Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Unstoppable Resources on sale now.
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
What’s the dream inside your heart that if you had unlimited resources, you could see anything happen in the entire world that you knew would glorify God and help people and bring about real change, what would it be?
What would be the dream inside your heart that you’d want to see God do in your lifetime?
My dream is that God would launch a movement, first, in this church and around America where Christians would live like Christians. Sounds kind of novel, isn’t it? And then I thought about the kind of churches that would produce.
Churches that would be warm, caring, non-legalistic, non-self-righteous, authentic, passionate followers of Christ. The broken, the irreligious, the people that are different, the people that are unlovely would come to churches like that and feel loved and welcome.
I’m dreaming of a day when churches would measure success by the depth of their love not by the size of the church, the beauty of their buildings, the size of their budgets. I’m dreaming of a day when Christians would stay married when things get tough. That forgiveness would be sought and granted, and those predictable struggles that we all have in our marriage would be followed by getting wise counsel, heeding God’s Word, getting some help, and making it through the struggles.
I’m dreaming of a day when parents would model holiness, and purity, and set boundaries for their children, to protect them from the seduction of the world that promises them everything and delivers death.
I’m dreaming of a day when parents would eat together – novel idea – with their kids. That they’d laugh, they’d tell stories at bedtime, they’d tickle each other to the point of tears, they’d spill popcorn on the floor and together, as a family, they’d pray about everything.
They’d pray about their neighbors, they’d pray about tests, they’d pray about friends, they’d pray about sports. Pray about grandpa and grandma and other people that don’t know the Lord yet. And that their house would be the most fun and exciting place on the entire block to be.
I’m dreaming a day when Christians know their neighbors, and have hamburgers in the backyard, and where people would get the idea that these Christian people are just friendly and kind and when you have a crisis, they’re always available, it seems.
I’m praying for a day when churches would work together to paint schools, and clean parks, and build houses in the tough part of town, and no one would care who gets the credit.
A day when Christians would be known for what we’re for, instead of what we’re against. And a day when we would actually believe that prayer is more powerful than politics, and people would be valued and treated with dignity, even if how they live and what they believe is the exact opposite of everything that Christ said and stands for.
I’m dreaming of a day when Christians would cease to be so concerned about being in, and cool, and hip, and relevant and just be flat out consistent, caring, and committed to be like Jesus and do what He says.
I have a picture in my mind of a day when nine out of ten Christians in this church and around America and then around the world would think it abnormal and strange if they didn’t come before God every day.
If they didn’t do life in community, authentically, in a small group. And if they didn’t see themselves as on mission 24/7, getting up every day, in their home, in their dorm, at work, in their neighborhood and say, “God, what’s the assignment? You live inside of me.”
I’m dreaming of a day that the world would really change. And I’ve got to tell you, I can’t shake this. I wake up thinking this, when I pray deeply I think it, I know it’s humanly impossible, I know I don’t have the resources or the power in and of myself in any way for this dream to become a reality.
But it’s the passion of my heart and I will tell you this: I think it’s the passion of my heart because it, literally, isn’t my dream at all. This is Jesus’ dream for His Church, isn’t it?
This is His dream for you; this is His dream for me. When He said, when He taught His early disciples to pray, what did He say? “Ask the Father for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done.” How? “On earth the same way gets done in heaven.” And to me that’s just us Christians living like Christians.
And when we do that individually, not that we’re perfect, but we make progress. And when we blow it, we own it. And we’re authentic and we’re real and we’re changing.
Everyone in this room, everyone in this church has the potential to, literally, transform the world around you.
And the question I want to talk about is how does that happen? How does that really work. Right? I mean, is that just pie in the sky? Is that just rhetoric? Like, “Oh, well, wouldn’t that be great? Someday, someway.” How, actually, does God change the world?
And I want to suggest that God, by the Holy Spirit, puts inside of you and inside of me dreams, and desires, and opportunities.
And that there isn’t some great hero coming someday, some way to make all that happen. That it happens organically and small, like a little mustard seed, through ordinary people. That’s why Jesus chose the disciples that He did.
I mean, you do some hard study of the background of those people, you’re thinking, “This is not a good group to change the world with.” They’re not educated, they don’t have much leverage, they don’t have any political power, they don’t have any money.
