This a sermon transcript preached by Timothy Williams. These were preached many years back, some decades ago. Preacher Timothy Williams is not associated with any church, denomination, or ministry. Blessed are those who love the honey of God’s Word!

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
(Psalm 119:103)

This sermons transcript is located at www.luke1425.org


Sermon Area Basic Introduction

Not Even Death

Not even death can keep a preacher from preaching. A godly preachers words come from fire in the bones. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)



On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. (Acts 20:7-12)

The sermons normally lasted 45 to 60 but do not grumble that my sermons were long. True by today’s milk toast entertain me Christian standards they are lengthy. But not long when one considers the days are evil and that ignorance floods the church. …making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:16)


Preach The Word
www.luke1425.org


I never preached about the Word of God. Rather I was led by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word.

What I Mean By Sound Doctrine

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage
with great patience and careful instruction.
(2 Timothy 4:2)

Audio Sermon Files


 

Fellowship By The Cross, Part 3

Tonight we’re just going to kind of take everything that we’ve been looking at and kind of put it together in one sermon. By that I mean even over the last year we’ve looked at a lot of different things about what the church looks like, a lot of this will be review. A few things will be new but I thought it would be good for us to put it into one sermon so that we know exactly what the Lord has called us to do and to be. In 2 Peter 1:12 Peter says this:

2 Peter 1:12 – So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

Even though it seems to be repetitious it’s something that God has for us because we can always gain something new from the Word. I know as I was preparing this I was asking the Lord to make this fresh and new as if I were looking at it for the first time. As if that kind of first love that discovers again what God would call us to be and what His Spirit would like to work. So the things we’re looking at as we look at tonight look at it again in a fresh and new way, asking God to make it real and alive because Christianity is not one of these things you get and then you say you have and then never go from there. It is a growing thing that always continues to happen. He goes on to say in verse 13:

2 Peter 1:13-15 – I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

Our grace and our growth in the Lord is dependant upon our knowledge of Him who is holy and growing in that. So let’s be a people growing. I want to review ten things that we’ve looked at so far—basically over the whole year. Let’s go to John 15:12. Again the title is Fellowship By the Cross; that is a resurrected kind of fellowship and a love for one another. Remember in Acts 4:32-33 we read that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of the possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” And so the church is to be a place that is alive and powerful, reflecting the resurrection power of God and that’s what we should see happening within our church and with those who look and see us—that’s what they should see. It says much grace was upon them all. In John 15:12 it says this, it talks about a love by the cross and from the cross.

John 15:12 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

The world tries to love in its fashion and its way. Each church decides which way it’s going to love and how it’s going to portray the love of Jesus Christ. But Jesus comes to each one of us and says, “This is the command, this is what I have set down, this is the thing that I have shown you.” That we are to “love each other as I have loved you.” And how did Jesus Christ show that love? We’ve already seen by washing the feet of the disciples, but also by going to the cross and dying and laying down His life. And so the cross—what is it? It is God’s way of showing us love in His way. But we choose to show people love in our way. We choose to use Jesus Christ to demonstrate our love to others. We serve when it is convenient for us to serve. We give till it feels good to us, we don’t give like Jesus gave. We ought to be a people showing the love of God as God showed it to us. In verse 13:

John 15:13 – Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Before we ever begin to talk about Christians, before we go around telling other people that, look and see what your life declares first. Would someone look at you and say, “You are an individual who is laying down his very life for other people”? That all you do is live for and breathe for and act for in order to serve other people and to be a source of blessing and grace and wisdom and knowledge to them. Ask other people that know you and say, “Do I look like an individual that lays down his life for somebody? Or do I live a kind of convenient Christianity—that is a lot of ideas, a lot of discussion, a little bit of serving here and there to make myself feel good about myself? Or would people know me as someone who is literally pouring out my life and my energy, my time and my money and all that I have for the sake of somebody else?” This is the command that Jesus has set down for us to love Him this way. Verse 13 again:

John 15:13-14 – Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

We can’t even call ourselves friends of God unless we are a people that are on the narrow road and people can see that we are laying down our life and all that we do in everything that we do. That when we offer a rebuke to somebody to correct them they can see that it is a heart of love that is seeking to present them perfect in Jesus Christ. That is a laying down of your life and not rebuking them for what you can get from them. If they see us giving and serving and slaving and laboring for them and meeting their needs is it because we have to do those things in order to appear to be a Christian? Or is it true love that motivates us to what? To go to the cross and to die for them. There’s no need for you then, if that is not there, to talk about all the other things. Don’t even talk about the Trinity or election or all the different things or the anti-Christ or any other discussion unless you have this because you’re not a friend of God. You’re merely a Pharisee or a religious individual or somebody trying to talk about Jesus Christ. But verse 15 says what? “I no longer call you servants.” Anybody who doesn’t have this kind of love flowing from them is merely a servant at best.

John 15:15 – I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Right now—tonight—we know the master’s business. And the business isn’t to discuss pre-election, the business isn’t to discuss once saved always saved. The business isn’t to talk about the Holy Spirit, the business isn’t to have a lot of ideas and concepts. The business isn’t to just give ten percent of our income or lay down a portion of our life. What is the Master’s business? To lay down our life. And so ask yourself tonight, “Am I an individual within a body within a church literally laying down my life for other people and for Jesus Christ?” Or do you come and go as you please and choose and serve as you choose and please? When it’s convenient or when it’s easy or when it will make you look good?

Everything that God has shown has been made known to us and so we know the life for which we are called to do and what we are called to be. It is to live literally a life of love, to say that my life is nothing. My rest and my comfort and my pleasure and what I want to do and my vacation time and my weekends and my work and my labor mean absolutely nothing to me. All those things are for the benefit of other individuals. That when God comes along and He says, “I want you to have some rest,” the idea behind the rest is so that you might be refreshed in order to do what? To go serve other people. And when God says, “Here, I have a work and a labor for you to do,” the work and the labor is not to give you satisfaction under the sense that you say you have a purpose in life, the work is so that you might labor and give yourself to somebody else. Jesus Christ literally left heaven and all the comfort and all the power and all the glory He had and everything that He knew—that He was familiar with—and He came to a very alien world. God calls us to go into alien situations and different circumstances and places we’re not comfortable with and to literally lay down our life in that situation. We are friends of God if we live this. If we don’t live this we might as well not look at anything else. That’s why it’s an easy thing to go and look at Acts where it says they had all things in common. There are a lot of people that object to that. They think that was for way back when or that was for the first New Testament church and you can’t apply that today. That no where else in Scripture is it mentioned—it’s mentioned everywhere, it is the very life of Jesus Christ.

Number two: Love that spends all it has for others. Look at 2 Corinthians 12:14. We’re not just talking money here, we’re talking our very self our very strength that we have. That when you eat your meal and you eat your food it gives strength to your muscles and to your body. Then you arise from that table then—as we saw—to wash the feet of other people to extend yourself for their sake. Or do you get up from the table what? Looking for your comfort and when you want to rest and what you want to do? In 2 Corinthians 12:14 Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:14 – Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

His goal is to go in and be among them and in no way, shape, or form to be a burden to who they are, but to be a blessing to them in every fashion. For them to remember Paul for what he gave to them and how he refreshed them in every way. Most pastors are content to take your possessions. That’s why when people accuse of being a new cult and you surrender everything and you give all those things they say, “How can you trust?” It’s very simple. He was not giving all and giving everything as taking everything. He who does hate and despise money love it. It’s that simple. So look at verse 15.

2 Corinthians 12:15 – So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?

“So I will very gladly. . .” Not reluctantly or because of compulsion or because he must do those things or because he’s even reminded to do those things or somebody comes to him with a need. He literally is walking into a situation, he’s coming to a body and he is looking around for the needs to come to him. He is looking to see what he can do, what needs he can meet. He doesn’t have to prodded, he doesn’t have to be asked, he doesn’t have to point anything out. He is looking for those opportunities to expend himself and to make himself poor. Jesus Christ came from all of glory to make Himself poor and when He died He was totally poor. That’s laying down our life for Him. “So I will very gladly.” You see most people don’t find it to be a joy, they find it to be a cross. We use that in a negative term, don’t we? And Jesus Christ didn’t go into the garden of Gethsemane and say, “Oh, now I’ve got to go bear My cross in order to be a Christian, in order to serve God.” It was what love compelled Him to do. It was Paul saying, “I will very gladly”—I will with joy; I will with excitement—“spend for you everything I have.” And look at what else he says. “[A]nd expend myself as well.”

