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In the midst of a season where sickness is spreading, JP teaches us about the good “infection” of Christianity that spread in Acts 11:19-30 and is still spreading today. Some of the symptoms of this good infection are that it is very contagious, it makes people hungry, and it heals. More specifically, this good infection causes those infected to want to evangelize and share the good news of Jesus, it causes those infected to be hungry for God’s Word and a deeper relationship with Him, and it causes brokenness left by sin to be healed.
The Myth of Herod’s Power and the Fact of His Existence
3 Things that Happen When God's People Pray
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
How are we doing, Watermark? We're back in Acts today. Has anybody been sick? Raise your hand if you've been sick. Some of you are shifting around, changing seats and stuff. You don't have to do that. It's going around. That's what they keep saying. "It's going around." Which makes you feel like such a victim, like you're just waiting to catch whatever it is.
It has been going around in our family. Our family has been sick. The first one to go was my daughter. Presley got strep throat, a little invention from Satan. Then my wife Monica and our youngest got the flu. Yeah, I know. And it's Monica. Anybody can get sick except her. She's not allowed to. Like, "Why would you do that to me?" Because who's going to take care of her? Then I've been sick for about three and a half weeks and just trying to figure out what it is. I've taken antibiotics and a steroid and Tamiflu.
It's funny how your friends diagnose what you have. Does this ever happen to you? They stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night or something, and they're like, "Oh yeah. You have a sore throat? I bet it's strep throat." I'm like, "Okay. I don't know. Maybe." Then they're like, "Oh no! Monica had the flu? I'm sure you caught the flu." I'm not talking about doctors. I'm talking about your friends, your buddies. "I'm sure you got the flu." I'm like, "I don't know. I don't think it's the flu. I don't feel that bad." "Oh, it's a cold. It's the lesser evil cousin of the flu."
Then you have that buddy who thinks everything is just allergies, no matter how sick you are. "Oh, dude, it's allergies. Mountain cedar is way up right now." It's like, "Mountain cedar? We're in Dallas. There isn't a mountain for hundreds of miles. What is a mountain cedar anyways? What are you talking about?" It kind of settles into this, like what I think I have right now, a little sinus infection. Whatever it starts, it always kind of ends up as a sinus infection.
You ask these questions. Is it bacterial? Is it viral? What are your symptoms? Do you have a fever? What are your symptoms? If I can identify your symptoms, then I can know what it is, and then I can treat it. It's funny how this thing comes in and infects your body, and it affects everything about your body, if you think about it. It affects how you do what you do, and everything changes. The way you feel changes, and because the way you feel changes, it impacts where you go and what you do, whether you stay at home or whatnot.
Not only does it affect your body, but then it goes from body to body to body. It comes in and infects your body, and then it infects other bodies. Not only that, but today in Acts, chapter 11, we're going to see how an infection comes in and infects one body and then another body and then another body, but it's the good infection. It's a good infection.
This is the biggest challenge of the message today, and it is my fault because of the illustration and metaphor I've chosen. You are going to have to flip a switch in your mind. When you hear infection, think good infection. It's a positive thing, like infectious laughter or infectious joy. There's something that is spreading, but it is the most positive thing you can think of, the most beautiful, incredible, fabulous, amazing thing you can think of.
In fact, C.S. Lewis says this in Mere Christianity: "[Jesus] came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life he has—by what I call 'good infection.' Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else."
What you're going to see in the text today is a city of people are going to ascribe a name to this good infection. For the very first time we are given the name Christian. It doesn't show up anywhere before Acts, chapter 11. The disciples in Antioch were called Christians. They gave a name to this "disease," but as I said, the challenge will be for you to think of infection as good.
We're talking about the outbreak of this good infection and how you know if you've caught it. What are its symptoms? It's interesting that as everyone, person to person, fell in my house… Not my daughter Finley. She never got sick. She has kind of an extraterrestrial immune system or something, so she never caught whatever it was that we had and that we've been carrying.
