The book of Acts describes the beginning of the Christian church and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today we learn what that means to us and how being members of this church should affect our lives.
Retold: Jesus Calms the Storm
Retold: The Prodigal Son
Retold: The Beginning of the Church Part 2
Retold: The Beginning of the Church
Retold: Jonah and the Whale
Retold: Daniel and the Lions' Den
Retold: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Retold: David and Goliath
Retold: The Ten Commandments
Retold: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
Retold: Ruth and Naomi
Retold: The Good Samaritan
Have you heard the story of when the church first started? As we continue our series, Retold, Todd Wagner teaches through Acts 1:1-8, showing us a picture of the church; a people called out of darkness and into His wonderful light; a people prayerfully yielded to the Spirit and following their risen King; a people who practice with “one anothers” and submit to His Word.
Good morning, friends. Thanks to you who are here and aren't in the room with us, we will meet next week at 9:00 and 11:00, because enough of you have come that we want to make sure that whoever wants to be in this room can be. So, thank you all who are here and who are in the Town Center and in the Loft and up in Stage 2. We've been asking our body for a while, "Hey, how are you doing? Do you want to come?" We're not leading by polls, but we're just trying to get a sense.
We are excited to see this morning that so many of you all want to be with us. I got a text from a friend who lives up north who drove down to be with us physically present this morning, and it's awesome to be with you. We're going to continue to adjust every week about how we gather, about how much space is appropriate, about what kind of face coverings are appropriate. We'll keep trying to figure that out.
What we're trying to make sure we do is to not necessarily live according to somebody who is the most timid and, at the same time, not make people who are more cautious feel like they aren't as welcome to come as folks who wish there weren't some restrictions. We're just trying to balance that as best we can and be devoted to one another in love. You might be frustrated one way or another on that spectrum, and so are we. Meanwhile, we get a great chance to love one another.
So, we're excited that everybody is here. We will be here at 9:00 and 11:00 next week and then maybe even have more room in this room. We'll see. We don't know. Just keep praying for us that we can make decisions that would bless what the Lord would have us do as his people in this time. We are grateful we don't live in states like California that have to sue our government in order to even have the right to do this.
I'm thankful for the current administration in Texas and the way they've understood the essential business of church, yet we also don't believe that when we can't gather in larger communities like this this morning we can't be about our essential business, and we also want to always, in every way, do the best we can at doing nothing that would cause the ministry to be discredited, to do nothing that would create division within the body, and that in all things would show love.
You might be pretty convinced we haven't done that well, and we would just ask you to pray for us. We're not sure we have, but I can tell you every day, for hours a day, we are seeking to serve you, and the mission of the church has continued, because the church isn't defined by Sunday. I would never say that the least important thing we do is Sunday morning, but I would tell you, it's not essential that we have all of our body together for us to be everything God wants us to be. So welcome. Thank you for joining us online wherever you are. I'm glad you're in the room.
We are in a series called Retold. It's called Retold because what we've been doing throughout the summer is telling stories we teach our kids. If you don't know, at Watermark, from 0 to 5, or really probably from 1-1/2 or 2 to 5, we have a little curriculum called Bible Biggies where we're introducing our kids to the great narrative of Scripture and the great story of God, his redemptive work in history.
I say this all the time. The Bible is not a moral book. It's not a book of rules to tell you what you must do to gain admittance into this palatial place of blessing called heaven. The Bible is a revelation of who God is. It's his story told in the context of the history of human lives. It's one of the things that makes the Bible completely different from the Hindu holy books, which are called Hindu mythology. It's what makes it different than the holy books within Buddhism.
It's what makes it different than the Qur'an, which is just a collection of sayings and ideas about God. This is a record of history, the history of humans and God's redemption and rescue of them ever since he created us and we thought we could live well without him. What we've done this summer is we've perfectly synced up with our Watermark Kids Kit, because we put together resources for you every week that allow us to set you up for success as disciplers of your children.
That's the primary form of discipleship we know we each have, which is pouring ourselves into the next generation that lives with us. We have an 18-year discipleship residency fellowship program at the Wagner household, and we hope you do at yours. Anyway, what we've been doing is sharing these stories and letting you know they're not just cute stories. They're not Grimm's Fairy Tales. They're not myth. They're God revealing who he is and showing you what he has been up to.
