The Rapid Expansion of the Message of Jesus

Examining The Spread Of The Gospel In The Early Church

Ross Sawyers
Oct 2, 2022    47m
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By examining the spread of the Gospel in the early days of the church, we can learn lessons that still apply even today on how to accelerate the spread of the good news of Jesus despite the barriers that we face. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: [00:00:10] Over these last few weeks, we've been highlighting what God's doing and different students from 121 and their high schools. And I want to continue to do that this morning, in Keller Central and Keller High School are the two that I want to just share a couple of things about this morning. And one thing, I served as a youth minister for years, and whatever the high schools are that are nearest where a church gathers, you'll tend to have a greater concentration of students from those schools, and then there will always be ones from schools as it moves out from where our gathering is. And I love that God has put and placed students in high schools, multiple high schools in the area here. And it's especially encouraging when we have where there's just one or two or three maybe in a particular school that are faithfully following after Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:01:19] And at Keller High School, Matthew Estes goes there, and they recently had a see you at the pole gathering. And that's been around for decades now, so there's a good chance that when you were in high school, you also did a see you at the pole. If you were in a youth group or a church at the time, students gathering around a pole at their public school and private schools and gathering to pray. Matthew was recently a part of that and living out his faith there at Keller High School. And then it's been so cool over the last several weeks to just think about our students, Matthew also helps lead our third-grade children, and I don't think we've gone a week where we haven't talked about students who are already leading either middle schoolers, children, or preschool in our church. And it's just such a beautiful picture of God's design of us passing on what it is that He's doing through us, and it's already happening to them at an early age. That should be and will be just natural to them as they age, and what a beautiful picture of what God does.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:27] Elaine Ingle is another student, she's at Keller Central, that's the shirt I'm wearing this morning, The Chargers. She just moved here this year, so it's her sophomore year. And many of you know what that's like, you were in families where you might have moved for different reasons, and what it's like to move into a new high school, that can be a challenge. It's already a challenge in those years, and that can add to that challenge. And her observations so far at Keller Central is not a real heavy, godly presence, there doesn't appear to be really any Christian clubs that are really known that she's aware of. And yet she's living her faith out, she's inviting people to come to church, students that she's with. One of them has come, and that's an encouragement to me. By the way, she's invited several, and one has come. And I think that is probably going to be normative for us, that we put a lot of invites out there, and then you never know how people would respond to that. So I love her boldness in doing that. And then she just talked about being kind and showing God's light through her actions to her peers. And then she uses her phone case as a conversation starter, here's a picture of that, it has multiple things about Christ, about God, that she's a child of God. And that's opened up conversations for her with different students, to be able to talk about Christ and to talk about the church. One of the things that she said I thought was such an encouragement for us, it's just honest, that it can be hard to be in the midst of people that not everyone, or the majority are not following after Christ. And there's a song that's been a helpful song for her, and it says, "It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by you." And most of us, or a number of us are familiar with that song. Actually, when I read this the other day, I started listening to the song, I just listened to it all weekend long, and I've about got it memorized. The words are, I said I've got it memorized, I'm still looking, "It may look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by Him, by You." And that's really the lyrics to the song, like you just sing that over and over again and reinforce it. And there's really a power in that and a strength in that phrase being just deep within our hearts. And that has encouraged her and been a strength to her in her school.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:11] I hope you continue to be encouraged by what God's doing through our students. Part of why I wanted to do that this fall, as we walk through the Book of Acts, they're really mirroring what God is doing in the Book of Acts. That's what we're seeing through our students, we're seeing them as a picture of what we're describing in the Scripture. If you'll turn in your Bibles to Acts Chapter 11, we will be in verses 19 through 30 to finish off this chapter today. And we're thinking about barriers being broken in this section of Acts, and the Gospel has been moving and expanding, just as God said it would, it would start in Jerusalem and then move out, and that's the movement that we're watching as we track through the Book of Acts and find ourselves now in Chapter 11. In chapter 10, we saw, and then the first part of 11, national barriers being broken, cultural barriers being broken, and racial barriers being broken. All these barriers are coming down, and now the Gospel, the good news of Christ is moving out toward all peoples, not just the Jewish people, and that's the movement we're observing as we walk through the Book of Acts.