Adam Tarnow teaches from Acts 8:1-8, where the church begins to scatter and the Gospel is spread from Jerusalem. Adam shows us that 1) God uses people, not positions, to share his message, 2) God scatters people on purpose, and 3) the world is changed when the good news is shared. The most significant contribution you make may not be something you do, but rather someone you share the good news with. So share the good news!
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The Good Infection: Christianity
Humility in Men and Prejudice in the Church: Something to Be Praised and Something to Be Purged
The Conversion of Cornelius AND Peter
How the Saints Go Marching Out
Saul: The Second Most Important Conversion in History
Extraordinary Living Marked by Ordinary Obedience
The “Illusion” of a False Faith and How to Deal With It. Simon Magus and Tares Among the Wheat
Tale of Two Adams: A Strategy to Change the World
Hello, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano. I hope everybody is doing well today. My name is Adam Tarnow. I get to direct the college ministry here at Watermark, and I'm excited to be with you guys today. I want to start off with a story to set up where we're going.
I was 19 years old. I was a freshman in college. I went to college in South Carolina at Clemson University. I did what a lot of freshmen do when they show up to college. I decided to pay for my friends, and I joined a fraternity. This fraternity I joined had something all the pledges had to do to get to know the brothers. That's what we were: brothers. You had to get to know the brothers, so what you had to do is go around and interview all of the brothers as a pledge.
It really was a great time to go around and meet them all and get to know their stories and get to learn more about all of these guys who had been in the fraternity. So I'm a freshman. I'm 19 years old. I'm going through and doing this. Probably about halfway through the semester, I had one interview coming up with a guy named Adam Landrum. I hadn't really spent a lot of time with this guy before.
My pledge brothers had told me a lot about him, and they had been like, "Hey, have you had the interview with Adam yet?" I was like, "No, I haven't." They're like, "Dude, it is crazy." I'm like, "Why?" and they're like, "He talks about religion the whole time." I'm like, "That's weird, because we didn't join this fraternity for religion. We joined it for another reason, and that's kind of weird that he's in here and that's what he talks about."
Anyway, I wasn't scared about that and just had that interview. So I scheduled it with him. I remember it was the middle of the week. It was in the middle of the day. I walk into his dorm room. We sit on the couch in his dorm room, and I bring out my little book where I have all of my questions written and I write down notes in case I'm ever quizzed on it, and all that kind of stuff. So we sit down, and he goes, "I ask all the questions in the interview." I was like, "Awesome. I would prefer not to work right now."
He goes, "Here's the first question I ask in the interview." I said, "Great. What is it?" He goes, "If you die tonight, are you going to go to heaven or hell?" That is an awkward question the first time you meet somebody. I sat there and thought about that. I had never really been asked that question that directly before. I don't know if you guys have ever been asked that question that directly before. It kind of puts you on the spot, puts you back on your heels.
I thought about it for a second, and I said, "I think I would go to heaven." I thought maybe we were done with that, and then he asked another question, and this really was the hardest question I've ever been asked. Honestly, it was a question I still haven't recovered from. He goes, "All right, Adam. Let's say if you do die and you do stand before God and God looks at you and says, 'Adam, why should I let you into heaven?' what answer would you give him?"
I really was baffled by that one. I mean, that first question was a little bit awkward, but this one was really difficult. There was this internal wrestling as I was thinking about how to answer it, because you're like, "I don't know. Do I play humble, because maybe that's what a good person would do, or do I go straight up like, 'Hey, I think I'm in for all these reasons,' and would that disqualify me if I'm not humble and a little bit arrogant about it?"
So I'm trying to figure out which one to do, and finally I just decided, All right, I'm going to answer the question based on what I really believe. I said, "Hey, I think God would let me in. I think I would answer, 'God, you'll let me in because you know I'm a good person. You know that in my heart I try to do good things.'" Then I just listed out my résumé. I said, "I've done these things. I've done these things. I call my mom on the weekend. I was nice to my sister once. I gave money away sometimes," all this kind of stuff.
I just started going through my list of all of the good things I had done, and that really was my theology. That's really the way I viewed life at that point. I thought when we died there was a scale in heaven, and as long as your good deeds outweighed your bad deeds, you were in. I thought heaven was going to be full of good people.
