Moving into Acts 4 verses 1-12, Todd teaches about an interaction Peter and John have with religious leaders, and how they boldly give credit to and proclaim that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. We, as Christians, are called to lead lives that are so radically different that persecution is inevitable; however, our persecution is not in vain, but can actually be a powerful tool for the Gospel.
Stephen…a Faithful Mailman Who Saw Jesus
How to Destroy a Shadow: Stephen’s Masterful Defense of Jesus Finished Work
Hellenistic Lives Matter (And So Does the Ministry of the Word)
The Gospel is NOT a Fad
Beauty and the But
Where Does That Come From?
Living Bolder as We Grow Older
What Makes a Man Fit for Judgment, Ministry and a Ready Response - Acts 4:7-23
The Beginning of Persecution and the Proper Reason for It. - Acts 4:1-12
The First and Enduring Attributes of Christ’s Church
The First Savior Exalting Sermon of the Church
The Gift of Tongues Part 2
Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church
From Judas to Matthias: How to Choose Leaders and Find Hope in Failed Ones
The King’s Orders for the King’s New Men
The Story Before the Beginning of the Story: Genesis - Acts 1
Welcome. It's great to be together. We are making our way through Acts. One of the things that is unfortunate sometimes about the way the English Bible is put together is we have chapter breaks. Chapter breaks are there, and we are conditioned when we see them to think something new is starting. That's not at all the case right here in Acts 3 and 4.
It was a thousand-plus years after we had our Bible that people started putting verses and chapter in place so we could turn together in the scroll to the place we wanted to study together. It's easy to turn to the scroll if you have one. I hope you bring it with you. We're in Acts 4, but you need to know we're continuing what we have looked at over the last two weeks.
It's an amazing story of Peter and John, who were just on their way to go to the temple to pray. They were on their way to remind themselves of the provision of God. As Jewish people who believed that the Messiah had come, they continued to do very Jewish things, including going to the temple to worship and to pray.
While they were there, on their way there, outside the gate called Beautiful, the Scripture says in Acts 3, they came across a guy who had been lame for we know 40 years, according to something we read a little bit later in Acts 4. This guy had probably been there begging for a long time. It is worth noting that Jesus probably went through that exact same gate a number of times and probably passed this guy and chose not to heal him himself in that particular moment.
You have to remember this about Jesus. The reason he healed people when he was here on earth was not to draw a crowd. He didn't heal everybody in order to evidence that he was here just to take care of the physical effects of sin. Let me just share with you this. I shared this with my friends at The Porch who I was with on Tuesday night. I got a chance to speak to them.
It feels like this world is going crazy and falling apart all around us. The world has been falling apart ever since Genesis 3. There have always been trials and travails. There have always been mass murders. There have always been suicides. There has always been terror. There have always been wars, ever since Genesis 3.
This is just our time in history to live in the midst of it. We know it is going to only increase until it gets better. When Jesus was here, he did not heal every physical infirmity. He did not deal with every physical manifestation of sin. What he did do at times was illustrate his ability to reverse the effects of sin to show that he was sovereign over sin and what it brought, which was death.
If you're with us and are not around Watermark very much, one of the things we have here is we partner with this thing called The Journey. You can go to jointhejourney.com just to read with us every day. Whatever we're doing individually, we collectively as a body can be in the same place in Scriptures and just talk about, "Hey, man. Did you read that today? Wasn't that great in Luke?" That's where we are right now.
There was a story this week about a group of friends who had a person who was lame, just like the guy Peter and John were about to heal in Acts 3-4 that we're studying. They wanted to get him to Jesus because Jesus was healing a lot of people, not everybody, but they tried to get to him. The room was so packed that they couldn't get in, so they just went up on the roof and pulled back the thatches, if you will, and lowered him down.
Jesus looked at this guy and went, "Wow. I see your faith. Your faith has made you well. Your sins are forgiven." People were like, "Who are you to forgive sins? Only God can forgive sins committed against him." Jesus said in effect, "That's a really good point, but so that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth and in heaven to forgive sins, I'm going to do something else that only God can do. I say to you, take up your pallet and walk."
It was an authenticating work that he did to show you, "Listen. I'm not really concerned about a person's lameness or acne, cancer, or even spina bifida. Those are tragic things that were not in the world prior to sin and death, but those aren't man's biggest problems. It's why when he healed a guy who had been lame for 38 years about 200 yards from where Peter and John were about to heal this guy, he said to him a little bit later, "Go and sin no more lest something worse happens to you."
You're like, "Hey, I've been lame for 38 years. What worse could happen to me?" The answer is that you could die separate and apart from a relationship with God and his gracious provision, Jesus Christ, to where you're walking on this earth in a way that other men don't see your lameness, but you are separated from God because you're not able to walk the way God wants you to. You don't do what is pleasing to him.
