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JP teaches on Acts 5:17-42. As we see the apostles, imprisoned, set free and then continuing to share the gospel, we learn that the gospel is not like a fad that dies out quickly. The gospel, instead, grows stronger in opposition, it will not be stopped, and it moves forward through believers. JP encourages us to live out the purpose of our lives as followers of Christ, to share 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
How are we doing this morning? It's great to be with you guys. Let me start with a little "share and care" time, a little moment of transparency, a moment of authenticity. If you're a guest with us today, I'm sorry. I want to talk about fads. As I look back on my life, there are just some moments I've done some really stupid things, in childhood, in teenage years, into college, yesterday. A lot of times I've done some ridiculous things.
You think about fads that come in and out of your life, these temporary styles you buy into momentarily. In 1992, I was on my way to 4-H camp. This is an agricultural program. You show hogs, chickens, rabbits, goats, steers, grass judging, those sorts of things. If you're lost, that's okay. Anyways, that was part of my childhood.
I'm going to 4-H camp, and there's this little hip-hop duo by the name of Kris Kross. They came out with this double platinum song called "Jump." "Kris Kross will make you jump." They show up on the scene, and they have their clothes backwards. They're wearing their pants and their shirts backwards. Ridiculous style, but I took that to 4-H. I'll show you Kris Kross in case you're lost right now. There they are, taking hip-hop by storm.
So there I am. My buddy and I are at 4-H camp, and I have my overalls on backwards, because I'm trying to be a trendsetter, if you will. I get called into the CEO of the camp's office, and he's like, "What are you doing?" I'm like, "I'm sorry." I clearly didn't know my audience. So that's me. That's my moment of authenticity. Let's talk about you for a moment.
What is a fad? A fad is an intense, widely shared enthusiasm for something that is short-lived. Let me just show you a few fads. If you will, if you'll kind of step out there, raise your hand on the ones that have been a part of your life. We'll just go with this first one. There's the tight roll. This is the original skinny jean. I see you. It was an art form. Some of you are completely lost right now. You're like, "What is a tight roll?"
Let's go here with you. Oh, there you go. Anybody? I don't see any hands right now. Bell bottoms anybody? Okay. That was a part of your past, long forgotten, but a style you bought into. Oh, the Doc Martens. Come on. Air in the sole. Some of you have them on right now. That's okay. Safe place. We're glad you're here. You had the sandals and the boots. But it goes past style. It goes into what we eat. The Atkins fad diets. Anybody walking around like, "Give me some carbohydrates"? Yeah.
Then it goes into our toys as well. The American Girl doll of the 80s, Cabbage Patch Kids… Anybody have a Cabbage Patch Kid once upon a time? What about these things? Beanie Babies. I've learned today Watermark was a big Beanie Baby investment place. Most of you took your retirement and bought the little toy. Yeah, sorry for you. How about this? Tickle Me Elmos. Not so much here. I think The Village Church must have bought all of the Tickle Me Elmos off the shelves and we couldn't get them.
It goes past that into products. Oh, the Clapper. This was an indictment on America. Like, we're too lazy to get up and flip the switch; we have to clap. Then what about the ThighMaster? Anybody have a ThighMaster? My mom had one. I'd use it to launch my cars across the living room. Oh, the blanket with sleeves. Some of you still watch movies… Oh, I see you loud and proud. Snuggie. Okay.
These fads come in and out of our lives. There are these temporary sensations that we buy into that mark segments of our lives. Let me go one more for you. Oh, not a fad. Nothing temporary about that. Since the moment it showed up on the scene it has only grown with momentum. Lady Gaga can wear it around her neck, and you can buy a shirt with it on there. You might stitch it to the back pockets of your jeans, but it's not going anywhere.
The Gospel Is Not a Fad. That's what I want to talk about with you this morning for a few minutes. The gospel is not a fad. The gospel has only grown in momentum since it showed up on the scene. Maybe you've been like, "Well, I was in church and then I left church," and maybe you're back here this morning in church for the very first time in a long, long time. I have news for you. We haven't slowed down.
