Listen in as Jonathan "JP" Pokluda finishes his "Let There Be Light" series. He shows how Jesus inaugurates the gospel and then it's spread throughout the world for the last 2000 years. Be encouraged as you learn about the spread of the unstoppable force of the Gospel and the part that you take in that spread.
The Unstoppable Force of the Gospel
Taking Light to the World
Take A Step: Saving Our City
Your Purpose, Your Place, Your People
How are we doing? We're wrapping up this series Let There Be Light. This will be our last week. I want to start with this question. Have you ever seen someone just dominate, like an athletic team or somebody really good at what they do, and they're just running over the competition? They are unstoppable. When someone asked me that question, the first thing that came to mind… I'm from a small town, and we're actually known for football, but when I was in eighth grade our high school's varsity basketball team was unstoppable.
They called them the "dream team." Here's why. There were three guys, David, Bobby, and Michael. Let me just tell you about them. David was the point guard. He was six feet tall. He would stand at the three-point line and shoot, and he would yell, "Stroke!" and it would just drain. Shoot. "Stroke!" He just could not miss, especially unguarded. It was something to really see. You could just toss him a ball, he'd throw it up, and it would go in.
Then there were these two guys, Michael and Bobby, and they would stand post. He would feed them the ball, and they would just flat-foot dunk. These guys would get stuck in the sky. They could fly. Seriously. They're the only guys I've ever seen do this. They could throw the ball off the back brick wall behind the backboard, catch it in midair, and just alley-oop, just dunk. Just crazy, crazy skill these guys. The three of them were on this dream team basketball team, and they just dominated.
Now here's the deal. I'm 6'7", and I'm not very good at basketball. I never have been, which is really unfortunate. Some people call that a waste of height. I think that's offensive. People have feelings. But here's the deal. I never really had a trophy or anything. My best friend had a shrine to himself in his room, all of these trophies and stuff. First Baptist Church Cuero was hosting a three-on-three basketball tournament. This is where I went to a little Bible study called Teen Time.
They were hosting this three-on-three basketball tournament. I'm in the eighth grade. The winner gets a trophy, and I'm thinking, "This is my chance." So I reached out to Michael, Bobby, and David and said, "Hey, y'all. Do you want to be on my team?" They're like, "Who are you?" I'm like, "Well, I'm in this Bible study, and we have a basketball tournament, and I'm your ticket to the tournament. You guys get to play and win. We all win a trophy. Everybody wins. Win, win, win."
So they did. They were on my team, and we dominated. They dominated. I was there, though. It was amazing. The first team that played us didn't even score on these guys. They were that good. So I'm having a blast. It was the most fun I've ever had playing basketball, because we were going to win. Winning was guaranteed. These guys were unstoppable. There was this bracket on the wall, and basically, they just moved all throughout this bracket right to the middle, and I'm excited about my trophy.
I tell you that because God is moving. He has been. Since Jesus came into this picture and left, the gospel has begun to spread in a way that is absolutely unstoppable. It has gone up and to the right from the second he showed up on the scene. Now if you're questioning that, I'm going to spend the rest of about the next 40 minutes trying to convince you of that. That's what we're talking about this morning: The Unstoppable Force of the Gospel.
Two thousand years ago, the movement started with a man named Jesus who was killed in an effort to stop the movement, but something very different than that happened. It exploded. People began to convert by the thousands and then the tens of thousands, leading us to a place now that in 2015 we would gather in this room, and there are going to be about 10,000 people in this room and some others in Fort Worth and some others in Plano and then some other brothers and sisters all over this world gathering at other places they call churches that sit under the teaching of this man Jesus Christ.
It started with 12 guys 2,000 years ago, and that's how we got here. It's this unstoppable force. It has been like darkness trying to compete against light. There is no darkness that can stop light. There is no darkness that swallows light. Once you turn on a light it pushes back darkness. That's what light does. So why wouldn't we partner with a God who wins and promises eternal life with him?
Today, over the next few minutes, I hope to show you that evangelism doesn't have to be difficult. It can be normal and even fun when you realize all that God is doing. We're in this series Let There Be Light. Just to give a quick recap in case you're joining us. Maybe you've been on spring break and you don't go to church on spring break. We'll pray for you. If you're coming in, we'd love to catch you up.
The first week we talked about Matthew 5. Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. You cannot be hidden. There's nothing that's going to keep you back. Wherever you go, I want you to shine light." We talked specifically, when you go to Starbucks, your day care, your school, your place of business, or your neighborhood… Wherever you are, God in his sovereignty and providence has you there strategically, that you would shine a light there. It's no accident. It is a divine appointment wherever you go.
