Silencing Critics of God's Work

Learning How To Silence The Critics Of God's Work.

Ross Sawyers
Sep 25, 2022    52m
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If we're going to silence the critics of God's work, the first thing we need to do is recognize the nature of the criticism. The way that we would respond thoughtfully and orderly is to simply recount what God himself had said, and then share what God has done in the past and also in our lives. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: [00:00:16] I was reading a book on prayer, probably a year or two ago now, that someone recommended, and the title of the book is Prayer by Ole Hallesby, and there were two things he said that were essential to prayer. One of them is faith, and even when we have trouble believing, when we ask God to help our unbelief, that's faith. So even when we're in that position, it's still faith. And then the second thing he said that was a challenge for me to think through is we have to come to God, helpless. And I found myself, when I read that, I thought, okay, well, I go to God that way. Until I tried to tell him that I was helpless, and then I couldn't do it. And I thought, how prideful is my own heart that I can't even kneel before God and tell him that I'm helpless without him? And then I just asked God to change my heart so that I would recognize the reality of my helplessness without Him, and over time, I've seen him do that. And every time we sing the song, Lord, I Need You, that is what is prominent, running through my mind, that I am absolutely helpless without Him, and I do need him every hour. Yes, we can function. Yes, we could still excel. Yes, we could still use our gifts. Yes, we can do all of that minus his help, and it will be without power, it will be without love, and it will be without eternal value. But when we lean into him for our help, then everything that he does in and through us will be something that glorifies his name, that has power behind it, and has the love of Christ as the motivation for it. So I hope when we sing that there are thoughts like that that come to your mind of how God is working in and through you and through those around you.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:13] Well, over these last several weeks, we've been talking about what God's doing at different high schools in our area by way of establishing the worship of Jesus, where there is none. And we've been highlighting students from 121 at different high schools and what God is doing in and through them. Today, we're highlighting Birdville High School, and I was excited when Jermaine told me. This is where my sons went to school and where we spent a good portion of hours in bleachers watching track meets and football games and whatever else there would be in those high school years, and we had a great season of time while we were there.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:55] I was reminded yesterday as I was spending time with the Lord on my Sabbath of First Timothy chapter 4, verse 12. And in that part of Scripture, Paul is writing to Timothy, he is mentoring him, it is somebody that he has poured his life into for the cause of Christ. And he says to him, "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." And really what we've been doing in these weeks is highlighting students that we're not looking down on their youthfulness, rather, we're encouraged by their example as they live out with their words, with their conduct, with their faith, their love, and their purity, what it is to be a follower of Jesus in this day.

