Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- Acts 11:19-30; Acts 13:1-3
We have been focusing on the purpose of the church in our Church Matters series. Jesus Christ came from Heaven to Earth to do the will of God the Father in saving people from their sins. He left disciples who became the core of the New Testament Church, filled with the Holy Spirit. They were called to fulfill what Jesus began on the earth. Jesus’ focus was on the kingdom of God, and this should be our focus as well. The kingdom of God is the sovereign rule and reign of God over all things. The Psalmist wrote, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations.” (Psalm 145:13)
How can we be faithful as a church, working in God’s kingdom?
“Growing God’s Forever Family” John 15:5
Worship- Small Group- Ministry- Mission
There are many things that churches can be involved in. If a church is not primarily focused on the glory of God and His mission in the world, they are missing the point. Programs can be added, methods can be changed, events can be scheduled, and can be nothing more than distractions. If you were to ask the average churchgoer why they attend church, the answers would vary significantly. The church is God’s plan in the world. Every disciple of Jesus needs to have focus, and every local church needs to have focus, in order to be effective. Let’s look at the example of the Church at Antioch in the Book of Acts and learn what it means to live life on mission.
The church at Antioch, serves as a model for the church in the 21st Century. Antioch was a large, pluralistic, multicultural city (Phoenicians, Jews, Arabs, Persians, Italians), worshiping a pantheon of gods- much like a lot of the world today. It had a population of perhaps as many as 800,000 people, a huge city for that time. It was located near the mouth of the Orontes River, about 15 miles from the port city of Seleucus, making it an inland city and a seaport city. The location today is Antakya, Turkey, about twelve miles from the Syrian border.
Let’s consider three characteristics of a church on mission, for the glory of God, and the advancement of His Kingdom.
1. A church on mission, will proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus.
Persecution had scattered followers of Jesus and they had scattered all the way to Antioch (just under 500 miles to the north of Jerusalem). The persecution had been led by Saul of Tarsus. They spoke the message of truth first to the Jews.
According to v20 there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists (Gentiles) proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. Being Greek speaking Jews, from mostly Gentile areas, they were more open to preaching to Gentiles than to native born Jews. Through their faithfulness with the good news about the Lord Jesus, the first Gentile church was born.
The Gospel is “the good news”- it is the glorious news announced to people about salvation, the victory over sin and death that God offers to all people through the person and finished work of Jesus.
Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia:
The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided the way of salvation for men through the gift of His Son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-11; II Corinthians 5:14-19; Titus 2:11-14). Charles F. Pfeiffer, Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1975), electronic media.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 the Apostle Paul summarized the basics of the gospel and called this of first importance- the death, burial, resurrection, and then the appearances of the resurrected Christ. The gospel is good news because it speaks to our greatest problem- God is holy and just, and we are not. When life ends, each of us are going to stand before a holy and just God, and be judged. We will either be judged on the basis of our own righteousness, and the lack thereof, or the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The good news is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, and did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He offered Himself as a perfect, complete sacrifice to satisfy the justice and righteousness of God. The Gospel is not good works. The Gospel is not “I do,” the Gospel is “Jesus did.”
The good news about the Lord Jesus should be proclaimed in obedience. This is what Jesus indicated in the Great Commission- go into all the world and make disciples. This is why we emphasize the importance of taking the Gospel down the street and around the world. This is why we exist!
The good news about the Lord Jesus should be proclaimed clearly. Don’t confuse it, don’t soften it, don’t dilute it. Be bold and be clear.
How the good news about the Lord Jesus is received, is dependent on the power of God. V21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. In the Old Testament, the phrase the hand of the Lord spoke of God’s power in judgment, and also to God’s power in blessing. This was the hand of the Lord in blessing as people came to faith in Jesus. It is the Lord who adds to His church when the good news is faithfully proclaimed.
A focused church will proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus.
2. A church on mission will encourage people to remain true.
Word went back to the church at Jerusalem of how God was working at Antioch. So they sent Barnabas out to travel to Antioch. “Barnabas” means son of encouragement. He had courageously befriended Saul, when everyone else was afraid of him. He was confident of Paul’s conversion, and sponsored him so he would be accepted by the Jerusalem church.
V23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord Jesus with a firm resolve of the heart, v24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
How was he able to see “the grace of God?” He no doubt saw changed lives, people who were professing faith in Jesus, being baptized, and living as followers of Jesus. This fall we have seen a dozen people come to faith in Jesus and be baptized in this church. God has blessed us to see people come to faith in Jesus through other mission projects all the way to the ends of the earth. This is the grace of God! There should be gladness and joy when we see the grace of God at work in people’s lives.
Hidalgo is the story of a man named Frank Hopkins who is seeking to find redemption from his painful past as the mixed-race son of a cavalry scout and an Indian chief’s daughter. At the beginning of the movie, Hopkins learns the government is rounding up wild horses used by the Native Americans and is planning to shoot them. The price for purchasing the horses is too great for the Indians. Hopkins enters a 3,000-mile race across the Arabian Desert, competing against great arabian horses with his mustang, Hidalgo.
After winning the race, he returns to the United States with $100,000 in prize money. The final scene pictures men preparing to shoot the captured horses. As they take rifles from a wagon and head toward the corral, they suddenly notice a lone rider on horseback approaching from a distance. “What’s this bloke doing,” the sergeant wonders aloud, “bringing them in one at a time?”
