts 19, finds itself in the same position.  They’re a tinderbox waiting to explode!  And here’s what God’s going to do in this chapter and, as we study, my prayer is that he does it in our hearts as well.  Here’s what he’s going to do—he’s going to light a match and he’s gonna flick it on this city of Ephesus and what you’re gonna see is just a beautiful gospel/Jesus-centered explosion in the city of Ephesus!  Now my hope and my prayer, throughout our whole study of the book of Acts has been, Lord, would you move in our church, would you move in our lives in the same way that you did through the early church!  I’ve gotta be honest with you, my prayer this morning is the same thing.  My cards are on the table.  As I’ve read this this whole week, my prayer has been Jesus, do the same thing in this church.  Do the same thing in your Body that you did here.

Let’s read together Acts 19:11.  If you were with us last week, you’ll remember that the Holy Spirit descends on these twelve disciples, these believers, at Ephesus.  There’s miraculous signs, there’s wonders and there’s Paul who grabs the microphone and starts to, in light of the Spirit’s descension, tell people about the Kingdom of God. So have to directly tie, if you’re following Paul and his ministry, to Spirit’s descension —> Kingdom reality.  And now what we’re going to see in our study of Acts 19 is what does it look like when the Kingdom starts to break forth?  Great question.  Verse 11: And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, {Immediately we have a tension on our hands?  Who’s doing it?  Clearly God, but he’s using Paul as his instrument.  Paul abiding and being obedient, walking with Jesus; and God says my Spirit’s on you, my power’s on you, I’m gonna use you for great and miraculous things.} Verse 12: so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. {Sounds like a pretty normal Tuesday for you, huh?! The kingdom is breaking forth!  He blows his nose and people are healed!!!  He sheds a layer because the wind kicks up, somebody grabs his coat and runs off with it!  He’s like where’d my coat go? And the lame walk!} Verse 13: Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists {Another quick time out.  Sorta shows you the spiritual climate of Ephesus.  There’s a market for an itinerant exorcist—traveling around—you got a problem with demon?  I can drive that bad boy out!  There’s a market for this—there’s people who are engaging in this.  This is their livelihood.} ..Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”  Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.  But the evil spirit answered them, {Just a side note: You never want to hear this from an evil spirit!} “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”  And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. {Now, you may have been a part of some altercations/fights in your day.  You may have seen some.  And some of those are debatable as to who won.  I got in a few blows there, he got a few blows in, too.  But I feel like I won or let’s go to the cards—let’s see, it’s a draw.  Now here’s the deal—If you walk into a fight wearing clothes and you walk out naked…..you LOST!  You don’t need to go to the cards….no draw…..  If you walked in clothed and out naked,  you lost!  And you can’t go to your friends and brag, I got a few good blows in!  Bro, where’re your drawers??!!!!  You lost!  You’re done!  Verse 17 is a kicker!  It’s phenomenal!  It’s crazy!}  And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus. {YES!!! These guys are like did you hear what happened to Billy and his brothers? No, what happened? Walked into a fight clothed, got upped by a demon, he stripped him, they walked out naked! No way that happened!!  What follows is even crazier!}  And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. {It was lifted high. It was mightily praised.  How’s that for an evangelistic outreach??!!  Let’s take on some demons; let’s get beat up; get stripped naked; let’s spread the word; people will bow to Jesus!!}

Here’s the thing.  God uses all sorts of methods to draw people to himself.  And I think what they recognize….because I’m wrestling with this…does that fit with the narrative?  Why in the world would people bow at the throne of Jesus?  Because they see the power that the enemy has!  Yes, that’s what happened. They go well, if the demons have that kind of power and they’re real, then what does it look like to embrace and walk in the power Jesus has?  And what started off with a group of twelve disciples, that we read about in the first part of Acts 19, starts to just mushroom up.  It starts to explode! People are getting healed, demons are being confronted, freedom is starting to be the reality for people to walk in.  Here’s what we see:  God is stirring his people to this INTERNAL TRANSFORMATION that changes the inner workings of their soul.  And he’s creating through that EXTERNAL IMPACT that radically, drastically changes the city of Ephesus.  We’ve a number of people in this church who pray regularly for revival.  To see God do something amazing, miraculous! To see him heal a city.  To see homelessness wiped out; to see people turn to Jesus; to see some of the wickedness that people in our city are a part of repent and turn to Jesus.  Here’s what you’re going to read in Acts 19.  The BEST–second to none–New Testament description of what corporate revival looks like.  Here’s where it starts.  It starts with the people who understand they have the Spirit.  Who relate to the Spirit; walk in the Spirit; see the presence and power of the Spirit through their lives and they follow him.  That’s how it starts.  The best description of revival in the New Testament. So I want to unpack some of the DNA of what this looked like in the city of Ephesus with the admitted prayer.  God, would you let your Spirit fall in such a way that you do something similar in our day, in our time, in our midst, through this Body.

The story goes on….Dr. Luke records so as people that didn’t know Jesus turned to him, because some guy got beat up and stripped naked…..it says verse 18: Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.  And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.  And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. {That’s a lot of money.  Notice this is believers.  Believers who are confronted with this reality that we know Jesus, we’ve been walking with Jesus to a certain extent and the way that God moves and the way that God stirs in their midst….they go there’s some things that we’re doing, there’s some things that we’re believing, there some things that we’re walking in that don’t honor this King of King and Lord of Lords.  And they bring those things to the table, and they burn the books.  Here’s what they do.  They bow their hearts at the throne of the Father.  That’s what they do.}

We have a word for this…..it’s called REPENTANCE.  A word that’s gotten a really, really bad rap.  People yell it on the streets without any context behind what does it actually mean.  Here’s what it means to these believers.  It’s believers that are repenting in this passage.  It’s an invitation HOME.  The welcome mat of the Father is out.  Make no mistake about it!!  I want to say this as clearly as I possibly can…the gospel DEMANDS–doesn’t ask, doesn’t say hey if you want to—genuine, authentic repentance that leads to practical, natural change in our life.  Repentance is simply is a changing of mind or thought that leads to a change in direction.  So the Scriptures will continually say repent and believe.  Not repent and behave.  So if our behavior hasn’t changed, if our actions haven’t changed, it’s not that we need to try harder, it’s that we really do need to repent.  To change our mind and our thinking in a way that eventually changes our actions.  That’s what the gospel demands. And that’s what this group of followers of Jesus do.

I love the way that Tim Keller puts it.  This is a lengthy quote, but I think it’s worth our time this morning.  “It is important to consider how the gospel affects and transforms the act of repentance.  In ‘religion’ the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so he will continue to bless you and answer your prayers.” {Essentially it’s God, I know I’ve screwed up and I know I’ve messed up so I’m going to say x-number of these prayers and I’m going to do these actions and I’m going to give this money and if I do that, God, well then will you be happy with me?  Will you be pleased with me?  Can we come back into right relationship after I jump through these hoops?} Keller writes: “This means that ‘religious repentance’ is a) selfish, b) self-righteous, c) and bitter all the way to the bottom. But in the gospel the purpose of repentance is to {this is beautiful–catch it} repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart.”  It’s a minute-by-minute invitation from the Father……Come home! Come home!  You’re drifting, your heart’s drifting.  Your affection is drifting…..COME HOME!  That’s exactly what the believers in Ephesus do!  Will you look up at me for just a second?  Changing the altar that you bow at, of your life, always alters (changes) your life!  Changing the altar of your life alters your life….every time!  Where we bow always determines how we live!!  No caveats!  No footnotes!  No well, not me!  Uh uh uh!  All of us across the board!

So here’s what the believers do.  In a very public act, they go and they get their books, and they go and they get their idols and they burn them and they smash them.  Here’s the picture you need to see in your mind, here’s what they do.  They bow afresh at the throne of Jesus!  They identify we’ve strayed.  We’ve walked away, we’re not following you; our words may say that we are, but our actions don’t look like it.  And this is a beautiful picture, because they not only do it publicly, but they do it completely.  They’re not going to go back through the rubble and go I need to get that book back……..they burn it, they cut ties with it and they walk the opposite direction.  I can remember when my brother first started to follow Jesus.  He was a big “Green Day” fan and he had this ritualistic burning of Green Day cds in the backyard.  We’re like yeah!!  Anybody else been a part of a music or book burning thing?  It was this picture of we are cutting ties with who we were and we’re walking into who we are.  And we are people who are loved by the Father!!

