The First and Enduring Attributes of Christ’s Church

Acts: Jerusalem

Today, Todd finishes our discussion of Acts 2 as it gives the first description of the early Church. That they were marked by reverence for God's word, fellowship, prayer, and a constant reminders of God's work through the taking of communion and the transformation of individuals in their midst.

Todd WagnerJun 26, 2016Acts 2:37-47; Colossians 4:2-3; Acts 2:37-47

Good morning, guys. How is everybody doing? Was that not an amazing walk through the history of the church? It was tremendous. I know Plano and Fort Worth saw it too. It's just an incredible sense of where we have come from and what God is doing. When you study the book of Acts, you'll see that six or seven different times, Luke gives an update on the church. "And the Word of God kept increasing. And the Lord added to their number day by day those being saved."

It ends with Paul in prison in Rome. People were coming to him, and he was teaching the Word of God, and the church was increasing. Here we are 2,000 years later, and we are about God's business. Let me encourage you with this. The three greatest churches in the known world of the first century, Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome, none of them were started by Peter, James, John, or Paul.

They were all started by individuals who just believed that God was who he said he was, who had a relationship with him by grace through faith, whose Spirit gave them power to be his witnesses, and they just got after it. Even so today, all we are is a bunch of uneducated, untrained men who, hopefully, the world recognizes in Dallas and Fort Worth and Plano, our friends who are listening down there in New Braunfels, and some we know are listening in Odessa, and other places around the country who are tuning in and developing, as people who have been with Jesus. That's all we want to be.

What we're going to do is what the church has always done. This text we're going to look at this morning is a description of the very first time that people observed this new group of people who were going to receive the Word of God preached, the gospel, the good news that God had come, and he had done something great in order to reconcile man to himself. The very first time people understood that, that the Old Testament was revealed, that the truths of the New Testament which were concealed in the Old Testament… Their eyes were opened.

The very first time the church ever gave a message, 3,000 folks responded. I got an email this week from somebody who was frustrated with last week's message, and I get it. He goes, "Wagner, you were like a squirrel on crack. You were all over the place. It was hard to follow." I told you it was going to be, because you're not Jews, so you don't understand the covenants. He said, "You were in Acts. Then you went to Genesis and 2 Samuel. You went to Deuteronomy. You were all over the place."

What I was showing you last week was that God has been in one place doing one thing for all time, and it has been fulfilled in Jesus. I did. It sounded like that to some of you. "You were in Psalm 16, Psalm 110, Joel 2, all over the place." This is a book that has one story: the glory of God, the redemption of man, the fallenness of man, the reconciliation and the work done by God.

Let me just make it very simple for you. When Peter was done opening up the Old Testament, explaining how the new covenant had been cut, if you just boiled it all down, this is what the people heard. The disciple whom Jesus loved said two things in 1 John 5 (I'm about to quote from that) and in John 3 (I'm about to quote from that).

This is last week's message. This is not a squirrel on crack. This is a hammer of truth. You just have to listen. "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life." These things Peter preached that all who believed would know when they listened to what he said and believed it, like John. These things he wrote that we could read them and know that we have eternal life through the finished work of God.

John 3:16. This is the same message that the church has always preached. "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. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Peter was imploring them, "Listen, Jews. Jesus came because God is gracious and loving toward you."

John 3:18: "He who believes in him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already…" Jesus is the provision of God, and he wants you to know him. There you go. That's not a lot of runaround. That is the church lifting up Jesus and saying, "We are here to declare to you the wonderful works of God."

If you're here this morning, and you're a guest with us, know this. We're trying to help you understand. God loves you. He did not come in the person of Christ to judge the world but that the world might be saved through him. Peter opened up the Bible, showed the covenants, how they walked together, how Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament. He's the one who the Jews have been anticipating. He's the hope of all the nations. He's the one who comes from Abraham through which everybody will be blessed if they trust in him. There you go.

Now, here's the question. What do you do when you hear that? The answer is in Acts 2:37. It simply says, "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart…""God has done something for us? There is a God up there who loves us? He's not looking to smack us?" "…and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?'"

By the way (a little insert), this is exactly what happened when Jesus, who had just fed a multitude, and the world was filled with awe at who this was… They saw that there was divinity in their midst. They knew that only God could do what was being done. They looked at this prophet, Jesus, and they said to him, "What must we do to do the works of God?" Guess what Jesus said in John 6. He said, "You should believe in the one whom he has sent."

Jesus is God's provision. This is not about what you're going to do and accomplish on your own. You believe in the one who has gone to work for you. You rest in him. Jesus is your Sabbath rest. Are you weary? Are you heavy laden? Have you been beat up by this world, filled with sin and death? Have you gone your own way? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Jesus. Come to him.

