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Stories

Part 3 - Vintage Church

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(3/21) Welcome to Christís Community Church. In this series, weíve been looking at how Godís family, the Church, is a powerful force in our lives. "Stories" is really about belonging to something greater than ourselves where we experience authenticity with one another, true lasting transformation because of our new life in Christ, and today as we wrap up this series, weíre going to look at Godís favor. As we continue, weíre going to look at the early church, the Vintage Church, at their story, and consider the favor of God in their lives and our lives today as a community of believers.

Now there are many ways Godís favor can be manifested in our lives, our relationships, and our health. We can find favor in our finances, our work, our level of influence, and even in our life circumstances. Because when we have favor with God we begin to see his hand in all areas of our lives as we walk in the power of his presence. You see when it comes to Godís favor, when it comes to knowing Godís favor, itís important that we understand that God doesnít just give us his favor for our convenience, but he gives us his favor for his purpose.

One thing Iíve noticed is that every time God blesses me, every time God blesses this church, as we give that blessing back to God he impacts more people, he changes more lives, and he does great things in our church. You see, when God gives us favor he expects us to use it according to our faith. Jesus said it this way in Luke chapter 12,

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48).

God has given this church amazing favor and my prayer is that together weíll learn to walk in the favor of God, because itís one thing to recognize Godís favor, but itís more important to learn to walk and live and flow in it.

You see, as followers of Christ, Godís favor is always present in our lives, but itís when we open our eyes to look for it that we begin recognize it, we begin to see it, and then God will increase it in our lives. As we learn to see Godís favor and to recognize the favor that already exists, then we can learn how to take the favor heís given, the blessings heís given, the influence heís given, the money heís given, the skills heís given, and use them to be a channel of his favor to others, because God doesnít give you his favor for you. He gives you his favor for his purpose, so that it can flow through you and not just to you.

Today weíre going to look at Acts chapter 2, a passage of Scripture, describing the day the church began. It was on the day of Pentecost, a day which was a big feast in the city of Jerusalem, and the followers of Jesus were gathered together in a building, in an upper room waiting, just as Jesus had commanded them to do. When suddenly the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the room, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began declaring the wonders of God in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance. The streets were filled with people who had traveled to Jerusalem from all over the world and they were amazed to hear the good news about Jesus resurrection proclaimed in their own languages. Some said, "How is it that these uneducated Galileans are giving glory to God in our own language?" Others supposed that they might be drunk. And even others asked one another, "What does this mean?"

The apostle Peter, now emboldened by the Holy Spirit, stood and said in Acts chapter 2 at verse 14,

"Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:14-16).

He said, "Whatís happening today is something that God promised in the Scriptures long ago." And then he proceeded to quote the prophet Joel.

Verse 17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18).

Now this was just the beginning of the sermon Peter preached that day. Later, when he was finished, 3000 people gave their lives to Jesus Christ. But it was in these first few verses, words that came directly from the mouth of God, that we learn about this new thing God was doing. And here, as God was establishing the church, we see what he wants the Church to be. And Iíll tell you, in the last 20 years Iíve been in all kinds of churches. Iíve been in Methodist, Baptist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic, Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Non-denominational churches, and Iíve noticed a common characteristic, a common element that canít be defined by anything external. Itís simply the presence of Godís Spirit, and itís as simple as this: some churches have it and some churches donít.

Now I donít have any interest in debating which churches fall in to which category except one, and thatís ours. I want to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure that weíre a church fully immersed in the will of God and the Spirit of God. Because God wants to move among his people, he wants to do great things, he wants to perform wonders beyond what we can even think or imagine. God wants to equip and empower us to do greater works than Jesus did while he was on earth. He wants to fill his Church with his presence so that we can know his favor and live in his power.

Today, I want you to know that the favor of God is not only his presence but his power to accomplish his purpose in and through our lives. The favor of God is not only knowing that God is with you, but that heís for you, and that takes it up another level, doesnít it? You see, the favor of God is being poured out to accomplish his purposes in and through our lives. If Godís story is going to be our story we need to learn how to walk in his favor, to live in his favor, and to flow in his favor. Number one, how do we walk in the favor of God?

 

1. Walk

Well, Godís favor is directly related to our faith and the Bible is full of illustrations of faithful men and women who found favor with God. Moses for example, by faith chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, because he was walking in the favor of God. By faith Moses left Egypt, leading a couple million people through the desert, wandering 40 years in the wilderness, all the while fulfilling Godís purpose that was so much bigger than his own personal convenience. Thatís what walking in the favor of God is about. You see, God doesnít just give you stuff for the sake of giving you stuff, but he offers to be with you, to do something in you, to work something through you, and thatís called his favor. Godís favor is better than anything offered by this world because it canít be taken away. Itís the gift of God.

And as I said, you can see this in a lot of different people in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 12, "The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). Abram found the favor of God because he was willing to walk into an unknown future. You know, he had no idea where he was going, all he knew was that God said in chapter 15, "I am your shield, your very great reward" (Genesis 15:1). And I like the way the Amplified Version says it, "I am your Shield, your abundant compensation, and your reward shall be exceedingly great" (AMP). And Abraham walked in the presence, the provision, and the purpose of God, because he had found favor!

I could go on telling you about Able, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Gideon, or Nehemiah just to mention a few; not to mention the great women of the Bible. You know, like Mary who found favor with God, facing the ridicule of her neighbors, and then went on to give birth to the Son of God in a barn. Esther who found favor and saved a nation because of it. Or Ruth who found favor with Boaz and went from picking up leftovers in the field to being honored in the genealogy of Christ. Thatís Godís favor! You see, Godís favor is so amazing, itíll do stuff in your life, youíll be so blessed that even when bad things happen, youíll choose to believe Romans chapter 8.

