The Undeterred Church
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The Undeterred Church
We continue our series on the book of Acts. We have been in a long slow season of realigning our church with what we need to do to reach this community for the next generation. It has been a long process but we are there.
I’m excited where we are going with Discovery Groups, and really trying to create a movement of people seeking God’s direction for their lives by reading his word in the context of community. A lot of this has come from studying discipleship practices in other parts of the world, and I think it is something that will have a profound impact on the western church. I keep feeling like it is getting us back to the basics, and as we do this I see it everywhere in the Bible.
We are going to see this again with the church in the book of Acts. We have a mission and we need to move forward without being deterred.
Deter: discourage (someone) from doing something by instilling doubt or fear of the consequences:
“only a health problem would deter him”
There is never a lack of things to deter us from God’s will. Today we are going to see that the true church is undeterred in its mission. They are being persecuted and have other challenges but they are not stopping.
They live by faith and are joyfully obedient to Jesus in sharing the good news.
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:19-30 NIV)
- Undeterred By Opposition
Persecution broke out in chapter 8 with the killing of the first Martyr, Stephen. With that the adversaries emboldened persecution increased. What is intended to snuff out this sect of believers become the very catalyst for its spread. Persecution drives them to other regions and they take the good news there. That’s a theme of this book.
You can’t thwart God’s purposes. Look, when things don’t go your way, don’t ever think evil overcomes you. God is going to use it. Stephen’s death was tragic. The persecution tragic. But God used it for his purposes.
-God is working.
-His people are determined. If you are passionate about something, you are not easily deterred. People won’t keep you from it.
On the flip side, no strategy can make up for indifference. If you do not care about making disciples and sharing your faith, you will fail every time. This is the great challenge of our day. We need good strategies. We need to execute. Are you excited about telling others what God has done?
The opposition leads to the gospel to move outside Jerusalem and it establishes a church in the city of Antioch. My version of the Bible has as the heading of this section, “The Church in Antioch.” I was a bit confused because the church doesn’t do anything in this chapter, then I realized it is about the birth of the church there.
Some moved out of Jerusalem and went to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. They only took the message to the Jews. But then some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene go to Antioch and they begin to tell the Greeks. Were probably Greek. Moves out of Israel. Different countries.
Paul’s hardships. Undeterred. The church in Antioch is birthed. Barnabas hears what is going on and he decides to go find Paul who is nearby in Tarsus (v25). Very little is known of Paul during this time. He had persecuted the church, seen Jesus, and became a follower of the way. Probably 8-10 years after his conversion. Some believe it was this stretch of time that many events that cannot be fitted neatly into a chronology of Paul’s life happened. Possibly the time he received the five times thirty nine lashes at the hands of the synagogue officials, experienced the loss of all things (Phil 3:8), was disinherited by his family, and underwent other persecutions (2 Cor 11:23-27).
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20
There was no fear. They are being persecuted. If you are being persecuted and scattered because of what you believe do you know how risky it would be for Barnabas to go down and meet with this group of people?
It is going to continue to be more and more unpopular to be a Christian in this country. In very real ways you might have to choose to obey God or authorities. What are you going to do?
Many people want to do better. Continue doing the life they are doing, keep their hands on the steering wheel, and just do it a little bit better. That is not submitting to Christ. It is saying, Jesus you are in control. With you I have everything. Without you I have nothing. There is nothing in the world that satisfies me.
Have you been crucified to the world? Have you let it all go because of what you have in Christ. Do you know how unfulfilling it is. Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. You see that here in Acts! Persecuted, mocked, and completely happy!
We have had a pandemic this year. The church has been scattered. The church in Acts was scattered and they were not deterred from sharing what Jesus had done for them. He was the solution to all the problems. For many Christians Covid was an opportunity to stop doing something you didn’t really like doing. Not about missing church. Did you disconnect from the life Jesus calls you to live, from prayer, sharing your faith, reading your Bible.