I think it begs us to ask the same question.  What are some of the things we are holding on to, even as we follow Jesus?  Where it’s yes, it’s Jesus PLUS, it’s Jesus plus…our family.  It’s Jesus plus our bank account; it’s Jesus plus our resume, it’s Jesus plus…..that’s where we find life, that’s where we find hope, that’s where we find meaning.  Want to try an exercise to figure out what those things are in YOUR life?  What are the things you’re willing to lie about?….in order to preserve.  Those are our idols.  And this beautiful movement of God starts with the descending of the Spirit in the life of believers.  They have this mirror that’s held up and then they go listen, we talked a good game, but we haven’t walked the walk!  And although we say we’re following Jesus, really our cupboards are still FULL of books and idols and we watch things and we participate in things that don’t honor and lift high the name of Jesus.  At Ephesus, here’s what they say….we’re done with those! We’re done!  And we’re walking the other way!

Well, that has huge implications for the culture around them!  It crashes the economy! Verse 20: So {as if to say because or the fact that they repented and turned to Jesus and were embraced by the Father} the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. {Verse 23—Paul explains a few of his travel plans in verses 21 and 22.} At that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.  For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. {He was the go-between, between people who wanted to order an idol and the people who actually produced the idol.  He’s the middleman.  He does a pretty good business, makes a pretty good living and he sees that starting to slip away.} Verse 25: These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.  And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with (human) hands are not gods.  {His argument is pretty simple—If you made it in your backyard, you shouldn’t bow down and worship it!  And they’re going WHAAAATTT??? What did you say??} Verse 27: And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may be be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” 

Interesting!  Here’s what you see—-a genuine, spirit-driven repentance, bowing at the throne of the Father saying we’ve worshiped these things, but now we’re going to worship Jesus alone, has these massive ripple effects into the culture that they live in!!!  Genuine repentance doesn’t just change the people who enter into it, it does that, but it also leads to this citywide corporate revival!  The progression is the church repents….people are redeemed and saved by the gracious hand of God because of the way the church rubs up against them…..decisions are made where people start to change and eventually a culture is transformed! Well, how does this happen?  Dr. Luke gives us a little bit of a hint in this passage.  He tells us that the church at that time isn’t called the church.  It’s called something different—–The Way (verse 9).  They’re referred to again as the Way in verse 23.  So this isn’t a pretty church, this isn’t a church that has all their theology totally in line and their programs laid out.  They are The Way!  People who simply together, in community, follow the “Way” of Jesus.  Not a religion, but a WAY!  It’s very, very different.   It was a way of, if you go back to the book of Ephesians that Paul writes BACK to this church of Ephesus years later, speaking differently. It’s a way of working differently.  It’s a way of loving your spouse differently.  It’s a way of dealing with our anger differently.  It’s a WAY……not a religion.

One might summarize and say it was the way of both giving and receiving love of the Father and remaining in that place and returning to that place when they deviated and when they left.  When the church gets serious about Jesus—not about playing church and not about having a pretty, perfect church—when we start to embrace The Way, the city is changed; people are redeemed; the gospel goes forward.  There’s always ripple effects to a genuine repentance where we walk back under the goodness and grace of the gospel and receive it as our own!  That’s what this church does!  And there’s ripple effects to that!  It overflows into marriages.  It overflows into work places.  It overflows into neighborhoods.  It overflows into relationships.  It overflows into lives!   We have a lot of sorta problems–symptoms–that we address and that we stir up and that we, in good conscience and in good faith, try to move forward with, but the root of it all is that we don’t know and live in the goodness and love of the Father.  That only happens as we repent.  And that repentance has HUGE ripple effects.

If you jump down to verse 37 and you see the way that as Paul and his friends are put on trial that the crowd starts to speak about them.  The people who put them on trial, here’s what they say: You have brought these men here, who are neither sacrilegious {really interesting what follows} nor blasphemers of our goddess. Fascinating!!  So here’s what they can say with all honesty and believe me, they would say otherwise if it were true.  What they say about Paul and what they say about his friends is they haven’t said a word about Artemis.  This Greek goddess who had a temple where a thousand temple prostitutes worshipped by day and performed their duties by night.  Where people came, as they say in this text, from all over the world in order to worship.  It’s one of Seven Ancient Wonders of the Ancient World.  And what they say is that Paul hasn’t said a word about her!!  Are you kidding me??!!!  Well, how does revival start?  Isn’t it we create and we gather a bunch of evidence that demands a verdict??  Isn’t that what we’re called to do?  No offense to that fine book. Here’s what you see.   There’s undertones of this, it’s not on the surface of the passage, but as you read about it and here’s what Paul’s message was…..he was lifting high the name of Jesus!!  You go back and read the letter he writes back to Ephesus….no mention of Artemis.  None!  But he will address sexuality.  He will address how to, in a Godly manner, for husbands to love their wives, for wives to love their husbands.  He’s gonna address the issues, but he’s not gonna address her.

And here’s why!  Because you never change culture by trying to change culture!  And friends, under Christendom, we have bought this method hook, line and sinker.  You change culture by creating a better one! That’s the way you change culture—by creating a better one.  I’ve seen, floating around on the internet, like 1300 blogs about “50 Shades of Grey”.  Now I’m not promoting the movie in any way, shape or form, but what I do want to point out is if Paul were to write a letter back to the city of Ephesus and he doesn’t mention Artemis or Artemis worship explicitly, maybe we should rethink our methods.  Maybe? I’m just gonna throw it out there.  Because here’s what we do—-the more blogs we write, the more blogs we read, the more blogs we share.  Free promotion!!! And when we’re talking about “50 Shades of Grey,” we’re implicitly NOT talking about the beauty of Jesus and the glory of Christ.  And that’s the way those types of things start to lose their hold. It’s not by Christians writing blogs and saying this is wrong, this is evil, this is bad.  It’s by followers of Jesus living out the sexual ethic that the Scriptures teach us—where there’s beauty and intimacy, which is what that movie is longing for and hoping for……intimacy we show the world, put that on display, what it looks like when it’s Christ-centered, gospel-exalting.  And the ripple effects of that change…….a blog’s not going to change anyone’s mind.  REVIVAL doesn’t begin by attacking a culture.  It begins by creating a better one.  We create a better one as we surrender and walk in the love of the Father.

Here’s what happens as the word of God starts to expand–both in the world and in the hearts of his followers. It always meets opposition!  It always does!  So here’s the way we see that play out.  Verse 28: And when they {this is the crowd that Demetrius has gathered} heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel.  But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. {Now these are good friends! They said you’re gonna get your head beat in, bro!  You don’t wear a cape!  Stay on the outskirts.  Let us fight this battle.} And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.  Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. {That’s hilarious!  They’re all there going we’re pumped up!  WHY??!!  I have no idea why.  But we are, indeed, fired up.  So this conversation goes on in the crowd—-hey, why are you here?  I have no idea, but this is awesome, is it not?  It is awesome!  Let’s shout some more.  And the crowd feeds off of itself!} Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, who the Jews had put forward.  And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.  But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, ” Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 

Here’s what you see: The Spirit prompts this repentance bowing at the throne of Jesus that leads to a revival, both in the souls and lives of the believers and in the city—there’s always ripple effect to repentance—eventually leading to RIOTS.  You could step back from this story/account and go we get why that happened.  The rug is pulled out from under the proverbial feet of the Ephesians.  Their economy is crashing before their eyes.  If people don’t travel from all over the world to worship Artemis, where’s their next meal gonna come from?  How are they going to feed their family?  These are all questions that people are asking, because their whole entire city is built on that economy.  It’s a great question, isn’t it?  You could understand why a riot would form around that.  But here’s the thing, friends.  Would you look up at me for a second? It’s not only externally that this is a reality.  Anytime we put our faith in Jesus, we step off of whatever foundation we built our life on and step on to him, there’s always an internal turning or riot that takes place!  It’s I’m leaving those things behind and now I’m walking with Jesus and the question is……who am I?  I built my life on these things and now I’m gonna NOT cling to them as my god…..who am I now?  This is shaky ground! Unfortunately, what we’ve told people is turn to Jesus and your life is gonna just get better.  You just have to ignore the Bible in order to believe that.  Does he redeem?  Does he show his love? Is he good?  Yes! Yes! Yes!  But sometimes you get beat up.  Sometimes you find yourself in jail.  Sometimes you find yourself on a cross and you’re crucified. It depends on how you measure BETTER.  That might not fit.