Now, if you are a parent or you've been working with us in our children's ministry, when they get to kindergarten all the way through fifth grade, there is a six-year curriculum where we take wisdom attributes, what a skilled life looks like (and our This Is the Life series has been us teaching you that)…
We take pictures of what a life that's informed by the wisdom of God looks like, and we tell them what that attribute is, what happens if you don't live according to that attribute, the blessing that comes when you live according to that attribute, and then always how Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of what a life well lived looks like, how Jesus is the provision for us not living our lives well.
We do that for the kids, where they get each of those 36 attributes twice over that six-year period, and then they hit our Wake ministry, which is about to start back up here in a couple of weeks on our campus. We disciple them, and if they are believers, they become members when they're in high school, and then we're off and running and inviting them to be a part of the family of God.
So, that's what we're doing. Retold. True stories from history. If you follow the calendar, you will see that today we don't really have a story. We do some stuff for the kids where we kind of go back over the entire year. So I am going to tell you two true stories from history today. The second one you are living in the middle of, and it is possible because of the first one I'm going to tell you. It comes in the book of Acts, chapter 1. I'm going to walk you through the birth of the church.
What you need to know is that Acts, when it was originally given to us, was not a separate book in your Bible. It was actually an addendum or a continuation of the gospel of Luke. The original title of the book of Acts was The History of Christian Origins, and it was a continuation of Luke's narrative. Luke gave us the gospel of Luke, and he gave us the book of Acts.
Let me pray, and we're going to see if we can't learn about this true moment in history. About 2,000 years ago, there was a group of people that lived in response to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the ultimate fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets that had been accomplished through God's rescue mission of his people. People didn't finally become holy enough that he would use them.
This was a people that was not a people, that had not received mercy, that the Scripture says now they were a people, Jew and Greek, barbarian and Scythian, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, slave and free, that came together, reconciled with one another, and loved one another, and they became people who were called out of darkness into his marvelous light that they might proclaim his excellencies, and they did it well enough by the grace and power of God that that story was retold 2,000 years later. We'll get to that.
Father, thank you that we are not here just telling cleverly devised tales by wise men. Thank you that we are not doing our best to listen to philosophers or to people who are speculating about what might be true, but you have crashed through the veil that separates finite men from infinite glory. You have shown us stuck in time what eternity is and who we are and who you are.
You have shown yourself with power so that any man who does not suppress the truth in unrighteousness could know you and be delivered from darkness and rescued from death and be set free and could join the people who were not a people, who were separate from God without the promises, to become people of mercy who live in marvelous light and love one another and reconcile and are instruments of peace, ministers of reconciliation, healed and healing, living for your glory, waiting for the glory that is to come. What a miracle.
Thank you, Father, that we can test and verify your Word. It is certain. It is true. It is profitable for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, that we, the people of God who live today, might be adequate and equipped for every good work, that if you tarry 2,000 years from now, there might be more history being made by more people who experience your grace. We love you, and we ask that you'd teach us now, amen.
Let's read the continuation of Luke. It's found right here in Acts, chapter 1. We're going to read verses 1-8, maybe a little farther. Here we go. It says this: "The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' He said, 'you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'" "Is this when it's going to really get cooking and all come together?" "He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.'"
It says in verse 9, "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." So we no longer are going to see Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, living among men. He's now seated at the right hand of the Father praying for men. But what you're about to see happen right here is the acts of the Holy Spirit through the spiritual body of Christ in the same way you saw the acts of the Holy Spirit through the living body of God in the person of the Son.
This is one of five historical books in your New Testament. Matthew is a historical book. It is an eyewitness account of God revealing himself most fully in Jesus. Jesus says at the very end of his life when he's talking to his disciples… When they said, "We'll be okay if you just show us the Father," he said, "How long must I be with you? If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you know me, you know the Father."
Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the exact representation of his nature. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, the church at Colossae heard. In him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. Then here is the amazing thing. Jesus said, "I'm going to send you the Helper, the Holy Spirit," which Jesus says is how he, fully God, fully man, in the miraculous union of human nature and divine nature that was never compromised, even though he laid aside his divine nature… It was there. He just didn't use it to allow himself to be pleasing to the Father.