I tell you that, because I want you to know it is possible for you to be in church your entire life, ever since you were a baby, to be surrounded by the Christians with this good infection and never catch it, because you got a vaccine, which is just a little bit of Bible, a little bit of church, a little bit of good, a little bit of Jesus, a little bit of community, a little bit of spiritual disciplines, and you're never taken away by this good infection.
It's good for us to be reminded by this first-century church, because it's very different what we see here. When we take what we see in this historical narrative and begin to compare it to our lives, it's just so different in what's happening here. We're going to look at, as we move through Acts, chapter 11, verse 19, to the end of the chapter, how the good infection is contagious, how the good infection makes you hungry for God's Word, and how the good infection brings healing.
They're in Antioch here. Antioch is the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It is a wicked, vile city, devoid of Christianity, devoid of morality. These Christians show up for the first time, and they're given this name. If you have this disease where you don't feel things and your limbs begin to fall off, you are a leper. If you have this disease where you begin to love people, hatred is replaced with forgiveness, greed is replaced with generosity, kindness overflows from your life, and it begins to spread, you're a Christian.
"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out…" Scattered, outbreak… It sounds like an epidemic. "…when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews." Underline only among Jews. That's important. Verse 20: "Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also…" Underline to Greeks also. "…telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."
Let's summarize that. Stephen is killed. Remember Acts, chapter 7. Stephen was stoned. A man named Saul was there. He gave hearty approval to his death. He's like, "Yes. Yes, I did." His persecution breaks out, and what happens is Christians scatter. The people of the Way (they're not called Christians at the time; they're called the Way) scatter and move into these other cities and begin to share the gospel with Jews, because that's an easy conversion.
They have some religion and they know God the Father, and only the Father. You begin to tell them, "Hey, God has a Son Jesus," and they convert. Then it says they began to share with Greeks, with Gentiles, in Antioch, and something crazy happens. Greeks convert. Consider this. These men and women who woke up in the morning worshiping the god Zeus go to bed that night, and their kids are like, "Do we still worship Zeus, Daddy?"
"No, we worship a man named Jesus now."
"What? Why? It's no longer, like, rain and thunder and gods in the Greek god narrative?"
"No, no. There's a man named Jesus. God has a Son. He sent his Son Jesus who died for our sins, rose from the dead. We worship him now."
"Well, how do we learn about Jesus, Daddy?"
"I don't know." Because they didn't have anything else. All they have is the gospel. That's it. And they're converted, and it's spreading. Just a quick history lesson. There's this nation God has chosen, Israel. The people, Israelites, God's chosen people, for thousands of years have killed animals as sacrifices to God out of faith. They know God. Then God says, "Enough," and he sends his only Son Jesus Christ as the one and only sacrifice.
Jesus lives a perfect life for 33 years as an example to us, dies for our sins as a payment for our sins once and for all, and now he creates a way that you can follow through his provision. Through his death and resurrection, as a payment for your sins, you can know God. The veil is torn. You can have a relationship with the Creator of the universe. This club of God's chosen people is opened up to anyone. Now anyone can join. Anyone can come into this club. It's wide open. There are no credentials. There's no, "Well, you have to be of this race or of this tribe, the tribe of Levi." No, no. It is open to anybody.
1.The good infection is very contagious. We went to dinner last night after the service, and my niece got sick, had to throw up at dinner. They had to pack up their food and leave early. She had a stomach bug, threw up on the way home. So it's only a matter of time, because the stomach bug doesn't care. It doesn't care how old you are, what race you are, what color you are, your background, if you're a sinner or you're good. It doesn't matter. It just takes you out.
The good infection works the same way. It doesn't discriminate against anyone. Nobody is safe from this good infection. Todd has talked about this for two weeks, how the gospel crosses all lines of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. There's this idea that if we've been infected with the good infection we don't care. We, created in the image of God, believe that people are created in the image of God, and we share with everyone in the same way.
When we were preparing for this message, I was reminded about a mutual friend as I was talking with some guys, and they said, "You know, the thing that marks him, his distinctive, is that he speaks to everyone the same way, whether the server at the table, the president of nations, the homeless man on the corner, the college student, or the CEO. He looks them in the eyes and addresses them all with the same tone and the same voice, and he treats them all as the same person." That's convicting.
