Great Things about God's Church
Great Things about God's Church
The Book of Acts - Part 57
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - September 7, 2014
*In tonight's Scripture, Paul was still on his second missionary journey, leading a team that included Silas, Timothy and Luke. They left Philippi after being severely beaten. But they also saw great things happen as people were saved, and new churches were started.
*When Paul's missionary team got to Thessalonica, they ran into trouble again, because some unbelieving Jews stirred up a mob against them. And in last week's Scripture we heard an accusation against these Christians that was actually turned out to be a great testimony for them. Acts 17:6 says: "But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, 'These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.'"
*Of course, the truth is that our sin-sick world is already upside down, and God is using His Church to help turn the world right side up for Jesus! That's one of the great things about God's Church. And as we read vs. 1-15, tonight, we can see some more great things about God's Church.
*Dick Van Dyke told the story about a Sunday School teacher who asked her students how they felt about their church. Most of the students answered in the usual ways. Some said silly things to get the other kids to laugh, and others tried to be more serious.
*One of the girls was new to the class, and she felt uncomfortable about entering into class discussions, so she never raised her hand, or volunteered an answer. But that Sunday after class, she did have an answer for her teacher, and it was unforgettable. That girl said for her, going to church was, "like walking into the heart of God." (1)
*That’s the way church ought to be. That's the way it can be. And in tonight's Scripture, God shows us some of the great things about His church.
1. First: God Church puts us together with good people.
*We see this happening in vs. 10-11, when Paul and Silas got to Berea. There the Word of God says:
10. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
*God helped Paul and Silas find some fair-minded, honorable, noble people, and He will do the same for us. Yes, there are a lot of hate-filled people in this world. We can see some of them back up in vs. 5, where "the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people."
*Christ-rejecting hate-filled people are still all over the world today. But thank God, there are lots of good, godly people in this world! Thank God there are people who know and love the Lord: People like the Christians from Thessalonica in vs. 10. They were concerned about Paul and Silas' safety. That's why "the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea."
*Also thank God that there are fair-minded, peaceful people in the world today who have not yet trusted in the Lord. There are people out there like the Bereans in vs. 11. And I like what the Scripture says about these Bereans.
*In vs. 11, God gives them three great compliments: They "were more fair-minded." "They received the word with all readiness." And they "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Many people today are like the Bereans: They are hungry for God, hungry for His Word, hungry for the truth, and ready to do the right thing.
*When I got to go on a mission trip to a Muslim country in 2006, we wondered how we would know when and where to share the good news. One of the local believers pointed us to the Scripture in Luke 10:5-6. There Jesus said:
5. "But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'
6. And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you."
*That local Christian told us that we would be able to tell when we had met a man of peace. And he was exactly right. Perhaps some people will be able to fool us. But we will almost always be able to find people of peace when we are looking for them. And Jesus wants us to look for them.
*God will lead us to people like the fair-minded Bereans, and the caring Christians of Thessalonica. And this matters so much, because people like that pour the blessings of God into our lives.
*Billy Graham's wife Ruth was a Christian like that. After she died in 2007, a reporter wrote about her service to others. That reporter said, "When a neighbor's husband died, Ruth called to say she was bringing over a roast and some vegetables. Ruth asked her neighbor, Ann McKay, to leave her back door unlocked so Ruth could put the food in the oven until Ann got home from church.
*Ann tried to turn her down, because her oven was dirty, but Ruth insisted. And when Ann got the food out of her oven, she noticed that it had been completely cleaned by her good neighbor, Ruth. (2)
*That's going the second mile! And God will put people like that in our lives: good-hearted, servant-hearted people. Thank the Lord! Thank the Lord, there are a lot of them in our church right now! And that's one of the great things about God's Church.
2. Another great thing is that God's Church helps us search the Scriptures.
*That's crucial, because nothing can help us more than searching the Scriptures. The Bereans are our example again in vs. 11-12, where they:
11. . . were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
12. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.
*They "searched the Scriptures daily." Albert Barnes tells us that the word translated "search" here means to "search diligently" or "search anxiously." It was the same word used for miners who search for precious metals. (3)
*Well, here in God's Word we have a treasure greater than mountains of gold, but most people aren't searching. Years ago, George Barna reported that born-again American adults spent seven times more hours a week watching TV than they spent in Bible study, worship, and prayer. (4)
*But God's Church helps us search the Scriptures. And when we do, we will find life and liberty. We will also find wisdom, comfort, peace and purpose. I love what Psalm 19 says about the Word of God:
7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
*When we search the Scriptures, we find nourishment for our souls and light for our lives, light that we desperately need to live in this dark world.