So here’s what the reality is.  As we to turn to Jesus and he stirs revival in our souls and awakening in our neighborhoods and our families…..you name it…..wherever we find ourselves in our workplace, we should EXPECT that riots follow.  That an uneasiness even just in our soul, because a new object or intensity of our worship or revival creates internal and external opposition.  It always does. Which is why we teach classes on how to study the Bible, because riots/storms are coming.  Sometimes just reading the Bible on Sunday morning isn’t gonna get the job done, friend.  It’s just not!  So our goal is to teach you how throughout the week to feed yourself, to feast on the banquet that’s in front of you!  Not just to come and hear a message, but to come and to hear from Jesus, one.  And then to be able to do that weekly, because the enemy he’s gonna push back.  What does he push back with?  Fear.  Am I going to be able to feed my family?  Am I going to be able to create an identity only on Jesus if I let go of everything else, like the Ephesian church did?  Is He going to let me down? Is He going to come through? Confusion.  What is this really actually look like–to follow the way of Jesus?  When worship of the living, true God confronts our idols, which it always does if it’s genuine worship, and crushes our idols, it implicitly means we’re transferring where we stand on to the gospel and on to Jesus and that can feel like shaky ground, if we’re just learning how to do that.

So this church wrestles through that.  They fight to believe the goodness of God.  And the crowd is dismissed because they’re part of a Roman colony and that kind of thing just isn’t acceptable, so everybody goes their way.  Wouldn’t it be fascinating if we could figure out what happened to this church?   I mean, what a launch! You just light the match and fling it on this and BOOM! it explodes!  Miraculous signs, wonders, people meet Jesus, the church repents, the church sees revival, the church endures the riots—they get through to the other side.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what happens?  A few years later, Paul writes a letter back to this church.  He’s going to encourage them to keep pushing into Jesus, to remain in the love of the Father, but that isn’t the end of the story.  In fact, if you’re to fast forward a few more decades, the book of Revelation is going to address this church.  Turn to Revelation 2.  Here’s the way Jesus talks about this church.  To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: {skip to verse 2} I know your works, your toil, your patient endurance and how you cannot bear with those who are evil. {Good? Thumbs up or thumbs down? Church in Ephesus you are doing good!} ….but you’ve tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you found them to be false. {Good? Good work, church at Ephesus, you’re staying strong. Forty or so years later and you are pushing through!} I know you are enduring patiently {Which is at the top of God’s list…..maybe.} and bearing up for my name’s sake, you have not grown weary. {You’re a good church, you have good theology, you have good programs, you are doing a good work! Yea! Yea! Yea! Church at Ephesus.} But….but…{I just want to say I think this is a word for us today. Something happened between being the Way and becoming a church. And that something, whatever it was, led them away from the heart of the Father.} But I have this against you, you’ve left (abandoned) your first love.  You’ve grown cold.  How poignant and powerful is it to study the way it began and then a few decades later to have Jesus write to you and say you’re doing a lot of things well, but you’re not doing the most important thing well.  You have good theology, you have good programs, you’re a clean and polished church, but you’ve left—-you’ve turned back from—-your first love.  Have you??  A lot of people I think their life following Jesus is more akin to a glider than it is to an airplane.  They start really high and they just slowly, slowly, slowly decline.  Instead of the airplane, where you go isn’t Jesus beautiful, isn’t he good, isn’t he glorious, isn’t he magnificent and it just feeds on itself.

So here’s what Jesus says.  I love this about the Good Shepherd.  He doesn’t say to his sheep well, outta here! You got off to a great start!  You were on fire but now you’ve turned into ice and I’m outta here.  That’s not what he says.  Here’s what we does say:  REMEMBER!  Remember therefore from where you’ve fallen (church at Ephesus). (Rev. 2:5)  Remember what it was like when you went to your cupboards and you got your magic books and you got the idols; and you burned the books and you smashed the idols and you bowed at my throne and you tasted my goodness and you knew my grace and you walked in my mercy.  Remember what that was like, church!  And I’ll say the same thing to you!  Do you remember what it was like?  When you first knew him and you went to the Scriptures in the morning and it just felt like words were just flying off the page!  Remember what that was like?  Remember what it was like when you met somebody that didn’t know Jesus and you just couldn’t wait to tell them about how good he is?! Not because of some obligation the church laid on you, but just because he was so ridiculously good and his mercies were new that morning!!  Remember, Jesus says, what it was like when you first met me.  Repent—-which is ironically what they did at first! Remember when you bowed, remember when you felt my embrace, remember.  So he goes repent, turn back to me!  Run into my arms and do the things you did at first!

So here’s what he would say.  REMEMBER—follower of Jesus, I pray would you remember.  What was it like? Have you wandered?  Get around some people who just met Jesus, it might rub off on you, might be good for you.  It would be good for us as a church to remember THAT’S what that’s LIKE!

REPENT—-turn back from the way that we’ve become as a church from transitioned out of just being The Way. Following the heartbeat of Jesus.  Living in the Way of Christ.  Martin Luther, in the very first of the 95 theses he nailed he nailed to the Wittenberg door, his first was: “The whole Christian life in one of repentance.”  Wake up daily saying here’s my idols and I’m walking back to the love of the Father and I’m bowing around his throne and his throne alone.

And finally, Jesus says those things you did at first, REDO them.  I had a friend this week who asked me Ryan, how are we suppose to stay on fire for the Lord?  How are we suppose to sustain this walk?  I answered with Jesus’ invitation in Revelation 2:5.  Remember what it was like when you first met him, friend.  Repent—let go of the things you’ve built your life on other than him, and run back to his throne and BOW!  Cut the tie with everything else.  Bow at His throne!  Then do the things you did at first.

{Pastor Ryan leads into time of confession, repentance and coming “home”.}

Let’s pray.  Oh Jesus, would you move, Spirit, in our hearts and our lives…..would you allow us to,  by your grace, let go of some of the things we may have built our life on, to run back home.  Jesus, I pray over the person, the people, where they go yeah, that’s me—I’ve grown cold.  I pray, Holy Spirit, would you pour out the love of the Father into our hearts and souls in such a way that you would ignite us once again, for your name, for your glory and for our joy!  Let’s repent together and run home to the open arms of our Father! Amen!

 

 

The Movement – Fire and Ice2020-08-20T23:44:51-06:00

The Movement – Caffeinated Christianity

February 8th 2015listen to the music from this week(Intro summary:  Ryan described two experiences in college that he had no idea God was going to use.  He fought it tooth and nail, but looking back on it he saw God in it the whole time!  The first one was a practicum he had to do for his major and he was convinced it had nothing to do with his career path—–he worked in the college’s early learning center. His comment at the time was that he’d do it, but he’d never use that information in his life! The other experience was that he worked as a barista at Starbucks.  At that time, little did he know that he would some day be lead pastor at the church that had both an early learning center and a coffee shop!!!!  God has a sovereign divine sense of humor!!

He (Ryan) drank enough coffee in college to kill a small horse!  He wondered why anybody would drink DECAF coffee.  Decaf vs. regular — if someone hands you a cup of coffee you cannot tell what it is…..until your body reacts to the caffeine later.  It looks the same, brewed the same, tastes the same and everything is pretty similar about it.  The thing with caffeinated coffee is the effect it has on you —- some would argue it’s a wonderful effect.  Decaf — no effect, none.  Just tastes good.)