God is not mad at you. I have asked my friends at The Porch this sometimes. I want you to imagine what you think God would say if he showed up to you in your moment of deepest rebellion, darkest sin, that one moment that you're committed to never telling anybody that you were a part of?

What do you think God would say if the door just busted open at that moment, and God came charging in, and you're caught there, and you're exposed? Well, you don't have to wonder because the Bible tells you. He wouldn't go, "Ah! You cretin. You barbarian. You filthy, damned soul." He would just look at you and say, "Man, I love you. Listen. There is going to be a day when sin and death so overtake you that you're going to die.

When you die, you're going to stand before me in judgment, but I have not come into the world to judge the world but so the world might be saved through me. Do you see my love for you? Do you know I have demonstrated my love for you because of this kind of stuff? Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden. I love you. I'm not mad at you. I hate sin. I hate what it's doing to you, but you don't have to be a slave to it any longer. Come."

Our testimony is that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. "What should we do then, because we're the reason he went to the cross?" Answer: You'd better change your mind about God. You'd better quit filling up the heavens with your certainty that your Father in heaven is like your father on earth, that the God you have created is the God that is, and you'd better listen to the God who has rent the heavens and come down and shown himself to you.

He is filled with grace and mercy. Make no mistake. By no means will he let the guilty go unpunished. He is a God who will judge, and you saw his wrath poured out on his Son. Do not neglect so great a salvation, but stop trying to please a perfect God. Realize a perfect God, for some reason, is pleased with you. Peace on earth, good will toward men with whom God is pleased to save you.

The Bible is a story of God's love revealed, not of man's works to be done. Christianity is, "It is finished." Religion is, "What will men do?" Christianity is, "It is done." When you hear this about the wrath of God and the goodness of God, you ought to say, "What shall we do?" Peter said, "Repent," which is the word metanoia, which means to change everything in your mind about who God is. Stop, as I said, filling the heavens with your mouth running about who God is and how he is unjust.

God is unjust. He poured out his wrath on his Son so you might be saved. Where is the justice in that? Then be baptized. Identify yourself with Jesus. It's a change of mind about God that is so radical that you stop running from him. You stop trying to find life in anything else, and you stop suppressing the goodness of God and exchanging the glory of the Creator for creatures and for things creatures make and experience.

You start to say, "God, I want to run after you. I want to be yours, every beat of my heart. How do I walk with you and glorify you and share your goodness with other people?" That's what people who hear the message always do. When they do that, they are reconciled to God. They have the gift of the Holy Spirit, a spirit that is not in rebellion anymore, but a spirit that knows the goodness of God.

They have received the promise, and they tell it to their children. They tell it to their friends. The very first time that message was proclaimed, about 3,000 people became a part of the church. What happened to those people? Wouldn't it have been amazing to be there to see what the first church looked like? Guess what. You don't have to imagine. Let me just read to you. This is the very first description of the church. It says,

"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And [all who had been sent my Jesus] all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need."

They understood eternal life. They understood the resurrection. They knew this world wasn't their home. "Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." That, my friends, is a description of the early church, and I believe it is what God wants every single church since then to look like.

Now what is the church? The church is not a building. There was no place. They went up to the Temple Mount, and they gathered there, and they sang songs. They worshiped God as best they knew how. There was still a lot of revelation to come about what this church was supposed to look like.

Were they supposed to stay Jews? Were they supposed to still be circumcised? Were they supposed to still participate in temple worship? Were they supposed to still observe the feasts and the Sabbath? All of that was going to be taught to them. All of that continued revelation, that clarity, was going to be shown to them. It comes right here as we dive into the book of Acts.

I want to tell you something. All of a sudden, there was something going on that was rocking the world. This is what happens in America. People sometimes show up, and they say to you, "Hey, do you hang out?" It doesn't start this way, but at some point, a conversation starts where people maybe will turn the conversation toward spiritual things.

Maybe you want to invite a friend to your church, and people will start talking about church. They'll say, "What kind of church do you go to?" Almost every single time that question is asked, people describe a personality, "Some bozo is up on stage flapping his jacks like a squirrel on crack" or they describe a building and an address or they describe a denomination.

You should never do that. When people say, "What kind of church do you go to?" what you should do and what I'm going to give you the tools to do today is to respond biblically. What I'm trying to do with my life, what we're doing here as a group of friends here in Dallas… Listen. I am just like you. I am a guy who was without God, without hope in this world, who was running my course according to the ways of men, and God in his kindness showed me that this is the testimony, that God had given me eternal life if I just acknowledged my sin and received it.

I just gathered with my friends, and I went, "Man, let's start to respond to the goodness of God. Let's quit running from him and trying to manage our relationship with him or appease him and then do what we want to do. Let's realize that when we do what our loving Father wants to do, that's where life is." A group of friends and I just said, "Let's just get together and do that with the rest of our lives and invite friends to join us and celebrate God and tell other people about how great God is." That's all we're doing.