*Well known preacher J. Vernon McGee told a story about a time he went hunting. Dr. McGee often hunted with a good friend, and on one occasion they agreed to separate in order to track an animal. They were to meet at a given point. Dr. McGee got there first. The weather was freezing, and rather than wait out in the open he went into a nearby cave.
*Then Dr. McGee decided to start a fire. But when the fire was burning brightly he saw that he was not alone. Several snakes were sharing the cave with Dr. McGee. And he got out of there as quick as he could! (5)
*There are all kinds of dangers lurking for us in the spiritual darkness. But Psalm 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path."
*When we search the Scriptures, we will find light, we will find life, and best of all, we will find Jesus! As the Lord told unbelieving Jews in John 5:39: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
*Luke 24 tells us about the first Easter. That evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples:
36. . . and said to them, "Peace to you.''
37. But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
38. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39. Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.''
40. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
41. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?''
42. So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.
43. And He took it and ate in their presence.
44. Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.''
45. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
46. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,
47. and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
*Again, in Luke 24:44-45, Jesus said:
44. . . "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.''
45. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
*That must have taken a while, because we could talk for weeks about Jesus in the Old Testament! Jesus has already fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies. And here are just a few of the ways He is seen in the Old Testament:
*In Genesis 3:8, He is "the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day," and in Genesis 3:15, He is the "Seed" of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent.'
*In Psalm 22:1, we see Jesus on the cross as He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? . . ." And in Psalm 22:16, we hear the Lord say, "The assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet."
*In Psalm 16:9-11, we see the Lord fully trusting in the Father's promise to raise Him from the dead. And the Lord said:
9. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.
10. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
*In Isaiah 40:10-11, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep:
10. Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.
11. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
*Then in Isaiah 53:5-8, He is the Lamb of God who dies for the sins of the world:
5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth.
8. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
*And in Psalm 2:1-12, Jesus is the conquering King:
1. Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing?
2. The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
3. "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.''
4. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision.
5. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure:
6. "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.''
7. "I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ` 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
8. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.'''
10. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling.
12. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
*When we search the Scriptures, we will find light, we will find life, and best of all, we will find Jesus Christ! That's the greatest thing about God's Church!
3. Another great thing is that God's Church is that we destined to win the greatest war.
*By the grace of God and the cross of Christ, Christians, we are destined to win the war of all wars. We are destined to win the struggle for the ages, the battle between good and evil. We are destined to win the spiritual war for the whole world, because our commander is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
*Verses 13-15 remind us of this war, because:
13. . . when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.
14. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.
15. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
*The devil always opposes the work of God's Church. The devil always opposes spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ. And Church, we are in a spiritual war, but we are destined to win this war! The battle may be hard, but the victory is sure!
*Just like in Acts 17, the enemy's weapons are fear, lies, intimidation and violence. Our weapons are the Word of God, prayer, and wisdom from God. The enemy's allies are fallen angels and Christ-rejecting people.
*Our allies are godly people like Silas and Timothy, who will come to our aid as soon as they can. And our allies are the angels in Heaven! But our greatest ally is the God of the whole universe!
*We are in a war, but we cannot lose! As Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Christians: We are in a war, but we cannot lose! We are on the winning side! The empty tomb proves it! Thank God that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but we have a Risen Savior!
*I love this story about the great preacher D.L. Moody. In the early days of his ministry, Moody was asked to preach a funeral. Well, he needed some ideas, so, Mr. Moody began to look through the New Testament to find out how Jesus preached a funeral. But Jesus never preached a funeral! Every time we see Jesus at a funeral, He brought the dead back to life! And that's just a taste of the eternal victory we have in Him! Jesus Christ can defeat death forever for all who trust in Him. (6)
*And Church: We may be in a war. But we are in a war we are destined to win. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:
31. . . 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?
33. Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
34. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36. As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.''
37. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
*Thank God for allowing us to be part of His church!
*Would you please bow for prayer.
(1) FAITH, HOPE AND HILARITY by Dick Van Dyke - New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970, p. 95 - Source: "Faithquest: Directions for the Journey of Life" by Billy Strayhorn - 1 John 3 16-24 - 05072006
(2) Houston Chronicle, 06162007, p. F4 - Source: In other Words - July 2007 #1 - Produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net
(3) ALBERT BARNES' NOTES ON THE BIBLE by Albert Barnes 1798-1870 - John 5:39
(4) "Men of Integrity" - NovemberDecember 2004, p.1227 - Source: In other Words - July 2007 #1 - Produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net
(5) Cross & Crown sermon "When We Walk with the Lord" by James McCullen - 1 John 1:5-7
(6) SermonCentral sermon "How to Live Really Free" by Russell Brownworth - John 11 1 46