Honestly (and I don't mean this offensively), we haven't missed you. The gospel has continued to move forward with or without you. It will continue to grow in momentum with or without you. The most unstoppable, immovable force this world has ever reckoned with: the gospel of Jesus Christ. You might be here this morning thinking, "Well, aren't we losing? After all, they pulled prayer out of schools."
I read an article this weekend that said religious freedom is code for intolerance. I read somewhere that they told us the government is wanting to say, like China, that you have the freedom to believe what you want to believe but not the freedom to practice those beliefs. They're coming after churches, they're coming after your freedom, but make no mistake about it. You may be here this morning like, "Man, everything is working against us." We are not losing. I've read the back of the Book. I know what happens: victory in our favor, the world covered with this message of Jesus Christ.
We're back in Acts 5. Jesus is here to stay. I'll give you a quick recap if you're just joining us. We've been going through the book of Acts, short for the Acts of the Apostles. Chapter 1, Jesus comes back from the dead. He goes up to heaven, ascends to be at the right hand of the Father, but before he does, he gathers his boys and says, "Hey, come here. I want you to go into all the nations, teaching the things I've taught you, telling them the good news, baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
Turn to chapter 2, and the Holy Spirit comes on a day called Pentecost. This is the great church kickoff. The church shows up on the scene. These ordinary men become extraordinary proclaimers of truth, and incredible things are happening. Then in chapter 3, Peter and John are going to the temple to worship, like they always did (good Jewish kids, now followers of the Way), and they see a man who can't walk.
God heals him, and people see that this man who wasn't able to walk for 40 years is now leaping and proclaiming the good news, and crowds gather. Peter begins to preach the gospel, and thousands are saved. The church has grown now to thousands of people. In chapter 4, the Sanhedrin, the religious people of that time, were not really fond of this move, so they arrest Peter and John.
He uses that as an opportunity to share the gospel yet again. They're reluctantly released. They gather the church and say, "Hey, guys, they're coming after us. They're going to try to shut us down, but we will not stop. Keep preaching the good news." Then the church grows like crazy. It's exploding, this movement of which we are a part today.
Then in Acts, chapter 5, it's growing not only in people numerically but in resources, as people begin to sell their belongings and bring that money to the church, and the church is strengthened through resources now. There's this couple, Ananias and Sapphira. They held some of that money back, and it cost them their lives, as the church is purified. Now we're going to finish out in Acts, chapter 5. All of that could be summarized as share boldly, pray boldly, and give boldly, or give generously.
Verse 14: "Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number." You see this building, this growing. You see the momentum. That's what I want you to hear. The church is exploding right now. "As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by."
The church has always been a place where the sick and the hurting have come for help. That's why you could travel all throughout this city, and on the top of hospitals you'll see the names of churches, because Christians have always been known for caring for the sick. So much fame has spread throughout the land that there's even superstition coming in, saying, "We just want to be near Peter. Maybe if we could just get near him we'd be healed." He says, "It's not me; it's my God."
"Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed." This has always been a place for the hurting, for those who have had need. We're going to be in Acts, chapter 5, verses 17-42. I have three observations: how the gospel is strengthened by opposition, how the gospel is unstoppable, and how the gospel moves forward.
Verse 17: "Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail." The Sadducees was a religious sect that did not believe in the resurrection. Essentially, they taught that you had to follow all the letter of the law. You had to completely fulfill the law, you'd die, and you would be buried. Period. There was no reward at the end of it.
You can remember that because you can say, "The Sadducees were sad, you see." That will help you. Because they didn't believe in the resurrection. They gathered the apostles and arrested them because, once again, they had asked them to stop proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, but they did not stop.
"But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 'Go, stand in the temple courts,' he said, 'and tell the people all about this new life.'" I want you to underline, circle, or highlight the words new life in your Bible, because I think we have forgotten that the gospel is a message about a new life. That's really what we're presenting to people. They can have a new life.
