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Vision… When the Lord Calls

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(7/13) In this series we are exploring why Christians wrestle with what it means to be the church, having a vision for the future, together forever, and grasping how that applies to us today. So we’re going to dig in and see what the church is, why it exists, and what it means for us. You know, to see God’s vision for our lives and how to really see it come alive in our lives. Because this is really nothing new… it was two thousand years ago the church began and now a few billion people profess to worship Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior. The church, now bigger than ever loves him, serves him, and follows him. But you got to wonder, how in the world did this happen?

Well, it actually starts in Acts 1:8, after his resurrection from the grave, Jesus gets together with his followers, which at that point was 120 people. Not a lot of people. And he says, "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."

"You will receive power." Jesus told his church. Jesus’ promise after his resurrection is "Your lives are going to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit." Now, a few thousand years later, generation to generation, billions of people have received that supernatural, miraculous, God-appointed power, and that power has continues.... but for what? The Holy Spirit was given to empower the Christians for what? Well, for ministry and mission.

Jesus told the 120 followers, "You will be my witnesses." He tells the church that our mission is to be his witnesses. That means we live openly, publicly, and honestly about our love for Jesus, because we want other people to know him, love him, and meet him. We want others to become Christians too.

And so Jesus says it’ll happen in "Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." That it would start where they were at and it would move out from there. And so you start with your neighbors, your family, and your friends. Jesus said this is how it would work. And here we are in Emmitsburg; we are officially at the "end of the earth," right? We’re a long ways away from Jerusalem, but it’s the same Jesus that we know, love, and worship. And so here in Acts chapter 2, we’re going back two thousand years and we’re looking at Grand Opening Sunday. So today’s message is entitled "When the Lord Calls," and picking up where we left off last week, we’re going to see how the church started… how the church is sustained... and some more obvious ways, how the Holy Spirit is working in the church today.

So we read this, in Acts 2:38–47, we’ll read it together.

Verse 38, "Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call."

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:38-47; NIV).

And so what happens is God came down to earth, born as the baby Jesus, he lived this amazing life, well first he works with his dad as a carpenter, not so amazing, but then he started preaching and teaching. He had this group of about twelve followers, with women and children, and in Matthew 16:18 we read this incredible statement that he makes… here’s what he says, it’s amazing… he says. "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). So here he is, thirty something, he’s the God man, proving who he was with signs and wonders, but then he was murdered. He was crucified, he was framed, and he died. It seemed as if the dream of building his church had been snuffed out. But that gruesome, wicked weekend was filled with hope when early Sunday morning he rose from the grave.

History tells us, he gave evidence, proof of his resurrection for forty days, and then he ascended, he rose and went back into heaven. Now the church was 120 people, and on the day of Pentecost (we read about that last week), the Holy Spirit descends on the church, to take the life of the risen Jesus and place it in his followers. So the church is powerfully transformed by the presence of "God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and the once fearful Peter steps out into the street and begins preaching. Now I want you to see this, recognize this, and know this, because the church began with the Spirit of God and the Word of God. The Church began just like the Creation account in Genesis chapter one. God spoke and it came to be and today the church is sustained through the preaching of the Word of God. That’s why every week the Bible is opened, Jesus Christ is proclaimed, and the Good News is shared.

So here we are on Grand Opening Sunday, Acts chapter two, the church in Jerusalem went from 120 to 3,120 in a day. Can you imagine that? You know, all these new people had been a Christian for a minute… They all needed to talk to the pastor… I’m sure the ministry budget was way out of whack... The line for the kids’ ministry stretched around the block... And it probably took an hour just to get your camel out of the parking lot. The church exploded and suddenly outgrew everything.

You could imagine the peoples amazement, because God showed up in a new way, the Holy Spirit was working in the people (Acts 2:43), lives were being changed in large number, and the world has never been the same. Today you’ve got to know that we still expect to see God moving in a powerful way, because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

So this morning I want to look at what happens when the Lord calls. I want to look at things that happen when the Holy Spirit shows up among the people of God. And I want you to see that the way he worked then, is the way he works now, and Jesus continues two thousand years later, to call those who are far off.

1. There is Unity

So the first thing we see is that there’s unity around the Holy Spirit. It says it this way in verse 42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers." So the church is unified, but here’s what that doesn’t mean… it doesn’t mean we’re the same. Some of us have different interests than others. We may disagree on some secondary issues. But we’re unified around what really counts, the Bible is the Word of God, Jesus is the Son of God, and to love is the command of God, we agree on that. And so by the power of the Holy Spirit we live in unity.

Now what that means is that to have true biblical unity, the members of the church must be born again. It means that you’ve experienced the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. You see otherwise there is going to be friction in the relationship, there’s not going to be unity. And so you see the church is like family, like a husband and wife, like a father and kids, and the Bible says it this way, "A woman… is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39). You see, God wants us to have peace and unity in our family and this is so important. The Bible often compares the church to a body with many members or parts. So our goal is for each one to come to know Jesus, to become a part of the body, and then to find your place working with your brothers and sisters, with the other members of the body, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.

