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The Essential Christian Life

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The Essential Christian Life: 1. Our going. 2. Our gathering. 3. Our giving. 4. Our God. 5. Our goal.

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The Essential Christian Life

Acts 9:32-43

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 5, 2017

INTRODUCTION:

*The average person breathes about 12 to 18 times a minute. Of course, we do that all the time. And if you're like me, you almost never think about it. But when it comes to our physical health: What could be more essential?

*Years ago, Alan Jackson had a popular song called: “Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee.” That song reminds me of home, because the Chattahoochee is a real river that runs through Atlanta, and that’s where I almost stopped breathing 47 years ago.

*The Chattahoochee has a few rapids, so it’s fun to go down in a tube or a rubber boat, and we used to do it when I lived in Atlanta. But one of those times I got trapped under a huge rock. The rushing river was pushing me deeper and deeper under the water, and I couldn’t get my breath. I almost drowned, and I believe that I would have drowned, if God hadn’t helped me get free.

*For a few moments, I didn’t think I was going to make it. What a terrible feeling it is to be running out of air. Breathing is essential in life. And today's Scripture shows us some things that are just as essential in Christian life.

1. The first essential today is our going.

*Peter shows us this vital function in vs. 32: "Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda." Peter was going for Jesus Christ, and God wants us to go.

[1] We cannot follow Jesus' example without going.

*In Mark 1, Jesus was doing a great work in Capernaum, but vs. 35-38 say:

35. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

36. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him.

37. When they found Him, they said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You.''

38. But He said to them, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.''

[2] We can't follow Jesus' example without going. And we can't follow the Lord's teaching without going.

*In Mark 16:15, Jesus told His disciples: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." And in John 20:21, Jesus said to them: "Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."

*Somehow, we have got to go for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! But understand that going is more about passion and purpose than it is about a place. Lord willing, four of our youth will get to go on the youth choir mission trip to Cincinnati this summer. And the rest of us will get to help send them on their way.

*But Pastor Duane Brooks said we should look at every day of our lives as a short-term mission trip for the Lord. We can be on mission at work, in school, at the ball park, or at the grocery store. (1)

*One way or another, we can be on mission for the Lord everywhere we go. And Peter is a great example for us. But there is another great example of going in today's Scripture: It's the two nameless men who went after Tabitha died. Please listen to this part of the story vs. 36-39:

36. At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.

37. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

38. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.

39. Then Peter arose and went with them. . .

*In vs. 38, those two faithful men walked the 6 to 10 miles to Lydda to find Peter. They didn't have a miraculous gift of raising someone from the dead, but they found the man who did. Tabitha probably would not have been raised from the dead without the help of those nameless, faithful Christians. They were on the go to help their hurting friends. -- And God surely wants us to go for the cause of Jesus Christ.

2. One essential in Christian life is our going. -- Another essential is our gathering.

*God’s Word reminds us of this truth in vs. 32, where Peter "came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda." Peter gathered with the saints. He gathered together with God’s people. And that is something all followers of Jesus Christ need to do!

*Christians: We are "the saints," and God strongly desires for us to gather together. Our gathering is one of the main ways we can get the strength and support we need. That’s why Hebrews 10:25 in the NLT says: "Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near."

*There are many people around us: good people, Christian people, who have made the terrible mistake of dropping out of church.

*Church dropouts remind me of a 3-year-old in a story by Ron Hutchcraft. Ron said: "Our good friends were visiting us with their precious, 3-year-old daughter, Tanya. She has captivating dark eyes, a charming smile, a high-energy personality, and a mind of her own.

*One day, Tanya's dad was crossing a very busy street with his daughter, and he said, "Now, hold Daddy's hand." Tanya didn't like that idea. She looked up at dad and said: "That's okay, Daddy. I'll hold my own hand." (2)

*That's not a good idea for a 3-year-old, and it's not a good idea for Christians. But that’s what Christians are trying to do when they drop out of church.

*Why do they drop out? -- Maybe a bad habit keeps them away, because they can’t seem to overcome it. Other people are so successful that they don’t see the need for God. That's why God's Word gives us this very wise prayer in Proverbs 30:8-9:

8. . . Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food You prescribe for me;

9. Lest I be full and deny You, and say, "Who is the Lord?'' Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.

*People drop out of church for all kinds of reasons. We can be sure that the devil will do anything he can to keep people out of church. And we must be sure we don’t do something to drive someone away from church.

*Many people have been hurt in church by Christians acting in cruel, unchristian ways. That's sad to say. But even if you do get hurt in church, don’t let anything keep you away from God’s people.

3. Don’t let anything keep you away from God's church, because gathering is essential in Christian life. Another essential is our giving.

*Our God is a giver, and He wants us to be givers too. That's why God's Word gives us some great examples of giving in today's Scripture. For example, in vs. 33-35, we see Peter use his God-given gift of healing to help a man who was desperately ill:

33. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.

34. And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.'' Then he arose immediately.

35. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

*Of course, we don’t have the same gifts that Peter had. If we did, then Citizens Hospital would be empty by lunchtime every day! Peter's miraculous gift of healing was one of the ways God gave credibility to His Church, the cross, and the Lordship of our Risen Savior.