Therefore, you are dead in your trespasses and sins. You might journey through this life in a way that everybody things you can sing and dance, but you don't have a song and a dance or a chance before God. You're going to be separated from him for eternity unless you deal with that which brings lameness and blindness and captivity to prisoners on this earth, and that is sin.
Sometimes, Jesus, whether it be demonic expressions of rebellion, physical disease, or a corrupt nature that we live in the midst of… He brought calm and peace and healing to it as an illustration that he was more powerful than sin and its effects. Ultimately, he dealt with our problem, which is sin, on the cross, that we could be forgiven and left in a world that was still going to have the effects of sin.
This is not our Father's world. He is sovereign over it, but this right now is the domain of the Prince of Darkness. God is in it and working and rescuing people, and there is going to be a day when God deals with sin and death everywhere, but he's not going to do it completely and finally until he has rescued everybody he can.
He is patient toward you. He's not slow as some count slowness, but he desires that nobody dies apart from an understanding of Jesus and God's gracious provision. He told his believers, "I'm going to leave you here. In this world, you're going to have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world. Tell other people that I have overcome the world. You endure the trouble with all the effects of sin, sometimes in your physical body, always in the world around you, but you tell them I'm coming."
There is a Real Truth. Real Quick.that you ought to pass along. It's about why God doesn't stop terror and mass shootings. In that, I explain why Jesus, if you will, didn't heal everybody when he walked by them on the way to the temple. If God was going to deal with all of sin and all of its effects, that meant he had to deal with the sin in me and you.
The way that Jesus dealt with the sin in me and you was by going to the cross for us, not just healing the world from the effects of sin. See, if God was going to get rid of all acts of terror, he would have to get rid of everything which brings terror on the earth, which is the deeds of sinful men. The way God wants to deal with the deeds of sinful men is with grace.
If men won't respond to grace, there will be a day that he will deal with it with judgment. Now is the day of grace, my friends. There are still going to be things that God is going to judge happening all around us. It's ours to give people hope in the midst of it. Peter and John had a chance to do that with this guy. In Acts 3, we see this amazing event happen.
That amazing event that happens turns into an opportunity for Peter and John to give a message. As we read Acts 4, we're going to find out that about 2,000 men trusted Christ in the midst of that message because a lot of people were on the Temple Mount. They heard Peter talk about the way he healed this man, which wasn't through his own efforts and his own works. It was through his belief in who Jesus was and Jesus' will to reveal himself at that time by dealing with that man's physical effects of sin.
It wasn't long after he did that that opposition showed up. That's where we're picking up in the story today. We're picking up in the story where opposition, for the first time, enters into the life of the church. You see, the church was going to follow in the steps of Jesus. I can remember early on in my faith, when I began to walk with Christ, I realized there were a lot of people who did not want me around, not because I was always telling them they were going to hell. In fact, I very rarely did.
I told them about my new life in Christ, but because I was not participating in their hell, because I was not continuing to celebrate with them the rebellion of youth and the things we did prior to that to one another, with one another, and to ourselves, to intoxicate and please ourselves away from the pain that was in our world or to find life where we thought we could find it, I was no longer welcome because my not living as they lived was a source of conviction to them, even when I didn't speak.
I can remember opening my Bible. I was reading in John 15. In John 15, I came across this section in verse 18 and following. It was a great encouragement to me. It said, "If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of this world, the world would not hate you. Because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of this world, because of this, the world hates you."
You're about to see that fleshed out for the very first time in the life of the church. I want you to note why they noticed the church. I want you to notice how the church responds in the midst of it. I want you to see what we are called to do. Sometimes people ask me this question. They ask me, "Todd, would you believe in Christianity if it wasn't true?" It seems like a funny question, doesn't it?
In other words, "Is this just some cultural thing you're a part of and something you would choose to do?" I sometimes hear people make the case, "Even if Christianity wasn't true, we should live like it is." Let me just say this. I believe that the Judeo-Christian ethic is the absolute best way for society to organize itself. There's no question.
Listen. I'm just going to tell you something. Why would a society care to organize itself if we're just here because of time plus nothing plus chance? If our goal is to live as sanely as we can, as in a blessed state by our own collective thought as we could, we would want to live by the Judeo-Christian ethic. My question is, "Why do we want to live in a sane way that makes sense to us all if all we're going to do is die and go back to being food for the worms anyway?"
In other words, why wouldn't we do what is logical to do, which is, "Hey, let's get all the fun we can, all the juice we can out of this orange of the moment, and then when it becomes more painful for me to be here and have to work to get pleasure or my benefit isn't worth my gain, why not just CLEP out of this bad boy and go to sleep forever?"