The second week we talked about the Good Samaritan, and we said our city, DFW, has real needs. There are people around us who have needs, and we can't just be these naïve Christians who go to church and then go back to our normal lives. We need to know what these needs are and we need to meet these needs. We told the story of the good Samaritan. This is our Judea and Samaria.
Last week we talked about the ends of the earth. We said there are places on the planet that we share with other people, living human beings today without access to the gospel, and God's plan is that his people would take the gospel to them. Now let me show you those three in an outline in the Scriptures. It's Acts 1:8.
"Then they [the disciples] gathered around him [Jesus] and asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'""Is this the time that you set us free from Rome? Is this the time that you take the throne? Is this the time that you flex?" "He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…'" That's your Dallas. That's your Starbucks, your Kroger, wherever you go.
"…and in all Judea and Samaria…" That's West Dallas and other places you travel to to meet needs. "…and to the ends of the earth." That's last week. And then this happened. From that moment on… Jesus says this to them, he ascends into heaven, and the gospel has just gained momentum. In Acts 2, one chapter later, we see this. Verse 47: "…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Then Acts 5. "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Then in Acts 16, "And the Lord added to their number." Then in Acts 19, "And they grew in number, those who believed." We see this repeated to bring us to this moment right now, where you sit in those seats ready to hear this gospel. Maybe you grew up in a Christianity, in a church where you thought, "This is something I just consume, and I just kind of live a better life. Some tips and tricks." No. It was never meant to be that.
I think that's a really terrible miss if we think that this morning, that this is just tips and tricks for us personally to have a better life. It is not that. That is not the calling of the gospel. God says, "Let there be light." We're going to be in Acts 5 this morning. Acts stands for the Acts of the Apostles. You and I are a part of God adding to the numbers daily those who are being saved, both in the fact that we have been added to the numbers, and then God is calling us to add to the numbers those who are being saved, that he saves through us.
As we move through Acts 5, I'm going to give you three observations and an application. The three observations are First, the gospel is strengthened by opposition; second, the gospel is unstoppable; and third, how this gospel moves forward. Then we're going to talk through an application. Acts 5 is written by Luke, who's a doctor. Luke, the author of this book, is deemed one of the greatest historians of his time.
He was called this by a critic, Sir William Ramsay, who set out to disprove Luke as a historian. This guy was the greatest archaeologist of the nineteenth century, and he kept coming back. He was like, "Everything this guy says adds up." So his conclusion at the end was, "He should be along with the greatest historians we know." I tell you that because Acts 5 is history. This is not a parable Jesus told to illustrate a point. This is history. What you're about to hear actually happened, and it's crazy, by the way.
So Jesus leaves. The Holy Spirit shows up and gives power to his followers, the apostles, who were formerly cowards. So if you're here and you're like, "I'm scared to share my faith," so were these guys until they had the Holy Spirit. They were terrified to share their faith. Peter denied Jesus in front of a 12-year-old girl. They're terrified. The Holy Spirit shows up, and they start wrecking shop for the kingdom.
Verse 17: "Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail." Let me define some terms for you. The Sadducees were a wealthy religious party. They were Jewish. They were very involved in politics, and they were of the wealthiest Jews. Then there's this other group called the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were middle-class Jewish leaders. They were very concerned with the law. So you have politics, wealthy individuals, middle-class individuals who are concerned with the law, and they meet at this deal called the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin is the council of Israel's elders. These religious leaders come together and make decisions. That's what's going to go on in this passage.
This is the second arrest of the apostles. One chapter earlier, in Acts 4, Peter and John spent the night in jail for the same reason, that being sharing the gospel. They were released, and what happened is people started getting saved. Acts 4:4: "But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand." Here's what that means, just in case you're lost on this.
On this planet, there were 5,000 people, total, who believed in Jesus. Again, there will be about 10,000 of you who hear this message today. On the entire planet earth there were 5,000 people, but just months before there were 12. Do you see what's happening? This thing is growing fast. The reason they were arrested is that religious people were jealous of the growth they were seeing amongst these men. Now it gets awesome.
"But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 'Go, stand in the temple courts,' he said, 'and tell the people all about this new life.' At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there.
So they went back and reported, 'We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.' On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.' At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them."
This is amazing. Let me walk you through, because that was a lot of words. There are apostles. They've been arrested for sharing the gospel. They're put in jail. This is the second time they've been in jail. "Man, what are we going to do? How are we going to get out?" "I don't know, man. Just share the gospel in here. I don't know. We'll get out somehow. God will get us out. Oh, what's up, angel?"