You know parents that just give their money to their children. They don’t give themselves. Paul wasn’t like that. Everything that he had in terms of financial things or material things, as well as his very heart and self he gave. These are the qualifications of what it means to be a Christian or a pastor or a preacher or for a leader. “So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.” When you lay your head on the pillow in the evening and you go to sleep are you tired because you have expended yourself on others? Are you worn out from a day of pleasing yourself? As we saw earlier, you don’t wait until somebody else sets the example of servanthood. You have to be the one that rises up to set the example for other people to follow. He says, “If I love you more, will you love me less?” He also writes—you don’t have to turn to it but in 2 Corinthians 6:11 he says:

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 – We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

Verse 15 again, “If I love you more, will you love me less?” Then in verse 16 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:16 – Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!

“Be that as it may . . .” If you choose to do, if you love me less. He goes, “Be that as it may, if that’s what you choose to do I will still spend everything I have for you.” And what’s so ironic about this kind of love and we looked at this in the beginning when this body was first formed that if you have somebody that comes in and begins to lay down his life in this way, to expend self and to expend all that they have, they will think, the people will often think that you’re trying to trick them. If a man comes in and he’s greedy for his own time, if a man comes in and he’s familiar with what? Himself, and he knows how to please himself and he knows how to take care of himself and he knows how to speak in such a way as to make himself look spiritual we can identify with that kind of man because that’s what we do. He is a friend with us and we’re familiar with him and we can identify with him. But when a man comes in with honesty and purity by the Holy Spirit and he begins to pour out himself completely losing all things and everything that he owns and giving all of what he has to other people, we cannot relate to that individual—we think that he is up to something. We must become a people ourselves that are laying down our lives for other people if we are to know whom to fellowship with. It’s quite ironic how we will fellowship with people who will what? Hold back for self or reject us, or think somebody as evil who lays down their life completely. We will crucify Jesus Christ who gives all and we will ask for Barabbas who seeks to please himself. Verse 17 says:

2 Corinthians 12:17-18 – Did I exploit you through any of them men I sent you? I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?

And so as you look for teachers, as you look for what kind of life you have, could you be sent out? Could you be sent to another church and follow the same course of what? Laying down your life that you have seen that God has laid out before you now? Would there be that one spirit and that one purpose and that one mind and that one life. Is that fruit growing within you? If not then don’t even begin to talk about the deeper things of Jesus. Go back and get this and have this and build upon this first. Then begin to talk about things that are deep and hard to understand.

Number three: They loved each other more than the work or the ministry they’ve been called to. Look at 2 Corinthians 2:12. It’s amazing how 2 Corinthians talks so much about love. They love each other more than a work or a ministry or a labor or what it is they were doing.

2 Corinthians 2:12-13 – Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul goes into a town and says the Lord had opened the door for him to preach the gospel. But he had no peace about what? The ministry door that had been laid before him. Something was missing. Something that he wanted more than the open door to preach the gospel. It would be as if you lived at a location and there were twenty-five people that wanted Jesus Christ and yet you could not find a peace there. There was something that was missing. What was the element that was missing? What was it that Paul said? “I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there.” No wonder, because what did we read about Titus? He had the same spirit and he had the same course and he laid down his life in the same manner. No wonder Paul found him to be such a sweet companion. There was what? That element of laying down one’s life and that being the thing from which everything else flowed and no wonder he wanted to find Titus above everything else, even above a ministry work or an opportunity to bless his ministry.

I can remember somebody coming into this body and they were asking me that if some other doors opened up what would I do, where would I go? Because why? That person expected that naturally when larger doors open, when a bigger church calls, the pastor goes.

2 Corinthians 2:13 – I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.

What was he doing in Macedonia? He was looking for Titus. Is there a brother or sister for whom you can identify and you love and you would trade all the open doors in Jesus Christ to find that brother or that sister? Or would answered prayer be more important to you than a brother or a sister? Would God opening up an opportunity to preach the gospel be far more important to you than a brother or sister? If that is so, then why should God give us a larger building or a better place to meet or anything else?

