1) God-Approved Revolutionary: The God-Governed Heart
2) God-Approved Revolutionary: The God-Governed Life
3) God-Approved Revolutionary: The God-Governed Church
Revolutionary: The God-Governed Heart
Jesus was portrayed as a social revolutionary by those who wanted to defame Him. He was crucified by Pilate because He was accused of leading a revolt against Caesar. He was slandered by the unbelieving Jews and by labeling Him a social revolutionary they were able to interest the Romans in destroying Him. They lied to protect themselves and the social status they had. But was He really just a social revolutionary? Webster defines revolution as “the overthrow or repudiation and thorough replacement of established government or political system by the people governed.” A revolutionary is “someone who is committed to the thorough displacement of an established system of government in the hope of seeing radical change in society and social structures.” Jesus’ impact is undeniable. He has made His mark on history and on lives that has lasted 2,000 years. But would you really call Him a social revolutionary? Did Jesus come to change the existing system of government? Was the target of His energies changing a system of government? Or did He have a different focus?
Jesus came to teach us to be God-governed. In a fascist or communist society it is the elites in power who govern the lives of individuals. And to be radically self-governed is to have self on the throne, which eventually ends in anarchy and rampant moral disillusion. God has given us the power to make important choices in our lives as long as they do not harm others or society itself. We can defy Him and we can deny Him or we can put God on the throne of our lives. That is how we were designed to live. That is what we were designed for, to have a relationship with the Father. And you see this all through Jesus’ life. Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” Jesus is saying, “I am God-governed." He prayed in the Garden, “Not my will be done, but thy will be done.” This is God-governed speech. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Can you pray that prayer? Do you live that kind of life? If you ever say the Lord’s Prayer, do you say that part of it as recognizing your dependence on God? “Lord, I have a lot of choices to make this week. I have a lot of frustrations. I have a lot of opportunities. I have a lot of challenges. Lord, thy will be done. I want to be governed by you, not by what is merely expedient or materially profitable.”
To be God-governed is truly revolutionary. Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother or sister. Not every who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” Are you elite-governed, self-governed or are you God-governed? Is your life governed by what the elite of the day tell you to do and think, by their own esoteric wants and desires, or by what God has said in His Word and His ways? Is your life abundant? Abundantly full of His fruit? Is your life full of peace, love, joy, patience, kindness or are those things set on the back burner so you can achieve the things that you have in mind that you want to achieve that the world has identified as most important? Let me ask you, who better can you trust for your life than the one who designed you? I assure you that God the Father will not take anything out of your life that will not be for your great gain. He does not delight in robbing you. He delights in blessing you. In other words, He delights in blessing His children with every good thing. He delights in seeing you enjoy life and enjoy the things of life but in their proper place and their proper perspective. Doing things God’s way and in contrast to the way the world does things is revolutionary. Jesus came to bring revolt to our lives. To be God governed is to have a relationship reestablished by Him based upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Not simply for salvation and heaven, for eternity and that is absolutely fabulous, but your life here on earth. God gives us His Holy Spirit so that our lives can bear fruit--not simply in our own little world but also in the lives of those around us. It is God-governed individuals living in community based upon His commands, His ways, and His Spirit.
To be this type of revolutionary is not easy. It is a challenge. It goes against our innate declaration of independence. Being this type of revolutionary is not easy because the enemy knows what is at risk and it is not simply your life that is at risk and not simply your spiritual walk and your fruitfulness. It goes far beyond your life. Husbands, the impact on your wives and upon your children is based upon your independence or submission to God. Wives, your home, your husband will either be blessed or cursed by your submission to God. I am talking about your submission to God here to lead, to guide, to minister in your household as God-governed rather than self-governed. Being a revolutionary is not joining the church. It is not getting involved at church. It is getting involved in a heart relationship with the creator of the universe who sent His Son to die on a cross for us. He has the power to affect everything that can touch your life, even to the point of death.
The resurrection shows that He has the ability to invade life, to get personally involved in your life and mine. He has power over life and death. He has the power to govern your life with fruitfulness, with love, with discipline, with justice, with health. He holds the power in your life and He invites you to join with Him. With open arms, He invites you to join with Him. Reflect on the majesty and the power and the amazement of that.
