When’s the last time you found yourself in a dead end? You’re trying to move forward, but it seems that every door is now closed to you, no opportunity has presented itself. You try pushing on one door and it won’t budge. So you try another. And another. You call out to God, “just show me what to do already”. Your issue isn’t obedience - you’ll do whatever it is God’s leads you to - its just that right now you’re stuck. But if you’re in that place long enough, and enough doors close, you might even begin to doubt as to whether you’re even pursuing the right things in the first place. Have you been there?
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It’s hard to be a church that sends people out. It’s hard to be sent out. We know this as a congregation, because we’ve had to say goodbye to some dearly-loved brothers and sisters, who’ve left our congregation either because they have moved, or because they’ve felt called to join another ministry, or for whatever reason. It’s really hard. Paul himself, even though he was called to this work, of which leaving was part of the work, it was still hard.
As I’ve already said, as Christians we receive as one the benefits of knowing God, the assurance that the universe has a purpose, that life has meaning and that our individual and collective lives are being lived in fulfillment of God’s intent for us. “We are,” the scripture says, “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Yet its not only the sense of overriding meaning and purpose that God gives to our lives, but also, as we are part of the Body of Christ, we become part of God’s mission in the world, to exalt his Son Jesus Christ in every corner of the globe, and to seek and save a people for himself from every nation. He shares this mission with His Son, when He sent Him into the world, and His Son then shares that same mission with us: “As the Father has sent me”, He said, so now i send you”, and in the very first chapter of the book of Acts, the book we’ve been studying, Jesus gathered the disciples around him and told them, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth.” So we, the church, the called out people of God, are given not only a purpose, but a mission.
The first major section of Acts was to set in front of us the Jerusalem church as a model church, a church for all ages. The second major section of Acts was to demonstrate for us the new people that God is calling us to become, a church for all people. This section is not focused around a specific church or a specific city, but the focus of these chapters is the mission itself - we now see the church fulfilling the words of Jesus that we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
When we say, a church for all, do we actually mean a church for all? The big idea of this section of the book of Acts is how the church goes from a mono-ethnic Jewish church located in Jerusalem, to a multi-ethnic church in Antioch. I had told you that along the way we’d be introduced to five groups of people: the Hebrews, Hellenists, Samaritans, “good” Gentiles, and “bad” Gentiles in this expansion. Yet in the passage today, we’re introduced us to someone who is not singled out because of his ethnic identity, but nevertheless his inclusion in the church is highlighted by Luke. And he is going to press the boundaries of the church even further as we ask the question: When we say, a church for all, do we actually mean a church for all?
Martin Luther famously resisted his accusers, "I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen." And my question for you this morning is this - what will you do when that moment finds you in which you must stand or speak out? What sorts of things are at the centre of your conscience? What would cause you to stay seated, or cause you to take a stand? When the moment comes to you - you may not be heralded as a hero. You may just be getting up one day and going to work or to school, and God might thrust you into a scenario in which you’ve got to make a choice as to whether you will sit or whether you will stand. You’ve might have one chance to speak, and when you do I pray that you will not minimize Jesus, but that you will magnify him. Choose you this day what you will do, if that day should come to you.
What Do You Do When You’re Not Doing Anything? In our culture, we're not very good at pausing. Yet what we do in our downtime matters. As we continue the series we began last week in the Book of Acts, we see the Apostles in a moment of pause. Yet these apostles had been trained by Jesus, and they knew what to do when they were doing nothing; Christ’s People Fill Period’s of Pause With Prayer and Preparation.
"Is the gospel for people like me?" - I've often heard this question asked, especially in sharing the gospel with people from different backgrounds. Many people think that Christianity is a Western religion for Europeans, yet in the ancient world the perception was exactly the opposite. To the Roman "European", Christianity was an Eastern, Jewish religion. The Book of Acts was written to one such Roman believer to assure him that Christianity was indeed a faith for all people. In the Book of Acts, Jesus continues his ministry through His Spirit-empowered church to save people from every nation for the glory of God.