Tim Keller. What would you advise a young Christian who is fearful right now. “If Jesus Christ was actually raised from the dead. If he really Got up. Walked out. Was seen by hundreds of people, then everything is going to be alright. Whatever you are worried about, whatever you are afraid of is going to be ok. We are not just talking about resurrected people. We are talking about a resurrected world.
You are going to be OK. Covid or no covid. Mask or no mask. Job or no job. Democrat, Republican. Retirement or no retirement. Kids go to college or don’t go to college.
And the contrary also has to be looked at. If you don’t have Jesus you don’t have anything. You will never find peace. You will never find comfort. So sad to see so many Christians upset about things in the world, but no one really seems to care that that Jesus is the solution.
v29 , 30. Persecuted. Scattered. Threatened. Severe famine, not just a famine but a severe one. Joyful and giving to others. There is going to be a famine in the land. Let’s take a collection and send something there.
The church is bold. It is an army. Fighting with faith and love and boldness. Trials on every side but they know the outcome is secure. Need to rise not shrink back.
- Undeterred by Anonymity
Who planted this church in Antioch. Which apostle? Peter? Paul? Isn’t this amazing, the gospel goes to a new city, spreads to Jew and Greeks and a “great number of people believed” and we don’t know who did it.
Count Zinzendorf. Austrian nobleman who was part of the Moravian missions. “Preach the gospel. Die. Be forgotten.”
It comes to the attention of the church in Jerusalem and they want to see what is going on. They send Barnabas to check it out. And he rejoices. Doesn’t say how could these people do this! He rejoices.
This is the priesthood of believers and it needs to be reclaimed today, not just in theory but in practice. We need to train and equip all people to share their faith, share the good news of the gospel. This is why I am excited about our Discovery Group. I think they do this by getting people into God’s word and thinking about how it is changing them and how they can share the good news they are experiencing with other people.
“Sharing Christ was as natural to them as tears to sorrow or a smile to happiness.” They are bringing good news.”
V20 “telling them the good news about Jesus.
Not telling them about all the hardships they endured. Not complaining about denial of rights, how bad the virus is. They are sharing good news.
Why do we do it so little? Should be a way of life. A constant conversation of talking about what God has done, is doing, and believe he will do.
-They are telling the good news with others. Relationships. Look at the relational connection. Barnabas goes to see Paul. Bonding together to go and tell others the gospel. Jesus gathered disciples and sent them out and now that is happening. They are meeting together regularly. Doing life. Knowing each other and going out.
This is one of the strengths of our church. Getting to know others. But we need to push out into knowing those who are new. Connecting with others, bringing them along in their walk with God.
-Barnabas saw the grace of God. nobodies telling others about Jesus. That is the church. If you are discouraged in your faith and lacking fruit you need to get involved in the church. You see the grace of God at work. A Christian without the church is a like a fish without water. And I’m not talking about just showing up on Sundays. Tha’ts part of it. But it is about being ingrained in the relational fabric of the church. You look at the book of Acts and these people knew each other. They are hanging out, praying for each other, sharing what God is doing in their lives. There is connection, there is substance, there is purpose.
One of the reasons the church is so weak today is … I think one of the lies people have believed today is that they don’t need to belong to a body of believers. Church isn’t a building. It is a relational organization focused on building people into the work of Christ. People think they can be disconnected and still serve God. Haven’t killed anybody so they are OK. And they are comfortable not telling anyone about the good news of Jesus. You are called to be a disciple- a follower of Christ- and disciples are called to help others follow Jesus. This is what we want to be about.
When life hits the fan you need people to tell you there is hope, that you have good news! I would rather have a brother in my life that the world doesn’t know about than a superstar actor on television. We need this. You need this. Your friends need this. This is what we want to be about as a church.
- Undeterred by Slander
V26 were first called Christians in Antioch. (Act 11:26 CSB). We hear this name and think, Yes, that’s what I am. This name comes from the Greek word for anointed, Christos. That is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. It combines Greek with a Latin suffix. It was a mongrel name (part Greek and part Latin). Not a complement. But it is apt. They own it.