May it be true today as you go share a meal or go out to eat, that you talk to your server, the one who's serving you, that you would not take a position of authority but talk to them as someone who's created in the image of God. Our critics would say about us that our religion is so exclusive and Jesus is exclusive. Jesus is exclusive in that there is one way that you can be saved.
Let's agree if there were other ways, God wasted the death of his Son. If there was another way to get to God, then the narrative that he would allow his Son to die for the sins of men and women is foolish. He would have wasted his death, but because he gave one payment in his Son Jesus Christ, there is one way, but Christianity as an exclusive religion is the most inclusive of all exclusive religions in that it says, "Come one, come all."
God says in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Jesus, while he is the bouncer to heaven, he is the bouncer saying, "Hey, come one, come all. You're welcome through my death, through my provision. I want you here."
I love that anyone here who has been infected with this disease, this great, amazing, incredible infection, can leave here and take that message and share it with anyone you bump into. It is fully appropriate for the homeless men on the corner and the presidents of nations, completely appropriate for the abortion picketer and the clinic owner.
If you meet a white supremacist today, give him the same gospel you would as if you met the leader of the Black Panther movement. They can sit here side by side, right next to each other, and hear the same message of hope that they're desperate for. It doesn't matter. Android users and iPhone users unite, dog lovers and cat lovers, Cowboys fans and Redskins fans… If you're here and you graduated from the University of Texas, you can sit right next to a Texas Aggie and hear the same hope that you both need. The bond of Jesus can overcome any difference.
In verse 20, you have Christians from this African city Cyrene and the island of Cyprus going to Antioch to share with the Greeks. What's happening is Christianity is becoming this beautiful quilt of different nations and creeds and ethnicities being stitched together with only one thing in common: Jesus. No type of person is immune to this infection.
What that means for us is you cannot begin to think that someone is outside the reach of God because of their doubt. That is an expression of your doubt, not their doubt. God will save anybody. He doesn't care what they've done, who they are, how far from him they've run. Look no farther than the one speaking to you right now. He'll save anybody.
Here's how you know if you've been infected by this good infection: people start getting infected around you. Not just people like you, not just your golf buddies and your neighbors and your friends from your kids' school, but people not like you, people you bump into who look different than you, who talk differently than you. Other people get infected by this too. Through your intentionality, through your kindness, through the steps you take to get to know other folks who are not like you, it spreads.
I've been on antibiotics for two weeks. Have you ever heard you have to take all of the antibiotics? You have to finish them. Even if your symptoms go away, you have to finish them. I always wondered why, so I did a little bit of research this week. Here's why, in case you were wondering.
Essentially, the doctor prescribes to you more antibiotics than they think you need so to kill all of the bacteria inside of you causing the infection, because if all of the bacteria do not die from that antibiotic, what can happen is they can grow stronger, spread more, and create resistance to the antibiotic, so that when you spread it to someone else, now that bacteria is more resistant to the very thing you're using to kill it.
So I've been taking the antibiotic, careful to finish it, because I don't want to leave anything inside of me that's going to wreak more havoc. Now consider what's happening and how this text started. They killed Stephen to snuff out the Way. They killed one guy, but what happened is the others spread and built resistance and grew stronger. That's what's happening to the good infection.
It's growing stronger. It's spreading. It's leaping over oceans. It's moving into nations and infiltrating new areas and metropolitan areas, and the message of Jesus is growing stronger and building resistance. You can't stop us. You can't kill us. You can't drop us. You can't do anything to get rid of us. We're just going to keep on going. This good infection has spread through the blood of martyrs, mowed over like a dandelion. The seed just scatters.
Verse 22: "News of this reached the church in Jerusalem…" News that God was doing amazing work in Antioch. People were getting saved, Greeks and Jews. "…and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." Underline that: "remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." He's a good shepherd.
"He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."
Do you see that? "The disciples were called Christians…" This name is introduced. "…first at Antioch." It says in verse 26, "…and taught great numbers of people." The church in Jerusalem hears that God is doing this work, and they're like, "Man! We've heard God is really moving there. Hey, Barney, come here. You have to go check that out and see what's going on. Go do some reconnaissance work for us. Find out what God is doing there."