Jesus came declaring good news. And the heart of that good news is not simply eternal life but restoration of a relationship with God--a heart relationship with God. Cleansed by His death on the cross so that we are acceptable in His sight. Jesus came to give you what He had with the Father. He said, “I and the Father am one.” That was the accusation upon which He was crucified. “I and the Father are one.” And Jesus wants that relationship and makes that relationship available to you; a oneness, a connection of heart to God rather than self-governed. He wants us to escape the tyranny of our own selfishness. It is a relationship that is extremely intimate and powerful because it meets you right where you live. In many ways it is like a marriage and that is the way the Bible portrays it--we are the bride of Christ. To have this sense of what would please, of living for the joy of the other person, of submitting one to the other as Christ submitted Himself on the cross for us that we might submit our will to Him, to love and be looking out for the other’s best interest. That is what He came to restore.
But like our marriage relationship, we can mess it up. We can do things of a selfish nature in our marriages that break those bonds, that tear a couple apart, a husband and wife that simply live in a household together that do not share real heart and real life, that do not communicate, that do not talk. They are not living like a real couple, like a couple that is going through life together. With this analogy in mind, that is the same pain that God feels when we have this cold distant relationship from Him. Remember the old adage? “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?” You cannot say to God, “Well, God has just not held up His part of the bargain in our relationship. He just does not appreciate me.” God does not fall short in His relationship with us. It all rests with us. We might not always understand why certain things happen the way they do, but we need to realize that God will always be available for us as we go through them.
The magnanimous grace of God is such that, though we have committed spiritual adultery against Him, though we have lied, deceived and denied Him, He still wants us back. God gives us the illustration of Gomer and Hosea where He has Hosea marry a prostitute who continues in her prostitution after they are married and God keeps telling this guy, “Take her back because she illustrates how my people live.” Now in that day God was talking about Israel, but today He is talking about you and me. And when we come back to Him, He receives us with joy and sometimes with chastisement because we need to change the way in which we live so we do not fall back into our old patterns. But He receives us back because of His love and grace based on the sacrificial death of His Son. That was a precious price to pay. And as we confess back to Him, “Lord, forgive me. Forgive my self-governance. Lord, I invite you again to become Lord of my life,” then our lives can change.
I invite you to take a moment to declare your allegiance. Who do you pledge allegiance to? Do you say, “I pledge allegiance to myself that I might be happy and make my own way,” or, “I pledge allegiance to my Lord who bought me with a price and paid more than I could ever hope?” I invite you to respond to Him by standing in His presence and reflecting upon what He has done and who He is. Confess again your allegiance to Him and walk according to His ways.
Revolutionary: The God-Governed Life
There was a man that was born in an obscure village and was a child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was 30. Then for three years he was an itinerate preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place he was born. He never did the kind of things that we usually associate with greatness. Nineteen long centuries have come and gone and his influence is still felt throughout the human race. It is not an exaggeration to say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has the life of Jesus Christ.
One life has changed history. Jesus came to start a revolution within the hearts of men and women everywhere. A working definition of revolution is: an overthrow and replacement of an established system of government or rule. Jesus’ mission was not, primarily, to change the politics or the economics or the philosophy of mankind, but to change something much more fundamental. Jesus came to initiate, to instigate a revolution of universal proportions, a revolution that transcends all nationalities, transcends all political systems, transcends all geographic regions and that is why His revolution, His solitary life has done more to transform and change this world than all the politicians, than all the economics, than all the philosophies of all the world, of all time. His revolution is the same today as it was in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. It is as viable for us as it was for Peter and Paul and James and John and all the rest living in Galilee, in Jerusalem or Nazareth. That is a revolution of lasting proportions. He came to change not simply the external world, the culture, but to change mankind from the inside out--to change hearts, to change the ruling force in our lives.
You see, what Jesus recognized and what Jesus saw that often eludes us is that there is a profound, deep contrast between what God designed life to be like and what the world is. There is a great difference between how God designed us to live and how the world around us lives. Jesus said there is a black and white difference and we need to grasp what it is. We are designed to live, by the Creator Himself, in connection with Him, in relationship with Him. Walking, talking, having a personal, heartfelt connection with the Creator of this planet. But for that to be a true relationship, He gave us freewill, the ability to choose, but we have twisted that ability to rejection. We have used that ability from potential relationship with God to alienation from Him. And it is something that we have done. In our freewill we have been able to choose to walk away from God and what was meant to be connection becomes rejection.
