reTHINKING CHURCH - Part 2
On Sunday, September 24, I preached a sermon on Acts 5: 17-42.
Last week, I asked you to dream big about the church. I asked you to feel a holy discontentment with the way things are and to ask God to make us into an Acts 5 Church and Acts 5 Christians.
An Acts 5 church has four characteristics:
A church of purity. They wanted to be a radiant church, representing their radiant Lord.
A church of power. The Lord worked through them to bring his supernatural compassion to the city.
A church of people. The Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved. Thousands at a time.
I finished last week by asking you to dream bigger. Ask God for more. Expect more.
Today, we'll discuss the fourth characteristic of the Acts 5 church. It was a "PREVAILING" church. What is a prevailing church or a prevailing Christian like? The prevailing church/Christian possesses two characteristics ...
A. THE PREVAILING CHURCH EXPERIENCES PRESSURE TO QUIT
The Jewish Ruling Council put pressure on the apostles to quit preaching about Jesus and the resurrection. What was their problem?
First, there was the political problem. The apostles were preaching about a man who was executed by the Romans as a trouble maker. The Jewish elites knew this would rock the boat with Rome and that they could lose their privileged status.
Then there was the power problem. The apostles were blaming the Jewish rulers for the crucifixion. And the people were listening (5:26, 28). These Sadducees who controlled the temple and the government needed to keep a lid on things or they would lose their elite power and prestige.
Then, there was personal problem - jealousy. The apostles were healing people and casting out demons. And the Council couldn't do that. Again, that threatened their authority over the people.
The Council demanded the apostles stop their preaching about Jesus the Messiah. When that didn't work, they threw them in jail. When that didn't work, they beat them.
Years after Acts 5, the apostle Peter wrote about handling the pressure to quit:
We are "called" to suffer just like Jesus did - 1 Peter 2:20-21; 3:9.
We should not be surprised by opposition - 1 Peter 4:12.
The Lord Jesus said to his disciples, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" - John 15:20.
The pressure will come in all shapes and sizes: from critics and naysayers, to our own discouragements, all the way up to prison and death. When that happens, EXPECT IT, REJECT IT, PREVAIL AGAINST IT!
B. THE PREVAILING CHURCH PERSEVERES UNDER PRESSURE
The report in Acts 5 is actually filled with irony and humor:
The Council threw the apostles in jail. But an angel of the Lord set them free. The Sadducees who were the majority party on the Council didn't believe in angels.
The Sadducees controlled the temple. The apostles went straight from jail to preach where? The temple! And the people loved hearing them; so much so that the temple police were very nervous about arresting them (verse 26).
The Council demanded to know why the apostles were defying their government by continuing to preach in "that name," (disdain), so Peter preached to them about that name, Jesus, the risen Prince and Savior of Israel.
The Sadducees revered the Patriarchs (Abraham and his descendants) but denied the possibility of resurrection, so Peter told them that the God of the ancestors (Patriarchs) raised Jesus from the dead. It drove the Council members crazy - see verse 33.
What if the apostles had said, "This is too hard. We just want a quiet life. We're done preaching Jesus Christ as God and Savior?" You and I would be far from God and headed for an eternity in hell. But they persevered under pressure. Why?
They saw Jesus preaching the Good News in the face of threats and violence and the cross.
They knew that the salvation of the world was at stake, so they chose to obey God and to resist the government (Acts 5:29). They prevailed for the sake of the men and women, boys and girls that Jesus came to save.
The world needs PREVAILING churches and prevailing Christians who serve and share Christ; men and women who love Jesus and their lost friends so much that they "NEVER STOP teaching and proclaiming the good news" Acts 5:42. That's an Acts 5 Christian, a history-maker, a legacy-leaver. A life worth living.
Last week, I asked you to think about a very serious and challenging question:
"On Sunday mornings, what are you willing to do, what are you willing to give up, for the sake of your lost friends finding their way home to God?"
I hope your answer is something like this:
"Peter, I want to be a PREVAILING Christian - nothing can stop me sharing Christ. I'm willing to do pretty much anything or give up anything to help people find and follow Jesus."
If that is what you said, that's great. You are an Acts 5 Christian. Jesus had the same heartbeat. He came to seek and to save the lost by his own self-sacrifice. He laid aside his rights. He endured opposition. He laid down his life. He prevailed. Why did Jesus do that? Because that's what it takes. He did it for our salvation.
Acts 5 Christians lay down their lives for the sake of the lost. They lay down their their time, money, comforts, and rights to bring salvation to the world. Why? Because that's what it takes.