Feb. 3rd, 2015 | Series: The Movement

Sermon Content

{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!