*John Phillips explained that Peter instantly healed this man in the name of Jesus, and Phillips said: "That is how it was with the miraculous gift of healing: Find the most difficult case. Seek him out. Then heal him completely, instantly, beyond the shadow of doubt. There was no mass meeting, no hysteria, no healing of psychosomatic illness as though it were the real thing, no stage-managed effects, and no offering. Just the simple exercise of a rare and temporary, but awesome and convincing spiritual gift." (3)

*By the grace of God, Peter gave miraculous healing to that man who had been paralyzed for 8 years. Then God used Peter to give another miracle down in vs. 36-42:

36. At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.

37. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

38. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.

39. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.

40. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise.'' And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

41. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.

42. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

*We don’t have the same gifts that Peter had, but we all have God-given gifts, and God wants us to do all we can to help other people. That's why Tabitha is another great example for us in vs. 36: "This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did." And in vs. 39, all the widows showed Peter "the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made" for them.

*God wants every believer to be a giver. One way or another, God wants all of us to participate in His work. He wants every part of His Body to do our part in the Body of Christ. That's why Romans 12:6-8 says this in the NLT:

6. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.

7. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.

8. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

*God wants every believer to give what we can out of the gifts that He has given to us. That's why in Romans 12:9-13, Paul went on to say:

9. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

10. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

11. not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

12. rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

13. distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

*One of the things God wants us to give is hospitality. That means showing sincere love to strangers. Some of the greatest hospitality I ever received came from some of the poorest people I ever met. It happened in Ukraine in 1994. We went to a country village named “Little Paradise.” But that village was anything but a paradise. It was the poorest place we saw in Ukraine, and that is very poor.

*After house church that evening, they took us out to a narrow porch to feed us. A rough wooden table about 15 feet long filled the porch. There were rough wooden benches on both sides. Soup, fish, and bread were spread down the table, along with more flies than I have ever seen at one time in my life. Not a few flies or a few dozen, but hundreds and hundreds of flies. There were so many flies that it was hard to get a bite from the plate to your mouth without eating a fly. And all I could think about when I sat down was those flies.

*Part of the table was covered with a table cloth. As I slid between the wall and the bench, I went on down past the table cloth. But the church-members insisted that I make my way back to the section covered with cloth. That was the part reserved for the guests.

*I didn’t care. All I could think about at first was the flies. But then I noticed the people sitting at the uncovered part of the table. They were all eating in pairs, sharing cups, bowls and plates. We guests were the only people who had our own cups and bowls.

*Those believers had next to nothing, but out of Christ-like love, they gave their best to the strangers who had come to see them. And the most wonderful thing was that it made them happy. They were happy to be hospitable for Jesus Christ. It put a big smile on their faces! And if the people in “Little Paradise” can give like that, then surely we can too. God wants every believer to give what we can out of the gifts that He has given to us.

4. And we should, because our giving is one of the essentials in Christian life. But the greatest essential of all is our God.

*Back up in vs. 33-34, please notice again how Aeneas got healed:

33. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.

34. And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.'' Then he arose immediately.

*There is absolutely no doubt where Peter got his ability: "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you." Peter knew that there was nothing he could do in his own strength. Jesus made this truth clear on the night before He died on the cross for us. In John 15:5 Jesus told His followers, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

*Peter knew that. So when Aeneas was healed, Peter gave all the glory to God. And in vs. 40, when Peter was faced with an impossible task of raising the dead, he did exactly the right thing: Peter knelt down, and went to God in prayer. Jesus Christ is the Healer, and Jesus is the only Savior in the world! Jesus is the one who came into this world on the first Christmas to die on the cross for our sins!

*And we don’t have the same gifts Peter had, but we have the same God! He gets all the glory for any good we ever do.

5. And the greatest essential in Christian life is our God. But one more essential is our goal.

*God has the same goal today that we see here in Acts 9: He wants people to turn to the Lord! Please listen again to how people turned to the Lord in today's Scripture.

*In vs. 34-35:

34. And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.'' Then he arose immediately.

35. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

*Then in vs. 41-42:

41. Then he (Peter) gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.

42. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

*By God's grace, we can help more people turn to the Lord! We can help more people believe in Jesus. And this is the most important thing that happened in these verses.

*It wasn’t the man being healed of paralysis, as wonderful as that was. And the most wonderful thing wasn’t Tabitha being raised from the dead. I’ve got to tell you that she was probably a little chapped about that. Who wants to come back from Heaven? -- Not me!

*The most wonderful thing that happened in these verses is that people turned to the Lord! Many people believed on the Lord and they were saved forever. God has the same goal for people today, and we can be a part of it!

CONCLUSION:

*But are you saved? -- Have you turned your life over to Jesus Christ, and received Him as your Lord and Savior? Have you put your trust in our Risen Savior and what He did on the cross for our sins?

*Call of the Lord to save you right now. Then ask God to help us live the essential Christian life: Going, gathering, and giving so that more people can be saved and know the true and living God.

*Would you please bow for prayer.

(1) Baptist Standard, 11202006, p.11 - Source: "In Other Words" December 2006 #3 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net

(2) KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 9537 - SOURCE: A Word With You By Ron Hutchcraft #3898 - TITLE: Changing Hands - AUTHOR: Ron Hutchcraft - DATE: 12192001

(3) Adapted from Exploring Acts, An Expository Commentary, John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, 1986, p. 190

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