Some effect–no effect.  I think the Christian life is pretty similar.  There’s some in here that have a relationship with God that changes everything.  Where you go it has an effect on me; there’s a presence on my life; there’s a power on my life.  Jesus isn’t just someone I read about in a book that’s a few thousand years old, but he’s a person I know and I walk with.  Then for others it’s more like well, yeah, we do this whole church thing. We get together on a Sunday morning and we sing songs and the band’s great and it’s fun and it’s good, BUT very little about our life is influenced or impacted or changed.  Here’s the difference—some of us are drinking decaf and some of us are drinking caffeinated.  And here’s the way the Scriptures are gonna unpack that.  Some of us have a relationship with the Spirit.  The Spirit’s alive in us!  It’s not just we read about Jesus in a book, we know Jesus and we walk with Jesus.  For others of us, we just know about Him in a book and our faith isn’t really in him and so very little about our life actually changes.

I ran across this anonymous quote this week that says this: “Christians who neglect the Holy Spirit are like a lamp that’s not plugged in”.  They have all the shape, they have all the form.  They have all the potential, they just don’t have the power.  They don’t have the light.  Charles Spurgeon, and if you’ve read any Spurgeon this is not going to surprise you, says it a little bit stronger: “A church in the land without the Spirit is rather a curse than a blessing. {He’s going to say hey, if the Spirit isn’t on us, if we gather and we talk along about Jesus, but we don’t KNOW Jesus, and the Spirit doesn’t live inside of us and stir us with affection for Jesus then we are worse off—our community’s worse off because of our presence here. He goes on to say:} ….than a blessing. If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else’s way; you’re a fruitless tree standing where a fruitful tree might grow.”  Wow, Charles!  Have a cup of coffee!  Settle down!  He’s right!! He’s 100% right!  If we’re just playing church, friend, can I assure you we can find a better thing to do on our Sunday morning?  If this is all just singing about and not knowing in the guts of our body (that) Jesus is King, that the Spirit resides in us and that we walk with him, if this is about anything other than that it’s a waste of time.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out, based on our song selection and intro, that what we’re talking about this morning is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.  We’re going to look at one of the most debated passages of Scripture.  People have used it as a springboard to build some pretty crazy theologies.  What I want to do is I want to reel it back in this morning, ground us in the text and ask the question Jesus, what do you want us to do with what we read in Acts 19?  And I’m well aware that any time I teach on the Holy Spirit, I can draw a line down the center of the room—-one half is gonna think I didn’t go far enough, the other half is gonna think I went too far.  So my goal is to be an equal opportunity offender this morning!

This is, in a sense, a troubling passage, but I think it has beauty, it has answers and it has an invitation for us. Acts 19:1 Dr. Luke records for us {this is Paul’s missionary journey number three}–And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus.  There he found some disciples.  And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” {Now, just a quick time out–we’ll circle back to this.  Why in the world would he ask that question?  Because his assumption is their answer would be yes.}  And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” {You can imagine, he’s sorta scratching his head a little bit and going, listen, this whole thing that I’ve been preaching around the globe, has gone off the tracks here in Ephesus.  What’s the deal?} And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.  There were about twelve men in all.  Interesting passage, yes?

I want to start where Paul starts and here’s where he starts.  He goes to Ephesus, a town he’d been in before and comes back to; observes people who are carrying the name of Jesus and starts to ask questions.  He validates by his questions.  He validates their faith journey up to the point where he meets them and sees them.  He validates their humanity by saying, I’m not just coming in an over-handed didactic fashion, but what I want to say is let’s talk.  So there’s three questions that are either explicitly stated in this passage or implicity implied.  They are:  Do you know?  Have you received?  Will you enter?  They’re questions that Paul asks the “disciples” at Ephesus and they’re questions I’d love for us to wrestle with this morning as well.  He shows up on the scene and his first question validating their faith journey and their humanity is: Do you know?  Do you know about Jesus? Do you know about the Spirit?  Do you know what it means to be baptized into the life, death and resurrection of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  Why does he ask do you know?  Here’s the deal.  What you know, understand and believe dictates the road that you walk.  Belief drives behavior.  Information dictates involvement and, here’s what we see in this passage, EDUCATION directly leads us to EXPERIENCE or encounter. Why does he ask do you know about Jesus? Do you know about the baptism of Jesus?  Because if they don’t know about the slain, risen Lamb, they will never embrace the fullness of what God has designed them for. They’re going to be drinking decaf coffee.  It’s gonna have the shape, it’s gonna have the form, it’s gonna have all the flavor and taste, but it will have ZERO effect on their life.  My guess is that’s what Paul observes. Hey, you guys talk a lot about Jesus, but it doesn’t really seem like you know him.  Your orthodoxy, the right belief about God, hasn’t led to a right living.  Do you know your education always dictates your encounter?  It dictates what you know about God; what you know about God leads directly to how you live with God.  If you don’t know that the Holy Spirit resides in you, then you will never step out on faith believing that he does.  This is huge!

We could go back through the history books and we could find people that lived this out in a secular environment time and time again. Wilbur and Orville Wright, other than having epic names, played a pretty significant part in history.  In 1903, they created the first plane that could actually, not take off—that wasn’t the first time that someone had done that, steer!  I don’t know if you’ve been on a plane lately, but how many people are grateful for their invention??!!  This is big?  How’d they do it?  They didn’t do it because they had the most money.  There was actually another competitor trying to be the first—you don’t know his name because he didn’t succeed!  What THEY did was create a wind tunnel in their house where they took data measurements.  They (discovered) that if they created it a certain way the plane will not only be able to get up, but it’s gonna be able to sustain it’s flight and the pilot will be able to STEER! {Praise be to God!}  Their education directly leads to our experience!  What they knew and what they found out allowed them to fly!  The last time you were on a plane, you probably didn’t look out the window and say, Orville and Wilbur, thank you!  Here’s the deal though, our education, our information always leads us to our encounter.  So what we believe about God {friend, will you look up at me just a second} directly influences/creates a path that we walk.  And that path is either WITH Him–side by side, intimate, personal presence–OR it’s talking about Him, rather than with Him.

So Paul shows up on the scene and he’s like hey, one, do you have the Spirit, but two, have you heard of this guy named Jesus?  And they say yes, but they were baptized into John.  So let me unpack this for us a little bit. Here’s the difference:  Baptism into John—he even says it here—John baptized with the baptism of repentance. So time out.  Here’s what John’s baptism is: turning FROM sin to receive forgiveness from sin even. But it’s incomplete.  The gospel is not turn from your sin.  That’s not the gospel.  The gospel is turn from your sin and run to Jesus.  You need both halves of that in order to have the gospel.  The good news isn’t REPENT. The good news is repent AND BELIEVE in and on the Lord Jesus.  Here’s the deal—-I meet so many followers of Jesus and they wouldn’t say I was baptized into John.  That wouldn’t be their verbiage they used, but I can assure you they’re baptized into John!  Here’s what I mean by that.  They are believers in Jesus who live under guilt, who live under shame, who live under the lie that God will have nothing of me or with me because of my past.  These are people who are baptized under John.  So they feel real bad about their sin, but they haven’t felt the embrace of the Father.  Can I just tell you, THAT’S not Christianity!!  The Holy Spirit never creates refugees.  Refugees are those who leave their home or are beaten out of their home and go to no man’s land.

This is not the work of the Spirit.  The work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is yes!  Conviction, not condemnation, about sin {we’ll get to that in a second}.  Repentance—so a changing of mind and heart; and not running to no man’s land, but running to the loving embrace of a Father who’s already running towards us! Paul’s do you know is absolutely huge! You may have left the system of the world, you’ve repented, but have you run to Jesus?!  That’s the work of the Spirit!!  The work of the Spirit, in the Scriptures at least, is never about the Spirit.  The Spirit is this great mirror and any time you want to give the Spirit glory, he’s saying oh no! it’s not about me!  It’s about Jesus!  He’s the slain, risen Lamb!  It’s about Him!  So it pains me to use a positive illustration about this person, but I will!  Tom Brady……got MVP of the Super Bowl and he was given a truck.  (Cuz that’s what he need’s….another vehicle!)  He said that it shouldn’t have gone to him, it should have gone to Butler who made the interception on the half yard line—-this should be HIS truck.  This is actually about him.  And he deflects glory.

