I saw on 60 Minutes a brief little interview with a man in New York City. He started 80 charter schools in New York City. And in the interview, this one line captured me. He turned to the interviewer, he says, “Well, you need to understand that the only real purpose and significance in life is making sacrifices to meet the needs of other people. That’s where fulfillment is. I think he got that from somewhere. I wonder if we do.
And finally, what about breakthrough? I think Jesus wanted them to learn that breakthroughs start small. A man and a woman having a conversation. It’s like a mustard seed. Starts small. And then, a few people come out. And then, it multiplies.
The other thing He wanted ‘em to learn about breakthroughs is, they’re not something that are gonna happen someday, some way, out there. You say – disciples – your mindset, your paradigm is, in four months, then comes the harvest. In other words, someday, some way, God’s gonna do something.
You know, there’ve been things in the Old Testament, and – from their world. For us, there was a great – the First Awakening, the Second Awakening, and there’s the Layman’s Prayer Revival, and the Wesleys did things. We’ve heard about things in Korea, and these movements in Africa, and breakouts in Latin America. I bet, just mystically, somehow, some way, God does that, and Jesus would say – ehhh! – no. God is already working. Breakthroughs are not about someday, some way, if we do X, Y, Z, F, G, M, and God mystically blows on it. God is already working. He’s looking for regular, ordinary people to just believe.
“Unlikely supernatural breakthroughs are not dependent on a future work of God, but a present work of one.” See, the difference? I believe He’s working in the Muslim community in our area, and the Chinese community, and the Korean community. I think the Spirit of God is working everywhere.
He’s looking for an unlikely person, like you or me, who’s ordinary, who feels unworthy, like this woman, to say, “I’m gonna just go tell ‘em. I’m gonna take a step, and I might get rejected. But what I’ll probably find is, He’s already been working, and He has hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of people who are struggling in their marriage, and hurting, and have health issues, and unresolved issues with their parents and kids, and they’re confused, and the work, and the money – and all that stuff really isn’t delivering.
And God just is looking for a messenger – a man, a woman, or a student – who would just do what an immoral woman did to a group of people far-away from God, and He’ll break through.
But here’s the deal: It takes a small group for breakthrough to happen. ‘Cause that dream’ll die in your heart in a New York minute, and you’ll be afraid to take the step, unless there are three or four people praying with you. And then, when you take the first one, it gets harder before it gets better, and you’re ready to quit – you need a group of people to say, “Let’s hang in there.”
Or, you’re thinking, you know, I – Chip, you know, you’re, like, on – rounding third; I’m coming out of the batter’s box. In fact, I’m not sure I’m up at the plate. I have a sexual addiction. I’ve got a problem in my marriage. Actually, I have a problem that I’m not married, because of how I’m living, or I’ve got this problem over here, or, you know, No one knows. I’ve already... I mean, cheating on your taxes is just what I do. How could God ever use someone like me? Well, I need a group of people that will help me go through the journey, and love me the way Jesus loved this woman, and realize, no one has it together, and I can be real.
It’s God’s plan.
Breakthroughs, in us, have always been, and always will be, designed for break outs through us. So, let’s shift. That’s how Jesus did it. Let’s see if the disciples learned anything about how breakthroughs happen. How did His followers reach the world?
As you open Acts 1, Jesus is in a resurrected body. He’s going to say goodbye to His disciples. You can open the text there, and just follow along. I’m gonna give you the thumbnail sketch. And He tells them that, “I want you to hang around, because for forty days, I’ve been explaining the Kingdom of God. I’ve been teaching you about the mission to go into all the world, that every ethnic people needs to hear that I am God, I’ve paid for their sin, I’ve risen from the dead. And the power isn’t in you; the power’s in the Gospel, the announcement of the Good News. And you will be My witnesses, beginning here in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, into the uttermost parts of the world, and you’ll be given power.”
The word is dunamis – we get our word dynamite. “You will have dynamite, supernatural power inside of you. All you do is, you don’t convince anybody. You don’t twist their arms. You don’t have to tell ‘em how terrible they are. Here’s what you do: You just testify to what I’ve done in you. But here’s what I want you to do: I want you to hang out here, and the Spirit’s gonna come. He’ll give you power, and you’ll get it.”
And then, He goes up into the sky – literally, He ascends. They’re looking up in the sky. Couple angels say, “Hey, guys, why are you looking up there? This same Jesus who is ascending is going to come back. So, take what He said seriously.”
