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Antioch: Love the Lord

Antioch: A Mini-Series on the Mission  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  53:07
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Introduction:
If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me To the book of Acts.
We are pausing from our longer journey through the gospel of Mark for a mini series where we are looking at the church at Antioch and reminding ourselves of why we exist as a local church.
Last week we looked at the beginnings of the church at Antioch and we celebrated God’s work in our own church over the last seven years.
We saw two basic truths which can be found in our own Church’s mission statement.
God Builds His Church By His Grace
And
God Builds His Church For His Glory
We saw that the city of Antioch was very much an anti-Christian place…
But that God miraculously saved a group of people gave them a new relationship to the Lord and a new relationship with one another.
Luke makes clear who it was who was responsible for this thriving church plant.
Acts 11:21 ESV
And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
When Barnabas arrived on the scene in Antioch and he began to see and understand the inter workings of this new church..
The text tells us this.
Acts 11:23 ESV
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,
For Barnabas, the church at Antioch was grace gone visible.
They were the visual evidence of God’s work to save people.
And so are we.
Like the mountains, and stars, and the expanse of the sea exists to point to the glory of God… we exist to point to the glory of God in a special way.
Unlike any other created thing, God reflects his image in us, but more than that, he reflects his mercy, his grace, his forgiveness, and his power in saving us and in unifying us around worshipping him.
We exist as individuals and as a church for a purpose.
That purpose is to glorify God.
but how do we glorify God?
What is it that we do that glorifies God?
Barnabas gives them this command in verse 23, “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose”…
But what is faithfulness to the Lord with steadfast purpose?
How do we pursue and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives?
I want us to read again the material that we have about the Antioch church for clues of what this might look like.
Starting with last week’s passage in Acts 11 and then also reading a later passage about Antioch in Acts 13.
Acts 11:19–30 ESV
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 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, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. 27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Now look at Acts 13.
Acts 13:1–3 ESV
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Lets Pray
I want you to notice how God-focused the community life became in the church at Antioch.
God was not an idea.
He was not simply a morality.
He was not a distant concept.
He was real, present, and life-shaping.
In a place that once predominantly worshipped false gods, I want you to notice the one true God-centeredness of the people once they discovered Jesus.
In chapter 11 verse 20…, the message preached was that of “the Lord Jesus”
In verse 21… they believed and “turned to the Lord”
In verse 22… it was the “grace of God” that Barnabas saw in their lives.
In verse 23… it was faithfulness to “the Lord” toward which Barnabas moved them.
In chapter 13, we are given a window into their gatherings as a church.
We are told that they are:
“worshipping”
“praying”
and “fasting”
There is a Godwardness to all of this… a God-centeredness to all of this.
And thats important…
I am afraid that we can read the book of Acts and we can marvel at the mission work.
We can get excited about the church planting part…
the missionary sending part…
the productive sort of reach the world part…
WE can be amazed at the perseverance through persecution.
but we can miss the God-centeredness of it all.
We do not exist as a church or even as Christians to simply accomplish godly tasks or even God-given tasks.
Those tasks...
That mission… that the apostles were on and that the church of Antioch joined…,
must have at its root a deeper foundation then simply a desire for more churches to be planted, or even the good desire for less people to go to hell.
Its got to be more than a good cause or a sense of purpose.
It must have an even deeper foundation than just a thanksgiving for our own salvation...
Our mission as a church and as individuals,
the reason for our living…
our giving, our going, our evangelizing, our disicpling… at the source of that wellspring of missions… must be a love for God himself.
The mission of St. Rose Community Church is to Love the Lord. Make disciples. Plant Churches. By His Grace. and For His Glory.
And there is a reason that “Love the Lord” comes first in that order of phrases.
If you are a note taker this morning...
There is one big point and then six expressions of that point.

