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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
I got something in the mail today. Sometimes it comes and it’s one of those brochures and you’re quick to throw away and then I got this and it was from a friend in Dallas who is a pastor: Tony Evans.
And everyone has different people that you listen to that God really speaks to you and Tony’s like number one or two on my list. And so, it was a pastor’s conference and I knew I couldn’t make it but I opened it and looked at it and said, “I wonder what Tony’s doing.”
And there’s a quote in here. It’s just a great quote. He says, “Change doesn’t happen overnight. It begins with one person seeing a problem and then making a decision to make a difference to become a part of the solution.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight. It begins with one person who sees a problem who then makes a decision to be a part of the solution.
There’s this amazing mission, this unstoppable grace, tsunami grace. When Jesus died upon the cross and He rose from the dead and His passionate love for every human being forcefully moving forward for the last two thousand years.
And He started with about a hundred and twenty people and their mission, you talk about mission impossible, reached the world.
And for forty days He talks to them, and He teaches them, and then they watch Him, chapter 1, ascend into heaven. Chapter 2, He sends the Holy Spirit. And then chapter 3, remember? Kind of like the movie What About Bob? Right?
Just take, you know what, guys? You’re just normal, ordinary people. Just take baby steps. And the baby step was Peter and John just did, you know, what you normally do. They draw near to God. And so they’re walking on their way to the temple.
And they see a guy that, since they were children, have been crippled and but they saw him through new eyes. They saw him through the eyes of his need, and the resources of God, and he acted on that good impulse and he speaks, and he takes this big step of faith and he reaches down and as he reached and pulled the man, bang, a miracle happens.
And pretty soon there’s thousands of people seeing this man that everyone has seen crippled from birth.
What would happen if one hundred percent of us just acted on that Holy Spirit inspired impulse to love someone, to communicate to someone?
A hundred and twenty people transformed the world in the last two thousand years. Not because some, you know, big thing came down from heaven and there was a scroll with a game plan that said what to do every moment of every day.
It was ordinary people just like you, just like me. And pretty soon they just drew near to God and they began to look at people differently the way Jesus looks at them. And then they acted on those good impulses.
And when they did then God began to do some amazing things and they gave Him credit. And then they boldly explained, “We have to tell you – this isn’t us. Jesus, who was killed, rose from the dead and He loves people and He wants to help you.”
And he preaches this amazing sermon. It doesn’t end there. The last part I want you to remember, when you take these baby steps for God, is to expect a polarizing response. Expect a polarizing response.
If you’ll pick it up with me in Acts chapter 4. So Peter has just preached this sermon. I mean, the fearful fisherman, the uneducated guy that doesn’t bring much to the table, the blue-collar worker preaches this sermon and we’re going to see what happens. Some really good stuff and some really hard stuff.
Beginning in chapter 4: “The priests and the captain of the guard and the Sadducees came to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. And they were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching to people and proclaiming Jesus the resurrection of the dead. And they seized Peter and John because it was evening and they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”
You know, sometimes it’s just, I guess, human nature. When you do exactly what God wants you to do and you begin to draw near to God and you say, “You know, I’m just going to, I may not be really good at this…” but you start reading the Bible on a regular basis and you start talking to Him and even while you’re driving you start communicating throughout the day.
And in the middle of a meeting something comes up and you start saying, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” And then pretty soon you start looking at people, instead of by the outside and judging them, through Jesus’ eyes.
And then He’ll give you these little impulses. And you think only it could be someone else and you act on one and then He confirms it and you act on another and pretty soon you find yourself explaining to people, explaining to people that there’s hope and there’s life and there’s forgiveness.
The assumption is that everything’s going to go great. Since you’re doing the right thing, at the right time, and honoring God, it’s going to be great. What I want to tell you is that it usually produces a polarizing response.
They end up in jail: negative. People come to Christ and a movement is begun: positive. You need to grasp the reality that a student isn’t greater than his teacher. And Jesus lived a perfect life, loved people perfectly, and when He told people the truth out of love from a tender heart, some people responded – it changed the course of their eternity and other people rejected Him. And that’s how it goes with us.