Now if you're an angel, you're waiting for this day. God is in heaven. He's like, "What angel do I want to use? Do I want to use the Chuck Norris angel? Maybe the MacGyver angel? No, I'll take the ninja jail-breaking angel. Okay, you're going to go down there and break these guys out. Just tell them to go back to the temple courts and share the gospel."
There's so much irony, because the Sanhedrin gathered for the purpose of determining what to do with the guys who are in jail who are not in jail. You can imagine. "Hey, everybody get together. Come here. Okay, let's talk about this. What are we going to do with these guys? They just don't learn their lesson. We just arrested them the other day, and now they're back sharing the gospel." "Um, except they're not in jail." "What?"
There are guards standing post at the door guarding an empty cell. Then it gets even better, because they're sitting there and they're like, "What are we going to do? Somebody is going to lose their job. Where did these guys go? They just disappeared. You can't just disappear. They're not David Blaine. What's going on?" Then right in the midst of that, some guy shows up and says, "Hey, excuse me. Remember those guys you arrested because they were sharing the gospel in the temple courts?"
"Yeah, yeah. Where are they?"
"Well, they're sharing the gospel in the temple courts."
They're like, "Okay, captain of the jail, chief of the priests, go get them." Then they show up, and it says they're afraid to use force. Why? Because the people are responding to their message. They're telling them about this new life, and people are leaning forward and nodding their heads, like, "We want a new life. Amen. Hallelujah."
So they're looking at them, and they're like, "Hey, excuse me. Guys, remember us from the jail? Uh, we need you to come back to jail with us. Okay? Please? Pretty please? Hey, guys, don't throw rocks at us. Put those down. Yeah, just come this way. Okay? It's going to be fine. Just come here. We just need to talk to you for a second." They can't use force, and they're taking them back so they can meet. What's going on here? This has to be unbelievably frustrating for those who oppose the gospel. Why? This is my first point.
1._ The gospel is strengthened in opposition. When people oppose it, it grows stronger. How crazy is this? This makes its enemies unbelievably frustrated. The gospel is strengthened in opposition. That makes it hard to make it go away. These guys, the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, and the jail keepers, are playing Whac-a-Mole against God. Do you guys know what I mean by that? That arcade game where you hit the mole and it pops up over _here, and then you hit it there and it pops up over here? They're playing Whac-a-Mole against God. They can't stop him.
"Hey, put them in jail."
"Nope. They're in the temples."
"How did they get there?"
"I don't know. Raiden. I don't know. I don't know how they got there."
It's just crazy. We're five chapters in, and they've been arrested twice. Their leader has been killed (that's Jesus), and Christianity is exploding. A hundred years later, a man shows up by the name of Tertullian, and he says, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Now in 2015, we look back and see historically that's absolutely true. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.
Here's what that means. Persecuting Christians is like mowing down dandelions. You can take them down. Their seed just goes everywhere, and they pop up by the thousands. You cut one off, and the seed just blows like the wind, and they just show up. It's like, "Where did these come from?" Historically, we look back, and that's absolutely what has happened. The church is strengthened in persecution.
Here's the reality, and this is the good news I have for you this morning. God is at work in times when it seems like he's not. "Man, it looks like the one we followed is dead on a cross. I think it's all over." It's not over, because God is behind it. He's at work when it seems like he's not. "Man, we're back here in jail. It seems like God is not at work." No, no, no. Even when we're in jail, God is at work. Five thousand people trust him because we're in jail.
"Man, it seems like when I share the gospel no one responds. My coworkers are not even listening." No, no, no. God is at work when it seems like he's not. That's what God does. You stack the odds against God. God loves those odds. He's God. He's the most powerful force in the history of forces. There is no force he did not invent as God. He's the Creator of the universe. He's God, and you can partner with him in the great co-mission. That's you and God being on mission together.
Who's your partner? It's the God of the universe. That's your partner. I know that in sharing the gospel (evangelism, as we call it) it can be really intimidating. I think we're always afraid of it going poorly. I like to share the gospel. I enjoy it. It's always someone who enjoys it telling other people who don't enjoy it to share it, but I will tell you I've had it go really south for me before. There are a lot of examples I could tell you. I'll tell you one, one that I've told you before because it's my favorite.
I was not in vocational ministry. I'd just been promoted in corporate America into a new organization within this large company, and that meant a new desk, a new building, a new team that I would go to work on. It was my first week in this new organization in this company, and I have assigned to me a mentor, who I meet. I'm 23. He's 46, twice my age. I meet him. He's really buttoned up and really sharp, and basically I want to be this guy. He's tenured with the company. I'm like, "I want to be you." His name is Brad.