What he did is what all perfect men do. He always yielded fully and completely to the Spirit in a way that none of us do, which is why we sin and why we're still being sanctified and why we're still having trouble. Jesus did that perfectly as he trusted the Father, yielded to the Spirit of God which was in him and was available to him as it's available to us, and poured his life out as a drink offering. He was tempted in every way as you and I have been.
His flesh was susceptible the way my flesh was susceptible, but because he was the Son of God, he always yielded to the will of the Father. Because of that, he's the exact representation of the Father's nature. Because of that, all the fullness of deity dwelt in him in bodily form. Because of that, God delivered him up to death for us in order that our sins might be forgiven if we trust in the Father's provision for us, and then God declared with power that he was the Son of God, Paul wrote to the Romans, through the resurrection.
Now Jesus is saying to his disciples right here, "I'm not going to leave you as orphans. I'm going to send you the promise. I'm going to send you the Helper, and the Helper is going to allow you to be the visible image of me on earth." I want you to think about that. It is a really big thing to represent somebody. It is a huge responsibility to say that I represent Watermark Community Church as a pastor and as an elder.
It's a big thing for you to say you represent Watermark Community Church, the body of Christ here in Dallas in these gathering places, as a member of the body of Christ. It's a big thing to say you're the ambassador of the United States to another land. Jesus, through Paul, calls us all ambassadors. We are representing God. We are not at home. We're aliens and strangers. This world is not our home. This land is not where we're from, but we represent our King.
Jesus says, "How you live, how you love, how you minister is going to be the primary way people figure out who I am until I return." Wow! That's why he says, "Let not many of you be teachers." That's why he says to all of us, "Don't lead little ones (not just chronological little ones, but little ones in the faith, new believers) astray and cause them to stumble with false teaching and error. You may as well have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea (which is to die a mafia-style death) than to get in the way of somebody rightly understanding who I am."
If any of us understood the fullness of the responsibility we have as representatives of Christ, I think we'd be mortified, except that we do believe that Christ has given us his Word and he has given us his Spirit that we might live according to his will and his way. The church is the visible image of the invisible Jesus at this point. We are his hands and his feet. We complete what is lacking in his sufferings.
That doesn't mean Christ's sacrifice on the cross was not sufficient. Buddha said on his deathbed, "Continue striving always toward holiness and enlightenment." Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished. Cease striving and accept the provision of God, but having accepted the provision of God," he said, "be continually yielded to the Spirit of God, which I will give you when you are reconciled to me by confessing your sin."
God strives with us; we don't strive to get to God. That's literally what the name Israel means. Jacob means deceiver. He was always trying to be somebody who worked his way into blessing and comfort. I had a friend this week who said, "Todd, here was my problem. Instead of praying, I always made a plan." Is that kind of what you find yourself doing sometimes?
You just need to know that, as leaders, as we're trying to figure out what to do in the midst of this season we're in, we have spent more time praying, pleading, listening to one another and the Spirit of God talking through us, studying his Word, talking to everybody we can, praying that God would give us wisdom about how we would be able to lead and serve during this time.
Jacob means deceiver, one who trips up at the heel. Finally, God brought him to the end of himself, literally, physically dislocated his hip, so that with every step Jacob would remember his weakness, and God said, "I'm going to change your name." God changed Jacob's name when Jacob confessed who he was.
God said to Jacob (this is in the book of Genesis), "What is your name?" and he goes, "I am a deceiver. I'm a manipulator. I've been trying to get ahead and get the blessing from the moment I was in my mother's womb, grabbing my brother by the heel, deceiving my father and my brother to get the birthright because I thought it was all about me on this earth, and I realize now it's not about me. This has brought me to fear and trembling. It has broken family relationships and created problems in my life continually. I am a deceiver." And God said, "Now your name is Israel," which means God strives with.
Jacob became the father of Israel. Jacob is Israel, and the 12 tribes came from the 12 sons God decided to bless and strive with and in his kindness reveal himself to the world. That's us. We are not the people Israel, but we are people God strives with. He'll never leave or forsake. He's always with us, even to the end of the age when the time of the Gentiles is done and God restores his work with his people Israel.
For now, we who were outside of the covenant blessings given to Israel have been grafted in, and it's our turn to be faithful. He says we should do it in such a way that the people who are physically descendants of Abraham look over the fence and go, "Why are those people experiencing all the joy, all the blessing, all the peace?" We have had in our church over 60 rabbis from this general area who have come here and sat with me in the Loft.