We didn't have a building. We didn't ever think we were going to have a building. We didn't know there would be a couple of campuses. We never even had any mindset that that would be the case. All we knew is we were people called out of darkness into his marvelous light who now had a right understanding of God and yielded to his Spirit and his Word, and we began to practice the one-anothers of Scripture.

It has been an amazing ride. When somebody asks me what kind of church I go to, if it comes up, what I want to do is be able to say, "I'll tell you what kind of church we are. We're the kind who continually devotes ourselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship and breaking bread and prayer." That's kind of churchy language.

What I did one time is I just sat down with a pen and paper, and I started writing down, "If I were a reporter for the Jerusalem Times, and I was sent to this early church, and I was asked to describe what they were like, what words would I use?" I don't want to bury the lede. What is the church of Jesus Christ like?

Think of it this way. If you were hanging around with Jesus, and you met him, and you saw who this guy was and what he did and his love and his power and his truth and his care for people, and his ability to just alter the affects of sin… I want to just say, "You have to come and see this guy." People look at you and go, "What guy are you talking about?" You go, "It's this guy named Jesus."

They go, "What is he like?" You wouldn't respond, "He's a rabbi." People would go, "Oh, bro, I know enough rabbis. The last thing I need is another rabbi." You probably wouldn't even say, "He's from Nazareth." What you would do is you would start to describe certain characteristics about who Jesus was. You would talk about how alive he is, how awe-inspiring he is, how loving he is.

You would talk about how caring he is. You would talk about how wise he is and wonderful he is. You would just say, "Come and see, man. Just come and see." The book of Acts is God answering the question through Luke, "What is the spiritual body of Christ going to be like?" Guess what it should be like. When you say to your friends, "Come and see the people of God gather. Come and see the spiritual body of Christ." That's who we are.

"He is the head of this church. He is the head of the one true universal church. We are a small part of that. He is the head of this body. This is not my church. This is his church. I serve you and serve him. Together, we are his body." People will just say, "Todd, what is the body of Christ like?" Based on this text, we should be able to say exactly what Andrew said to Peter or what Nathanael said to Philip. "Come and see."

If somebody says to you, "Todd, what is your church like that you go to?" I would tell you this, based on Acts 2:42-47 and me seeing it lived out with you. I would go, "It's alive, awe-inspiring, attractive, authentic, aligned, action-oriented. It's biblical. It's bonded. It's blessed. It's caring.

It's a committed community that is compassionate, connected, consistent, creative, dedicated, devout, diligent, discerning, disciplined, driven, effective, encouraging, energizing, engaging, evangelistic, exciting, a faithful family. It's focused, friendly, fulfilled, fun, fired up, godly, generous, giving, humble, hungry, hospitable, inspiring, intentional, intimate, intense, joyful, like-minded, loving, magnetic, miraculous, motivated, neighborly.

They're obedient, open, ordained, other-minded, passionate, powerful, praising, prayerful, proactive, productive, pure, purposeful, real, radical, redeemed, relationally-minded, relevant, respected, sacrificial, saved, selfless, scripture-loving, servant-hearted, single-minded, sold out, Spirit-filled, sincere, submissive, tenacious, teachable, transformed, trustworthy, thankful, unified, unselfish, unspoiled, unwavering, unstoppable, wholehearted, wonderful, wise, worshipful people. Man, you ought to come just check it out with me."

Look. I think if you did that, they would go, first of all, "Bro, you're like a squirrel on crack." Then they would say, "You need to stop spending so much money at Starbucks." They would also say, "Hey, bro, I've never heard anything in my life like that. I didn't even know I was looking for it, but if that thing exists…

By the way, I think you're crazy. I'm going to just come because I think you're crazy, but if that thing exists, I'm coming. I'm all in, like a moth to light. I can't stay away from that. If that's real, if that thing is there, if that man Jesus is there, I want to know him. If there are people there like that, take me."

How do we become a people like that? This is an amazing text. Here's how you become a people like that. There is something that you do. I want to just throw this in real quick because there is a lot of talk right now about future leaders of our country. One of them is a Methodist. The other one… James Dobson just said he knows for a fact that somebody just led this other candidate to Christ. I want to show you something. When you trust in Christ, when you repent, there is a change. You don't accept facts about Jesus.

You don't go, "Oh, I see how Jesus is the fulfillment of Joel 2 and how God had an unconditional covenant that had conditions put upon it that God in his kindness went ahead and met the provisions of the conditional covenant so he could meet his unconditional promise that the world might be blessed through him and all people could be forgiven. I accept that as true. I believe Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried. I believe men are sinners."