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:48] At Birdville High School, there are two students that I want to just highlight what it is that God is doing in and through them. Maddie McClain is one of those students, she's active in FCA, that's a fellowship of Christian athletes, and has been doing meaningful work through FCA. She's a trainer for the basketball and football teams, and the trainer at Birdville High School, the head trainer is a strong believer and follower of Jesus, and he is actively sharing Scripture, encouraging those students that are with him in the training world. And then Maddie has turned around and she's leading a Bible study with other trainers, and I just love how God is using our students in whatever their extracurricular thing is or their academic thing is to turn around and somehow, someway be a part of them following Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:40] Corinne Sanders is the second student that I would highlight at Birdsville, she's part of 121 Students and serves in other areas in our church. I had the privilege to be with her in Jordan when we went to visit some of our global workers a few months ago, and so just to see Corinne in that international setting, she is the real deal and a follower of Jesus. And her parents wanted to make sure that she had an international opportunity on mission. And I would just say that for every parent in here that whatever age your kids are, would you put that on your list of what you're going to do before your child graduates? If you're a grandparent, can you somehow ensure that your grandkids get the opportunity to do some kind of international work? We make plans for our vacations, we make plans for our extracurricular activities, could you just build in there that somewhere along the way I'm exposing my child to somewhere across the globe? Not so they can see how good they have it here, God forbid, that is the worst motive that we could possibly have on planet Earth as a Christian. I'm glad people do that, if that's the only motive and the way it happens, then more power to us. But if somehow, we could amp up the motives and it's not just to show how good we have it, but instead so we could see what God's doing all over planet Earth and that we're not the only ones he's doing something in and through. And maybe, just maybe, he might spark and ignite in the heart of that student a desire for the nations, for the unreached, for those who have never heard the Gospel, and that they might know the Gospel today. Would you commit to do that in your family? It'll be one of the best things that you'll ever do, and we have opportunities galore to help you to be able to do that before your child graduates high school. And I love that Corinne is already experienced that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:42] She's actually been one that has been encouraged by the other students that we've talked about over these weeks. And she, in an honors English assignment that was to write out the effect she wanted to have on people, the legacy she wanted to leave, and the impact she wanted to have on the world, this is what she wrote. "I want to be a light for Christ and show his love to everyone in my community. I want to make a difference in this culture and shine the light of Christ wherever I go. I view myself not as the writer of my own story, but as God being the one who continues to write my story and guide me through life's twists and turns." God is the writer of her story.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:27] And in the Book of Acts, we've been seeing God write his story of the early church. If you turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 11, we'll be hanging out in verses 1 through 18 in these minutes together in God's Word. As you're turning there, and if you don't have a Bible, it'll be on the screen. And I just want you to know how critical it is that we're tying what we say to what the scripture says, we're coming out of the scripture and letting it speak to us rather than us saying, what is our idea, and what do we want to impose on the Scripture? And I think it's important that we're able to read it together and walk through it together as we unpack the ideas. We want to see what God said then, as He writes his story, and as He continues to write his story today, how does he take this in Acts, and what does it have to do with us in 2022?

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:24] As we think about that, we've been thinking in this section of the Book of Acts, about barriers being broken, social barriers, racial barriers, national barriers, and cultural barriers. This is the longest narrative in the Book of Acts, it starts in chapter ten, verse 1, we've covered two parts of it, and it ends in chapter 11 verse 18. It's significant, and I think the link is there in the significance of it, and it's sometimes probably difficult for us to grab hold of how significant it is because of the kind of hatred that existed in that day and the barriers that are just coming down for the Gospel to be able to go out and for people to know Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:12] What I want us to think about is just a big idea in Acts 11, which is the silencing of critics of God's work. Well, what do we do when people are critical of what God's doing? And we find a beautiful example of how you and I should respond as Christians when someone is critical of what God is doing. So let's think about that idea as we move through this part of God's word. If we're going to silence critics of God's work, the first thing we need to do is recognize the nature of the criticism. We really need to understand what it is that someone is criticizing and why they're criticizing it. Only then can we respond in a way that would be in a God-honoring way as described here in verse 1, "Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God." Now, the apostles, that that word means sent out ones, and these were the early leaders of the church. They had a call from God, they were sent out. And then the Brethren, and this would refer to our brothers and sisters in Christ, those who have received Jesus at this point, and they were spread throughout Judea. When you think about Israel again, it's a smaller country, but the southern half of Israel is referred to as Judea, that region of Israel. Any time we read about Judea; we're talking about the southern part of Israel. And throughout there they heard, there was a rumor, that the Gentiles...And just for clarity, I went four years not knowing what a Gentile was, I was embarrassed to ask. It was all in the Scripture, I kept reading. I thought, surely, I should know this, and yet I didn't, and finally, I took the time to figure it out. But a Gentile is simply a non-Jew. So any time you see the word Gentile in the Bible, you're reading about someone who is not a Jew. And that would be the majority of us today, by the way, some in here have a background or a heritage of Judaism or of being a Jew, but the majority of us would be in a Gentile category when we think about what the Scriptures are saying. Well, "They heard that the Gentiles had received the Word of God." Remember that the Jews had a disdain for the Gentiles. So this would be pretty interesting news running around through Jerusalem and Judea right now, like, oh, wow. Like, it's not just the Jews who are responding to Jesus, it's non-Jews, it's people we don't like that are responding to Jesus, and that was getting around town, and they were talking about.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:08] Now here's Peter, in verse 2, "He came up to Jerusalem, and those who were circumcised took issue with him." Now it isn't a bummer, you're just a part of this thing that God did, it's an exciting work. There's a breakthrough, a Roman centurion, the very ones who've been oppressing, now this Roman centurion and his family and friends have responded to Jesus. Peter had seen this vision that we will describe in just a minute, and he was watching all this happen, and I would think he was coming and really excited about what he had just seen God do. But isn't it a bummer when God does something and then we go back to some of those closest to us, and rather than them sharing our excitement, they take issue with it and become critical?