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:30] Today in verses 19 through 30, I want us to think about the rapid expansion of the message of Jesus. And these are the kind of things that probably, for all my life, since I was 16 years old and have been following after Christ, this probably makes my heartbeat faster and I get more enjoyment. I can spend hours talking with people about this, and that's just being able to share the Gospel, the good news with someone that is lost and doesn't know it. And what we're seeing in the Book of Acts is all kinds of people that are coming to Christ, and it's rapidly expanding. Paul actually prays in Second Thessalonians 3:1 he said, "Brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord would spread rapidly." That's his prayer, that it would just take off like wildfire and spread rapidly.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:24] And there have been multiple times throughout the history of the church where we've seen those kinds of movements, and we see that here in Chapter 11. And my prayer is that will be a part of the rapid expansion of the Gospel, and that it will be a part of that movement of the Gospel. The first part I want us to think about in verses 19 through 21, is that everyday people are telling about Jesus. Now it's easy to think that it's my job to talk to other people about Jesus, I'm a pastor, and so you just expect that's my job. We expect that preachers do that, and we would expect leaders of ministries to do that, and yet we find in Scripture, that's not just my job, that's your job and my job. It's your job and my job, it's not if you just have a kind of gifting in evangelism that it's your job, it's everybody's job to talk about Jesus to other people, that they might have the opportunity to respond to him. It's every person's job. So this first part of 19 to 21, I just want to highlight, and emphasize that it's your job, it's not your neighbor's job, it's not your kid's job, it's not just your parent's job, this is for you. You're responsible with what you've been given in the Gospel, to turn around and tell other people about Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:02] And I'm afraid that in our cultural narrative today that we are shrinking back more and more rather than leaning into the moment and standing firm for who we are in Christ and passing that message along. The biggest problem in our culture today is the human heart, the economy is not the problem, politics is not the problem, big business is not the problem, and the government's not the problem, it's the human hearts of people in each of those institutions, including the church. When there's a problem, it's because the human heart is the problem. And until the problem of the human heart is solved, the other problems are not going to be solved, it's the human heart. And in order for people to know the solution to the human heart being broken, it is going to call for all of us in this cultural moment to speak about Jesus. Now, I don't know where you are today, you may be someone that knows Jesus, and so this is for you, this part of it. If you don't know Jesus, maybe as you listen, that would be more appealing to you today and attractive, and it might be Jesus that you turn to on this day. And then you can just know that when you receive that good news, the expectation from God is that you turn around and share it with other people.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:28] Let's take a look here in verses 19 through 21, let's anchor ourselves to God's Word and for our thoughts and ideas today, "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone." So there's a scattered group of people, the message of Christ had gone out in Jerusalem, it's moving north now and the way it headed north, was by the scattering of persecuted Christians. That scattering, we spoke of it in Acts chapters 6 and 7 and in the beginning of chapter 8. We talked about the life of Stephen. Stephen was a man full of faith, full of the Spirit, full of grace, full of wisdom, he was a man of character, he loved Jesus, and there was no shrinking back for him. And he, in chapter 7, there's just a descriptor of a real long layout of him describing God's story. The result of that is that he became the first martyr of our faith. He was killed because of his following, and speaking of Jesus, we find that at the end of chapter 7. When we talk about passing on what Jesus passed on to us, that's what Stephen did. At the end of his life, as he's being stoned, his last words are, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. That's what Jesus said in some of his last words on the cross as he looked at those who put him there.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:10] As we move into chapter 8, after the death of Stephen, it immediately says that those who are following Jesus scattered out of Jerusalem because of the persecution. That's who we're referring to here in verse 19, those who were scattered because of that persecution. Now, there was a particular man that was on the scene that day when they were persecuted, when they were ravaging the church, Stephen killed, and believers scattering, and that man's name was Saul. And he was in hearty agreement of everything that was going on, the church being ravaged, believers being killed. We'll come back to him in a few minutes, but he's one of the big reasons that the church scattered and was moving out. Now, what was the goal of those who were persecuting the early church? It was to stamp out Christianity, it was to stamp it out before it ever got going. And yet the total opposite is happening, while they're trying to stamp it out, instead, it's spreading, it's doing just the opposite of what their intention was.