Number four: Workers in the body are chosen by grace and pastors keep to the task. Look at Acts 6:1. Acts 6:1 talks about the first church and again the workers—the labor within the body of the church—are not chosen by a volunteer basis. That they don’t go out and say, “Who would like to do this job over here? Who would enjoy this?” They don’t send out a little form that says, “Check your interest, your likes and your dislikes, and when it comes back we’ll point you to a particular ministry.” They don’t take young individuals who come to the body and because they want to make them a part of the body give them a job to do to make them feel needed and wanted. In Acts 6:1 it says:

Acts 6:1 – In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

The first thing I want us to notice is that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to overlook certain individuals. It doesn’t mean you continue to do so but it’s okay to make a mistake. Leadership is not going to be perfect. So Scripture had to put in there that they’re not perfect. Verse 2 says:

Acts 6:2 – So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.”

Now the workers are going to be chosen by grace, the pastors know what their calling is and it’s not to committee meetings. The pastor is not called to all kinds of other duties. Look at what they are chosen to do. Verse 3. It says:

Acts 6:3 – Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them . . .

And we’re talking about giving out food and we’re talking about waiting on tables. We’re talking about some of the least activities within the body. We will look for somebody that just simply had arms and legs and go around giving food and distribute it. So when the least thing that is done in the body, the most spiritual people should fill those positions.

Acts 6:4 – and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

Was it an arrogance where they were saying, “We don’t want to wait on tables”? Was it that they just wanted to sit down in their office somewhere and not do anything? There was what? A task for which they had to keep their eyes and attention on and to keep prayer and to what? To focus so they could what? “[G]ive our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Think about what that is saying. Literally they had to go into the prayer closet and to begin to hear from God what scriptures to apply and how to minister that Word among the body in order to feed the sheep, in order to protect the flock, in order to do the work. But in order to rest secure in that work of praying and ministering the word they had to find seven men known to be full of the spirit and wisdom to do the smallest of tasks within the church. This is a major goal in most churches to find seven men known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Verse 5 says:

Acts 6:5-7 – This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

And we have to ask ourselves is this what we really want to spread? Most want to spread their church or their ministry or their reputation or who they are or their work or their labor or their name. But because they chose seven men to do the smallest of tasks, those who were in charge of preaching the Word were able to devote themselves to prayer and ministry of the Word. What does verse 7 say? “So the word of God spread.” And it says, “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” They wanted those who what? Knew the Word inside and out. The word was going out with grace and with power. That as these men of wisdom went around the town giving away the food and talking with individuals and visiting with others they were able to share the wisdom and the grace of God. They were giving spiritual food even as they passed out physical food.

As you’ve heard me say many times the most spiritual person in the church needs to be the janitor. That’s whom everybody speaks to and sees long before they see the pastor. He’s the one that can hear the conversations that nobody pays attention to as he’s pushing a broom down the hallway. He’s the one that can report on things going on within the body that shouldn’t be going on or good things that may be happening. He’s the one that minister and talk to the children who feel free to run right up to him. The most spiritual person in the body needs to be the one pushing the broom.

Number five: Differences of opinion were solved by the grace of God. Let’s look at Acts 15:36. Differences of opinion were not solved by all kinds of intellectual pursuits, discussions, and debates. In Acts 15:36 a very practical situation comes up and it’s solved by the grace of God. It says:

Acts 15:36-38 – Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.

Because he had not been faithful Paul didn’t feel they should bring him.

