Series: The Church on Fire!
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
Today we’re completely finishing our series entitled, “The Church on Fire.” I have loved going through the Book of Acts! We’ve been making our way verse-by-verse through the Book of Acts and we’re going to bring it all together now in one final message from this breathtaking book. So let me invite you to
- Take your Bibles and join me at the very end of the book of Acts in Acts, chapter 29.
While you’re turning there let me just say how much I’ve enjoyed this study. I love going through books of the Bible! I mean, among many things it makes us better students of the Bible. We learn main themes and teachings of the books of the Bible. We learn things like…how many chapters are in the books of the Bible. Like Acts…we’re studying the last chapter here—chapter 29—and, why are some of you smiling? There’s no chapter 29? Are you kidding me? Are you using those pew Bibles? Now, I’ve got my Bible open here and, wait—let’s do this. We’re Baptists. Let’s vote. How many of you think there’s no chapter 29 in the Book of Acts? How many of you think there is? Well, you’re both right. As far as chapter divisions in the printed Bible, the Book of Acts ends at chapter 28. We saw that last week. But we also learned last time that the very last word of chapter 28 is a word that conveys the truth that the preaching and teaching of the Gospel continued to go forth and advance without hindrance; unleashed, set free, turned loose, so that the church on fire continues to burn for God’s greater glory. And you and I as the church today are carrying out the unfinished business of taking the Gospel forward in our communities, in our country, and across the continents until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. So we’ve got some unfinished business to take care of, don’t we?
Now that’s the greatest theme in the Book of Acts. The book begins by telling us that our main responsibility as the church today is to be busy doing what Jesus taught us to do in His very last words. I want to review those words with you and invite you to turn back now to the very first chapter of the Book of Acts. How many of you think there’s a chapter one? Good! Turn to chapter one and recall how Jesus is talking to His followers 40 days after He rose from the grave. Jesus’ disciples are really fired up about what Jesus has been doing. He rose from the grave and conquered sin, death, and hell. So verse 6 says,
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
That is, “Lord, is this the end of time, now? Are you going to right all of the wrongs of this fallen world and establish your grand kingdom on earth?” Verse 7:
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or season which the Father has put in His own authority.”
That is, “Don’t worry about the end of time when I will set up my glorious kingdom here on earth. It’s not for you to busy yourselves trying to figure out when the end will come. That is not your major purpose in life. But here is your major purpose. Here is what I want you to busy yourselves doing. Here is what I want you to do until I return.” And then Jesus gives us His last words in verse 8. You know these words! We’ve cited them over and over again in our study. I’ve encouraged you to memorize them. I’ve quizzed you on them. We know these words, don’t we? What is our church’s main mission? Well, let’s stand and read them together.
- Stand and let’s read Acts 1:8. This is our text this morning. I usually preach a paragraph or a chapter, but this morning we’re reviewing the entire book with this one verse that serves as the text we will never forget for the rest of our days! What does Jesus say?
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- Let’s pray.
Let me show you something. I brought my treasure chest up here today. Isn’t this a cool treasure chest? I don’t remember how this ended up in our home. When I was an early teenager we lived in kind of a Spanish home and my dad had a lot of Spanish stuff in the house and I think this was one of the things and I just sort of ended up with it in my house. I had a lot of fun with this when the boys were smaller. We kept some things in here that used to belong to my grandfather. He belonged to a charitable organization that utilized certain jewelry that looked kind of cool, little rings and shiny swords and stuff. And I would take this treasure chest and open it up and I would tell the boys that it was pirate treasure (I lied to them!). And I’d tell them how my grandfather got it from some pirates at sea and they’d look and be like, “Wow!” And so sometimes before bed they’d be like, “We want to look at the treasure chest, tonight!”
But I brought my treasure chest up here today to remind us of the blessings of the Gospel. In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul refers to the Gospel as a “treasure” that we carry ourselves. And in Ephesians 3:8, Paul refers to the Gospel as “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” So we’ve got this treasure, the Gospel, that literally changes peoples’ lives. And Jesus tells us to take this treasure, this Gospel, and share it with others. That’s what they did in the Book of Acts and that is our job today. We’re today because the early disciples took the treasure, the Gospel, from Jerusalem and shared it to the ends of the earth.
