reTHINKING CHURCH - Part 1
On Sunday, September 17, I preached a sermon from Acts 5:12-16.
Today, I want to help you dream big. What id God turned the power dial all the way to MAX in your life and in this church? Here's why I want you to dream big. Because I want you to be a history maker. I want you to build a legacy of changed lives for eternity.
This big dream is not a fantasy; it's based on the "ACTS 5 CHURCH" in Jerusalem. God did it then. Why not now? I want you to leave here today full of discontent. Holy discontent, praying urgently to the Father, "Please make us that kind of church."
Dream with me as I unpack the passage and show you three things wants for us:
1. GOD WANTS TO MAKE US PURE - Acts 5:13
Verse 13 says, No one dared join the believers. That's a strange comment isn't it? Why is it there? Ananias and Sapphira went to church and God killed them (vv. 1-11). God's anger broke out. And he struck them down What? Why? God was sending a message: "I'm not going to tolerate unrepentant sin in my new community." See 1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 11:29-32. And he dealt with it. Message received!
Don't you think that's a bit harsh? It doesn't fit with our ideas of a gracious God and a seeker-sensitive church does it? Way too serious. The truth is, we need to rethink who God is and what kind of church he wants.
The church is blood bought. It belongs to the God who is holy, holy, holy. It's called "the church" in verse 11 because it's an assembly called together and set apart for God. That makes it a holy church. Listen to these verses in Ephesians 5:
"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy ..., 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" - Ephesians 5:26-27.
When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit, it was a blemish on the purity of the church. What they did was like a cancer. It was killing the church. God removed them so he could restore his church and make it radiant again.
God wants us to be an ACTS 5 CHURCH: a pure, holy, God-saturated, right-living, sin-forsaking, Spirit-filled, loving church that reflects who he is to the world. So the world can look at us and believe in God.
Dream big about offering your life fully to God. I don't mean that we can all achieve sinless perfection - that's impossible. And I definitely don't mean that we're all self-righteous and looking down our noses at everyone else. But I do mean that the Lord wants us all to bow down to him in faith and obedience and surrender and reverent fear in awe of him:
"As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” - 1 Peter 1:14-16
People say, "This sin's got a grip on me." The reality is this: too often we have a grip on our sin. Let it go! The Lord is saying to all of us, "Do not stain my spotless church. Live holy."
Can you feel some discontent rising up? Turn it into a desperate prayer, "Lord, I'm giving up my sin; I'm choosing holy living so people will see you in my life."
Perhaps in our efforts to communicate the wonderful free grace of God, we give the impression that anything goes. That's a mistake. That's not the plan at all. Grace is not permission to sin; it is power for new life. Grace should energize us to live for the glory of God:
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age," - Titus 2:11-12
Saved people live saved lives. A saved life is one dedicated to God and devoted to holy living.
2. GOD WANTS TO SHOW US HIS PRESENCE - Acts 5:12, 15-16
Verses 12, 15-16 focus on God's presence manifest in miracles of healing and deliverance. God's power flowed into and out of a pure church. The ACTS 5 CHURCH channeled God's compassionate power: The apostles healed the sick. They set people free from demonic oppression. What an amazing season in the history of the church! I wish I had been there.
God's presence is life-changing: Verse 16 says "ALL of them were healed." Who knows how many that was, but it was ALL of them.
The ACTS 5 CHURCH was the main event in town? Verse 13 says "they were highly regarded by the people," and Acts 2:47 says they were, "enjoying the favor of all the people." People were drawn to church by their needs; they stayed because they met God.
Let's dream about this for the Cornerstone. We want people to meet God as rivers of healing and deliverance flow through us as we love and serve here and around town.
What if you could pray for a friend and see God's healing power working?
What if your coworker came to you looking for comfort and wisdom and God's supernatural authority flowed through your words into their hearts?
What if you shared Christ with your neighbors and God moved in power on them?
It's not programs. it's not skills. It's the supernatural power of God.
Feeling discontent? Ask God, "Manifest your compassionate presence in me."
3. GOD WANTS TO REACH MORE PEOPLE - Acts 5:14
Purity leads to power. And power leads to people coming to faith.
In the ACTS 5 CHURCH, "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number" - Acts 5:14. It was a supernatural harvest, a great awakening to God, to Jesus, to salvation.
Even though the crowds were generally scared of getting close to the believers (because of what happened to A and S and persecution from the government), some were actually drawn to the teaching under Solomon's Colonnade (the covered portico in the great court of the Temple, where Jesus used to teach the crowds, John 10:22-23). When they overheard the apostles explaining Jesus and the Gospel, they believed and were saved. They were enfolded into the church. There was phenomenal growth in numbers and thousands were converted in those early days:
Acts 2:41: About three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2:47: The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4:4 The number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
Acts 6:7: The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.
Frankly, I'm not content to read about the ACTS 5 CHURCH. I want us to be the Acts 5 church. I want to see a great awakening, a supernatural harvest. I want to see my family and friends and neighbors coming in faith to Jesus.
I'm afraid that our dreams are too small and we've have settled for too little. Don't just pray a feeble prayer. No! Storm the gates of heaven. Plead at God's throne. Beg him for a harvest. Imagine it! All the lost find their way home to God, calling on Jesus to save them. What a day that would be."Why not here, why not now - Lord?" Dream bigger!
The ACTS 5 CHURCH made history. And I want us to be history makers. But we can't sit back and expect it to happen. Dream bigger. Pray harder. Expect more.
I want to leave you with a challenging question and a call to action.
The call to action is this: get in the habit every week of inviting someone to church or small group.
The challenging question is this: are you willing to work with me to make our Sunday services more welcoming, more helpful, more life-changing for guests who need Jesus? What are you willing to do, what are you willing to give up, for the sake of the lost finding their way home to God?
Think about that and come back next Sunday to hear what I think we need to do.