Listen. You might ask yourself, "Why don't more people do this who claim that they're atheists?" I'm going to tell you that the reason they don't do this is because God has set eternity in our hearts. No matter how much we want to deny the existence of God and act like God is not there, we know that there is some other reason that we're here as opposed to just cells spontaneously coming together and making their way out of the primordial slop and getting on land and crawling around for a while and becoming truck-drivers and eventually churchgoers.
I don't know. It happens that we all have a sense that something divine is going on here. I'm just going to tell you the truth. There is no question that the Judeo-Christian ethic is the best way to form a society, but I would say to you what Paul said to you. I would say this to some of you who have asked me if I would believe this. I would say no. Why would I believe something if it's not true?
I would say exactly what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul said, "If there is no resurrection, then we make this idea of God of the Scriptures out to be a liar. Christ hasn't been raised. If Christ hasn't been raised, then our preaching is in vain. Our faith is also in vain." He goes on to say, "We above all men are to be pitied, and we above all men are fools."
A little bit later, he said, "Why would I have put up with what I have put up with and fought wild beasts at Ephesus? If there is no God, and Jesus isn't who he said he is, then eat and drink and be merry, because tomorrow, we die." In other words, "Be an epicurean, man. Be a hedonist. Do everything you can to make this life great, then let's move on."
I would not believe this if it wasn't true. By the way, whenever I talk to people who have a problem with the claims of the Scripture, I always say, "I want you to know something. We don't have faith that goes against reason. We have a faith that goes beyond reason." In other words, we can't absolutely, definitively prove everything without any further conversation, but the preponderance of the evidence, everything we can see and test points to the story of Christ and the Scriptures being exactly what it says it is.
I want to answer your intellectual arguments, but I'm not going to pander to your intellectual arrogance. Do you really want to know if there are answers to your questions? I want to ask you this. I'll answer your questions, but if we can give you a satisfactory answer to those questions, are you ready to get on your knees, repent, acknowledge God, follow his Son, call him Lord, and live in submission to him? If not, then we're just wasting our time.
I want you to know something. Some people think the opposite of faith is reason. It's not. The opposite of faith is unbelief. The opposite of reason is irrationality. We have a faith that is informed by reason. If something is true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it. That's why we have this thing called Great Questions every Monday night where we welcome anybody from anywhere at any time to come and let us reason together.
Let's ask ourselves the questions you want to ask, and let's enter into a conversation. You're not going to offend us. We're not going to love you more if you agree with us, but we're going to love you enough to help you wrestle with the reality of the world you live in. Great Questions happens every Monday night at 6:30 right here on the Dallas Campus.
It's not a place to come and be equipped for how to answer these question. We have Equipping Classes and Training Days for that. If you know friends whose reason for not believing is what they say is an intellectual one, first of all, study to show yourself approved so you can answer those questions. Find out when the Equipping Classes and Training Days are so we can help you with that. Send them, if you want, to come to a place where our church welcomes those conversations.
Of course, I wouldn't believe in this if it wasn't true. I have a different question I want to ask you. You have to be able to answer it after we look at what we're studying today. The question is not whether you would believe in Christianity if it wasn't true. I'll ask it this way to you…Would you be obedient to Christ even if it cost you popularity, prosperity, and almost guaranteed persecution?
Would you believe in Jesus and radically follow him if it was going to cost you popularity and prosperity? There are some fools who are out there who will say that if you believe in Jesus, you're going to become healthier and wealthier and wise all the rest of your days. Acts 4 is the New Testament introduction to, "That is not the story."
You are going to be at war with religiously intolerant people, politically oppressive people, and intellectually elite people who will tell you that you have a stupid faith, and they will do everything they can to shout you down. That's Acts 4. You're going to see what our greatest argument against the idea that this isn't true is and the means through which we are to respond. Sound relevant? Let's read it.
Here we go. Acts 4: "As they were speaking to the people…" If you would, go back and read the continuation of the story. Peter and John had healed a guy. Peter were shocked at what happened to this particular guy. Now, they shared a story about how they were able to heal this guy through the power of the resurrection. God, in this moment, was going to show how he can reverse the effects of sin in a moment in this guy's life as a testimony that he could do it in everybody's life if they would trust in the provision of the resurrection.
Here the priest shows up, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees. Let me tell you about each of these folks. The priests were basically folks who said, "This Jesus idea just won't die." That's because he's risen. "We had a hard time when he was alive. Now, we're having a hard time with his body."
What we're about to see is that Jesus, God, is still at work, not through the physical body of Christ who is the fullest revelation of who God is but through the spiritual body of Christ, the church, that will be, for this present age, God's clearest revelation of who he is, his concern, his care, and his power. That's you and me.