Because that’s true and because down in your psyche you know that’s true, I want to move from taking baby steps to walking in the power of God.
As you go through this tsunami movement, that you see in Acts chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4 and 5 and the rest of this book, this little fearful group of people, they changed the world. They take on the establishment. They start with baby steps, but they begin to walk in the power of God.
They begin to expect God to do supernatural things and He does. And Scripture says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Chapter 3 told us that there’s power available but it starts with baby steps. Chapter 4 is going to address the biggest issue, why most followers of Christ don’t walk in the power of God. And you know what that reason is? Fear. Fear.
“Well, I would step out and say something but I don’t know what I would say, what if someone asks me a question?” Fear. “Well, what if I take a couple steps and then God has some, like, bigger plan and wants me to go someplace I don’t want to?” Fear.
“Well, what if I, what if I want to do something but I just don’t have what it takes?” Fear. “What if people reject me?” Fear. The average follower of Christ is paralyzed by the fear of what might happen, or what you don’t possess, in order to be the person that God wants to use.
And it’s so interesting, in Acts chapter 4, there’s four clear lessons about how the Spirit of God, living inside of you as His follower, will help you overcome your fear.
Lesson number one: “Fear not, the Holy Spirit will speak through you.” I mean, let’s face it, all of us are pretty concerned that if someone’s going to ask you something and you don’t know how to respond.
Pick up the story with me in chapter 4 verse 5. “The next day, the rulers, the elders, and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so was Caiaphas and John and Alexander and the other men of the high priestly family. They had Peter and John brought before them and they began to question them.” And here’s the question: “By what power,” or, “what name did you do this?”
This man who was crippled and healed, he’s standing in front of them, it’s a semi-circle of about seventy. It was the council made up of the Sanhedrin, which are the Sadducees. And they don’t believe in the resurrection.
And then you have the high priestly family and we get four or five different names during that time. And then you have some teachers of the law. So you have, sort of, the court of Israel of that day and they made all the recommendations in terms of what would happen to the Roman government. They had authority except for issues of, like, capital offences.
And so they bring these two guys and you’ve got this testimony of this guy that was crippled and he’s healed. And they’re saying, “Now, by what power, or what name, how did you guys pull this off?”
“Peter then,” verse 8, “filled with the Holy Spirit, ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. “He is the stone which you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.”’”
He’s quoting Psalm 118. “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Now, again, we’ve put these apostles in stained glass way too quickly. This is a guy that, it was less than a month ago or so, maybe six or eight weeks, a little servant girl says, “Do you know Him?” And he starts swearing, “I’ve never seen Him before in my life!”
And then he’s filled with the Holy Spirit and he meets the resurrected Christ. And he’s no superstar. All he’s doing is going about doing what he knows, the next logical thing and so he’s on his way to a prayer meeting and God gives him this prompting and he responds to that prompting and a miracle occurs and now he’s in jail.
And now he’s in jail and now he’s brought before the intellects of his day. This is like going, you know, before the equivalent of, you know, Harvard or Stanford, all the Ph.Ds. And you haven’t even been to college and they’re going to ask you the questions.
And I’m thinking Peter, in his heart of hearts, is thinking, “Oooooh, Lord. I’ve got to trust Your promise. I’ve got to trust that You’ll teach me what to say and I believe, because Jesus promised, He said the Holy Spirit will bring to mind everything that you need.”
Did you notice I put the promise in there? Look what God promised the disciples and He promises us. Jesus promised, in Luke 21 verses 12 to 15, He says, “But before all of this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to the synagogues and prisons and you will be brought before kings and governors on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”
Notice, “Make up your mind in advance.” That’s a pre-decision. In other words, you don’t have to be afraid about what you’re going to say in a situation at work, or with a relative, or with a friend, or someone that you meet, and you don’t have to be afraid because in that moment, make up your mind, God so cares about them and is so prepared He will put words in your mouth to help them. Because He wants you to know you don’t have to be afraid.