You don't say that and then keep doing everything you're doing. No. You repent. You change. There is nothing in your life that God wants you to pass in the form of a true-or-false task that is purely intellectual. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Men will say what they think, but they will do what they believe. Scripture says, "I'm not asking you to vote." Jesus isn't looking for a vote. Kings don't get voted for. You don't just acknowledge that he's King. The question is, are you his servant, and do you know the King loves you, and do you serve him gladly?

If you do, you go, "King, tell me your Word. Teach me your way. Let me come to you and throw myself and prostrate myself before you and ask your forgiveness and acknowledge the wrong I have done. I won't be perfect, O King, but every time I go and violate and wander away, I will return, and I will agree with you that that was rebellion, and I will seek to make amends, and I will repent, and I will surround myself with other faithful citizens who will spur me on, and I will live for you because I love you."

That's what the church should do. Part of the problem in America is not that we have two candidates that give lip service, apparently, so far, it looks like, appearance-wise, to some understanding of Jesus. By the way, I know there is such a thing as a baby Christian. Let me just ask you this. If Paul was on his way to Damascus, and he had a conversion, and he kept murdering people when he got to Damascus, and people said, "He's just a baby Christian," would that have worked for you? It wouldn't have worked for me.

I would have expected Paul to really understand, "This Jesus is the one you're persecuting," and you're just so, "Hey, I'm just going to make sure I lock myself down until I know what he wants me to do because I love him, and I believe he is God. Everything I do is now for him." That's the way people who really understand respond.

What I would say to you is you give attention to those who are sent forth from God to teach you about God, man, sin, judgment, redemption, salvation. You pay all the attention you can. That's what they did. Every day, the church was studying the Word of God. It's what we do. It's why when we first got started right here, when this building was first opening, I had a chance to sit up here one night and just write down underneath me all kinds of different Scripture.

It really doesn't matter if I write down Scripture. It matters if we live according to it. Underneath me right here are a number of different Scriptures. First, it talks about how we don't forsake our own assembly together. We hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, and we're together to celebrate the one who is faithful.

We want to lift him up. That is our job, to lift up Jesus. That's all I want to do here. I just wrote down, "Any time somebody stands here (Psalm 19:14), may the words or their mouth and the mediation of their heart be acceptable in God's sight." That's what we do. The testimony is that God gives eternal life, and that life is in his Son.

I thought about how this is the kind of people God looks to. It says in Isaiah 66:2 that those who humble themselves and have a contrite spirit, who tremble at his Word and go, "God, all I want to do is just see what you say, because I don't want to miss it. It's not because I'm scared you're going to smack me. I already know you're not the kind of God who smacks or a God who wounds. Then you judge people who don't care what you say. I don't want to miss a single word from you because you're that good."

I wrote down here 1 Timothy 4:13. Paul wrote to his young disciple Timothy, who was the leader of one of the largest gatherings of believers of Ephesus of his day, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." That's what you should do. Exhort them. Teach them. Reprove them. Correct them. Train them in righteousness.

I wrote down 1 Timothy 4:16 right here somewhere. "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." Gang, I know this. This is who I am. I am a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. All I want to do is just share with you what God says. You don't want to hear what I have to say.

I want to open God's Word to you and show you this is why we pay attention to the Word of God. We are a Bible-teaching, Christ-exalting, Spirit-yielding people. We don't need a church. We need to know we have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light. We need to yield to his Spirit. We need to practice the one-anothers. Praise God. He has given us facilities in three cities to gather together to do the things I'm talking about this morning.

There are other verses that are up here, and they're all about the Word of God and it being about Jesus Christ. That's what the church always does. And to fellowship. The word there for fellowship is koinonia. You've probably heard it. That word koin- means common. It's where we get the English word coin from. We all in common agree that this nickel is worth five pennies, that this little copper Lincoln is worth one penny, that this picture of George Washington on a sheet of paper, this common paper, is worth something.

We do business together because we hold in common a value to a means that will allow us to conduct business. What koinonia basically really means is the idea that we are in the business of doing life together. We have shared holdings. We hold to these truths together. It's what the church does. Fellowship doesn't just mean we get together and watch Lebron play a stat. It means we are together doing the business of God.

We have fun, and we enjoy what we're doing. When we're together and we break bread, every time we eat, we are to stop and be solemnly reminded, "Hey guys, as we tear into this, let's just take this incredible privilege, that God has given us provision, to feed and to strengthen ourselves through this physical thing called food.

Every time we eat. As we break bread as we've been taught to do (not to shove the roll in our mouths, but we rip it and eat it), let us be reminded that something outside of us gives us strength. It's Jesus. His body was broken. His blood was shed. Let's love each other, and let's be attentive to prayer."

Let me just say a couple of things right here. This is what the church does. It's what makes them alive. If you're not devoting yourself daily to the Word of God, if you're not a person who is regularly a part of Bible intake and meeting with other believers and sharing about what you're learning… Ten years ago, we came up with something called Join the Journey. Every day, 27,500 people get an email, a little 300-word devotional.