Do you remember what Jesus said to them in Acts 1? "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses. You'll do it in Jerusalem. You'll do it in Judea. You'll do it in Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world, but I'm going to keep working. These things I've done, even greater works than these will you do, not in kind or type but in scope and in terms of effect in the lives of people."
Jesus is the only one who can redeem sinful men, but the church is the means through which sinful men who have been saved through the work of Christ will proclaim to other men where their sin can be dealt with. God continues to work through his spiritual body, the church. Just like Jesus preached the provision of God when he was here, now the church is preaching the provision of God. When Jesus preached, he said, "It's all about me." When the church preaches, it says, "It's all about Jesus."
Watermark didn't save anybody. Todd Wagner didn't save anybody. Peter and John didn't heal anybody. It's Jesus, and we lift him up. When he is lifted up, God draws men to him. The religious elite didn't like that. They were intolerant of any other idea. That continues to be the case in the world today. I've mentioned to you about persecution that is in the world today. You need to know this about persecution.
People who study this stuff… There is some discussion about how you can say this based on how you measure people and what they die for. There are more people who have died for their faith in the last 100 years than the previous 1,900 years combined. Did you hear that? We sometimes think of persecution as something that happened way back when in the early days of the church. More Christians have died for their faith in the last 100 years than the previous 1,900 years combined.
Some numbers say it's as many as 115,000, depending on how you count those folks. It's one every five minutes. Even the most conservative numbers though have at least one believer dying an hour. In other words, if you take away genocides and mass murders of ethnicities of people who embrace the idea of Christendom, sometimes Christians killing Christians…
If you take Christians persecuted for their faith, the most conservative people put that number around 10,000 in the last year. That is one believer an hour dying for their faith. That's a very conservative number. This idea of losing your life, which is persecution… I don't know about you, but I have never had anybody lay a hand on me because of my belief. I maybe have lost out on popularity, and I have lost out on some prosperity because of the way I choose to live, but church, you have to be ready.
The religiously intolerant, like in Iran… It's interesting. The political state in Iran is kind of a combination of what would be called the temple guard… The temple guard was the Roman guard that came there. Their job was to make sure these Jews who they let worship their God in Jerusalem, even though they were a subject state to Rome…
They could worship how they wanted, but they could never get caught up in some kind of religious fervor or confidence in their coming Messiah that they would insurrect against the God they worshipped, which was Caesar in Rome. The temple guard came when there was some disturbance that was happening there in the Temple Mount to put it down.
The religious priests who were there were intolerant of any idea other than the one they embraced, and the Sadducees were the ruling party that were there. The Sadducees were the people who made up what was called the Sanhedrin. You need to know this when you read your Bible. There is the Sanhedrin. There are the scribes. There are the Pharisees. There are the Sadducees. All of these different groups had a little bit different expression.
Let me tell you how you can remember some of them. The Pharisees were keepers of the law. The were part of the common rabbinical priesthood. They were at enmity with the Sadducees. The Sadducees were really the conservatives' conservative. They only believed in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah.
The Pharisees believed in the Prophets and the Poets and the Psalms and things of that sort, but the Sadducees rejected that. They rejected the idea of angelic beings. They rejected the idea of life after the grave. The way you remember the Sadducees is they didn't believe in a resurrection. That's why they were sad, you see. It's a little vacation Bible school way to remember these guys.
They made up the ruling class. They were the intellectual elite. They were better than even the Pharisees. "We don't believe in your nonsense of the resurrection." Here, Peter and John are saying, "Jesus is the Messiah." The priests don't like that. The people are seeing the mighty works of God. It's causing a stir. The political powers that be don't like that.
The Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection, are hearing these guys say, "The reason you can believe Jesus is the Messiah is because of the resurrection, and that resurrection power is what just did this thing that you can really see." Look what was against the church. See if this sounds familiar. Political pressures, religious intolerance, intellectual rationalistic thought. It has always been there, and it's just our time to be faithful in light of it.
You're going to watch how we can be faithful in light of it. I started talking about Iran. Iran is a combination of the first two. In Iran, if you're a Christian today, what they really charge you with is treason. Why? The religiously intolerant overthrew the Shah in the late 70s, and they instituted Sharia law. Because Islamic law is the law of the land, if you do anything that would claim that Jesus is who he said he was, you are, in effect, messing with the constitutionality of the state.
When you're in the church, it's not just that you're offending Muhammad as God's prophet. You are basically overthrowing the government. That's how they get behind religious persecution. They go, "We're not persecuting believers. We're persecuting insurrectionists." Wherever it is coming from, you can be sure that these things that you're facing… Again, watch this. Rationalistic, higher intellectual thought; political, governmental pressures; and religious intolerance still are what the church is up against.