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:06] "So Peter comes to Jerusalem, and the circumcised took issue with him." Who are the circumcised That would seem odd to ears that aren't used to reading that, circumcision was a sign for the Jews that they were part of the covenant people of God. And there was a group of people that had responded to Jesus, but they still believed you first had to be circumcised and convert to Judaism before you could be a follower of Jesus. It's get circumcised, convert to Judaism, plus trust Jesus, and now you can follow him, that was their mindset. So when they heard what happened here and they knew that the ones that had responded to Jesus were not circumcised, and had not become converted to Judaism, then this group of people took issue.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:10] Now I would say that if we just brought this to now, that these are religious people, legalists, locked into their old ways of religion, and not following in the flow of what God is doing afresh through His Spirit. And they can't see anything but the problems here, rather than the work that God's doing. That's what a critic does, they see the problem, but they can't see the amazing things that are going on.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:53] And they said to Peter in verse 3, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” God forbid that you would do that. Do you see what's happening here? They don't appear to have a problem that these Gentiles received Jesus; the problem is Peter ate with them. Oh, these people over here, they can have Jesus, but we're sure not going to associate with them, we're not going to cross any boundaries nationally, socially, culturally, racially. You can have Jesus but keep him over there. Then doggone it, Peter shared Jesus, and then he hung out with them, stayed in their house, and ate with them at the table, which was one of the most intimate places where you have fellowship with somebody is at the table. That's what they're criticizing him for, they couldn't just be amazed at God's work.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:10] Now someone pointed this out to me, and I thought was a great insight. Only a few days later, Peter, was these people. Just a few days later, he had the same prejudices they did. Just a few days earlier, he would have been in the group criticizing someone that would have come back like him. So oftentimes we can jump in and say, I can't believe they would do that, and they would criticize and so forth, but we were them. I think one of my favorite things that I think is funny for Christians, especially if you come to Christ as adults, within a year or two of following Christ, we get so frustrated with our friends and family who can't see what we've seen. We just can't, it just makes us so mad, and we forget that we were them. Could we have the humility and the patience with others that are critical of what God's doing, just as God had patience with us until we finally responded to what God is doing?