He wants to release us, as His followers, to love and care for people and not be afraid of what we’re going to say. Look how bold Peter was. I mean, notice, that’s pretty good psychology, right?
“Oh, if we’re on trial for this act of kindness.” That was a good line, wasn’t it? Right? I mean, “Oh, we did, you’re down on us for doing something really wonderful and kind and good to someone?”
And then he just goes strong and tells them, he quotes Scripture so there’s truth behind it. And then after he quotes Scripture, he looks them dead in the eye and says, “There is salvation in no other name.”
He’s bold. He’s bold because these aren’t Peter’s words. These are the Spirit of God speaking through Peter. And that promise is as true for you and me as it was for them.
Sadly, sadly, about eight to nine out of every ten Christians who are legitimate followers of Christ have never verbally shared the gospel with another person. Have never explained to another person, even though we are the possessors and stewards of eternal life have never shared with another person at work, or in our family, or in our neighborhood, or who we hang out with, very specifically, how Christ died for them. That their sin separates them from God, that He died and rose from the dead. He’s paid for that. And makes an offer, by grace, of eternal life.
Now, I told you, we’re in this series – it’s powerful – I’m not going to do the, “We need to really start caring about people that don’t know about Christ” and, you know, the guilt trip never works.
Lord, would You create in my heart a love for people the way You love them? Especially those that are outside of a relationship with You. Lord, would You give me a boldness that I don’t have? Would You help me to see people, not through how they appear or how they might intimidate me, would You just give me your eyes?
And so I’ve been praying that. And God answered my prayer this week. Just, a little, I’m just taking gradual baby steps. And, so, I was I working out and as I was working out, a guy came in and we played a little two on two and I could tell he was from another country. And I said, “Where are you from?” He said, “I’m from Egypt.”
And I said, “Hey, I’ve been there a couple times. And where from?” And we talked a little bit. And I said, “What’s your name?” He said, “Amen.” I said, “No, no, no. I appreciate that but what’s your name?” He says, “That is my name.”
And so we got talking a little bit and, you know, it wasn’t like I had some big plan or anything. I’m just working out and he’s sweaty and I’m sweaty. And, you know, I didn’t know. I just heard come out of my mouth I said, “You know, I use your name a lot.”
And he says, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, you know, I pray, like, during the day and at the end I say, ‘Amen.’ So I use your name a lot.” He said, “That’s very interesting.” He said, “You know, I had a friend invite me,” now think of how God’s working, “I went to a Christian church this last weekend.” And he told me a little bit about it.
And I said, “Well, where are you coming from?” Long story short. This guy came from a wealthy family in Egypt, has been in the country for over a decade, very articulate, twenty-eight years old, has studied Islam and went to, actually, school and graduate school, understands it.
And we began to have a dialogue about Jesus, and Abraham, and Islam, and Christianity, and I said, “Do you ever wonder?” You know, we had a really good conversation and I probably spent, it’s hard to believe, about seventy percent of the time listening, and asking him questions.
And really just realizing I just want to know what’s in this guy’s heart and I want to learn. And he finally, he says, “You know, there’s not that much difference between us and everything else.” And I said, “Well, you know, I kind of think there really is.”
And he said, “Well, what do you mean?” I said, “Well, I can, let me give you the difference in just six letters. Just six letters is all the difference between Islam and what Jesus taught in the Bible. And actually, the difference between Jesus and every other religion in the world.”
And, you know, we’re dripping in the basketball court. He goes, “Well, what is it?” “Well, the first two letters are what Islam demands and every other religion. And the letters are D-O. You’ve got to do. You’ve got to do, do, do, do. Right?”
I said, “You pray five times a day?” “Yeah, I’ve got to pray five times a day, you need to go on pilgrimage.” Do, do, do, do, do, do. Right? To earn God’s favor. He says, “Right.”
I said, “How do you know for sure if you’ve ever done enough?” And, you know, it was at that moment of, he gave me that look, I don’t know. But we were friends. He’s coming.