Acts is written by a man named Luke. Luke also wrote the gospel of Luke. Luke is an incredible writer. The Holy Spirit scribed this through him. He had some critics. Sir William Ramsay was one of them. He was the leading archaeologist of his time. He said that Luke should be discredited. In fact, he made it his life's mission to discredit the gospel of Luke based on his studies and research of archaeology, and he came to a conclusion something like this:
"Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness. Luke is a historian of first rank. Not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense. This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." Sir William Ramsay became converted and became a New Testament scholar trying to criticize the gospel of Luke.
I appreciate Luke's writings. I have one issue with it, though. It's right here. Come on. He gives us two sentences on this angel breaking them out of jail. I'm like, "Luke, tell me more about that, man. Did he karate-chop them? Did he put the guards to sleep? Did they walk through walls? Give me more information, Luke, of how this went down." But he just gives us two sentences.
"At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel…" Here's what that means. Keep in mind this is a theocracy. As we were administering church discipline, it would be like the city or the government or the court system administering church discipline.
This would be like the elders going downtown to the courthouse, gathering with other elders, determining your fate. These men were arrested by the church, if you will. So the full assembly of the elders of Israel. That's the Sanhedrin, Pharisees and Sadducees. "…and sent to the jail for the apostles." Remember, they're not there.
"But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 'We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.' On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to." Remember, they had this empty tomb that was really problematic for them once upon a time, and now they have an empty jail.
"Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.' At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them." Wow. Irony of ironies. They arrest these people for preaching the gospel. An angel shows up. What?
I mean, if you're an angel, these are days you dream about, because you've been pretty bored for a couple thousand years. "Hey, go guard the garden of Eden" or "Hey, stop Balaam's donkey" or "Bring out Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." "Hey, go break the apostles out of jail." "Yes! Finally."
"Bob, go get them." Bob is down there. "Hey, guys, come with me."
"How are we going to get out?"
"Let's just go through this wall here."
Then the people are gathering. "Hey, everybody, we need to gather up. Come here, religious people. Let's gather up. Let's talk about what to do with these people we have in jail." But they're not in jail. They're like, "Hey, go get them and bring them here."
"Okay, just one problem. They're not here."
"What? The guards aren't there?"
"No, the guards are there."
"What? The jail is open?"
"No, the jail is not open."
"What do you mean they're not there?"
"I don't know. They're just not there."
"Hey, you know those people you're looking for?"
"Yeah, yeah. Have you seen them?"
"You know those people you arrested because they were preaching in the temple courts?"
"Yeah, yeah. Where are they?"
"Well, they're preaching in the temple courts."
"Hey, you need to go get them."
"There's only one problem with that, buddy. Uh, people are responding to them, and they really like them. Like, they're having new lives and stuff. I think if we go get them they're going to stone us."
"Okay, well, go get them gently."
"Hey, guys, uh, you can't just go around breaking out of jail. We need you to come with us. Please. Pretty please. Hey, now put those rocks down. No, no. Please, come on. Hurry." This is crazy what's happening. This is insane what's happening, all documented historically so that we could read it today and be ministered to by it.
1.The gospel grows stronger in opposition. They're opposing the gospel. The gospel is strengthened. Don't let this point just pass you by. The gospel grows stronger in opposition. This is crazy. When people try to stop the body of Christ, it becomes stronger. That would be the most frustrating thing in the world. No wonder these guys are furious. No wonder they're angry. They're playing whack-a-mole with God.
Do you follow the illustration? Have you ever been to the arcade, where you hit the gopher here and he pops up here and you hit him there and he pops up here and you can't stop him? It's more than that, though. It's that the gospel is strengthened in opposition. When you oppose it, it grows stronger. Think martial arts. I've always liked martial arts, two men opposing each other, throwing strikes and blocking strikes. But then there's jujitsu, where you use an opponent's force against them. You're actually beating them with their force.
