Be Bold

Be Bold

For the last two months, we have been studying the book of Acts which explains how the Church got started 2,000 years ago—not as an institution, not as a building—but as a movement and how we today can learn from and be inspired by the early church to be Great Commission Christians.

Some of you who have been here each week can probably tell this story yourselves by now, but I’ll brief the story for those who haven’t. Just after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to the 11 disciples, and to many others, in fact on one occasion to over 500 people at one time. Jesus then ascends to Heaven and about two months after His resurrection, the disciples received the gift Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit. Now, Jesus through the Holy Spirit, would be with them till the end of the age, and they were to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ far and wide.

With the Holy Spirit, they so boldly do so taking to the streets of Jerusalem the message that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that He died on the cross for the sins of the world, and that He rose from the dead. This was not something they just heard about and believed. This was something they witnessed with their very own eyes.

Remember, this was the very same city where Jesus was crucified, and within a few short weeks, over 5,000 Jewish men, plus women and children, so likely 10,000 or more, had embraced that very message. The explosion of this movement rocked the delegate balance of power between the Roman Empire and the Jewish authorities. Ultimately, persecution broke out and pushed the believers far and wide. The amazing thing is that they continued to boldly share the Good News of Jesus, and in fact they only got bolder. And just like that, Jesus’ prophesy was fulfilled. Acts 1:8 “You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Meanwhile, Saul of Tarsus, or better known as Paul the apostle, became the number one instigator of the persecutions. But after three years of doing this, he himself ended up converted to following Jesus Christ. That’s how powerful this message is. Not only did he become converted, but he became the number one advocate for Christianity. He planted churches all over the known world. Roman citizens and Greek speaking people with a completely different background and culture than his own began to embrace this idea that Jesus is the Christ, He died for their sins and rose from the grave. The news spread like wildfire.

As time went on, over the centuries there were some very dark days in the Church. Times like the Middle Ages, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition when some horrible things were done supposedly in the name of Jesus. But in spite of all those dark days over the years, there has always been a remnant. There has always been a group of people that got it, that understood this is a mission, this is a movement. It’s not about a building, it’s not about a liturgy, it’s not about a style, it’s not about ‘we’ve never done it that way’. It’s about this simple message that transformed Jerusalem and beyond two thousand years ago, that God has done something unique in their midst.

Since that time, so many incredible things have also happened in the name of Jesus. Hospitals have been built all over the world, millions of people have been fed, housed, millions of children have been sent to school, slaves have been set free, missionaries have risked their lives and given their lives in order to take this incredible message of the Gospel to people all over the world. All in the name of Jesus.

So as we gather together today, there are people gathering all over the world in the name of Jesus. And this movement continues to move in spite of what some try to make it or the fact that so many churches have become very insider focused. Why? Because there’s always been a group of people that understands that this message and this better life is for all people, and handed this message off to the next generation.

Now, it’s our turn. God and the previous generation have handed us the baton. This is not our message to keep to ourselves, or to keep locked up in these four walls. Instead, it’s our purpose and responsibly to share the message of Jesus Christ. And we all have an influence.

A lot of times we think of the bad influences, but on the flip side, the influence we have to give is really a gift. It can be a tool that helps people to see and understand who Jesus really is. Every day, we’re given opportunities to use our influence to make a difference in a very lost and confused world, and when God gives us something, we are to be good stewards of that gift.

That may mean we have to do things differently. That may mean we have to step out of our comfort zones, out of the ways we’ve always done it. In fact, most times that’s exactly what we have to do. We need to do things and say things that we have never done before.

When you read the book of Acts, the reason the message of Jesus survived the first century is because there was a group of people that was so extraordinarily bold and so extraordinarily confident, that were willing to say things and do things in ways they had never been said or done before. They just wouldn’t back down. I don’t know about you, but I really want to be a part of that group. I want to be a part of the extension of what happened 2,000 years ago when the local church began. I want to be a part of this movement, and I certainly do not want to stand in its way.

But this is not a “me” thing, this is a “we” thing—and as we move into this next part of our time together and talk about our responsibility and our opportunity as a church, we need this to be an all-skate, meaning everybody in. As I say that, some of you are thinking, but I can’t do that. I can’t be that bold. That’s just not me.