And I said, “Here’s what Jesus taught. Everything he taught can be summed up in four letters. D-O-N-E. Done.”
See, it’s not about, now, because he said, “Look, you know, you want to tell the truth and I want to tell the truth, you want to be a good husband, I want to be a good husband. You know, see, there’s not much different.”
I said, “No, no, no, you need to understand. You’re doing that to try and earn someone’s favor that you’re really afraid of down deep. And I’m doing it because I’m so loved that it’s done. He died for me. I’m already forgiven. I have a relationship and that flows His life out of me.”
And you know, we got done and I said, “I have learned so much today. Would you be open to, kind of, hanging out and teaching me about Islam?” I said, “Because let’s face it. On both, aren’t there, like, idiots and radical extremists, you know, in the name of Christianity or Islam that do wacko stuff?”
He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “I’d really like to understand it.” He said, “Well, I’m here every day.” I said, “Okay.” So we exchanged a little information.
Now, I’ve got to tell you, where did those six letters come from? They came from the Holy Spirit. I’ve never shared the gospel like that in my life. I didn’t, I mean, he was bringing stuff to my mind that I’ve studied about Islam, you know, who knows where.
And what gave me, you know, Mr. Mouthy, the person who is always going to say dat, da dat, da dat, da dat and make these reasoned arguments. Who in the world could have me shut up and listen and actually just care about someone and realize all I want to do is understand where you’re coming from, and care, and allow the love of Christ to come through me to you?
I just acted on a good impulse. I saw him through different eyes. God will give you everything you need, and He’ll speak through you. This promise is for you. People in your office, He’s preparing them. People on the job site, He’s preparing them. When you walk your dog in the park, He’s preparing them. Let it come out of your mouth.
The second lesson from Acts 4 is, “Fear not, the Holy Spirit will protect you.” Because, see, once you say, “Well, if it starts coming out of my mouth, well, you know, I’m going to get a bad reputation or it might limit my job or, you know, He might, oh, gosh, what if it works? That could get really scary. I might have to go on a mission trip or, or…”
So pretty soon we have this fear of what might happen. Notice what happens as we pick up the story in verse 13.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John they realized they were unschooled, ordinary men.” That’s good because that’s who most of us are. “They were astonished and they took note of these men that they’d been with Jesus.
“But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then they conferred together. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everybody living in Jerusalem knows that they’ve done an outstanding miracle and we can’t deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer anymore in His name.’
“Then they called them back again and commanded them to speak or teach no longer in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it’s right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’
“When they had further threatened them then they let them go and they couldn’t decide how to punish them because all the people were praising God for all that had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.”
Will you underline this one verse? “We could not stop or help ourselves from thinking.” It’s unstoppable. But notice what? He says, he doesn’t say, “We couldn’t stop speaking about these intellectual arguments. We couldn’t stop thinking about this obligation and duty.”
He says, “We couldn’t stop speaking about what we personally have seen and what we personally have heard.”
When I hear some of us, as pastors, tell people about what they need to do in terms of being more active, and caring, and sharing for their faith? I think we push the wrong end of the stick. I think that’s a mixed metaphor but you get the idea, right?
See, I think we’re always telling people what they ought to do, ought to do, ought to do, ought to do. Here’s the deal. When you are experiencing the love of Jesus and you’re experiencing His power, when you see Him working in you, when you hear His voice, you won’t be able to stop telling people about what’s going on.
Because what’s going to happen over time is you’re going to start caring way less about what people think of you and way more about how much God thinks of them. And that’s freeing.
Notice the promise that Jesus gave. He says, “The Holy Spirit will protect you, fear not.” And then notice the very last night. I mean, He knew! These were people that lived with Jesus for three years, night and day. They knew Him.
And on the very last night He said, “I’ve told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you’ll have trouble but take heart, I’ve overcome the world.” He protected Peter and John.
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a hard time. They had a night in jail. We’ll see later they go through some difficult times. But God will protect you. He can protect your heart, He can protect your children, protect your fears.