That's what God is doing: jujitsu. Awesome. In case you're questioning me right now, let me just tell you the clearest example of this is the cross. I mean, you know the Enemy celebrated at the death of God. Satan is there like, "Oh, we won. Throw a party down here in hell. This is awesome. God is dead. We killed God's only Son." "No, you didn't, dude. You just made a means for forgiveness for the whole world. Way to go. Watch this. Oh, you think the grave is going to stop me? I'm God, silly."
See, when someone tries to quiet the gospel they actually make it louder. When they try to dim the gospel they make it brighter. When they try to blur the gospel they make it clearer. It's crazy. When they try to stop the gospel they push it forward. We know this today as the law of inverse consequences. It refers to results that are the opposite of the expected results as initially intended or planned. Let me give you an illustration.
Let's say you have a beautiful manicured lawn. Pretty green grass. Everything is perfect in the yard. You've worked. You've fertilized. You've mowed it. You've done all of the things to get it that way, and then right there in the middle of your yard sprouts a weed known as a dandelion. You're like, "I'm going to get rid of that. I'm going to mow it down." The problem with mowing down a dandelion is, when you chop it down, hundreds of little dandelion seeds go all throughout your yard.
You had the inverse consequences of what you were trying to do. You thought, "I'm going to get rid of this," and all you did was multiply it. That is what happens when you oppose the gospel. This is why Tertullian said, just a hundred years later, that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. You cannot oppose God, for you will only strengthen him. I love this, because it's such a gloomy picture. They're sitting there in jail. It's the same jail they were just in weeks ago. "Here we are again. How are we going to get out this time, John?"
"I don't know, man. I don't know what God is going to do, but I'm not worried. God is not worried. Why would I be worried?" God has never looked down on creation like, "Man, I'm really worried. I don't know what to do. They put the only people who know this truth in jail. I don't know what to do." No, he's like, "Send an angel. Bob, go get them." Then there they are, sitting there like, "Hey, what are we going to do? Oh, what's up, angel? There you are. Oh, hey, John. I think this is God's plan. I think this dude is going to get us out of here."
Here's why I think that's relevant to you. Your most gloomy evangelism opportunities are God's greatest opportunities to bring forth his truth. You think through family, school if you're a teacher, work… You're like, "Man, my work is dark. My boss is corrupt. It's so hard. I can't just share the gospel."
The most hopeless situations are the most fertile soil from which the gospel springs forth. Hopelessness is the fertile soil from which the gospel springs forth. God loves those opportunities. Your biggest challenges in sharing your faith are the easiest for God to convert and to make himself famous through your faithfulness. The Scripture says light shines the brightest in darkness. He says, "What they have meant for evil I used for good." (Genesis 50:20)
"The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name…'" Can't even say "Jesus." "'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings!'" You think you can't share the gospel where you work?
"'The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.' When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death."
"Hey, you guys have to stop sharing the gospel."
"What gospel? Oh, you mean the truth."
"You have to stop sharing in his name."
"Whose name? Oh, you mean the man you killed, my friend, my Savior, whom I followed. You killed him, and he came back to life, offering forgiveness for the world, and not only that; we saw it. I saw it with my own eyes. But not just me; also his Holy Spirit, who now lives in me and has commanded me to go forth, preaching about this man who you are telling me I can't talk about, but I must obey God rather than you.
You want me to stop teaching in his name? Say it again so I can share it again. Tell me again. Is that the one you want me to stop talking about, the one you killed, the one who came back from the dead, the one who saves? You want me to stop telling about him? I won't do it."
"But a Pharisee named Gamaliel…" This is where it gets awesome, as if it wasn't awesome. "…a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.""Hey, you guys go outside for a minute. Guys, come here, gather. Let's talk about this. We've been here before."
"Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: 'Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody…'" You have to love that. He claimed to be somebody. "…and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.""Remember how much time we wasted on that, guys? Remember when we gathered and said, 'What are we going to do with Theudas and these 400 people?' Waste of time."