The next day, Brad and I are going to go and meet with a customer in Fort Worth. So we come and we meet and we get in his really nice car that I want, and we're driving out to Fort Worth. We're just talking to each other, catching up, and he's telling me about his family and whatnot. He tells me that he and his wife got into it the night before. They had a disagreement. I just casually said, because I'm a new Christian… I love Jesus. Jesus is new, and the grace thing. He changed my life.
I'm like, "Hey, Brad, let me ask you a question. Do you have a faith? How's your relationship with Christ?" We're driving out to Fort Worth. He grips the wheel, his face turns red, he starts shifting in his seat, and then he says this. I'll never forget. He says, "That is so inappropriate. If you ever ask me anything like that again, there will be consequences and repercussions. I will tell HR." I'm like, "I was just kidding, man." No, I was like, "What? You're going to tell HR?" I didn't even know what to say.
We drove to Fort Worth in awkward silence. We got there. We meet with the customer. We're coming back. I have to say something. I'm brand new to this stuff. I'm like, "Hey, Brad? About that HR thing. I'm kind of new to this stuff, and I was just asking you a question." He was like, "Here's the deal. I was raised Jewish. I don't go to church anywhere, and I just don't think the work environment is appropriate for those kinds of conversations." I was like, "Okay." Awkward. Nose-bomb evangelism. That's why we don't share it. Right?
So I go back to work. Business as usual. I didn't get fired. That's good news. Watermark, this church I was attending at the time, hosted this deal called the North Dallas Business Luncheon, where they brought in this business guy, and he was going to talk about his faith at work. I had just taken the email and sent it to the listserv, which was my team. I just forwarded it on to my team. Well, some guys came over and said, "Hey, we'd like to go," and I was like, "Awesome."
Then Brad came, and Brad was like, "Hey, this business luncheon…I'm in on that." I was like, "Cool, man. That's awesome. Great news." He was like, "What do I wear?" I'm like, "I don't know. Wear that." He was like, "Do I need to bring business cards?" I'm like, "I don't know. Sure. Yeah, bring business cards." He's like, "Can we ride out there together?" I'm like, "Dude, absolutely." This is a miracle. Ninja angel kind of stuff. Okay.
The day came, and we drove out here. We got close, and he knew my church was Watermark, and it said Watermark was building here on this property we're at right now. He said, "Hey, do you know your church is building here?" I was like, "Yeah, my church is putting this on." He was like, "Oh." We get upstairs. We see some friends we knew, and we had lunch. Then we sat down, and the guy they brought in to share began to talk about business.
Brad kind of leans forward and he's listening. Then he began to talk about Christ, and I saw that very familiar shift in his chair and red face. I was like, "Oh no." Afterwards, we go back to the car, and Brad says, "Hey, I didn't know what you were bringing me to today." I was like, "I sent you the email, bro. Read the email." He was like, "Yeah, I didn't read it. I just saw 'business luncheon.'" Not my problem.
He said, "But that guy was making some sense today." He said, "I'd like to read that book he referenced." It's called More Than a Carpenter. I went on Amazon and had it sent to his house. I said, "Hey, let's have lunch and talk about this." We have lunch. I invite some friends to go. We're sitting there, and Brad trusted Christ. That dude who threatened to turn me in to HR got baptized. His wife got baptized. His 5-year-old daughter got baptized.
That's Acts 2 kind of stuff. That's crazy. That's God still at work, ninja angels kind of stuff. That's what God does. He's still moving in the same way. When it doesn't seem like he's involved, he's still involved. When it doesn't seem like God is working, God is still very much at work in times when it seems like he's not.
So these guards go and get the apostles and ask them pretty, pretty please to come back. Verse 27: "The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name…'" He can't even say "Jesus." "…he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.'" He can't say "Jesus." "Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings!'" That's what I wish I would have told Brad. "I must obey God rather than you."
"'The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.' When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death."
You have to keep in mind when it says they wanted to put them to death, they're living in a time where, basically, if the crowds rally around you, you could be put to death. That's just what happens. If all of us don't like what you're saying, we just pick up rocks and throw them at you until you're dead. They're there. They might die.
I love what's going on. They're like, "Hey, you can't teach in this man's name. What don't you understand?" and Peter is like, "Oh, you mean the man, Jesus Christ, who died on a cross because you put him there, and then he rose from the dead, and he's trying to forgive you guys of your sins? You mean that man? Oh, let me say it again. The one if you trust in you won't die but you'll have eternal life? The one Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven? I can't teach in that man's name?"
