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Lets Pray
Good morning church family!
If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Acts chapter 11.
That may be a little surprising to you If you have been attending our church for any length of time.
We have been working through the gospel of Mark verse by verse for about a year and a half now… but we are going to take a short four-week break from our normal rhythm of teaching and we are going to turn our attention to the book of Acts.
but more specifically we are going to give our attention to the church at Antioch in the book of Acts.
We do this for a couple reasons.
Firstly, this month marks 7 years since we had the joy and the privilege of starting St. Rose Community Church.
I want to reflect on what God has done… but I want us to do so through the lens of what we see God doing here in the the book of Acts.
Secondly, In four weeks, I will be taking my first ever Sabbatical.
After 7 years of getting to pastor this church, the elders and the congregation have graciously extended an opportunity for me to rest, and pray, and prepare for the next season of ministry here at St. Rose.
I was 24 years old when we started gathering together at St. Rose Community Church.
In the last seven years, we have had two beautiful children,
Anne Marie and I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary.
by December, I will have Lord willing, completed my doctorate.
I have had the blessing of being on every mission trip we have every done to both Southeast Asia and South America.
And I have had the joy and privilege of pastoring through a pandemic, a building project, and a hurricane.
It has been an incredible 7 years, but I must admit, I am a little worn.
I am little tired.
When the hurricane hit last year, our elders and many in our congregation recognized that I was burning the candle at both ends…
So from September 11th through December 11th, I will not be preaching, but rather I will be sitting under the preaching of other faithful elders and church members in our church.
They will be completing the book of Mark over the course of three months.
and then I will be returning to the pulpit in December.
I am not leaving the church.
I am not scoping out other job opportunities.
I am taking a short season to rest, reconnect with the Lord, and with my family… so that I can run hard for another 7 years without burning out.
And one of the reasons, I wanted to pause and do this mini-series, is so that I might remind myself and remind you of what God has done in our midst…, and what we are praying God will do over the next seven years.
I want my last four sermons before my Sabbatical… to be a wonderful reflection on the last 7 years and a launching pad into the next 7 years of mission together.
The church at Antioch will help us do that.
The church at Antioch was a church plant with humble beginnings.
It started as a result of the persecution happening in Jerusalem.
People ran for their lives and landed in Antioch where they began to tell people about Jesus.
In Acts chapter 11 through 13, we actually get to see a progression In the church at Antioch.
We get to see them go from being a small band of believers in a big city… to becoming a church planting church.
It was in Antioch where we see the first real blending of different ethnicities into one church.
It was in Antioch where the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians
It was from Antioch where we have the first recorded example of a church sending financial support to help another struggling church.
It was from Antioch where we have the first recorded example of a church intentionally sending out missionaries to unreached places.
It was Antioch who actually sent out the apostle Paul to plant churches throughout the Roman Empire.
So lets turn our attention to their beginnings recorded in Acts chapter 11 And then lets pray for understanding and application of what we see.
Lets Pray
There is no pragmatic or practical reason that Christianity should have taken off in Antioch the way that it did.
Its not as if the cultural soil was good for the seed of the gospel to spread.
Antioch was the third largest city in the Greco-Roman world… behind only Alexandria and Rome.
Some estimate about six hundred thousand inhabitants.
It was an incredibly diverse city.
It was a big blend of Greeks, Syrians, Phoenicians, Jews, Arabs, Persians, Egyptians and Indians.
In AD 350, one historian wrote that the city was , “the abode of the gods.”
One modern commentator describes Antioch as, “a cosmopolitan city full of gods”
Pagan religion permeated every aspect of life.
I don’t think we fully grasp how much pagan religion would have been a part of the culture.
Appeasing the pantheon of multiple gods was interwoven Into everything from funerals, to weddings, to medical care, to buying something in the market.
Nothing about Antioch made it easy ground or good soil for sharing the good news about Jesus.
The message of Jesus was unashamedly mono-theistic… which means the message of Christianity was that that there is only one God.
Not only that… The morality of Christianity was diametrically opposed to the cultic prostitution, and the loose sexual ethic, and the drunken parties of the Antioch culture.
In a heavily Roman society that lived for pride, and honor, and for social standing… Christianity worshipped a God who humbled himself to the point of death on a Roman cross and furthermore taught that humility was a desirable virtue.
The message of Jesus was totally and entirely an alien theology in the whole thought world of Antioch.
Yet something incredible began to take place in the city of Antioch.
Christians landed in Antioch who were fleeing the persecution in Jerusalem.
And when they landed in Antioch… they began to share the good news of Jesus… and people miraculously listened.
There is a lot to highlight in this passage but the first sentence that I want to jump out at you is verse 21.
I want you to understand the whole passage through the lens of this verse.
In fact, I want you to understand our church past, present and future, through the lens of this verse.
the author of Acts is very clear throughout the whole book… that
- the planting of churches,
- the conversion of the lost,
- and the expansion of God’s kingdom…
- is something that God himself accomplishes through his people.
He is playing an active role, but he’s not just playing an active role.… he plays the primary role.
This is the truth made plane in this text and throughout Acts…
Truth #1 God Builds His Church by His Grace (v.21)
It was the hand of the Lord with his people that caused a great number to believe and turn to the Lord.
In fact Peter describes the salvation of the Gentiles in this way…
Notice how they give the credit to God for the salvation of the gentiles.
Even the act of repentance is actually a good undeserved gift flowing from God to the people for his glory.
From the very first verse of the book of Acts we are meant to see God as the one carrying out a plan.
Luke sets up the whole book of Acts from the beginning with this emphasis.
His previous book was about what Jesus began to do and teach.... the implication is that this book is about what all Jesus continues to do and teach.
And Luke continues to emphasize this throughout.
Listen to the description of the first Christian church.
when the church was frightened by the threat of persecution listen to what happened in Acts 4.
Even the persecutors of the disciples in Acts 5 recognized that if this movement was God’s doing.. it could not be stopped.
God has a plan that he is carrying out in the world… and he is active in placing his hand on his people for the work of building his church.
In fact, when Barnabas sees the great number of new Christians now joining together in Antioch, he describes what he is seeing in this way…
Acts 11:22–23 (ESV)
22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
Barnabas recognized that what he was seeing in the salvation and the drawing together of all these Antioch Christians was none other then a work of God’s saving grace.
God was being unnecessarily kind…
he was showing favor to the undeserving..
he was saving people who could not save themselves…
he was accomplishing something in a city that was impossible for any man to accomplish…and to think it all started with what seemed like a bad thing.
The Jews in Jerusalem were trying to squash Christianity out.
They stoned Stephen to death for preaching Jesus.
They persisted to arrest and beat Christians thinking that it would slow down this religion… but in their attempts to stop what God was doing…, they only exasperated the spread of Christianity.
This is what God does… God builds his church…
This is what we see in the book of Acts…
This is what we have experienced here in St. Rose Community Church....
I have here with me the minutes from the final business meeting of First Baptist Church of Saint Rose, on August 5th, 2015.
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