But you need to understand, when you boldly step out and allow Him, not just through your life but through your words to speak, He’ll take care of you. He’ll protect you. I mean, He’s God. He spoke and the world came into existence. And He loves you.
And He loves those people that you care about that so many times, right? You get right there and the words are stuck right here and you just can’t get them out. “There is no other name given unto man under heaven by which we must be saved.”
You are the conduits. You are the greatest Christian some people know. Some people may never hear unless they hear it through you and me.
The third lesson is, “Fear not, the Holy Spirit will empower you.” Some of us feel like, you know, “I just, um, I don’t have what it takes. It’s not just that I don’t know what to say, I just, I just don’t have what it takes.”
Notice how the story continues on verse 23 and where and how they experience God’s power. “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and they reported all that the chief priest and the elders had said to them. And when they heard this they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”
Listen to this prayer. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “You made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Your servant, our father David.”
And then they quote Psalm chapter 2. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His anointed One.”
Do you see what they’re doing? They were just taking baby steps. I mean, the morning just, it was just less than forty-eight hours ago Peter is just on his way to a prayer meeting. He doesn’t know anything any more than you and I.
On the way to the prayer meeting this happens, then the miracle happens, then he ends up in jail, then he’s in front of all these really smart, powerful people and stuff starts coming out of his mouth. When he got done with that I bet John went, “Whoa. Man, where did that come from?” “Oh, remember He said He would speak through us? Boy, that happened.”
And then they leave and they go back and they tell the people, “This is what happened,” and then they realized, “Wait a second. This is exactly what David prophesied. He said the nations would rage, they would come against this Messiah.”
And then notice what the text says, “And as they prayed to the God who created everything, who is in charge, who is sovereign,” what does he say? “Indeed,” he gives examples, “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and with the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your Holy Servant Jesus whom You anointed. They did what Your power and Your will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats,” and notice his request, “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 then in response, kind of like God saying, “You boys, you’re on the right track.” Verse 31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God boldly.”
Now notice one line that may catch you is verse 29. Verse 28, right above it. “They did what Your power and Your will had decided beforehand that should happen.” God wasn’t caught off guard by Judas. He wasn’t caught off guard by Herod. He wasn’t caught off guard by the religious leaders or by the Gentiles.
You need to understand there’s a sovereign God over His story that we call history and He’s absolutely in control. However, He gave us, as individual beings, the freedom to make choices that we’re responsible for.
Judas, the Gentiles, Herod, Pontius Pilate – they freely made those choices that God was aware of. He is absolutely sovereign and they’re absolutely responsible and free moral agents.
Anytime you push either of those things to an extreme you get in trouble. God’s ship of history will arrive exactly where He determines it to be but inside of that ship of history on the journey, we all make very individual decisions that we have the freedom to make and are held responsible for that do make a very real, legitimate difference.
But Peter was saying, from the big picture, God, knowing His love for us, knowing the human heart, He would bring His Son and allow these people to rage against Him and notice what the issue here is. He empowers them. Notice they didn’t pray for protection. They prayed for more power.
See, something has happened, it’s a real subtle thing. When paradigms shift and they happen real subtly what happens is you don’t even see them happen and then pretty soon you’re over here and you’re using all the same words and your heart of hearts, as far as you know, doing exactly what you think is right. But the paradigm has shifted.
This group of people actually believe that they were on mission and their mission was to fulfill what Jesus told them who had raised from the dead. They felt like their number one priority was to take this message of life. That people’s eternity was hanging in the balance and the Creator of heaven and earth and all that there is had actually empowered them to express His love to people.
They weren’t trying to figure out how Jesus could make their life easier. They didn’t pray, “Oh God, change the circumstances. Oh God, stop the persecution.” What did they pray? “Give us power! God, will You enable us to do even more of what just happened?”
In a couple chapters it gets worse in their persecution. And instead of whining and complaining, they thank God for the unspeakable privilege of being counted worthy to suffer for Him. That’s a little different than Christianity today, isn’t it?