#1 We Exist to Love the Lord

We believe that God is real.
He created the world, that he set a standard for the world.
We believe that humanity rebelled against that God, and his words, and his ways.
But we believe God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to take our punishment.
And we believe that what God desires is for us to desire him.
He wants our affection… our worship… our devotion… our love.
God does not need our giftings, or our abilities.
He does not need us to operate at a high capacity to accomplish things he can’t accomplish.
We do not exist to just avoid the big sins and do some good deeds.
God is not after our behavioral change in an of itself.
The God of the Bible is not saving for himself a people so that there might be nicer people in the world.
That is not what is most glorifying to god.
The God of the Bible is saving for himself a people so that there might be worshippers in the world....
He is saving a people who will glorify him in their expressions of genuine love for God.
We see God’s desire from the earliest moments in the Bible’s story.
The book of Deuteronomy is a book of sermons to the people of God after they had been delivered from slavery in Egypt. Just listen to the theme of these God-inspired messages.
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 ESV
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV
12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deuteronomy 11:1 ESV
1 “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.
In the next generation of God’s people, Joshua keeps hitting the same message.
Joshua 22:5 ESV
5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
years later, King David wrote Psalms for God’s people to sing…, much of which were declarations of love and praises over the love of God.
Psalm 18:1–3 ESV
1 I love you, O Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Mark … he was simply being consistent with the message of the Bible.
Mark 12:29–30 ESV
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
What does God desire from you?
What does God desire from us as a church?
How does God aim to be glorified in us and through us?
First and foremost…, he desires our affection.
He wants us to find relationship with him to be the most satisfying, most joyful, most important thin in our lives.
Is this a different desire then what we spoke about last week?
Is God’s desire to be glorified different from his desire for us to love him supremely?
The answer is no…
This will be much of the conversation in the spiritual formation class that started this week on Sundays at 8:30 AM.
This semester that group will be considering this phrase and its consistency with the rest of the Bible… “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
In other words… his majesty is reflected best… when we see, and enjoy, and love him most....
So God’s desire to be glorified is not different then his desire for us to love him…
And our desire to be truly happy is not different from God’s desire for us to love him.… because its in the loving God more that we will find true happiness.
Its in the loving God more that we will find joy in this life.
John Piper says it like this…
Which scenario highlights the value of my wife better..
Scenario 1:
I come home and I give her flowers… my wife doesn’t care for flowers… so I come home and I have a decaf white chocolate mocah from starbucks.
And I give to her and I say, I wanted to get this for you because you are the love of my life… You are precious to me and I just wanted to show how much I love you.
Scenario 2:
I come home and I give her a decaf white chocolate mocah from starbucks…
And I give it to her and say… I was reading a book and it said good husbands are supposed to do stuff like this so here ya go.. and then I walk past her to do my own thing, hoping she’s appeased with my gift.
Which one magnifies her worth more?
Obviously her worth is magnified, when I act out of an overflow of genuine love for her. Its not the act itself… its the love that motivates the act.
Do you see how God is most glorified when we most truly are satisfied in relationship with him and most primarily want to please him and rejoice in him?
This is what it means to be a Christian.
This is what faith looks like.
We love God in such a way that relationship with God, and honoring God, and loving God becomes the most important and most joyful reality in our world.
We Christians love God and we thus put God before our jobs, before our possessions, before our desires…, and even before our blood family members.
This is what God wants from each of us individually, but its what he wants from us corporately.
The church at Antioch didn’t just turn away from the idols of their city…
The church at Antioch turned toward the Lord.
And though the text does not explicitly say… “they loved the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength”… we can actually see their love expressed throughout the narrative.
we exist to love the Lord… but genuine love is never fulfilled until it is expressed.
Love demands expression.
Genuine love makes you want to say “I love you”
Genuine love wants to show itself and does show itself… In fact, love is only recognizable by its expressions.
Love is like the wind…, you can’t physically see the wind, you can only see the things that the wind moves.
You can not physically see someone’s love for God… you can only seek their actions that are motivated or moved by love.
So I want you to see five expressions of love for God in the Antioch church.

#1 We Express Love for God through Learning

We will talk about this in more depth next week, but notice how Barnabas understands what the first steps need to be In this new church.
He recognized that what these new believers in Jesus needed most… was sound teaching.
They needed to know more deeply the God to whom they just turned.
Acts 11:25–26 ESV
25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
We see this pattern consistently through the book of Acts.
Christians everywhere immediately became learning communities.
Churches became communities where teaching, and hearing sound teaching became central to their life together.
If Paul taught a great many people for a year, it means a great many people wanted to learn or else why would they risk persecution by meeting together corporately to learn.
This was not simply because becoming Christian makes you a curious person..
Becoming a Christian makes you a lover of God… and
What is an expression of love? It is the desire to know someone more deeply.
This is one reason why single people go on dates.
There is the beginnings of an affection for someone that causes you to want to know someone more deeply… and as you know them more deeply, that affection will either grow or fade.
We express love for God through learning about God…
what he is like,
what he has said,
what he has done,
what he desires,
what he is planning.
This is why the Psalmist speaks in this way about the instruction of God.
Psalm 119:129–132 ESV
129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. 131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. 132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
Love for God’s word is always intertwined with love for God himself.
It is difficult to love someone and care very little for what they say or have said.
I would not advise you trying this with your spouse.
Say you love her.
Tell other people you love her.
And then disregard everything she says this week as if she is not speaking at all.
Seems silly in a parable like that… but is that not what so many Christians do.
We say we love God.
We tell other people we love God.
But most days of the week we disregard everything he has said as if he hasn’t spoken at all And doesn’t intend to speak today.
Express your love for God through listening and learning And praying to know him more.
God is glorified in you and in this church as we express our love for him by wanting to know him more and see him more clearly.
This sermon moment is an opportunity to glorify God in a unique way.
But even more than that… don’t just listen… don’t just learn… but obey.