He goes there, and he's like, "Man, this is amazing. Saul, you have to come here. You have to come see this. You have to come see what God is doing over here in Antioch." What he didn't do is say, "Man, this is incredible. I could have a big megachurch here, and I could be the king, and these folks would be tempted to worship me just because of my knowledge of Jesus." There's no ego in the church.
He says, "These people have to be equipped. I have to go find other teachers and bring them here." I love the way I see God do that here too. We have to move and equip these people and train them up. Someone calls them Christian. Diseases are often identified by the one who discovers it. Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Alzheimer's disease are all named for the person who discovered them.
Our good infection was named for the one who discovered the remedy of our sin, the one who has the cure. We are Christ-ians. The -ian suffix means from the party of. We are from the party of Christ. We're little "Jesuses." Forget everything you know of Christianity and everything you think a Christian should be, and you should be like Jesus. That is your job description. That's what it looks like to have this good infection.
2._ The good infection makes you hungry for God's Word, which makes you stronger._ You grow in the faith. The good infection does not make you stagnant. I think about when I get weak. Contagion is the only thing that it has in common with the bad infection. Everything about the good infection is complete opposite of what a bad infection is.
When I get sick, I feel weak. I feel apathetic. I don't feel like doing anything. I lose my appetite. All I want to do is lock myself in my room and watch Netflix. That's it. Not be around anybody. When you have this good infection, there is a hunger that stirs inside of you, and as you feast on God's Word, you grow stronger in the faith.
Verse 23: " [Barnabas] encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." Verse 26: "So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people." What I want you to know is there has never been a chronically stagnant convert. There has never been someone who has tasted a little bit of Jesus and said, "Okay, I've had enough. I'm good right here."
"Why are you a Christian?"
"Well, because in the sixth grade I trusted Jesus. I got introduced to him, and I haven't thought about him since then." Ten years later… No, that's not the way it works. We grow in the faith. We've been given an appetite, and we feed this through discipleship and through the study of God's Word.
Now this is not to say that there are not immature believers in the church. The mature church is filled with immature believers. In fact, let me read something to you, because Rick Warren asked this once. He said, "What makes the mature church?" I love the way this pastor named Mark Beeson responded. To a question, "What makes the mature church?" he said this.
"I knew immediately how I would respond. 'The "mature church" is the church filled with immaturity.' Anywhere in the world, whether plant or animal, the clear delineation of 'maturity' is the ability to reproduce. Immature animals can't reproduce. Immature plants can't replicate themselves. The definition of maturity is 'being fully ripe, fully aged,' so the connotation of maturity is obvious. Where you see maturity you'll observe new life, babies and immaturity all over the place.
Maturity desires reproduction. Maturity tolerates juvenile behavior (from juveniles) while training its progeny for success in life. Maturity means 'little [babies] running all over the place.' If you attend a mature church, be prepared for immaturity. Where you find mature Christians you'll find little 'babies in Christ' running all over the place. In fact, if you have been looking for a church where 'everyone tithes' or 'everyone serves' you're not looking for a mature church; you are looking for a dying church—aged, impotent, and bereft of spiritual newborns because 'everyone' is mature.
Few things are more disturbing than a flock of adult believers standing around complaining that 'no one has come to Christ' while refusing to do something that might result in new life. So when you bump into someone who acts 'immature' at one of our services, don't complain, and don't be surprised. Instead, thank God the 'mature in Christ' are busy delivering newborn babies to the family of God."
How great is that? The mark of maturity is constantly the mature seeking out the immature to pour into the immature so that they might become mature and seek out the immature, and the process just repeats itself over and over and over, so that the world would see what's happening and go, "You have to come and see this. People are changing their lives and coming to Christ."
As a little bit of an aside (he did not ask me to do this, and I hope it's okay that I do), Todd Wagner, senior pastor here, wrote a book. It's coming out this fall, so don't look on Amazon right now. It's called Come and See. I love the subtitle: Everything You Ever Wanted in One Place You Would Never Look. What he's telling the world, just like they told Barnabas and just like Barnabas told Saul, "You guys have to come and see. I've seen a movement of God that I want everyone to experience."