This year, we're working through the New Testament. In just a couple of days, we're about to start the gospel of Luke. It's a perfect time for you to go, "Every day, I'm going to have Bible intake. I'm going to devote myself to the apostles' teaching, to the lifting up of Jesus Christ, and I have an online community who I can ask any question I have about anything I just read that confuses me. I have three questions of application that I can go over with my Community Group. I have a way I can get connected with others."

That's what people who love God do. They fellowship and say, "I'm going to do business with you." I've said it before. If you're here and are not actively engaging with God's people, you are not a regular attender. If you say you have been called out of darkness, if you say you've been yielded to his Spirit, if you're not practicing the one-anothers of Scripture underneath local leadership as God has exhorted you to as a member of the body, you are not a regular attender. You are an irregular believer, and you're deluded in your commitment to be serious about him.

If you've never stood up before others and said, "Identify me with Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection," you're deluded in your commitment to Christ. You don't have to do either one of these things to be saved. My question is if you know how great a salvation you have been given, why don't you want to do everything he does? Why don't you have a humble and contrite spirit and just tremble at his Word because you know it's his provision for you?

You are called sheep for a reason. Sheep have no defensive ability. They don't have fangs. They don't have quills that pop up. God has given sheep one thing that makes them safe. Do you know what it is? A shepherd. That's why this sheep subjects himself to a community of people and says, "Would you admonish me when I'm unruly?" It happened to me this week.

"Would you encourage me when I'm faint-hearted? Would you help me when I'm weak? Would you do it with love and patience just like my Father in heaven does? Would you be a physical, tangible representation of the body of Christ? I need that." There is an amazing website. I've had fun with it lately. It's called The Babylon Bee. If you don't know about it, you have my permission to waste some time there.

It's basically like a Christian version of The Onion. They posted an article recently. Here's the headline. It says, "Man Chooses Self as Accountability Partner." That's the headline. Here's the story. "Feeling a deep conviction over his indwelling sin and recognizing his need for some serious, hard-hitting accountability, local man Ryan McKenzie announced he had selected himself as his own accountability partner Friday afternoon. 'I have carefully considered all candidates in my life,' McKenzie wrote on his blog.

'I thought and prayed deeply over the matter, because I recognize I fall short on my own and need someone who won't pull any punches and who will help me to see my blind spots—someone who is godly and mature. For my accountability partner, therefore, the choice is clear: myself." Reporters reached out to McKenzie's accountability partner, Ryan McKenzie, to find out what his strategy was for keeping himself from falling into the old habits of sin that have become more and more prevalent recently."

McKenzie says, "Well, the beauty of accountability is you don't have to go through things on your own. When I'm feeling tempted, I'll make sure that I ask myself if I really want to succumb to the temptation or not, and I'm sure that will be sufficient to keep me from sinning." On and on it goes. It's hilarious. I thought it was. You were bored.

I'm telling you, Mr. McKenzie, a sheep that goes out by himself is called a meal, and it will not go well with you. This week, there have been some people I have loved for a long time, who have been around Watermark, people I have met, who I have invited, waiters, waitresses, friends of the community, others who have been around… Christ just hits them, and they have nobody. They call me in a panic. They call a few other friends who they have gotten to know here, and we come around them.

We say, "God wants you to have people who are always there for you, who know these things that are going on." That's why we implore you to get deeply connected. God loves you, and he cares for you, and he wants you to regularly have people who are around the Word of God with you and are encouraging you and walking with you.

It has been amazing the way you guys have done that with one another here. This is what the church of God does. They're committed to God's truth. They're committed to doing business with God's people. They're committed to remembering and worshipping together every time they break bread. They're people of prayer. Can I just encourage you guys with this? Did you guys know that every time we have a service here in Dallas at least… Forth Worth and Plano, I challenge you to jump in with us.

We have this thing. It's another one of our ministries. The name is not that great. It's called the Engine Room. "What's the Engine Room?" The engine is what makes things go. There are people during services who are just praying. They're just on their knees, praying that God's Word would pierce our hearts. We give you stuff to pray through.

If you want to get to know some of the people, we can give you stuff to pray through. Would you just jump in with us? Just on the Watermark News, on the tab write, "I would be interested in doing that. That could be my ministry. I can pray. That can be my ministry. On a regular basis, on Sundays, at the 9:00 service, the 11:00 service, or the 5:00 service, I can pray, coming beside others. Saturdays at 4:00. I can pray." Yeah. Come on. Jump in with us.

Prayer is something we do all the time. Watch how big a deal prayer was. This is what, all through the Bible, you find Paul say stuff like this. This is Colossians 4:2. "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well…" This is why the church prays. We know what is going on, that God will open up a door to us. We know we're the people who have been trusted by God to lift up his greatness and who he is.