So, they do what good disciples do. They’re checking the Old Testament and realize, Well, we don’t know what to do while we’re waiting, but we know that the Old Testament says, clearly, that one of the disciples is gonna go south and we need to replace that person. So, they just obey what they know, and Matthias becomes one of the twelve.
And they wait, and then, we have a big breakthrough – woom! Right? Acts 2 – the Holy Spirit comes. They’re hanging out, praying, just doing what they know to do. The Spirit comes, and, unbeknownst to them, they start speaking in multiple different known dialects and languages, because it’s Pentecost, and Pentecost is a religious holiday, when people have come from all over the world, and people from all over that known world hear about Jesus, the Messiah, and the praising of God, in their own language.
And they think – some people think they’re crazy and drunk, and Peter says, “We’re not drunk, gang.” And this cowardly Peter steps up and becomes bold Peter, with God’s supernatural, unleashed power and breakthrough, and he gives a great sermon, and 3,000 people come to Christ.
And then, after 3,000 people come to Christ, they say, “Oh, what are we gonna do with them?” And they don’t have a game plan; they don’t have a lot of programs, and... “Well, let’s just do two things for sure: Let’s keep meeting at the Temple, and we’ll keep teaching the people God’s Word, and then, let’s have people meet in homes, house to house. We’ll break bread together, the apostles teaching. We’ll share life, we’ll help people that are hurting, we’ll love one another in homes, and let’s each one of us go out of our homes and where we’re at with other people.” And so, they start doing that.
Well, then, it’s a normal day; chapter 3 opens up, and Peter’s going, “So, what do we do?” “Well, we used to go to prayer meetings every day; I guess we should go; it’s time to pray.” He’s on his way to the Temple, and there’s a lame guy. So, Peter says to a lame guy, “Silver and gold have I none” – because he didn’t have any –“but what I have, I give to you. In the name of Jesus, be healed.”
Supernaturally, he’s healed – God authenticating. It’s an act of compassion, like Jesus was compassionate. He gets up, leaping and praising God, and comes into the Temple, and all of a sudden, oh, my lands, what’s happening? This little Jewish sect, who believes in this risen Lord, it’s going nuts. So, they threaten ’em: “Don’t you ever do this again.”
And then, they go back, and what do they do? They pray. And they don’t pray, “Oh, God, it’s so difficult, and we’re being persecuted.” It’s, “Oh, wow! This is awesome! How in the world could we be so privileged to get persecuted for You?”
And after their prayer meeting, it says – like God’s saying, “Amen” – the room starts – [sound effects] – and there’s a earthquake. And the prayer they prayed wasn’t, “Protect us.” It says, “Make us bold. Make us strong. Give us power. Allow us to proclaim Your name, and accompany it with signs and wonders, and with all that You wanna do, God.”
And so, you just see this pattern: Compassion. Breakthrough. Compassion. God’s Spirit. God’s provision. So much so, that no one has need. They love one another. They keep meeting in these homes. Ethnic groups, by chapter 8, are added – the Samaritans. By chapter 10, the Gentiles are added. By chapter 28, the known world – Paul is in that strategic city called “Rome,” and declaring the whole future of all the rest of history. And so, city after city after city after city, starting in these little, small groups.
And notice where did the breakthrough begin? With God. They always do. He loves the world, so much that He sent His Son. Whom did Jesus choose? Eleven unlikely candidates – all Galileans. How did they make room? They obeyed what they knew.
And they waited, and they prayed. What courageous step did they take? They identified with what God was doing, even in the face of persecution, they radically shared their resources with one another, and they kept their focus on external acts of compassion: meeting the needs of others.
After the persecution, chapter 4, before it opens in chapter 5, the apostles, people were coming from everywhere, like they did to Jesus. Needs are met. People are healed. God is working.
What did Jesus want them to learn? “I love the world. This mission I gave you is not an option. And all the power that you will ever need, to do everything I call you to do, you already have.” What did He want them to learn about themselves? “You can’t let your lack of faith, and your prejudice, and your view of the world to keep you from doing what I want you to do. You can’t let your little agenda about “my world and my stuff and my family and my future and my money” – if you do that, you’ll seek to save your life, and you’ll lose it. You need to lose your life for Me,” and then, we often leave out the second part of that passage – “and the Gospel.”
We give our lives to announce the Good News to other people.