The rebellion starts with Adam and it carries to you and me. John describes this as living in darkness rather than light. John starts off his gospel by describing it this way. Open your Bible to John 1:4. “In Him was life and that life was the life of men.” “In Him.” He brought life to us. Life that goes beyond simply existence, carrying through a number of years and then dying and being laid in the ground. He came to bring us a life of relationship with God, of life as it was designed to be in connection and in relationship with Him. “But the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it.” The world of fallen men and women have a hard time really grasping what God has done in His love for us, His sacrifice for us, His interest and involvement and desire to walk and live with us. We want to think that, “I am here, God you are there. When I need help, God, I will call and ask you. Oh, by the way, Lord, make sure that things keep working out good for me.” We want to use God for our own purposes rather than live according to His ways and design.
The world has condemned itself to separation from God, but He has acted instead to save the world, to bring us back to Him. The verse you have heard so many times, John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life,” describes the plan of God. He came, not to condemn, but to save. We are already under condemnation. We have chosen to walk away from God and we cannot get back there by ourselves, but God can bring us back and that is why He sent His Son. This simple verse may be the first verse you ever memorized as a child, but I want you to recognize what it says. It asks you to face up to who you are and who God is. We have separated ourselves from God and to confess that is the first step to healing the relationship with Him. “Yes, I have turned my back on God I do not know how many times. And so, Lord, I do not deserve to have a relationship with you. I have offended you. I have alienated you, but Lord, you say you still want to take me back? You want to have a relationship with me? Lord, I am not sure if you really want to do that because I have let you down a few times and I have this sneaking suspicion that I am going to let you down a few more times. Are you sure you want to have a relationship with me?” And God says, “Yes, I know. I know you. I know you and I love you anyway. I know you and I love you. I offer you revelational, revolutional life that reveals who you are. I invite you back to walk with me.” That is a God who cares. That is a God who provides. That is the God who loved you so much He sent His Son.
Believing involves accepting that there is a God who exists and that He does care for you. The God who created this world cares for you. Secondly, it involves admitting that you have rejected God’s authority. That you have walked away from it. You have looked at His authority in the past and said, “Just hold on a while God, I have my own plans.” And that is called sin. Believing is trusting in His provision. Personally, you say, “Lord, I trust in your provision for me.” See, He came to revolutionize our hearts one at a time, not all our hearts at once, not just whoosh, “I am going to wipe it all out at once.” He wants to have a relationship with us, individually, not just meet us as just a face in a big group. He wants that personal involvement in our lives. That is the basic message of salvation--of revolting against the tyranny of darkness and selfishness and putting our lives back in proper perspective and connection with God.
This is all wrapped up in verse 19. Verse 19 says, “This is the verdict.” This is the bottom line, folks. What does all this mean, pastor? And what is the bottom line of the gospel? The bottom line is, “God’s light has come into the world.” He has offered it to us. He offered it to us at the very start. He has offered us truth. He has put His truth in us so that we are without excuse, “but men loved darkness instead of light.” That is you and me, too. “They have loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” We would rather do what we want and do not really want to ‘fess up’ to it. It reminds me a little bit of cockroaches. In Florida we have plenty of cockroaches. You keep a clean house and think everything is good, you have the pest people come in and you still walk out at 2:00 in the morning to get a glass of milk or something and turn the light on and all of a sudden, what was that? And they scurry away from the light. “I do not want to be in the light,” they say. “It is dangerous out here.” We tend to do the same thing. But God says, “Turn the light on because you cannot be forgiven for it until you ask.” Turn on the light so you can get rid of the darkness.
Can you do it yourself? Anybody our there think he or she can do it yourself? Never do anything wrong again? Never lie to your wife? Never speed down the highway? You need something new and He comes to give you that help. It says, “I will put a new spirit and a new heart in you.” He spoke through Isaiah centuries before Christ came and said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you and will take out your stony, stubborn, cold heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Something that will be soft and malleable and sensitive to my voice. And I will put my spirit in you so that you can follow my decrees and be careful to obey my commands. I will put my spirit in you because your spirit cannot do it by itself.” Your spirit is not capable.
Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have made for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you.” Plans to give you a hope and a future. Your life deserves to end in a pine box in a cemetery in Evergreen. It deserves to be flushed, deserves to be done. But He says, “I will give you a hope and a future.” You deserve to live alone and alienated from other people all your life. You deserve to be cast out, but God says, “I have a plan. I have a hope, I have a future for you.” He has more for us, a hope and a future. He says in Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion, until Jesus returns.” You have a God who is invested and working in your life. That is why you have a hope. That is why you have a future. Not because you can make something out of yourself. Oh, you can. You can build the biggest business or get the biggest bank account or become the president or the commissioner or somebody with authority and power. You can build a good image, but it all ends up in the same place. He gives you a hope and a future that will never rust, corrupt, corrode, that will never end.
