The world today doesn’t need to see more church buildings or more services, or our numbers increase, for that sake. They need to see the power of God in you, and in me, in our homes, in our work, in our neighborhood, unleashing the power that does good. That’s the Gospel. And that’s what He wants to teach ‘em.
Well, notice, He appoints the 12, and they come with Him. And then, chapter 4, He begins to do some teaching, which is always very important, so He teaches ‘em about the Kingdom. And then, after He teaches them about the Kingdom, He wants them to understand that they are agents to bring breakthrough in the lives of people.
And then, He says, “Let’s go to the other side.” ‘Cause what He wants to do now – He has helped them see, “This is My message. It’s good news.” But now, He wants them to understand, “This is who I really am. And I’m not only good, but I’m powerful enough to handle anything that ever comes up, any time, with anyone.” And so, He says, “Let’s go to the other side.” And these professional fishermen get into an impossible storm, and what’s He do? You know the story? He’s at peace; He’s asleep. They cry out, He speaks, and what happens? Whew! It’s a breakthrough. And they go, “Who is this guy?”
And then, they go to the other side, and there’s not just a guy with demons. If you read it later today, very carefully, it’s a demoniac that has a legion of demons in him, and no one – in other words, it’s impossible – no one can control this guy. So, anybody have demons in your life? I don’t mean necessarily literal ones, but I mean, we talk about, you know, the demons from our past, our family of origin, my addiction. And there may be some literal ones. And what’s He do? He speaks, and he’s healed. And He wants ‘em to know that it really happened, so the demons get into pigs, so, visually, you can see, this is reality.
And then, they go back across, and as He’s going, He hears there’s a little girl that’s very, very sick. And as He’s walking, there’s a woman who’s in an impossible situation. I mean, the author makes it very clear. She’s used up all her money. She’s sought all the doctors she can find. Nothing works. But she believes there’s goodness in this Man – she’s heard; she’s seen. If I could just touch Him – and she does. Pshhhh! The goodness of God is so great, that Jesus, unaware when someone draws near to the goodness of God by faith – supernatural things happen. She’s healed on the spot.
And did you notice what He said to her? “Daughter, your” – what? – “made you well”? “Your faith.” But she got to the point that George Müller talked about: I’m bankrupt. There’s nothing I can do. If this Jesus can’t help me, if I don’t get a breakthrough, there’s no hope.
And then, He’s on the way to help the little girl. The servants come: “It’s too late; don’t bother Him. She’s dead.” And this might be worth putting your nose in – Mark chapter 5: “Ignoring” – verse 36 – “what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don't be afraid; just believe.’”
Are you starting to get the Gospel? It’s a declaration. It’s an announcement. How is He teaching these disciples? What’s He doing? He’s demonstrating the goodness and the love of God.
And then, if you would care to skip over to chapter 6 – the beginning – because hearing about it and watching it never makes it real in your life. So, chapter 6, He says, “Boys, gonna send you on a expedition, but I want you to depend on Me, and I want you to experience what you’ve seen. So, no cloaks, no second bags, no money, no walking sticks. I want you to go to these villages – I’m on a preaching tour – and I want you to heal the sick, I want you to cast out demons, and I want you to announce the Kingdom.”
And they go do it, and God works through ‘em! Whoa! And they come back to Him, and they’re exhausted, and they’re excited. They’re now agents of breakthrough! “Lord, the demons – they listened to us! People were healed!” He says, “Well, let’s go get a break.” And they go to get a break, and as they arrive, oh, my lands – He makes Mick Jagger, and every rock star in the entire world, seem like nothing, because the crowds swell and swell and swell and swell and swell. And He has compassion on them.
And so, in chapter 6, here’s – don’t miss this. In chapter 6, the disciples, after He teaches ‘em, they say, “Lord” – “By this time” – verse 35 – “it was late in the day, [and the] disciples came to Him. [In this remote place, they] said, ‘It's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy [for] themselves something to eat.’” Notice Jesus’ response: “But He answered [them], ‘You give [‘em] something to eat.’”
Now, I don’t know about you, but they’ve seen some miracles. God’s used them to perform some miracles. There’ve been some breakthroughs. There are 5,000 – and the way they counted in those days were 5,000 men – who knows how many people. Okay, listen very carefully; this is what we lost. Jesus expects you to do impossible things. Period. God expects to do impossible things in you and through you.