This is the way the Spirit works—-pointing people to Jesus.  The Spirit is never about the Spirit—he’s always about the Son—he lifts high the Son, points to the Son. The OBJECT of our faith, friends {so this is the educational piece of what Paul wants to unpack} determines the FRUIT of our faith.   What’s the problem with the “disciples” in Ephesus?  They haven’t met Jesus!  That’s the problem.  His question implies did you receive the spirit when you believed?  Implication——Should have!!  You didn’t?!! Not, pray this prayer to receive the Spirit—–that’s not what he does. What he does is let me unpack for you the fact that you got stuck in the halfway house rather than going all the way to the arms of the Father.  You left sin but you didn’t know the embrace that’s found ONLY in Jesus.  So what he meets is people who know a lot about God, but don’t know him.  That’s what he meets.  People who can talk the talk.  But when it comes to actually walking and living it out…..they’re drinking decaf.  Because they haven’t met Jesus.  The Spirit doesn’t reside in them!

I love the way that Fredrick Dale Brunner puts it:  “The work of the Holy Spirit is to thrill us with Christ. {What’s the work of the Spirit? How do you know you’ve been in a place where the Spirit resides? Jesus is beautiful!  You love Jesus!  He’s magnificent! Your affections are stirred for him!  You see him seated–the slain, risen Lamb—seated on the throne and you go you’re worthy of my life, you’re worthy of my honor, you’re worthy of my praise.  You are Lord!  That’s the work of the Spirit. To make him beautiful in the hearts and lives of those who believe.} (resume quote) The Holy Spirit is shy about everything except Christ, but about Christ the Spirit is downright bullish.”  That’s awesome!

So the first question Paul asks—-Do you know?  And it leads into his second question.  Verse 2: And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”   Here’s what his question implies—When you believe, you most definitely receive.  This is the natural outflow of belief in the Son. The Father loves…..he sent his Spirit to dwell in those who, and to help them, see the beauty of Jesus that he might stir in them affection for the risen Lamb. Here’s what we would say—-FAITH IN Jesus leads to the PRESENCE AND POWER of the Spirit…look up at me for a second……in the life of every believer.  This isn’t varsity Christianity.  This isn’t well, you gotta play on JV for a while and then we’ll have a worship service where we’ll lay hands on you…….  This isn’t in addition to the Christian life where you get there some day.  This is the NORMATIVE Christian life.  Faith in Jesus…….receiving the Spirit.

Now, we have to put on our theology hat for a moment, because as you read through the Scriptures there’s gonna be some times like this where it LOOKS like, on the surface, the Spirit comes AFTER belief.  There’s three passages of Scripture in the book of Acts where they don’t suggest it’s normative, but that would be sort of the storyline.  Two differences I want to point out to you.  One, the indwelling of the Spirit.  That’s what we’re talking about when we say faith in Jesus leads to the presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer. The indwelling of the Spirit.  Peter at his great sermon at Pentecost says, And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)  How many? However many who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus.  However many people put their faith in Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s going to affirm the same thing to the church at Galatia. In Galatians 3:2 he asks this rhetorical question: Let me ask you only this: {I’ll turn it on you, South} Did you receive the Spirit {assuming they did} by works of the law or by hearing with faith?   That’s a rhetorical question.  They go come on, Paul, we received the Spirit when we believed.  And he goes aahhh, exactly! so keep living that way.  This is the indwelling of the Spirit.  Will you look up at me for a moment?  If you are a follower of Jesus, the Spirit of the living God dwells in you!

I got here early this morning and was just praying through this space.  I got this picture in my head as I was walking through praying of….I think it was probably a tulip that’s in the ground right now, and in the next few weeks we’re going to see it start to blossom.  The environment around it’s going to change and it’s gonna come back to life.  My prayer—-and I’m just praying into this even now—is that for some of you, I think, the Spirit is in you for sure because you’re a follower of Jesus, but is dormant.  And I’m praying for an awakening in us, where we start to not only know and believe, but walk in the reality of what we have already received. There’s a difference in the Scriptures between the INDWELLING of the Spirit–you have it if you’re a follower of Jesus–and the EMPOWERING or filling of the Spirit.  These are two different things in the Scriptures. So Paul will say to the church at Ephesus: Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Eph. 5:18) As if to say there are followers of Jesus who are filled and there are followers of Jesus who AREN’T filled.  As if to say you play a part.  Here’s the way I always like to say it: the empowering of the Spirit is not about {hear me on this} HOW MUCH of the Spirit you have.  The empowering of the Spirit is about how much of YOU the Spirit has!  Look around, all of us have the same amount of the Spirit if we’re followers of Jesus.  Empowering: the walking in, the presence of—-that’s thick on some people—is about how much of them the Spirit has.  How much of their lives is saying I’m yielded to you; I’m listening, Father; I’m willing to walk with you, Spirit; you have my life; I’m bowed at your throne; I submit, I surrender; use me for your name and your glory.  He goes DONE!!  It’s the people who say no, I’m gonna hold on to my agenda and I’m gonna hold on to guilt, shame, slavery instead of walking into love and sonship, those are the people who live under……not under the empowerment of the Spirit. It’s people who say God, I’ll receive and believe and walk in what you say is true.

So how much of you does the Spirit have? You have all of the Spirit!  I know you’re out there thinking, come on, no I don’t.  The only problem with that line of thinking is Scripture.  You do!  Will you live in it?  Will you embrace it? Will you follow?  I’m praying that the Lord will awaken some things in us.  In his people.

The question becomes what is the work of the Spirit?  What is the role of the Spirit?  What’s the relationship of the Spirit?  If Paul goes hey, it looks like you’re on decaf coffee when you’ve been designed to be drinking the good stuff, what is he observing?  What’s he not seeing in the Ephesian “disciples”, John’s disciples, but disciples in the Scriptures nonetheless.  What are they missing and what do followers of Jesus have?  What you see in Acts 19 is not normative.  It’s Acts 1:8 being spread from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. This is what we see because 1) God wants to show Paul I’m at work in this place; and 2) God wants to show the Ephesian church he has apostolic authority—-listen to his message and take his message to the ends of the earth.  So you see what we see in Acts 19 because of it.

What’s the work of the Spirit?  One, to give us the life we were designed for by the Creator of all life.  In John 6:63 Jesus says, My words are Spirit and the Spirit is life.  The role of the Spirit is to awaken us to the goodness of God.  To remind us and point us back to why we were created, to know the love and overflow of the Father.  That’s the work of the Spirit.  Second thing, to invite us into and to make real the relationship that you and I have with God.  The Spirit makes this a reality.  This isn’t a game that we play.  In fact, Paul will write to Timothy and say have nothing to do with a form of godliness that denies its power.  Here’s how he says it in 1John 4:13: By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  In John 14:26, John’s gonna write: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.  This word helper could be translated comforter, counselor.  The work of the Spirit is not only to make alive and to bring into relationship, but to be a comfort for the people of God.  How many know that comfort intimately?  That’s one of the beautiful parts of being a follower of Jesus.  He speaks to you in the peaks and the valleys of life—-I’m with you, I’m for you, I’m in you, I’m GOOD, I’m not leaving.  It’s the work of the Spirit.

He brings to mind the words of Jesus.  John 14:26 says he’s the great reminder.  Have you ever been in a situation where all of a sudden a Bible verse flies out of you?  Maybe you’re sharing your faith with somebody. You’re going through a difficult season at home or on the job front and the Lord just brings to mind a passage of Scripture.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit loves to remind us of the words that Jesus has said.  I will say, side note, he can’t remind you of what’s not there.  This is why it’s important to hide God’s word in our heart, not just have it accessible on our iPhone.  Those are different.  Having God’s word in your pocket and in your heart are two very different things.  He reminds us of the word of God.