If you could see what I see and could see you the way I see you. Do you ever think about that as a parent? You look at your kids and just see so much potential. When I look at each of you and see all the gifts you bring, all the gifts God blessed you with, I get excited about what God could do through us together to make a difference in our world.

But for us to make that difference, everyone needs to get involved at some level. If ever there was a time in the life of our church that we need to be bold and take risks, it’s now. Our world is so broken, and yet we have a very unique opportunity to be the Church. The window is wide open, and we can’t miss this.

We believe everybody spends eternity somewhere, right? We believe that Jesus is the hope of the world. We believe the Church isn’t a building, it’s not an institution—it’s a movement—so we need to move.

The question is, are we going to be good stewards with what God has put before us, or are we just going to be content with what we have, comfortable with where we are and keep the message to ourselves? Are we going to let the world around us tell us no, this isn’t the right time? It’s too hard right now because of all the divide, the hatred, the political drama. Truthfully, that stuff should only fuel us to share the message of Jesus Christ even more!

So look, there are four areas that we need to be bold in to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ.

  1. Be bold in our INVITATIONS. There are people that you’ve thought about inviting to church, you know they would benefit from it, and you still haven’t invited them. You got some practice with the Pray and God, 30 Day Challenge, and you did a great job!

But now it’s time to ramp up our boldness, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not so we will get bigger in numbers, although that does show results. You have a message that will save their soul. And on top of that, you have such beautiful gifts to give to people. Your hospitality is extraordinary. You genuinely care about others, especially those you don’t know. When someone new comes, you actually work to build relationships with those people. Your love in this gathering is so special, so giving, so deep.

If you don’t invite and don’t share your gifts, if it becomes just the ‘church people’ in this gathering, and we become a very inwardly focused congregation, and we no longer will be on mission. If we want to be better than that, we have to be bold inviters, taking risks in our invitations.

And you know what else? You need that because it will grow your faith. Inviting will stretch and strengthen your faith. There are people who someday you’ll have the joy of seeing them baptized, and you are going to be in tears at what God used you to accomplish.

When you invest in the lives of the people around you that you love, that you work with, live next to, and then when it’s appropriate, you invite them to an environment where they can be loved and cared for in Jesus’ name, that’s being a Great Commission Church. God needs us to be a little bit bolder. And not just for the sake of the person that you are inviting, but also so that we as a congregation and as individuals stay on task with what God has called us to do.

  1. Be bold in your VOLUNTEERING. Now, there are many of you who volunteer in some way in this church, and I have to say thank you. Thank you for what you do in this church because you are making a difference in the lives of our children, our young adults, of everyone who attends this church, and in our community.

But there is still work to be done. Not that we need to be like any other church. We are who we are and have the gifts that God has given us, therefore we fulfill the mission the way God designed us, as this gathering. But please don’t ever say we are just too of a church. Being a small church is no excuse to not be able to fulfill the mission. We still have quality worship, strong small groups that nurture and profoundly study the bible. And we can still do beautiful outreach that meets new people and shares the love of Christ. Besides, look at what just 12 disciples were able to do.

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, God needs you to get in the volunteer game. If you don’t know what you can do, see me. We’ll talk and I will pray with you about how God wants you to get involved. And no, we’re not going to throw you in a classroom and say good luck, see you in an hour. We love our kids too much to do that. No, we’ll pray and find the right direction God wants you to be in, and we’ll train you and work with you to be able to accomplish the need.

Overall, we need you to be bold in your volunteering, which means you may need to consider volunteering in an area you never considered volunteering before. But you know what, I know you’re going to like it. In fact, you’re going to love it. When we do the thing God ask us to do and use the gifts that He has given us, it is such an amazing joy. Think about it this way, give back in areas that have been given to you.

  1. Be bold in our GENEROSITY. I want to be very clearly about this. God wants you to be bold in your giving, not because we need your money, but because God wants to be first in your life. When you give to God from the first of your income, not the last, not just what’s left over, you’re actually lining up your priorities.

You’re saying to God, I get it. You gave me this income, and since I want you first in my life, I’m going to give to you what is yours, not mine. We’re only managers of the resources God gives us. Giving to God helps us properly manage God’s resources, helps us conquer greed, and opens us to receive God’s special blessings. There are many scriptures about how God blesses us when we put Him first in our finances.

