Faithlife Sermons

The Church: God's Plan

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Introduction
Over the past year, we have been looking at different things about what it means to be the church that God desires us to be. Before I came here as the Lead Pastor in March, the church was already looking at what different aspects of the church looks like. This past summer, we took a journey through our church covenant to show what it looks like to be a church member here at FBC and what we commit to God and one another.
I would like to continue in that vein today and for the next few weeks. Today, we are going to begin a series through the New Testament book of Acts that we are calling “Unhindered.” We are calling it "Unhindered” because the theme behind the Book of Acts is basically how the gospel of Jesus Christ went out unhindered.
We believe that the greatest news is the gospel of Jesus Christ - the fact that the holy God of the universe came to earth as a man (Jesus), lived a perfect life (that we were supposed to), died the death we were supposed to (in order to make a way of forgiveness), and rose from the dead on the third day (to give us eternal life and hope). There is no greater news in all of time or space than this Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Acts
The Book of Acts is a unique book of the New Testament. It is really the only historical genre book of the New Testament. There are the Gospels, the letters, and even the apocalyptic book of the Revelation. The Book of Acts shows how the church started and also how it began to move out from Jerusalem towards the ends of the earth.
The Book of Acts was written by the physician, Luke who also wrote the Gospel of Luke. We see this from the fact that both of these writings were first written to someone known as Theophilus.
Luke 1:
Luke 1:3–4 CSB
It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.
Acts 1:
Acts 1:1–2 CSB
I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
As we begin this journey through the Book of Acts, I want you to know that we will not cover every single verse in this book. That’s not to say that some of the verses are not important. Each and every verse is important. In fact, I would encourage you to take the time to read through the Book of Acts for yourself as we talk about some of the high points here on Sunday mornings for the next few weeks.
Today, we are going to start at the beginning of the Book of Acts in chapter 1. I want to share with you a sermon that I’ve titled, “The Church: God’s Plan”.

God unveils His plan

As the Book of Acts begins, Luke picks up where the Gospel he wrote ended. The Gospel of Luke ended with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. As we look at the Book of Acts, we see that actually retell the same events at the end of Luke’s Gospel.
The one verse that stands out for many in is .
Acts 1:8 CSB
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This is an important verse. Here at FBC Fulton, we have adopted this verse as the inspiration for all that we do concerning missions. We even have the T-shirts to prove it. It is not just an important verse for missions though. It is in this verse that we see three distinct factors of the church.

Three Factors of the Church

Power

As Jesus prepares to leave this earth and return to His rightful spot at the right hand of the Father, He sets His followers out with a mission. This had to be an emotional time. It had only been a little over a month when they saw Jesus crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. Now there is the reality that He will not walk this earth anymore as He had.
I’m sure that there were many questions that were swirling through those first disciples’ minds. We are told of one in verse 6 where they ask if Jesus is restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time. I’m sure that there were many others like, “how are we supposed to do this?”… “how we will know what to do… what to say…”… “do you really think we’re up to this?”
Jesus gives a specific promise at the beginning of . He said that His followers would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them.
The Greek word that is translated here as “power” is the word dunamis which is the same word from which we get our word “dynamite” from. It was not going to be a political power like they thought it might be. Rather, it was going to be the very power of God working in and through them to accomplish His will.
This is important because for a church to do what God has created it to do, it must depend upon the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.
“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

By what power does a church function? By what power do we as Christians function? Are we doing this thing in our own strength, or are there times and situations that can only be explained by God showing up and doing it?
The church is God’s plan. Here in this one verse, we are reminded that for the church to be doing what God intends it, it will need God’s power to do it. The great thing about this verse is: God has promised this power.

Purpose

The second factor that we see in this verse is the purpose of the church. Purpose is a hot topic these days. It seems that everything has a purpose statement. I think that this is a good thing myself. It reminds a person or organization why they are doing what they are doing.
If we are not careful though, we can miss the purpose of the church in this verse. It is contained in the two words: “My witnesses.”
The main reason that the church exists is for the glory of God. It does not primarily exist so that we might have a place to come and sing or see other people. Those are good activities within the church, but they are not the purpose of the church.
The purpose of the church is to bring glory to God.
Colossians 1:16 CSB
For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him.
The church brings glory to God as...
This happens as...
we worship him - lift God higher than anything else in our lives
we build up one another in the faith - through the preaching and teaching of His word, through encouragement and service
we share the gospel with the world - we do not just sit on our “blessed assurance” but actively share it with

Plan

The third factor that is mentioned here is the plan of what the church is to be about. Jesus says, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The “you” that shows up in this verse three times is all in the plural form. In the South, this would have been translated “y’all”. This is not the work of any one person, but it is the responsibility of all who follow Jesus.
From the beginning, we can see that God has had a plan to call a people to Himself and use them to bring the message of salvation to the world.
= God calls Abraham and promised to bless the whole world through him.
Genesis 12:1–3 CSB
The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
= God chose Israel out of all the nations to bless the world through.
Deuteronomy 7:7–9 CSB
“The Lord had his heart set on you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your fathers, he brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love him and keep his commands.
We see here in Acts that God is continuing that model. God is calling the church to take the life-giving message of the gospel to all people both near and far… to those who are like us and to those who are far different from us.
Conclusion
God has always had a plan. There has never been a time where He was taken off guard or twirling His thumbs wondering what to do. We may do that at times, but God never has. This morning, we see that we have an opportunity to be part of that plan.
For some of us here, we may need to respond to this gospel of Jesus ourselves. We need to come to Jesus confessing and turning away from our sins. We need to receive the forgiveness that Jesus promises and walk in the new life that He died and rose from the grave to give us.
For some, it is time to join together with God’s plan of the church and get to work. We need to take the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given to us when we trusted Christ and use them to take the gospel to all people.
For others, you may have trusted Christ and you have joined together with a local church. You have been serving and using your gifts and life for His glory. You need to hear the encouraging word “keep going”. Your work for the Lord is not in vain. He is using it to bring glory to His name.
This is the purpose of the church and our existence: To bring Him glory. How are we doing in that?
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