Acts 15:39 – They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,

But look at what verse 40 says:

Acts 15:40 – but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

There was that sense and that understanding within the body and within the church that that’s where the grace of God was at and that’s who had God’s approval. In verse 39 again it says that they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. And it just says Barnabas took Mark and he sailed for Cyprus and took off. But again Paul and Silas were commended, that is they were held up; they were shown to be true. It was said that that’s where the grace of God was and that’s what signified where the Lord was at and what His will was. And so problems and issues that arise and doing everything, we need to back up and we need to begin to say, “Where is the grace of God? Where is the Spirit of the Lord speaking in such a circumstance or in a certain situation where there is a disagreement?” It says that we need to what? Find out where that grace is and we need to hold to that grace. We need not let get our emotions and our human feelings get in the way. If this were to happen in most churches what would happen? You’d find a whole group siding with Marvelous Mark over here and you’d find another groups siding with Paul over here and you’d find so many people in the middle trying to patch the two together. It says what needs to be happening in the body is what? Looking for that grace of God and saying, “Okay, that’s where the grace is and that’s what we need to hold to and we’re not going to move anywhere else we don’t find the grace of God moving toward. We will not give our approval to anyone or any circumstance or any situation unless we can sense and feel that it is the grace of God in that particular situation.” But what do we use? We use our human reasoning, our human wisdom and our logic and our debates and we talk and we pray and we do all these things and we get all these discussions and we try to reason it all out and we lay it all out and we say, “They’re both good brothers, they both have the grace” and we just kind of throw up our arms and let things happen. There needs to be holding to the course of saying, “This is the presence of the Lord.” We need to say with Moses as they get ready to go into the Promised Land, “Don’t send us out from here unless You go with us.” There needs to be that sense and that prayer and that looking and saying, “Is there the grace of God?” not “Is their the logic fitting?” or who’s friends with whom or who sides with whom.

Let us back up as we begin to move into all kinds of projects and works that God is calling us to do. Let us make sure that we have the grace of God there above all costs.

Number six: Acts 5:13 says people were afraid to join them.

Acts 5:13 – No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.

In Acts 5:12 it says:

Acts 5:12 – The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.

Now the church has totally lost this whole aspect of the grace of God. I mean miracles that come by God, because what is the result of this kind of grace? What is the result of preaching and presenting miracles that really come from the Lord? But verse 13 said that even with all the miraculous signs happening among the people, what does it say the reaction of the people was? “No one else dared join them.” When they looked at that church and when they looked at all they did and all the miracles and all the praising and all the worship that went on, they didn’t flock to, they didn’t put up the lounge chairs and line up so they could get in. They were afraid to belong to that church. But when you take away the holiness and when you take away the righteousness and the demand that comes from the Holy Spirit, when you take away a cross that is offensive people will line up. “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” The people knew that they were a holy people. They were living devout lives before God. That they had a fear and a love for God. That there was a sensibility about them that they understood that these people loved the Lord. And so the only way they added numbers, verse 14 says:

Acts 5:14 – Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.

You find a nice contradiction in Scripture, I love it. “No one else dared joined them.” Scripture tells us, so what’s the solution? Obviously the solution is that God came down among that town and said, “You will join that church whether you want to or not.” And they were surprised to find themselves believing and being there. It came as a shock to them. “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”

In Acts 5:9, backing up just a little bit, Ananias and Sapphira had died.

Acts 5:9-11 – Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

This is not a soft pedaling of the cross of Jesus Christ like we’d like to do. How often we like to say, “Go easy on that brother” and “Go easy on this sin” and “Go easy on that sister. Don’t make them squirm too much”? And we reassure them that we love them and our grace is with them and our understanding is with them and we know what it feels like. Peter is direct and to the point; they need to deal with their sin, only it was too late by now. This is why people were afraid to join them because even though the miracles and the signs and the wonders and grace was there, so was what? The holiness and the righteousness of God.

Number seven: It was a persecuted church. Look at Acts 8:1. As you know 2 Timothy 3:12 says:

2 Timothy 3:12 – In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

It’s an absolute and total fact that if somebody is not being persecuted because they’re laying down their life for somebody else then they’re not a Christian. Because those who lay down their life and those who are giving up everything are seriously hated by some very serious enemies. In Acts 8:1 it says:

Acts 8:1 – And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

Stephen is being stoned. The man who had been chosen to wait on tables is being stoned and heralded and written down in Scripture. So when you begin to say to yourself that all I do in the church is something minor and insignificant, do understand that the work and the labor and the waiting tables, that is what God is looking for and the righteousness with which you do that. And you don’t know how the pushing of a broom or the waiting on tables will shine out for all glory for all the angels to see. “Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”

Acts 8:1 – . . . On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

They lost their whole church in a day. What a strange feeling that must have been. You work and you labor and you pray and you preach and you build people up and one day persecution breaks out and all you’ve got are the apostles looking at each other. Verse 2 says:

Acts 8:2 – Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.

