From The Pastors Heart:
The further we get into our study of the book of Acts the more convinced I'm becoming that God is calling His church back to the basics of what it means to be a Christian and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ! I'm afraid that by and large churches have moved away from rather than moved toward God's design and desire for us as Christians and Churches!
Well that's what the book of Acts is all about! God gave it to us to help us get back to the basics. That's where the power is! That's where the passion is! That's where our purpose is! And I pray that by now that your heart is longing like my heart is longing for us to get back to the basics!
Today we come to the 11th chapter of the book of Acts where we find the kind of church that God is looking for to bless with power. Yes, it was a Good church and it was a Gifted church. In fact it was a Giving Church. But better than being a Good church and a Gifted church or a Giving church is being a Grace Filled Church. And we read about this Grace Filled Church here in the 11th chapter of Acts.
Now chapter 10 ends with the first Gentiles being baptized having decided to follow Jesus. That took place in the home of Cornelius. Now you would think that everybody would be excited about that news. I've got news for every new believer: not everybody is going to be excited about your relationship with Jesus. And sometimes the very people you think would be supportive and excited about you being saved, are not.
It could be your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your classmates, or your teammates. Don't be surprised if everybody isn't excited about your decision to follow Jesus. Now I can tell you who WILL BE excited and supportive: your brothers and sisters in Christ! That's who! Why do you think this congregation breaks out in applause after every baptism? It's their way of saying: "We're excited for you! We're standing with you and supporting you."
Well when word got back to Jerusalem that there were some Gentiles getting saved in Caesarea they demanded an explanation from Peter. So beginning in verse 3-17 Peter explains to them what had happened with Cornelius. And then we read in verse 18 their response to the news: "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.'"
Now beginning in verse 19 our attention is directed to Antioch the capital city of Syria. If you were to head north along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea from Caesarea pass through Tyre and Sidon, pass through modern day Lebanon you would come to the city of Antioch. Today it is located in modern day Turkey not far from the Tarsus the home town of Saul.
Within the city of Antioch we find an incredible sight: A Grace Filled Church! Those who made up the membership had been brought to Jesus out of a sensual lifestyle. Sexual immorality was not only condoned by the religions it was a part of their perverted worship.
But all of that changed when Jesus stepped into their lives. He forgave them of their sin AND set them free from their sin. And it was Grace that made it possible! Now having experienced God's grace they now expressed God's grace within the fellowship and out in the community. And because the members had been saved by grace and now were living by grace the church (which is nothing more than the sum total of the membership) was filled with grace!
It is a part of our getting back to the basics as a Christian and Church? It's once again being a Grace Filled Church! Grace Filled Churches are made up of people who have been saved by grace and live by grace! Grace Filled Churches are made up of members who have experienced God's grace and then express God's grace. For you cannot give what you don't have. Amen?
So what does a Grace Filled Church look like? What is on the calendar of a Grace Filled Church? What about the budget? What does the budget of a Grace Filled Church look like? What are the priorities of a Grace Filled church?
Well let’s see if we can find the answers to these questions and more as we think together today about our being ...
A Grace Filled Church
"19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. 22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. 27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
What an incredible church and how we need to be more like the church at Antioch! Now when word got back to the church at Jerusalem that revival had broke out at Antioch whom did they send to help? They send Mr. Encourager: Barnabas!
Thank God for the Barnabas' of the church! The early church had theirs and we have ours! The first time we met Barnabas was back in chapter 4 where he was giving proceeds to the church that he had made from the sell of some property. And what an encouragement He was to the church freely giving to help meet a need.
The next time we saw him was in chapter 9 when he helped Saul break into the fellowship of the church. Every time Barnabas is mentioned he is encouraging somebody, helping somebody, building up somebody. And now in chapter 11 he is sent to Antioch to see who he can encourage.
Verse 23 tells us what Barnabas found at Antioch: Verse 23, "When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord." Look at that phrase, "and had seen the grace of God." Here is a visitor walking into a fellowship of believers he had never met and the Bible says that he saw "... the grace of God." That's what he saw! He saw grace in action. A Grace Filled church! No wonder he was glad!
I sometimes wonder what people see when they walk onto our campus when they attend a Sunday School class, when they walk into a worship gathering? I wonder if they see here what Barnabas saw at Antioch?
Verse 23, "When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged ..." You put it down: the first century church had great grace! No wonder they were a people magnet for God.
We read back in Acts 4.33, ".. And great grace was upon them all." It's no wonder in that same verse we're told that they had great power! When a church has great grace it's going to have great power!
So what is grace? Grace is the loving spirit of Jesus. Grace is what caused God to love us while we were yet sinners. Grace is what causes us to love one another, forgive one another, and serve with one another.
When Barnabas arrived at the church he saw "the grace of God." So what did grace look like at the church Antioch? What does grace look like at Aspen Park Baptist Church? What does it mean to be a Grace Filled Church?
Next time we get together we will consider the first facet of a Grace Filled Church.
Kids Kamp enrollment is open for grades 3-6. We have reserved 17 spots, once they are taken, enrollment is closed.
Contact the office for an enrollment packet. You must return your packet and a $20 non-refundable deposit to the office before you are enrolled.
Deadline is Sunday, February 16th.
Word for the Week:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.—John 4:24
Once again, I want to thank you so very much for helping to make Aspen Park a great church for the Lord. Let’s all invite people to come and visit us at Aspen Park—Our goal is souls!