The first believers prayed for boldness to preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ and received abundant grace not only to speak amidst persecution, but to selflessly love others in ways not natural to man. In Acts 4:32-35, we see the Church operating according to its intended purpose, which has not changed.
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
Good morning. How is everybody doing? Are y'all ready to spend some time talking to each other about the Lord and what you've learned this week? All right. I hope you are. Always be ready. Let's see if we can't grow our hearts a little bit so we'll have something to share with others, not just this week or today but with our entire lives in the way God intends. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for this community of friends who are together. We thank you for friends who are hear with us who maybe aren't a part of this community or maybe don't even have a relationship with you yet or are trying to figure out what that really means. I pray that this morning, in the way we gather, the way we study, the way we look at your Word, that something would happen to conform each of our hearts more to your will, knowing that you're a good God, and when we are conformed into your will and live your way, it will go well with us.
You intend to bless us, to fill us with your Spirit where love and self-control and hope and peace overflow from us. We pray, Lord, that others would see that in us and would long to understand the source of it. We pray that today they would come to understand who you are, respond, and join us in being worshippers, not in just one hour but with our entire lives. Would you do that this morning? Teach us now as we open your Word. In Jesus' name, amen.
We're going to get almost all the way to the end of chapter 4. I won't cover the last two verses because they lead well into the next little section, when you start to understand about how God is very serious about us responding to what he calls us to do and not to have the appearance of godliness, and yet we deny his power. That's next week.
This week, we want to look at what the final apologetic is. It is the ultimate way to have some of the persecution we're going to face ultimately relieved. It's never going to go all the way away, but if we live our lives the way God intends us to, there ought to be a chorus of people who are constantly saying, "Hey, whatever you do, don't kill the Christians. Whatever you do, don't persecute those people because that is the greatest means of grace that exists in our land." That ought to be the reputation of the church.
Let me just start by asking you guys a question and showing you this in kind of a unique way. If you live your life the way God wants you to live your life, it will result in a renown. It will result in a source of favor. It will result in a source of others wanting to exalt you and protect you. Watch. Some people are going to want to kill you.
This is what is going on. Acts 4 here is a spot where we're seeing for the very first time that when you live the way Jesus wants you to, there are going to be some people who are offended by that, who are confronted with something they don't want to be confronted with that threatens their ability to oppress and control others, and they're not going to like you. You will experience a certain level of persecution, but there is going to be a defense against them, and God will build a defense for you if you do what we're going to learn to do today.
Remember. Here's the church. God said, "You shall be my witnesses." There are some people who say, "Quit witnessing about the fact that there was a man who came who claimed to be God, who happened to do things that affirmed his claim, including being raised from the dead. Quit telling us we're the ones who killed him. Quit telling us we're accountable to him. We don't like that. Quit empowering the people to have a relationship with God without being a part of our oppressive, religious structure."
There is a reason that in Islamic countries they don't like talk of biblical Christianity. It frees people from the oppressive rule of men who hide behind their Sharia law to control others. They don't much like when you threaten their power system. Jesus wants to set people free. Just like in those countries that exist today that I mentioned, there was a country then that was oppressing people through rabbinical, false Judaism and really frankly through paganism and just humanism and power as exalted by Rome. They face trouble, and they continue to speak.
There was something that happened that made others start to go, "Maybe we shouldn't be killing these folks." We have to ask ourselves if that is true of us today. Let me ask you this question. This is what I want to do as a way of illustration to get us started. How many of you guys know who Hellen Obiri is? Anybody? Not one person. How many of you guys know who Almaz Ayana is? Does that name ring a bell? That one should maybe even be a little familiar for other reasons. Mercy Cherono? Zero for three.
All right. How about if I throw out the name Abbey D'Agostino? Has anybody heard that name? Go ahead. Abbey D'Agostino. One person. All right. Nikki Hamblin? That's a little bit more familiar of a name. I saw two right there. Do you know who that is? Let me tell you why. What's interesting is the first three names I mentioned, they were the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners in the women's 5,000-meter race in the Rio Olympics that just passed a few short days ago. Pretty significant women.
How many of you know who Abbey D'Agostino is now? Anybody? "Now I think I might remember Abbey and Nikki Hamblin." Abbey and Nikki became famous because they finished nineteenth and twentieth in that same race. You're like, "Wait a minute, Todd. That doesn't make any sense." It makes sense when you understand what went down in that particular race.
What went down in that race is that while Nikki Hamblin, who is from New Zealand, was running, she came up behind another runner and clipped her shin on that person's cleats and stumbled a little bit, and that made Abbey run up into the back of her. They both tripped and fell over. As Abbey started to get up and catch the pack…
Abbey is no vague participant in this race. She's a seven-time NCAA champ, the most decorated Ivy League runner in the history of Dartmouth. She won NCAA cross country events. She won some indoor events and six other outdoor events. This woman could run and had a chance to compete for a medal, and all of a sudden, her Olympic dreams were dashed. As she rolled over Nikki and started to get up, she turned back and saw that person down. She goes, "Let's go. Get up. This is the Olympics. We can't quit."