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:28] Now we fast forward, that's what's happening in Acts 11, and we fast forward into 2022. And do you know where some of the fastest-growing rapid expansion of the message of Jesus is right now? Afghanistan. One of the most unlikely countries in the world, where the goal is for it to be completely squashed out, instead, there's a rapid expansion of this message moving through Afghanistan. Do you know where else? Iran, heavy persecution, everything to stamp it out, and yet there's a rapid expansion of Jesus in Iran among women and among 20-somethings. My hunch is right now, that in China where they've done everything that they can to stamp it out, my guess is right now it's probably blowing up in what God's doing. He's done it in the past, I'm guessing he's doing it again. The goal is to stamp it out, God uses that to only increase and cause things to rapidly expand. In our country today, it's more and more hostile toward followers of Jesus, but it's not going to stamp it out, it's only going to cause it to burn brighter.

Ross Sawyers: [00:15:01] "Because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch." Those particular cities, it's important to know where those cities are, it's come up north. Phoenicia is equivalent to Lebanon today, Cyprus is an island about 100 miles off the coast in the Mediterranean, and Antioch is in the lower part of Turkey today. If you were to look it up on a map, Antakya is the name for that particular city. And Antioch is about to become one of the most important cities for the spread and expansion of the Gospel, it's shifting and pivoting out of Jerusalem to Antioch and it's out of Antioch that a number of missionary movements will take place. Antioch is an international city, there were about half a million people at this time populating Antioch, and it was the third largest city in that Roman part of the world, only Rome and Alexandria were bigger than Antioch. There were Romans there, Arabs there, Semitic people there, Greeks there, it was wildly international, and it was wildly immoral as is often the case in cities. And this city was known for its immorality, they were worshipers of Daphne, and there was a phrase that would go around that said, if you were in Antioch and you were a part of those worshipers, you had the morals of Daphne, meaning that you were depraved and you were wildly immoral. This was a city that was sought on seeking pleasure for themselves, they had chariot races, I guess that would be equivalent to our modern-day horse races, they were entertaining themselves to death as well in their pursuits of empty pleasure. That's the city in which the scattered believers now find themselves, and they haven't gotten word yet of what happened with Peter, that these barriers had been broken and they're still only communicating the good news of Jesus to the Jewish people, that's verse 19.

Ross Sawyers: [00:17:12] Verse 20, "But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene." Cyrene is in North Africa, and they had made their way up now to Antioch, and they came, and they began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. So here we are in Antioch, this international city, and the message of Jesus is going out and it's going out to the Jews and to the Greeks. The Greeks, their culture, and language, are totally different than the Jews. Paul would later say in Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." So we're seeing it go now to the Jew and the Greek.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:01] Verse 21, what does God do with it? "And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord." So it's expanding rapidly, these are just everyday people, this is you and me, everyday people in these wildly immoral times, communicating the message of Jesus. We're not in a new day, this has happened all throughout history. Where it's wildly immoral, wildly off track, wildly opposed to God and there's a small band of everyday people, lovers of Jesus, that are right in the mix of that and are bringing that message of Jesus. And it's God who is turning hearts and large numbers are believing. God does that work in large numbers.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:04] A couple of weeks ago, we had a staff retreat, I mentioned that last week, and we were taught some things about communicating our faith, and I want to share another picture of what we were given that might be helpful. So what's happening here in Acts 11, it's what Jesus taught in Mark chapter 4, they're actually living it out, and so we want to live out what it is that Jesus has said to us. Let me read the Scripture first, and then I'll draw for you, you have a real advantage being in this service because I drew what I'm about to draw in the first one, and then I forgot to finish it. So everybody was coming out after saying, hey, what's in the other two boxes? So I'll remember this time, if I don't, somebody say, hey, fill in the boxes.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:52] In verse 26 he was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28“The soil produces crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29“But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”. So based on that teaching of Jesus, they described to us four fields, and we can all be a part of these four fields. In the first field, we go. In the second field, we bring the Gospel. I'm going to go ahead and put it in. In the third field, we grow. In the fourth field, we gather. Now, how does this connect to what Jesus taught and worked for? He's a man, and he casts seed in the soil, we're going to assume a farmer, and in order to cast seed into the soil, he had to actually go to the field. So for all of us, we actually have to go to the field. And what is your field? And what is my field? It'll be different for each of us, and we'll have some overlap. So when I look at where I go, and what is that first field? I'm really looking at, as I go, what am I involved in. My family, I can think about my family in that first field, and I can think about my friends for so many are involved in different sports and arts and so forth, think about who you're sitting with, who you're coaching with, who your team is. It's been so cool, there have been so many families here that have come in and connected to different people involved in different sports in the community.