The scale when you got up there, if it was kind of even, like maybe it was 50/50, then you got to go into this debate with God and got to talk about some of those bad deeds, and maybe you could transfer them over, and be like, "See, that one was really my roommate's fault." "Oh yeah, you're right, Adam. It was. Yeah, let's move that over to the good deeds." Then, all right, we're in. I don't know where that theology came from or where that worldview came from, but that's what I believed when I was 19 years old.
He sat there and listened to all of that, and he said, "That's great that that's what you believe. That's great that you want to be a good person. I just want to let you know that's not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that heaven is not going to be full of good people. The Bible teaches that heaven is full of forgiven people. What it means to be a Christian is not that you have earned your way to heaven.
In fact, Adam, guess what? You've done some things that have separated you from God, and you don't even have enough time to make up for it. You can't be good enough. What it means to be a Christian is you recognize the sin that's in your life has separated you from God, and you recognize that there's nothing you can do to bridge that gap where you can get back into a relationship with God.
What you believe is that when Jesus was hanging on the cross, he was taking the punishment and the payment you deserved. What it means to be a Christian is that you trust that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. That's what it means to be a Christian." I had never really heard it laid out like that before. It was amazing to me to hear that. "So it's not about earning? It's not about acting good? It's not about this scale? It's about Jesus and putting your faith in him?"
It blew my mind, and, quite honestly, I haven't recovered since that day. What's really amazing to me as I sit down and think more about it now… Years and years have gone by, and I think about that conversation I had with my friend Adam. What's amazing to me is that Adam was a nobody. He was a 20-year-old kid from Elkhart, Indiana, studying accounting at Clemson University. That's who he was.
He had no intention of being a preacher. He had no intention of being a pastor. He had no intention of being on a professional church staff or anything like that. He was just a guy, a normal guy, whose life, about a year before I met him, had been transformed by the truth and the good news of what God had done to accomplish salvation through Jesus Christ. His life changed a year before, and it changed so much and he believed this message of Jesus so much he decided he was going to share this amazing news with all of his friends.
He just looked at where he was plopped down at that moment. God had placed him at Clemson University in that fraternity, and he just said, "This is where I am. These are my friends. I love these friends of mine, so I'm going to share this message with all of my friends." That's amazing that he did that. God strategically placed him in my life, and that's probably the reason I'm here today. I don't think I'm alone in that story.
I can point back to one person God strategically brought into my life, and it's one of the large reasons I'm in a church today. I think I'm not alone in that story. I bet you guys have a story that's very similar to that, that when you're in the room here in Dallas or Plano or Fort Worth, you have a story that's similar to mine. God strategically placed somebody in your life, and that somebody shared this life-changing message of Jesus Christ with you, and that's the reason you're here today.
I start with all of that because what we're going to be talking about as we jump back into the book of Acts today and continue on in this series is the privilege the followers of Jesus Christ have of sharing the good news of what God has done to accomplish salvation through Jesus. That's what we're going to be talking about.
This is such an important message for all of us for a couple of reasons. One of them is simply that values cool off and vision leaks. As followers of Jesus, a lot of us know we have this amazing privilege to go out there and share this life-changing message with the world, and the problem is just that value cools off over time or that vision kind of leaks, so sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that this is what God wants us to do, that we get to go and share this amazing message.
I mean, life just happens. We get busy. Things start happening at home. We have deadlines at work. We have things going on with our kids. We get sick. We just have distractions that come into our lives, so sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of this amazing privilege we have of sharing this good news with the world. Another reason this is so important for all of us is that if we don't do this, if we don't share this good news with other people, you could make the argument that that's one of the most hateful things we could do.
What's really interesting about that is there's kind of a movement in the culture right now that would like to say that if followers of Jesus share the gospel with people, that's hate speech. They think we shouldn't do it, that we shouldn't go out there and proclaim that people are sinners in need of a savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ. People want to tell us that that's hate speech. The argument I want to make this morning from Scripture is that that is the farthest thing from hate speech. In fact, what we'll see is it is considered hateful if we don't share this message.
Let me use this as a quick illustration. Do you guys know Penn & Teller, the Vegas act, the magicians and entertainers? Well, Penn Jillette, one of the guys of Penn & Teller, is an outspoken atheist. He has made it very clear that he does not believe there is a God and doesn't have that worldview. He tells a story.