She helped her up. Then as she started to run, after about 10 steps, she realized she wasn't going to be able to run very far at all. In fact, she had a torn meniscus and also ruptured her ACL. She had a mile to go in the race. Nikki had taken off and seen the girl who helped her up unable to run. She went back and helped her. Abbey, running with Nikki, ran the last mile with a torn ACL.
After the Olympics, they were awarded a medal that only 17 other athletes and only one other American had ever received, the Pierre de Coubertin medal of extreme sportsmanship. It is given to athletes who embody the spirit of the games and great sportsmanship, and they were celebrated. Abbey was actually thrown on TV the next day. Both girls were advanced to the finals. Abbey obviously did not start. Nikki finished way down because of some stuff that was going on with her.
Abbey was interviewed by Matt Lauer at NBC. This is what Matt Lauer said to her. "I think most people's instinct in that moment when colliding with another runner would be to get up and get back in the race. Abbey, it's weird. It seems your instinct was to turn around and lend a helping hand. Where does that come from?"
Okay. Let me just say something. We don't know anything about Abbey yet, but that's the question we want people to ask us. We ought to live our lives and be a people who live in such a way that when we're done living that way, they go, "That is the craziest thing I've ever seen, the way you love each other, the way you reconcile, the way you work through conflict, the way you use your resources to bless other people. Where does that come from?"
That's the question we ought to get. "The way you guys are married for five decades. The way you raise your kids. The way your teenagers love to be with you. The way you gather with joy and gladness and sincerity. Where does that come from?" First Peter 3:15. "…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" All that means is, "Become more like Jesus." Then it says, "Always be ready to make a defense whenever Matt Lauer asks you, 'Where does that come from?'" I have to tell you what is going on.
Most of the time, what Matt Lauer and others like him are doing is saying, "Hey, where does that hate for homosexuals come from? Why are your people holding placards at the funerals of dead servicemen that say, 'God hates fags'? Where does that come from. We don't want anything to do with you, church. We hope people kill you. We hope our government outlaws you." They love to celebrate that perverted, wrong, unbiblical expression of whatever they want to call it. It certainly isn't Christ's church.
How many times has the church's love for others been so outstanding that the world just goes, "Where does that come from?" Mother Teresa. You may not agree with Mother Teresa's particular theology, but have you ever heard anybody but look at Mother Teresa and go, "Where does that come from? How does she do that, walking through the streets of Calcutta, taking dying people's heads in her hands and loving on them so they can die with dignity. Where does that come from?
This is what Abbey said to Matt Lauer. She said, "That's a good question. I've been asked that quite a bit the last few days, and the thing about that moment is everything happened so fast. All I know is that I got up, and my instinct was, 'Turn around.' I said to her, 'We have to finish this. This is the Olympics.' I don't think that was me. I think it was literally the Spirit of God in me."
Now, when Abbey said that, there was a live audience that was sitting around Matt Lauer, and they all started clapping like, "Yes! Yes! If there is a Spirit of God in the world, that's exactly what he would do." The Spirit of God doesn't need the exaltation of man. He doesn't need some medal hung around his neck that is going to be forgotten about in a matter of days. You don't even know the names of the three girls who won the medals, yet there is a woman who has been lifted up and celebrated for the rest of her life. She's one of only 17 athletes.
Michael Phelps won how many gold medals? Over 20. But only 17 athletes in the history of the Olympics have been acknowledge as having outstanding sportsmanship in this regard. One of them was a guy named Carl Ludwig Long. Luz was his nickname. He also won this. In fact, he was the first one who received it posthumously. It was named after the guy who founded the modern Olympics. He founded the International Olympics Committee. That's Pierre from France.
Ludwig, or Luz as he was called, was the first to win this award. Do you know why? In 1936 in Berlin, when Hitler was expressing the grandeur of white Aryanism and its superiority over all other races, there happened to be an African American who came over from the United States of America. World records were harder to come by then. He was the U.S. world record holder. The European record holder, six-time European long jump champ, was Carl (Luz) Long.
During those particular Olympics that Owens became famous for because he won four gold medals (100-meter, 200-meter, 4 x 100, and the long jump), what you don't know is that Owens scratched twice. The first two qualifying jumps, you need to go 7.15 meters, which is 23 feet and three inches, something Owens had easily surpassed again and again in his competitions in the United States and his Olympic qualifying, but he scratched in his effort and his zeal to represent his country and to show that this idea of white Aryanism being a superior race was ludicrous.
He didn't get his steps right, and he went over the line his first two times and was ready to scratch out of the Olympics. What does his primary competitor do? In the face of his führer, he walks over to Owens. He puts his arm around him, and he says, "Listen, Jesse. This is 23 feet and three inches. You have outjumped this in your warmup. Back up a foot if you have to. Stay away from the mark. Alter your steps. You will easily clear the qualifying distance, and I will compete with you in the finals."