Watch how the church handled it. It says, "And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening." We know from Acts 3 that around 3:00 that day was when this healing eventually happened. Peter and John went in and prayed, and when they came back out, there was no small stir. Peter then preached this message, and we find out, "But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand."
You add it to the 3,000 who trusted Christ on the day of Pentecost, and now we have 5,000 folks, so 2,000 were added to the church. "On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem…" The rulers were the Sanhedrin, made up mostly of Sadducees. The elders were the leaders of the rabbinical tribes. The Pharisees and the scribes were the keepers of the law and their students. They were gathered together in Jerusalem.
Annas, the high priest, was there, and Caiaphas and his brothers-in-law, who were also sons of Annas, named John and Alexander. All who were there were of high priestly descent. Just remember it wasn't but six to eight weeks earlier that Jesus was called before the exact same men, Annas and Caiaphas, the high priest. They put him to death because he had said among other things, "You destroy this temple, and in three days, I will take it back up again," and because he claimed to be very God of very God.
He said he would prove that by not allowing death to rule over him. Peter, one of the guys who is here, was asked by two servant girls and then a Roman guard of the temple if he was associated with Jesus, and Peter said no and ran off into the night. Now, here we are just weeks later, and Peter is before the exact same men, and he is a very different Peter. Why? Answer: the resurrection had become real to him. He saw the power of God.
Because God had given him, through his faith in Jesus, a relationship with God which did not allow the spirit of timidity which is in all men to rule him, he is now about to be his witness because he is certain in whom he has believed, and he knows that God is able to guard him until that day. Here he goes against religious intolerance, governmental pressure, and rationalistic, intellectual elitism. He said, "Let's talk." Here he goes.
"When they had placed them [Peter and John] ** in the center, they began to inquire, 'By what power, or in what name, have you done this?'"** In other words, "You have to tell me how you guys are out there declaring what you're declaring and doing what you're doing." It's interesting. Most of us, when people walk up to us and say something like this to us and go, "Tell what forms you're thinking. Why are you doing this?" It's usually because we're acting a fool. Right?
People go, "What in the world were you thinking?" My wife and I went to Africa one time. We were over there. I was teaching on leadership and conflict resolution and forgiveness. While we were there, we thought it would be a good idea to buy our kids some machetes and knives from the Maasai warriors, which was fine, as long as they put them nicely in the room and displayed them and maybe took them to show-and-tell when they were kids.
A couple of weeks after we were back, my wife and I were out, and we come home, and all of a sudden, we open our gate, and we drive in the back, and there are the boys, dressed up in their best Maasai warrior costumes, with machetes and knives, bouncing on the trampoline. I asked a question very similar to what Annas and Caiaphas asked Peter and John. "What are you doing, and by what authority are you doing this? If you're not careful, you're going to cut my trampoline with those things." No.
Notice that is not why these guys are being assaulted right here. I love what Peter says to them. Peter looks at them when they're asking this question. By the way, that question ought to be asked as you live your life in a way that is alien and strange to this world, not because you're an idiot bouncing on a trampoline with machetes and knives or an idiot parent who left kids at home alone with machetes and knives, either way you want to go with that.
When the world looks at us, they ought to watch the way we bounce through this life in a way that they go, "You have to explain that to me." It says in 1 Peter 3:15, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your life…" In other words, become more and more like this divine one. "…and always be prepared to give a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you."
What had Peter and John done? They had walked up to this guy who was made this way by God, who was born this way, and they looked at him, and they said, "Do you not want to be that way? Then have faith in Jesus and his resurrected glory, and he can change you." What happened is that guy's life was changed, and a bunch of people wanted to hear more about why that guy's life was changed.
It opened up a great opportunity, but notice this. It was the confidence of Peter and John that was completely a mystery to these men. This was no scared guy running away from campfires anymore. He had the authority and the boldness to offer people life, transformation, and healing, not in the way that the dead religions of the world offered it, not through moving forward in terms of city government and worldly power, but in something far greater.
They said, "Where do you get this hope?" It's a dream question for a Christian. If you have not been asked that question, you might want to ask yourself if you're bouncing in a way that is as strange and foreign to the world as you should be. If what you're doing can be explained apart from the resurrection, then you're not living all the ways God wants you to live.
Peter and John were different men because of the resurrection, and the world was looking at them like, "You have to explain your life to me." That's the church. "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man…'" That's a great way to start, isn't it? "Is the reason you have us here because we've been doing good in the lives of others? Is that why you're so curious about us?
Is it because you're frustrated that there is no power in your dead religion, in your worldly system, in your intellectual thought, that you can't change the destiny of men and the way they were born, that when you see God use us to interrupt the effects of sin in somebody's life, you're so curious about it that you want to know how you too can know the power of God? Is that why we're here?"