So that everything that happened, we could know, it’s God at work in them.
He sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of them and in living inside of them, instead of Jesus walking on the earth, and loving, and caring, and feeding, He came inside of every true Christ follower, so Jesus is living out all those people.
And so, a hundred and twenty turned into three thousand devout followers that He planted these dreams and these desires, and placed them in all these different backgrounds, and they began to change the world.
But I want to talk today about, well, how does it really work? I mean, we’re sitting here two thousand plus years later. Billions of people have followed Christ and are making a difference in the world.
How in the world did we go from a hundred and twenty scared people in an upper room, who the Holy Spirit comes upon, into what you see today?
Acts chapter 3 is the answer. What you’re going to see is just – are you ready? The answer is baby steps. The answer is not some big thing, someday, someway. How many people have seen the movie What About Bob? Sort of, the classic, if you haven’t, rent it. It’s clean and it’s great.
But there’s this great line in this movie. And this is, it’s a story of a guy with deep psychological problems that makes this psychiatrist crazy. And the one thing he gets is, baby steps. You know? How am I going to change? How am I going to change? He has all these issues. And so, just, baby steps.
And, you know something? But that’s how God works. Just, you know, all you need to do is say, “You know what? There’s a big picture and Chip said all those big things about all these churches and all the…” Well, you know what? You know where it starts? Baby steps.
Open to Acts chapter 3 and what we’re going to see is how God begins with Peter and John and helps them take baby steps and He’s going to give them just a very specific baby step game plan and they change their world.
He just lays it out for us. The chapter is broken into two parts. The first, oh, fourteen or fifteen verses are a story. And what we’re going to find is that Peter and John, you know, it’s, like, Monday morning and everybody has a Monday morning.
And they’re just doing what you’re supposed to do on Monday morning. In their case, it’s a prayer meeting they’re going to. And something happens.
And then the second half is what happens is going to create a stir and thousands of people are going to be drawn to this temple open area, much like, maybe, a big park open area like Time Square.
And thousands of people are, kind of, pouring in because of this event. And Peter uses it and then he gives a sermon. His second sermon. So follow along because what I’m going to do is there are four baby steps that we learn from the story and there’s one or two baby steps we’ll look at in terms of his sermon.
“One day, Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now, a crippled man from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those who were going into the temple courts.
“When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. And Peter looked straight at him, as did John, and then Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ So the man gave him his attention and he expected to get something from them.
“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have but what I do have I will give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him up by his right hand, he helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong and he jumped to his feet and he began to walk.
“And then he went jumping into the temple courts and walking and leaping and praising God. And when all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to beg sitting at the temple gate called Beautiful and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what was happening to him.”
Baby steps. Step number one for us regular people, who have desires in our hearts that God wants to use to change the world, is simply draw near to God.
Verses 1 and 2, where are Peter and John going? Now, in Judaism, at the time, they had a prayer time at nine, a prayer time at noon, and a prayer time at three o’clock. Peter and John, right? The Spirit lives in them but it’s like, it’s Monday.
They’re just doing what they normally do. They’re doing the mundane of life. They’re just doing what they would do on any Monday. But they are faithful in just the little things.
They’re just on their way. I got news for you. This guy has been crippled from birth; we learn later he’s forty years old. The disciples, most of them, were in their late teens or mid-twenties at best.
Peter has walked by this guy a thousand times or more. He’s been at the same gate forever and ever and ever and ever and, yet, Peter is just on his way doing what he’s supposed to do.
See, being faithful in a very little thing is the key to being faithful in great things. We think God does things from, like, a little seed into some huge tree of fruitfulness and the fact is, here’s what you need to remember.
It’s faithfulness in the ordinary that prepares us for the extraordinary. Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
You know these dreams and desires? The way God works is He’s going to change you first and you’ve got to be with Him for Him to change you.
The promise of Scripture is if you draw near to God, He’ll draw near to you. Peter doesn’t have any more power, and John doesn’t have any more power than ordinary people like us.
The difference is they got near to Him. And what they were doing is they were just being faithful. We talk a lot about praying or spending time in God’s Word. That’s not so you check a box and don’t feel guilty. It has nothing to do with that.