John 16–listen to this.  This is wonderful!  And when he (the Spirit) comes, {The Spirit is always personified.  It’s never it!} he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.  This is the role of the Spirit. Now remember we said the Spirit never leads us to become refugees.  A lot of followers of Jesus, they’ll go yeah, he convicts people of sin.  He does, but he also convicts people of righteousness.  That’s what the passage just said.  The work of the Spirit is oh yeah, absolutely you have failed, but I can assure you Calvary has covered that! Jesus is good.  His blood is sufficient. His grace is enough.  Run to him.  Don’t get stuck in between.  Don’t become a spiritual refugee, but I’m going to convict you of the righteousness that is yours.  {Look up at me for a moment.}  Conviction is different than condemnation!  The problem is that it feels the same….at first.  Oh man, I really screwed up! Oh man, I can’t believe I did that again! Oh man……whatever your thing is…fill in the blank.  It feels the same. CONDEMNATION leads you out into the wilderness, for you to replay that tape over and over and over in your mind.  CONVICTION leads you to the throne where Jesus says, I’ve paid it all!!  Now the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is to convict not to condemn, convict and lead us to Jesus who has already {past tense} purchased our righteousness.  Can I assure you if whatever you hear in your head or your heart leads you anywhere else except to the throne of God, it’s not the voice of Jesus.  And it’s not the Spirit at work.

The Spirit lives inside of us to guide us.  The Spirit lives inside of us to make alive and to make real the love of the Father.  In Romans 5:5, Paul says that the Spirit lives inside of us and he makes real, he makes alive, the love of God.  What if that was a litmus test?  Do I know the Spirit?  Well, does the love of God BURST inside of me? God you’re amazing! God you’re good! God you’re gracious!  I can’t believe how good you are!

And lastly, but certainly not least, the Spirit produces in the believer the fruit of the Spirit.  It’s called fruit because he does it! He does it!  It’s His work in you as you stay in step with Him!  Here’s a beautiful thing.  Every single follower of Jesus has the Spirit!  Question is, does the Spirit have us? Will we surrender, will be bow, will we follow?

The passage ends {we’ll land the plane here}.  It says, And he (Paul) entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)  Here’s what just happened.  Paul connects trust or faith in Jesus with receiving the Spirit.  So….do you know? have you received? and will you enter?  As if to say that those who trust in Jesus and receive the Spirit are led to the closet door of Narnia, where God opens it for us and says, will you come and play?  Will you be part of what I’m doing?  Will you be part of my kingdom? Will you be part of the renewal and restoration of all things?  Will you be part of my redemption and restoration of my beautiful creation that I love?  Not a coincidence that a receiving of the Spirit directly precedes a walking into and living in the kingdom.  See the presence of the Spirit always opens up to the believer the reality of the kingdom.  Where people are healed.  Where demons are cast out and where {come back next week because we’re going to camp out here} revival starts to take place.  But what happens first?  Believers encounter the one True, Living God, the slain, risen Lamb, Jesus Christ, give their lives to Him, receive the Spirit and then start to walk with Him!  That’s what precedes it.  A lot of us want revival, but I don’t know if we want surrender.  But I don’t know if we want surrender FIRST and that’s what precedes this revival that we see in the book of Ephesus.

We are landing the plane! But I will say, there’s an enemy of your soul that wants to distract you from either believing or hearing the message that God puts his Spirit inside of you; loves you; died for you; paid for you; purchased you…..it’s DONE! You know what the problem is for most believers?   Their head and their heart. We don’t know therefore we don’t walk in.  And I think there’s a number of followers of Jesus…..we simply don’t believe that when we trust Jesus we receive the Spirit and then we’re invited to enter His kingdom.  To partner with him in his beautiful renewal of all things.  When the people of God walk into their Christ-purchased destiny and walk by the Spirit {listen to me}, cities are changed, people are freed and his kingdom comes!  And I pray that more and more, friends, we would be the type of church, we’d be the type of believers where we walk in that.  We know it, we receive it and we enter.  I pray that you will.  I pray that I will more and more.

Let’s pray.  Jesus, we don’t want to have a form of godliness and deny its power.  We don’t want to play church. So Spirit stir in us.  Awaken in us.  Like we’ve already prayed.  Lord, I just pray into that picture I have in my mind for some who are in this room right now, Lord.  They’re followers of you, but their faith has grown stale. Your Spirit in them has grown dormant.  Lord, I pray that this morning that there would be a repentance.  That there would be a receiving of forgiveness.  And Father, that we wouldn’t just be left as spiritual refugees, but that you would lead us all the way home.  If that’s you would you just raise your hand? You feel like I’m here, but the Spirit’s just dormant in me.  I believe but…….  Jesus, for my friends here with their hands raised, I pray that you would stir something in them that only you can stir.  Holy Spirit, would you move, would you change, would you break up the hard soil around our heart?  And remind us of the love of the Father.  Remind us of the reality of the Spirit within us.  Lord, help us repent, help us believe, help us surrender and once again be filled with your gracious, glorious Spirit.  May it point to Jesus.  May it lift him high.  May it glorify him. May it make him beautiful in our eyes.  It’s in your name that we pray.  Amen.

 

The Movement – Caffeinated Christianity2020-08-20T23:45:56-06:00

The Movement – Glorious Gospel Intersections

{Pastor Ryan began by talking about Volunteer Appreciation — theme was “Super Heroes” for the volunteers were the heroes to staff.  A “dance” was performed by the staff to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”  Chorus lyrics:  Did you ever know that you’re my hero?  You’re everything I wish I could be.  I could fly higher than an eagle; for you are the wind beneath my wings?}

God, do you care about us in this way?  Do you care about us in the area in being encouraged, in being supported, cuz that’s what good ‘ole Bette’s singing about, right? These people have come along or sustained her behind the scenes; they’re the proverbial wind beneath her wings.  Does God care when we’re discouraged?  Does God when we’re at the end of our rope?  Does care when we’re just burned out?  Frustrated?  Disappointed?  Doubting? Does God care?  A lot of the times we’ll answer “Yeah;” that’s the church answer, right?  Of course he does!  The question becomes HOW does he care?  How does he build into his people when there isn’t the proverbial wind beneath their wings?  When they’re discouraged? When they’re burned out? When there’s doubt? When there’s fear? When there’s pain?  How does God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, come alongside his people and say I love you and I long for you to walk in more joy and encouragement and peace and wholeness.  I long for you to do that so I’m gonna send your way some things in order to minister to your very soul.  How does he do that?  I don’t know about you, but if he does I want in!  It’s just God’s divine sovereignty that I’d be preaching on Acts 18, which is about that, this morning.  In many ways, I walked in this morning on fumes!  Just to honest with you.  I got here at 7:00 like I normally do, after praying and studying at another coffee shop.  I walked in here—-parking lot’s not plowed and I just wanted to scream into a pillow!! Lord, are you kidding me??!!  I had a long week—I could have done without that!  Anybody else walk in that way this morning?

Here’s a beautiful truth from the Scriptures we’re going wrap hearts and our minds around this morning—is that God loves to encourage his church!  I don’t know about you, but I’m shocked by this truth.  Because I know me and I know you don’t get a whole lot when you encourage me, ok?  So if you’re the God of the universe, why focus your energy on encouraging your people?  We’re just normal, small, everyday people, but the God of the universe loves to walk along side of us and loves to encourage us and loves to build his church up.  He loves to ENCOURAGE his church through HIS PEOPLE and through HIS PRESENCE.  Don’t you love that about our God?  Sometimes we’ve been around the story so long that we no longer hear it.  Like we’ve heard about Jesus for so long that something like that—-that the God of the universe who spoke the stars into the ski last night and sustains it and holds it all together; who is Sovereign, Creator, Sustainer, Almighty Father—-would care about people like you and me—that’s crazy! Let’s not lose the awe and wonder of the fact that God loves to encourage his people through his people and through his presence.

This whole passage this morning is about the POWER OF TOUCH.  The touch from God himself as he speaks and builds into the lives of his people.  And the power of touch from the person sitting next you, as he puts us in the body together to be the church—–not just members of a congregation, but to be the church.  Those are very different things.

