Faithlife Sermons

Growing Together in Christ

Pastor Randy Bradley
The Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:15
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None of us are born in Christ as fully mature Christians. All of us are called to grow in Christ. To grow the Church of God we must Grow ourselves to be more Christ-like.

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1 A GROUP OF TOURISTS • WERE VISITING A PICTURESQUE VILLAGE IN ITALY • THEY WALKED BY AN OLD MAN SITTING BESIDE A FENCE. • ONE TOURIST ASKED HIM, “WERE ANY GREAT MEN BORN IN THIS VILLAGE?” • THE OLD MAN REPLIED, “NOPE, ONLY BABIES.” …. • EVERY PERSON WHO IS A BORNAGAIN BELIEVER • STARTS LIFE IN CHRIST AS A BABY • NO ONE IS INSTANTLY A MATURE CHRISTIAN… • WHETHER THE NEW CONVERT IS SIX OR SIXTY, • THAT PERSON IS STILL A NEW CHRISTIAN AND NEEDS TO GROW IN THE LORD. • A BABY CHRISTIAN WHO HAS BEEN SAVED FOR FORTY YEARS IS A TRAGEDY. • GOD INTENDS FOR US TO GROW AND MATURE • SO THAT WE CAN BE A POSITIVE INFLUENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS… • AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE CALLED TO GROW THE CHURCH • IN ORDER TO GROW THE CHURCH • WE NEED TO GROW OUR SELVES FIRST… • WE GROW… BY LIVING HOW GOD CALLS US TO LIVE • THE BOOK OF ACTS IS ALL ABOUT THE CHURCH GROWING • TODAY WE ARE GOING TO LOOK AT • HOW THE CHURCH GREW IN ANTIOCH • AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD • LIVED AS GOD CALLED THEM TO LIVE… • DID THE THINGS GOD CALLED THEM TO DO… • TURN TO ACTS 11:19 • SOME FOLKS HAD OBJECTED TO PETER • EATING WITH GENTILES • SO, PETER HAD EXPLAINED HOW • CORNELIUS AND HIS WHOLE HOUSEHOLD • HAD COME TO FAITH IN CHRIST • THROUGH VISIONS FROM GOD • AND PETER’S WORDS, THE GOSPEL • THE OBJECTORS HAD GIVEN GLORY TO GOD • BECAUSE GOD HAD GRANTED THE GENTILES • REPENTANCE THAT LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE ACTS 11:19–21 SO THEN THOSE WHO WERE SCATTERED BECAUSE OF THE PERSECUTION THAT OCCURRED IN CONNECTION WITH STEPHEN MADE THEIR WAY TO PHOENICIA AND CYPRUS AND ANTIOCH, SPEAKING THE WORD TO NO ONE EXCEPT TO JEWS ALONE. BUT THERE WERE SOME OF THEM, MEN OF CYPRUS AND CYRENE, WHO CAME TO ANTIOCH AND BEGAN SPEAKING TO THE GREEKS ALSO, PREACHING THE LORD JESUS. AND THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH THEM, AND A LARGE NUMBER WHO BELIEVED TURNED TO THE LORD. COME TOGETHER • WHEN STEPHEN HAD BEEN STONED TO DEATH • AS MANY AS 25,000 CHRISTIANS LEFT JERUSALEM • SPREADING OUT ALL OVER JUDEA AND THE SURROUNDING COUNTRIES • NOW 8 TO 10 YEARS LATER THEY START COMING TOGETHER • ONE OF THE PLACES THEY CAME TOGETHER WAS ANTIOCH • ANTIOCH WAS THE THIRD LARGEST CITY IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE • IT HAD A LARGE JEWISH POPULATION • IT WAS FAMOUS FOR THREE THINGS • THE UNIVERSITY, THE CHARIOT RACES AND • IT’S GREAT IMMORALITY… • NOW, THOSE WHO HAD BELIEVED IN CHRIST • AND HAD FLED FROM THE PERSECUTION IN JERUSALEM • CAME TOGETHER IN ANTIOCH… • A SOPHISTICATED, DEVELOPED, ECONOMICALLY PROSPEROUS • CITY LOCATED ON ONE OF THE MAJOR TRADE ROUTES • OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE • THIS SOUNDS LIKE AN AMAZING PLACE • TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST • THERE WAS ONLY ONE PROBLEM THEY NEEDED TO EXPAND THEIR AUDIENCE • OUR TEXT INDICATES THEY WERE • SPEAKING THE WORD TO NO ONE EXCEPT TO JEWS ALONE. • THE WORD HERE MEANS THE GOSPEL MESSAGE • AND IN THIS VAST ROMAN CITY • THESE JEWISH BELIEVERS WERE ONLY TAKING • THE GOSPEL TO OTHERS JEWISH PEOPLE • BUT SOMETHING CHANGED • LUKE TELLS US THAT • THERE WERE SOME OF THEM, MEN OF CYPRUS AND CYRENE, WHO CAME TO ANTIOCH AND BEGAN SPEAKING TO THE GREEKS ALSO, PREACHING THE LORD JESUS. • WHEN WE REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE 2 LAST CHAPTERS • IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THESE MEN BEGAN TAKING THE GOSPEL • TO THE GREEKS…. BECAUSE THEY HEARD HOW • HOW PETER HAD TAKEN THE GOSPEL TO THE GENTILES… • MAYBE HEARING ABOUT PETER HELPED THEM TO NOTICE • THE PEOPLE RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM • AND THEY BEGAN TO PREACH THE LORD JESUS TO THEM • I WANT US TO NOTICE THAT IT IS NOT THE APOSTLES • THAT DO THIS “PREACHING” IT IS UN-NAMED BELIEVERS • JUST REGULAR FOLKS THAT STARTED PREACHING THE LORD JESUS • TO THESE GREEKS… THAT WORD GREEKS HELPS US UNDERSTAND • WHO THEY WERE PREACHING TO • GREEKS IS ANOTHER WAY TO SAY PAGAN… • PEOPLE WHO WORSHIPED IN THE TEMPLES • AT ANTIOCH… PEOPLE WHO WERE PART OF • THE FAMOUS IMMORALITY OF ANTIOCH… • ALL KINDA MESSED UP THINGS HAPPENED IN THOSE TEMPLES • BUT THESE JEWISH BELIEVERS STARTED PREACHING • THE LORD JESUS CHRIST TO THEM • THEY EXPANDED THE AUDIENCE OF THE GOSPEL… • AND… GOD HANDLED THE RESULTS • I LOVE THE FACT THAT LUKE TELLS US • WHY THESE UN-NAMED PREACHERS GOT RESULTS • IT IS NOT CAUSE THEY WERE SO GOOD AT PREACHING • IT IS NOT CAUSE THEY WERE HIGHLY TRAINED EXPERTS • LUKE SAYS THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH THEM,…. • WHEN THIS HAPPENS, WHEN THE HAND OF THE LORD • IS WITH US…. WE CAN KNOW OUR WORK WILL BE FRUITFUL… • AND LUKE CONFIRMS HOW FRUITFUL THEIR WORK WAS • WHEN HE SAYS A LARGE NUMBER WHO BELIEVED TURNED TO THE LORD…… • NOW, GOD HAS CALLED US TO PRESENT THE GOSPEL • AND THAT IS OUR PART… WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR • PLANTING THE SEED… TELLING PEOPLE THE GOOD NEWS • BUT WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND IT IS GOD WHO • IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RESULTS 1 CORINTHIANS 3:6 I PLANTED, APOLLOS WATERED, BUT GOD WAS CAUSING THE GROWTH. • IF WE ARE NOT CAREFUL… WE MIGHT START TAKING CREDIT…. FOR WHAT GOD HAS DONE….. • A FARMER TOOK A PIECE OF BAD EARTH • AND MADE IT A FLOURISHING GARDEN. • PROUD OF HIS ACCOMPLISHMENT • HE ASKED HIS PASTOR TO COME BY AND SEE WHAT HE HAD DONE. • THE PASTOR WAS IMPRESSED. • "THAT'S THE TALLEST CORN I'VE EVER SEEN. • I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING AS BIG AS THOSE TOMATOES. • PRAISE THE LORD!" • HE WENT ON THAT WAY ABOUT EVERY CROP, PRAISING THE LORD FOR IT ALL. • FINALLY THE FARMER COULDN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE. • "REVEREND," HE SAID, • "I WISH YOU COULD HAVE SEEN THIS PLACE WHEN THE LORD WAS DOING IT BY HIMSELF."