And if you go on and read the story, you will say, “Well, how does it happen?” What’s He do? He said, “Well, whadda ya' got? I’m not asking you to do something with what you don’t have. Whadda you got? Bring it to Me. Trust Me. And when you understand, by faith, how good I am, and you’re willing to obey what I’ve already said, I will show up in ways that declare and reveal My glory and My goodness to people that have no idea that I love ‘em.” That’s what breakthrough’s about.
Now, when I read things like that, I get very encouraged, but I also begin to ask questions like number four: Is there a historical precedent that breakthrough can happen in our day? Right? In other words, this is great. This is great stuff. It’s Bible stuff. But does God still do that?
And I would say, if we could do a quick run of Church history – of which we won’t – what I’d say is, you would see that the Book of Acts is a picture of breakthrough. And there’ll be many things that we’ll learn, in the next few weeks, about what these very ordinary people did, where God, through a clear vision of people who believed what He said, who are very ordinary, transformed, by about the next 300 years, the entire world.
Probably the greatest breakthrough that happened in the last 500 years was Martin Luther, and in my journey here, I was led very clearly by God to study Martin Luther, because the parallels of what was happening in 1512 through about 1560 are very akin to what’s happening in our world today. I’ll give you the CliffsNotes, literally – Cliff’s notes. I didn’t mean it, really, to be funny, but – and it wasn’t obviously, from the moans. But . . .
‘Kay, here’s the historical context: The Holy Roman Empire is now in cahoots with the Church. There’s corruption. No Bible for the common people. The only person who could interpret the Scripture was the Pope. Only priests had access to God. The Church and the Church laws was the authority, not the Bible.
People were paying, at this point, for their salvation, in indulgencies, trying to pay their way out of hell into heaven, and there was ignorance, poverty, a functional caste system with the nobles, hierarchy of the Church, and most of the world – illiterate peasants, called the Dark Ages.
After Hus blazed the trail, literally, no pun intended – Martin Luther shows up. He had a tortured childhood, very strict, strict parents – that’s putting it mildly. He had a conscience that he could never get right. And he found himself longing to please God. And he did get a good education, but in the middle of his education in law school, he had this horrendous experience – some sort of lightning or thunderstorm, along with the loss of a friend – and he promised God – he prayed – according to Church history, he prayed to Saint Anne, “If you get me out of this, I’ll be a monk.”
And he lived, and so he went to be a monk – Wittenberg. He got his doctorate, his masters, then his – became a teacher at Wittenberg. And he had no peace in his soul. I mean, it was a complete works orientation. “The justice of God, the justice of God, what God demands,” said Luther, in his own words, “made me hate God. I hated God.”
And he was, like, obsessive/compulsive, over the top, “I’ll do whatever it takes.” He fasted; he did all kind of weird things to himself. He went on pilgrimages; he prayed for long – I mean, he just – anything that can earn God’s favor. And then, he would always come back realizing his own heart, his own motives, and he just hated God. And so, it’s hard to be a monk and hate God. I mean, it’s not a good job.
And so, his supervisor had him do his doctoral work in the original languages, where he taught the Psalms, Romans, and Galatians. And after teaching those courses for about three years, on a certain day, at a certain time, for the first time ever, he read what the Bible said – not the indoctrination of the heresy that he heard – that the just shall live by faith: “Therefore, we have peace with God, since we’ve been justified by faith.” And the lights came on, and Luther had a – what he described as an “evangelical awakening,” and he thought it was no big deal. What he realized was, I’ve just rescued the authentic Gospel.
And he began to teach it, and things started happening in Wittenberg. And he – literally, the first was 97 theses, not 95, and people were excited, and there was a movement. And there was conflict with the Holy Roman Empire, and God, in His sovereignty, had this king, Frederick, who really liked Luther, and so the Pope didn’t wanna mess with him. And then, he did the 95 theses later, and I mean, all “blank” broke loose. And one man stood, very imperfectly, and because of that, the Reformation . . .
And here’s what happened to you because of that breakthrough: All individuals – you, normal people – can have a personal relationship with Christ. Salvation is by faith. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. You are a priest. You can talk to Him directly, and God wants to use you. Marriage was elevated. Peace and assurance, a joyful life, not living under the thumb of this angry God.