They're like, "Yeah, basically. Stop." Peter is being opportunistic. He's like, "Oh, how about I just share the gospel right now when you're telling me that I can't?" This is greatness. And they're not talking about philosophy. They're talking about current events. Peter is like, "No, you killed my friend. I followed him. You put him on a cross. Let me tell you about it. He was God, by the way. Do you know how I know that? Because he came back to life, and I saw him. So what am I going to be afraid of if the God whom I follow is bigger than death?" Unstoppable force.
"But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.""Hey guys, you go outside. Let us talk about this." "Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: 'Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.
After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.' His speech persuaded them."
Trivia question. Who was discipled by Gamaliel? A man you might have heard of. His name was Saul of Tarsus. It was changed to Paul, and he became the greatest missionary this world has ever known. In fact, he has written about 80 percent of your New Testament. He was discipled under Gamaliel. Gamaliel is a Pharisee who when he speaks people listen. He was a wise man. Still known today in Jewish history for his wisdom. He's talking to the Sadducees in the Sanhedrin, of which he is outnumbered, but they're listening to him.
He's not being compassionate to these people. Listen closely. He's not motivated out of compassion for these men. He doesn't care about them. He's motivated out of logic. He's like, "Hey, guys, listen. Remember Theudas? He showed up and claimed to be the Messiah. We killed him, and all his people left. Remember? No big deal. You guys got all up in arms about that. Then remember Judas the Galilean? He shows up, he leads this revolt, he dies, and all his people are scattered.
These people are showing up, and they say they follow Jesus, but we've killed Jesus. What are you worried about? We've killed the head of this snake. It's just a matter of time before it dies. Don't worry about these men. It's probably not worth it. We kill them. Then all of those people who were listening to them will be frustrated. It's not worth it. Don't worry about them. It's going to die…unless God is in it, and then you're fighting against God, and there's nothing you're going to be able to do to stop it."
That's a big unless. It was a prophetic unless. We gather today because of that unless. Byzantine tradition says that Gamaliel later became a Christian, that he converted, probably because he saw the life-change in his disciple, Saul of Tarsus, Paul the apostle. Do you see how unstoppable this force is? He's like, "Listen. It's going to die unless God is in it, and then you'll be fighting against God. You're fighting in vanity."
2._ The gospel cannot be stopped._ The gospel is unstoppable. It has been up and to the right since the beginning. I told you that. I tried to convince you of that. Acts 2: "The Lord added to their numbers daily." Acts 4: "Their numbers grew to five thousand." Acts 19. This is great. This comes from a person who was an idol maker in Ephesus. He says these words in Acts 19: "And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all."
This is a frustrated idol maker who's losing business. Constable says this about this passage: "There is no stronger testimony than the words of a critic who acknowledges the success of his adversary." This idol maker says, "Make him stop. Everybody is believing him. The whole province of Asia has now turned to him and listened to his message."
What's going on with Christianity today? Let's talk 2015. The number of Christians around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years. Now there are over two billion people who would identify themselves with Christianity. A hundred million Bibles sold every year. That's enough to put the Bible on the New York Times Best Sellers list every week.
An article quotes Walter Russell Mead, the Yale professor on foreign affairs, as saying Christianity is now on its biggest roll in its 2,000-year history. The article goes on to say, "Many Christians, though, are only dimly aware of the faith's phenomenal advance. You could call it the greatest story never told: the epilogue."
Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Penn State, said Westerners are ignorant of the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West. For instance, in 1900 there were approximately 10 million Christians in Africa. By 2000, a hundred years later, there were 360 million. By 2025, conservative estimates see that number rising to 633 million. Those same estimates put the number of Christians in Latin America in 2025 at 640 million and in Asia at 460 million.
What about America? This comes from Phil Cooke, PhD. He writes for Fox and Huffington Post and several other sources. He says it shouldn't be a surprise that Christianity is growing in America. "When the Iron Curtain fell, we discovered that Communism couldn't silence the church, and despite horrific torture and executions by ISIS militants, Christians in that region refuse to recant. So it shouldn't be shocking that here in the West, for all the criticism and clatter from nonbelievers or advertising campaigns from atheists, Christianity is actually growing."
It has never stopped, he goes on to say. They say 75 percent of Americans claim Christianity, but what's interesting about that number… The article I read went on to say that 33 percent, or a third of that 75 percent number, were what they labeled convictional Christians, what I might label as actual Christians. Those are people who believe to the point they need to share it with others.