"After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God…"
"Then 2,000 years from now, there are going to be people gathered everywhere in his name, seeking to do good, to share about who he is. There are going to be establishments with 3,600 seats in them, with multiple services on a Sunday, so that billions of people can gather in his name and tell everyone. Because if it's of God we won't be able to stop it, but if it's not we will. If it's not, it's done. It's probably done."
"But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." It says, "His speech persuaded them.""Remember Theudas, guys? He had 400 followers. We killed them. It was nothing. We wasted so much time. Remember Judas the Galilean? People rallied to him, said he was somebody important.
We killed him. They scattered, cowards, like scared kittens…gone. You guys think this Jesus character… I mean, he had these 11 jokers, these uneducated men following him. You guys are seriously concerned about these guys? We've killed Jesus. Just give it a few days. This thing is going to go nowhere. Well, unless it's from God, and then you're just fighting God."
2.The gospel will not be stopped. "Can't stop, won't stop." Gamaliel demonstrated real wisdom here. Here's a trivia question for you. Who was discipled by Gamaliel? The Bible tells us that Gamaliel was the teacher, a rabbi, of another man who matters to us. Who was that? Saul of Tarsus, who on the road to Damascus became Paul, the great missionary, who scribed about 80 percent of the New Testament that we read today. Gamaliel taught him.
Byzantine tradition says Gamaliel converted and became a Christian, probably because he saw the fruit in his disciple's life, when his disciple left all of the teachings he had spent his life pouring into him to follow a man named Jesus, to become a part of the Way, the first-century church. But right now, that's not the case. Gamaliel is a Jew. Saul of Tarsus is a Jew. The road to Damascus hasn't happened yet, and he's just saying, "Hey, let these men go, because nothing is going to happen of it unless it's of God."
What happened? Acts 2: The Lord added to their numbers daily. Acts 4: Their numbers grew to 5,000. We continue to see, "They grew. God added to their numbers. More people came." Acts 19 says, "Paul has convinced large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia." I think there's a temptation in you this morning to think, "Yeah, but that was then, JP. What about now?" The gospel is growing like it never has before today.
In fact, in the past 100 years it has quadrupled, people who identify as Christians. Now there are over 2 billion people who would identify as followers of Jesus. Then 5,000; today 2 billion. Quadrupled in the past 100 years. Yale professor on foreign affairs, Walter Russell Mead, says, "Christianity is now on its biggest roll in its 2,000-year history. Many Christians, though, are only dimly aware of the faith's phenomenal advance. You could call it the greatest story never told."
Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Penn State, says Westerners (he's talking about us) are ignorant of the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West. "In 1900, for instance, there were approximately 10 million Christians in Africa. By 2000, there were 360 million. By 2025, conservative estimates see that number rising to 633 million."
We're like, "What about the bush man in Africa?" He knows about Jesus. What about your neighbor? Jenkins goes on to say, "Those same estimates put the number of Christians in Latin America in 2025 at 640 million and in Asia at 460 million." That comes from The Next Christendom. Let me just expound on China for a moment. In 1949, China had 4 million Christians, and the government grew really concerned.
In fact, in 1970, they came out in an all-out war against the advancement of the gospel. They said things like, "You have the freedom to believe what you want to, but you cannot practice those beliefs." What happened? Of course the gospel got shut down, right? No. The number grew from 4 million to 100 million. In fact, it's the fastest growing country for Christianity. China sends more missionaries here than America sends there.
In fact, I've been in NorthPark mall with my family at the food court when a young woman stood up on her chair in the food court and said, "Excuse me, excuse me. Can I have your attention? I came over to America from my country to tell you about a man named Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life and died the death you deserve so that you can have the inheritance that he deserves as God. He came back to life. Can I tell you about him? I've come over here to tell you about him." The gospel is not slowing down.