Owens did that, took off six inches behind the board, passed the mark to qualify by six inches, qualified for the finals that afternoon, and then five successive times, Ludwig and Owens broke the Olympic record until Jesse shattered it at some 27 feet. They gave Ludwig that accommodation because his sportsmanship in the face… They had actually walked off the track arm-in-arm together in front of Hitler. They said, "That's what humanity should look like."
It's interesting. They became friends after that, and Ludwig wrote to Owens consistently. The last letter he wrote, Owens got a year after his death. He became a part of the Nazi army. He was conscripted. This highly educated lawyer who was a world-class athlete was thrown into the ranks. You might wonder why. He died in northern Africa.
He wrote Owens a letter, and he said, "Jesse, the first time I saw you, you were on bended knee, and I know you were talking to God, and I believe God has brought us together, and I do believe now. I am beginning to believe in that God. Jesse, I think I'm going to die. Fate tells me that my death is near, and I send you this letter with only one request. Would you go to Germany? Would you find my son, and would you tell him what kind of man his father is?"
He died just a few short days after that. Owens did go to Germany, befriended Carl's son, and was best man in his wedding. If you were old enough, I would say, "And that is the rest of the story," like Paul Harvey. Isn't that good? That's worth getting up for right there. Now watch. Here is what I'm telling you. That's nothing except a right expression of what people who don't just believe in God in some intellectual way but who have God dwell within them…
If we have divine relationship with God, if divinity dwells within us, there ought to be a divine love. The world ought to go, "Where did that come from?" We are not to say it comes from our philosophical musings. We are not to say it comes from our will to be celebrated by men. We are to say, "We have learned it from our God who, though he was rich, for our sake, he became poor. We love one another, and we use what we have been given for the good of others."
Look at the text. Acts 4, verses 29 and following. "And now, Lord, take note of their threats…" I want to show you this one more time. This ties together. This is how the church responds to persecution. They gather up, and they go, "Lord, you see what they're doing. The world doesn't love us when we stand against their racism.
The world doesn't love us when we stand against their power moves. Take note of their threats, and all we ask is that you give me the boldness to walk over there, put my arms around a black man, and help him win, that helps me stop and help a New Zealander who is on the ground get up, say, 'This is the moment. Let's go together.' Lord, you help us.
Lord, help your bondservants first to speak your Word with all confidence while you extend your hand to heal. Lord, would you do things in us and through us, through your holy servant Jesus, that the world would look at in holy wonder?" That's the idea. Have you been praying that? Have you been willing to do that? Have you been walking across the track to your enemy and loving them? Have you been stopping your race for worldly praise and greater comfort and fleeting fame to care for other people? It's the mark.
You're going to find this out. Every time God is working to reveal himself through a new means of revelation, when he used Moses and the law to show the righteousness and the standard of God, there were attesting miracles. When he then brought prophets to say, "You're not paying attention to that law that shows my holiness," there were miracles of attestation.
When Jesus came and said, "I'm the visible image of the invisible God, the exact representation of his nature, and you might now that these aren't empty words but I am the vehicle through which God is revealing himself," there were miracles of attestation. When you get to the church and the church begins, there were miracles of attestation. That's how we got to where we are in Acts 4. There was a miracle God worked. It was a sign and wonder in the classic sense.
Let me just tell you something. During the time of Moses, during the time of the prophets, during the time of Jesus, and now during the church age, there was always one enduring sign. It existed in all four. It wasn't the flash of a rocket takeoff that everybody gathers to see where there are lepers being healed and axes coming up from the bottom of lakes and seas being parted and tombs being opened. It's like when a rocket takes off and everybody goes, "Wow, look at that."
What it was was that ongoing orbit that provided a new vision and a communication from God to the world. Nobody really likes to watch an orbit, but that orbit is what allows something to change. The ongoing miracle that orbits around the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, and the church is love. It's what marked Jesus. It's what marked the prophets. It's what marked Moses. And it's what marks the church.
Jesus says, "By this." If you think it was impressive for Jesus to feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, you ought to watch the miracle of watching 5,000 men live in a loving relationship with one another. That's the miracle of attestation that should continue throughout the church age. There are 5,000 people in the church right now according to Acts 4. Watch the miracle of love.
That one doesn't go away, friends. It ought to be right here with 15,000 Watermark folks and however many millions of Christians who are in the world. Is this our mark? Is the world saying, "Where does that love come from?" When you do it that way, when you love the way we're about to see, and we are bold in explaining the source of that love, then the world should knock on our door. NBC should be out there and go, "Excuse me. Where does this come from?"
Let me just insert here again. Thomas More was a consigliere to Henry VII. He wrote a little book called Utopia. It's his work of a fictional island that has the highest philosophies, religion, and purposes that becomes an ideal state. He writes in his book about what that ideal state would look like. It's an island. He called the book Utopia.
What's interesting about that is for the longest time, I just assumed that Utopia by Thomas More, this book written in the sixteenth century, was about a good place. Why? The Greek word for good is eu. We pronounce it "you." So when you see eulogy… The Greek word for word is logos, so a eulogy at a funeral, as I love to tell you, is a well-spoken or a good word about the deceased. Utopia is eu-topos. A topical graph marks off different places. Eu is good, and topos is place.