People are too fragile today. Feelings get hurt too quickly. When people slander you. Don’t run away. Don’t back down. Smile. Love them. Disagree respectfully. Don’t give up. Leave an example that makes them scratch their head. “I disagree with everything he is about, but I can’t help but appreciate how he lives.”
They changed the vocabulary of the city. They saw the Lord’s hand was upon them (v21). The grace of God was visible among them. There was a vibrant spiritual movement happening in the church and it was noticed by the community. Call me what you will!
What were they doing that was noticed. They were sharing good news. They were glad. They were encouraging each other to remain true to the Lord (v23). They were full of faith and the holy Spirit. They were not Debbie Downers or Eeyores. They were learning the word of God and thinking about how they could help others. They were following Jesus!
They were talking about how Jesus changed their lives. How he was the fulfillment of salvation. He was changing them.
This is what we want to be about as a church. Doing and talking about these things. We are doing small groups that encourage us to look for needs and to share what God is doing in our life.
What is needed in our world today? Do we want to create a movement of people listening to the Fish? Do we want to create a movement of sports, school, voting a certain way, political.
Don’t care about worldly acknowledgement. Not about respect. Not about buildings, worldly good.
We don’t need to be famous. Most of the people that have had the greatest impact on me personally are not on twitter, or facebook. People want the big platform, titles, jobs. Let’s be faithful in the little things. I think we are going to go far by doing that!
Not sharing propositions but sharing our life. I used to think sharing the gospel was getting through a list of doctrines. God created the world. You sinned and rejected that. You deserve judgement and hell. Jesus is the savior of the world and you have to trust in him and him alone. If you pray that you will go to heaven. Like a 400 pound weight to successfully share the gospel. Like a 400 pound weight for someone who would listen to me. People are not there. They have questions on creation, Jesus, sin, judgement, hell. It is all foreign. And they need help getting through life. Jesus met people were they are at. Told the Samaritan woman, “Go call your husband.” Told the disciples, “Follow me.” Didn’t expect them to have and know everything. Let’s start a journey together.
My goal now is to share how God is meeting me. Jesus is resurrected and promises to bring a new order. I have been worried and fearful but I’m learning to rest in who he is.
The name Chrisian means very little today. Here it denoted disciples, those who are learning from Jesus. Today it often has more to do with your origin of birth than a commitment to Christ. People identify as Christians but don’t necessarily believe. People have a remnant of church talk but not the heart. I will ask people how I can pray for them. What is God calling you to do in this season? Often don’t know. I will tell them, “You come to my church and we are going to help you figure that out.”
This has been slow cooked. For a long time we simply couldn’t address what we needed to do in small groups. We knew we need to be together, be in God’s word, but also felt adjustments needed to be made. To use a football analogy they tell running backs don’t run side to side. If you do at some point you have to put your foot in the ground and head north. We have been running to the side for a while. We are putting our foot in the ground and moving North. Discovery Groups are not our existing groups. They are different. Different format. Different objective. Focus on knowing others, reading God’s word, doing what it says, and
- Organized. Undeterred by Un-unorganized (couldn’t maintain the symmetry in points!)
This was a very organic movement but it did have organization. The church matures unites and is not just a bunch of people doing whatever they want. There is order and we see that here.
Elders: decide to send a gift to the leadership of the church through the leadership of the chruch.
30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
clear leadership. The New Testament is clear on having leadership in the church, it is clear on the qualifications of this, 1 Tim 3:1-10.
-The church is the one organization whose sole goal is to create a community that is focused on furthering the gospel.
Prophets in the church. People the church recognized as having a gift. That’s a title. Others who didn’t have title.
We need to have a fire to burn bright. We need to have organization to burn long.
We have been in a mess this last year. It is hard to get momentum when in a mess. We need it now. We have clear plans. Let’s go do it. We need some prayer warriors to start praying for this thing to ignite (Older People). We need to see people jumping into the plans we have (younger people). We need the church to arise. Not building but a movement of people. People committed to follow Jesus. We are going to have opposition, hardship, and more. But God’s hand is with us. There will be joy. Grace. Growth. Changed lives. Churches built.