Ross Sawyers: [00:17:46] What would that look like for today? And so often I see this in families in our church, and in your own stories, I hear this. You have an experience with Jesus, and then you go back, and you tell your family, and they might be another denomination or they did something different with you the way they brought you up, we have such a wide array of backgrounds in here. And we tell them, you know, God saved me, I'm genuinely a follower of Jesus now. And they say, well, wait a minute, we had you baptized when you were a baby. What's wrong with what we did with you? It becomes about what did I do wrong. In the baptism we had today, I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people, and they've not been baptized because they're afraid they're going to upset their parents, adults, I'm not talking about kids. There's such a strong emotional tie to what our faith backgrounds are in the past, sometimes we can't see the fresh work of God's Spirit in somebody's life. And it's not about what you did or didn't do with me, it's just finally, now, my heart was opened in a way that I really received Jesus. It's only now that, as Corinne said it, that God has written himself into my story personally. So we face criticism in different ways.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:30] Peter, his heart had been changed, he was a follower of Jesus, he had the Spirit of God. Now he still had that partiality and prejudice going on, now God's broken him of that, and now he's walking with a people who are critical of the work is doing that he was just a part of. So that's where we find ourselves in this part of the story. We recognize the nature of the criticism, and oftentimes that criticism comes from locked-in people, into their religion and their legalism, and not out of the freedom of what God is doing in the Spirit.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:11] So how do we respond to that? We respond thoughtfully and orderly. Peter, in verse 4, began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in an orderly sequence, saying...So he's about to just, in an orderly way, respond to the critic. And I think Luke probably really enjoyed writing this because he was an orderly person. In Luke chapter 1, so Luke wrote the Book of Acts and Luke is the author of The Gospel of Luke, and in Luke chapter 1 verses 3 and 4, he said, "It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught." Luke was very orderly in what he did, he was thoughtful, he investigated what he said before he said it, and then he wrote it in an orderly fashion. Luke's is one of my favorites of the four gospels for that very reason. And so here he is now, Peter is doing the same.

Ross Sawyers: [00:21:19] Now, what did Peter not do here? Think about his character, this is a guy whose rough, not afraid to step out first and stick his foot in his mouth, he's brash, and defensive, we see all these things about him in the gospels as he's following Jesus. Notice what he does not do here, he's not brash, he's not defensive, he's not critical, and he's not judgmental. What happened? This candidly gives hope to all of us, starting with me, in my life, I've tended to be defensive when I get criticism, and critical back. By God's grace, I hope I've grown some, Peter gives me hope. Because the way this has happened for him is through the Spirit of God, who he's now received, who produces fruit in our lives, and what that fruit is, part of that fruit is gentleness and self-control. He has leaned into the Spirit of God right now, and the Spirit is producing a gentleness and a self-control that we on our own are unable to produce. I know I'm in the Spirit when self-control and gentleness are coming out of me. I know I've stepped out of depending on the Spirit when I'm defensive and critical and judgmental. Gentleness does not mean being soft or getting run over, the word gentle comes from the idea of a wild stallion that's been broken, and that stallion is more than capable of going wild again. So it's a gentleness, it's a strength under control. Peter is capable of going off on these guys, but he's leaned into the Spirit, and it's a strength under control in his response. It's thoughtful, it's orderly, it's a strength under control.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:56] The other thing that we'll notice that he has done here, he's going to respond in a full account, not in soundbites. Years ago, I asked a guy, we were at a soccer game, and I asked a friend of mine that was there when his son and our sons were playing together, and I asked him, I said, what do you think is the biggest problem with our culture? This is probably ten or fifteen years ago, and I've shared this story two or three times, but it's just still stuck with me. And he said, it's a soundbite culture, that's the problem. I thought, there are a lot of problems, but I think that's a legit problem. We don't get the whole narrative, we don't get the whole truth, we get a soundbite of the truth, and everybody plays it, there's no one exempt. We get our narrative, the way we want to spin it, the way we want to move it, and do just enough soundbite to get the narrative we want.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:47] Peter doesn't do that; he gives a full account of what happened. He doesn't give a soundbite, he's about to give a way to respond that's helpful for us to know how to respond to critics of God's work. And the first thing he did, is he recounts what God said. So the way that we would respond thoughtfully and orderly is to simply recount what God himself said. Verse 5, “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, 6and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. 7“I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8“But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9“But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ 10“This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky."

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:54] If you were here two weeks ago, we were in Acts chapter 10, the first part, and this is what happened, in detail. There are some slight differences, but it's basically the same story. He's just recounting what God said, he didn't add to it, take away from it, he said, this is what God said. So how do we respond to the critics of what God is doing? We just recount what God said, and thoughtfully respond in that way.