And thirdly, He gives you a new helper and a guide. Jesus says in the gospel of John, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another helper to be with you forever.” This helper is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and He will guide you into all truth. You have a helper and a guide. The Holy Spirit within you to help you see what you cannot see by yourself, to help you get a feeling, a sense that this just does not seem right. “I just do not know what to do. Lord, help me. I want to know what to do. Should I take this job or that job? I do not know what to do, Lord.” You will probably not find the next job you are going to take in the book of Hezekiah or Matthew or Malachi. You are not going to find it there, but you are going to find it through the Holy Spirit ministering and speaking to your heart and giving you wisdom and insight through that sensitivity, to guide you into truth. And that truth is not simply wisdom and right knowledge. That truth is right action, rightful living, to live truth not just know truth.
He wants to change the way in which you think, to move you from darkness into light. But what was true of the Romans, what was true of the Jews and the Galileans is also true of you and me. There is still a propensity toward darkness in our lives. Even though we do not consider ourselves to be cockroaches, we still want to run away from the light. “God, I have been really, really good. This one time I want to do things my way.” And you realize the implications that darkness has, but you do it anyway.
Do you recognize if you are not aligning yourself with the truth and aligning yourself with God, you are aligning yourself with someone else? If you are not aligning yourself with God, if you are not aligned with and in harmony with God, who are you aligning yourself with? That is kind of a scary thought. If you are not aligned with God, you are aligning yourself with the one who first set himself against God--Satan. By your disobedience, you are aligning yourself with the evil one, whether you intend to do so or not. We tend to get the feeling there is God and there is Satan and there is this whole big neutral ground that we kind of run around in that is “my world.” But realize that is what Satan did when he rebelled. He sought to create his own world where he would be on par with God Himself.
You should not think that since you have nine things aligned with God and only two things aligned with Satan, that you are going to be ok. It only takes one or two problem areas in your life to destroy your life. I am reminded of that every day. Every day we see that around us, of lives that are destroyed because of one or two character flaws or habits or addictions. If someone has been faithful to his wife for 30 years and then one afternoon he cheats on her, does not that harm his marriage? Maybe even destroy it? Thirty good years and in one day it all comes crumbling down! Satan is the one who says, “It is just one thing, don’t worry about it.” But this one thing can destroy a reputation, relationship with a wife, relationship with kids, relationships with friends and extended family, relationship with a church family, maybe future job prospects, and probably more. It is just one thing, but it gives a foothold to destroy everything else. Be careful of what you are aligning yourself with because the disastrous results may never stop until the day you die. Even if you are forgiven and move on in your life to never do anything like that again, the consequences can live on.
For the next couple minutes, I ask you to take some thought of your life, of where you are in this light and darkness. Reflect on who you are. Are you walking in light or is there darkness creeping into your life that is going to end up taking control and destroying you? He offers us new birth, new life, new birth for a new life, a new beginning, a revolutionary new beginning for a revolutionary new life. Jesus came not simply to give us a rebirth but to give us a life from that birth. “I have come into the world as light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
To be born in the light, to accept Christ as your Savior and say, “Great, I have my ticket to heaven and now I can go and live as I want, I can go and live in darkness,” is a waste. It is a waste to you. It is a waste to your family. It is a waste to your church. It is a waste to your community. It is a waste of your life. A simple, casual relationship with God does not give birth to the revolutionary life that Jesus died for and sent His Holy Spirit to give you. He has given you new life to live a new life. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Born again! Anybody want to have a baby and just leave it there to die? When you have a child you want to see it grow and nurture and blossom, develop skills and abilities and that is exactly why He gives us new birth in the light so that we can then live and walk in the light--revolutionary living.
There are four characteristics of a revolutionary life that I want you to reflect on. It starts off with having a realigned, personal identity. A realigned identity means you change who you think you are. You define yourself by something different than the way the world defines you. I know someone named Clarence. I have known him for about ten years. He works at the post office. Clarence has some kids and some grandkids and a wife. Is that all who Clarence is? No, there is a little bit more to Clarence. What does the Bible say about Clarence? In 2 Corinthians it says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone away and the new is come.” Clarence, do you know you are a new creation? God has made you a new creation and also it says over in John that “to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name He gave the right to become the children of God.” Clarence, do you know you are a son of God? If you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior, you are a son of God. To have a realigned personal identity is to live in accordance with that identity.