… • IF WE ARE NOT CAREFUL WE WILL • TRY TO TAKE SOME OF THE CREDIT FOR WHAT GOD DOES… ACTS 11:22–26 THE NEWS ABOUT THEM REACHED THE EARS OF THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM, AND THEY SENT BARNABAS OFF TO ANTIOCH. THEN WHEN HE ARRIVED AND WITNESSED THE GRACE OF GOD, HE REJOICED AND BEGAN TO ENCOURAGE THEM ALL WITH RESOLUTE HEART TO REMAIN TRUE TO THE LORD; FOR HE WAS A GOOD MAN, AND FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OF FAITH. AND CONSIDERABLE NUMBERS WERE BROUGHT TO THE LORD. AND HE LEFT FOR TARSUS TO LOOK FOR SAUL; AND WHEN HE HAD FOUND HIM, HE BROUGHT HIM TO ANTIOCH. AND FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR THEY MET WITH THE CHURCH AND TAUGHT CONSIDERABLE NUMBERS; AND THE DISCIPLES WERE FIRST CALLED CHRISTIANS IN ANTIOCH. ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO SERVE • THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH THESE FOLKS • AND THE CHURCH GREW • THE NEWS OF THIS GROWTH • GOT ALL THE WAY BACK TO JERUSALEM • AND AS A WAY TO HELP THIS GROWING CHURCH IN ANTIOCH • THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM SENT BARNABAS…. • SOMETIMES WHEN WE SEE THE CHURCH SEND SOMEONE • THEY ARE THERE TO CHECK SOMETHING OUT • TO SEE IF THINGS ARE BEING DONE RIGHT • BUT IN THIS CASE THE CHURCH SENT • BARNABAS WHOSE NAME LITERALLY MEANS • SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT OR SON OF COMFORT • AND HE DOES NOT CORRECT THEM • LUKE SAYS WHEN BARNABAS ARRIVED HE • WITNESSED THE GRACE OF GOD, HE REJOICED AND BEGAN TO ENCOURAGE THEM ALL WITH RESOLUTE HEART TO REMAIN TRUE TO THE LORD; • NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF ENCOURAGEMENT • SOMEONE ONCE WROTE • “FLATTER ME, AND I MAY NOT BELIEVE YOU. • CRITICIZE ME, AND I MAY NOT LIKE YOU. • IGNORE ME, AND I MAY NOT FORGIVE YOU. • ENCOURAGE ME, AND I WILL NOT FORGET YOU.”— • SOMETIMES WE FEEL LIKE WE CAN’T DO MUCH FOR GOD • WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO BE A BIG GIVER • WE DON’T HAVE THE GIFT TO PREACH OR TEACH • BUT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US CAN GIVE ENCOURAGEMENT… • I HAVE BEEN VERY BLESSED TO HAVE THE ENCOURAGEMENT • I HAVE RECEIVED IN THIS CHURCH • IT WOULD BE HARD FOR ME TO EXPLAIN • HOW THIS ENCOURAGEMENT HAS HELPED ME… • AND DID YOU NOTICE WHY BARNABAS ENCOURAGED THEM • LUKE SAYS • FOR HE WAS A GOOD MAN, AND FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OF FAITH. • THAT LITTLE WORD FOR MEANS • THIS IS THE REASON HE ENCOURAGED THEM • THE RESULT… OF BEING FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT • AND FULL OF FAITH… IS THAT HE ENCOURAGE OTHERS • IF WE ARE WALKING RIGHT WITH GOD, WE WILL ENCOURAGE OTHERs…. • AND THEN LUKE TELLS US THE RESULT OF THIS ENCOURAGEMENT • AND CONSIDERABLE NUMBERS WERE BROUGHT TO THE LORD. • A LARGE NUMBER TURNED TO THE LORD BEFORE • BARNABAS CAME TO ANTIOCH • AND NOW ONCE HE IS THERE AND HAS ENCOURAGED THEM • EVEN MORE.. A CONSIDERABLE NUMBER • COME TO THE LORD • IF YOU WANT TO SEE A CHURCH GROW • START BY ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER • BUT AS A CHURCH GROWS IN NUMBERS IT NEEDS TO GROW IN HUMILITY • WE GOTTA LET PEOPLE HELP US IN OUR MINISTRY… • SOMETIMES WE WANT TO DO IT ALL OURSELVES • THIS CHURCH HAD GROWN NUMERICALLY • WHICH IS AWESOME, BUT WITH SO MANY NEW BELIEVERS • THEY DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH PEOPLE TO DO THE TEACHING • SO, BARNABAS