Orthodox rabbis, reformed rabbis, people who won't even talk with one another typically, have come and sat in a room, 60 of them at a time, and have just said, "We don't understand why people at Watermark love and connect with the mission the way they do. Would you help us understand it?" I told them right from the very beginning. I just did. I said, "Hey, let me just start by telling you guys this about…"
I said, "Let's just go ahead and get the elephant in the room out of the way. I know you guys think I'm crazy. I know you think I'm deluded that I believe Jesus is the Messiah. That's okay. That doesn't offend me. I know you think I've bought some lie, maybe some myth, I've exaggerated somebody who is just some little guy." In fact, I used a quick story. I'll tell you this. I used a story of Graceland.
I mentioned that when I was in Israel I had been to a place where there is a gas station where there is a Jewish businessman who is a big fan of Elvis. I mean, legitimately. There's like a 30-foot statue of Elvis Presley and a 50s diner built next to a gas station just about 10 miles outside of Jerusalem. He loves Elvis. They all knew who Elvis was. Many of them had been to Israel, like I had been, and knew this place I was talking about.
I go, "Can I just tell you a little secret? We call Elvis the king of rock 'n' roll. We know he's from Mississippi. His home is called Graceland, and there are people who don't think he's dead. Every year, these nuts go to Memphis and visit Graceland in order to be around Elvis. They don't know what island he's on with Tupac and Michael Jackson, but they're sure he's somewhere, and one day he, JFK, and Marilyn Monroe will all come back in a limousine and tell us what they've been up to during this time."
Basically, I go, "The people of Memphis think these Elvis nuts are crazy, but they don't really want to tell them they're crazy because they stay in their hotels, eat in their restaurants, they up the city tax base, and they basically fund a lot of what's going on in that city, and they need people to believe that Elvis is the king." I go, "I know you think evangelicals are like that for the nation of Israel. I know you think we're nuts. We go to Graceland. We visit the home of the King, and you don't want to offend us too much because we're a major part of your economy." They all laughed.
I go, "So I know you think I'm crazy, but I think Jesus is the King. And just so we're clear, I think you're going to hell because you don't believe in Jesus. So, I'm crazy. You're destined for eternal wrath. Let's love each other. Onward." I literally started the meeting that way, and they appreciated that. I go, "Look. Either you're right and I'm wrong, I'm right and you're wrong, or we're both wrong, but let's love each other."
They wanted to understand how come you love the way you do, how this place came to be without selling tickets to come to our high holy days, how this building came to be without debt or naming any room after anybody. They didn't have a category for that. They go, "What's the motivation of these people? What's the reason they meet in communities and they have this affection for one another?" I go, "You're not going to like my answer, but it's because of the King and because of his Spirit that dwells in us. What you see in us is what your Father told you was yours."
I'm going to give you five simple things from this little section of Scripture that you can follow. I'm going to talk about the purpose. You're going to see in Acts 1:2 he tells us the purpose of the church. This is a real story from history. In chapter 1, verse 4, you'll see the proclamation we are told to give. You'll see a little bit later in that same verse the people who are going to be about that. You're going to see God's provision or the promise that came, and then you're going to see the power that enables us to be a retelling of something historical.
As always, everything I share here will be a part of our sermon notes section at the very bottom of the message. Our messages each week are transcribed so you can read them if you don't want to relisten to them, and you can share them that way, and there's always a sermon study guide with key points and notes and a few simple application questions and all the Scripture we used and some other resources if you want to go deeper…every week online.
Here we go. We are looking now at not Jesus modeling what men should be or Christians should be. That's the first four historical books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When we get to Acts, we're going to retell the story of the very first group of people who are the history of Christian origins, who are Christians now modeling Jesus. That's what the church is. We are little Christs.
Originally, the church was called people of the Way because they lived a way that was foreign to men, and then later at Antioch was the first time they were given this pejorative term "You little Christs, you little Christians, you little followers of Jesus." What a compliment. When's the last time somebody said this to you: "You're just like your Jesus"?
No. What I typically hear is, "I don't much believe in Jesus or like this idea of church because the church looks nothing like the Jesus it says it represents." You're going to find out that the reason that is so is because we're not doing and not yielding to and availing ourselves to what God says we should be availing ourselves to. I am retelling the story of the birth of the church. Here we go.