“Mourned deeply for him.” While men mourn, God is working something else. We’re always marching in triumphant procession, even if the church is totally scattered. If tomorrow this church was totally shattered and everybody was running in different directions, we’re still marching forward, we’re always marching forward, we always have the victory, so why are we afraid of men? Verse 3:

Acts 8:3 – But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

So while the church thinks it’s in its low moment while everybody is being scattered Saul is rising up and he’s coming to this occasion and he’s seizing the moment and he has the power to destroy. He’s going from house to house, he’s dragging off men and women and he’s putting them in prison. While Paul is getting ready to be born. And he’s probably no doubt watching some of these people that he hauls out and he’s watching their face and he’s watching their life.

Acts 8:4 – Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

Look at the maturity with which they had grown. That wherever they were scattered and wherever they went they begin to preach the same message. They didn’t have to have Peter right there, they went out and preached the gospel wherever they went and wherever they were scattered. They were sure, they were solid in Jesus Christ preaching the gospel.

One of the greatest dangers to the whole church is we’re going to get very, very comfortable if there is no persecution for a period of time. And that’s okay if that’s what God brings. The Scripture says there was a time of peace for the church. But it’s real easy to sit back and take it easy and to be a little easier on the cross because when men are persecuting you and when men are coming after you, that’s when you seek and cry out to God because you need Him. Realize that when God gives you the rest and when He gives you the quiet, that’s the time to search for sin like you’ve never searched for it before, not when you’re being persecuted. The time to grow is that time when you have the free time to do it, when men are not pursuing you and hounding you. That’s the time to study and to look and to pray and to confess sin and to examine and to look at the deep things within your heart that you need to repent of. Because some day you might be scattered and you need to preach wherever you go. And you need to take the things that you have learned that have come to life within your heart and you need to be able to declare it to somebody else. “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Their boldness shone everywhere. They were not ashamed and they were not embarrassed. They knew the message and the power of the cross. They stood in men’s faces and they declared the good news. This church is strong and it’s powerful because strong men wait on tables.

Number eight: All things are new. In Acts 4:31 it says:

Acts 4:31 – After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

You know this is one of the most simple, basic things you can say—all things are new. And yet it’s one of the fewest things that you can find. Everybody talks about being a new creation in Jesus Christ but how little you can really find that where you take a man who has come to Jesus Christ and continues down the road. You compare that man with this man and you say everything is new. All of his likes and dislikes are different. All of his passions have completely changed. All the things that he does and says and everything about his personality, who he is and what he does and where he likes to go—everything is different compared to this man over here. We really can’t say all things are new. And yet it says the first church in verse 31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.” We’re talking about our whole lives being shaken and we becoming totally different creatures in every single way. So much so that family members and old friends do not recognize you and they say, “Who are you and what happened to you?” “[T]hey were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” So different, so changed that the fear of men does not reside in their hearts at all. So different have they become that when they look in the mirror they see the grace of God in action. They have nothing to be afraid of. So much evidence stands before them because why? When they look in the mirror they can see the transformation that if God is able to transform that man, that person says, “He is able to protect, He is able to deliver, and He is able to work.” That all the evidence I have in the world is that He took this wicked heart and He took this wicked life and He took this personality and He crucified all those things and He gave rich life. Behold all things are new. Are they new? Are you totally different in terms of jokes, in conversations and life and actions, where you go, what you do, how you dress, everything?

In 2 Corinthians 5:13 Paul says:

2 Corinthians 5:13 – If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Again, everything he does is for somebody else. Before that time everything he did was for himself. In terms of legalistic righteousness Paul would say he was faultless. In verse 14:

2 Corinthians 5:14 – For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

“[F]or Christ’s love compels us.” He is motivated, he moves forward, he can’t stop himself, he can’t help himself. If he were to say, “I will not share this, I will not say another word,” love would well up within him and he could not stop. He’ll find somebody to serve, he’ll find somebody to pray for, he’ll find some way to expend himself. He’ll find some way to make himself poor, he will look for the opportunity for it to be done.