See, what's happening in America now… You're getting my opinion right now. There's a concentration of Christianity going on. The people on the fringes who are like, "This is good. Tips and tricks kind of stuff. Sure, there's a God. Okay, I'll go." Those folks are going to fall off, because it's too big of an inconvenience. It's going to become more and more of an inconvenience. They'll go on to pursue their comfort.
You can't have one foot in the world and one foot in the church. You get the worst of both of them. You miss out on the best of both of them. But the people who say, "No, no. We believe this man came back to life. I'm going to give my life for this message. This is the greatest, most important thing in my life. It's more important than my money, my business, my children even." Those folks are going to concentrate here in America. Meaning, they're going to come together and link arms. You're just getting my opinion.
It says that 5,000 were saved. Are people still being saved like that today? Let me show you the scoreboard. Check this out. This comes from greatcommission2020.com. It's a live feed, right now, in real time. So far today you have 150,000 gospel visits, 15,000 conversions, and 17,000 people being discipled. Every time you see a blue thing up there… This is real time, and this is just people who report this to this mission organization.
There was a green one. That's a conversion. There's someone in Nigeria. Oh, somebody just believed in Nigeria. How about that? Right here, as we sit in this room, a Christian was made. That's real time, guys. That's the scoreboard, guys! Is the gospel still moving, friends? Is it still going from one place to the other? Is it still covering the earth as we sit here and gather in this room?
You're questioning like, "Well, how did they get that?" That's just people who tell them live, in real time. There are so many more than that. That thing is still moving all over the earth. People are still hearing the gospel all over the earth. That's the scoreboard. It's like that bracket, that team we just covered. That entire bracket is still moving everywhere. You can go there right after this. If you don't believe me, go to greatcommission2020.com. You will see a live feed of people coming to know Christ, people converting and being discipled and hearing the gospel. Verse 40:
"They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah."
3._ God, the Creator of the universe, moves the gospel by way of or through his people._ That's his plan. That's how he's saving the world. People who know him sharing about him with others who do not know him. God's people, you and me, partner with God to save the world. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." You have the answer to eternal life in your heart as you shine like a light on others. They see it and they know him as you share it.
An angel shows up and says, "Hey, I want you to go back into the temple courts and preach the gospel." If I was Peter I'd be like, "Uh, Mr. Angel, we were just there. That's what got us in here." He's like, "I want you to go back there and share the gospel." I would be like, personally… I'm just being transparent. I'd be like, "Uh, Mr. Angel, why don't you go share the gospel? You walk through walls and stuff. I think they'll listen to you. You're glowing and floating and all that kind of crazy stuff right now. Why don't you go share the gospel in there?"
But he tells them something really specific. He says, "I want you to go tell them the story of this new life. Tell them about this new life." Who is the most appropriate person to tell someone about a new life other than someone who has found that new life? "I have a new life because of Jesus. Can I tell you about it? I am the most qualified to tell you about this new life because I've experienced it personally. I have this new life." That's all this angel is doing right here.
The gospel turns on this powerful light in us, and the darkness cannot hold back that light. It is no match for that light. John 1:5 says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." There is no darkness that can overcome that kind of light. Some of you are like, "Well, I would do it if an angel showed up and told me to." But God has told you to. The one who sent the angel has told you to. Do you believe that? Is that true?
You can sit there and be like, "Well, I don't know if he really has told me to. I don't know if that's really what it means to go into all the earth." So why don't we? I think some of us… And I get it. We're just scared. Can I tell you something about your fear of sharing the gospel? It's a good thing. Let me say that clearly. If you're afraid to share the gospel, good. When you're not afraid to share the gospel, you might do so by your own power.
You might go into it with your own charisma and zeal and extrovert-ness and just be like, "Hey, let me tell you about Jesus," and you're doing it by your own strength. I've found that those who are scared to share the gospel make incredible evangelists because they're desperate for God. "God, you have to be with me. I'm listening. You have to direct my words, God. They have to be yours. Father, I'm praying. Will you please be there? I'm terrified right now."
These apostles were terrified until they talked with God and he said, "I'm with you." What happens when my little girl comes in in the middle of the night and she's terrified of the dark? Do you know what I tell her? "Finely, your daddy is right here. There's only a wall between. I'm right here with you." Next time you go in to share the gospel, imagine God is right there with you, because he is. You're not imagining anything. He is right there with you.
That's the Great Commission. He says, "Lo, I will be with you always until the very end." The great co-mission, you on mission with God. Your fear is a good thing. It's great you're afraid. "But what happens if they ask me a question I don't know the answer to?" Awesome. You get to learn the answer. Let me just role play that with you, because you're going to leave here and get into this.