#2 We Express Love for God Through Obeying

Notice what others in Antioch were noticing about these disciples
Acts 11:26 ESV
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
The disciples in Antioch did not just learn about Jesus… apparently they began to look like Jesus.
The word “christian” was not a word that they assigned to themselves..
It was actually a derogatory word that the world around them assigned to them because everything they did began to resemble a love for Jesus.
They apparently were hearing the teaching of Jesus through the lips of Paul and Barnabas… but they were also obeying the teaching of Jesus so passionately in the market place and in the social gatherings around the city that they earned for themselves a new name.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true for many of us today.
We call ourselves Christians.... though nobody around us would have thought to call us one because of the way we live our lives.
Is that the case for you?
Do the people in your life recognize your Christianity so much so that they would make up a name for your uniqueness… or are you really the only one who would call yourself a Christian?
May it not be so.
May our love for God lead us to obey what God has said no matter the cost.
This is precisely what love of God looks like.
Jesus himself says so.
John 14:23–24 ESV
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
It doesn’t get any clearer.
If you don not care to know what God says or to obey what God says…
you do not love God…
and if you do not love God you are not a Christian
and if your not a Christian then you stand condemned before God and you will go to an eternity separated from God forever…
you did not want more of God in this life… so you won’t have him in the next.
God doesn’t want your catholocism.
God doesn’t want your perfect Baptist sunday school attendance from when you were a kid.
God doesn’t want your version of morality.
He wants your love… your faith… your belief that he is worthy and he is worthy listening to… that when he says this is the straight and narrow that leads to life.... you believe him.
We are saved through faith...
Faith is expressed in love....
love is expressed in obedience....
Which is why…. if you are directly, willfully, regularly, intentionally ignoring God’s word and disobeying it… then there is reason to question the genuineness of your faith.
We express Love for God through Learning
We Express Love for God through Obeying
and sometimes that obedience even includes sacrifice.
we will talk more about this two weeks from now, but notice the sacrificial nature of their obedience in verse 27-29
Acts 11:27–29 ESV
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
a famine is coming…
but rather than focus on preserving themselves… they sacrificially give to help provide for the more persecuted Christians in a different city whom they know the famine will hit harder.
From an outsider looking in at this Christian movement…
What does this action say about the God they worship?
Sacrifice always highlights the value of the one sacrificed for.
We sacrifice something valuable only when we believe that something else is MORE valuable.
Our sacrifice expresses our esteem of that someone or something.
Our sacrifice expresses our love for that someone or something.

#3 We Express Love for God through Sacrifice

I don’t have to work to hard to show you this concept throughout the whole Bible.
The sacrificial system was a system of worship which highlighted the value of God with people’s sacrifice of what was valuable to them.
The cross itself was a testimony to two values.
Jesus’ horrible death was a testimony first to how much God values his own justice...
He will not allow sin to go unpunished....
He will not allow sinners into his presence without payment for sin…
He values his own glory so much that he was willing to endure the cross… that the world would see his justice, his holiness, his righteous wrath poured out onto the sin of the world.
Secondly… its a testimony to God’s value that he has placed on you… he loves you..
and how was that love expressed?
It was expressed through sacrifice… ultimate sacrifice.
Romans 5:8 ESV
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Do you want to know how much God value’s you? Look to the cross where his sacrifice proves his love
Now for the Christian life… our whole lives become a sacrificial offering to the God we love.
After 11 chapters of the wonders of the good news of Jesus in the book of Romans… Paul makes his transition to how the good news of Jesus should be applied to our lives with these words.
Romans 12:1 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
In other words… if God really has promised you this much grace through faith in Jesus Christ.... present everything to God as a sacrifice.
Hold on to nothing.
Give it all to God,
let him be lord of it,
and express your love to him by letting it go… it is rubbish in comparison to the glories you are promised in Jesus.
the money, the houses, the cars, the job, the life, the relationships, the temporary pleasures of a lustful moment… they are not as valuable as the God who has saved you… love him and express it by obeying him even if it cost you.... and especially when it cost you.
Do so believing that its not really costing you!
The eternal return is more valuable then the temporal cost.
Its the best investment in the history of investments.
We express love for God through Learning, Obeying, and Sacrifice
But thats not all we see happening in Antioch..
There was a normal rhythm of love expressing in the Antioch church life.
there was a normal rhythm of stirring one another up to love God more deeply.
Acts 13:1-3 opens a window for us to peak into what appears to be a regular gathering of the Christians in Antioch.
Listen to whats taking place.
Acts 13:2 ESV
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
focus in first on that word worshiping.
Apparently this crazy group of little Christs regularly got together to just worship..
Now what does it mean to “worship”
What did Luke mean when he said they were “worshipping”
Well it seems to be a group event, not a private event.
And I think its safe to assume that they worshipped in similar ways to how the Jews would have worshipped in the synagogue.
This would have included, reading from sacred scripture, responding in prayer, and in song.
Worship is the regular communion moment between us and God where we meditate on true things about God and we respond to those true things appropriately.
We remind ourselves of the things about God we know to be true.
We gaze upon aspects of him through scripture, and song, and baptism, and the Lord’s Supper…
and we respond… We sing, we rejoice, we confess, we repent, we give thanks, we pray, we rest, we are comforted, we are provoked, we are stirred up.
This is why you will notice an intentionality to our gatherings at St. Rose Community Church...
We want to express our love for God by hearing and seeing true things about God and then responding with the appropriate degree of joy or sorrow or praise.
We pick songs based off of the truth that they communicate so that we can respond to that truth appropriately.
this is worship.
We can do this privately every day…, but God intended that we do it corporately and regularly.
Here Paul’s admonition in Colossians.
Colossians 3:16–17 ESV
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Notice how Paul assumes that worship works.
The word of Christ leads to the singing of psalms, and hymns, an spiritual songs, which is accompanied by a heart response to God of thankfulness and praise.

