(Pastor Paul Carlson has joined us as our third pastor. We now have Pastor Don Gettys, Pastor Kent Crutcher and Pastor Paul Carlson.)
I would just like to say that Becky and I very much appreciate the very warm welcome that we have received. We look forward to having a lot of opportunities to get acquainted with each and every family. We look to the Lord to guide and bless in the ministry. Of course, He's the One Who's in charge. So we look to Him for wisdom and we look to Him for strength. So, we're glad to be a part of the McDonald Road church. We've heard so many good things about it. And again we look forward to getting acquainted with all of you.
In Stockholm, the capitol city of Sweden, there's a museum that's dedicated to a ship of war, the Vasa, built in the year 1628. It was known as the "mightiest royal warship of her times." The Vasa set sail for the first and last time on August 10, 1628. Only 1400 yards from its launching site, the ship promptly sank. What was billed as the mightiest royal warship of its time turned out to be nothing but a total dud. 1
Now, that would be a pretty good way to describe the opposition against the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. None of the church's enemies were able to stop the church's explosive and dynamic evangelism. All of the efforts of the church's enemies were doomed to fail, just like that ship: a total dud.
The early history of the successful spread of Christianity is so amazing to us today that we look back at it for the lessons. We look back because we long to see the Holy spirit working like that in our church now. We want to know the secret. We want to know how to apply the same kinds of principles of dynamic force in our church today. I invite you to open your Bibles to Acts 4 as we continue with this eighth message in the series, "Capture the Wind," about the tremendous role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church.
Acts 4:23-37 is a passage that gives us incredible clues as to how the church was able to face opposition from its enemies, and to spread the word of God, the message about Jesus. This passage tells us how to "Share the Wind."
When we come to Acts 4:23, Peter and John have already been warned not to preach about Jesus, and they have been released from prison. Let's look at what takes place after the prayer recorded in verses 24-30. We'll pick it up in verse 31 after that amazing prayer that was not attributed to any one person.
What happened is; Acts 4:31-37, And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostle's feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostle's fee.
This is quite an incredible snapshot of the church's early existence. Let's make sure we understand what's going on in this passage.
First of all, notice that there are two very different kinds of unities or gatherings. There is a gather or assembly of evil that's referenced in the believer's united prayer in verses 26 and 27. You could call it a conspiracy of evil. And it's talking about something far worse than all the JFK assassination or illuminati, one-world government conspiracy theories put together. The idea presented in verses 26 and 27 is a collusion of evil and demonic forces. In fact, the NIV uses the word "conspire" in verse 27. That's the idea presented here. Evil forces met together to conspire, or scheme, against Jesus. That's the idea inherent in these verses.
And there is also a unity of good. The disciples and, most likely, I would think, a larger group of believers were gathered and assembled together and praying for Peter and John. This was a unity of the Spirit. A unity of the Spirit means that there was a united acceptance of the Holy Spirit's agenda over one's own ideas and desires.
What I think is fascinating here is that verse 31 uses the same Greek word for the believers gathering together as it does for the evil forces gathering together. The same word. "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken..." This same word, sunago means to gather together of assemble. It's also used in the New Testament to convey the gathering together of fish that are caught in a net or the gathering up of a net in which fish are caught. In Matthew 13:47, Jesus uses that word in a parable of His. He said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some (it's talking about fish) of every kind."
The bottom line, I believe, in this passage is the idea of a, not just an evil conspiracy, but also a Holy conspiracy. Sharing the Wind is all about "conspiring with the Spirit. Breaking that word to its basic Latin parts, it means simply to breathe together, to breathe with. The Holy conspiracy would mean to breathe with the Holy Spirit. It would mean to go in the same direction as, it would mean to live according to the Spirit's goals and purpose for life. It would mean thinking with the Holy Spirit.
There was a story on the Internet about an airline that had a mix-up in its schedule. The passengers waited for several minutes in confusion concerning the destination of their flight. The plane didn't move away from the gate, and the crew seemed to be deep in discussion.
Finally a flight attendant made an announcement. "There seems to be some confusion concerning the destination of the flight. If your destination is Omaha, please remain seated. If your destination is Dallas, you are asked to please exit the plane at this time."
Suddenly the door to the cockpit opened, and the pilot put on his hat, grabbed his coat, grabbed his flight case, and said, "Sorry, folks--I've got the wrong plane."
This passage in Acts 4 tells us that we've got to get on the right plane; we've got to get with the right agenda and with the right Spirit. The only way to share the Wind is to conspire with the Holy Spirit. That means to come into agreement with His agenda. Well, what is the Holy Spirit's agenda? We know what the Holy Spirit's agenda is by looking at the result of His work in the body of Christ.