I always thought Thomas More wrote about this good place, but I was wrong. It just came across my attention recently as I was looking at this for some strange reason that the word in Greek that means good is another word that is pronounced as "you" in English, but it's ou, and it means not. "Not place." That's the word utopia. It comes from, "No place." It doesn't exist. It's fictional. It's Fantasy Island. Men don't love each other.
We can speculate all day long if there could be a government that would allow men to care for one another and really seek justice and brotherhood and the common good. It's just a fantasy island. You can write about it, but we can't find it. It is nowhere except in Acts 4 and where divinity lives. Do you see what is going on here?
What ought to be true of us is that people go, "There is nowhere on earth like the church. It's the only place on earth that can pull off this thing that really is a commonwealth, where there is common concern." When our government got together and we started, our constitution says this in its preamble. "We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice…" Do you think Jesus is concerned about justice? Say yes. You bet he is.
"…to ensure domestic tranquility…" Does God want us to have peace and to go well with us? You bet it should. "…to provide for the common defense…" Not so much. That's not the church's job. "…to promote the general welfare, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our children…" That's right out of Deuteronomy 6:9.
When you live this way and you are these people, it is a way to constitute yourselves that brings blessing. This is why the church was not conscripted to pay taxes on property or on income. The reason the government collects taxes is for the common welfare. Why would we tax the organization that is the greatest source of domestic tranquility and the common welfare of a society? Why would we tax them? They are doing what we cannot.
Just like government has been given by the authority of God, there are ministers of justice. The churches don't have to go to war. The churches are not to be the individuals who bring about temporal punishment. That's what the purpose of government is. The divine institution that is the church ought to be the ones who are caring for the poor, the indigent, the sick, the under-resourced. They ought to be about the common welfare.
That isn't the government's job, and we have a government do it who is not founded in a morality and doesn't have an ethic, an ethos,inside of it that understands that you don't just let people not work and get provision but, as they're able and go about what they're doing, you help them. I'll show you more about this in just a minute. It's what leads to a prosperous society.
The church ought to be the ones who care for those who cannot care for themselves. Let's not tax them. What you see though is the world looking at the church and going, "You guys teach health, wealth, and prosperity. You say the richer you get, the more evidence there is of the blessing of God. All you guys are is a sham. We have to shut you down." I don't blame them. It ought to be different if you're a biblical church.
They ought to say, "We ought to open more of you up. We need more Christians in this land, not fewer." The church prays, "God, let us do something fantastic." Watch what happens in verse 31. "And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken…" Something changed. It altered the landscape. That's what shaking does. "…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…"
Watch what happens. You're about to see what happens. If you want to know… If you are in relationship with God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you… I want to remind you there was a one-time event that was a filling where something that wasn't there came, where the Holy Spirit came to the people of God in a fulfillment of what Jesus said would happen. "I'm not going to leave you as orphans. I'm going to send you the Helper [the Holy Spirit], and you shall be my witnesses, and you will have power from him.
He will enable you to do what you otherwise would not do. You'll go from being a bunch of scared little rats scampering to corners and holes to living boldly in the light and getting beaten and speaking again. You will love in a way that the world doesn't frankly recognize or like. You will overcome the power of your own flesh to oppress goodness, and you will live in freedom and love, and the world will go, 'Who are these people?'"
That's the mark. Now watch. The filling here is what happens from every moment on after Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit originally came. Every time you see the word filling from here on out, it means the people got their minds centered again on what God wants them to do. Every now and then, the world is going to shake you. You're going to have trouble, so you're going to need to gather with believers and pray.
You're going to need to go, and Jon Abel is going to lead you in psalm about the Lion of Judah and about the scandal of grace and about the power of God, and it's going to stir you to go, "Yes. That's the God I want to serve. That's the God I want to live for. Here are my brothers in arms I'm going to go about this with, and I'm going to get back after it as we gather and are strengthened and are reminded that we should yield ourselves to this God who is good and has not forgotten us. Now let us go and be the church together."
That's the thing. Watch. They're filled, and what happens is two things that always happen when you're filled with the Spirit. First (and this shouldn't surprise you), it says they began to speak the Word of God with great boldness. "Where does that come from? Why are you able to bring healing into people's lives?" I'm glad you asked. It was Jesus who did this. "Are you mad at me because we're being kind to people?" That's exactly what the apostles said in Acts 4.
"Is that the reason we're here? We've had this lame guy who for 40 years, as you walked in the temple, you wouldn't care for? He's healed, and now the people are excited about our God. Is that why you're mad at us? Are you mad at us because we don't want you to give us something? We're caring for one another. Is that why you're mad at us?"