It’s about relationship. It’s like recalibrating your soul. It’s about understanding, “Oh, you know, God has an assignment for me today. I want to be in tune. I want my antennae to be up with the Spirit of God and the will of God for my life.”
And all I want you to know, God does extraordinary things through ordinary people but it always begins with just being faithful in the ordinary things.
I don’t know about you, but I get up, there’s some mornings and, like, the last thing I feel like doing is reading the Bible. The last thing, at times, I feel like doing is praying. Right? Don’t you have some late nights and get, kind of, worn out and have some pressure over here and a problem over there?
You know, this morning, I mean, my mind was a bit in a fog and I went out and I got a cup of coffee and I read my Bible and I didn’t have any ooey-gooey amazing feelings. And I thought, Well, what’s going on in here? And I just sat down and I wrote down, this morning, what I was feeling and what I was thinking.
And then I took the top four or five things that I was wrestling with and I said, “God, these are Yours.” And then as I did then I wrote out a couple of verses that spoke to me. And it’s interesting, just things started to change. Walk with God. Draw near to Him. Step one. It’s a baby step.
Second, is look through Jesus’ eyes. Peter is going to the temple, he’s been there, he’s just doing what he’s supposed to do. But the Spirit of God lives inside of him now. Now, he saw Jesus’ example.
The Christian life is not seeing that Jesus was this marvelous person and trying to be like Him in your own power. That is not Christianity. That’s not what Jesus taught.
The fact is, a revolution occurs and the old you dies and the Spirit of God comes and, literally, Jesus lives inside of us by the Holy Spirit. Well, now, Peter is walking and instead of seeing a beggar who is always there who needs some help and maybe he’s even given him a little money here and there, all of a sudden, he sees him through Jesus’ eyes.
Jesus sees his deeper need not just physically but spiritually. And Jesus sees him through the eyes of: there’s unlimited resources. Remember the last thing Jesus said to the guys? “All authority,” dunamis, our word for dynamite, “all power, all authority has been given to Me and I’m going to be with you always.”
So Peter’s not going in there thinking, What can Peter do? Peter’s walking by this guy who has a desperate need and he realizes Jesus has unlimited resources, and He lives in me, and then something happens. And he takes a step of faith.
Here’s what I want you to remember. Never assume the way it is is the way it’s got to be. That’s death.
Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do abundantly beyond anything that we could ask or think.” Jesus, He’s able to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond what you and I think.
Pretty soon, if you’re not careful, you start thinking, This marriage is going to be now the way it is and ever shall be. You know, This struggle with one of my kids. My singleness, I’m single, I’m discouraged, I’ll always be single. You know, No one really is open at work. I don’t think anything’s ever going to change. It’s a dark place.
We start living as though the way things are today is the way they’ll always be and that just eliminates faith.
This guy was absolutely helpless – they had to carry him in. And he was absolutely hopeless. God wants to do miracles and you know who He does them through? Ordinary people.
Later on, we’re going to learn when they’re going to get thrown in jail for this. The intellects of the day will look at Peter and John and go, “These are untrained and uneducated men,” but they recognize them as having been with Jesus.
The thing that makes the difference isn’t your personality, or your gifts, or what you bring to the table. All that under the direction of the Holy Spirit is great. But it’s Christ in you. Don’t assume the way it is is the way it’s always got to be.
But you need to look – you need to start looking at your work through new eyes. You need to look at people in your family through new eyes. You need to look at needs through new eyes. You need to start walking around and realizing Jesus, through the Spirit of God, lives inside of me and if you could just, like, take these glasses or you could take a contact and put: I want a Jesus lens.
I want to start looking at people at work, people on the highway, people that cut in front of me, people that give me a hard time, people that in my neighborhood – I want to look at them the way Jesus would look at them if He lived inside my body and then I want you to just take a quick gulp and say, “Oh, He does.” He does. And it’s exciting to see what happens.
When you do that, the third baby step...now, those aren’t too hard, really, is it? I mean, how hard is it to draw near to God, and then just to look through Jesus’ eyes.