If you haven’t been with us, let me catch you up a bit.  We’re in Acts chapter 17—it’s taken us 30 weeks to get here, so welcome to the party!  It’s Paul’s second missionary journey and he is in the midst of, what I would consider, some real challenges.  If you read the story of Paul’s life, there were some major challenges.  In fact, his calling is from God in Acts chapter 9—-I will show you how much you will suffer for my name (v16).  And Paul says, “Sign me up!”  Now God has to do something in your heart and in your soul and in your life to say I’m gonna put my name on the dotted line for that mission.  But that’s what Paul does.  And as he goes from city to city, from town to town, God not only works in and through him and starts to build his church, but he also gets beat up pretty bad.  When he’s in Philippi, he, through the power of the Spirit, drives a demon out of a demon-possessed girl and a riot starts.  Not exactly what you’re looking for when that happens. He goes to Thessalonica after that, where he enjoys some great ministry success, but ultimately he’s forced to flee in the middle of the night because of persecution.  After that he goes to Berea and the exact same thing happens.  In Acts 17, where we camped out last week, Paul gives what many would consider his best sermon in the book of Acts, in the sense that he really points people to the resurrection, points people to Jesus best and most prominent.  And people are like that’s cool….that’s great, Paul…..glad that works for you.  A few people believed, most people though said nyaah, think we’re good.  And so Paul, after sort of licking his wounds as it were, is going to come to Corinth.  And that’s where we’re going to pick up the story this morning.

In the letters he writes to the church in Corinth, he says I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling (v3).  He says later on in 2 Corinthians that when he got to them his body had no rest, he was afflicted at every turn, he was fighting enemies outside of himself, and he was fighting fear from within. Anyone go Paul, I’m with you there?  We’re going to pick up the story, but you have to know what’s behind the story is that there’s no wind beneath his proverbial wings.  Ok?  He’s not going yes and amen to Bette Midler. He’s asking where’s this wind you speak of, Bette.  Where is it?  And how do I keep going?  How do I keep ministering and how do I keep preaching and Jesus, sometimes it seems you show up and your hand is all over it and sometimes I can’t see you anywhere!

Acts 18:1After this {after giving the sermon we talked about to the Athenians on Mars Hill} he left Athens and went to Corinth. {Quick timeout—this is about 60 miles away, plus or minus, a two day journey.  What Athens was to the philosophical, intellectual world of the day, Corinth was to the party world.  This is a place that is filled with drunkenness, filled with debauchery, filled with promiscuity, so that’s what Paul’s walking into.  On the hill outside of town was a temple to the goddess Aphrodite.  There were 1,000 temple prostitutes that “worshipped” during the day and by evening they performed their duties.  This is the world he’s walking into.  So he goes from this intellectual capital to the “party” capital, if you will.  It’s a place that’s just bursting with economic newness and it is flowing with money; people are newly rich; people are entrenched in their idolatry and their worship of sexuality; and Paul finds them in this place.} Verse 2–And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.  And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.  And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.   Interesting, isn’t it?  I came to you in weakness, I came to you in fear, I came to you in trembling, I came to you with no wind in my sails and when I got there, I found Priscilla and Aquila.  As if to say and they restored me, and they built into me, and they loved me in my weakness, and they were with me in my ministry, and they were some of the wind beneath my wings.

Here’s what we’re going to learn this morning—that God loves to encourage his church through his people and through his presence and one of the ways he does that is he SUSTAINS us through RELATIONSHIPS.  Friends, if all we do is come together on a Sunday morning and we sit next to each other and if all we are is a congregation and we’re not a “family”, then this never happens, right?  But God’s design for us is far more than just Sunday morning, it’s far more than just sitting next to somebody in a seat or in a pew, and it’s actually walking with people, doing life with one another.  Does God care about your friendships?  YES!  He does.  At one of the lowest points in Paul’s ministry, he meets two of the most significant friendships in his life. Coincidence?  Probably not!  No!  This is the way that God works.  This is the way that God moves.  God uses his people to be carriers and conduits of his encouraging presence and power.

We got to witness this first hand while my mom got sick.  My mom and dad were part of a small group, a life group, at their church.  I got to see these people from their life group every single week bring a meal over to their house.  They didn’t just hand it off and say high five, enjoy.  They said let’s eat together.  And people would come over and cut my mom’s hair because she was too weak to get out of the house.  People came over and gave her manicures and pedicures.  People can do that for a few weeks, but these people did it for a YEAR! And that’s the way God works, that’s the way God does things, because he cares about his people and he longs to build into his people.  He longs to be a God who says, I care if you’re encouraged. I care if you’re depressed and downtrodden and you feel beat up and you feel like there’s fear and weakness and you came in trembling. I know you came in trembling, but I came with provision and a plan.  And the plan’s name is Aquila and Priscilla. They are here because they’re religious refugees—they got kicked out of their home.  They left everything they owned out of fear of being persecuted.  They landed here and I’m going to use even that to build my kingdom. And if anybody should have said we’re just gonna rest and we’re gonna relax and we’re gonna recharge and people can minister to us; we’re gonna sorta put our feet up it was Priscilla and Aquila—–but they didn’t!!! They’re like we’re here in Corinth as religious refugees and wherever God plants us we are going to partner with him in building his kingdom.  And part of building his kingdom is partnering with his people.  What a beautiful picture of the church, yes?!  And don’t you love it….before church breaks out in a building or breaks out in the pews, it breaks out in this blue-collar work force!  They’re building tents; they’re just in their normal rhythm of their everyday life and the Gospel starts to take root in their souls and it starts to bloom beautifully. Because that’s the way Jesus works! He sustains his people through his people.  They got kicked out of their town, but they found Paul and they encouraged him and they built into him and they were lifelong partners in ministry.

Listen to the way that Romans 16:3-4 talk about Aquila and Priscilla.  Just a quick side note (you can decide how important it is).  The only time Aquila is mentioned first, and Aquila is the husband, is in Acts 18 when they’re introduced.  The other four times in the Scriptures, Paul mentions them often in letters, Priscilla is mentioned first.  She seems to be the rock.  She seems to be the teacher.  In many ways the new Testament house churches…..she was a STALWART!  You decide how important that is.  Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.  Did God use this couple??  Undoubtedly!!  Not only that, but he used them in a time when they were displaced, when they were probably low on money, they were low on energy, they were discouraged and God brought them right at the right time to the Apostle Paul to say, let’s keep going together!  I love the way that natural connections turn into Gospel, beautiful Gospel, communities!

So the question has to be for us, who’s God placed around us that he might want us to be an encouragement to? That he might want us to pour into? That he might want us to pray for? That he might want us to partner with? That he might want us to start a life group with?  What might God do if we just started to ask him the question? Because he uses relationships to sustain us, make us, shape us and build us.  But that’s not always easy, is it? No, it’s not!  Here’s a few things for me that are tough: 1) vulnerability–because in order to have these type of Gospel-centered, sustaining, life-giving, feeding type of relationships, we need to be willing to be honest with ourselves and say, I’m sorta at the end of my rope.  Or to say, I have doubts and I have fears and I don’t get this and I don’t understand it and to be okay with that.  We have to be willing to say, life is disappointing right now. If people are gonna pour into us and encourage us, they need to know hey, Bette sang about it, but there’s no wind beneath my wings! Because you can’t encourage someone you don’t know is struggling.

I love this passage in 2 Corinthians, where Paul’s writing to the Corinthian church.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction {in our trouble}, so that {why does God comfort us?} we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.  That’s you, church!  We’re not just a group of people that gather together on a Sunday morning and are a congregation—-we’re a family!  Where we look at each other, and we look each other in the eye, and we hear each other’s stories, and we hear each other’s pain.  And it says, ..so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. So we give it away!  It’s followers of Jesus having the courage and fortitude to say to one another two powerful words, that we hear far too often, ME TOO!  Yeah, I struggle with that, too.  I’ve been there and praise be to God, I came out the other side!  To say to people wrestling with addiction, yeah, me too; been there! To say to people wrestling with…..you fill in the blank…..kids that are gone….jobs that are insecure….yeah, me too.  And to give that comfort that we have received from God.

So 1) vulnerability–that’s hard.  Two, PURSUIT—that’s hard. It’s willing to make an effort.  I love it that he says, he (Paul) found a Jew named Aquila, as though Paul was on the lookout.  God, I know you’re in this and I know you’re here.  I know one of the ways you work is you build your church through your people and through your presence, so God, I’m on the lookout for your people, because there’s no wind beneath my wings right now.  And he pursues them and he finds them.