Secondly, a revolutionary life clarifies core beliefs. Clarifying core beliefs helps you understand what life is all about, who you are, who God is, what God has done and what God calls you to do. For example, read through Hebrews 11. One important core belief is knowing that anyone who wants to come to God must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. It is believing in a God who is really there and who is active and involved in your life. And that changes the way in which you live. Another core belief is that Scripture is the inspired Word of God and that it is useful to teach us what is true and make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It is God-breathed to us, to give us understanding, to give us expectations, to give us a hope and a future and correct us when we are wrong. It teaches us what to do, what is right. God uses it to prepare us and equip us for doing good things in the world around us. And so we are very careful with it.
Thirdly, revolutionary living means you are involved in invigorating relationships. We already know that we are a child of God. Now, Clarence is a child of God and I am a child of God. What does that make me with Clarence? It makes us family, does it not? God expects the same thing in His family that you expect in your family and that is that you get along and you act nice to each other. God says it a little more eloquently than that. He says in Ephesians, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you.” We are to be kind and compassionate so we can get along with each other and honor God with our behavior.
But do you catch the next part? The next part is the part that gives people a lot of trouble. It says, “Forgive one another.” Now, what does that mean? It means forgive. It means there may be somebody in your Christian family who, I guarantee you, is going to do something wrong to you. It says you have to forgive them. You are not going to have to forgive anybody that does not do something wrong to you. And you may have done nothing to deserve it. You may be absolutely all right. You may be living in the light and being doing what you are supposed to be doing and someone is going to say something bad about you or wrong about you, lie about you, do something, cheat you in a business deal. And what are you called to do? God puts you in growing relationships and when things happen that go against your grain, when people wrong you, it is going to cause you to have to grow in grace, in mercy, compassion and forgiveness. And can I tell you right now, that is hard. And sometimes it is hardest in the family of believers because you expect everyone else is going to be as good as you are, or better, and sometimes it does not work that way. In fact, I can think of a whole lot of people that are not as good as you are. God wants you to grow in His family so He is going to allow you to come into relationships that are wrong because He wants you to grow in grace and church is the healthiest place to do it. Oh, you can do it on your basketball team. You can do it in your office. But as a church we are called to grow together as a family. Taking care of it is going to be a blessing to you because if you do not it will debilitate your Christian walk and growth. To be a bitter, unforgiving Christian is a pretty ugly thing. Do not let it happen to you.
And then finally, revolutionary living involves living a transparent life style. By transparent I mean clean. Scripture says to offer your bodies, not to unrighteousness or wickedness but unto God that you might be instruments of righteousness in the world around you. To do the right thing, to let others see you life and see God reflected in the way that you act. That you are clean and that you are productive in the things that you do. That God is at work in us. It says in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” You belong to God and you have already won a great victory because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit that is in the world. Whatever He calls you to do, whatever He calls you to have--a new hope, a new heart, a new spirit--He facilitates in you. As you walk with God, your life will bear good fruit. As you are living in relation and connection with Him, these things come out naturally. It is not just you trying harder. It is His work in you. “I will give you a new heart,” He said in Ezekiel, “so that you will follow my decrees.”
I ask you, are you living a revolutionary life? Have you been revolutionized? Have you come to the point where you have stepped from darkness into light by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Have you had that new birth that He talks about? “God, I am willing to have a relationship with you. I do not want to wander in the darkness. I can recognize that darkness is going to destroy my life. I know it is attractive. I know it is tempting, but Lord, I want to live in the light with you.” That is being revolutionized. And God offers that to you. But if you have already done that, are there some things that are holding you down? Some things that are holding you back? Is there darkness creeping into your life and you are ready to say, “Lord, I want to get rid of that darkness and I do not know how I can do it myself.” You are cared for. You are loved and God will make a difference in your life if you let Him.
The Revolutionary: The God-Governed Church
I want you to consider, do you want to be part of a dead church, a living church or a revolutionary church? Now, nobody would say they want to be part of a dead church, but you have to recognize the church is not the building. The church is not the music service. The church is not the pastor. The church is not the programs or activity. The church is the people. And to be a living church means the people are involved and engaged in life. To be a revolutionary church means the church is full of revolutionary people. Again, revolution is the overthrow of an established system of government or rule. And concerning Christianity, Jesus came to overthrow the system of self-rule that we have. To not be self-ruled but to be God-ruled. To be controlled by Him, to have a different standard, to walk to the beat of a different drum, to have a different value system, perspective on life than the rest of the world has for us.