I told you the very first thing is the purpose that is here. We are here, and we have been given a purpose. I think I should say this, because I'm not sure how far we'll get through this. I'd like to read Acts 2 as well if we get a chance. Let me just say this. The church really starts at the very end of Acts 1 when the Holy Spirit, which you're going to see mentioned as part of the promise and provision and power, falls upon them. I want to say this, because this is what's so encouraging. As I said, this is a true story. It's something that happened to people.
I want to show you a picture of a painting that was done in 1965, I think, by a guy named Torger Thompson. Not a famous painter, not a theologian; he was just a faithful Bible teacher who was commissioned by Mattie Caruth Byrd to do a painting that was in the Biblical Arts Center over here that I visited many times. I've been in Dallas since about 1985 or 1986. I would go there sometimes, and I would sit in there, and I would watch.
About every 30 minutes they would do a little light show, and they would walk you through this painting. That painting is almost 35 yards long and 20 feet high. In 2005 there was a fire there. It destroyed the entire painting. It's called the Miracle at Pentecost. What Torger Thompson did in that painting is he put in that painting…
There are about 120-odd figures in that painting, and he just says, "Here is the paralytic who was healed; here is Mary Magdalene," anybody who he thought might have been gathered together after the resurrected Christ had been ascended into heaven, and they were waiting for the fulfillment of what Jesus was going to do that he just told them to do in Acts, chapter 1.
They were waiting, and then on the day of Pentecost, all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit fell on them. It was a one-time act in the context of history where he was birthing the church. He wanted them to see "Something different is now happening, and it's not because of you; it's because of me." In the same way the dove symbolically fell on Jesus at the baptism… We know Jesus already had the Spirit. He couldn't have been without sin up until that point.
There was an outpouring and a clear revelation that God is going to now be at work in his Spirit. There was a mighty rushing wind. There were tongues of fire (don't think of the tongues you're going to see in just a little bit, but like when you see a flame, we sometimes call that flame a tongue) that settled visibly on top of each head so that everybody in the room could see, "Hey, this isn't about Peter anymore. It's not about James. It's not about Judas (not Iscariot), not about Bartholomew, not about Matthias, the one who was added to the number. It's not about Mary Magdalene. It's about God working in and through them."
Then it says at that moment (which we're going to read, maybe, in Acts, chapter 2), they then began to speak with tongues. The word is glossa, which is with a language, a known dialect that men from all over the world could understand, because God had always said, "My heart isn't just for the sons of Jacob; my heart is for the world," and if the sons of Jacob had done what they were supposed to do, the whole world would know who Jesus and God are.
Every single person who was in that section… It was on the southern steps of the temple mount where this happened. They were gathering, they were waiting…about 120 people. That's all there were. All of a sudden, the fulfillment of Acts, chapter 1, happened to them, and it's going to allow them to live with purpose and to do the proclamation and to be the people they should be because they now have the promise that will give them the power.
Here's the purpose. Look at what Jesus did. When Jesus was here with them… In fact, you'll see even when Jesus was resurrected and was with the disciples, he said, "Receive my Spirit. I want to restore your confidence. I want to restore your strength, because God is with you now in my presence." Jesus said, "Receive my Spirit" while he was here during his time as a resurrected, not yet ascended, glorified Son of God who would come and go and appear, as we already read here, to many people in many convincing ways and had shown that he was, in fact, raised from the dead.
Jesus was saying to his disciples, "I'm with you. I'm going to teach you." And here's what he says. "…He had by the Holy Spirit given orders…" "This is your purpose. You are apostles." The word apostle means sent-forth individuals, folks who will go out and do what their commander and their mission leader, their master, says they should be about. That's the way they were living their lives.
They knew they weren't here to make a living. They knew they were here to make a difference. They weren't here to become more comfortable; they were here to comfort others in the midst of their sin. I want you to hear me. This is you. You are not here to make a living; you're here to make a difference if you're a Christian. You're not here to become more comfortable; you are here to comfort others, call them out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Again, so you're not confused as to how this happened… We have a tendency to venerate people of old. These were just men and women whose lives were a wreck until God called them to him. I just sat down and literally, in about 30 seconds, walked through the Gospels in my head, and I tried to describe the people who were there. This is who they were.