Pray that we would speak forth the mysteries of Christ. Pray that I'm faithful to the people in my office, my neighbors, my family. In Ephesians 6:18, Paul says, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints."

Praying for one another is what we do. Paul says, "…pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel…" Are you praying that? It's amazing how few of us pray for each other. May we be bold in sharing the gospel.

By the way, that's what Jesus told his disciples, one of the very last things that went down in Matthew 26:41. Jesus is about to go to the cross, and he turns to his disciples and goes, "These are hard times. In this world, you are going to have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world. Meanwhile, for you, be watchful and pray, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Prayer is our chance to sit down, meditate before God about his will and his desire, remind ourselves of things that are true, ask him to strengthen us, deepen our conviction of faith. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, "Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly…"

Here's what I want to tell you guys. I tell people this all the time. I get it. I'm not a very good pastor. I'm not a very good teacher, but I promise you that if you pray for me, you will get a new pastor. I'll change. God does something. I don't know how he does it. There was a Real Truth. Real Quick.on this. If God already knows what he's going to do, why do we pray?

You may as well ask yourself, "Why do I breathe?" God designed you to inhale and exhale. Why breathe? Because God created you to breathe. Prayer is our chance to inhale the will and the Word of God. It's what he does to align us with his will. Prayer is not us yanking heaven down to get on our agenda. Prayer is us on our knees, abiding in his Word, looking at what he wants, and we are getting our hearts aligned with heaven's.

This is great. Watch this. The next thing the church does… We've already read these attributes that are describing it. All of those adjectives are just amazing. It says everyone kept feeling a sense of awe. It's interesting. If you look in some of your Bibles, there is a little number one right there by verse 43 that explains what this text means. It says everyone was feeling a sense of awe.

It really can be translated better as, "Fear was occurring in every soul." What? What do you mean, fear was occurring in every soul? The word there is phobia. It's the Greek word for phobia. What it means is that people understood. They saw what went down. They saw a bunch of knucklehead Gentiles speak fluently in known dialects and open the Old Testament with power in a way rabbis have not been able to do for thousands of years.

They're going, "What in the world is going on?" Then they see some attesting miracles that go alongside of that. What you're seeing happen is that everybody is backing away and going, "Whoa! This is not human. Something divine is happening here." It's exactly what you see happening with Jesus. Remember the church is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ. It ought to have a sense of awe about it.

Watch this. This is what happens in Matthew 8. The disciples look up, and Jesus is walking on the water. It says, "Oh man." It says they were filled with fear. A little bit later, they're walking with Jesus in a town called Nain. They get there, and there is a funeral processional. A mother is burying her only son. Jesus says, "Don't weep, for the young man is not dead. He's about to be alive." He walked over to that young boy. He says, "Young man, I say to you, arise."

It says in Luke 7:15 that the dead man sat up and began to speak. Jesus gave the man back to his mother. In verse 16, phobia, fear gripped them all. I guess. Imagine you're running over there to the Panera Bread company on Park Avenue. You're swinging by Sparkman/Hillcrest on the way there. There is a traffic jam because the cops are whistling people out.

Your buddy hops out of the car and goes, "Hang on a second." He stops the hearse and says, "Mama, don't fear. Your boy is not dead, man. Hey, guy, arise. Get out." That guy pops up. I think you would go, "Oh. I don't know if I can eat with you. This is freaking me out, man." It ought to. I could go on and on with stories about Jesus. You should be able to go on and on. I'm going to especially pray that some of you guys have friends you're going to share this message with.

If you're at another church and are not consistently overwhelmed at your gathering, your church, at the power of God to transform people, if you don't have stories of radical life change that are abounding all around you… I mean crazy, nutty, far from God, adulterating, immoral, platonically related to God people being radically transformed to passionately live for him. If not, you are not a part of a healthy, functioning spiritual community. You should quit tithing to it and get the fat out of there.

Probably before that, you should go to your pastor and say, "Pastor, what is normal is that God is doing powerful things. He said the works he did, greater works than these will we do. It doesn't mean we're going to turn water into wine. It doesn't mean we're going to raise people from the dead, but we are going to be a part of dead men coming alive, people who can't walk in righteousness walking in righteousness, people who can't see seeing the truth and the beauty of God."

If that's not happening where you are connected, you're going to be set up for one of two things. Just a bunch of dead dogma and note-taking and particular doctrines or just some real craziness that is going to be passed off as the power of God. Gold dust and slaying the spirit and glossolalia and nonsense. That's going to be called the power and the evidence of God. No. The power and the evidence of God is radical transformation.

What if I told you that stories like this were just normal, that a little girl born to a teenage mom who was going to be aborted… The mom was going to abort the child. She was an abortion-minded mother, but for whatever reason, the mom decided not to abort her. That child was born into a home with a teenage mom who eventually married another guy.