WENT LOOKING FOR SAUL • THE LAST TIME WE SAW SAUL IN ACTS • HE HAD BEEN SENT AWAY TO TARSUS BECAUSE PEOPLE SEEKING TO KILL HIM • NOW, AT LEAST 7 YEARS LATER BARNABAS FINDS SAUL • AND BRINGS HIM BACK TO ANTIOCH • AND SAUL AND BARNABAS SPENT A FULL YEAR • MEETING WITH THE CHURCH AND TEACHING THEM • FIRST, WE SAW THE CHURCH GROW IN NUMBER • NOW WE SEE THE CHURCH GROW IN KNOWLEDGE • NEXT WE WILL SEE THE CHURCH GROW IN RECOGNITION… • UP TO THIS POINT THE WORLD HAS VIEW THE CHURCH • AS PART OF JUDAISM… • THE CHURCH WAS REFERRED TO AS “THE WAY” • AND WAS ENTIRELY MADE UP OF PEOPLE WHO HAD • BEEN PART OF THE JEWISH RELIGION TO ONE DEGREE OR ANOTHER • THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT HAD VIEW THE CHURCH AS JUST ANOTHER • SECT OF THE JEWISH FAITH • BUT HERE WE SEE THE CHURCH DEFINED AS SOMETHING DIFFERENT • LUKE WRITES AND THE DISCIPLES WERE FIRST CALLED CHRISTIANS IN ANTIOCH. • IN THE GREEK THIS WORD CHRISTIAN MEANS • LITTLE CHRISTS… OR LITTLE CHRISTLIKE ONES • IT IS A VERY CUTE TERM • SOME PEOPLE HAVE POINTED OUT THAT IT WAS AN INSULT AT FIRST • AND MAYBE IT WAS • WE DO HAVE ROMAN WRITINGS • THAT SHOW ROMAN OFFICIALS • USING A VERY SIMILAR TERM AS AN INSULT • BUT THESE WRITINGS SEEM TO COME LATER • THE WORD ITSELF IS A TERM OF ENDEARMENT • THE USE OF THIS NAME SEPARATED THE CHRISTIANS • FROM THE REST OF SOCIETY • BOTH THE ONES WHO HAD BEEN JEWISH • AND THE ONES WHO HAD BEEN GENTILES OR GREEKS • WERE NOW ONE GROUP…. CALLED CHRISTIANS • THIS GROUP HAD GROWN IN NUMBER • IT HAD GROWN IN KNOWLEDGE • IT HAD GROWN IN RECOGNITION • NOW WE WILL SEE IT GROW IN SERVICE ACTS 11:27–30 NOW AT THIS TIME SOME PROPHETS CAME DOWN FROM JERUSALEM TO ANTIOCH. ONE OF THEM NAMED AGABUS STOOD UP AND BEGAN TO INDICATE BY THE SPIRIT THAT THERE WOULD CERTAINLY BE A GREAT FAMINE ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND THIS TOOK PLACE IN THE REIGN OF CLAUDIUS. AND IN THE PROPORTION THAT ANY OF THE DISCIPLES HAD MEANS, EACH OF THEM DETERMINED TO SEND A CONTRIBUTION FOR THE RELIEF OF THE BRETHREN LIVING IN JUDEA. AND THIS THEY DID, SENDING IT IN CHARGE OF BARNABAS AND SAUL TO THE ELDERS. OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW • PROPHETS COME DOWN FROM JERUSALEM • NOW WHEN WE SEE THE WORD PROPHETS • IN THE NEW TESTAMENT MOST OF THE TIME • THIS MEANS SOMEONE WHO BRINGS GOD’S WORD • IN THIS CASE A PROPHET NAMED AGABUS • ACTUALLY BRINGS A WORD FROM GOD • ABOUT A FUTURE EVENT… JUST LIKE AN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET • HE TELLS THEM, BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT • THAT A WORLDWIDE FAMINE IS GOING TO HAPPEN • AND LUKE TELLS US EXACTLY WHEN THIS FAMINE IS GONNA OCCUR • DURING THE REIGN OF THE ROMAN EMPEROR CLAUDIUS • WE KNOW FROM HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS THAT • A NUMBER OF FAMINES HAPPENED DURING HIS TIME AS EMPEROR • THESE FAMINES HAPPENED IN MANY • OF THE REGIONS OF THE EMPIRE INCLUDING JUDEA….. • WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY HEAR A FAMINE IS COMING? • WELL… MOST PEOPLE STOCK UP ON FOOD… • SOMETIMES THEY EVEN HORDE FOOD… • BUT THESE EARLY CHRISTIANS THEY DID NOT DO THIS • THEY DID NOT HORDE FOOD.. OR EVEN STOCK UP.. • BUT, INSTEAD THEY GREW IN LOVE AND SERVICE • LUKE TELLS US HOW THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH RESPONDED • TO THE NEWS THAT THERE WAS GONNA BE A WORLDWIDE FAMINE • AND IN THE PROPORTION THAT ANY OF THE DISCIPLES HAD MEANS, EACH OF THEM DETERMINED TO SEND A CONTRIBUTION FOR THE RELIEF OF THE BRETHREN LIVING IN JUDEA. • TO ME THIS SHOWS HOW THIS CHURCH • HAD NOT ONLY GROWN IN NUMBERS AND KNOWLEDGE • BUT HOW IT HAD GROWN IN LOVE AND SERVICE • THEY UNDERSTOOD WHAT PAUL WOULD WRITE PHILIPPIANS 2:4 DO NOT MERELY LOOK OUT FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL INTERESTS, BUT ALSO FOR THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS. • THEY PUT THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS • AHEAD OF THEIR OWN INTERESTS • THAT IS A SIGN OF MATURE CHRISTIANS • AND I WANT US TO NOTICE HOW IT SAID • IN THE PROPORTION THAT ANY OF THE DISCIPLES HAD MEANS • THIS IS THE BEAUTIFUL PART ABOUT GIVING • GOD DOES NOT EXPECT EVERY GIVER TO GIVE • A SPECIFIC AMOUNT… WE ARE TO GIVE IN PROPORTION TO OUR MEANS • BOY IS THIS GOOD NEWS.. WINSTON CHURCHILL ONCE SAID: WE MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT WE GET, BUT WE MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT WE GIVE.”— • I WOULD ADD THAT WE DISPLAY OUR GROWTH BY WHAT WE GIVE • WHEN WE LOVE AND CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER • WHEN WE PUT THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AHEAD OF OUR OWN NEED • WHEN WE SERVE EACH OTHER • WE ARE TRULY BEING CHRISTIANS • CHRIST-LIKE LITTLE ONES ALL OF US COME TO CHRIST AS BABIES • NONE OF US ARE BORN AGAIN AS GREAT CHRISTIANS • HOWEVER, GOD DOES NOT INTEND FOR US TO STAY BABIES • GOD HAS CALLED US TO NOT ONLY GROW AS CHRISTIANS • BUT TO GROW THE CHURCH…. • AND THE AMAZING THING ABOUT THIS • IS THAT THE ONLY WAY WE CAN GROW THE CHURCH • IS TO GROW INDIVIDUALLY AS CHRISTIANS… TO BE MORE CHRISTLIKE…. • FOR US TO GROW THE NUMBERS IN OUR CHURCH • WE HAVE TO GROW OUR AUDIENCE AS INDIVIDUALS • WE NEED TO TAKE THE GOSPEL TO PEOPLE • WE MIGHT NOT NORMALLY TALK TO • PEOPLE OUTSIDE OUR COMFORT ZONE…. • FOR US TO GROW THE KNOWLEDGE IN OUR CHURCH • WE NEED TO GROW IN HUMILITY AND MATURITY • BY PROVIDING ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS • LIFTING UP THOSE WHO TEACH IN OUR CHURCH • FOR US TO GROW THE SERVICE IN OUR CHURCH • WE NEED TO GROW IN LOVE AS INDIVIDUALS • PUTTING THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AHEAD OF OUR OWN NEEDS… • DOING THESE THINGS IS NOT EASY • THAT SAYING “NO PAIN NO GAIN” • IS JUST AS TRUE WHEN IT COMES TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH • AND THE TRUTH IS WE CANNOT MAKE THIS GROWTH HAPPEN ON OUR OWN • WE GROWTH MATURE AS CHRISTIANS BY LEANING ON • DEPENDING MORE AND MORE ON GOD • YIELDING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT • LEARNING AND LIVING HIS WORD, THE BIBLE • WE ARE CALLED TO DO THESE THINGS • NOT SO WE CAN IMPRESS GOD WITH HOW GREAT WE ARE.. • NOT SO WE CAN EARN HEAVEN… • BUT OUT OF THANKS AND GRATITUDE FOR WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US • THAT HE CAME IN THE FORM OF A MAN JESUS CHRIST… • HE LIVED A SINLESS LIFE AND DIED ON THE CROSS TO PAY FOR OUR SINS.. 87
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