Third is act on your good impulses. Now, I don’t want to read too much into this and I don’t want you to go tell people, “Chip can read Peter’s mind and he knew what exactly was happening.” I can’t.
But this is a regular guy, right? And he’s failed before. I mean, like, big time. And so, okay, Jesus lives inside of him now through the Spirit. And he sees this beggar. And I’ve got to assume that his thought process changed.
Now, we’re going to learn a little bit later that this early Church was completely Jewish and when the Spirit of God came, they were expecting the restoration of the kingdom and Him to come back very immediately. That’s why the pooled their resources very voluntarily.
They, you know if the nation would have accepted the Messiah, they would see Him coming back very, very, very soon. We’ll learn that the nation rejects the Messiah, the nation of Israel does, and they didn’t know about this mystery called “the Church” which they were.
But, you know, Peter’s walking by this guy and he has this thought. It had to come to his mind. “You know, I don’t have anything to give him but I don’t see him like I used to see him.” And then his thought had to be, “We’ve got this unlimited power.”
I mean, I bet it went through his mind, like, real quickly, like, “I think I’m going to tell him, ‘Walk.’ That’d be cool. What if I say it and nothing happens? What if I say it and maybe this isn’t me. You know, I’m, you know, I’m kind of new at listening to the Spirit. Maybe this is just, sort of, a fabricated thought in my mind.”
See, he came to a little point of time where he had an impulse, a nudging from the Holy Spirit to take a step of faith outside his comfort zone, though he’s really going to help someone and a miracle is going to occur. And just like you and me, he’s right on the edge of, “Am I going to obey this prompting or not?”
You’ve got them, haven’t you? You know, like that weird thought like you’re driving by and you see someone walking and there’s this thought like, “I should turn around and help that person.”
And then the next thought is, “Well, you know, I’m really kind of busy and I’d have to do a U-turn and I’ll help them later.”
Or, someone out of the blue, like, you’re praying or you’re driving in your car and someone you haven’t thought about in two – you ought to call this person. And sometimes you do and then, what do they say? Stuff like, “How in the world did you know?” Right? The Spirit is still prompting.
Here’s the next baby step. Act on your good impulses. When you have an impulse that comes to you that loves someone, that glorifies God, that helps them, that takes you out of your comfort zone, that probably costs you something, and you’re a little afraid to do it? That’s probably not you! Right?
I mean, recently I was in line somewhere and it was like, buy these people’s groceries behind you. Yai, yai, yai. You know? And this lady’s going to, you know? Why? I don’t know, I don’t have to know.
And I, this was just last week and they were checking out and the lady, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And I could tell a little struggle with her son and, “I don’t have my credit card.” And God, I mean, got louder. “Just buy her groceries. Just, just be My presence.”
And, so, okay, this will help you. So finally, she found her credit card and I couldn’t get rid, so now I’m acting like I’m looking at the tomatoes over here and, you know, it’s just like, “I don’t want to do it. You know, she’s going to think I’m some weirdo and this kid’s over there.” And so, I’m, chicken out, don’t, chicken out, no, chicken out.
So finally, you know, and then I finally, “Okay, I’m going to do it.” And I walk up and it’s very uncomfortable and she gives her credit card. And I blew it. “Oh, Lord, I’m sorry.”
And then he said, “Do you have cash?” “Yes…” “Well, give her…” So, anyway, I kind of saw about what it was like and her and her little boy had gotten in their car. And I don’t want to read too much in it but from body language, the boy, the lack of a wedding band, you know, if I was going to make up a story it looked liked a divorced mom going through a hard time who is really struggling about how she was going to pay for this.
And I drove around in my car and I said, “Excuse me?” I rolled down the window. “I assure you I’m not some weird guy stalking you or your son, okay? But I just got this really weird prompting from God and He wants you to know that He loves you and He wants to take care of your groceries today.”
And I just gave her forty bucks and I said, “Can I give this to your son?” And the light on her face was like, it wasn’t like, “Oh, no, no.” I mean, it was like, “Thank you!” I said, “I’ll see you later.”
God is giving you and me those kind of promptings all the time. What if we acted on them? What if we acted on them? Act on those good promptings.
Notice what it says to remember: 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.”