Watch this. The very first thing that marks you as a believer is you have lips that speak the Word of God with boldness. If you're not speaking the Word of God with boldness, if you clam up every time at church someone asks you to turn to somebody and tell them why you're at church, that's a problem. If you're out there living and know that God wants you to be a messenger of grace and be a euaggelistēs, an evangelist, a good messenger, and you clam up, that is a sign that maybe you're not as acquainted with the Spirit of God as you think you are. That's just one thing.
In addition to speaking the Word of God with boldness because they were filled with the Spirit of God, the congregation of those who believed, people of true faith, were of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything that belonged to them was their own. That idea right there… They were one heart and one soul, and they looked out for one another.
This is the deal. Jesus said in Luke 6:31, "Hey, do you want to know how to love one another? Treat each other as you want others to treat you because you are part of one body. What you have is a group of men and women here who are vested together. By the way, this really happens only… You can't get folks to love each other based on just some philosophical nuance, based on just some high ideal.
Folks don't do much when it's just an idea. They do a lot when there is a shared goal, activity, often one that is so immense that it's bigger than any of them, that none of them can do it on their own. It's why you see incredible acts of valor in the military, because these men have been to war together. Their lives depend on their care for one another. There is an extreme evil that they need to defeat, and they know they can't defeat it on their own.
They go, "I'm going to do everything I can to keep you alive, to make you healthy. If you're out of ammo, and I have some, you get it. If you're bleeding out, and I have blood, I'll give it to you because I need you." One of the mottos (among others) of the Navy SEALs is, "Two is one; one is none." "We don't do this alone. If you suffer, I suffer. No one is left behind." They are in an extreme war.
Guys, that's why when you get out of athletics, everybody thinks that what you miss is the autograph sessions and the media and the money, and that's not what athletes miss. When you're done playing sports, what you'll miss… You'll hear it again and again. "I miss the locker room." In an offensive way, to people who are really in war, they say, "I miss the guys I went to war with against the evil that was the Seahawks or the Ravens."
People will go, "That isn't real evil." You're right. It's just a man's game on a playing field, but what they're saying is, "We need each other. We can't win. I love the way we suffered together to train that we might overcome." They miss the love they have for one another. Why? Because they know, "If you don't do your job, I can't beat them. We must have each other."
Gang, that's the church. We need each other. This idea that just you and Jesus is enough is unbiblical. It's unspeakable. It's nowhere in your Bible. That's why I say all the time that if you're here and are not connected deeply with a community that is going to war against evil and against oppression and against your flesh, you're not going to win. We need one another, and we care for one another.
The world is going to hate us. We're telling them there is a God. He did come. He did offer himself, and they are culpable to him. We're calling them to respond, and the world is not going to like it. We're going to tell them that thing in their life that they think nobody should hinder or thwart or speak against is called sin. We have it too. God has dealt with ours. He wants to deal with theirs.
They don't want to be reminded of what true right is. They want to go, "What's right is what's right to me." We go, "Nope." They don't want to believe there is judgment. They don't want to have conviction. As much as you are the representation of that, they're going to come at you, but it's our job to speak the Word of God with boldness.
Watch this. Spiritual people do one of these two things. I'm going to make a statement here, and I want you to listen really closely to me. People who are filled with the Spirit have lips to speak the Word of God with great boldness. Secondly, they have lives that show the love of God with great action. It's not normal.
It says here in verse 33 that with great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and the abundant grace of God was on them. That means the only reason they were able to do what they did was because of grace. It was a divine enabling, and with that filling, divine enabling, shaking, their world changed. Something happened.
I don't want to hear you go, "Todd, I'm just not an evangelist. I'm not bold like you and JP. I just wish I were like you because you guys are always having these amazing conversations." There's one reason. It's not because of any other reason than we have come to know the goodness of God, and we are certain of who he is and what he has done. We are bold in declaring the help we have received to others because it will be helpful to them.
Maybe our spirits are different from yours, but we never used them for that purpose before. It was bold in advancing ourselves or bold in enabling our flesh. Now there is a boldness. I want to tell you something. There are still times and moments when I have to make myself lean in and go, "I'm going to share with you what's going on right here. I'm going to share with you what's happening in your life."
I'm just doing it because of an enabling, not because it's easy. If you tell me, "I don't speak the Word of God, Todd. It's not easy. I don't care for other people. I am more about me. I keep to my own. I protect my future. I build barns. I give 2 percent. I do something just so I can feel better, but it's not easy for me to give that. Is it before tax or after tax? How do I really do that?"
That's not the question. When you start to do that and go, "It's not easy for me to give. See, I grew up in a very impoverished home," or, "I'm just really insecure about money." I'm not asking you about you. It has nothing to do with you. This is what Christ does in you. He enables you. If you tell me that it's not easy, I want to say this to you. Don't be surprised if you don't want to profess truth or practice kindness.
Don't think it's easy for somebody else to profess truth or practice kindness. Don't be surprised if you don't want to do it. I'm going to tell you that if you don't do it, you shouldn't be surprised to find out later that you never really had a relationship with God. Don't be surprised when it's hard for you to go, "I'm going to tell you about my Jesus." It's hard because your flesh wants to say things that aren't going to upset cocktail parties and make you popular and make you gold medals and fame in the eyes of the world.