Let me just say this to you right here. This is powerful stuff. Changed lives always have been and always will be our greatest testimony. The best defense of the Christian life is a powerfully changed person. An individual life changed is the means through which a nation can be changed. Did y'all get that? We're not just people who preach massive messages and have some collective response. It was just the opposite way around.
There was an individual life that was changed that was so radically changed that the masses gathered and said, "Tell us about that power." That should be your story. Maybe your story is that you were born in to a family of grace. You knew Christ at an early age, so you never lived a life that was defined by rebellion and the havoc that is in this world, so you don't have the scars and the bitterness and the anger and the hurt and the hang-ups that most people do.
People go, "Why is your life so different?" You want to say, "By the grace of God, I was raised to understand the goodness of God from an early age. I've never tried to find life apart from him. I'm not better than you. It's God's grace working in me. Let me just tell you something. If you see the peace and the joy in my life, let me invite you into it."
That's a miraculous testimony. You don't have to go and experience the sin of the world to know how bad it tastes. You see it all the time. Wise men learn more from fools than fools do from wise men because while fools will never learn from the wisdom of the wise, wise men will learn from the suffering of fools. I see it all the time.
I don't have to wonder if the sweetness of sexual rebellion is worth it. I talk to guys all the time who have tasted that sweet nectar for a moment and are experiencing the fallout of that. It's amazing to me the allure of that still in my life. The temptation is real, but I don't have to go see that it doesn't satisfy to know that it doesn't satisfy. I have to war against it and fight against it, but I don't need to have that in my past to know it isn't where life is. I talk to folks all the time who know it's not where life is.
The power of a changed life is our greatest story. I think about one of our Watermark News stories from years ago. It's one of my favorite ones. The reason we tell stories here every week is because we want you to see that individual lives change. We're not just a big social club trying to add members. We are a collection of individuals whose lives have been radically changed.
There is a gal who is in our body who had come out of all of the horrors you can imagine. She's a young woman who had not been raised in the ways of God in terms of just self-harm and trying to find validation in the arms of men and all the craziness that went with it, the way she medicated with her own pain and the way she tried to provide for herself by making her body an object of observation, adoration of men, and the way she medicated herself to deal with the shame and pain that came with all that was around that.
There was the drug and the alcohol addiction and the self-hate and the cutting and the loathing that went on with her. She had come to Christ here. As her life was slowly changed, and as this healing started to happen in her life, eventually, she made her way into a Watermark News story. We're just celebrating this Gadarene demoniac, this woman who used to be a terror to herself and others, who was living among the dead, who is now clothed in her right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Going alongside of this, there was a guy, a member of Watermark, who was praying for the guys he was working with. He was loving them and working with them at this firm here in town. There was one guy in his firm who he knew was the farthest from God, who he knew was the one guy he would probably never reach at his firm, but he kept inviting him to come. "Come and see the power of God working in the lives of people here."
This guy, for whatever reason, eventually said yes to an invitation to come. He walks in here just some random Sunday with his friend. When he walks in, he was handed a Watermark News. He walks down the aisle. He sits down next to his friend. He starts looking at the Watermark News. He looks at his friend, and he goes, "What are you doing?" He goes, "What do you mean?" He goes, "What are you doing? Did you tell them?"
He goes, "I don't even know what you're talking about." He goes, "Look at this. Do you remember that girl I used to always talk about who I was living with who was crazy? She was so wild that I couldn't put up with her. Eventually, I kicked her out, and I moved out with her. This is that girl." The wildest guy in his office who would talk about the crazy things he did with women and the crazy women he was with lived with this girl for a while and got rid of her because she was too crazy.
Then he shows up in here on some random Sunday, and that's the story of life change he's confronted with. Let me just tell you something, man. You have to keep telling your story. Last week, I wasn't teaching, so I had a chance to jump out there and help park. I watched. This happens a lot. When you guys are walking by me, I turn and look and go, "Man, you guys are a good-looking church." There are a few outstanding exceptions to that, but by and large, I was like, "I see why they say Watermark is a church full of pretty people."
We're not, are we? Listen. Do you know who we are? You don't know our stories. This Watermark News story is sitting all over you. We are cutters and abusers and adulterers and living in darkness and selfishness and materialism. We're filled with self-love and self-loathing, and we've done everything we can to pursue all of the excesses of both.
By the grace of God, we've run to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, and we are clothed in our right mind, presenting ourselves at the feet of Jesus in a way that makes it look like our lives have always been beautiful. Our lives have not always been beautiful. If you're a guest here, you need to know something. He is making us beautiful again.