Why did it grow? Because people tried to stop it. Within 15 years, China is expected to be the most Christian nation on the planet, more so than the US. God's message is taught through the Bible. Over 100 million Bibles are given or sold every single year. It could be on the New York Times Best Sellers list every single week. Eighty-five percent of US households own a Bible. It's the Guinness World Records best-selling nonfiction book at 5 billion copies sold. Second place is only hundreds of millions. By billions and billions it is a first-place margin.
It's available in 3,000 languages. I taught this about a year ago. I said the YouVersion Bible app has reached over 100 million downloads. Today, over 200 million downloads. It's not going anywhere. It's bleeding and leaking out. It's advancing. How are you doing? It's changing homes and neighborhoods and countries. It has reached my house this year in a new way. My oldest, Presley, in April placed her faith in Jesus Christ. We prayed. It was a really sweet night.
She has been bugging me ever since then, "Daddy, I want to get baptized. I want to get baptized. I want to get baptized." So this weekend she'll be baptized. We had her meet with members of our Community Group this week. I said, "Hey, here's what I want you to do, Presley. I want you to go have dinner at somebody else's house every night this week, people we're in community with, and they're going to ask you questions about why you want to get baptized and what you believe." So she did.
On Thursday, she came home from a couple's house, and she was carrying a weed. It's called ruellia brittoniana, or Mexican petunia if that's easier to say for you. It is for me. I thought, "That's so weird. Why would they give you a weed? This is strange." So I called my buddy. We're talking. "Why a weed?" He said, "Well, here's why. Because that particular weed can be thrown out on the sidewalk, sun-scorched, dead, and if it finds water or soil it will come to life again, and it will spread." I was like, "That's so interesting."
He said, "Because Presley is going to be identified with Christ and his burial and raised to new life in his resurrection…" That new life keeps showing up. He said, "I thought I would give her this weed as an example of that." I thought, "That's really interesting," so I began to study this plant. It's known as an invasive plant. Anywhere that it finds fertile soil, it just spreads like crazy. It will take over. It will push out other weeds.
Not only that, but it will burst forth with this beautiful purple flower. It will take over a yard and sprout this beautiful purple flower everywhere. I thought, "What a beautiful picture of the gospel." You can take us. You can pull us out. You can separate us. You can put us in prison. You can beat us. You can throw us on the sidewalk to be scorched, but if we find fertile soil, we're going to spread, and we're going to create beauty and bring it forth. That's what we do as Christians. That's the call of believers in Jesus Christ.
"They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go." It's so interesting they let them go yet again. It's like God is in it. I mean, Jesus was killed for less than what these guys did. They broke out of jail. Could you imagine breaking out of jail and then being let go? "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, and they were so sad because they had been beaten, and they were hurting, and they were hanging their heads low, and they agreed not to share the gospel anymore because they would be punished." No, that's not what it says.
"The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah." Can I bring something to your attention? They're not worried. They're not terrified. They're not afraid.
We're like, "Oh, but you don't know what it's like to share the gospel in 2016." Tell Peter and John that. They just got whipped. They'd been in prison, and now they're going out house to house, door to door, sharing the gospel. Who does that today? We do. We have two groups of Unashamed this weekend, one here in Dallas, one in Fort Worth, going door to door throughout communities and neighborhoods, telling people about a new life they can have in Jesus Christ.
3.The gospel moves forward through you. Don't think pastors or preachers. Don't think church buildings. Think you. Think members of his church. Anybody who knows Christ and identifies with Christ, even introverts, even people who are scared of people… The gospel moves forward through you. The angel shows up to these guys in jail and says, "Hey, I want you to go out and share the gospel."
To which I would have said (just a moment of transparency, the second one today), "Mr. Angel, why don't you go share the gospel? I mean, you're an angel after all, all glowing and big and scary and walking through walls. Why don't you go tell them about Jesus? They'll listen." But that's not God's plan. See, God has a really specific plan of moving this message forward, and it's you. He uses our suffering and sharing to save.