And sometimes, our lives is our reputation, and sometimes it’s risky, and sometimes it’s very, very hard, and sometimes we’re persecuted, and that’s normal. And it’s also awesome.
About breakthrough – they start in absolutely small groups. It was with the three, then the twelve, then the one twenty, then Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, global. And that’s how it always happens.
Two and a half, three years ago, three people had a dream: to reach an apartment complex for young professionals. They put on a DVD and invited their neighbors, who they didn’t know. Three or four came. The next week, 12 came. Pretty soon, they were filling a house. Pretty soon, it was three, four, five, six houses. And pretty soon, a young, professional ministry was built. Just how God works.
Notice what it says. Timeless axiom: Breakthroughs are fueled by compassion, and birthed in biblical community. They’re fueled. Acts of compassion fuel it, followed by biblical community to figure out, What are we gonna do? How are we gonna do it? I’m afraid. I’ve gotta deal with my own stuff.
See, some of you are pregnant with an idea, and the rapid pace of life – you’ve thought multiple times about your neighborhood or workplace; you just haven’t taken the step. I want you to know, the Spirit of God is working in your neighborhood.
I have a meeting this week with two couples who believe that, both pretty recent in their faith and really walking with God. And we’re meeting together, and we’re gonna launch a Bible study for non-Christians in our neighborhood. And they’re a little uptight about it, and honestly – you know, they think I’m not. “You know, you’re a pastor. You really get this, right?” Yeah, I’m a little uptight about it.
But here’s what I know: God is working in the families in our community. I’ve never done a Bible study. Now, I mean, I’m not gonna just pour condemnation all over myself. I have been doing a few other things.
But you know what? I make that the excuse, ‘cause I have another neighbor that I’ve built a relationship with that, I love him. I love him and his wife. They’ve never been in our home yet. To that, I say, “Shame on you, Chip.” I mean, maybe they won’t come. But you know what? Someone oughta say, “Hey, you wanna come over and just have coffee? Tell us your story. How long you lived here?” I mean, I’ve talked in the driveway forever with them.
What about you? The potentiality is, God wants to do something in you first, ‘cause you’re conflicted. And it’s like, Oh, man, I need to, I need to, I need to, I know what’s right, but... And, you know, right about after a week after this series is over, a year from now, I could interview you. If you don’t act, you’ll be in the exact same spot, except you always reap what you sow.
And so, you think how it is, is gonna stay how it is. No, no, no, no. When we know what to do, and don’t obey, things don’t get easier, or the same. They get worse. Because God, in His great love, doesn’t allow us to stay the same. The velvet vice of His discipline, you know? He’s bringing truth to your heart and your life, ‘cause He wants to do good. ‘Member? He’s good; He’s a good Shepherd. He can take care of you. He’ll provide for you. He’ll lead you, even through the valley of the shadow of death, even when it’s hard, even... If you don’t know what to do, He’ll guide you. ‘Member all that?
Well, if we don’t listen to His voice, sometimes we get to feel His hand. But His heart is not to – He’s not trying to mess over your life. He’s just doing with you what we do with our kids: “Here are some consequences, honey. You didn’t listen the first 11 times.”
Can I give you some very specific action? Pray, fervently and desperately. Can I ask you – ‘cause it doesn’t happen all at once, and as you pray, you’ll find He’ll start speaking to you, probably, more than He does anything else. But pray. For 30 days. Fervently. “Unleash Your power, Lord, in my situation, in this relationship, in this church.”
Second, extend God’s compassion to someone or a group in need this week. A lot of it – just get the ball rolling. I mean, do something. Love someone. It’s legal. I mean, just – new eyes. Just love someone! If you’re in a small group right now, say, “You know what? We’re having a great time. What should we do? Could we love somebody?” Every time you just go out and extend compassion, the Spirit of God begins to explode.
And then, finally, join or start – not just a small group, a life action group. Join or start a life action group – what? – to pursue breakthrough in you and through you. And what you need to do is prioritize, and say, “I need to get in a group, to get loving, healing, encouragement.” And if there are people you already know, say, “Hey, can we do a group?” There are others of you, and you’re thinking, If I could just find two or three other people, or I’ve talked casually, or – I mean, I think Bob would do this, or Mary would do this, or there are these two people at our company, and they’re Christians that go to different churches. Great!
Everything new, everything birthed, any innovation, any cultural good, any movement of God gets birthed in a small group.