Ross Sawyers: [00:21:59] That's really what this is, it's just going, this is where I am, these are my fields, who are the people in that field? And in an intentional way, we could write those down and say, all right, I'm going to be praying for these people. And then once we go into the field, what are we scattering? This farmer, he scattered seed. What seed are we speaking of? We're speaking of the seed of the Gospel. So we're throwing out the message of Jesus, the basic message is that Jesus lived a perfect life, he died on the cross, God raised him from the dead, and many people, 500 plus, saw him. Are we going to believe what Jesus did for us on that cross is actually what restores us to God? And if we believe it, are we going to follow what we believe? So just the basic Gospel, and we're taking it to them. In a minute, I think, I'll remember to come back to here, but that's this part. And what did the farmer do once he cast the seed? He slept. God does the work. We're the messengers, we get the message out there, and then we can rest and watch God do the work. There may be times when he has us in on things, but we can be at ease. We got to see out there, we've got the message out, now let's see what God does with it. I'm going to go home and go to bed, and I'm going to rest easy because the message is out, that's those first two boxes.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:48] In this go box, where's my field? Who are the people? We can all do certain things, easily. And I realize the idea of talking about our faith to other people, I know that's intimidating for people, and I know it's a variety of reasons we choose not to, I'm trying to cheer us on to do it. And we start by praying for those people that are in our first field of where we go. And I think Colossians chapter 4 verses 2 through 6 is a great part of Scripture to pray. So we may not know how to pray or what to pray, so in your Bibles, you just go to Colossians 4:2-6. And what Paul does here, is he's actually praying for the laborers, those who are going to actually talk about the Gospel more than those who are going to receive it. So pray with gratitude, verse 2. In verse 3, we're asking God to open doors for us. When I go to the gym every day, I ask, God, will you open doors for me today and just let me see what those are. In verse 4, that I can speak clearly, that I can speak the word of Christ and then I can speak it clearly. I want to be able to speak clearly so you can understand what I'm saying about Jesus. So I'm praying for you and for me that God would open doors, and when the doors open that I'll walk in it and speak clearly the message of Jesus. And then it's interesting, he says, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." God, I want to make the most of every opportunity today, just like you say, and help me to be wise in that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:51] Now, a few weeks ago we had, with our young adults, we're trying to model how to have good conversations on hard topics. And we invited a Christian who's a Republican who currently serves in the Texas House, and he invited then a Christian who's a Democrat to join. So we just wanted to see what would happen if we had those two parties represented talking about issues around our faith, how would they respond in that? Unfortunately, the Democrat had his schedule wrong, and we didn't have him, we just had the Republican. But we learned really good things from him. And this will probably be a takeaway I keep for a long time, and it has everything to do with verse 5 of Colossians 2. He said when I vehemently disagree with my Democratic opponents, and he said, take abortion, for example, I will never agree with my opponents on abortion. He said, however, the way I have the conversation with them in the disagreement, I want to make sure that when I leave them, that I've not compromised my opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Is there anybody in your social media world that you would be embarrassed to sit down with and try to talk to them about Jesus because of the way you've expressed yourself to them about what you disagree with? Is there anybody that you do life with right now that it's a bit strained because of the way you've carried yourself on a tough topic you disagree on, and now there's no longer room to even be able to talk about Jesus in there? I want to be able to have hard conversations and leave it in a way where I can talk about Jesus with you, and I will not have discredited myself for being able to speak of him. "Conduct yourself with wisdom...Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Every conversation is a different conversation, so I want the wisdom to know how to make the most of the opportunity and how to interact in that particular conversation to bring the good news of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:28:21] So we can all pray Colossians 4:2-6. And then someone sent me a YouTube clip of Timothy Keller, a pastor in New York, he's retired now and is doing some other things. But he says this, and I think this is a good word for us because we can all do this, he said, in talking about the expansion of the kingdom of Jesus and sharing it with others, "We can all tell people that we go to church." Just let the people you're with know that you go to church, we can all say that to someone. We can let them know, yeah, I go to a church. Who knows? There may be a conversation that dies after that, they may have questions, who knows? But you can tell them that. The second thing he said is, you can let them know you follow Jesus, let them know you're Christian. You don't have to do anything else, just let them know that, and let's see what they do with it. And the third thing he said that we can all do pretty easily, is when someone has a crisis or a problem, if it's a friend or relative that we're talking to, just let them know, hey, you know what, I had something similar and my Christian faith was really helpful for me to get through it, and to see what they do with that. Those are ways just to get out there that were followers of Jesus, you're seeing if God's working, and if he is, he'll stir more conversation, then he'll give you what you need in the moment to be able to respond. I thought those were helpful. I think it's helpful when we tell our story of what God's done in our own lives, we all have a story. If you know Jesus today, you have a story of when Jesus intersected your life, and you have something to share, and we can all do that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:07] Then last week I talked about these bracelets, the FCA puts out, the Fellowship Christian Athletes. And let's just kind of walk through it, these four emojis, I know you can't see it, but this is how I would do it. They represent the greatest story ever told. And there's a heart, and that heart represents God's love for us as His special objects and creation. There's a division sign that represents us being divided from God because of our sins. And then there's a cross, and it's through Jesus's death on the cross that we actually can be restored and no longer divided. And then there's a little question mark, and the biggest question we'll ever answer is, what are we going to do with Jesus, who actually restores us back to God? That's the biggest question anybody will ever answer, what are they going to do with that? And then you just kind of have to take it from there.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:54] Now, I think we have to be careful today to make sure that someone understands that when you say you believe Jesus, that that actually means there's a real heart change, there's a genuine repentance, there's a turning from the way I'm doing life and a turning towards Christ, and now I'm following after him. That there's really a change that happens, it's a belief that turns into a love for God, an honoring of God, and a following of God through Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:25] And so there are ways for us to share it. We have plenty of these bracelets, so we added more from a week ago, and if you'd like one, we have some hanging out in the lobby. Those are things we can share, everyday people, we're talking about Jesus. But what I love that flows here, is it's not just talking about Jesus, it's once someone responds to Jesus, then it's more mature believers discipling new believers. In verse 22, "The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord." So what happens here, is the church in Jerusalem hears about what's going on in Antioch, so they send somebody to check it out, that's what going on here? And when Barnabas goes, we've been introduced to Barnabas early in Acts, he's an encourager. So they send Barnabas, he goes, and he's blown away because he sees evidence of the grace of God. I think that's a good way for us to look and see what God's doing, are we seeing evidence in people's lives of God's grace and change that's going on in them? And he saw it, he saw it immediately when he arrived.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:54] And then we all need to encouragers, don't we? In a place where it's going to mostly be out of control living. you've got a few people now that are following Jesus, and Barnabas becomes the one who encourages them to have a resolute heart and to remain true to the Lord, to not drift. I think today our parents need a lot of encouragement in this cultural moment. It is not simple ever to be a parent, and it's certainly not simple in this day. And I think we just need to be able to cheer each other on, don't we? To remain resolute, true, and faithful to him in the midst of this moment, it's worth it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:33:45] Our students are encouraging each other through the stories we're telling of what they're doing. So we encourage. Believers need encouragement, our global workers that are all over the world in hard settings need Barnabas in their lives to be encouraging us to keep at it, remain resolute, and remain strong in the environment that you're in. And we need people like Barnabas, men of character, full of the Spirit, that are those encouragers. This is a beautiful picture here of how he's coming in now, he sees what's happening, and he's encouraging them and discipling