Read: Acts 17:1-9
Over the last couple of Sunday evenings, I have been bringing messages of challenge to us as a local church. First, we looked at what could kill a church and saw that persecution, false doctrine, and indifference can kill a local church. Then last week we talked about the importance of being faithful in attendance to our local church. Now tonight I want us to consider a challenge as to what we are to be doing in the world in which we live.
Note v6 again. The charge against this first century local church was that they had 'turned the world upside down'. What a testimony to the power and influence of this local church. They went out with a Gospel message that was based solely on the Scriptures and empowered by the Spirit of God. The result? They saw people saved, lives changed, and all felt the impact of their ministry. They 'had turned the world upside down'.
Now that is an interesting phrase. It speaks of shaking things up. They didn't do it with protest marches or boycotts; they did it through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel! We owe a debt to the early church. They evangelized their world; they took the Great Commission seriously; and because they were faithful, we have the message of the Truth today. What did those early Christians have that we need?
I. They Were on Fire for Christ (Acts 2:3)
(Acts 2:3) "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them."
A. The events on the day of Pentecost.
1. Many have misunderstood these events.
2. Often the focus of many is on the speaking in tongues.
3. Yes, God enabled people to understand in their own languages…
4. But that wasn't the miracle of Pentecost!
5. The miracle of Pentecost was that a group of folks who were defeated and discouraged…
6. Folks who were hiding with doors shut and fearing that they would be taken and crucified like Jesus Christ…
7. These were empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach boldly and declare the gospel to all who would listen.
8. The result? Multitudes of souls were saved.
B. What does it mean to be on fire for God?
1. It is not enough for us to be doctrinally sound and fundamental…
2. It is not enough to be preaching the gospel…
3. It is not enough to be Bible believing…
4. God's presence has been identified with fire.
(Heb 12:29) "For our God is a consuming fire."
5. To be on fire for God means that we are totally consumed by Him.
C. I am afraid that there is far too much playing at church and Christianity.
1. Our association with Christ's church has become one of convenience.
2. If it suits our particular needs at the time, then we here.
3. If our lives become crowded and busy with other things, then we push back the things of God…
4. We are consumed, but not with God!
5. Too often, we have allowed the cares of this world to choke out the influence and power of the Word of God in our lives.
(Mark 4:19) "And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful."
II. They Found True Fellowship in Christ (Acts 2:41-46)
(Acts 2:42) "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
A. The first church was an unusual combination.
1. There were fishermen, tax collectors, former members of the Sanhedrin, harlots, and other ordinary folks.
2. Yet with all of their diversity, they found true fellowship.
3. How? Around the doctrine or teaching of the Word of God.
B. Our church is not all that different.
1. Once we were divided…
a. By our backgrounds and heritage.
b. By our economic standing.
c. By our personal prejudices.
2. But now we are bound together in love.
a. Not just our love for the Savior…
b. But by our love for each other…
c. Jesus reminded us that this would be the way that the world would identify us as His true disciples. Cf Jn 13:35
3. The only basis of fellowship is doctrine
a. True fellowship is based on truth
b. I can love someone who is lost…
c. I can love someone who is caught up in false doctrine…
d. But true fellowship is reserved for my family
C. With that kind of fellowship we can "turn the world upside down".
1. People are looking for a church where people care about each other.
2. They long for that kind of fellowship.
3. That is what will make an impact on the world around us.
III. They Were Fully Surrendered to Christ (Acts 4:18-20)
A. Note the wording of verse 20
1. "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard"
2. Christ had commanded them to preach.
3. How could they do anything else?
4. To them, there was no other option.
5. As I said earlier, they took the Great Commission seriously.
6. Even in the face of opposition, they couldn't imagine doing anything else.
B. They laid everything on the altar
1. In the OT the sacrifices were tied to the altar so they wouldn't run away.
2. But in the NT God calls for something different.
3. He calls for a 'living sacrifice'; a willing sacrifice.
4. These early believers laid their all on the altar.
5. It wasn't just a hymn…it was their life.
a. To some this meant financial loss
b. To some this meant prison
c. To some this meant martyrdom
d. No wonder they were effective
C. God deliver us from our indifference!
1. We want the power of God without paying the price of surrender.
2. We can make a difference in the world we live…
3. We can have an influence for Christ in the lives of others…
4. But we need to be on fire for God, in fellowship with each other, and totally surrendered to do His will.
5. The choice is ours tonight…what will we do?