They were people who doubted the resurrection would happen even though they were told repeatedly it would happen, so much so that when it happened and there were witnesses who saw Jesus and Jesus was there, some of them still didn't believe it happened. These were people who were overconfident in their own ability in their flesh to be devoted to Jesus, and Jesus says, "No. Let me just tell you, you're all going to fail, and you especially, loudmouth, are going to fail momentously and tragically and famously three times before this night is over."
These were individuals who were petty in their desire for attention and position. These were people who were constant in their bickering and their childish desire to be supreme over one another. These were people who were impulsive in their anger. "They didn't treat us very well. Shall we cast down fire from heaven and consume them?" These were people who were slow to understand what they were being taught and to apply it to their lives.
Jesus consistently said to them, "How long must I be with you?" These were people who were prone to rely on formula and their own past experience and not on their faith. These were people who were often frightened, overwhelmed, and who abandoned their Lord in his hour of greatest need. I could go on, but I will tell you, they were people who were destined to change the world.
I don't know if you hear yourself in the story, but you have to shatter your little myth that Peter and James and John were these stoic, noble, Herculean men. No. This book is wrought with failure and disaster. So, if this week, church, you've had failure, disaster, if you've not been living on mission, just know that your Father is here today, saying, "Let's go. Confess it. Let's get it right. Let's have a little come to, and let's go. Let's not waste another week."
If you have thought that the church, because it's not gathering in its largest forms corporately, can't do what the church is supposed to do, you haven't been paying attention here. Now, we do gather, and when we gather we want to pay attention to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship and to prayer, so when you're together I hope you're paying attention to the apostles' teaching and counseling each other biblically and admonishing each other faithfully because you're devoted daily to the Lord yourself so you can engage missionally.
It's why we talk about the core values of our community here at Watermark. This is a real story from history. When I told the story of Daniel in the lions' den, Daniel wasn't the star; God was. When we told the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… When we told the story of David, David wasn't the star. You're not David, but you are somebody who, like David, can trust in the God who wants to use you to declare his glory amongst the nations.
Sometimes, in the midst of declaring the glory, you will not be rescued from lions but will be thrown to them, and God will accelerate your homecoming, and you'll glorify him that way. You are on mission. The word there, entello, means basically almost exactly what you think it means, like, "I am telling you what to do."
Colossians 1:28-29: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom…" Not our wisdom…with all of the wisdom God gives us. "…so that we may present every man complete in Christ." That is what we do. It is for this purpose we exist. It's why we labor. It's the work we do. It's why we're here. How? Guess what? According to his power which mightily works within all those who believe.
Some of you might be wondering why this week God didn't use you to proclaim, to teach, and to admonish, and it's because you've been living according to your own understanding and looking to your own power and your own way and living according to your own mission. Church, I'm calling you to repent, because the reason we're here today is because, by the grace of God, there were men and women who were not in and of themselves unique and special who got after it.
Can I show you another picture? This picture was taken in 1999. Take a look at this. Of these, some of them are with the Lord right now. A couple of them are not walking with the Lord right now or walking with us as we pursue the Lord. These are the original eight or nine families that in 1999, on that day, decided, "We're going to go for it." On that day, we decided, "We're going to try to be God's people."
We prayed, "God, we can't do anything by ourselves, and we don't know what you want to do with us, but we believe you're going to do something in this world today to bring glory to yourself. We want to be in the long line of individuals who try to live for your glory, and if your Spirit doesn't work in us and through us, this will all be in vain, because apart from you we can do nothing. So, Father, for this purpose we're going to labor according to your power which mightily works within us. We'll proclaim him, and we'll admonish, and we'll teach, but, Lord, you're going to have to go to work."
Twenty years later, one of those persons is planting a megachurch up in North Dallas, Kyle Kaigler. We just celebrated another mega-community of Christ-followers in Fort Worth who are now on their own. There's another one listening this morning in Frisco. There's a group out in Rockwall that has been meeting and gathering for months now and being the church already that is thinking about gathering on a regular basis and being an independent expression of the glory of God in Rockwall.
There are folks who have been raised up here, come to Christ here, who are leading churches south of here in New Braunfels, in Waco, and up in Wyoming. There are nations that are communicating with us, asking for more of Christ to be made known to them through this city on a hill which Christ made known.