#4 We Express Love for God through Corporate Worship

Thats what we are here to do this morning to corporately, together say in song and in prayer.
God, we love you,
we have failed to love you,
we want to love you more,
we want others to love you more.
help us to love you.
help us to help others to love you.
Thank you for loving us.
Romans 15:6 ESV
that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The last thing I want to direct your attention to is perhaps the clearest set of spiritual disciplines that show God’s desire for our relational
Acts 13:2–3 ESV
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

#5 We Express Love for God through Prayer and Fasting

These Antioch believers had chosen to enter into a time of concentrated prayer and fasting.
Prayer itself is an interesting concept.
God knows everything about us.
He knows our thoughts.
He knows our needs.
He knows our heart disposition.
Yet he still desires for us to express those thoughts, needs, feelings, and concerns to him in words.
He wants us to talk to him.
Its not as though God needs to learn something new about us.
Its not as though we can somehow convince him to do something that he didn’t want to do?
So why pray?
Unless it is through prayer that we give God a unique glory.
We express our desire to commune with him.
We express our love for him.
We express our need for him In all areas of life.
Prayer is our declaration of dependence upon God to meet our spiritual and physical needs.
Prayer is the communication line through which we offer God our thanksgiving and our confessions and our praises and our sorrows.
In Acts the church gathered regularly to pray.
They devoted themselves to it.
They prayed for boldness to preach in the face of persecution.
They prayed for Peter to be released from prison.
The prayed for direction in appointing new deacons and new elders for new churches.
They prayed for the salvation of their persecutors.
They prayed prayers of praise even from the prison cells.
Fasting was and is an accomplice to prayer.
We see the same word prayer in ACT’s 14.
Acts 14:23 ESV
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Fasting is the abstaining from food for a particular season so more time can be given to prayer.
Far more so than even today, meal preparation was a time consuming endeavor.
By skipping meals for a day or more, that time could be devoted to seeking deeper fellowship with God.
As the hunger pains increase, fasting is a declaration that we hunger for God even more than food itself.
As our stomachs yearn for physical nourishment we communicate to the Lord that our souls yearn for his spiritual nourishment even more.
God made our bodies to function in this way. We need food. Without food we grow weak, weary, and more and more incapable Of doing what we need to do.
Food gives us nourishment, energy, and the ability to live another day.
But there is a live parable happening all day every day through our need for food.
Jesus fasted, and when Satan tempted him to break his fast at the point of his strongest hunger… Jesus said this.
Matthew 4:4 ESV
But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
The live-parable is clear…. Just like the physical body needs food for physical nourishment… the spiritual soul needs food for spiritual nourishment.
We need communion with the Lord through his word, and through prayer. If we don’t have it we will become spiritually weak, weary, and more and more incapable.
Our prayer and fasting is an expression of our need and our love for the Lord.
Conclusion:
One Big Point:
#1 We Exist to Love the Lord
Five Expressions we see in the church at Antioch:
we Learn
We Obey
We Sacrifice
We worship
We pray and fast.
Let me conclude with a few questions:
Do you love the Lord?
In what ways do you need to more consistently express your love for the Lord?
If you are here and you feel no love for the Lord and no desire to glorify him…
Let me urge you to spend some time in concentrated prayer this morning.
Ask God to show you his love for you.
Ask him to remind you of what he did for you at the cross.
Ask God to give you a love for him.
Remember…. Love for the Lord that characterized the Antioch church was a miracle.
This is why we exist.
We exist to Love the Lord…. But even our Love for the Lord is By His Grace & For His Glory….
He is the one who works the miracle in our hearts to help us love him… and he gets all the praise even for the love he gives to us to express back to him.
Praise the Lo
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