It's not just about Watermark. It's the "big C" church, the movement of God, where Christ is actually alive and people are coming to the faith and being discipled. Everyone here who claims to be a follower of Jesus must have ongoing equipping that happens. It's not just what happens here. It's not just that you would show up on Sunday. It's that every day of your life you would be devoted to knowing Christ more, that you would grow, that you would grow stronger, that you'd feed this hunger.
I have a daughter, Presley, who's 10, and she's an artist and was recently awarded for her art. If I showed you a picture that she painted, you would say, "Wow! That's really good for a 10-year-old. That's great for a 10-year-old." If I changed the narrative and said, "Hey, my daughter has been studying art for 25 years. Let me show you something she did," and I showed you the same picture, you'd say, "Hmm, she might need to study somewhere else."
There's this expectation that she would grow in her ability. The longer you do it and the longer you're trained in it, that you'd get better at it. The same is true for believers. Not just that you would convert to Christianity and then sit there but you would feast on his Word and grow stronger. This is completely normative for the true believer, that you would be discipled and grow in your knowledge of and love for God.
Think about it right now. When is that time in your life when you were like, "I just couldn't get enough. God was so big and alive, and I just wanted to turn the page and read more and study more"? Do you remember that time? "I met with these guys, I met with these girls, and we were just feeding each other God's Word. It was so rich." If it wasn't yesterday, why not?
"Oh man, JP. Life is busy, man. We've got these kids, bro." I get busyness. I understand busy, but if you've been busy for 10 years, let's call that indifference. "But, dude, you don't get it. I'm just not a morning person. Waking up, the alarm goes off, snooze… I'm a nine-time snoozer, you know." I get that, but if you're choosing sleep over Jesus consistently, can we call that idolatry? You've chosen one over the other.
"Man, there's just so much going on. Soccer practice, the little one started tee-ball, work has been crazy." I get that. It's called priorities. You get to identify your priorities. Seventy percent of Americans claim to be Christians, but 9 percent have a biblical worldview. There's something wrong with that.
Verse 27: "During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world." Agabus was one of the 70 disciples in Luke 10. Now he has come from Jerusalem. He wants to see what's happening. He wants to see what the fuss is about in Antioch. He stands up and prophesies about this famine.
It frustrates me. If there's going to be a prophecy in the Bible about a famine, it seems like we'd be able to look in history and actually see the famine. And we can. Josephus wrote about this famine. Tacitus wrote about this famine. It's historical knowledge. The Bible always aligns with history. We know about this famine. It happened in the age of Claudius, just like the Bible says right here, about AD 45 or 46.
"The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." Agabus stands up and says, "Hey, the Lord has told me there's going to be a famine," and these new Greek converts and Jewish converts begin to bring their stuff.
They pull out their wallets, and they're like, "Okay, there's going to be a famine in Rome? Hey, send this to our brothers and sisters in Judea. Go find them. Here, I can make this, and I made this dish over here, and I made this blanket. Here's our stuff. Take it to them." They give it to Saul and Barnabas, and then they take it to the elders. It's the first time in the text we see the word elders, the office of elders, who we see are responsible for stewarding the resources the church has. We continue that tradition today.
This would be like if someone stood up and said, "Hey, there's going to be a hurricane that hits Galveston, and our brothers and sisters in Houston are going to be displaced," and we said, "Okay, let's start to collect stuff and bring stuff forward, and let's give it to our elders to give to their elders." We did that. When Hurricane Katrina happened, when a hurricane hit Haiti, we went. We do that.
There's another irony I have to point out to you. There's something bigger than that happening here. Do you remember how the whole passage started this morning, with Stephen mowed over and scattered? Who gave hearty approval to Stephen's death? Saul. Saul stood there… "Yeah! He's dead. Snuffing out the Way. Let's go. Women and children. Hate these Christians." Whoops. Then he becomes one. Now the irony that these people are collecting stuff and bringing stuff and giving it to…whom? Saul. Only God does that stuff.
