The Most Heavenly Place on Earth
The Most Heavenly Place on Earth
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Aug. 4, 2013
*We used to go to Heavenly Ham a good bit. And the ham was very good, but I wouldn't say it was heavenly. On Friday I plugged the word "heavenly" into Google and got over 51 million hits. You can go to the "Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort" in California, the "Heavenly Café" in Florida, and the "Heavenly Cupcake" store in San Diego. Now, all of those places may be five star, first class establishments, but they're not really heavenly.
*Can we find at least a little bit of Heaven on earth? -- The answer is yes, because the Lord's church is on earth. And the most heavenly place on earth ought to be the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
1. The early church helps us see this truth here in the Word of God, and first we see that God wants His church to be united.
*As vs. 32 says, "The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul." The early Christians were together in their hearts, together in their souls, together in their thoughts and in their feelings, together in their wishes, hopes and dreams.
*God wants us to have that kind of unity and harmony, but that can be hard because, well because we are people. That's why Frederick the Great once said, "The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog." (1)
*We people can be difficult. Think about it this way: Who is the person you love most in this world? Men, if you are married, the correct answer is: "Your wife."
*But do you get along with your wife all the time? Do you get along with the person you love the most all the time? Probably not. And if that is true, then how can you expect to get along with the rest of us all the time? The answer is: we can’t.
*And by the beginning of Acts 6, there were already some problems in the early church. But here is the truth: Christians ought to get along better than anyone else in the world! That's because we have the mind of Christ, the love of Christ, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ living in us.
*Christians also ought to get along better than anyone else, because our love for one another is one of the greatest witnesses we have to this lost and dying world. In John 13:34-35, the Lord expressed it this way on the night before the cross:
34. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
*The most heavenly place on earth ought to be the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why God wants His church to be united.
2. He also wants us to be unselfish.
*This truth is clear to us in the last part of vs. 32, which says: "Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common."
*God wants His people to be unselfish. We see this truth again in vs. 34-35:
34. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,
35. and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
*There is no Biblical evidence that these drastic measures were taken in the other New Testament churches. In fact, the other churches later took up collections for the church at Jerusalem. But here you had a difficult and desperate situation. These Jewish Christians had come to Jerusalem from many different nations. They came for the Feast of Pentecost, and expected to soon go home. But they got saved and stayed.
*On top of that, persecution was just around the corner. In fact, the persecution had already started to a degree. Even before the cross, John 9:22 tells us that the Jewish rulers had: "Agreed already that if anyone confessed that (Jesus) was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue."
*And John Gill explained that being put out of the synagogue at the extreme meant "that and he might neither hire, nor be hired; and the other people did not trade with him, nor did they employ him in any business, unless in very little, just to keep him alive. Being put out also meant that his possessions could be confiscated." (2)
*The situation was grave in Jerusalem. And the principle for us is that as the Lord leads, we should generously help those who are in need. God wants all believers to be generous givers: giving our time, giving our talents, giving our tithes and offerings for the glory of God.
*And if we are really growing spiritually, we will. Melvin Newland put it this way:
-"If you’re grumbling and complaining, if you’re not joyful in the Lord, it is probably a strong indication that you are not growing in the Lord.
*On the other hand, growing Christians are excited about what the Lord is doing. You know that He is coming again, and you’re excited about what He is going to do in His church between now and the time that He comes. You’re also excited about what He is going to do in your life and in your home, because growing Christians are joyful Christians. And growing Christians are willing Christians.
*The growing Christian says, 'Sure, I’ll be an usher. Sure, I’ll help set up the chairs and tables. I’ll help clean up the kitchen. I’ll teach the class. I’ll be glad to do whatever needs to be done.'