One day, back in 2009, after one of their shows in Vegas, they did a meet and greet with the audience, and he tells a story about a gentleman who came up to him after one of those shows and humbly and respectfully shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. This gentleman knew he was not a follower of Jesus, and this gentleman loved him enough to say, "Hey, I think this is the greatest news the world has ever known, and I want to share it with you."
Penn was so overwhelmed by this man's kindness and generosity that he woke up the next morning, turned on his camera, and recorded a little YouTube video of just talking about this, among some other things on that morning, but this is one of the things he talked about. There's a video out on YouTube. Some of you guys have probably seen it. Here's basically what he said. Listen to this.
"I've always said I don't respect people who don't proselytize." Proselytize is just a fancy word for share this life-changing message of Jesus. "I don't respect that at all. If you believe there's a heaven and a hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?
How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn't believe that truck was bearing down on you, there's a certain point where I tackle you, and this…this proselytizing, this sharing the message of Jesus…is way more important than that scenario."
This is important for all of us because the value cools off and the vision leaks sometimes, but it's also important for all of us who are followers of Jesus, because if we don't share this message, that's one of the most hateful things we could do. If you have your Bibles, let's open them up to Acts, chapter 8. We're going to be in verses 1-8. Here's what we're going to see as we go through this next section and this next part of the story of the church in its infancy.
As we look at these eight verses, we're going to be reminded of the fact that God uses people; he doesn't use positions. We're going to be reminded of the fact that God has randomly scattered his people all throughout the world on purpose, and we're going to see that the world is changed when the good news is shared.
Where we ended last week was with the stoning of Stephen, the martyr. He was killed for proclaiming this message of Jesus. This started this great turmoil in the church. This was a pretty dramatic moment, to see one of the faithful followers of Jesus killed for proclaiming this message. So that's where we pick up. Stephen is now dead, and this is what happens. Acts, chapter 8, verse 1:
"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison."
I don't think we can fully understand and really feel just how dramatic this day was, to watch Stephen be martyred and then to watch the church scatter. I would imagine if we were a part of the church there in that moment, that would have been a very discouraging day. It would have been a very emotional day. It would have been a day full of fear and maybe wondering, "Is this little movement of Jesus followers about to be snuffed out? It does not look like it's going well right now, because one of our guys just died, and now all of these people have scattered and left Jerusalem."
What we need to remember is that even though it seemed like this was going to be a really horrible day, this was the plan. This is exactly what Jesus told the apostles was going to happen. Just go back to Acts, chapter 1, verse 8. This is what Jesus told the apostles. Right before he ascended to heaven, Jesus said, "Hey, stay in Jerusalem, and here's what's going to happen."
Acts 1:8: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." This was just the plan coming to fruition. It was maybe coming to fruition in a way that was different than they expected, but God was not asleep at the wheel on this. He knew exactly what was going on. This was the plan that was going to happen.
The part that's interesting and, I think, really encouraging for you and me that I want us to notice and make the first point of is this. Look at what it says in verse 1. "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church…" Look at who's scattered. "…all except the apostles…" Those were the ones who were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
1._ God uses people, not positions_. Back in Acts 1, Jesus is telling the apostles, "Hey, wait here for the gift, and then you guys are all going to go throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." If I'm an apostle and I'm sitting there listening to Jesus, my expectation is that, sooner or later, I am probably going to be going on a trip, that I'm going to be the one responsible for carrying this message throughout the region around Jerusalem and eventually around the world.
That's just the way I would think about it if I were the apostle, but what's really different, what's really amazing is that when he was executing his plan, the apostles stayed behind. Do you know who went and scattered and started to take this message? The nobodies, the regular people who had had a life-changing encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. They were the ones who scattered. God was using people. He was not using positions.
That's how this movement started. That was the pattern of this movement thousands of years ago, and, honestly, it's still the pattern of the movement today. That's how this movement went from 12 people to now, today, there's an estimate that there are 2.1 billion Christians on the earth right now, about 28 percent of the world's population. About a third of the world claims to be a follower of Jesus.
The reason why is because this movement spread not through people of authority and position… It wasn't the apostles who spread it. It was always given to the regular, normal nobodies, just like you and me. They were the ones who were responsible for moving that message. This is a brilliant strategy. This is the original viral marketing strategy, the very first one. "We're not going to centralize the spread of the message. There's not going to be an evangelism department. It's going to be the responsibility and privilege of everybody to be used by God to spread this message."