3._ The good infection brings healing_. When I'm sick, I'm so selfish, so self-focused. All of my thoughts are turned on me. I'm acutely aware of what doesn't feel good, and I just want it to feel better. I don't see the needs of others. I just see my needs. The good infection works in the opposite way. The good infection identifies the needs around you and meets those needs out of your overflow, out of your care.
The good infection observes hate and replaces it with forgiveness, love, and kindness. The good infection identifies greed, that part of your heart that says, "I just want more. I want more for me. I want to collect more things. I want more stuff. I want to build an empire." It says, "No, there are others around you who have needs. What you have in excess is for their need. You share it with them." You've been hit with this good infection. This infection turns greedy hearts to generous hearts.
It's really difficult to understand how powerful this infection is. It's so powerful it takes enemies of the faith and makes them leaders of the movement. It's crazy. I heard a story the other day in the most God-ordained way. There was a man named Commander Fuchida who led the attack on Pearl Harbor under the Japanese army. This is his greatest feat in the military.
He talks about the joy he had as he moved toward Hawaii in this plane, and as he pushed the button releasing the bombs, he was overwhelmed with elation because of his deep hatred for our country and its people. He left there, and he constantly wanted to one-up that feat over his disdain for America, but he never was able to. In fact, he was hit with appendicitis and was benched in the military.
Japan ultimately surrendered, and he returned to Japan in this deep, dark depression that he couldn't do more for his country against the enemy of America. As he walked on the streets of Japan, he bumped into a man named Jake DeShazer. Jake was an American soldier. Jake was in California when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and when he saw it, he threw a potato against the wall and shouted, "Jap, just wait and see what we'll do to you!"
He volunteered for the next mission he could. He went and led an attack on Tokyo. His plane went down. He was captured as a prisoner of war, where he went through an intense abuse. He was so intensely and cruelly treated that it says his hatred for the Japanese military grew so big it made him mentally ill.
"He recalls that his violent hatred for the maltreating Japanese guards almost drove him insane at one point. But after 25 months there in Nanking, China, the US prisoners were given a Bible to read. DeShazer, not being an officer, had to let the others use it first. Finally, it came his turn—for three weeks. There in the Japanese POW camp, he read and read and eventually came to understand that the book was more than a historical classic.
Its message became relevant to him right there in his cell. The dynamic power of Christ, which Jake DeShazer accepted into his life, changed his entire attitude toward his captors. His hatred turned to love and concern, and he resolved that should his country win the war and he be liberated, he would someday return to Japan to introduce others to this life-changing book."
He's there on the streets of Japan. He is face-to-face with the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, who is in deep depression because he couldn't do more to kill and hurt and wound and maim the American soldiers, and he hands him his story. That man reads it and trusts in Jesus. He leaves Buddhism and becomes an evangelist throughout Japan. Both of them, American soldier and the leader of the attack, the Japanese soldier, now both claiming Christ together, united, sharing this good infection. It's crazy. Only God.
It would be cool if we saw stuff like that today. Oh man, crack this thing open. Holy cow. This guy… His wife is pregnant with another man's baby. He goes to him and looks him in the eyes. "Are you okay if I raise this child as my own? By the way, I want you to know that I forgive you for violating what is mine in the most intimate way." It says they got up and left as brothers. "You have to come and see what God is doing here. You have to come and see this. Barnabas, you have to come and see. Saul, come and see what God is doing here. It's crazy!"
"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." Each one, as they were able, gave. Dying to self. Express generosity. The healing I think we need to experience here in the Metroplex… First is materialism, our love for things, that we collect them and not share them with others. We can take a chapter out of this first-century church.
When someone is sick, you don't want to touch anything they've touched. They don't want to share it with you so as to infect you, but when you're sick with the good infection, sick in the most beautiful, amazing, incredible way, you want to share all that you have so that you can infect so many. The gospel has always traveled on the generosity of others. Even here we see this, person to person, church to church.
In summary, as we've caught the good infection, our symptoms are that we are contagious to everyone, that we are hungry for God's Word and therefore strengthened, and that we are healed and healers, selfless, generous people. Sometimes my kids are sick or they say they're sick. It's very difficult to identify if they're actually sick. Have you ever had this happen? It's like, "What hurts?"