them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:24] Now someone that's a good encourager can recognize what needs are and do what needs to happen to fill the gap so that there can be further strengthening. That's exactly what Barnabas does, he looks at this, he sees what's going on, and he must have come to the conclusion it was more than he could handle. And so in verse 25, "He leaves for Tarsus to look for Saul." Now, I highlighted Saul at the outset, Saul is one of the reasons, the primary reasons, that the church is scattered to this part of the world. And now Barnabas goes back to find Saul, who we found in Acts chapter 9, had had this dramatic conversion to Jesus. And most scholars think there's about a seven or eight-year gap from Acts 9 where they take him away for safety, and it's a chance for him to mature and grow in his faith. And now here comes Barnabas, he's going to get his friend Saul, "And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers." So these large numbers of people are believing, Barnabas sees what's going on, and he goes and gets Saul. Saul comes in, and then the two of them together, they were great partners. My hunch is, Saul, who most of us know as Paul, we haven't gotten to his name change yet in Acts, my guess is, in our feelings-dominated culture, he wouldn't have been received well. Barnabas, an encourager, is a good pairing. I suspect Barnabas came in behind and cleaned some things up at times. But an entire year, life on life, with these early believers, teaching them and living out what it means to follow Jesus. That's the kind of discipleship we want to be involved in, and anybody that's a more mature believer than someone else can disciple someone else. So the discipling is for everybody here, to disciple other people. That's not just for me and for a few others, it's every one of us discipling people that are new believers and helping them grow so they can turn around and do the same.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:59] Now, we can do that in a number of ways. Just by gathering like we are now and being under the teaching of God's Word. You can hear teaching on podcasts, and on YouTube, there are all kinds of ways that you can hear preaching and teaching. Our life groups are a primary way for us to disciple and grow together in strength, and in our faith. The eight ways, that's a simple way for a simple path that we can take people on so that they can be followers of Jesus and then turn around and lead others, there's mentoring and equipping in all kinds of ways that we can do this.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:33] I was listening to a podcast as I was coming back from Glen Rose last night, and I had about an hour, and I listened to a podcast by Alisa Childers, I really enjoy her. She was interviewing another lady, and they were talking about the feminist movement, complementarianism, and egalitarianism. And those aren't the important things, they were in the conversation, but what they were doing was showing how people today are taking Scripture and twisting it to make it work for the way they want to view the cultural narrative. And I'm noticing more and more, this is one of Satan's oldest deceptive tricks, he did it with Jesus in Matthew 4, and he's still doing it today. But with social media, and all the options there are, it looks to me like there's a rapid spread of using Scripture to twist up and change the narrative of how God sees reality into the way we want reality to be seen today. And here's what these ladies said as they wrapped up the podcast and this to me was the important piece. Actually, I learned a lot listening to it, but they said, "It is your responsibility to know God's Word, you cannot depend on podcast people that are teaching, everybody else that's teaching, it is your responsibility to know God's Word." It's your responsibility, that's not someone else's responsibility. As parents, if you're going to navigate this cultural moment, well, you have got to know God's word or you are going to be so twisted up by what you're hearing out there, and so many people today are going with the twist and drifting off. And if it's true that 9% of people in the church actually have a biblical and literate worldview, then we are more primed than ever for us to be twisted up by false teaching, because we don't know the true teaching in the first place.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:55] But the point I just want to highlight, if I can, can I just put a pebble in our shoes and say it is your responsibility to know God's Word, and we live in a day where I'm just going to have to say there's no excuse for not knowing it. We have more translations of the Bible than you can possibly shake a stick at. You can get into any women's Bible study, any men's Bible study, and any wide array of Bible studies you can possibly want are out there to be done. You can get Christian books out of the wazoo. You have more opportunities than we can ever possibly exhaust to know God's word. If you're not sure where to start in that, you've got every opportunity to ask us so we can be a help. But your kids need you to know God's Word, so they can be guided with strength in this day. I don't think God's going to say at the end of everything, well done, you managed a difficult schedule really well in those years that your kids were growing up, great job.