So, vulnerability, pursuit and three, this is tough for me and might be for you too, MARGINS. Do I have enough time in my schedule to actually do this?  Not easy, is it?  But it’s so important because God sustains his people through his people.  The story goes on.  Verse 9 and we’re skipping down a little bit.  Paul is invited into the home of Titius Justus; he leads the synagogue ruler, Crispus, to the Lord; he becomes a faithful follower of Jesus. These are beautiful things breaking forth.  Then in Acts 18:9 it says this: And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, {Anytime that happens we should probably listen, yes?  So we’re on the same page there.} “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, {Now, at this point I’d be like ok, quick time out.  With you–totally excited about it, God.  Just a few questions about all those times I got my head beat in though.  Couldn’t you have showed up then, too??!  Don’t we love to push back on God a little bit when he gives a promise like this—whoa, it would’ve been nice if you had done that back in Philippi…YESTERDAY!} …for I have many in this city who are my people.”  And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.  

Look up at me for just a second.  It’s one thing to hear my voice on Sunday morning.  It’s a whole other thing to tune your hearts to hear the voice of the Father every day.  What this passage is saying is that God speaks to Paul, and our conviction here is God still SPEAKS to his people.  The fact that the Holy Spirit lives in you is 1) not an accident, and 2) not an experiment—it’s intentional.  The God of the universe would encourage you directly, that he would speak into your life, that he would encourage you, build into you, teach you, remind you of his love, remind you of the work of Jesus…..that when you get downtrodden, you’d be able to speak to your soul and say, Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Rejoice! Remember the goodness of God that’s present…that’s here….and that’s now.

Does God still speak in visions?  Some would say no.  I think they’re wrong.  Others would say yes.  I fall in the yes category and let me tell you why.  One of the reasons I’m here at South is because of a dream I had two years before I ever knew this place existed.  And I couldn’t explain it!  I woke up in the middle of the night.  I grabbed my wife, Kelly (and I can tell you I can remember two or three dreams I’ve ever had in my entire life) and I told her that I had a dream that I’m the pastor of a church that meets in a strip mall!  Here’s the color scheme.  Here’s some of the distinctives about it—it’s got a TON of fake shrubbery!  (There’s a closet behind the sanctuary that has over 70 fake plants in it!!) We walked in the door when we were coming here to check you guys out, and walked in and I went oh my gosh!  This is it!  I looked at Kelly and said, “We’re going to get offered this job!”  And God used that to encourage us, to guide us.  We’re not here because of a dream, but without a dream, I don’t know if we’d be here.

Here’s what God says to Paul through this dream. He encourages him.  He says Paul, don’t be afraid.  Paul, keep going.  Paul, the Gospel is worth it! Jesus is worth it!  He loves you, he paid for you, he purchased you, he redeemed you.  Keep going, Paul! Keep moving!  Don’t be afraid.  He encourages his soul.  Second thing he does is assures him of his presence.  Listen to this.  Don’t be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am {what, church?} with you.  All throughout Scripture whenever God shows up, this is one of the things he says, I’m with you! I’m present! I’m here!  Why does he say it??  Because we forget it so often!  I love the way that it says it in the book of Isaiah—Fear not, for I am with you; {this is the Lord speaking} be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10Friends, stand on it.  Remind yourself of it.  And maybe this morning right now you just say God, it’s one thing to hear Ryan say that, it’s one thing to read it in your word, but it’s whole other thing to have the Spirit make it come alive in my soul!  Will you pray, God, help me come alive?  Let me know it!  Whatever life’s given you right now, wherever you’re at, He’s with you, friend!  You can rest assured of it! You can stand on it! May our eyes be open to it!

So, he encourages him.  He assures him of his presence.  And three, I would argue, he guides him.  Because after this vision, after this speaking directly from the Lord, it says: And he (Paul) stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. Which is a long time for Paul to stay anywhere!  I think it’s the second longest he stays anywhere.  He just lays down some roots here.  He says hey, I’m not going to get my face beat in here!  Well, let’s look for some property to buy!  This is nice! I can do Corinth! Not going to get beat up! Perfect!  Sign me up!  But it’s more than that.  It’s God saying to him, Paul, the torrid pace you’ve been keeping is unsustainable.  I know you feel beat me, I know you feel weak, I know you need encouragement—-just stay. Hit pause.  And just receive as you give! He speaks to him directly!  I’m convinced he wants to speak to us, too!

If you jump down to verse 24.  By this point in time, they’ve moved on to Ephesus.  Don’t you just love it!  He was there a year and a half and that gets a line in the Scriptures.  Verse 24: Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. {Quick timeout.  Alexandria is one of the educational, probably the top three educational, capitals in the world at the time.  Apollos is a very educated man, as you’re going to read.  Very educated.} He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. {Just a quick timeout. I don’t have time to address that this morning in the way it deserves to be addressed.  We’re going to do a whole message on how could Apollos be a follower of Jesus and not have the Holy Spirit, or not understand the Holy Spirit.  We’re going to do that next week, because Acts 19 naturally leads into that.  I want to set our stake in somewhere a little bit different though right now. It says….} He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him.  When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, {Which is a great line.  We could spend a whole series on that!} for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.  Don’t you just love this picture of the church??  That Apollos is there—-he’s from Alexandria.  You have Priscilla and Aquila and they’re from Italy.  You have Apollos who is well trained, eloquent, well-versed, gone to the best schools.  And you have Priscilla and Aquila—-they’re blue collar tentmakers….that’s what they spend they’re day doing.  And they look at Apollos and go you got some pieces that are in place and they are great.  High five! Good job! But why don’t you come over for dinner so we can fill in some of the blanks?  Why don’t you come over and let’s chat and let’s talk.

Because this is the way God does things —- He TEACHES us in COMMUNITY.  He uses one another.  He uses us to teach each other.  There’s no hierarchy in the kingdom.  You know that, right? Sure, our pastors have been to seminary, they’ve studied, they’ve done all that, but there’s no hierarchy.  Just because we have a few letters after our name, that doesn’t mean anything in God’s eyes.  What means something is do we know the Scriptures, do we understand the Scriptures, are we even willing to learn?  The answer is yes and amen!  I love this beautiful picture of Gospel community—where it’s iron sharpening iron, and it’s relational, and it’s in a home, and it’s around a table.  It’s not a congregation, it’s not a crowd, it’s a family.  It’s a family who says way better together than we could ever be alone.  And no voice in our community is more important than another.  Some speak more, but no voice in our community is more important than another.  This is Gospel 101.

I love this picture, don’t you, of the way God builds his church and builds his people.  He sustains us through his people.  He speaks to us directly through his presence.  And he teaches us as part of a family—not just part of a class we take.  But a family that we are a part of.  This is beautiful, friends!  This is what it looks like to be part of a church.  And I pray that more and more, God would encourage us.  I just have this strong sense that today God wants to do some healing.  To bind up some broken pieces of us.  I think there are some people that relate to that.  I walked in here and there’s no wind beneath my wings!  I want to pray into that after this service.  We’re going to have our elders and prayer team up front.  I just want to ask God to do what he did in this passage in this body.  He loves to do this!  Because he loves his people!

(Pastor Ryan went into Communion introduction)

Jesus, we bow at your throne.  We lift you high.  We honor you as God.  We thank you that you’re a God who loves to build up your people, not to tear us down, but to shape us and make us more to the image of Jesus. We thank you that you use those around us in order to do that.  What a beautiful design! So Father, as we come to your table this morning, may we hear your voice.  Sustain us. Speak to us.  Teach us what it looks like to follow after you.  We love you.  It’s in your name we pray. Amen!

The Movement – Glorious Gospel Intersections2020-08-20T23:47:04-06:00

The Movement – Acts 17

January 25th 2015listen to the music from this weekActs 17:16-34 – In 1961 AW Tozer wrote, “What you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” I think the apostle Paul would have agreed. And ask chapter 17, Paul gives one of the most famous sermons recorded in the Scriptures. The entire goal of Paul’s sermon is to give the Fenians a completely different view of God. The apostle Paul is convinced that our view of God shapes the world that we see in the life that we live.

The Movement – Acts 172020-08-20T23:48:21-06:00

The Movement – Worship is Our Weapon

The Movement – Worship is Our Weapon2020-08-20T23:49:28-06:00
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