What are the signs of a dead church? What are the signs of a living church? What are the signs of a revolutionary church? That is what we are going to look at. Read Revelation 3:1-6. Through John, God is writing to seven different, but representative churches and there is one particular church He says is “dead.” Only one church is described as dead and read what He says about it. Revelation 3:1: “To the angel of the church in Sardis, I know all the things that you have done and that you have reputation for being alive but you are dead. Wake up. Strengthen who remains because it is about to die for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard. Obey it and repent.” From this passage we see that a church ends up being dead when its people end up being complacent. The church is dead when the people are complacent, when they are satisfied with who and what they are. “Oh good, I have my religious duty done. I have my ticket to heaven. I know what is going on and I have my life pretty well cleaned up. I have overcome a lot of the sins and I have a pretty good reputation and I am comfortable now.” When it comes to effectiveness of his or her Christian life that is when a Christian begins to die. And when a church is filled with these type of people, it is on its way to a Spiritless Christian walk, or as Revelation 3:1 puts it, spiritual death.
A dying Christian has four characteristics. A dying church is made up of dying Christians. Look at verse two. “Wake up, strengthen what remains. It is about to die.” This is a complacent church--a self-satisfied, worldly, complacent church. Faith causes us to stretch out and trust God, to get out of our comfort zone, to reach out and be somewhere and do something that is uncomfortable. Anybody like to do that? That goes against our basic nature. We want to do things that are comfortable, things that we know, things that we enjoy, things that we are good at. But there are things we are not good at and we say, “I do not want to. . .” for things that we are uncomfortable doing. Doing them takes faith. Faith is the opposite of complacency. Faith causes you to step out. Complacency says, “No, I am going to sit back and just get in the recliner and pull up the legs and just kind of watch some Nascar or a baseball game or I am just going to kick back and take it easy.” Faith stretches us out to do something different. A dying, complacent faith results in a lack of trust in God.
Secondly, a dying Christian is characterized by unripened fruit. He said, “I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of God.” There are some things you started to do, things you have ability to do, some things that God wants to do in and through your life, things He wants to grow in your life but you are hindering it. God wants to grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there fertile ground in your heart for the fruit of the Spirit to grow? God is not done with us yet. More patience, more love, more peace, more joy. How is your joy? Do others around you, people at your work or school know you are a Christian because you just have a depth to you, a joy that abides despite the struggles of life? God has a plan for your life. What greater cause for joy can you have? Are you letting that reflect on your face? Your disposition? Letting it come out of your life? Unripened fruit is a characteristic of a complacent Christian who ceases to trust God enough to walk with Him in His ways and Spirit.
Thirdly, a dying Christian is characterized by a disregard for truth. Notice what it says. “Remember therefore what you have received and heard.” “Hey, remember! Have you done anything about what He is saying. You have heard God’s truth. Has it made a difference in the way that you live?” Concerning kindness, are you seeding acts of kindness around you? Are you following through on performing acts of kindness for the love of God to others in your area, in your life, at your workplace, in your home? Seeding kindness, being kind to someone for no good reason except your love for Jesus and His command on your life? A sign of a dead Christian is disregarded truth. You have heard the truth but you do not follow through with action.
And fourthly, a sign of a dead Christian is a disobedient lifestyle. It says, “Obey it and repent.” Repent means to turn around and go in a different direction. It means the way you are going now is leading away from where you should be going. And God says, “Hey, this is not good. You need to be in the center of my will. You need to be where I have placed you and where I can protect you and where I can facilitate your life and your ministry, where I can make you a blessing to you and your family.” A disobedient lifestyle is a sign of a dead Christian. Christ cannot live through a dead, sinful Christian. That person is not reflecting Christ.
A dying faith, unripened fruit, disregard for the truth, and a disobedient lifestyle--those are the signs of a dying Christian. Those are also the signs of a dying church. And we do not want to go there. But where do we want to go. Turn over to Acts 2:41-42. In these verses we will see the signs of a living church. A church is alive, when? It says, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church, about 3,000 in all. This was from one day’s message. They joined with each other, with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship and to sharing in the Lord’s supper and to prayer.” A church is alive because the people are engaged in life. They are engaged with God. They are engaged with one another. You hear the word “engaged” and right away you think about getting married, connecting with someone and making plans to have a life together. It is the same thing when it is talking about being engaged with God, of having a life together, having a future together, making plans and respecting each other, of being loyal to each other. If you are engaged to someone else and you start dating on the side, what usually happens? When you play around on the side with other worldly values and other worldly systems, God knows and it hurts your relationship with Him.