It makes me think of Walt Disney World down in Orlando. Their reputation right now is "The Happiest Place on Earth." The greatest customer service experience you could ever have is down there in Walt Disney World. When I was in college, right between my sophomore and junior year, I took a semester off and went down to Walt Disney World to do an internship.
I did an accounting internship. It wasn't exciting. I wasn't on the Jungle Cruise. I didn't dress up like Snow White or anything like that. I was just doing an accounting internship, just a normal internship down there. Every employee who went down there had to go through the exact same training. They call it Traditions. One of the things I remember about that training is they started to talk about the reputation Disney World had, and it had this reputation of customer service.
They made it very, very clear that the responsibility for wowing the guest was not with the department; it was with every single employee. They made it very clear to everybody. It didn't matter if you were an accountant. It didn't matter if you worked in a restaurant. It didn't matter if you were running the Jungle Cruise, if you were driving people to their car in the parking lot, or if you were taking tickets. Everybody had the responsibility and the authority to be able to make the guest experience amazing.
Here's what that meant. Any employee walking around the park… If you're walking around the Magic Kingdom and you see a little kid holding a balloon and they let go of that balloon and it floats away, you have the authority and the responsibility to go get another balloon and give it to the kid. If you see them drop their ice cream, you just go get another one. If you see anything happen that would possibly be messing with their experience, you have the authority to go and make it right.
In fact, Todd emailed me last night. He told me a story of when he was there and he had young kids. His kids were really young. They were there in December, and they were there late at night at the Magic Kingdom. The weather had cooled off a little bit that night, and they were getting ready to watch a Christmas parade. One of the little kids who was about 4 years old (I think it was his daughter; maybe it was Ally) poured a drink on her clothes.
It was cool at night, and she was starting to get cold, and they didn't have any extra clothes for her, so Todd takes his daughter and walks into one of the merchandise shops. He starts looking around at all of the clothes and looking at the price tags and walks up to one of the employees and says, "Excuse me. Do you have a sale rack?" The employee was like, "No, we don't have a sale rack, but what would she like to wear?"
Todd kind of laughed and was like, "Well, she'd wear anything in here, but I really wasn't planning on spending $80 on a sweat suit for my 4-year-old." Listen to what they said. The employee said, "Well, she is so cute, and we would love for her to wear anything in this store. We would be proud to clothe her." So they went and found an outfit. The employee ripped off the price tag and put it on Ally. She was warm, and they went and had a great time.
Todd was like, "I got her name. I got her boss' name. I wrote letters. That was amazing." Years and years later, he is still raving about it. That's what makes that experience down there so amazing. They haven't centralized customer service. That employee that day didn't say, "Oh, are you cold? Okay, go to that department, and go over there to that desk." No, they knew it was their responsibility. That's what makes it so great down there.
I'm looking at this and going, "They just totally ripped off Jesus." That's what they did. This was Jesus' idea. It's not Disney's idea. Jesus knew, "We're going to decentralize this. The people are going to be the ones out there spreading this message. That's how growth is going to happen." Just think about Watermark. That's exactly how Watermark has grown. This church started 16 years ago with families in a living room.
Now, 16 years later, there are thousands of people who would call this their church home. There are three campuses here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and the reason there has been so much growth here at Watermark is not because we have a great senior pastor. The reason there's so much growth is because we have a great college director. I'm only being serious. No, I'm kidding. The reason there has been so much growth here is because of you guys, every single one of you.
People have been brought here, and their lives are changing. Jesus has changed your life, and because Jesus has changed your life and you have recognized that this is amazing news of what God has done to accomplish salvation through Jesus, you go tell other people, and then you invite them, and then Jesus changes their lives, and then they go share that news, and then they invite, and then they go share that news, and then they invite. That's how it grows.
As a pastor here, that kind of growth is so encouraging, because it's healthy growth. It's not like, "Hey, we have the best show in town. That's why everybody is coming: to see the circus here." That's not the type of growth we're having. The reason for the encouraging growth is that Jesus is changing lives and people are faithfully sharing that message. The growth has always happened by people, not by positions.