The mom and the dad were never really concerned about that little girl. In fact, they kind of let her be taken care of more by the adult male neighbor who sexually abused that child. The mom actually ended up losing custody. A little bit later, the dad took her, and the stepmom was abusive, physically and emotionally, to her. She was gone a lot. A female babysitter was around. That female babysitter sexually molested her and assaulted her.

She was promiscuous in high school because she didn't know anything other than to be used that way. Her track coach sexually assaulted her. She didn't know she could say no. She went on to have two abortions, several marriages, multiple affairs with married men. She had an eating disorder. She was filled with fear, filled with anxiety.

Then she ran into a group of people who invited her and just said, "Just come and see, man. You're not alone. We know a Jesus who can heal wounds like you have." That little girl walks in here, and that little girl today is a leader at Watermark. She's not just saved. She's a spiritual leader at Watermark. It's like the woman at the well. It's like Mary Magdalene. It's like the Gerasene demoniac.

Man, if you aren't overwhelmed like, "Whoa. Look what God does?" By the way, do you know what I did to find that story? I read my Watermark News today. I had to go no further than… It was just handed to me when I walked in. I have 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 stories up here to tell you. You ought to be scared to death, if your life isn't radically changed and you're not being radically used by God to be a part of transformation, that you might be dead to who Jesus really is.

It's happening all around you right here. If you're not a part of it, it's probably because you're not a part of him. You'd better dive in. If you're not overwhelmed with the power of God right here, you're not paying attention. If you're in a church where the miracle is that people put up the same boring, non-life-transforming, non-culture-altering community again and again and go back, that's the miracle, that people keep showing up.

They call themselves a church while they divorce one another, live immorally with one another, increase their selfish, godless, abusive use of money. Gang, I'm just telling you. Look at this list. I just went down. These are people who, over the last couple of years, that just I know of… I hate that this church has grown because I don't hear all of the stories, but these are the people who have come to know Christ.

There are bar crawlers, verbally, emotionally, sexually abusive people, owners of one of the largest party-planning companies in Dallas, drug addicts, sex addicts, thieves, alcoholics, pornographers, liars, drunk drivers, professors, professional gamblers, anorexics, slaves to men and body image, materialists, depressed people, people with anxiety disorders, prisoners of fear, prisoners period, homosexuals, lesbians, male prostitutes, johns, female prostitutes, victims of extreme sadness, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, atheists.

There are drug dealers, promiscuous women, predatory men, victims of child and sexual abuse, perpetrators of child and sexual abuse, liars, manipulators of people, victims of greed, people with massive debt, cohabiters, materialists, divorcees, passive husbands, angry wives, homeless people, alienated people, incarcerated people, Pharisees, fallen leaders, fake Christians, parents who have lost children, children who have run away from their parents, pill poppers, suicide attempt survivors… It goes on and on.

That's happening here. If it doesn't impress you, I don't know what to show you because I want to go, "God is alive, and you'd better do business with him." That's what should be happening in the church. I just read my Watermark News today, and I got to live it out this week in watching stories that are going to show up in the Watermark News in days to come. A sense of awe. I guess, man. I guess.

Look here. It says not only that, but they believed they were holding things together. They held all things in common. I'm not going to spend much time on this, but let me say this. They weren't socialists. They weren't communists. By the way, all communism is is Christian heresy. Do you guys know that?

The uncompassionate use of money is sin. There were people who saw… The story about Marx is actually pretty amazing. They lived in Germany, and they were Lutherans, but they moved to another town, and the righteous people in that town where they moved were not Lutherans. They were Jewish. Their dad announced they were no longer Lutheran but were now Jewish because if the business was going to be successful and they were going to continue as a family, they needed to believe what other people believed so they could do business.

Marx looked at that dad who had no substantive faith and said, "This is all about money." What he did is he went after money, and he empowered himself by telling the poor and unattended to that he would give them power if he gave them power. He bifurcated people up into small, needy groups and told them he was their savior and that this system was their savior.

Communism doesn't work, man. You can't, through law, make people be generous with one another. They are demotivated. They are angry. They are oppressed, and they are looking for their moment to break free. Let me just tell you what was happening here. These are people who followed the servant example of their leader. What changes people is love, and when you see people who see the love of God to them, who though he was poor, for their sake, became rich, all they do is follow his example.

Man, I wish I had time to walk you through what is going on right here. We have dozens and dozens and dozens of families whose communities are caring for them because right now, through either medical issues, terror in their life, in familial units or other things, they are at a point of need. We sit them down. We walk them through a biblical process. We make sure we're not enabling irresponsible behavior. We make sure they are never homeless, without shelter, without provision. It's happening right here.