What I'm telling you is there is a retelling of history that is happening all over again. You are a community of people who are just as miraculous and just as inept without Jesus as the folks we're reading about in Acts, chapter 1, and the best is still in front of us, but not because we're going to will our way but because we're going to follow him in the way. Our purpose, our orders are to proclaim him.
Look at verse 4. This is our proclamation: that the kingdom of God has come, that there is forgiveness for the sins we have committed, that Christ is coming quickly, and his reward is with him. The Scripture says in verse 3: "…He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." That was established by love and will continue through love.
There is a kingdom that is here in that the citizens of the kingdom are present and are ambassadors and are living with the nobility of the land from which they come, and they are speaking about the power and the glory of their King who is soon to come and that if men don't reconcile with him it will not go well with them.
We live with the grace and the kindness and the love of our King, but we warn them that our King is not just grace and kindness and love. By no means will he let the guilty go unpunished, so we don't act out in vengeance when they do harm to us. We say vengeance is his. We say we're his children, that this world is not our home, that we are aliens and strangers and you shouldn't know how we love each other, why we love each other the way we do, other than we say it's the power of our God who lives in us.
We proclaim with our lives and with our words the kingdom of God. How have you done this week? How many people have come up to you and there's an accent to your life? Like, every time I meet somebody from a different land I listen and go, "Where are you from?" because there's a dialect. There's a way they speak that's different. Sometimes there are customs they bring with them that are different than the customs I'm used to.
How many times this week have you sanctified Christ as Lord in your life so much that people say to you, "You speak with a different tongue. You have a different custom and culture than mine. Where are you from? What is your fatherland?" Christian, this is 1 Peter 3:15: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, and always be prepared to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you, and do it with gentleness and reverence." There it is. That is our proclamation: there is a King and there is a kingdom.
We are a people. Verse 4: "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem…" He said, "You stay here together. You are a people who were not a people who are now going to be a people." There were Samaritans and Jews. There were Gentiles and Jews. There were centurions and Jews. There were slaves and free men, and they were all one. They were now a people, and they were a source of mystery to the world that watched them. They gathered together and they loved.
That's why we're gathering together tonight, just to acknowledge in a way that breaks my heart… Do you know that we have members of our body who don't feel as welcomed here as other members of our body do by their own testimony? We just want to understand that. Sometimes we just want to listen. Sometimes they just want us to listen. Listening doesn't mean we validate every perception they have, but not caring about their perception is not an expression of love. There are reasons that some of their perceptions are their reality.
So we're going to mourn. This should be their home as much as our home. That has not always been true in the church. So, tonight, while the world can't figure out how to have this conversation about different ethnicities and tribes and different class groups, we're going to get together and go, "You know what? We mourn that they can't look to the church and go 'There's one place where there's no racial divide. There's one place where there's love. There's one place where there is no need for any kind of restitution or retribution to be made, because these people have loved each other for centuries.'"
We're going to mourn over that. We're going to pray that it can begin more loudly than it has ever begun again, and I'll pray that tomorrow and the next day until Jesus returns. I'm not discouraged that it's there, because this is earth, but I'm going to go to war until it's not when Jesus himself is on earth.
So, we're a people gathered together. He says, "I want you to wait." Verse 4: "…for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' He said, 'you heard of from Me…'" It's a reference back to something he said in John, chapter 14. I'll read this to you now. This is John 14:16-20, when Jesus is with his disciples.
He tells them, "I'm going to ask the Father, and he's going to give you another Helper, and this Helper will be with you forever. Don't be wildly confused about who the Helper is. He's the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, whom the world can't receive because it doesn't see him or know him, but you know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I'm not going to leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
The Father and I are one. The Spirit and I are one. After a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you're going to see me. Because I live, you're going to live also. In that day you're going to know that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you, because the works the Father did through me he's going to do through you."
If you go back up a little farther, he says, "In fact, even greater works than the Father did through me he's going to do through you, because I really didn't travel more than 70 miles from my home, and you're going to go from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the world. So much so that in 1999 there's going to be a group of about eight couples that are going to decide they want to do it too, and there are going to be thousands of couples that join them, and they're going to keep doing it more and more."
Here comes the provision. Here comes the promise. Verse 5: "…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Sometimes people ask me, "Todd, is Watermark a Spirit-filled church?" and I say, "Well, we'd better be or we're not Jesus' church." We've never been anything but a Spirit-filled church. If you're not a Spirit-filled church, you're not the church.