Let's keep going through this passage. This great persecution broke out, and they scattered, and look at what they did in Acts 8, verse 4. "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." Wherever it is they were scattered, they preached the Word. That word preached could maybe conjure up something like what I'm doing this morning.
We may think, "Oh, preached. So what Luke must be saying is you need to find a big room with a bunch of rows, and they just bring people into the rows, and then you get a guy with a microphone and maybe a band or something like that." That's not at all what that word preached means when Luke wrote that out. What that word preached means is simply this: sharing news.
These people were scattered everywhere, and what they were doing was preaching the Word. Basically, they were sharing news wherever they went. So even though there was this dramatic moment in Jerusalem, and even though they were scattered and now going into lands that maybe were not their home, they knew exactly what was going on. They knew they were not headed there by accident, that God was randomly scattering them there on purpose.
2._ God randomly scatters on purpose._ They were scattered on purpose, and you and I are scattered somewhere on purpose. Let me remind you of something. The neighborhood you live in right now…you are not just there because it feeds into a good school system. That's not the only reason you're there.
The office you're in right now or your place of employment…you're not just there because they offer better benefits or have a higher salary. That's not the only reason you're in that office. The reason you're a part of the PTA…you're not just there to make that school better for your kids. You're there for other reasons. You're not just in college right now to get a degree; you're there for other reasons too.
You're on that team not just because you can play first base better than other people and you deserve that position; you're on that team for different reasons. You're not a member of that gym just to justify wearing workout clothes every day; you're there for other reasons. The reason we have been scattered all over is so we can share the good news of what God has done to accomplish salvation through Jesus Christ. We're scattered randomly on purpose.
I say that, and I would imagine there are a few reactions that pop up for those of us who are listening to this. For some of us, you hear all that, and it fires you up. You're like, "Yes! Thank you. This value had cooled off. I needed this value heated up. This is really helpful, Adam. Thank you so much. I know exactly who I'm going to call tomorrow. I know exactly who I'm going to invite to lunch tomorrow. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know exactly what I'm going to do."
You're fired up, and I say "God bless you." That's it. Yes, go. Be reminded of the importance of this value. But there are some of us in here who hear that, and there's a fear popping up. For some of us, that fear is popping up because you start to think about, "All right. What if I was going to be used by God to engage in conversations with people about Jesus?"
The fear that pops up is like, "I don't know what I would say. What if they start asking me questions from the Bible? What if they start asking me questions about the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament? What if they start asking me questions about the problem of evil in the world? What if they start asking me all of these hard questions that I don't know how to answer? I don't want to be embarrassed. So because I don't have all the answers, I don't want to engage in that conversation."
Hear this. If the reason you are not engaging in conversations with people about Jesus Christ is because there's a lack of information, I have some really encouraging news. First, I've been there. After I became a follower of Jesus in college, I tried to engage in conversations with people. I knew nothing, and it was awkward and embarrassing, but in some strange way, God used it.
I used those opportunities to get equipped and go to people who knew more than me and go, "All right, so this person asked these three questions," and I'd get an answer and then go back and engage in conversation. I've been there, I've done that, but here's the encouraging piece. If there's a lack of information that's causing you to not do this, that's the easiest thing to fix. We would love here at Watermark to be able to encourage you and help you and equip you to do that.
There will be people up here today who can help you with that. There are classes you can do. You can write on that perforated section. Just write a note. "Hey, I want to be equipped on how to do this better." Write that, drop it in, and we will reach out to you this week and schedule a time to be able to equip you. If the fear is a lack of information, we can help with that. That's easy.
I think for a lot of us, though, the fear is not necessarily a lack of information. The fear for a lot of us may be what our friend Penn was talking about: that social awkwardness. When we think about sharing this message with other people, we jump to hyperbole and go, "Oh great. Now I have to be weird. Now I have to put all of these crazy bumper stickers and fish symbols on my car. I have to pretend I like Fireproof, the movie. I have to become a Jesus juker now." Do you guys know Jesus jukers? Those people who in social situations, at the most awkward and inopportune time, strong-arm the conversation to be about Jesus.