It's not normal. Most people get up and keep running. They don't care about somebody else who fell. They're going to go get theirs. Don't be surprised when you don't want to stop to help other people. I'm going to tell you that if you don't stop to help other people, if you don't give generously, if you don't use your wealth in a compassionate way, then you shouldn't be surprised to find out later that you never had a relationship with God. It's the mark, boldness in lips and boldness in love.
If they are not abundant in you, it's because you are not abundantly being filled. It's the text. It says right here that they had one heart and soul. It means they were with one another. The word compassion means… Pathos is the word for emotion or feeling. Com means with. As if you are me and I am you, we are one together. I look at you, and if I have something you need, I'm going to give it to you because we are in this together, and I can't do it alone.
This text is so central, guys. Watch this. It says they had great power. They were giving testimony to the resurrection. That's the thing, right? You want an ongoing, amazing miracle. Here's the amazing miracle. It's not 5,000 people fed with a small boy's lunch. It's 5,000 people loving each other with everything they have. It makes the world go, "Where did that come from? We thought that was only going to be on some island 1,600 years from now that Thomas More is going to write about that doesn't really exist?"
It's divine. Verse 34 says, "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Now watch. This is not communism. Let me just go back up there to verse 32 where it says they all had what belonged to them. That implies ownership.
This was not a commune. What it was was everybody still had their own ammo, but when you run out of ammo over there and I have more ammo than I need right now for this next shot, I'm going to get you some ammo. That word right there where it says all things were common property to them, that's the word koinos. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. It means they did business together.
These two words are right there. It says they did not regard what belonged to them as their own. That's the word idios. Remember I told you an idiot is somebody who owns their own business. They don't listen to anybody speaking into their life. They are an idiot by definition because they only own their own life, and they don't let anybody speak into it. That's an idiot.
When you find somebody who is living a foolish life, you go, "What is wrong with you, idiot?" In other words, nobody would say, "Yeah, I'm giving him counsel. He's doing life the way we speak into it." Somebody who is a believer, somebody who is wise and who takes wise counsel, lives his life in koinonia. There are others who do business with him and help him wage war against his flesh, the course of this world, and the spirit of darkness.
We go to war together against it. Because this is an overarching battle that is so great, we make sure we help each other. If you suffer, I suffer, and we get after it together. This idea here has been perverted. I love the statement that is very true that there is no lie quite as dangerous as a truth that is misunderstood. What happens is you always find people who are trying to create this Utopia.
Because they reject God and don't know the goodness of God and don't know that the divine way is the way to create not a Utopia but the kingdom of God on earth, they come up with this thing called socialism. "What we have to do is take from the rich and give to the poor and mandate that by law." Sometimes, they see the dispassionate use of wealth, and they look at King Louis XVI and his little Versailles mansion and his little 14-year-old Austrian bride who grew up to be a self-indulgent, opulent little witch.
When she was told that the non-lords of the land were hungry, she said, "Let them eat cake. If they can't find normal bread, let them go to the pastry shop and get a brioche." They said, "I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to march on Versailles. We're going to take your little head, and we're going to lop it off. Through blood, we're going to try to redistribute that wealth."
The problem is when you try and redistribute wealth only motivated by the fact we aren't glad you don't have it, then when I get it, I'm glad I have it, and other people become oppressed, and the cycle continues itself. That's why when Das Kapital and the Marxist system was embraced by Stalin and later Lenin, they took the tsar's head and chopped it off and those of all of his kids, another form of oppression came. We just had the Marxists and Lenin and the proletariat become the oppressors of the people. It never works.
It will only work not when government by law mandates this. You watch what happens. You will find social Marxists who will say, "Hey, we have to occupy Wall Street. You have to go get what is yours." I'm going to tell you something, Wall Street. We are more Wall Street than we are the ghetto in this room. When they march on the rich, they'd better go, "Hey, you march on all the rich except Watermark because those people use whatever wealth they have for me. They don't build walls. They love. You defend that place."
That shouldn't just be Watermark. That should be Jesus' church everywhere. They go, "Do you know who we want to have money? We want Christians to be rich. Not so they can have some perverted form of health, wealth, and prosperity and shout how great their God is because he makes everybody rich and drive their little Bentleys. No. Because they use what they have for the good of other people. That's their mark."
How are we doing? We have a hard time building buildings for us to use to equip saints sometimes around here, and that's a shame. I'm just going to tell you straight up. The fact that there is $3 million to buy another building to equip more Christians around here says something about us, and it's not good. There is more than $3 million sitting here. If God is at work here, give to it. If it's not, get out and quit coming. I mean it.
There are other opportunities for us to do other things in other places. We continue work in Africa and downtown Dallas, Mercy Street. We would love to have more Watermark QuestCare Clinics. We're just sitting here and doing a little bit so we look maybe a little religious. I'm just saying let's go, church. Let's stop it. Now, there is a lot that is happening here that is good. From the very beginning, we set up a system that will allow us to care for…
You've heard me say there will never be a homeless person at Watermark, never anybody hungry, naked, or homeless if they're a member, they're abiding, we see God working in them and through them, and they're a part of this fellowship. We'll care for the indigent, okay. We will care for them. I'm going to talk about that in just a second, but I want to let you watch what is happening here all the time.