Let me say that again. Our suffering and sharing are God's plan for saving. The angel says in verse 20, "Go tell people about this new life." Who best can tell people about a new life other than those who have experienced a new life? Some of us are here and we assume we've experienced a new life, but the reason we're terrified to tell others about a new life is because we haven't experienced the new life ourselves.
Second Corinthians 5:20 says, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." I've been looking through this Book. I couldn't find a single time where it was like, "Yeah, but they came against opposition, so they kept their mouth shut. They didn't share. They didn't tell." I saw, "Hey, always be ready to give an account. Tell everyone everywhere."
You can't just tell everyone everywhere. Except you can. You really can. God is not a fad. He's not a temporary fix. As Todd said, he's a shaking, a new life. God will not disappoint you like fads will. God is there for you. He's constant. He loves you and cares about you. He has a plan and a purpose for your life.
This week I was at Walmart. I had a really terrible customer service experience there, and I went back for a second chance. I met a guy named Jason who was unbelievably helpful. He went and looked for something for me in the back and then came out and found it. It was for my son. He helped me to my truck with it, walked me out to the truck. "Jason, you've been so helpful."
I got in the truck, and as I was driving off… I had my "Pray Bold" card sitting on the dash, and I was thinking in my head, "Man, I wish I had something to give him just to thank him." As I drove off I thought, "I do. A new life. I could tell him about a new life." And I didn't. Here's my commitment to you. I'm going to go back and find him, and I'm going to tell him about a new life. It's going to be more awkward the second time. I'm going to be there… "Hey, I came back here because I forgot to tell you something the first time we met."
Here's what I'm asking of you. I want you to think of one person this week who needs to hear the gospel. If you're here, if you've believed upon the gospel, I want you to share it with them. I want you to be God's man or woman to share it with them, because your purpose in this life… Make no mistake about it, friends. This is why I'm so passionate. You can disagree with me if you want. I would just challenge you to open the Word of God. These words I'm about to say are really bold. Your purpose as a follower of Jesus Christ is to point other people to Christ.
Here's what that means. At the end of your life, you're going to give an audit of how you spent your life, and the moments you spent your life building companies and selling companies and storing away things and buying things and pursuing comforts for you will be lost, but the moments of your life that you spent pointing others to Christ…there you lived out your purpose. There you actually did what he left you down here to do.
See, God didn't save you and then take you home. He saved you and said, "Okay, now go be my ambassador, my representative down there." This week Todd gave me two options. He said I could teach the rich young ruler or Acts 5, because I had been in the rich young ruler and continued to be ministered to by that familiar text. I chose Acts 5 to move us along in the series, but I was really tempted to do both. In fact, as I studied Acts 5, there's a lot of overlap I found.
The reason I say that is this. How do you stop a force that is strengthened in opposition? If you're studying the art of war and you see your enemy is only strengthened, he only grows stronger when you oppose him, how do you stop that kind of force? Here's the only conclusion I could come to: you let it get comfortable. You feed it its preferences. You give it comfortable chairs, big houses, and nice jobs. You allow it to be comfortable, and then it won't want to get uncomfortable, and it will fade. It will go elsewhere.
How do you stop an unstoppable force? You either let it pass you or you absorb it and slow it down and brake. The gospel moves through God's people. It's not a fad. If you're here and you're like, "Well, what is the gospel?" I have to share it with you. I have to tell you what it is. You were created in the image of God, an image bearer. He set you down here as representatives of him, but the problem with that plan is we didn't want to bear God's image; we wanted to be God.
We wanted to build our own kingdoms, pursue our own comforts and pleasures, collect treasures and trinkets, stuff and status. So we were separated from God by our sin, but God loves us so much that he came into our world, literally entered our world to save us. The way he did so is he paid a price for our sins. The price he paid for our sins was his life in Jesus Christ. Jesus literally took the punishment you deserve because of your sins: hell.