*And whenever the offering plate comes, they contribute, not because their arms have been twisted. They give because they love God, and they’re growing in their faith. They give with a happy feeling because they’re part of the most important work on the face of the earth. (3)
*This past June we gave our VBS offering to Clara Linda Wilkes. She was serving with the North American Mission Board in North Carolina. We sent about $535 to help Clara Linda, and here is part of the thank-you letter she wrote:
*"Dear Pastor Crandall and beloved Grayson Baptist church family,
-Thank you so much for the gift of money. It was and is an unbelievable offering of love and support, especially for a former church member. I have donated $200.00 to Jackson Line Baptist Church, and $300.00 to S.W.A.R.M. (That is the Southwest Area Resort Ministry in North Carolina). I kept the remainder for myself. I had to buy a GPS system. Finding my way in these mountains has been unbelievable!"
*Think how blessed she was by the generosity of our church family. That's one reason why God wants His church to be unselfish.
3. He also wants us to be unleashed.
*God doesn't want His church to be tied down by our fears and failures. He wants us to be on offense for the Kingdom of Christ! So vs. 33 says: "With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all."
 God wants His church to be unleashed. This means He wants us to be bold in our witness.
*We need boldness like the apostles had in vs. 33. There "with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. . ."
*Remember the opposition that the early church already faced. Peter and John had just been hauled before the highest court in the land. And they were threatened to stop telling people about Jesus.
*Please listen to this part of the story up in vs. 15-20:
15. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
16. saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
17. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.''
18. And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
19. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.
20. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.''
*The gospel will always face opposition in this world. But in Matthew 16:18, Jesus said: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." All the forces of man and all the forces of hell cannot stop the gospel! So God wants us to be bold in our witness.
*"The apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power." Now, these men had the power to perform miracles. But that doesn't seem to be the only thing the Scripture is talking about here. It is talking about the power of their words, the power of their witness, the power of the gospel.
*It's the same power that Paul talked about in Romans 1:16, when he said: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
*Church: We've got the same power of the gospel today! Nothing can change the world like the good news of Jesus Christ!
*Almost everyone has heard of Heinz ketchup, but did you know that Mr. Henry John Heinz was a devoted Christian? One day after an evangelistic service the speaker turned to Henry Heinz and said, "You are a believer, but with all your energy why aren't you up and at it for the Lord?"
*Henry Heinz went home in anger, but that night he couldn't sleep, and at 4 o'clock in the morning he prayed that God would use him to lead others to the Savior.
*A day or so later at a meeting of bank presidents, he turned to the man next to him and told him of his joy in knowing Jesus. His friend looked at him in surprise and said, "I knew you were a Christian. I've wondered many times why you never spoke to me about salvation." That man became the first of 267 people that Henry Heinz led to the Lord! (4)
*We've got the same power of the gospel today! Clara Linda Wilkes has been boldly sharing the good news over in North Carolina. Remember that she gave $200 of our offering to Jackson Line Baptist Church, and listen to more of Clara Linda's thank-you letter to us:
*"Jackson Line is the small church where I have been working with their children's group (ages 5 to 13). As I wrote earlier, they are "the forgotten ones" that nobody wants, and we pick them up in the church van. Swain County is the poorest county in North Carolina, and has the highest amount of abused and neglected children in North Carolina. The pastor is desperately trying to raise money for an activity building for these kids to be built next to the church. During my time here God has brought one 9-year-old to be saved and two 12-year-olds to rededicate their lives. One 15-year-old was saved, along with her parents.
*Regarding S.W.A.R.M. activities: The volunteer church groups that come here to help with Bible study and VBS at the campgrounds have kept us hopping! Between these activities and the Heritage Festival in May and the Independence Fest on July the 4th, 21 people have accepted Christ so far.
*We had 11 at the Heritage Fest, and we were expecting more at the larger festival in July, but it stormed all day, so we saw only 5 people make decisions. However, God used me to bring my first "stranger" to Christ. It happened so fast, I hardly had time to be nervous. It was absolutely awesome!