See, what’s happened, the subtle shift is, our consumeristic mindset, Oh God, make my world work out, little by little by little has drifted into the Church.
And so, the depth of our hearts, our prayers, they go something like this, God, make my life work out. God, give me a nice home. God, help everyone I know and love not to get sick or get bad. God, help me find that right person so I’ll really be happy. God, once I find that right person, will you give us a couple kids? 2.8 would be great. And then would you please protect them and allow them to get in really good schools and, God, you know, they have to be in this and this and this and this because I want to be the king of their world because they need to be the best in music, the best in that. And I’m going to tutor them for their SAT schools. And really what I want to do is I want to be the king of my world and I want my world to totally work out. Jesus will You please help me make mine work out so I can be super happy and fulfilled because I’m the center of the universe and I’m the king?
And that’s how we view. God, what’s wrong? Why did You allow this cancer to happen? Why did I lose my job? Why did my house go upside down? As though God’s purpose is to be your self-help genie.
You’re on His team, He’s not on your team. You’re on mission. They don’t pray for, “God, take away all the pain.” Give us power in a fallen world so that when I lose my house, they see something different. When I get cancer, they see something different. God, life is so short and so temporal, would You enable and empower me and give me all that I need to fulfill Your divine plan for my life?
And here’s what you’ve got to understand: when you do that, out of His overflowing mercy, He will often bring a wonderful person into your life. He’ll often give you, usually three or two, not 2.8 kids. He will often bless your kids with a talent and allow them to get into nice universities or be gifted in sports or music.
And if properly understood, they’ll realize, what do they have that they haven’t received? And they’ll be stewards of that for the glory of God, not asking Jesus to make their life work out to make them “fulfilled and happy.” See, that paradigm shift changes everything.
This group was trying to figure out: how do we fulfill the agenda God gave us? Not: how do we get God to fulfill the agenda we think will make us happy? And so, He answers their prayer.
I couldn’t help but see this. You know, they go through this and as soon as they get out of jail they came together corporately and they prayed. That’s, like, before God. And then their prayer was that they could be on mission. And then what we find is they gather in community.
See, you all need to understand we’re not trying to figure out how many people we can get inside this building and count that number and be happy with that. We’re not trying to figure out how we can just, sort of, up everyone’s moral quotient fifteen or twenty or thirty percent and give everyone a little, nice, “I’m a Christian.”
We’re trying to become Romans 12 Christians. We’re trying to be authentic followers who are surrendered to God who live separate from the world’s values, have a sober self-assessment, who love each other, serving in love passionately, and supernaturally respond to evil with good.
And the pathway of God, Old and New Testament, is that individual people who say, “I will discipline my life and arrange it to come before God.
I’m going to get connected from the heart and get in community where the real me shows up and meets real needs for the right reason in the right way and I’m going to do all that because I have a purpose and a destiny by the God who created me and I’m going to be on mission 24/7.
That B-I-O life brings about transformation in your home, with your roommate, at your work, in your neighborhood. That’s the game plan.
And so it starts with baby steps but after the baby steps, God’s looking for a church and a group of people that do what? Walk in the power of God. We can’t do this. Everything I’ve described. The vision of this church. It’s laughable in our strength.
God’s looking for some people that will walk in His power. Because what happens? Then the Spirit of God is working inside of you and He’s doing supernatural things because, have you ever thought, God lives inside of you if you’re an authentic follower of Christ.
I mean, think of that. Your expectations ought to be pretty high. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit lives inside of you. Now, you’ll notice we talked about fears and did you notice each time there’s a promise? Notice what Jesus promised in John 15:16, “You didn’t choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and your fruit will last or remain. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.”
So what do they ask? They ask for more power. This is the very last night again. John 15. What’s Jesus saying? You’re on mission. I chose you. You’re on My team. There’s something to do. And, “you should produce fruit” is first and foremost the end character-quality: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control that you’ll become like Christ. And then you’ll fulfill that mission.