On a cross, he suffered, was tortured, and died. He was buried with your sin, past, present, and future. He rose to new life, showing you that God is bigger than death and that he can then give you his Spirit if you trust in that payment. He paid the price for your sins. He got what you deserve so you can have what he deserves. He gives you his Spirit to influence you toward the things of God. He leaves you here so that you would be God's representatives, God's ambassadors.
That is the gospel. It's just a word that means good news. That's the good news about a new life, that you can live your life today for him…the rest of your days for him. God's plan of spreading that news, his advertisement plan, his marketing plan, is his people. See, if you want to spread out water, you lay pipes. If you want to spread out electricity throughout a neighborhood, you install wires. If you want to spread out vehicles, automobiles, you build roads. If you want to spread the gospel, you put in Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, you and me.
In summary, the gospel is strengthened in opposition, the gospel cannot be stopped, and the gospel moves through God's people. Do you remember that picture of the cross I showed you in the beginning of the message? Where I got that picture was from TripAdvisor. True story. I pulled it down. A tourist had taken that picture visiting the Colosseum in Rome. If you zoom out a little bit, there you see the Roman Colosseum.
Why does that matter? Irony of ironies. I want you to consider something with me for a moment. That very structure is where Christians were persecuted and killed for entertainment. There's a lot of controversy around this. If you disagree, I would tell you right next door was Nero's circus where certainly Christians were tortured for entertainment. They had animal skins stitched to them and wild dogs released to tear them to pieces at the cheers of the crowd. They were lit on fire to be lamps on the side of the road.
Christians were hated. Why? Because of the one who died on that very structure, the cross. Why is this so crazy? My friend David Marvin actually has that picture on his desk. He loves this reality, that the gospel is unstoppable, that the very people who said, "I hate the man who died on the cross and anybody who would follow him. In fact, I'm going to torture and kill them for sport…" They've come and gone, and where they stood sits the symbol of that man.
It's ironic to wear a cross around your neck, ironic at best. It's the equivalent of wearing a guillotine, the equivalent of wearing an electric chair. The cross is an instrument of torture. It's the way you slowly kill somebody. But the reason we wear it around our necks or on our shirts is because it represents to us a new life, hope. It represents to us forgiveness.
In the very spot where somebody wiped up the blood of Christians, picked up their limbs to clean up, they would have never in a million years guessed that, 2,000 years from then, where they stood would be the symbol of God's love and grace and mercy. The reason it is is that it's unstoppable. It's strengthened in opposition, and it's carried forward through people who have trusted in it for the forgiveness of their sins. I'm going to pray, and as I pray, I want you to pray for that one person and for the courage to share with them.
Father, thank you for your example through your apostles. Thank you for the grace that we receive through your Son Jesus. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who gives us courage. Not a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline. Father, right now would you please bring to mind that one person we work with, who we know, in our family, in our neighborhood, next door, who doesn't know you? Would you lay him or her on our hearts right now, their name specifically? Help us not to shake it. Help us not to move past it.
I want you to think about that person.
Father, would you give us the courage to engage them, to be very specific with them, to tell them about a new life that is available to them, one that we've found through your Son Jesus Christ? Father, we thank you for the hope of the gospel, and we thank you for the ways it has spread throughout our world. Help us to be a part of that spreading. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Empires come and go. Theudas, Judas, religions, cults rise and fall, but this one thing remains: the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. I want you to share it this week, that lights would spread all over this city, all over this place, that this beautiful, invasive plant would reproduce itself, creating beauty everywhere.
If we can partner with you in that, write the name in the Watermark News of who you're going to share with, who we can pray for, when we can pray for courage for you. We would love to partner with you in that way. Please don't stop with that one name. Please continue to share past that. Take the force forward, the message forward. We would love to help in any way we can.
There's going to be a group of people up here who would love to pray with you. If you have a question about anything you've heard or want to place your faith in the gospel for the first time, they would love to talk with you. They'll be up here immediately afterwards. For the rest of you, have a great week of worship.