I know we look like we all came out of some seminary that started in the crib. That's not the case. We have been lame from the beginning. By the way, let me just tell you about this lame man. Again, an individual changed life is the most powerful testimony we have. Do you want to look at this guy? I love what is true about this one guy that is causing the whole world to go, "Tell us more about the power that changed him." He was born lame, which is to say he was unable to walk in a way that was pleasing.
He was poor, right? He was begging and needed provision, which means he was in debt, bankrupt, unable to provide for himself. That's what he needed, just like you are dead in your trespasses and sins. You have a great debt before God. He was outside the temple. He couldn't go in the temple. He was separated from God because of his lameness and his sin.
He was healed wholly by the grace of God. There was nothing this guy did to be healed except believe, for by grace we have been saved, through faith, and not of ourselves. It's the gift of God. He was changed wholly by the grace of God. He wasn't just saved by the grace of God. He was then transformed by the grace of God.
Go back and look at Acts 3 where it says he was walking and leaping and praising God. His life was completely changed when he met the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. He didn't just change how he lived. He changed where he lived and who he lived with. He was with the saints, clinging to the church. It says in Acts 3:10 that he was clinging to the disciples, and other people saw his life and wanted to know the power behind it.
Guys, let me just tell you that an individual life change is the means through which this nation can change. When we come here, we have to make sure that people know we're collective individuals who have been transformed. I want you to know something. The ministry you have with your neighbor, the ministry you have with folks in your office who you think are the last people who are going to trust Christ, that life being changed is the power of the gospel.
I know one guy who would go preach in one area for one time for a long time, he used to always pray that God would take the most radically lost person there and change them because he knew that was going to be the means through which everybody else would say, "How did that happen?" You go after those who you think can never be gotten, and you pray that they have a radical encounter with Jesus.
Guess what. The way they're going to have a radical encounter with Jesus is they're going to meet you, somebody who knows Jesus. When they sit there and pop off about their lame life, you can look at them and say, "Do you want to be healed? You believe in Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection, and you follow me as I follow him." That's all Peter and John did.
That witness of those men and that testimony of that changed life created this moment. Part of the moment was persecution, but watch what they do. He said, "If we are on trial today for a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known it was through Jesus." Again, he always takes it back to Jesus.
Watch what he says. "Do you want to know how this guy has been made well? Do you want to know why we're here? We're here because you have seen us do good." This is worth noting, people. When Peter was writing toward the end of his life, he was quick to tell folks that when you draw attention from intellectual elitism and from government pressures and from religious intolerance, make sure the thing that catches their attention is your salt and your light, not your sin and your licentiousness.
In 1 Peter 4, when Peter is wrapping up his life, he says it this way. He says, "You're going to get persecution. The church always gets hated." Verse 12. He says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…"
If you radically follow Jesus, you can be sure it is going to cost you popularity, prosperity, and probably bring persecution. Don't be surprised. That's what Jesus said. Watch this. "…but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of his glory you may rejoice with exultation.
If you are reviled…" Watch this. "…for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name."
That's why we're told in 1 Peter 2:12, "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." That's why he says in 1 Peter 2:20, "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?"
That's what you should do. You should endure it when you live foolish, sinful lives, but if you live a holy life and do good and people see the good you do and you suffer, praise be to God. Just expect it. That's what all of the other philosophies and world religions of men will do. Anything that threatens their power and influence they want to put out.
Any government that they think is not going to help them prosper will put it out. Any intellectual leader who thinks they know better than you will come after you, but you cling to what you know is true. Do you know it's true? That's the only way you're going to change this world, to be convinced of the resurrection.
I'm going to say it again. If you have a life that can be explained apart from the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, you have a life that is out of step with the will of God. Let me say this to you. This persecution came because of what the church was doing, right? Here's a statement. Make sure you're persecuted for the good you are doing in Jesus' name and not the foolishness you are capable of doing when you don't walk with Jesus.
That's why the church was persecuted. Make sure you're persecuted for the good you're doing in Jesus' name and not the foolishness you're capable of doing when you don't walk with Jesus. The early church was a source of irritation to the world because they saw them do something they couldn't explain and because their explanation for it was the gospel.
The truth is while we're being persecuted, they ought to see something in us that makes them go, "You know, we don't like much what they say, but we can't argue with who they are." I have said this to you before. I'll say it again. If we're the only people who care that we believe in the righteousness of God and the revelation of God through the law, then we're not the people God wants us to be.
That is to say if Watermark shuts down next week and no one cares except those of us who come here, then we have failed. The world ought to go, "We don't like why they do what they do, but we love what they do." If we're God's people, this is a fact. The city should weep and mourn if the church of Jesus Christ is taken out. They should cry to God and pray for our resurrection if we're killed because they see the good God is doing and that is being accomplished in this city.