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats (barrels) will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 11:24
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Luke 6:38
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

I could go on. There are a ton of scriptures about money. Why? Because it’s so easy to put our money ahead of God. God wants you to become bold in your giving so you are lining up your priorities in the way they were always meant to be.

  1. Be bold in your PRAYERS. Let me remind you specifically what I mean. First of all, go ahead and continue to pray thank you for the day, and help us to get through our vacation safely, and help me to make an ‘A’ on my test. Then after you’re done with all the prayers that you always pray, the ones that usually work out anyways, pray some bold prayers.

Think about the person you know at work or in your neighborhood who you can’t imagine ever stepping foot in the church. Pray for him or her every single day. Nobody else is likely praying for them and someone has got to do it because everyone is going to end up somewhere!

Pray bold prayers that God would raise up the next generation of church leaders all around the world. Pray that God would raise up the next generation of missionaries and the next generation of political leaders. Pray that this would be the generation that says, “I get it. I’m not leaving church after high school. I want to be a follower of Jesus all the way through college and beyond.” Pray that God would do something unique in the hearts and the lives of the teenagers in our country and local churches.

Remember at the beginning of this series when we talked about praying bold prayers, we all stood up and said the bold prayer Peter and John and the other disciples prayed.

“Enable me to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30

Our world, our nation is screaming for us to do something. We have a very unique opportunity, and we should leverage it with everything we have, for the sake of what can happen.

Why does all this matter? Because the message of Jesus Christ that the Church is built on, that our country is built on, matters! This message is so powerful! If you want to see a difference in our nation, then start praying the bold prayer to get the message of Jesus Christ out into our world.

Now at the beginning of this series, we started at the beginning of the book of Acts, and I want to finish this series by reading to you the final verses in the book. Chapters 13-28 record Paul’s three missionary journeys and his last journey to Rome. It’s an incredible story, and I encourage you to read it for yourself. The book ends with Paul in prison. He was arrested in Caesarea, spent a couple of years there, and then they took him all the way up to Rome where he would be tried. He gets shipwrecked and all. He finally gets to Rome and is immediately put in prison. But he got there before the charges did, but the officials said even though we’re not sure what you’re charged with, we can’t let you go. So they put him in a home and chained him to a Roman soldier, and for two years, he sits in this home waiting for his charges to show up.

Three days after he gets there, he sends word to all the Jewish leaders in Rome to come visit him. The Jewish leaders show up because they’ve heard so many bad things about this group called the Way (or Christians), and they know that Paul’s the ring leader, so they want to know what all the fuss is about. Paul says, so glad you asked.

In chains and after all that Paul has been through, he does it again. At the very end of the book of Acts, he preaches the gospel to the Jewish leaders in Rome. He says I am bound in chains because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come. He used the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, to prove to them that the Messiah has come. He spoke to them from morning until evening, and this is the conclusion:

Acts 28:24-31
24 Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. 25 And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,

26 ‘Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 27 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

28 So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”

He says to the Jewish people, you reject your Messiah, but God is not finished. God is sending this message to the Gentiles. So I’m just giving you a heads-up, they’re going to listen and going to embrace it, and it’s going to circle the globe.

30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.

In chains, with boldness and without hindrance, knowing that at any moment they could take him down the road and cut his head off, which is what eventually happened. Nero had him executed, and the primary spokesman for the Church was silenced. But the Church was not silenced, because it’s a movement that doesn’t stop. Even the gates of hell cannot stop the Church, and we have been invited to be a part of it for our generation.

When you think you can’t do this, you’re right, you can’t. But with the Holy Spirit you can. It’s the same Holy Spirit that was given to the disciples to boldly go out in the dangerous streets of Jerusalem, it’s the same Holy Spirit that converted Paul to be a follower of Jesus Christ, it’s the same Holy Spirit that converted all those Gentiles that formed those first churches, and it’s the same Holy Spirt that is in each and every one of us here today.

So let’s pray bold prayers. Let’s give boldly. Let’s serve boldly. Let’s invite boldly because we have been invited to be a part of this thing that God has begun and will continue to the very end of the age.

Today, as we take Holy Communion, I encourage you to use this time to recommit yourselves to the mission of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament word for martyr is “witness.” Remember, you can’t kill a martyr because they are already dead and risen—never to die again.