Acts 2:41-42 five four characteristics of a living church. First of all, it discovers God’s truth. It says, “They joined with each other, believers, and devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.” It studies God’s truth to understand what God’s Word says, to understand what God’s direction and encouragement and strength is for life. We have a standard and that is God’s Word and it defines what truth is. There are a lot smarter people than Dave Strem. I do not know any pastor that is smart enough to speak truth all the time reliably unless it is based upon the truth’s source itself and that is God’s Word. God’s Word is reliable. You can base your life upon it. It is trustworthy and it is God’s message to us to help us to live. And yet we take it for granted and set it aside. Or you come to church and say, “I will listen to Pastor Dave and he will tell me some good things and I will feel like I got something good for the week.” A living church is made up of believers who are engaged in discovering God’s Word and letting it breathe into their lives.
I have to tell you, God has a lot of things you need to understand, a lot of things that will help and bless your life that I am never going to talk about. And so you are going to have to get them from Him yourself. You are going to have to sit down and open His Word and let God speak His truth to your heart for what you specifically need to have. You need to open God’s Word and let His breath of truth into your life. Do not wait for me to finally cover it next year or ten years from now. Many of you only go to church on Sunday morning and sit through an hour of your pastor and maybe some singing and then return home to never open the Bible for yourself. There is more truth than what you hear on a Sunday morning. Read God's Word for yourself!
The next characteristic of a living church is loving interaction with one another. It says, “Devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship and to sharing as God’s family.” As Jesus said, “My disciples will be known by their love one for another.” He was essentially saying, “The signature that you belong to me, the way the world will know that you are different, that I have made a difference in your life is that you will care about each other in a different way than the rest of the world cares about each other. You will express genuine love and sacrificial giving for one another. You will raise one another up on a level above yourself. You will take care of their needs before you will take care of your own. You will sacrifice yourself for the sake of your brother and sister in Christ. By this the world will know you are my disciples, by your love one for another.” Loving interaction!
There are young couples that do not have any grandparents in the area. My kids grew up without knowing their grandparents. And there is something that has been missing from my kid’s lives because they really have not had grandparents in their lives. And my mom really has not known my kids. She has heard stories about them. She has not known them. She has not been able to pour herself into their lives. There are some things we can do to build some relationships, some bonds, some mentoring relationships, some caring, some expansive family things that we can do. To grow in your connection with the body of Christ.
Thirdly, a sign of a growing, living church is being engaged in a personal dedication to the Lord and each other. It says, “they were sharing the Lord’s supper.” This means communion but it does not mean they went through the ritual of having the bread and having the wine and sitting quietly and taking the cup and not spilling it. What it means is they had a personal time of regularly celebrating that Christ died for them personally and that has made all the difference in their life and of celebrating the cup, or remembering God’s promise that He has a hope and a future for them. He has sealed the covenant with His own blood for us to send us and to take us and to lead us to live with Him forever in Heaven. That we have that future and to rely upon that changes our lives. It transforms and revolutionizes our lives. That He died for us and made a difference in who we are. We are to celebrate that and live in reflection of who we are in Christ, not who we were born to in this world.
And then finally, “they dedicated themselves in prayer.” This does not describe a token prayer three times a day. The Jews did that. They prayed over all their food. They asked for the blessing upon someone who is not feeling well. Those are good things to pray for. What it is talking about here is they devoted themselves, plural, to praying with each other. It means they were involved and invested in each other’s lives. They called upon God to help one another. I had several people call and pray for me over the phone when I was sick recently. I tell you, it made a difference. I was shaking uncontrollably and within three minutes I fell asleep and did not wake up until the next morning. What a coincidence. Well, I would rather give God credit because I think He acts because I saw the same thing happen the next day. God works and there is something about praying for someone else that ties your hearts together, that expresses love and care and a connection with our Father.
Prayerful living is letting your life be guided by prayer on a daily basis. When you see someone come through the door of your office or your business or at your house or you see someone come through the door and you go, “Oh, God. I wish he had not come here today.” To say that with a full heart, to know that you are not taking God’s name in vain because you are talking to your Lord and Savior and Creator who has the ability to help you get through that person coming through that door today and that will help you to do something to turn that terrible situation as you see it into something good. Because number one, the fact that you go, “Oh, God, I wish he was not here” says there is something wrong. You may need to let go of bitterness, of resentment, to learn to grow in your patience and your kindness and your compassion for that person. To begin to see them perhaps with some compassion and say, “Why do they act that way? What was their mom or dad thinking when they did not teach them how to do this or do that or to act that way?” Be thankful that you had parents that taught you better. Prayerful living will help you take that situation that you resent, that you wish was not happening and turn it for great growth for you and for the lives of those that you are in contact with.