It's why this year, we tried to set you up. At the beginning of the summer, we brought to you this idea that you should get to work and see your city. You should go down there with our partners at ACT and Brother Bill and Cornerstone Crossroads Academy and Exodus and Interfaith Family Ministries and Mercy Street and Noteworthy and OurCalling.
We said, "Get busy with Readers 2 Leaders in helping other people. Go seek the welfare in the city you live. Go serve in the name of the resurrected one, Jesus Christ." I didn't even know this was going to be the Watermark News story today, but here's a story of the Treadaways and the Solomons, who are busy in their elementary schools, at RISD Academy, bringing light; at Northlake Elementary and Lake Highlands, bringing light; in Plano they're up there working with Sigler Elementary, and in Fort Worth you guys are working with Phillips Elementary.
I'm just telling you folks that the city ought to go, "We don't much love their narrow-mindedness about Jesus, but we can't argue with who they are. Their behavior is excellent among the Gentiles. We want to see why they're doing it." You should tell them, "We're doing it because God loves us, and the greatest evidence of that love is the stone that the builders rejected."
This is what Peter said in Acts 4, right there in verse 11. He said, "The stone which the builders rejected is the cornerstone." The one the world now scoffs at… We still take his name in vain, and we sing, "God Bless America." "We don't know God, but that God who manifested himself through Jesus Christ, he's the one who we built our lives on. What you see us doing is following him. In his name do we serve this city, and in his name do we let lame men walk again. I'm one of those lame men. My life has been changed by him, and he can change yours."
You should go on and, in a very unapologetic way, say just like Peter did, "You are the ones who sent him to the cross." We weren't physically there to nail Jesus to the cross. We were not part of the Roman authorities who put him on the cross, but my sin put him there. In your Christian example, as you start to educate, make sure that you convict.
You tell people that the reason Jesus was resurrected was because he died. "The reason he died is that men sinned. Men's sin requires a payment. Lame guys can't work to make their payment, so you're in debt to God, but guess what. God demonstrates his love toward us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
You make sure you tell them that there is no other name by which they can be saved except that of Jesus Christ. You make sure you tell them that there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which they must be saved except Jesus. You be unashamed about your gospel. You be unashamed about why you're doing what you're doing.
When they say, "Can you explain your life to me?" you say, "You bet I can. There was a resurrection that happened for me, and I have put my faith in this Jesus, and you should respond to him." Gang, sometimes, when I'm doing this (I'll close with this), people look at me and go, "Auuugggghhhh."
I just say, "Hey, on July 24, 2016… There is a lot that happens in the church that you may not like, but today, you ran against somebody whose life you saw that was different, who served you in a way that you acknowledge was different, that was like an alien and a stranger among you. I'm telling you the reason my life is different, the reason my life isn't defined by chaos and immorality and troublesome meddling is because of Jesus.
He's the one who allows me to walk and praise and sing of him. You have now met one of his servants. When you stand before the Lord, if you never meet another one, God is going to remind you of this conversation and that you scoffed at his provision. Be free. I'm not going to love you more if you agree, but you are on notice."
I have a guy I know who, when he is talking to people, just says flat out to them, "Do you want to pray to receive Christ and trust in him and submit to him at this moment?" The guy goes, "No, I don't think I do." He says, "Well, then will you pray this with me? 'God, I reject you. I refuse to accept your provision in Jesus Christ. If there is a hell, will you send me to it?'" The guy goes, "No, I don't believe I want to pray that either."
He goes, "Well, you need to know something. 'For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.' 'God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through him.' This is what you need to know.
'He who believes in him is not judged, but he who does not believe in him is judged already.' You are refusing God and rejecting his provision, and you are inviting continued hell in your life. You don't have to pray it. You're just saying it." Do you think that's a dividing line? That's the job of the church.
Father, I pray we would be your church, and when we're persecuted, that we would not be persecuted because we are troublesome meddlers, adulterers, and evildoers, but because we're disrupting the religion of men, the lust of power of governments, or because we are taken captive by the foolishness of men and speculations against the power of God.
Help us, Father, to be bold. Help us to be ready. Help us to be willing. Help us to be convinced of the resurrection, to live for and in light of it excellently before all who do not know you, that we can offer them life if they would just believe in this Jesus and the power he brings. Lord, would our lives be part of that powerful testimony that changes people.
Would our lives be used by you to bring healing to others, and would our lives be certain about the source of that transformation? It is Jesus, the gospel, the resurrection. Help us to preach it for your glory and others' good. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Hey, if you know him, go serve him. Go see the city. Go serve the city. If you don't, come on. Come meet him. God bless you. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.