Unfortunately, there has been such a distortion about what a Spirit-filled church looks like that I think people are being kept from the true church. A Spirit-filled church looks like love and oneness and evangelism and power and redemption and transformation, and I've seen that everywhere around here.
Then it says in verse 8, that provision, that promise, is going to be a power. "…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…" Let me make it really clear that if your life is not a witness, it's a tell.
If there's not something about your life that testifies that you speak with a different tongue; that there's a different dialect, a different custom about you; that you're almost an alien and a stranger in the way you handle money, the way you care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan, the way you get the log out of your own eye and are understanding of your own sin and your own brokenness and your own inability to do anything apart from the Father…
If you are not a person who is defined by forgiveness and grace and mercy and goodness and self-control, it's because you either don't have the power or you are quenching and grieving the power and you're not the witnesses you should be. I hope every time you hear a foreign tongue or see a foreign dress this week it becomes a reminder to you that you ought to be as different to the ear and as different in your living as that tongue and dress are to you.
Then you just pray, "Father, can I love this person right now, right here, this way? Can I live and order my life according to the purpose you left me here for so that the world demands to know who my fatherland is and where I'm from and why I live the way I live, that they might ask me, as an ambassador, who you are, that I might be a minister of reconciliation?"
Jesus says, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." That means if you are not fishing for men, you're not following Jesus. While you have been waiting here for the church to regather in larger ways, have you been gathering in all of the smaller ways we have trained you to, devoting yourself to the apostles' teaching and to the breaking of bread and to prayer? Has there been a sense of awe with your hope in the midst of this world and this pandemic?
While everybody else is increasing their addictions and their despair, are you moving to glory? Has the Lord added to your number those who are being saved day by day? Have you seen others in need and used from your abundance to care for them because you know they're your brothers and sisters? If not, then we have work to do so we can keep retelling the story of the living God.
Now, I know there's so much of this that has been happening, and I could celebrate story after story. It's why we have a Watermark News: so you can know the living Jesus is still at work in broken, imperfect men like me, sanctifying, redeeming, retelling the glory of his Son. If you're here and you're confused or if you're listening and you think you need to do something to be reconciled to God, you're right. You need to acknowledge you're a deceiver.
You need to acknowledge that you've been trying to make life work out in your own way, maybe even work your own way to heaven, and it's futile. You need to lay your little head down on the hard rock of your life, like Jacob did, and go to sleep and dream of a God who is constantly ministering to you while you do nothing but rest in your sin and know the glory of God is to rescue you and to come down and offer you what you could never earn.
You need to wake up from your despair and go "God, could it be true? Could it be better than a dream? Do you love me?" and you can begin to follow him and be a person who trusts in the covenant-keeping God and acknowledges that your name is sinner, imperfect, and ask him to strive with you and take his finished work that you might be redeemed.
Then let's get busy retelling the story all over again so that when Acts continues to be written, the history of the church continues to be written, there would be a moment in life where Jesus said, "I did a lot of great things, but you know what? There was a special moment right there in the early 2000s where there was a group of people who got really serious about who I was again, and they loved one another, and they spoke with a different tongue that was a native tongue."
I'll say this in closing. Read Davy's story in the Watermark News, because she says something in there that I just circled. She says, "The deepest longing of my heart was for a sense of safety, home, and stability." Your tongue should be full of safety before a fearful God, of stability because he is the Rock of Ages we can build our lives on, and a sense of home that every wandering sinner looks for, a place of rest and peace.
Guess where Davy said she found it? In the people of God, because they spoke with a tongue… Men are like moths. Do you know that? They love to live in the dark, but they are irresistibly drawn to the light. So, let your light shine before men so the next Davy, the next Todd, can see safety and security and stability and a home with Jesus. Amen?
O Father, let us live with a holy surrender to you. Let us be a retelling of the power of God that works inside imperfect individuals who lean not on their own understanding but in all of their ways acknowledge you so that the world might know that Jesus is Lord. Lord, our purpose is to proclaim him. Our proclamation is that he is a King and his kingdom is coming. We are grateful, Father, that we are a people now, called out of darkness into your marvelous light; that you have given us provision, the promise has come, and we have power. So, let us live holy lives as we yield to your power which mightily works within us. In Jesus' name, amen.