Hopkins rides up and asks, “Lieutenant McNalty?” “Who are you?” demands the sergeant. “Hopkins. Frank Hopkins.” The lieutenant says, “Hopkins? You bring a dispatch?” “Yes, sir.” Hopkins hands them the dispatch. The two men read it and look up in disbelief. “Paid in full?” McNalty asks. Hopkins turns away as the men are ordered back from the corral and return their rifles to the wagon. The gate to the corral is opened, and the wild horses are released. From a hilltop, Hopkins watches as the redeemed animals race to freedom. Hidalgo (Touchstone Pictures, 2004); directed by Joe Johnston, written by John Fusco; submitted by Mike Thorburn, San Jose, CA
When we are set free, it is the grace of God at work in our lives, with our debt paid in full.
Who is a disciple? Basically a disciple is a follower, a learner. A disciple of Jesus is someone who learns to live like Jesus by the power of God. A disciple is a worshiper, a servant, and a witness.
Jesus gave the charge to the church to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
A disciple is someone who obeys Jesus. John 8:31 If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciple of mine.
Barnabas went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him brought him to Antioch.
V26 For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
Teaching the Word of God is essential for making disciples. “Christians” means “of the party of Christ”. It is thought that it was first used as a term of derision, but it became a term of honor. It is said that the martyr Sanctus, replied to his torturers by simply saying- “I am a Christian.”
A church on mission will encourage people to remain true.
3. A church on mission will maintain an outward focus.
According to v27 Word came from Jerusalem to Antioch, through the prophet Agabus, that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world.
The famine would take place during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD). There were severe famines in Israel in 45-46 AD according to the historians Tacitus (Annals XI. 43), Josephus (Antiquities XX. Ii.5) and Suetonius (Claudius 18).
A church on mission with an outward focus will serve others.
V29 So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. V30 They did this, by means of Barbabas and Saul.
They were strong in the truth, and they were strong in serving others. The church responded immediately. Their attitude was not, let someone else worry about it. Or, there are needs here, why should we help them so far away? The church responded generously. Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers.
In ignorance, in 2015 Harvard professor Robert Putnam leveled the following criticism against “organized religion”: “The obvious fact is that over the last 30 years, most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those.” But an article in The Washington Post countered, “Broadly speaking, American churches are incredibly generous to the needs of a hurting world.”
This is the kind of church we strive to be- faithWorks projects, Benevolence Ministry, Cross Lanes Community Services, Food Box Distributions, Clothing Giveaways, Prison Ministry, Christmas Ministry to families in need, Christmas Backpacks, local School Partnerships, Orphan Ministry, fighting human trafficking, flood relief opportunities, and more, are a few of the ways we do this. We want to be a church that is known for how well we serve.
A church on mission with an outward focus will send people out.
13:1 In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Strong churches will have strong leaders. We don’t know much about Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen. Simeon was called Niger, which means “black” so he was likely a dark skinned man, maybe from Africa. Lucius is identified with Cyrene in North Africa. Manaen had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch in Herod the Great’s household. Then there was Saul or Paul.
While they were ministering and fasting, the Holy Spirit told them to set apart Barnabas and Saul to be sent wherever God desired. So they laid hands on them and sent them off.
God is a sending God. He sent Adam and Eve to fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it. Even after sin corrupted the world he continued to send. He sent His Spirit, the Word, the Law, messengers, judges, priests, kings, and prophets. Ultimately God sent His own Son. Jesus said in John 20:21 As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. God the Father as the Sender, sent His Son, who sent the Spirit, who sends His disciples into the world.
Every church is to be a sending church. As a church we pray for and expect God to send you as disciples of Jesus into the community where you live and work. As a church we pray for and expect God to send people on short-term opportunities to serve others who are living sent in church planting and mission projects in our state, nation, and to the ends of the earth. As a church we pray for and expect God to raise up and send people permanently on mission. There has to be an intentional sending vision for a church to be effective in the kingdom of God.
Southern Baptist Missionary to Iraq, Karen Watson, wrote a letter prior to leaving for the Middle East. The letter was dated March 7, 2003. Karen was killed, along with four other missionaries, on March 15, 2004, just over a year later. She wrote the letter to her pastors.
Dear Pastor Phil and Pastor Roger:
You should only be opening this letter in the event of my death.
When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations. I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, his glory my reward, his glory my reward.
One of the most important things to remember right now is to preserve the work….I am writing this as if I am still working with my people group. I thank you all so much for your prayers and support. Surely your reward in heaven will be great. Thank you for investing in my life and spiritual well-being. Keep sending missionaries out. Keep raising up fine young pastors.
In regards to any service, keep it small and simple. Yes, simply, just preach the gospel….Be bold and preach the life-saving, life-changing, forever-eternal gospel. Give glory and honor to our Father.
The Missionary Heart:
Care more than some think is wise.
Risk more than some think is safe.
Dream more than some think is practical.
Expect more than some think is possible.
I was called not to comfort or success but to obedience….There is no joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving him. I love you two and my church family.
In his care,
“Keep Sending Missionaries,” Baptist Press (3-24-04); submitted by Alan Price, Chatsworth, Georgia
As a church we want to be known for how well we send. A church on mission will maintain an outward focus.
Live on mission!