Ross Sawyers: [00:26:32] And in this trance or vision that Peter received, God tore down the walls of prejudice in him. Because he realized in that dream God wasn't just talking about foods that weren't supposed to touch or come together or be eaten together because they were against Jewish kosher food laws, this was about people. And in this giant sheet that was lowered down from heaven, it was a picture of all nations being welcomed to the Gospel. And that was a total tear down in Peter's mind of what he had previously thought, the words Jesus had said about making disciples of all the nations, it's coming clearer and clearer as He's watching God work in these ways. He simply reports what God said.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:27] When someone's critical of God's work in our lives, or people around us, how do we respond? We just simply respond with what God has said, and then we tell what God did. We just sang a minute ago, What He's Done. I love that song, What He's Done. That's all we're doing is telling what he's done, just telling what God's done. In verse 11 through 15, “And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea." So he received this vision in a trance and now it's happening, so he's experiencing it, and this is just telling us that this is now what God did. He didn't just say it, he did it. And behold, at that moment, these three men appear.

Ross Sawyers: [00:28:13] And then verse 12, “The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. 13“And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house." This is Cornelius house he's referring to, "And saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here." So God is working behind the scenes in two different people. He's working with Cornelius, whose story he does not recount here, and he's working in Peter, God often does that. Are you ever in situations where you realize, oh, God was working in them as much he's been working in me, and then somehow, we landed together, and we never knew or realized what God was doing here, but now this is what he has been doing together? That's what happens here.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:00] And he reported to us how he had seen the angel. Then in verse 14, "He will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning." This is in the latter part of chapter 10, from the time we spent last week, Peter tells it here. He said before I could even finish speaking about Jesus, the Spirit of God fell on us. He fell on us there, just like he did on us in Acts chapter 2 at Pentecost. In Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit of God comes down on the Jewish people, in Acts chapter 10, the Holy Spirit of God comes down on the Gentiles, barrier busted, it's about to break loose. Peter says this is what God did.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:07] We had a staff retreat this week, Monday through Wednesday, and I'm just so grateful for who our staff is at 121, it's a group of men and women that just love Jesus and are serving him well. We had a couple of days to play and have solitude time with the Lord, to eat, and to hang out. And then we had my best friend from college, John Sayer, come and just teach us about evangelism for two or three days. And it was a good refresher, sometimes we just need our hearts refreshed on some of those core basic things in our faith. And I want to do with you, what he did with us. It's just another way that we might do the same thing that Peter did when he communicated the message of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:08] Now, Peter would not have had one of these wristbands, he would not have had any idea what an emoji was. That's where we launched into 2022 and said, where are we today? We're in an emoji-driven world, and one way we can communicate the message of Jesus is in the way that our world communicates today. And this would be for any age, by the way, this is not a youth thing, this is a 60-year-old thing, it's a 40-year-old thing, it's a 25-year-old thing, this is a way to easily communicate the message of Jesus. And I want to just share with you, we've got the emojis on the screen because you won't be able to see this on my wrist, I don't think. No, you won't. Yeah, no chance, but it's on the screen.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:04] So this is the way I would do it, and then this is how I want you to do it. You see, I actually believe the biggest problem in our world today is the human heart, tainted and marred by sin. And that the only way things are going to change is through a broken and repentant people across our land who bow and bend the knee to Jesus, and their hearts are totally changed. And the only way they're going to know to do that is if you and I, and those who are online, actually tell them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:37] And one of the things that John said to us, he goes, what we tend to not do, even if we do share the Gospel with someone, we tend to not ask them when we're done to do something with it. And I find that to be true with most people that I have dialogs with. One, I don't know that many of us are actually on purpose, sitting with someone, and sharing the Gospel with them. And for those who are, I don't know how often when we get to the end, because that's the scary part, when we get to the end, that we actually ask them to do something with it. And God might not be working on them in that moment, but there's something about a question and a decision point that does something different to us than just laying out a story that we might have heard the big idea before, and we just heard it one more time. And so this could be at least a way that might be a help for some, this isn't the only way to share and to open a conversation. I've done this multiple times over the last few weeks, and I found it to be one of the simplest ways, and it's been interesting how quickly someone listens, and how much they want this from me.