So our Christian unity is by the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, "No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). The one way you know you have the Holy Spirit is you love Jesus. You belong to Jesus. You worship Jesus. You serve Jesus. You confess your sin to Jesus. You want to be like Jesus. You’re fired up about Jesus. And so you know you’ve got the Holy Spirit when Jesus is the center of your life and the object of your affection. That’s what it means to be born again. You have been made spiritually alive. You’re connected to the source of life, the resurrection life of Jesus, through the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

2. A Spirit of Worship

Secondly, when the Lord calls there is a beautiful spirit of worship. Worship is manifested in the body of Christ in many ways, but for the sake of time, three are: In the Word of God, in song, and in prayer. We see that the church begins here in Acts with Peter stepping up and preaching. So we believe in preaching today. Paul tells a young pastor, named Timothy, "Preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2). So we are a Bible-beieving, Bible-preaching church and as long as I’m here, the Bible will be opened, and the Good News of Jesus will be taught. So on any Sunday you can bring family, friend, neighbor, co-worker, even an enemy and they’re going to hear about Jesus. We’re going to open the Bible.

So here’s what it says in verse 42, look in your Bible, verse 42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching." We do… we open the Word of God. You see, God used the apostles to teach the Old Testament, to write some of the New Testament, and to be eyewitnesses to others who wrote the rest of the New Testament. So everything connects to apostolic teaching and authority. We believe in the whole Bible. We’re not inventing anything or changing anything. Our goal is faithfulness to the forever truth of the Word of God.

But it’s not enough for you to simply hear the Word of God, you need to respond, you need time to repent, and time to pray. And so after the sermon, we take Communion, we remember the broken body and shed blood of Jesus. We invite you to come forward to be prayed for, to give your life to Christ, to sing and pray together in the Spirit, honoring Jesus, and glorifying God together. And so there’s time to come forward for prayer. We sing as a form of prayer. We give you time to respond in worship after the preaching of God’s Word. And one thing I am really thankful for, that’s really exciting, is our worship team, because worship includes singing. And our volunteers practice so hard, they serve, some of them show up early, they stay late, and they work hard. And I want you, when you see them, to thank them, because they’re people who love you, they love Jesus, and God uses them to draw us into his presence in powerful times of worship when we gather together.

So how’s it going? Are we obeying the Bible? Are we eating meals together and praying for one another? That’s what they did. And so we encourage you to stay afterwards, eat together, get to know one another, and pray for one another. Don’t just say, "I’ll pray for you." Pray for them. You can pray right then. You can pray on the phone. You can pray in person. You can pray for them later, but pray for them.

When the Lord calls, there is unity in the Holy Spirit, a beautiful spirit of worship as we study the Bible, sing and pray together.

3. The Presence of Love

Third, when the Lord calls, there is an overwhelming presence of love. Peter says it this way, he stands up and he says, "Repent." What God is saying through him, is when it comes to love, sin is a real issue, sin is a real problem. So one of the things that a church has to do to be obedient to the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit is deal with sin.

So if you’re in sin, we love you, and Jesus loves you. But we want to help you walk in holiness. We want to help you walk away from sin. We want to help you walk toward Jesus. So we want to influence you to submit to the Scriptures, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to pursue holiness by the grace of God.

Let me put it this way, any church that doesn’t encourage its people toward holiness, in love, in community, doesn’t really love the people. Now I’ve got six kids, I’m a dad, but imagine if what I told my kids was, "That’s dangerous, you’re going to hurt yourself, or you’re going to hurt someone else, but that’s okay. Do whatever you want, I don’t care." That’s not loving is it? I don’t love my children if it doesn’t bother me that they’re going to destroy themselves and others. A loving father says, "I love you but I don’t love what you’re doing. Let me help you to stop doing that which hurts and brings death."

So it’s the same with the church of Jesus Christ. And that word, "repent," is hugely important. So as a church, when the Holy Spirit shows up we’ll talk about our sin and we’ll help others work through their sin. These are the things that happen when the Lord calls; sin comes to light and people get the help they need.

It says it this way in verse 45, they were, "Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." So what they’re doing, they’re meeting spiritual needs; they’re praying for one another and teaching one another. They’re meeting emotional needs; they’re spending time together, in fellowship, and friendship. They’re also meeting physical needs: food, shelter, and the like.

Now when the government does this it gets very complicated, but when the Holy Spirit does it, it works a whole lot better. The Holy Spirit compels people to be generous and it’s more loving, it’s more kind, it’s more compassionate, it’s more like Jesus. We don’t have to force Jesus to be good to us, he just is. "God so loved the world, he gave" (John 3:16). One of the ways that we know that we love people is we give… we help them.

Here in the first church when people become Christians all of a sudden they start treating one another like family. And we call each other brother and sister, we’re going to treat them as well as we would treat our biological family because God’s our Father, Jesus is our big brother, and through his salvation we’re all adopted into the same family. So what matters is loving one another in word and in deed. And sometimes the way we love people is by giving. Because when the Lord calls… when the Holy Spirit shows up, as we saw in Acts 2, things happen. Wonderful, amazing, God-glorifying things happen. And things are still happening two thousand years later, because Jesus is still alive, the Holy Spirit is still at work, and Jesus is still building his church.

Today I am more excited, encouraged, and hopeful than I have ever been for our church. And I don’t want to miss anything that God has for us, but I want it to start with us having real unity, real worship, really loving one another and reaching our community for Christ. And so in closing we’re going to give you an opportunity to respond, we’re going to have communion, celebrating the Lord’s Supper together, and I want you to take some time to examine yourself and to confess that which is separating you from a rich full life with Christ. Let’s respond to God.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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