I mean, if you think about it, if you opened your Bible and you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and you read all about Jesus and His earthly ministry, you’d read about everything happening in and around Jerusalem. And what if you turned in your Bible from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the next book was the Book of Romans? You know, the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and then Romans? You’d be like, “Well, how did the Gospel get from Jerusalem to Rome?” And the answer is: the book that’s between them, the Book of Acts, tells us how. They took the Gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samarian, and to the utter end of the earth. They did it by being what I like to call an “Acts 1:8 Church.”
Look again at that verse and note that there are three main geographical areas where the Gospel is to go. Jesus says, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem (1), and in all Judea and Samaria (2), and to the end of the earth (3).” The early disciples took the Gospel to those three areas. They took it to their nearest community, which was Jerusalem. And they also took it to the greater area of Judea and Samaria. Then they took it to the utter end of the earth.
And remember that this verse, Acts 1:8, serves as a framework for the entire Book of Acts. They took the Gospel to Jerusalem, that’s Acts chapters 1-7. They also took the Gospel to Judea and Samaria, that’s Acts chapters 8-12. And they also took the Gospel to the end of the earth. That’s Acts chapters 13-28.
So this verse serves teaches us about how we’re to do missions. Our whole church should be framed by Christ’s teaching in Acts 1:8. All of our ministries should flow through the template of Acts 1:8, so that we’re taking this Gospel, this treasure to all 3 areas, our Jerusalem, our Judea and Samarian, and to the end of the earth. We don’t just focus on one area and neglect another or busy our interests in two areas and neglect the third. We do missions in all three areas.
Kent Hughes, Pastor Emeritus of College Church in Wheaton Illinois, put this in a way that spoke to my heart. Listen to this. He says,
The comprehensiveness of the early church’s outreach—from their homeland and on out to the ends of the world—forbids the evangelistic schizophrenia to which we so easily fall prey—lavishing our attention on foreign missions while neglecting our neighbors, or attending to the immediate needs around us while millions overseas have never heard about Jesus. We need balance. We must reach our neighbors and the world with our Gospel witness, our social witness, our money, our time, ourselves, and our offspring. We must put all we have and are in the hands of Christ and allow Him to use it all in His way, in His time, for others’ salvation, for His glory (Acts, 350-351).
So I want to talk to you this morning about how we can be an Acts 1:8 Church. How can we get this message out, this treasure, as Jesus teaches us in Acts 1:8? My outline comes entirely from this single verse, Acts chapter one, verse 8.
First, if we’re going to be an Acts 1:8 church, we’ve got to:
I. Take the Gospel across the Street (Jerusalem)
The Bible says in Acts 1:8 that Jesus’ followers were to take the Gospel to Jerusalem. That was their local community. We read in the first seven chapters how the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and then took the Gospel powerfully throughout Jerusalem. Peter preached a sermon and 3,000 people were saved. We read about Peter and John healing a man at the temple, and how the church just continued to grow daily and how they selected the first deacons to serve and so forth. They were taking the Gospel across the streets of their community, Jerusalem.
Easy question: ready? What’s our community? Henderson. If we’re going to be an Acts 1:8 church we’ve got to take the Gospel across the streets of our community, we’ve got to share it with our neighbors. We do that through social activities and acts of service to our neighbors and our friends at school and our co-workers, but running through all of those things we do is the sharing of the treasure, the sharing of the Gospel. It’s not enough to just be good people and do good things. We’ve got to open the treasure chest and help people receive the unsearchable riches of Christ.
The best way we have found to train our folks here at First Baptist Church is to do this through our FAITH Evangelism Ministry. We’re going to have our next semester of FAITH training next month. It’s just 12 weeks long. Our youth will be doing FAITH Sunday evenings because they believe it will be more successful on Sundays then it was on Mondays. More people will be home. The majority of our adults will be doing FAITH on Wednesdays at 5:45 right after our supper and while folks who cannot go out are praying here at the church. I want to encourage as many of you as can, to sign-up for FAITH for 12 weeks beginning in September. The time is much more “family friendly.” Rather than coming out for an extra day on Monday, you’ll have the opportunity to share FAITH on Wednesday when many of you are already here.
FAITH teaches us how to take the Gospel across the street. And FAITH reminds us how to take the Gospel across the street. That’s why our church is healthiest when everyone is involved in sharing our FAITH, visiting those who have visited our church and sharing with them the treasure of the Gospel.