"I don't know."
"Why are you sick?"
"I just am."
"Does your tummy hurt?"
"Yeah, yeah, and it's kind of moving to my head and my feet. It's moving around. It's one of those kinds…"
"Okay. Well, you don't have a fever." The way I'm trying to find out… It's a dilemma as a parent. You want to be merciful but also like, "Hey, you're going to school today." So I'm checking symptoms. That's what you do. I'm like, "Do you have a fever? What are your symptoms?"
I recently switched doctors. He's an amazing doctor, an incredible doctor. I received unmatched care. My first meeting with him was two hours of him asking me questions, identifying symptoms, so that he could effectively treat me. Now could you imagine going to the Great Physician with this good infection, and you're trying to explain… "Oh, you have the good infection."
"Yeah, this is great."
"It's contagious, so everyone around you is catching it, right? Like, people not even like you. You're in the gym, and folks who look nothing like you, may not even speak your language… It's just jumping from you to them. You're contagious, right?"
"Yeah, yeah. Well, let's see, um, in 2006 I met my neighbor and invited them to church."
"Oh. Okay, that doesn't sound like the good infection. Let's keep going and check some other symptoms. So you're hungry for God's Word. You can't wait to get in it and read it and learn all you can and really get to know this Jesus character these 66 books have been written about, and you want to learn all you can so you can take it and pour it into others. You have the good infection."
"Oh man, yeah. Um, yes. Let's see, it's March, so in February there was this morning I got up early, I had a nice quiet time. Oh yeah, the Journey. I've been in the Journey like five minutes every day."
"Oh man, I'm not sure it's on you. Let me ask you a few more questions. Has your desire to get more for you been replaced to share more for them? Has the hatred you've had toward that person who hurt you in that way been replaced with love and forgiveness and grace? Is the narrative running around in your head how you're going to get even and 'How could they?' and 'What did they do?' or is it 'I can't wait to extend the grace I've received so that they might be infected by this beautiful Savior I've come to know'?"
Do you have the good infection? Do you have it? If you know my Savior, if you know my Jesus, you walk in that obedience, and the joy in you is stirred. You begin to see the fruit of that obedience, which produces more fruit from this amazing, incredible, most beautiful infection. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for the example of your church here, your example of the faithfulness of Stephen and those around Stephen who did not shrink back in cowardly ways but stepped up and told others, and just the faithfulness of your Holy Spirit, that they would believe, both Jews and Greeks alike, that they would leave the gods they worshiped to come to know the one true God through your Son Jesus Christ and be empowered with your Holy Spirit.
Father, would you do that here? Not that we would leave here and be motivated by guilt but that we would be motivated toward obedience, and in that obedience we'd see the fruit of the work of your Holy Spirit in our lives so that we might do it more for the joy set before us, that as we know you and as you work in our lives we'd be motivated through your faithfulness. Thank you for the amazing God that you are, for how faithful you've been to us, how loving and good you've been to us. Would you infect us in the most beautiful of ways? In Jesus' name, amen.
Remember when Jossy Chacko was here the other day? He was talking about all that God is doing in India. He was like, "You have to come and see." Todd is there now, teaching this morning. Pray for him and the church there. He's just going to see. I got an email from him this morning, just encouraged by all that God is doing there, as we're encouraged by all that God is doing here.
If you're struggling… I was talking with a friend after the service. He was like, "Sometimes I leave, and I feel like I'm questioning my salvation." I was like, "I'm okay with that." As long as you know you're saved by grace through faith alone. It's God who saves. It's not by works that you're saved, but you get to. You get to go and share with others. You get to share the things.
You get to out of the hope of one day knowing that you did what was right and it didn't matter. It wasn't those things that you were convinced in the world were important, that mattered. You get to out of the good infection. It's him. It's his love that compels us. It's his grace that compels us. He's a gracious God, a generous God, who seeks to love you. You're here this morning. Be encouraged by his provision for you, that he's crazy about you, that you would leave here and tell the world.