2 Corinthians 5:15 – And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

The old person lived totally for himself. The new one totally lives completely for others.

2 Corinthians 5:16 – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.

We never look at anybody with psychological reasons any more. We never look at a man in terms of his human talents and wisdom and abilities. Why? Because it is a sin to use psychology? That’s one theory out in the church. Why do we not look at a man in terms of his talents and his wisdom and his abilities and what he is able to do, because why? It’s wrong to do such psychological analysis? The reason why it is wrong is because now we’re talking about the grace of God that changes a man. It has nothing so much to do with the way that psychology is wrong, it has to do with the grace of God. That God can take and give a man a talent or He can take it away.

2 Corinthians 5:16 – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

And so what does he refrain with? What does he say in verse 17? You can just hear him what? Bursting forth.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

“[H]e is a new creation.” He has new talents, he has new opinions, he has new thoughts, he has new abilities. Everything about him is totally, completely changing. And if we lose being able to say that behold all things are new, then we no longer have Jesus Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

I can remember very early when Jesus Christ took hold of me, my human nature was far more atrocious. And I would seek to change that or people would say I needed to change and my wife in her love would say, “Well, that’s just a part of Tim. That’s who he is.” I mean she wanted some of it to go. I would say, “No, that all has to go. That all has to be crucified, the new has come.” By the time Jesus Christ is through there will be no comparison between that man there and the man that is resurrected. If there is a similarity between the two I have failed to run my race. Behold all things should be new by the time that you’re done.

Number nine: It was a miraculous church. Acts 4:29. It says:

Acts 4:29-30 – Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

And so the church makes much of that today. And it is true that it was a miraculous church and God could still do miracles today. The only difference is He’ll be very quiet. It will no longer be to demonstrate something to be true. Look at John 10:40. It says this about John the Baptist:

John 10:40-41 – Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.”

So we may never perform a miraculous sign or a wonder, especially living in the last days. We’ll see why here in a moment. But everything that we say about Jesus Christ is true. He still does miracles and He still does wonders. He still demonstrates His power and His grace. He still confirms His Word for those who look. Now verse 42 says:

John 10:42 – And in that place many believed in Jesus.

In that place, in that place where John preached and the manner in which he preached and the way he declared the grace of God and how he did that by the power of God many believed in Jesus, the Scripture says.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 it talks about our time. It talks about the time period in which we live. It says:

2 Thessalonians 2:9 – The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,

All kinds, not just a few that you can pick and choose here and there. Right now we’ve just got gold teeth and gold dust and a few minor things than being slain in the Spirit and falling down and looking at the ceiling and counting ceiling tiles and all those things. There will be so many miracles beginning to take place you won’t be able to count the ways that they begin to happen.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 – and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.

So let us not begin to seek out signs and wonders but to plea for His righteousness and holiness and if He chooses to do some miracles we’ll praise Him for that. Let us be wise about the time period in which we live. Let us understand the kind of grace that is necessary for God to confirm His Word in men’s hearts and lives.

And number ten—and probably the most important one: They devoted themselves to prayer. Look at Colossians 4:12. How many churches take their salvation for granted? And they take their fellowship of the people there for granted. In Colossians 4:12 it says:

Colossians 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

We need individuals like this man here. Look at what it says about him. “He is always wrestling in prayer for you.” He is always taking of his time and his comfort and he’s entering the magic arena called prayer. Most of us are lucky to get ten or fifteen minutes in prayer and we’re usually praying for our needs to get us through the day and to feel a little bit of the measure of the man in the Spirit so we can get on with today. This man what? Devoted himself to wrestling in prayer for what? “[T]hat you may stand firm in all the will of God.” He would literally enter the prayer closet and when he would sense God moving in one direction he would reach around as a wrestler does and he begins to grab a hold and to say, “I’m going to conquer this over here.” And then he feels the battle going on over here and he reaches over and begins to pray for that. And each time something came up and each time a different battle was arising and a different work was coming this man was laying hold of that and praying it unto completion and to maturity. And this is why it is so important that we have leadership that is able to devote itself to what? “[P]rayer and ministry of the word.” “He is always wrestling in prayer for you.” That is, that when he looked at their life and he looked at individually who they were and they would say, “Okay, here’s a weak spot over here. This brother is beginning to fall prey to that sin.” He would reach around him and begin to pray and wrestle him in prayer until he gained the victory there. He literally poured himself out for the sake of others. “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