*The prison ministry has been my saddest time, but in some ways my most rewarding. The majority of them are terrified, and their fate has slammed them to their knees. Most are young, first jail term, and they have time to re-think things and how to make better choices. They know they can't do it alone.
*One precious lady hugged me after our Bible study and told me she was so sorry, but she would have to miss our study next week. She was getting out, and she was sad to miss the Bible study!"
*That's another demonstration of the power of the gospel. And we've got the same power! Let me remind you that we also have God-given platforms or opportunities to share the gospel.
*For Peter and John in Acts 3 & 4, the platform was the miraculous healing of the man who was born lame. But most of the time, our platforms are much more ordinary. For example, in Acts 19:8-10, Paul was in Ephesus trying to spread the gospel, and the Bible says:
8. . . He went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
9. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
10. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
*Paul started out in the synagogue, but when that didn't work out, Paul certainly didn't give up. No. He moved to the school and reached a whole lot of people for Jesus Christ. Paul found a new platform at the school, and He may already have given another platform to Clara Linda.
*Her letter was dated July 9th, and it closed with these words: "Due to my work in the prison, I have been contacted by the Pennsylvania State Convention to work with young women adjusting to the world after prison, addictions, domestic violence, etc. This work is supported by a church in Pittsburgh, which is the largest city in the Appalachian Mountains area, so I will be taking a trip this weekend, and checking it out. From the backwoods of the Smokey Mountains to the big city life, -- I don't know if I can adjust! However, it will be so nice to have Wi-Fi, and an entire phone conversation with my kids!
*Thank you all again for your extraordinary love and support. Please let the children know how much their offering is appreciated. God bless you all,
Clara Linda Wilkes"
*God gives platforms to His people to boldly share the gospel. Every day of our lives, God gives us different platforms to boldly tell people what God has done in our lives.
*Church: We've got the same power! -- But let me ask you: How long has it been since you told someone what God has done in your life? How long has it been since you invited some to church where they will hear the Good News about Jesus Christ?
 God wants His church to be unleashed: That means bold in our witness, and blessed in our work.
*So vs. 33 says: "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all."
*I like what Dr. John Gill said about this verse 250 years ago: "Great grace was upon them all; -- not only upon the apostles and ministers, but upon the whole church. . ." And this "may be understood either of the large gifts of the Spirit of God, which were poured out upon them, and plentifully bestowed on them; or of the gracious protection of God over them, preserving them from the rage and malice of men; or of that grace and favor which they had among the people in common; or of that charity, liberality and beneficence, which were among them." (5)
*Great grace was upon them all. What does that mean to us today? Church, one thing it means is this: God will give us everything we need to do everything He wants us to do! As Paul said in Romans 8:31-32:
31. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
*God wants His church to be unleashed. That means bold in our witness, and blessed in our work. He wants His church to be unleashed.
4. He also wants us to be uplifting.
*This is one of the truths we can see in vs. 36-37, where the Word of God says:
36. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus,
37. having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
*The thing that I want to zero in on here is that Barnabas was a "Son of Encouragement". Barnabas was well known as an encourager. And in this world of trouble and heartache, in this world of frustration and aggravation, when so much is there to pull us down, we need to be people who will lift others up. We need to be people who will give an encouraging word
*That whole letter from Clara Linda was an encouraging word sent by someone who had been lifted-up by a little help from us. And that's the way God wants it to work in His church
*The most heavenly place on earth ought to be the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We really can have a piece of Heaven right here on earth! And we will, if we follow the leadership that the Lord gives us here in Acts 4. As His church, may God help us to be united, unselfish, unleashed and uplifting.
*Let's go to God in prayer.
(1) SermonCentral sermon "The Joy of Bringing Men to Jesus" by Donnie Martin - Mark 2:1-5
(2) "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - John 9:22
(3) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Purpose: Building Up Christians" by Melvin Newland - Ephesians 4:11-16
(4) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "The Woman at the Well" by Russell Brownworth - John 4:1-30
(5) "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - Acts 4:33