You've run into these people, maybe at a Super Bowl party one year. They had hot wings there, and you were sitting there and enjoying the game. You took a bite out of one of those chicken wings and were like, "Wow! These are hot." Then the Jesus juker across the room was like, "Oh, the chicken wings are hot?" You're like, "Yeah." He just looks at you and goes, "Yeah, not hotter than hell, and that's where you're going if you don't accept Jesus Christ right now as your Lord and Savior. Do you want to accept him?"
Then he goes and starts getting water bottles and is like, "And I baptize you in the name of the Father…" And taking you over and trying to dunk you in the sink and all this kind of stuff. Like, total awkwardness. We're laughing, but I think that's the fear a lot of us are hiding behind, just going, "I don't want to be awkward." Let me just remind you that the call is not to be awkward and strange and pour water on people. For crying out loud. Do not do that. If you're a Jesus juker, repent.
Look at what Paul says in Colossians 1:28. " [Jesus] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." A little later in the book of Colossians, chapter 4, verses 5-6: "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
The call on our lives, the privilege we have of sharing the gospel with people and sharing this good news, is not to be awkward. Do you know what it is? Just be their friend. Ask them questions. Listen to what they say. Invite them to things. "Hey, do you want to come to church with me? Hey, do you want to read this book with me? Hey, do you want to listen to this message with me? Hey, do you want to meet my other friends?"
Invite them, and share the message of Jesus with them. "Hey, can I share with you some questions I was asked one day that sounded kind of awkward but ultimately changed my life? Hey, can I share some really good news with you? Hey, we've talked about faith. Do you mind if I share with you some of my faith and what I believe and how it has impacted my life?" It's news, so share it.
Here's what we all need to remind ourselves of. We know exactly how to do this. We do this all the time. We know how to share news. If you see a funny YouTube video, what do you do? You share it with people. If you read a good article, what do you do? You share it with people. If you go to a nice restaurant or a good restaurant, what do you do? You tell people about it. If you see a great movie, you tell people about it. Whatever your latest Netflix binge is, you tell people.
We share news all the time. We know how to do it. If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and we are not sharing this news, it's either because we don't understand it, we don't believe it, or we fear our reputation more than anything else, and none of those are adequate excuses. He has always used people, not positions. God has randomly scattered people all over on purpose, and that purpose is to share this message.
Let's look at how he wraps up this section where Luke goes next. Now we get an example of one of these nobodies who was scattered and started to share the message. It was a guy named Philip. Philip we met in Acts, chapter 6, when this early Jesus movement was going through a little bit of some internal issues with the feeding of widows. The apostles were busy with praying and preaching and proclaiming this message, and what was happening behind the scenes… The feeding of widows was not going well.
So they all got together and said, "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to let the apostles continue to do what they're good at. They're going to pray and go out there and proclaim the message, and we're going to find some other faithful men from among these believers, and they're going to help take care of the widows." They picked seven people. Stephen was one of them. Philip was one of them. Philip was just a faithful follower of Jesus whom God scattered somewhere on purpose. We get a little example of what Philip went through after that day.
Verse 5: "Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there." He shared this life-changing message there. "When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city."
What's amazing is just a few verses earlier, the beginning part of this chapter in verse 1, it says, "On that day a great persecution broke out…" This section started with a great persecution, but then we remember that it was God's plan. It was being perfectly executed. This story that started with a great persecution ends with great joy. The reason there was great joy is that lives were being changed by the message of Jesus Christ, and when lives are changed, when people come to know who Jesus is, there is great joy that erupts.
People in that city where Philip was… As he faithfully proclaimed that message, their lives were changed. Radical transformation happened, and there was great joy in that city. Then it went to another city, and then it went to another city, and then it went to another city, and now here we are, 2,000 years later, a third of the world claims to be a follower of this Messiah Jesus, 2.1 billion Christians.
3._ The world is changed when the good news is shared._ This idea of world changing and "We're going to change the world…" It's kind of a buzzy word right now, kind of popular in our culture, especially with the election season among us. A lot of the candidates are going to be talking about, "Hey, we're going to change the world, change the world, change the world."
There's a university here in Dallas whose mantra is "World changers shaped here." It's on a billboard. Those of you who live in Dallas may have driven by and seen that billboard. World changers are going to be shaped at that university is what they're claiming. It really is the cry of a generation right now. Millennials' cry is, "We want to change the world."