Ross Sawyers: [00:33:58] John shared this, we ate in Weatherford at the Mesquite Pit with our staff on Monday, and the waiter had a tattoo sleeve on this arm and a tattoo sleeve on this arm. On this one, it had in giant letters T R U S T, trust. And just making sure, and I looked at it and thought alright, he is a really nice guy, easy to talk to. And I said, hey, I said when I see that word, trust, it reminds me of a verse in the Bible, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding." What does the word trust mean to you? And he goes, well, that's actually what it is. And then he flips his arm over for me and he's got the chi, the Greek symbol chi, and he says it's for Christ, and he's got a dove, and he had some other things going on that were more in line with Jesus. I said that's awesome. Then I said, well, tell me about that one that has the skull and everything representing death and evil on the other arm. And it was funny because he did this arm first. Now, usually when I talk to people about their tattoo’s stories, if there's something about Christ in there, it's redemptive later, it's like, you did these things first and then you got a cool story. I used to be in this, and now I'm in this. It was like backward; we couldn't figure him out. And did this, and then he did this, and he just thought they were cool symbols, he drew them out for the tattoo artists and the artists did it. I said, okay.

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:31] So we talked to him, and when we were leaving, John says to him, hey, could I share this with you? And he goes, Yeah. So here we are in the Mesquite Pit, it's me and John, and Jermaine, and Robert. This is funny, he said this about himself. His name was Roberto, but he said, my real name is Robert, but I put the o on there so I look more authentic Spanish. I said, awesome. This guy was a lot of fun. So we're standing in the middle of there, it's the three of us. And then the waitress that was the lady comes running up, running into it and says, can I listen too. I thought, okay, here's the five of us in the middle of the restaurant, the people who are wanting to be served are getting mad, but we're about to lay the Gospel out. John starts doing it, there's a quick way to do this or a slower way, and John kind of went the slower way and I was thinking, John, do you not see what's happening around you? But they stayed locked in with this.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:36] And I realize these kinds of stories make most of us really uncomfortable, and this is not what you're going to do, some might. But you can do the same thing with a family member, a friend, or someone that's close in as well. So John starts to walk through it, and this is what he says, and this is the way you would do it. So I'm going to pass this on to you for you to do the same thing. So this bracelet represents the greatest story ever told in four emojis. The first one is a heart, and we find in the first part of the Bible that God creates man in his own image, in the image of God, he creates him, male and female. He creates in His image, he creates someone, male and female, Adam and Eve, the only ones in all of his creation that are made in his image, and they are objects of his love.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:40] He sets them in a garden and walks with them, he's in relationship with them, and there's only one rule in the whole garden, there's one tree you're not to eat of, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And do you know what they did? They ate of that tree, and sin entered into the world and divided us from God. That second emoji is a division sign. The top of it, that top dot represents God, and the bottom dot represents us, and that line represents the separation that's now between us and God. We were the objects of his love, and now we're separated out from his love because of that sin and rebellion against him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:30] The good news, though, is in that third emoji, which is a cross. And did you know that tens of thousands of Roman criminals were crucified on a cross? It was a common way of killing the common criminal. But Jesus Christ died on a cross just like this, and it wasn't a common criminal or a common death. Because through his death, he took on this sin that divided us from God, and the condemnation and guilt that goes with it, he took it on himself on the cross. And then God raised him from the dead, he didn't stay on it. So he conquered sin and death and Satan, all those things that divide us from God's special love for us. And did you know that the biggest question that you'll ever answer in life is, what are you going to do with what Jesus did for you to get you back into being the special object of God's love? And then you just have to trust God from there with whatever that answer is and how to respond.