We have a ministry called Charis. It's the Greek word for grace. We get the word charity from it. It's not charity. It's just love. When there is a member of our body who has a need, and the community around them goes, "These are faithful people, hardworking, doing what they can, and they don't have enough ammo, we're going to share some with them." Watch this.
[Video Playing in Background]
Jordan Benners: We met serving in On Your Mark in our children's ministry.
Kirk Benners: We dated for a little bit and got married a short time after that. We started a family pretty quickly. We have three children now who are 5, 4, and 2.
Jordan: Girl, boy, girl. Raelynn, Jackson, and Ryann Lane. About 9 months into Jackson's little life, we started realizing that some things were a little bit different with Jackson. We expected some hearing loss and some hearing and speech delays, so we had called in for an evaluation at about 14 or 15 months. That was the day we heard the word, "Your son has autism." Our lives turned a corner literally overnight because now we had to seek even more therapies.
Kirk: We didn't have a ton of extra cash at that time. We talked about it with each other, and we realized, "This is our son. Let's not deprive our son of anything he needs." That's what we did, and it got us in a bind where we needed help.
Jordan: Literally right after that, we ended up finding out that I had broken my spine and required a big, massive back surgery, after which I couldn't lift my kids for over three months, and I was out of work for a little while. Then my husband and I… Our automatic gate broke in the backyard, and an accident occurred where that gate just broke and came flying off.
My head got crushed in between two metal poles. It was a complete accident. I got so lucky not to have a major skull fracture, but it was just another trip to the ER and more bills and a little bit more time off of work as well just to recover through that. It was just one more thing. The waves kept coming.
Kirk: To deal with it all, we had really extremely poor insurance. Because of that, the bills just accumulated, pile upon pile upon pile, to the point where we were asking a little bit of help from her father, who came through. The rest I think we just simply put on credit cards.
Jordan: I made some job changes. He ended up having four jobs at one time, and I had two. Between the two of us, six jobs couldn't keep up with the bills that were piling in.
Kirk: We just were working so much and running ourselves ragged, getting four hours of sleep a day. We couldn't keep up. I couldn't keep up. Then we heard of the ministry at church called Charis.
Jordan: I finally got up the courage to send an email to the Charis ministry.
Kirk: It was hard to swallow, but once we stepped in the doors, it quickly humbled us, and I was more willing to share.
Jordan: We sat in the meeting, and we were greeted and reminded and encouraged with smiles and hugs from a team of folks who were looking at our crazy financial situation.
Kirk: For four months, they gave us some assistance with shelter, food, and clothing. After that four months, we kind of reevaluated. During that four months, we continued to meet with them. "How are you guys doing spiritually and emotionally and financially? Is this working? Is this game plan working?" After four months, we were able to put some funds away. Things were not as stressful.
Jordan: With Charis, what they encourage us to do is always go to community first, so we strive now to make sure that our community knows anything going on in our lives, especially the big issues and even the little ones that can build up into something bigger. We go to them first.
If we are presenting something to our Community Group, and if they're not even able to help, if they're all looking at that together and saying, "Hey, we might need to take this to Charis or take this to the bigger church," then we go and approach Charis again and say, "Hey, here are the steps we've taken. Here is our community's input." We all kind of go together.
Without their guidance and just the plan of, "Hey, this is the best plan for y'all to move forward in knowing that these bills are not going to necessarily stop. This isn't saying we have the package wrapped up and tied with the prettiest little bow right now." We know there is still more coming, but it just gets us to a better place where we can handle that next step, but we're also reminded to go to community first, and we're also reminded that God is the ultimate controller of our finances too.
Having Charis, the whole team, and our community now being able to pour into us the way they do, we are reminded that hope has been there the whole time. We just didn't see it, but we cling to it now in a really sweet way, and I am so thankful for that. I don't think we would have had as much hope as we do now if we wouldn't have raised the white flag and gone to the Charis ministry and humbled ourselves and said, "We cannot do this by ourselves. We need help."
[End of video]
All right. Let me explain this. Here's the situation. Where we have the Benners and others like them for years, when there is a need in our body, people who are members… Their community around them understands the situation. They've done everything they can to care for them. They go, "You know what? We need a larger involvement from the greater church."
They come, and other communities come and sit with them and listen to that community saying, "Hey, this is how we got here. This is what is going on. We've done what we can. It's God's provision. We don't think we can help them. Help us see what we haven't seen yet and make adjustments that we need to make." If we've done everything we can, and there's still a need, then the larger body comes around them.
We don't enable an unhealthy lifestyle. We don't enable laziness. By the way, if you're not a member, we will care for you. We're not going to let you die in the street. We partner with and give to different ministries specifically to help those who are not connected, don't have a relationship with Christ, to get back on their feet through discipleship programs. Many of them have gone through that discipleship program and are now members of our church.