How many churches I know that don’t even have to pray this any more. They’ve already got their salvation. Why be fully assured of what you already have? They already think they’re mature. We need to pray that God will send His workers—mature men. Men that can wait on tables with wisdom and full of the Spirit. Men who know how to wrestle in prayer. Not just for their own needs and their own growth but a hard-work kind of prayer, a laboring kind of prayer, who has the time to pray and to labor.

Let’s go to 2 Thessalonians 1:11. Paul says:

2 Thessalonians 1:11 – With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.

“With this mind, we constantly pray for you.” The only way this body will continue to grow and to be strengthened is we are all going to have to constantly pray. To do that one command would take care of a lot of bitter roots, wouldn’t it? To be always communing with Him who is holy. Instead of worrying about our petty sins and problems and the things we wrestle with begin to pray and to plead and to constantly pray. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling.” That He might look down and He might say, “You live a life that is holy and righteous and you are walking as you need to walk.” That you could sense that kind of obedience.

John says a perfect love drives out all fear. We need that maturity that knows that we are in a relationship with God and that all the fear is driven out. Not because we are foolish and just claiming it because we like that promise. But because there’s a maturity and a relationship with God and you know that nothing is going to get in the way with you fellowshipping and worshipping with God even when you stumble in many ways. “That our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours.” Men who pray what? That we become very, very weak that we might be dependent upon God’s power to fulfill everything. That we can form committees, we can do fund raising, we can labor, we can work and we can put forth effort and it wouldn’t be by His power. We need men that are always praying, “By Your power, O God, by Your grace, by Your strength, enable us.” “[A]nd that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” Men who know how to pray that every time you act in faith that God fulfills and works and glorifies His name. That every time we reach out to love somebody that it is the grace of God that is moving and working for that to happen with every purpose that we do as a body and everyone that we touch that it would be the grace of God doing the work through us and not our intellect and not our wisdom and not our own likes and dislikes, but His grace of God working and moving through us and in their lives.

This requires prayer calling down from Him who is holy. Remember the story of Moses? As long as he had his hands up the battle was won. Then it took others to hold up his hands so that the battle could continue and they could win the victory. And you begin to depend on somebody else to pray or you begin to slack in prayer, the body is only weakened. “And that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.”

2 Thessalonians 1:12 – We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

That we might walk daily as we go to the grocery store and as we meet people, as we devote ourselves to very quiet things. Because what did the first church devote themselves to? Very quiet things. It says in Acts that they devoted themselves to what? To the Word of God, to sermons, they devoted themselves to daily fellowshipping with each other. Very quiet and holy things. They devoted themselves to breaking bread and to prayer. They devoted themselves to large works and grand projects, things to get noticed for the grace of God. We need to plead and pray before God that we not advertise anything, or promote in any way. That He doesn’t call and that His grace is not in, but we need to pray to know that. God wants to know what’s important to us—His glory or our name? “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is what the first church looked like. This is its holiness and righteousness.

Let’s go ahead and pray.

Father, again we ask that You do this work and mightily, Father, to send with great power to do it. That, Father, You would glorify Your name in us and You would take hold of us, Father, that we can embrace one another. Father, the first church was a church full of Your grace, Your powerful grace that enables and strengthens. How often in Scripture they ask, Father, to be enabled to speak with great boldness and power. Father, we offer ourselves to You and we ask You to search this body to bring those, Father, that will lay down their lives and hold nothing back. We ask You, Father, to come and to take our lives, to do that work of crucifixion, Father, that we cannot do. Where we are not willing, Father, make us willing and where we hold on to things come and steal it from us, O Lord. Take our time and our lives and we know that such a prayer You will honor. We ask, O Lord, that you grant us Your grace that we might be found faithful. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.

 


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