"In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

We believe, because itís all through the Bible. In Psalms chapter 5 it says: "For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield" (Psalms 5:12).

He surrounds us with his favor and I love that, because that means Godís favor is not only behind us, itís not just in our past, but itís also in front of us. Godís favor is in anything weíre going to face tomorrow. Godís favor is beside us now and with us every step of the way.

And hereís another one, in the Psalms chapter 84, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless" (Psalms 84:11).

And in Proverbs chapter 3, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man" (Proverbs 3:3-4).

Now maybe youíre thinking that today your walk isnít very blameless, that your love and faithfulness are sometimes hard to find, but thatís okay, because weíre all works in progress. Iím not blameless either, but Jesus was, and he lived the life you couldnít live, he died the death you shouldíve died, and he rose again offering his favor to anyone whoíll believe him enough to receive it. Then number two, we want to live in Godís favor.

2. Live

When Godís Spirit is present in the church, when his favor surrounds the church, people are made new. Marriages are mended. Relationships are restored. Shattered dreams or put back together. Broken hearts are healed. Lives are changed, because this is what happens when the Church becomes immersed in the Spirit of God; they experience the favor of God.

In Acts chapter 2, I love this illustration where the early church came together in faith with the preaching of Peter and then verse 46 says,

"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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people" (Acts 2:46-47).

The vintage church lived in Godís favor. They took community seriously, and spent time together in fellowship, spending time in each otherís homes, eating together, sharing with one another, sacrificing and caring for each other. They understood the concept of community because they were living in Godís favor. And this wasnít just an occasional thing for the early Christians. Church wasnít a one day a week event for them. It was a constant, continuous, day by day experience. They were involved in ministry and involved in fellowship almost every day, because it was infused with the presence of God. They were living in Godís favor.

As believers, we need to spend time together and we need to do it often. I love to see our church spending time together, I love when our kids play together, and when the young adults do things together; because being together, enjoying one anotherís company, loving one another is a crucial aspect to living in Godís favor. If the only time we see each other is on Sunday morning, we donít have time to cultivate the sense of community that God wants to see developed among his people.

This is where small churches have an advantage, because everything we do, we do as a family. Weíre doing life together, the easy parts and the hard parts, the happy parts and the sad parts, the parts where we work and the parts where we play, but weíre all in this together. When we come together to worship, we know whoís here and who isnít here. And thatís because God has called us to live in his favor, heís called us to live a life of community, a life of commitment to one another, and so we must never grow out of our sense of community.

Verse 46 says that, "Every day they continued to meet togetherÖ eating togetherÖ praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people" (Acts 2:46-47).

They were enjoying the favor of God and man. And today, you and I need to walk in his favor, and live in his favor, so that we can achieve the favor that the early church achieved. We need to adopt their priorities as our priorities, doing life together, day after day meeting together, eating together, working together, and playing together. Weíre a community, the people of God, and weíre in this for the long haul. If our priorities are straight, if weíre committed to the Word of God, and worship, and prayer, and one another, then Godís favor is inevitable. But number three we must learn to flow in his favor.

3. Flow

And hereís what I mean, when you first trust in Christ, all things are new, thereís this sense of anticipation, as youíre trying to process the fact that youíve been adopted as Godís child and that he loves you and he forgives you. You read the Bible and itís like itís hardwired to your heart, itís fresh and relevant, and God speaks to you through his Word. And youíre so excited that youíve get to tell somebody about Christ, youíve got to invite somebody to church, and you canít even believe that thereís a church like this in your community. But what happens over time, is that you start to take for granted the amazement, the blessings, and the benefits of God.

Today, God wants me to remind somebody that if youíll begin to expect the favor of God again, if youíll begin walking in it and living in it; if youíll just open your eyes to the opportunity that God has already put in front of you, heíll give you greater favor. And if youíre faithful in the little things heíll make you faithful over much more, so that you can flow in his favor.

This morning, some of you need to know that God will give you the favor you need for the season youíre in. Heíll give you the favor to do what heís called you to do. He might be giving you favor right now to build the character you need or the time to prepare for the next season of favor in your life. God will give you the favor you need for the season youíre in. You see, favor should be the principal orientation for the children of God. When my kids come inside looking for something to eat, they come with expectation, itís what they do, because provision is part of the package. Itís just like Psalms 103 tells us,

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits ó who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" (Psalms 103:2-5).

We come to God seeking his favor, because you canít produce his favor, you canít do anything to achieve his favor, but you can position yourself to receive it. So we donít just want to feel the favor of God every once in a while, we want to walk in it, we want to live in it, always putting ourselves in a position to receive, following hard after him. And if we put ourselves in that place, if we follow him, the Bible says, "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life" (Psalms 23:6).

As youíre believing God, as youíre positioning yourself to receive, youíre becoming who heís called you to be, and you are doing what heís called you to do. When youíre following after Jesus, when youíre committed to him, youíre in that place where favor is falling, because youíre in that place of obedience, and Godís favor provides you with opportunities to flow in his favor.

As I was thinking about this in my life, thinking about those little decisions, those little steps of faith, which at the time really didnít seem to be a big deal, but theyíve led to something that changed me, altering the course of my life. Because here I am today, Iím not in jail, Iím not in the hospital, but Iím sharing Godís word with you and telling you about Godís favor. And as we close today, God is calling some of you to take a simple step of obedience. Maybe thereís something that God wants you to do. Maybe thereís a blessing linked to your obedience thatís bigger and better than anything youíve ever imagined. As we close in prayer will you tell somebody, "I made a decision to walk in the favor of God. Iím going to live in it and Iím going to flow in it, because wherever Godís favor is thatís where I want to be."

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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