Final lesson, lesson number four is, “Fear not, the Holy Spirit will provide all your needs.” So one of our fears is you start getting generous with your time, you start taking, you know, get vulnerable with people, you know? You start getting generous with your money, you know, down deep all of us are, like, “Ohhhh, what about me?” Right?
I mean, I’m all for being like Jesus but I’m thinking if I do this, what about me? What about my needs? What about my spiritual needs? My emotional needs? My financial needs? My social needs?
And so, what we do is we create this little box and say, “God, I want You to know I am really all in as long as it’s inside that box.” Right?
“Don’t take me too much out of my comfort zone, whether that’s financially or socially or geographically but, God, I really…” And as you grow, “Oh, I made a bigger box.”
And here’s what the Holy Spirit wants you to know. He wants you to know, “You know what? Stop thinking with the small pie mentality.” The small pie mentality means, it’s people who think, like, the world is filled with limited resources.
I mean, the God who spoke the world into existence, what do you need that He can’t give you? You need some money? He’ll give you some money. You need some faith? He’ll give you some faith. You need a friend? He’ll give you a friend. But He gives those things to what? To people that are on mission.
Notice, well, how does He do that? We pick up the story in verse 33. “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Unity. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they shared everything that they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all. There was no needy person among them for, from time to time,” this isn’t socialism, it wasn’t communism. It was voluntary. But there was this love for one another and so from time to time, I mean, you’ve got to remember, it’s a startup, right? Startup needs and infusion of capital.
It’s a startup group with startup leadership that’s going to change the world and so they were sharing and helping one another as a continual basis but it was voluntary, you didn’t have to do it.
And then from time to time, some of the people with significant resources said, “You know, if we’re going to get this thing off the ground and if we really care about one another, you know, man, I got two homes. I don’t need two. I got four of these, I don’t need four.”
And so, they would sell some of their property and notice what they do. They bring it to the apostles’ feet and they distribute it to anyone as they might have need.
Here’s Jesus’ promise: Jesus said to you and me, “When you fear: what about my needs? But seek first His kingdom.” There’s the paradigm shift. His rule. His agenda. His mission.
And then His righteousness. Being like Him. Being loving like Him, being kind like Him, being pure like Him, being holy like Him. Seek first God’s agenda, God’s kingdom, and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
See, if you had one of those highlighters, if I had a yellow highlighter and we were, like, a second grade class I would say, “Okay everyone, put your notes down please.” And then I would take the yellow highlighter and then in big, bold words across, sort of, horizontal. Those notes that you have I would write F-A-I-T-H. So you could still read all the notes but you’d realize, at the end of the day, what God is saying is, “Jesus made promises. You’re on mission. It’s faith.”
Everyone in the world is either going to live by fear or by faith. You fear rejection, you fear the future, you fear the stock market, you fear what other people think. All your fears are what dysfunctions grow out of.
Or you step back. You either fear stuff of you fear God. Everybody fears something. But if you fear God then you live by faith. And you say, “God, I’m afraid to live any other way than the way You want me to.” And, yes, it is reverential awe but it’s also, He’s the all-knowing, all-powerful, consuming fire who has put me on mission.
It’s not like, I hear people pray like it’s a negotiation, “Well, I know You created everything there is and, you know what? I think the top three look pretty good to me but I’m really not interested in numbers four and five.” Like, who are you talking to? You know?
God’s commandments aren’t like a salad bar that…but what happens is if you could just understand how deeply you’re loved. “He that spared not His own Son, how would He not freely give you anything and everything you need?” He’s so for you but you need to be positioned to be blessed.
Instead of the guilt route what I’ve learned, when God helps me begin to see other people, because you know? It says when you’re walking in the power of the Spirit, what’s the evidence here? They’re unified. Right? They’re bold. And they’re generous.
When God’s Spirit is working in an individual and a group’s heart, you will find a group of people that are bold, they’re unified, and they’re very generous.
And what I’ve learned over the years is, trying to muster that up doesn’t work. But when I can see through the lens of others’ needs, God does something in my heart where I want to extend the money He gave to me, or the time He gave to me, or the gifts He gave to me, to really care about other people.