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:48] When we were leaving the retreat, John had to leave early and he had borrowed a fishing pole from one of the guys working there, and he said, he goes, Hey, make sure and give this fishing pole back. And then he gave me a bracelet real quick, and he said, and share this with Beau, he's one of the guys working. I said, great. That's what I do to people, I'll say, here, you go do it too.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:11] So I thought, all right, I didn't really have much time I'd spent with him, but he was there by himself. I mean, God set it up, and I started talking to him, I got a little bit of his story and I thought, I don't think it's the right time to offer this to him yet. And so then a little bit later, he's by himself again and he was wearing a cross. And I said, Beau, I know you like to wear that cross, I said, I've got something else I want to give you. And so he comes, he got so excited, he comes right up to the counter across from me and I start to hand it to him. He goes, were you going to tell me what that means, so I'll know what I'm going to do with it? I said, yeah, I'll tell you, great. And so I just walk through with them, it's usually not that simple, by the way. But I walked through it with him, when I got to that question, and you could see it in his face. He said, I just got chills when you asked me that question. I said that's good because the answer to that question will decide your eternity and everybody else's as well, and now he's going to pass it on. Here, Tommy, this week. I'll report on what Tommy does with it this week. That's all Peter did, all I did was tell you what God said and what Jesus did.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:36] And it's tied to Scripture, in verses 16 and 17, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17“Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” Look in verse 16, what did he do here? Peter had a vision, kind of the trance idea, God showed him something. Now he experienced it, it actually happened, the vision that he had, and now he's tying it to Scripture. He's saying that when Jesus comes, then the Spirit comes. When someone receives Jesus, they receive the Spirit, he ties it to Scripture. People oftentimes will have a dream, they'll have a vision, and they'll say, God's telling them something. If it's not anchored to what the Scripture says, it's not from God, so we tie it all together. When God gives us a dream, or we know He's saying something or believe he is, and then we experience it, we want to know it's from God when it links up with what Scripture says. And if we're not sure what Scripture says, then we want to seek somebody older and more mature in the faith and say, hey, this is what I think God's saying. Does this line up with what God's Word says? So we're tying it into what God's word says. And then I love what Peter says. He goes, look, who are we that we're going to stand in God's way? I can't find anywhere in the Bible where it goes well when someone stands in opposition to God's way. And God's way is tearing down barriers so that the Gospel can go out freely, and then speaking what that good news is of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:19] Then in verse 18, we watch God change the heart of the critic, "When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Peter responded with gentleness, self-control, thoughtfully, this is what God says, what God did. it's what Scripture says, and they quieted down. Glorify God. Well, then I guess they get repentance, too, they get life.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:12] Now, it doesn't always work like this, they don't always quiet down, glorify God, and say they get life through repentance also. It didn't roll that way for Jesus, and he did the same thing Peter did here, but they yelled, crucify. And he was actually crucified before his critics. So who's the critic today? It might be somebody in your own family who is critical of God's work in your life and in others in your family. It might be a friend. It's quite possibly someone in your corporate environment. It might be someone you sit next to in the bleachers. It could be somebody in another church. We want to remember, though, that maybe once we were that same critic, and look at the amazing work that God's done in our own lives. And we want to pray for the critic. We want to pray for those who are actively opposed to God in his ways, that perhaps they'll no longer be the critic, but they'll follow the one who died for them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:46:11] Another way that we rehearsed at our retreat in sharing our faith, is just with our own story, there's power in the story that God has written in us, as Corrine said. Jermaine Arphul is one of our student pastors, he does an amazing job leading our kids. And I was in a small group with him talking about his story, and just as I listened to his story, and I thought I just want you all to hear him not from a preaching side or a teaching side or in the hallway, but just to hear a three-minute version of his story. And to give you a confidence in your own story that if it's not this, or some other way, here's another option in the way to share what it is that God's doing.