But I'm talking now specifically about what we do with members, body of Christ people. As there is need in Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem church can't meet it, guess what happens. The church in Macedonia hears about it and sends provision to the church in Jerusalem. Your community has a need. It can't meet it. The larger church here meets it. It's what happened in the letter to the Corinthians.
Paul was telling them, "The Macedonians have already, out of their extreme poverty, because they are rich in love for Jesus, given to us that we can minister to the church in Jerusalem that is suffering because the Jews and the Romans are oppressing them. They can't work. They had their property seized. They're living in extreme poverty. Let's care for them."
Christians cared for Christians. Paul told the Corinthian church, "It's your chance to show your same faith. You remember why you're going to do this, not out of obligation but because you love Jesus who…" This is now 2 Corinthians 8:8-9. "Remember your servant leader, who though he was rich for your sake, became poor, that through his poverty you might become rich."
Then it goes down and says, "Don't feel bad for what you can't do; do what you can. You're not going to be punished for what you don't have. You're going to be held accountable for what you do have." Then it ends that entire chapter by saying God in his sovereignty designed it so that he who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little did not have too little.
That was a reference back to what God intended in Exodus 16, where he said, "I'm going to take care of you, and there shall be no poor among you. In fact, none of you have anything. I'm going to give you manna in the wilderness. You take your little omer (a little bigger than a quart). You go into the wilderness. You fill it up with bread in the morning, your daily bread, and you bring it back to your tent.
Some of you guys are going to get back there, and you're going to have too much manna, and the guy next to you, in my sovereignty, I'm going to have some of the manna evaporate from his omer, and he's going to have too little, so I can be glorified in the way you love one another." Paul takes that phrase from Exodus 16 and sticks it in 2 Corinthians 8, and he says this. Church, listen.
Sometimes, God in his sovereignty has people around you who are under-resourced, who are brothers and sisters, so that their provision (which is need) meets your need (which is an abundance of provision), and in his sovereignty, he gives you more, not to up your standard of living, but to up your standard of giving, that people can see in you the blessed love of God. Are you tracking, church?
That is a God-given, sovereign gift so that Jesus can be glorified. If you take what is his and keep it for yourself when he wants to be glorified through it and care for others, careful. I'll just wrap up with this. Everybody has been looking for this place. Everybody is looking for this kingdom. John Lennon wrote about it in his song "Imagine."
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living just for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
Let me just tell you something, Mr. Lennon. Your namesake, Mr. Lenin, tried to do this and to form a commitment to commune without a commitment to Christ, and it doesn't work. You can't have it without religion. It's divine. Men will always gravitate toward selfishness. Let that not be our mark.
Let us gravitate toward the Savior, and we love one another, and we care for each other as best we can to those we're close to and as radically as we must together. Let's go, church. Are you with me? Let's go. The city of Dallas ought to say, "We need more of that." There is an abundance of provision here we are not releasing. It's time we get busy. There is more we can do in this city. We have to speak boldly, and we have to love boldly.
Father, I pray for this church, that we would be your church. Would you use this text to correct us, to exhort us, to change us, to transform us into your image. I thank you for the provision that is here. I thank you for this insert that is in our news. May we look at it, study it, and put it to work. For the glory of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.
Hey, I do want to say this. There's a reason we put this in here. It marks it out how we get it done. This is the process. This is our motivation. Guess what. Sometimes (even the back), it's not food, shelter, and clothing. It's other needs we want to meet, and this is the way we go about meeting other needs. We even talk here about crowdfunding or crowdsourcing and whether or not you want to use that.
We talk about how sometimes people just splash stuff up and don't give much information. That's not a good way to give. You make sure you're helping where it really helps. There is a whole real truth real quick on, "Do I give my money to the homeless man on the corner?" There's a reason they stake out at Coit and 635. You just heard a message like this, and you think you're supposed to give to people.
I'm telling you. Make sure you're helping in a way that helps and doesn't hurt. That's why we do it the way we do it here. Watch the Real Truth, Real Quick before you get to Coit and 635 today. All right? Make sure that you're not in some elitist way not providing a real solution for them. If you want to say, "Come run with us. Come be the church. Come seek Jesus with us." 2 Thessalonians 3 says, "If a man will not work, let him not eat. Let his stomach go to work for him saying, 'The way you're living isn't right.'"
That's why when you have a government that says, "We're going to feed you whether you work or not. In fact, to incentivize you not to work, you get $19 trillion in debt." That's why it's the church's job. All right, church? Listen to me.
Your job is to go to that guy and say, "Hey, man. Come follow me as I follow Jesus. We'll care for you, but you have to go. If you don't want to come, we'll care for you until maybe you're sick and tired of being sick and tired. Then maybe you'll start to follow Jesus. We won't let you die. We'll give you shelter. It might not be the shelter you want, but come find shelter in Jesus." Read this thing. Love one another. Glorify God. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.