The church is alive and discovers truth when it has loving interaction and personal dedication, when it lives prayerfully. But folks, I am not even happy or satisfied with a church that is alive. I think that is great but Christ calls us to something more. He calls us to a church that is revolutionary. A church that truly makes a difference in the way that people live, that transforms lives. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” God promises He has the ability to work in your heart and your spirit, to make your life different than it would be without Him. And He comes into your life to help you grow that fruit we have been talking about, to help you grow in that understanding, that perspective on life that will truly bless you and strengthen your life and make you a better husband, a better brother, a better sister. He wants to give those things to you. He wants to develop those things as we turn over control and government of ourselves to Him. As a church, we become a revolutionary church when we become impactors of the world around us, no longer responders to the world around us, no longer reactors to the world around us but saying, “We are going to make a difference in the world that is around us.” Rather than hiding from it, we are going out and making a difference in the lives that we are planted in the midst of. Christians are called to be impactors.
Look back up at verse 39 and 40 of Acts chapter two. Peter, who is giving this message that all the people responded to, says, “This promise is to you and to your children, even to the Gentiles, all who have been called by the Lord our God … save yourselves from this generation that has gone astray.” So there needs to be a salvation, a saving from something. A saving from what? A saving from the kingdom of hell. If your life is not in conformance, is not aligned, does not sit in the boundaries of Jesus Christ and what He has for us, who is it aligned with? Well, who did Jesus call the god of this world? If it is not aligned with Christ, it is aligned with Satan. If it is not aligned with the kingdom of heaven, it is aligned with the kingdom of hell. If it is not in the light, it is in the darkness.
A revolutionary Christian says, “We want to take those who are in the darkness and bring them to the light.” God has given us a mission of reconciliation, of bringing those who are in the darkness and bringing them and sharing the light with them. That leads us to our three points about what God calls us to do as impactors. First, God calls us to reach children. Secondly, impacting the world by reaching youth. And thirdly, impacting the world by reaching adults. Seventy percent of those who accepted Christ end up doing it before they end up getting into junior high. They accept Christ as children. Another ten or fifteen percent accept Christ as youth. About ten percent are left. They accept Christ as adults. I am encouraged and thankful to see so many people in our church that have accepted Christ as adults. That tells us there is still hope for adults out there. It is not like fishing in a fished-out pool. There are still others around us that need Christ in their adult life.
We focus here and spend probably eighty percent of our resources and energy and outreach with children and youth because that is where the biggest fishing pools are. That is where the harvest is white. The field has been gone through once with children, then it goes through the whole field again with youth and so by the time you get to the adults, the stalks of corn and stalks of grain are getting fewer and far between. So we spend most of our energy on youth. That is why we have things like Awana. That is why we have ministries that focus on reaching out to kids. A revolutionary church that reaches out to children, reaches out to youth, reaches out to adults.
It is Christ’s church (Matthew 16:18). He is the head. From Him the whole body grows and works together. But if we are not part of His kingdom, then we are victims of Satan’s kingdom. And Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” It means that those who are not part of His kingdom are part and are lost in Satan’s kingdom and we have the opportunity now, in these days, to become rescuers. Notice it says, “the gates of hell.” Do gates attack anybody? Anybody ever get attacked by a fence? A wall? You see, a gate is a defensive tool, not an offensive weapon. What it is saying here is the gates of Hades will not overcome the church but also that those gates will not prevail against us who want to go in and serve Christ and reach out to those who are lost. We have the opportunity to make like “Blackhawk Down” by making rescue missions. Christ promised us that those gates of hell cannot prevail against His church and against His people reaching out. You say, “I do not know how to do that. I am not sure what I would say. I am not sure how it would work out.” That is why God says, “Take the step of faith.” You say, basically, “I don’t know Lord. I don’t know what to say, but you will help me because rescuing is your business.” And as we get about the King’s business, the King will give us the resources we need. And we say, “Lord, help me to see when you open a door and give me the courage to walk through that door.” Say, “Lord, let love and respect guide me each day of my life.”