The word Gospel means what? Good News. Why is it good? Because it addresses the bad news. The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We’re sinners by nature and sinners by choice. If we die without Christ we go to hell and remain separated from God forever. That’s bad news. But the Good News is that God loves us and has made a way for us to be forgiven of our sins. Jesus Christ takes the punishment we deserve for our sin. He dies on the cross for our sins. He rose on the third day that we might be declared “not guilty” of our sins. So if we will turn from our sins and say “yes” to Jesus by receiving Him into our lives, we will be saved. That’s good news!
So we’ve got to take the Gospel across the street. Secondly, if we’re going to be an Acts 1:8 church, we’ve got to:
II. Take the Gospel across the States (Judea and Samaria)
For the early disciples, this would be the surrounding geographical area of Jerusalem. This would be Judea and Samaria for them. Acts chapters 8-12 tells us how the Gospel spread from Jerusalem outwardly to Judea and Samaria. We read about Philip’s taking the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch and Peter’s taking the Gospel to Cornelius in Caesarea.
Our “Judea and Samaria” is the State of Kentucky and the surrounding states of our country. As important as it is to take the Gospel across the street, it is equally important to take the Gospel across the states.
This is why we pray for our missionaries in Kentucky and across the country, over 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries serving North America. But it is also why we ourselves go and do missions across the state and across the country, like some of you have done in missions work in different parts of Kentucky and like our youth did in doing missions out in Henderson, Nevada this past summer. We must continue to take the Gospel across the street and across the states. Thirdly, we must:
III. Take the Gospel across the Seas (End of the Earth)
Chapters 13-28 tell how the treasure of the Gospel spread to the end of the earth. We read about Paul’s three missionary journeys way beyond Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Chapter 28 has Paul getting as far as Rome in Italy with the unsearchable riches of Christ, the treasure of the Gospel.
So we, too, are to be taking the Gospel across the seas. We are a giving church. We give 15% of our weekly collections to the Cooperative Program, the main artery through which flows supply of funds to missions work all over the world. But there’s more that we can be doing. We ourselves must continue to be the hands and feet of Christ, taking the message ourselves, being involved in short-term mission trips as many of you have in the past, taking the Gospel to Brazil, India, Indonesia, Europe, Africa, and the ends of the earth. There are over 5,000 unreached people groups in the world. These are people who have never heard the Gospel. Never heard! We’ve got some unfinished business to do. We’ve got to get the treasure to them.
We’re going to continue to sound forth this theme of being an Acts 1:8 Church. Our ministerial staff has been studying and praying about how we can best fulfill this mandate through First Baptist Church Henderson. We’ll be looking at how to do this with a greater laser-focus, so that we are together working to take the Gospel across the street, across the states, and across the seas for the glory of God. Let’s get the treasure out!
And we must remember why we do this. We do it because Jesus tells us, yes. But we’re motivated to do it because we ourselves have benefited from the treasure. We have firsthand experience of the Gospel. We know how it has changed us and we want others to experience it, too.
Do you have a testimony to how the Gospel has changed you? Do you? I do, too. Have you heard about “cardboard testimonies?” I learned about this a month or so ago. You take a piece of cardboard and you write on one side who you were before Christ, or what was going on in your life before you experienced the Gospel. Then, on the other side, you write who you are today having experienced the treasures of the Gospel. And then you take your cardboard testimony and you stand before a group, like a church and you just, without speaking, show one side and then the other. I’ve got one here. Let me show you.
See here on one side I’ve written, “Doubter of truth.” Before receiving the riches of Christ, I doubted a lot of things spiritually, including whether I myself could be forgiven. So I have on one side, “Doubter of Truth.” Then, I turn it over and it reads, “Preacher of the Truth.” That’s who I am by God’s grace!
Hillside Christian Church in Amarillo, Texas, had a worship service where they did this. One person after another came up and shared their “cardboard testimony.” I want you to take a look at this as the speaker explains it to the congregation and then members follow. Take a look at how people have been changed by the treasure of the Gospel.
**VIDEO CLIP (2:30)
Isn’t that powerful?! The very next one is a couple holding signs that say “Sinful Divorce.” Then they flip it over and it says, “God Restored.” And one after another comes forward and shares how the treasure of the Gospel changed their lives forever.
Do you have a testimony? What would you write on one side of the cardboard? What would you write on the other? Maybe you can only write on one side. Maybe you can only write about who you are now, apart from Christ: unforgiven, alienated, lost. Your life hasn’t been changed yet. I want to invite you to come this morning and take from the treasure chest of God’s Gospel! Come receive the unsearchable riches of Christ and be changed by the Good News!
- Stand for prayer.
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