Jermaine Arphul: [00:47:00] So I was born in Plano, Texas. Shout out to Plano, seven times state football champions. And I've got a sister, she's about a year and a half younger than I am. Mom and dad just really impressed education on me and my sister, also sports, and just kind of being in the in crowd was sort of a big deal for me growing up playing sports and participating in that. And we'd go to church, but it was Christmas and Easter only pretty much, we were CEOs, so to speak. And I just looked forward to going to church because we got to go to Denny's afterwards, that's who I was, and shout out to the Denny's fans.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:44] So after that, you know, growing up, I really didn't have anything other than just good morals to look after, and then my sin as I got older got greater and greater and greater. I think about Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse 14, where he's talking about chasing after everything the world have had to offer, that was me growing up, I chased after everything and I don't know if you know about this, but when you chase after things that don't have eternal value, it leaves you with nothing. And that was me for the majority of my life up until my future wife at the time, Megan, me and her started dating, and she's been a committed Christian since she was seven, and we started dating. And it got to a point in our relationships where she just basically, I'll never forget it, it was a night outside of her apartment, she just really just wanted to know where I stood with Jesus Christ. God used her to basically save me and I'll never forget it because that was the time in my life where I just felt like I needed something more, I was done, I was at the end of my rope. And when she asked me that question that was when, I know looking back, that I decided to turn away from my sin and turn toward Jesus Christ, and everything changed. And when I say everything, I mean everything in my life changed. People who knew me then, who know me now, they can't believe that I'm standing up here talking right now. Right? And the people that know me now are like, what, you were that guy? Yes, I was. But everything changed, my whole worldview changed, everything changed. And ever since then, God's been doing a work in me, I'm definitely a work in progress. But I'm just so thankful that Jesus rescued me from my sin and that I'm here standing today and talking to you about it. Thank you.

Ross Sawyers: [00:49:42] So we were taught and challenged to share our story in 3 minutes. That is what Jermaine just did, just 3 minutes, and he's communicated the power of what God does. He simply said, this is what God says, this is what God did, this is what the Scripture says tied in there, and it's changed everything. And I don't want us to miss that part, everything changed in him. It didn't change before Jesus, Jesus entered his life and changed everything, and now I'm submitted and surrendered to his will. That's what God's after, that's a story to tell, and that's a story that will silence oftentimes the critic of God's work, because of the work that God does inside of each of us. Let's pray together.

Ross Sawyers: [00:50:30] Father, thank you for our time with you, and as always, we're just grateful for the strength and power of your word. Thank you, Father, for Jermaine, I love, God, the way you intersected his life, and I love the way you're using him. All of these high school students were talking about week after week, I just love the influence that he has, and that you're using through him and in his story, his boldness, his unwavering in following you, Jesus. I pray, God, that all of us would have the courage and boldness and be on the alert and look for ways that we can share the story of what you've done in our own lives. And God, people who are critical of your work. I pray they would see the transforming and life-changing work that you do, and instead, God, rather than be a critic that they'd become a follower.

Ross Sawyers: [00:51:17] And then, God, I pray today that whenever we do receive criticism, we will not respond in soundbites as a critic back, defensive. Instead, God, that the fruit of the Spirit that you're producing in us, a gentleness and a self-control, and then that you'd give us the words to speak, just to recount what you say and to recount what you do and to be linked into your word, God, I pray you'll give us that. Let us be a people that are bold, unwavering, unshakable, unashamed, and God, that we'll just get out there and go for it and see what you do. And God, as we watch, that we will be amazed at what you do in the lives of those around us. And I pray in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:52:05] If you would, just keep your heads bowed and ask Him, what does this look like for you? What would obedience be for you today to step out? I've got a few more of these bracelets, I'll be by the breakfast bar if anybody wants one to pass on to somebody else, and I just hope that God will continue to stir our hearts. Can you write the story, as Corrine described, in us, so that we can pass it on and see more and more people written into God's story?



Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051
817.488.1213