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About this series
God's Agenda for Planet Earth (including you)
Sometimes it's confusing to try and figure out God's agenda for a world in turmoil, much less make sense of your unique purpose in His bigger picture. Yet God has a specific calling for each of us, and learning to walk in that calling propels us to take steps both large and small that DO change the world. This series, drawn from Acts, examines the Biblical truth about God's agenda for planet earth, His perfect timing and what all of it has to do with you. You'll learn how to recognize how God's plan unfolds in your life and in the world around you, and how to avoid the "grace stoppers" that can destroy God's work in your life.More from this series
God daily prepares divine appointments for you to be the answer to someone’s prayer. “Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” That’s from the very lips of Jesus.
You know how you do that? You draw near to God so you’re in tune. You start asking, “I want to look through life through Your eyes, not mine.”
And then when God, and early on, it’s okay if you have a few misses. I could tell you some other stories that didn’t come out that well. I thought I had a prompting; I think it was a “Chipting.” But you know what? I would rather go down swinging, wouldn’t you?
Number four, give God the credit. Notice when this happens. Because, you know, I think Peter is as shocked as anyone else. Long before these guys got to be in stained glass they were just ordinary, blue collar workers trying to figure out what was going on.
So you pick up the story, look at verse 11. “While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified His servant Jesus.’”
Now what’s Peter do real quickly, here? “Guys, you understand, this isn’t about us.” Boy, this isn’t, like, like I’m smarter, better, cooler. This isn’t that I’ve got all this faith. This isn’t my gifts. This isn’t my personality.
This is, this is God. God does miracles. He did miracles then; He does miracles now. The issue isn’t God’s power, isn’t God’s will, isn’t God’s desire, it’s a conduit. He’s looking for an ordinary person like a Peter or a John or a Mary to just say, “Hey, I’m kind of looking through your lens and I’m going to take step of faith and I’m going to love in places that make me a little uncomfortable.” And God shows up.
But when He does, here’s the key: be really careful. Because, you know, I’ve got to tell you. When I drove off after giving that lady a little money and it wasn’t, like, a ton of money but it felt pretty good.
I don’t know why but when you’re generous you feel a little happy inside, you know? Felt kind of happy.
And I bet if I did a quick news interview, I think I could have fallen quickly into, “You know, I was pretty wonderful today, wasn’t I?” You know? Right? Right?
Jot in your notes, if you would, Isaiah 42:8. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name. I will not give My glory to another.”
You’ll notice, what you need to remember is the world has yet to see the extent of what God will do through someone who does not care who gets the credit.
God’s waiting for a church like that, he’s looking for people like that, and it’s subtle. Right? I mean, none of us are immune to this. It’s when you serve, it’s when you care, it’s when you love, it’s when you’re generous. Pride is really, really ugly and it’s deceptive.
The reason that a lot of people are not very responsive to Christ is the package that Christ is coming in. And there’s, it’s a very tender arrogance that we have as people that we’ve got to be careful of.
And somehow, over time, something shifts in our brain and you get thinking, “Well, I’m a have and they’re a have-not. I know what’s going on, look at the terrible things they’re doing. And look at this and look at that.”
And even if you don’t say it, when you look down on other people and you think that you’re superior or I think I’m superior, it, there’s a vibe that comes off you.
The reason people were so attracted to Jesus is they never got that vibe. And He’s the only one that had the right to say, “I’m up here and you’re down here.” But He was a servant.
Now, He didn’t back away from the truth. I mean, He’s talking to a gal that’s, you know, had five marriages and shacked up with someone. But she didn’t feel, she didn’t feel condemned. She felt like the truth was there and she was loved, and she felt convicted. And that’s what God wants from us.
God wants us to realize, you know what? You’re like one really bad decision or doing something stupid from having a life where you’d say, “Wow, how did that happen?”
We’re all people of flesh. I praise God the Spirit of God lives in me. The difference is we’re forgiven, the difference is He lives inside of us, and we’re the conduit to share and to care. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict.
You share the truth in grace. Usually you hear people that they give people all truth or they give them all grace. Love is giving both in balance from a heart that really cares.
I love the verse here I put in Luke 1:37 because it’s so interesting who God chooses to use. This is a response of an angel to Mary. Remember Mary? The little teenager, scholars believe, probably fifteen years old, maybe seventeen at the oldest.
And the angel says, “God has a God-sized dream for your life. I know you’re young but it’s a God-sized dream. He’s going to show up to the planet and He’s going to live a perfect life and die for the sins of all mankind. He’s the Messiah. He’s the Savior. And very soon He’s going to implant in your womb the supernatural seed of the Spirit of God and you’re going to have a baby.”
And this little fifteen to seventeen-year-old girl goes, “Um, like, I haven’t majored in biology but how can that happen since I don’t have a husband?” And the angel says, “Mary, with God, all things are possible.”
He wants you to know that. With God, all things are possible. With God at your work, in your marriage, in your home, in your singleness, on your campus, with God, all things are possible. Do you believe it?