It starts in communities, and when Community Groups are overwhelmed and have used their resources to the point they can, they come to us, and we widen the circle, and we are all sharing in the midst of that right now. It's not just people who show up and want a handout. We want to do it in the context of relationship, members who are doing business with us.

What is ours is yours. There will never be a member, an abiding follower of Christ, who is a widow in need, walking with Jesus, who, as long as we have provision, will be without provision, just like there. It's happening. This is your church. It's Jesus' church. It's alive, awe-inspiring, and it is worshipful. Day by day, gang. This is not from now to next Sunday when you can tune in again. Hebrews 3:13 says, "And they encouraged each other day after day, as long as it was called 'today' so they would not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

They were gathering together with one mind in the temple (there it is), breaking bread, continually reminded of Christ, lifting him up from house to house, smaller communities. By the way, remember this. This was a megachurch. The first megachurch happened right after the first message. They would gather together, and they would meet house to house, in smaller house churches like this. They did it with gladness and sincerity of heart.

Man, we're here with joy. One of the things that marks you people is joy. Folks walk in here all the time. We put that first impression thing down there for a reason. We want to know what people see when they walk in here for the very first time. One of the things they see is, "Man, there is joy here. There is peace here. Folks love me. They look me in the eye. They initiate it with me. They walk me over. They help me.

They greeted me. They gave me the parking spot. They noticed I was walking alone and walked with me. They invited me to lunch. They were glad to be here, and they couldn't believe that I had, by the goodness of God, chosen to come and see as well, and they helped me. They were glad I was here, so they as one beggar could show another beggar where they could find a piece of bread."

Folks, when that happens, the Lord continually adds to their number day by day those who are being saved. Nothing pleases me more than bringing to my King the one thing he says delights him more than anything else, which is that children who have been beaten up by sin and deception finally trust his call through my voice, through my hands, through my service, through me pouring myself out, reminding them that God is good.

When they finally come, both through my heralding of God's kindness and my enabling and reaching and assisting, when they finally come to him, not to Watermark, not to Todd, to Jesus Christ, it blesses him. The angels rejoice. My Father goes, "My son has come home." What else do you want to do? If you would have told me I was going to be a pastor, I would have taken a swing at you.

I never thought I wanted to do this because I was in a dead church where I saw no power of God. The miracle was that people came back up, and that envelope they gave us every January, somebody actually put money to invest in that feckless, dead, apostate church. Then I really met Jesus outside of that church, and I started to see that God was still alive and doing amazing things, and I saw my life change, and I saw other people's lives change. I go, "What else would I rather do?"

I group of us uneducated and untrained men just said, "Let's just serve him, man. Let's give attention to his Word. Let's do business together for God. Let's remember Jesus. Let's be continually praying. If I have something you need, it's yours, all for the glory of Christ. Day by day, let's get after this thing together." Would you join me?

This is what the spiritual body of Christ is doing until Christ himself returns to judge the quick and the dead. He'll return with his recompense and his reward with him, and he'll say to his servants, "Well done, spiritual body. Enter into my rest." We're going to say, "Man, we don't want to enter into your rest. We just want to worship you forever. Do you know how good you are that you saved us from what we deserve?"

He's going to say, "Sit down and let me serve you." This is our time to be busy, church. Let's go. Let's hold fast. Let's stand back in fear of the God who is working in our midst, and let's remember it's him who is working, so let's be a prayerful people, never ever one time letting somebody say, "You're amazing." We're just men. We're not angels. We're not gods. We know Jesus, and he's alive, and he can heal you.

Father, I pray that we would be your church. I thank you for the amazing privilege of getting to be a part of this community of friends who are doing business. In common, we hold to the preaching of the gospel and the testimony that you have given us life, and that life is in his Son. Lord, thank you that you are so gracious to us. You forgive us when we keep messing up and getting distracted by the things of the world.

Lord, would you help us to continue now in faithfulness day by day? Would you help those of us who are regular attenders/irregular believers to get jumping in, if not here, in another biblical, powerful, awe-inspiring, worshipful church? Lord, could we say to people, "Come and see, man. We're not perfect, but come and see what God is doing with us.

Come and see broken little girls become beautiful, healed women, where laughter and joy fill their homes because of Jesus. Come and be the next story. Come and enjoy him." Lord, I pray if there is anybody here today who says, "Man, Todd. What do I have to do to experience that?" I pray that they would just realize that what they have to do is run to you.

They have to acknowledge their separation because of sin, accept your provision through Christ, and submit to your will, Word, and way, confess with their mouth that you are Lord, believe in their heart that God raised them from the dead, run with his people, enjoy your grace, experience the life of glory that you intend. Father, would you multiply that story here for your great joy, for our great pleasure, and for the good of those who are yet to come? In Christ's name, amen.

Man, I love you guys. I'm so grateful to be a part of this church. Let's worship him together, man. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.