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:23] I asked Courtney and Lorraine, who are leading our mother-daughter retreat this weekend, and this morning I said, hey, shoot me what do you see God doing? And they said a number of cool things, but do you know one thing they said? The daughters are wearing out the moms. Do you know why? Because they want their moms to do every activity possible at Sky Ranch with them, the girls want their mamas with them. I think your kids want to be with you more than they want you on the sideline cheering for them. The greatest place to disciple is the home, it's the only place really where we're going to get genuine life on life for a season of time. And I think God's, well done, will come on those who disciple their children well, and it's never too late.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:39] Well, they were also first called Christians in Antioch, in verse 26, it was not a positive term. We do this when things start happening and we just put a label on something, and they got labeled as Christians, as followers of Jesus, and it was there that that first became a term. And again, we want to be careful because our identity is in Christ, and today the term Christian means so many different things, it's become an adjective on things. I've used it a few times today, I'm just so used to doing it, and what we want to know is if somebody is really a follower of Jesus. In the Scriptures, they actually called themselves believers, followers, and saints, Christian is not really the word that they use. And I don't know if it's good for us to probably get away from in some ways the term Christian because of all the attachments it has to things that really are not probably Christian anymore. Just a thought.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:45] I want to sum up the last section in 27 through 30, and in those verses, you see these believers in Antioch that are now going to help the believers in Jerusalem, and it's a dire situation, there's a famine and they need help. There's an irony here because you have these early followers of Jesus in Antioch that the Christians in Jerusalem didn't want them to even have the Gospel, and now they have it, and they're the ones now turning around and helping the believers in Jerusalem. It's pretty cool how God works and changes hearts. And so we want to be about helping people in those dire kinds of situations.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:36] One we find ourselves in today is the ones that have been in the hurricanes the last several days in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Florida, and other places affected. And we're working on what our relief efforts will be, we'll be sending a team to Puerto Rico, and then financial efforts as well. So you can know you're a part of that when you're giving here. So the word and deed, it's always both in our faith. We speak with our words about Jesus, and in our actions, we serve and we meet the needs of the people, it's both. In most everything I'm talking about, it's as we go, it's whatever setting we're in. It's as we go, word, deed. Word, deed, Jesus. And may we be a church body, that's a part of the rapid expansion of the message of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:36] Father, thank you for your time, and we're grateful for your word, thank you for giving us the clarity in the Book of Acts of the change that was going on in people, the movement of it. And I pray, God, that we would be faithful to be a part of what you want us to be a part of. I pray that all of us would take on the responsibility and really the privilege of speaking to others about Jesus. Give us a confidence, God, that we didn't even know we had or could have. Father, give us a boldness and a courage that we did not know we could have. And Father, I'm even reminded of Brother Andrew, the Bible smuggler who recently died, that just as in an elderly man said, I'm afraid that the church has become a bunch of cowards. God, I pray that we would not be cowards or timid, but that we'd be bold, gracious, humble servants of Jesus, and that we would speak the message of Jesus in a way that people can hear it and they know they can respond to it. And God, then when they receive it, they would grow. And as they grow, God, that we'd gather up just like we are as the church today. So thank you for your word today, and I pray whatever you're imprinting on anyone's heart today, that in these moments, that it'll become more a part of us and that we'd submit and yield to you and follow in obedience to you. So we thank you and pray in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:12] If we could, let's be quiet before the Lord and anything He is saying to you this be a moment to really let that settle in, and then how that might look in obedience as you leave this place.



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