"Hey, what about tectonic plates and the creation of the universe and the age?" "Uh…" Ready? This is your response. "Uh, I don't know, but I'll find out." That's it. People will come to me and be like, "Hey, can you go with me? Because this guy is asking me all of these hard questions. I don't know the answers to his questions. I'd love for you to come and share the gospel with me." I'm like, "Or you could learn the answers to those questions. Let's talk about the questions."
You have incredible resources like none other here in 2015: gotquestions.org, probe.org, carm.org. You can go on there and use it like Google, and it will talk about tectonic plates, believe it or not, right in there. Whatever your question is, it's in there. You can come Monday nights here to Great Questions, a class appropriately named, and ask questions to folks who have given their life to apologetics and to defending the faith.
We have all of these resources, so being afraid that they're going to ask you a question you don't know the answer to is a great thing. You just look them in the eyes and say, "I don't know, but let me find out," because then you will know. Moving forward, when you come across that question again, then you will know. Now you've trained in evangelism, because you did it and you were asked a question you didn't know the answer to.
"How do I start talking about spiritual things?" Let me give it to you, in case you weren't here the past weeks. Are you ready? We're talking. Cowboys game. We're talking. Basketball. We're talking. Kids in school. We're talking. Neighbors living in the neighborhood. We're talking. "Hey, can I ask you a question? Do you have a faith? No, not a face. I see you have a face. A faith, like a religion, a spirituality, a belief system." Now you're there.
Monica and I were eating in Waco this past week on spring break, and our server came up. We were talking, and I said, "Can I ask you a question?" She said, "What?" "Do you have a faith?" I said, "No, I see you have a face. A faith." He goes… No one has ever said this before. He said, "No, I'm atheist." I've never gotten that response before. I said, "Oh man. So do you follow Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking or Hitchens? Who are you into?" We just started dialoguing.
He said, "Yeah, man. I love Stephen Hawking." I said, "Have you seen The Theory of Everything, the movie? That was out." He said, "Oh, I love that movie." I said, "Oh, that's great. Man, you know, I was an atheist too. Do you mind if I share my story with you? Actually, I was agnostic. I believed there was a God. I didn't know who he was. I kept studying and coming to this Jesus." Now we're talking about Jesus.
The guy texted me the next day. We exchanged numbers. He said, "Just because I don't believe doesn't mean I don't listen. Thank you for your kindness." God is going to save that dude. Ninja angels. I read it, and I'm like, "Just wait, buddy." "How do I share the gospel? I'm not equipped." Here's the deal. If you have a faith, if you've believed upon Jesus for his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins, then you know the gospel. You have to know the gospel to even be a Christian.
If you know the gospel and you've believed upon the gospel for your own salvation, then you have a story, and if you have a story as a Christian, in the middle of your story is the cross and an empty grave. So you ask, "Do you have a faith? Do you mind if I share my story with you?" It's that simple. I'm just telling you about my life. No big deal. Don't just go into it and be like, "Here's my résumé of awful things."
You're just like, "I was blind, but now I see. I was lost, but now I'm found. I realized that this guy Jesus Christ was God. It was true. He was real, that he literally died, that 2,015 years ago, in an event every atheist acknowledges by the dates they put on their checks, this man came into the world and time reset on his existence. His book is the best seller year after year. He's the most polarizing character on the face of the planet who has ever lived. There's something about Jesus. Can we talk about him?"
Now we're talking about him. No big deal. I'm just telling you my story. "Jesus gave me a new life. Can I tell you about it?" I don't think it's nearly as difficult as we want to think. Will you just watch this for a moment?
Male: Hey, thank you, Emily. You know, I've been meaning to ask you a question. Do you have a faith?
Female: Well, do you have a faith?
Male: Hey man, do you have a faith?
Male: Do you have a faith?
Male: So, do you have a faith?
Male: So, John, do you have a faith?
Female: How about you?
Male: I do have a faith, and I'd love to spend a few minutes telling you about it.
[End of video]
Who do I share it with? Who do I tell this? Who do I ask? Okay, we're all going to do something. This is going to be amazing. Are you ready? I know you're sitting there and you're like, "He's going to make me share the gospel." Calm down. It's going to be okay. We're going to get through this. Are you ready? We're going to get through it together. It's not going to be as bad as you think. Everybody got one of these cards in the Watermark News. Pull out your card.
Right now where you live in an apartment or a house most of you are surrounded by eight houses. That's three in front of you, three behind you, and two beside you. Those are your neighbors. You know those people you can't stand? Yes, those people, the ones around you. Here's what I want you to do this week. "Oh no. He's going to make me share." Calm down. Listen. Here's what I want you to do this week.