What happened? First of all, they spoke the Word of God with boldness, which is what they prayed for. Secondly, they experienced a great sense of unity--a unity of purpose. It's hard to match that unity, isn't it. None of the believers put his or her own needs above that of the common good of then church.
Okay, so what is the Spirit's agenda? It is speaking the Word of God (verse 31), or giving witness to the resurrection of Christ (verse 33). And for the disciples that meant telling their personal testimony or experience, because they saw Jesus--they knew He was alive.
And the Holy Spirit's agenda also includes unity, a unity of purpose, a unity for all the believers.
Now, it seems obvious that the second goal of the Spirit's agenda--to seek unity--would be something for all believers, not just the twelve disciples. But even the first goal--witnessing-- belongs to all of us. It really does.
As I mentioned already, the gathering-together word is also used for the gathering of fish , or the pulling in of the net in which fish are caught. So, putting up our sails to catch the Holy Spirit's Wind could also be described as letting the Holy Spirit catch is in His net. It's letting Him pull us around to His purposes.
So, what are the important steps that bring us into the net of the Holy Spirit? What are the footsteps of the early creak? How do we "Share the Wind?" First of all, Peter and John, after they were released from prison, it tells us, they "came to their own," as it says in verse 23. Acts 4:23. And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. They didn't go to their I interpret that to mean, at least it appears to me that this means that they did not go to their homes first. They went where the group of believers were gathered together. They went straight to where the other believers were.
To share the Wind of the Holy Spirit with someone else, we must first conspire or breathe with the Holy Spirit's agenda, not our own. Remember that the Spirit leads us toward the body of Christ, not away from it. The Holy Spirit leads us into unity, not into fragmentation or division. Acts 4:32 tells us that the believers were of one heart and one soul. And it also says that they even shared with one another their material wealth--They had all things in common. It's a rebuke to us today. Most of us tend to, quite naturally, be Americans first and Christians second. I think it should be the other way around. Christians first, and Americans somewhere down the line. Not to mean that we don't have a wonderful country. We're thankful for the freedom of worship that we have.
Chad Sheron, an outstanding basketball player at Vanderbilt University, came up with a great metaphor describing the interaction of individuals and teams, but his metaphor comes not from the world of sports but from his pre-med studies at Vanderbilt. He observed that the various cells of the human body--muscle cells, blood cells, organ cells, bone cells, and all other cells--are designed to work together to enhance the health and life of the entire body. Each cell is a part of the body's "team."
But there is one kind of cell that can create enormous problems for the body--a cell that plays the role of a mutagen. "A mutagen, or a cell that plays that role," Chad said, "has stopped acting like its peer cells and just grows for its own sake. Just as mutagens cause cancer in the human body, people who behave like mutagens can have a cancerous effect on a team." 2
If that principle is true for a sports team, it's very true for a church team. All the individual members must work together to enhance the health and life of the entire body. People who behave only for their own sake and not for the good of the body of Christ have a cancerous effect on the body of Christ, on Christ's church. They pull from and they drain the resources of the body of Christ. As Christians in tune, or wanting to be in tune, with the Holy Spirit's agenda, we'll want to pull in the direction of the Spirit--not away from--so we will seek unity, not fragmentation or division.
You may recall that on July 24, 2002, nine miners in western Pennsylvania became trapped 240 feet below ground in a flooded mine shaft. Rescue efforts began immediately, but the rescue crews knew the odds were against them saving all the men. Amazingly, all nine miners survived the ordeal. These men claim that it was their decision to bond together that saved their lives. From the outset of the danger, the men watched out for one another. They tied themselves together, so that no one could float away or slip under the water. If one man got tired, his bond to the other men kept him afloat. The miners vowed that whether they lived or died, they would do so together. 3
As a church goal, seeking a unity according to the Holy Spirit's agenda will be what keeps us bonded together. Our unity in the bond of the Holy Spirit is what will carry us through.
The second important step is in the activity of the early church.
It tells us "With one passion [the believers] lifted voice to God." They prayed together. That tells us to seek occasions to pray in unison with other believers. That tells us this church needs to be a church of prayer. We need to be a people of prayer. We need to be individuals of prayer. We need to be Christians who pray. But not just individually in our homes. We always need to pray in our own closet. But we need to pray together as well. We need to pray in corporate prayer for the Holy Spirit's agenda to be accomplished in us. The only way to have unity is to be centered on what the Holy Spirit wants, not on what we want. We need to be focused on God's will, and not our own.
When everybody prays, in the pattern of Jesus, "Not my will be done, but Yours," then there will be a basis for unity because the opposite of that is disunity. And disunity comes about as individuals each seek their own personal desires. United prayer is all about agreeing with God's will. It's a corporate agreement with God. We come to agree with God. That's what we come for. Worship is a part of that. Study is a part of that. We agree with God's priorities and not with yours, not with mine, but with His.