Scripture is the authority of your life – no teacher, no church, no organization. The Word of God is your authority. The equality of men and the basis of democracy are all rooted in, even peasants matter to God. Do you know what the message was? God is good. God is good. God is loving. God is great. God wants to bless people. He doesn’t think any more of kings than He does of peasants.
And so, Germany went through this tumultuous time, and the king hid Luther, and he translated the Bible into German for the common people. And despite his horrendous views – of Jews, and some of his anti-Semitic – they were terrible early on, and then as he grew in Christ, he moderated them. And then, near the end of his life, he got frustrated. He said some terrible things, I mean, he was a very blunt – you would read some of his stuff and go, “Are you kidding?”
And the only thing I can tell you is, it’s encouraging to me. Because I don’t know if the Lord’ll come back, or maybe there’ll be another 50 years. But if I’m dead 50 years from now, I’m sure there are gonna be some people that’ll listen to or read a sermon and say, “You know, how could Ingram be just – I mean, he seemed like he was really on about this, but he was so off – I mean, that –” ‘Cause we are a product of our culture and environment, but we don’t know it. And God can use ordinary people, where you are in your life now.
So, the first question is, so, what is this idea of breakthrough? Is there a pattern in Scripture? Yes. How did Jesus teach His disciples? Is there historical precedent? And I mean, it’s happening through history, and after Luther, it goes on, and we could talk about, then, the next generation of ‘em, and what Kerry did, and then Wesley and Whitefield and Edwards in America, and then the next generation of Moody and Spurgeon, and then the end of the century, Aimee McPherson at the turn of the century, and Billy Sunday, and then, all of a sudden, a war and Dawson Trotman and Billy Graham and Bill Bright – regular, ordinary people, like you and me, to whom God becomes so real and so good, they live out of what He’s already done for them, and they believe it to the point that they begin to look at other people as objects of God’s love and mercy, and they begin to treat and think and act that way, and live with a joy because they don’t have to measure up. You already measure up. That’s the Gospel.
Final question – maybe the most important one: How do you experience the first step of breakthrough? And I’m gonna tell you, it is so easy to say, and so hard to experience. Are you ready? It’s to believe that God is good. Not intellectually – I mean believe. It’s to believe that He is willing. It’s to embrace that God wants to do, not something hard or difficult, but the impossible in you and through you. That’s His will.
If you were one of His disciples, He would turn to you, He would look you right in the eye, and say, “You feed ‘em.” And you go, “What?” “You reach your neighborhood.” “What?” “You be the breakthrough at work.” “What?” “You take the first step in the reconciliation of this marriage.” “What?” “You break that addiction, and bring other people with you.” “What?” It’s what He expects. And all the power is available to do it.
How? I don’t want you to intellectually be, “Oh, yeah. When I was there, it seemed like God really loved me, and He cares about me, and I’m valued and I’m forgiven, and His Spirit lives in me, and I have gifts, and He’s got a plan for my life. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” – and then, Monday morning. I want you to read this over, and I want you to put your name in it, because I want you not to memorize this, or say, “God’ll love me more if I get this down.”
This passage was not written just to read at funerals. This is one of the most graphic pictures of God’s goodness in all the Bible. And when you personalize it – I mean, just in preparing for this, I just read, “The LORD is [Chip’s] Shepherd, [Chip lacks nothing]. He makes [Chip] lie down in green [pastured], He leads [Chip] beside quiet waters.” Wow. “He [refreshes Chip’s] soul. He guides [Chip along the right paths] for His name’s sake. Even though [Chip walks] through the [darkest valley, Chip] will fear no evil, for You are with [Chip]; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort [Chip]. You prepare a table for [Chip] in the presence of [Chip’s] enemies. You anoint [Chip’s] head with oil; [Chip’s] cup [will overflow]. Surely goodness and love will follow [Chip]” – not somebody, somewhere, sometime – me! – “all the days of [Chip’s] life, and [Chip]” – talk about promise – “will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
I want you, this week, to write your name in there, and I want you just to read it over. And by the way, as you’re reading, if you slip into praising God, it’s okay. If you – if problems about, “Oh, you mean God would really give me direction, or help me get through this?” And you start thinking, and thoughts come to your mind that solve problems, that’s okay. If you renew your mind – next seven days – okay? – at least a couple times a week, your intellectual assent that God is good will move from your head into your heart, and you will begin to see differently, and you will begin the first step for breakthrough.