I want you to walk across the street and meet your neighbors. I want you to write their name down, and I want you to begin to pray for them. This is your mission should you choose to accept it. Was that so bad? Now it's going to be difficult for some of you. Let me tell you why. You've lived there 15 years, and you don't know their names. Let me walk you through how that happens. We laugh because it's true.
Walk across the street. "I'm Jonathan Pokluda. I've lived here 15 years. You know when I see you and I'm like, 'Hey, bro. Hey, buddy. Good to see you, man'? That's because I don't know your name, and I'm embarrassed to tell you that. What's your name?" And you get their name, and you write it down, and you begin to pray for them. That's it. One at a time.
I want you to put this up somewhere where you see it until it's all filled out, and you just start praying for your neighbors. You have all eight neighbors around you in your apartment or your house. You know their names, and your family is praying for them. When they see it… If they come over for dinner or whatever and they're like, "What is that?" just say, "Hey, it's your name, because I've been praying for you." There's nothing awkward about that. "I've been praying."
You're like, "You want me to ask the neighbor whose dogs won't stop barking?" Here's the deal. Nothing is going to change that person like the Holy Spirit, so you're solving your own problems by sharing the gospel with them. Now, yes, I do want you to eventually share the gospel with them. I want you to eventually invite them to this place where they can see your brothers and sisters or to church in general, but we're going to take baby steps.
I just want you to walk across the street and meet your neighbors and get their name and begin to pray for them. Can you do that? This is your mission should you choose to accept it. Now I'm going to ask you. We're going to do a verbal agreement. Do you accept it? Watermark Community Church, do you accept this mission? Awesome. So six of you are going to do that this week. Let me just ask you again.
Watermark Community Church, do you accept this mission? All right. I saw six of you not say it, and we're going to talk afterwards. That's fine. Hey, somebody go and share the gospel with them. I'm glad you're here. We're going to do this. It's going to be amazing. Just like that thing we saw earlier, life popping up all over Dallas and Plano and Fort Worth. You just start engaging with your neighbor. How amazing will that be? The gospel is strengthened in opposition, the gospel is unstoppable, and God moves the gospel forward through his people.
Do you know what happened when we were playing basketball? First, it was really fun. Second, check this out. David came up, point guard. He said, "Hey, you've got to get in the game." I was like, "No, bro. I'm cool. You guys are doing awesome, by the way. I'm fine just watching." I won't forget these words. He said, "No. You're on the team. You're going to play." Check this out. He said, "Don't worry. We're going to win. You're going to get a trophy, but you need to play. You're on the team."
He said, "Just have fun. You just stand down there. I'm going to feed you the ball. Put it in the basket. If you miss, don't worry. We'll rebound. We've got you." Let me just tell you. You go out there and start having conversations. If you miss, God is still going to work. The gospel is still going to move forward. It's going to be okay. We still win. I've read the back of the book. It's pretty awesome. This thing moves. Every knee bows, every tongue confesses. It's pretty awesome. Just start with your neighbors. Let me pray.
Father, thank you for your Scriptures, for this truth. Thank you for the apostles' examples. Would you give us that boldness? The same Spirit that was in them is in us. The same gospel they shared is the same gospel we have, and the same God they worshiped is the same God we pray to right now. So, Father, would you give us that boldness?
We know that you do not give us a spirit of timidity but one of power and one of love and one of self-discipline. Father, as we worship you now, I pray that you would stir our hearts around this reality, that it is you alone who rescues. It's you who saves, you who changes hearts. God, would you use us in doing that? In Christ's name, amen.
If you're a guest with us today, I'm so glad you are here. If you don't know this gospel I'm talking about, it's just a word that means good news, that Christ has paid for our sins and we don't have to and that if we trust in his payment we can be with God forever. If you don't know that, we would love to talk with you. You're surrounded by people right now who are so glad you're here.
We don't do this because we're trying to earn notches in our belt or anything. We do this because we love the city and we love the people around us and we believe in a God who has placed us there strategically. We love people even when they're really, really hard to love. My prayer is that God would make us better at that. If we can pray for you specifically as you go and do this this week… I want it to be a movement this week.
As you go and walk across the street, you picture tens of thousands of other people walking across the street just like you are. If we can pray for you in that effort, we'd love to. You can just write that in the Watermark News. It has been a joy to move through this series with you and just talk about how God is changing the world through the gospel. We're a part of that. I pray that you continue to be a part of that. Have a great week of worship.