The third important step is that the believers "spoke the Word of God with boldness."
We are to give our own personal testimony just as the disciples personally witnessed the resurrected Christ and gave their testimony that Christ was alive. Only we, individually, only you can share how God has blessed you and led you through growth steps in your life. You might be tempted to think that it's somebody else's job to spread the gospel, the paid professionals, the church, not something that you individually have to do. You can kind of slink in the shadows and be around somewhere, but it's more than that. When you think of the word, "church" what do you think of? Is it the building? Is it the place where we parked our cars and come inside for a few hours every week? If we were to ask any of the disciples if they were going to church on Sabbath, they would probably not understand our question. One didn't go TO the church. You WERE the church! We are the church. So if it's the church's job to witness, that means all of us. All of us. Have a part in some way with spreading the gospel.
A lifetime advocate of lay ministry, Elton Trueblood, loved to say, "The laity are not the passengers of the ship. They are members of the crew.." 4
In 1979, someone discovered the location of the bodies of the last Czar of Russia and his family. At that time it was widely thought that the bodies had been completely destroyed. The person who found the bodies was afraid to tell anyone until 1989. He discovered them in 1979 and told about them in 1989. He was afraid that the knowledge of his discovery would not be welcomed by the Communistic government, so he kept all of this quiet for ten years.5
In contrast, when the disciples found out that the body of Jesus was not in the tomb, they couldn't keep it all to themselves. They could not keep that truth quiet. When we experience the beauty of God's truth for ourselves and we get to know Him, neither will we want to keep it all to ourselves. We'll want to share it with somebody. Share with our family, share with our friends. Share it with our neighbors. Share it with our co- workers.
The fourth important step is this: Do everything you can to enhance the kind of atmosphere in the body of Christ that existed at that time.
Did you notice that there was not even a hint of force or manipulation among the believers? They were united wholeheartedly and freely, not from any force or manipulation. There was a common surrender to God's will and to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to accomplish in their lives. The same text that tells us, "God loves a cheerful giver," is reflected in this passage in the book of Acts. The church was filled with people who gladly, cheerfully volunteered to sell their land or property and bring the money to the apostles. Nobody forced them to, and it was that way because God is like that. God respects our freedom of choice; He respects our individuality. There is no sense of compulsion or force in God's ways, and the church that remembers that glorifies God.
God is glorified in the body of Christ when His people follow in all of the footsteps of the early church.
In the town of Suffolk, England, there is a church called the Tattingstone Wonder. It's not a real church; it never has been. You see, many years ago, a local squire wanted to see a church from the windows of his country house. Since he could not see a real church, he built an imitation, the perfect shell of a real one.6 Friends, unless we follow in the footsteps of the early church, we'll be just a false imitation of the real church, and we won't be what God wants us to be.
No doubt you may remember seeing pictures of that magnificent Swiss mountain, the Matterhorn. The classic view of that mountain is taken from Zermatt, a small Alpine village. That view can be seen only from the steps of the church in that village. Likewise, the early church in the book of Acts gives us the best viewpoint of life. Through the Holy Spirit, we see the clearest picture of who God is. We see the best picture of what God's agenda is and the best viewpoint for what we are meant to be.7
So, let's make it our purpose to follow in their steps. Let's met together in a spirit of unity. Let's seek the kind of harmony that comes from God's Holy Spirit. Let's pray together, in our families, in our friendships and corporately, in every meeting and every small group. Let's specifically pray that God would help us to share the message that we believe in with confidence and boldness. Let's also recognize the principles of freedom of choice, choosing never to use any kind of manipulation of others, either physically or emotionally. Let's imitate the profound respect that God has for the individuality that He has given to each of us.
In short. let's conspire with the Holy Spirit and with whatever He wants us to accomplish in our lives. Let's join God's holy conspiracy to share the good news with our family, our friends and our neighbors. Let's share the Wind.
1. Rourke, P.J., Eat the Rich (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998), p. 63. 2. Williams, Pat. The Magic of Teamwork (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), p. 10 3. "Miners took vow to live or die together" by Larry Neumeister, Associated Press, The Knoxville News-Sentinel July 29, 2002, p. A1. 4. Galloway, Dale. Leading with Vision (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1999), p. 112. 5. Shannon, Robert C. 1000 Windows: A Speaker's Sourcebook of Illustrations (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing, 1997), p. 206. 6. Ibid, p. 34. 7. Ibid, p.36.
Hymn of Praise: #36, O Thou in Whose Presence Scripture: Acts 4:24-30 Hymn of Response: #615, Rise Up, O Church of God
Return to McDonald Road Sermons Index
Return to McDonald Road SDA Church Home Page
McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and
last updated 9/9/2003 by Bob Beckett.