See, at the end of the day, really, what it boils down to, the whole Christian life, you draw near to God and live before Him. You get strengthened in community and as you’re on mission, it’s just believing. It’s just trusting. With God, all things are possible.
Because if that’s true you take steps that you would never take. If it’s impossible, that’s you know, then what you do is you cul-de-sac in your mentality and you figure out: how can my life in my little world, you know, can I get safe to make it work for me?
And then we lose. We lose the purpose for our living. We lose the purpose for why God put us here. The number one priority of the Church is to build up the life of fellow believers so that those who don’t know might know. And they can know, not just by what we say, but by how we live.
Well, it shifts and we’ve got a pretty good crowd. And the crowd, now, is going to hear a sermon. We got the story.
And he’s going to pick up the sermon and remember it’s a very Jewish group and he’s done this right outside in the open area of the temple courts and so we pick up the story in verse 13 where he says, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified His servant Jesus.”
Now, for some of us, that’s not a real key word. But if you would go back and read in Isaiah 42, 49, 52, and 53 there’s a whole section where the Messiah is described as the servant of the Lord.
So this would very quickly get their mind thinking, “Oh, so you’re saying this Jesus was the Messiah?” “Yep.”
And then when you share with people, you need to understand, and let me just give you this and you can listen to how Peter does it. There’s part of it, part of the good news of the gospel is bad news.
It’s that you really have blown it, just like I have, and you’ve sinned and you fall short of a holy God. And we’ve got to make sure we say that.
And then after the bad news there’s the good news. But God really, really loves you and cares for you and in that good news there needs to be an explanation that Christ died for you, literally, as your substitute.
And then the final part, when you share as you’re going to see Peter, you have to call people to a point of decision. It’s not just this is what He did, I hope you’re now aware of it. When you share the gospel, you need to say to them, “Is there anything keeping you from putting your faith in Christ today?”
I mean, is it uncomfortable? Of course it’s uncomfortable. But if people just hear, you know, there’s a movie. It’s free. It’s the best ever. But you can’t get a ticket. Or I won’t tell you how. Well, you see what I’m saying?
So, listen for the bad news. Listen for the good news. And then listen as he calls them to a very specific response.
Verse 14, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released. You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is in Jesus’ name and the faith that comes, through Him, that has given His complete healing to him, as you can see.”
So this man, for forty years, has been laying outside, he’s leaping and dancing and praising God, a crowd of thousands of people are mushrooming and now he says, “This Jesus that you disowned, the Author of life that you killed, that you…”
Does this sound like good news? I mean, I’ll tell you what, I mean, this would be, like, “Oh my. What if this guy is right?”
And by the way, here’s the proof, you see this guy? It’s in His name. It’s not me. It’s in His name, and His power, and faith in Him, that’s done this.
And so they’re looking at this miracle. But notice once you share and I think his tone of voice was not condemning. I think it was very matter of fact. I think Peter loved these people. And so, notice he shifts gears.
He goes, “Now brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance. I mean, you didn’t get it. You didn’t really believe He was the Messiah. As did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what He foretold through the prophets saying that the Christ would suffer.”
I mean, so basically, the good news is, you know, if you fully understood at all, I don’t think you’d have done that. So, now, here’s the option. Here’s the call. “Repent, then, and turn to God.” Why? “So that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord and that He may send the Christ who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.”
Then he quotes Moses, “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. You must listen to everything He tells you. Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from among His people.’
“Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on as many have spoken and foretold about these days, these Messianic days when the Spirit would come, when the Messiah’s promises would be true and you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring, all the peoples of the earth will be blessed when God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.’”
I want to encourage you that this gets, it’s a baby step but boldly share the good news. Boldly share.
If you want to know, you know, everyone wants to know. What’s the real evidence of the Holy Spirit? I mean, how do you know the Holy Spirit really has a hold of your life?
And some people will say, “Well, it’s an event like this or it’s an experience like that.” Let me tell you, you read all the way through the book of Acts, the common denominator when you are filled or saturated and controlled by the Holy Spirit is boldness. It’s boldness.
You actually get where you’re not so afraid of rejection. You get where you realize the love of God and your concern for people who don’t know Him outweighs your fear of what they’re going to think of you. And that takes a Spirit of God moment. It’s boldness. He’s bold.
I don’t know about you, but I take a deep breath when I have to tell someone the bad news of the gospel: you’re lost apart from Christ. “Oh, am I going to get put in a category? That sounds very narrow. You’re saying Jesus is the life and the only way?”
“No, no. I’m not saying that. He said that.” Okay, listen, at some point in time, you’re either going to, kind of, slide and sort of try and be okay with everything and everyone and, sort of, have this private, you know, I know this is what the Bible says and I know what Jesus has done in me and, you know, it says in chapter 4, “There is no other name by which we must be saved.”
At some point in time you’ve got to realize, you’re going to share some things with some people in love, with tears rolling down, and they can be nice people, good people, moral people but the God who made them, the second person of the Godhead came to the earth, and lived a perfect life, and died in their place, and there is only one way to have relationship with a perfect, holy God and be righteous. And that’s the atoning, covering of Christ.