In fact, the young adult ministry here at Watermark… Their mission is "Surrendered to God, we are changing the world through the lives of young adults." You hear a lot of people nowadays talking about, "Change the world, change the world, change the world." It's motivating. I get excited. "Yeah, let's go do it! Let's go change the world."
Then I think about it for a little bit, and my Gen-X snarkiness kicks in, and I'm like, "Change the world? Come on. What do you mean? It feels like you're trying to fire me up to like, 'Come on, we're going to go boil the ocean. We're going to print out the Internet.'" I'm like, "What? Boil the ocean? Print out the Internet? Can we even accomplish these tasks? I don't even know if this is possible to change the world." But it is.
Do you want to know how to change the world? It's not boiling the ocean. You share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. You share the good news of what God has done to accomplish salvation through Jesus Christ. You share it with one person, and then you share it with another, and then you share it with another, and then you share it with another, and guess what happens. Cities rejoice. Lives change. The world is different.
Hear this. Here's what we need to get our minds around. The most significant contribution you and I might make to changing the world is probably not going to be something we do. It's probably going to be someone we share this message with. That's going to be probably the most significant contribution you and I make to changing the world.
My friend Adam Landrum changed the world, because he faithfully shared this life-changing message of Jesus Christ with me, and by the grace of God, after a couple of years… My life wasn't changed that first day when he shared that message with me. I spent a lot of time with Adam. He got in my head that day, and it made me think about the world a little bit differently. I watched him, and I was a friend with him for two years.
We had lunches together and we played golf together and we played basketball together and we just hung out and watched TV together. He just kept having these small conversations, reminding me about my need for Jesus. By the grace of God, right before my twenty-first birthday (I was a junior in college), the God of the universe opened my eyes to see that I was a sinner in need of a savior and that Savior was Jesus Christ, and my life changed. The trajectory of my life changed.
Where I should be now, as a 41-year-old, is I should be a pleasure-seeking, money-hungry, greedy, mean, angry alcoholic. That was the trajectory my life was heading on when I was 21. There is one less of those people in the world today because a kid from Elkhart, Indiana, whose life had been changed by Jesus, believed this was good news and shared it with some kid from Silver Spring, Maryland. Their lives happened to intersect in Clemson, South Carolina. Because my world changed, the world changed.
You change the world by sharing this message. God uses people; he doesn't use positions. He has randomly scattered all of us on purpose, and we're going to change the world when this good news is shared. I'll just close with this. Here's my ask. If you're in the room today and you have not trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, my ask is for you to believe, to consider the claims of Christ.
If you're in here this morning and you're where I was when I was 19 and you think that somehow you earn your way to heaven, I just want to share with you some amazing news. You don't earn your way to heaven. It is a free gift that is given to you when you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as payment for your sins. I invite you to believe that. If you're in the room today and you believe that message, my ask is to share the good news of what God has done to accomplish salvation through Jesus.
Right now I want you to pray. "God, who do you want me to share this with? Give me a name. Give me multiple names. Who do you want me to reach out to? Who can I be a better friend to? Who is it, God, you have randomly scattered me on purpose into their life? Who have you strategically placed me in their path? Who is it, God, you want me to share with?" This news is amazing, and it's an amazing privilege that we get to share it.
God, we just thank you. We thank you for the good news of what you did to accomplish salvation through Jesus. We are so grateful, Lord, that it's not about earning our way to you. We're so grateful, Lord, that life now when we know you is just a response to this amazing love you've shown us in Jesus.
God, I pray for us here at Watermark. I pray that we will continue to boldly, with wisdom, with conversations that are seasoned with salt and full of grace, so that we know how to answer everyone… Lord, I pray that we will continue to boldly and faithfully proclaim this message of Jesus to a world that needs it. God, I pray you will continue to bring to mind the names of the people, the faces of the people you want us to share this message with.
Lord, for my friends who are in here who don't know you yet, I pray that you will open their eyes and that they will come to see that Jesus died for them. That's what we ask. I pray, Lord, that you will be with us and that there will be great joy in this city and in cities all around the world because of what you have accomplished through Christ. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
If you're in here and you're like 19-year-old Adam Tarnow, I invite you to come on down. We want to talk to you. We'd love to tell you more about this Jesus. If you're in here and you're like 20-year-old Adam Landrum and you believe, then go and faithfully proclaim this message. You guys have a great week of worship.