If you have the Son, not if you have religion, you have life. If you have the Son, not if you try to be a good, moral person, you have life.
And that means that there’s a time where you and I, talking with people, need to move beyond the comfort level and talk about the bad news of the gospel. If a person never sees their need, they can never hear the good news.
And I would guess that the great majority of us struggle with being bold. Think about the people that, I mean, if someone you know, that you care about at work, or in your family, or in your neighborhood, or in your network, or who you chat with. What if you knew they had cancer and they’ve got three days to live? Would you, today, relate to them the same way for the next three days as you are now?
They’re going to slip into eternity. Would you? Because at some point in time, I’ve got to get out of being so worried about what people think, or what I can answer, or what I can’t answer, and I need to boldly share the gospel.
And the gospel has a promise of eternal life. But he begins with bad news and the problem is sin. And then it goes to the good news is that Christ has paid for your sin and it has an explanation that He’s our substitute and then there’s an action call.
You need to repent. You need to leave and turn from your sin and put your faith in Christ and what He did. And that’s when the Spirit of God comes inside of people’s lives and they’re sealed by His Spirit and they have new life and eternal life. And that’s not pastor’s jobs or missionary jobs or Christian books’ jobs. It’s us.
I’m always shocked, I remember the first time as an early Christian some guy came up to me and said, “You know, you’re the greatest Christian I’ve ever met.” And I thought, “Man, this guy is in trouble.” I mean, this guy is in really big trouble. Because, you know, I mean, if I’m the greatest Christian he’s ever met, you know, the percentages look a little bit low for how much of Jesus he’s really going to see.
And then I just realized, you know what? That’s true of all of us. You are, some place at work, people you don’t even know.
I was in, I played a little basketball and a guy I’ve kind of gotten to know and I’ve not talked with him directly but built a relationship and then I went out to lift and he was lifting. And out of the blue he turns to me and goes, “Um, can I tell you something?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “I started going to church here recently.” I said, “Great!” You know?
“You’re a pastor, right?” I said, “Yeah, how did you know?” “I heard those other guys talking.” “Okay.” He said, “Can I ask for your help?” I said, “Well, what do you need?” He goes, “Like, I’m, like, going to church and this group I’m with, you know, I mean, there’s like a Bible study mid-week. Have you ever of those?” I said, “Yeah, we do some of those.”
And he said, “So, I’m going to church and I’m in this Bible study. And I stopped, I mean, I knew I was doing stuff that was really wrong and I’m not doing the external stuff.” But he said, “Man, I got stuff going on in my head that’s really bad.”
And he said, “Is there any help for that?” I said, “You bet! By the way, we all have that stuff.” “Really?” “Yeah.”
And so I said, “Give your email address.” And anyway, I sent him the book, The Miracle of Life Change and a book that most men would understand about how to overcome the dragon of lust.
And you know what? It was just a divine appointment. But at some point in time you’ve got to cross a bridge, and get a little uncomfortable, and share the truth with someone realizing, you know what? It may not a hundred percent go well.
Notice what the remembrance here is: “How will they know if we do not tell them? And if not you, then who? And if not now, then when?”
Paul would write in Romans 10, “How, then, will they call upon Him, Christ, in whom they have not believed and how will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
You know one of the things I’m praying, just for me, these baby steps for me, I’m praying, “God, will You please, please help me begin to see people through Your eyes. See their need, not their exterior.” And I’m practicing, kind of, going into practice to act on those good impulses.
And one of the things I’m praying for me is just rather than an ought, or should, or guilt, I guess we could rev each other up for a couple weeks and, “Let’s love lost people. Let’s…” You know and then, kind of, sink back to the normal.
I’ve been there done that. You know what instead I’m doing? I’m just little, tiny prayer, “God, will you give me Your love for people who don’t know You? Would You help me love them so much that I wouldn’t care what they think of me? Would You give me sensitivity that instead of it being about how much did I share, did I share the whole gospel? Am I…would You just give me Your love for them? Some of them probably aren’t ready to hear this yet but will You help me love them?”
And whether it’s groceries today, or helping them with one of their kids, or doing something here, or just inviting them over and I don’t have to tell them anything about Jesus to start out.
You know, “Tell me your story. How are you doing? Do you have any kids? Where’s your biggest challenge?” And then, you know, “Would you mind?”
I met an unbelieving guy recently and I don’t know how we hit it off pretty quickly. And I just asked him, I said, “Would you be offended if I prayed for you? Is there one thing I could pray for you?”
And he looked at me, like, “Are you on drugs, man? Are you kidding me? I would love you to pray for me.”
I mean, I got news for you. Like, there are no atheists in foxholes. There are no atheists with people that got cancer, and whose homes are upside down, and marriages are falling apart, and are under addictions and are screaming and needing help. You know who they need? They need Jesus. The One that lives inside your skin, just being you.