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4 Convictions of Those Who Turned the World Upside Down | Sunday Message with Special Guest J. D. Greear

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
June 19, 2022 3:00 am

4 Convictions of Those Who Turned the World Upside Down | Sunday Message with Special Guest J. D. Greear

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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June 19, 2022 3:00 am

Pastor J. D. Greear kicks off our Summer Reading series by taking us to Acts! Though Stephen wasn’t considered a theological leader, he took the job he had and did it well. Listen in as Pastor J. D. introduces four convictions that molded Stephen’s life and see which you can apply!

Notes

1. God wants to use me.

2. The Holy Spirit fills me. 

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. 

3. As Jesus was to me, I will be to others. 

4. Jesus is worth it.

Scripture Referenced

Acts 6:10

John 16:7 

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Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie encouraging you. If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. He's the pastor of Summit Life, a daily broadcast and TV program, and also the Ask Me Anything Podcast. And he's gonna be speaking on his book, which is titled What Are You Doing With Your Life? You're gonna love JD. Let's give him a warm Harvest welcome.

I've been in the countryside in Orange County and Maui, and those of you who are joining us on webcast online, I cannot tell you how honored I am to be here and how much I've been looking forward to today. I have to tell you that with all sincerity, I absolutely love your pastor. He has been a good friend to me. He's one of the most unique people I have ever, ever met.

It feel like God constructed him in a lab in order to reach people in our country for Jesus. He is wicked smart. He's wicked smart, he's funny, he's uber cool, and he doesn't seem to lose an ounce of that as he gets older. And I'm not sure how he pulls that off. He does all this while somehow remaining humble and relatable and non-intimidating.

It really is a marvel. I always say that if Billy Graham, Steve McQueen, and Gilligan from Gilligan's Island could have somehow had a kid together, that kid would have come out as Greg Laurie. Seriously though, I do love him, and he has been a mentor and a friend to me in ministry for many, many years, really since I started.

And he always says that makes him feel old when I say that. But seriously, he's had a big impact on my whole family. My grandfather used to tell me how he loved listening to Pastor Greg on the radio as a boy when he was drifting off to sleep at night at transistor radios.

Acts chapter six, if you got your Bible this morning, and I hope that you brought them, Acts chapter six. Years ago, as you're turning there, I heard a story about a man named Larry Walters who lived right here in Orange County. The story goes that one afternoon, Larry went out to the Army Navy surplus store in the area, and he bought 75 used Army weather balloons. He inflated them, and then with the help of several of his friends, he attached them to a lawn chair that he had secured to the back of his pickup truck. Then with the help of several of his friends, he climbed into the chair, he settled in, and he had one of his friends untie the rope.

He was hoping, a friend later said in the article that I read, to observe the neighborhood from a slightly different angle, and thereby to gain a new perspective on his life. He took nothing with him on this fateful journey except for a peanut butter sandwich, a six-pack of beer, and a fully loaded BB gun. Two and a half hours later, the Los Angeles International Airport reported an unidentified flying object in the skies above LAX at 16,547 feet. Lawn chair Larry, as this man came to be known, now three miles into the sky and 100 miles from his original launch site. He had completely passed out in the chair.

In fact, the pilot of the 737 who first spotted Larry on his approach to LAX said, well, I see what looks like a perfectly still man. He might be dead. He's sitting in, is it a lawn chair?

I don't know. I think he's holding a rifle. In a rescue stunt that would have made Chuck Norris proud, SWAT teams from local police areas went up and somehow managed, I've never quite got my mind around this part, but lassoed Larry and somehow got him into the helicopter and ferried him safely into the ground. In case you were curious, Larry's intention had been to, when he untied the rope, he thought he would just sort of lazily saunter up into the atmosphere, at which point he would take the BB gun that I told you he took, and he would then pop the balloons to get him to level off at the appropriate altitude. He would cruise around the neighborhood for a while, and when it was time to come down, he would take his BB gun and pop the other balloons and slowly lower him down.

What could possibly go wrong with that, right? The article said, he said, what happened though is, one of his friends said, when Larry untied the rope, he did not lazily saunter up into the atmosphere. He said he looked like he'd been shot out of a cannon, just straight up into the sky. And so Larry said he did, at that point, he just totally freaked out, and he didn't want to shoot the balloons, so he just kept going higher and higher into the sky. He said, at that point, I did the only thing I knew how to do in a stressful situation, and that is I started to drink the beer.

I ran through four cans of beer, of course at that level is blood alcohol content, so that's why he completely passed out. On the ground, on the ground at LAX, after being revived back to consciousness, Larry was issued, get this, my favorite part of the story, a $4,000 ticket by local police for the obstruction of airport traffic. A local journalist then asked him three questions, here are the three questions, I said, number one, Larry, were you scared? And Larry said, yes, yes, I was very afraid. Question number two, Larry, would you do it again? And Larry said, no, no, in fact, by the way, no offense by this, but that's how we know that he is from California, not from North Carolina.

You do that from North Carolina, and the redneck answer is, I ain't scared, I'd do that again right now. He was from out here, he was more humble. Number three, Larry, this is the reason I shared this story, Larry, why did you do it?

And Larry said, he said, I just got tired of always sitting around. Now, I know that you hear that story and you say, is that story true? Of course, I read it on the internet, how would it not be true? And I'm quite sure that parts of that story have grown with internet legend, but the core of it is true.

And there's an article on CNN that you can look up and look it up later if you wanna check it out. But I share it because I believe that it captures how many of us, particularly in our generation and the generation coming behind us, how they feel. And that is, they're just tired of always sitting around. They're wondering if they're making any real difference in the world. They're wondering if they're leaving a legacy. They're wondering what kind of life they're actually living and if it really matters.

And so because of their inability to answer that question, they turn to entertainment and toys and other random dumb things to fill up their time. And so to that end, I wanna walk you through the story of an ordinary guy. An ordinary guy who literally changed the world through ordinary acts of obedience.

Now what I wanna try to show you this morning is four convictions that shaped this man's life that I believe should also shape yours and mine. The man's name is Stephen. His story begins in Acts chapter six. I will explain more of this here in a moment, but Stephen's story occurs at the pivotal moment in the book of Acts. And for that reason, I believe that his story is given to us as the example, the example of how God intends to use ordinary people to spread the gospel around the world. We typically call the book of Acts the Acts of the Apostles, and the Apostles are certainly very important in the book of Acts.

But you're gonna see it, one of the most pivotal moments in the book of Acts. It is not an apostle, it is a layperson that God uses to transform the world. Acts chapter six, let me give you the context. Stephen was not an apostle.

Make sure you get that, because a lot of people get that wrong. Stephen was just a so-called ordinary guy. But his story is this turning point in the book of Acts. You see, up until this moment, as far as we know, the gospel movement has yet to leave the borders of Jerusalem. Even though, even though Jesus had clearly, had clearly told the disciples that he wanted them to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, Acts 1-8, Acts 1-8 is the outline for the book of Acts. You will preach the gospel first in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, then the uttermost parts of the earth, right? Now, it's been an exciting ride for the last six chapters, to be sure, with 3,000 baptisms and miracles and people getting struck dead and the offering and whatnot. But the bottom line is, y'all, that by Acts chapter six, the gospel has still not left the borders of Jerusalem.

They're still meeting in small groups, holding hands and singing kumbaya or whatnot. That all changes with the story of Stephen. In Acts chapter six, Stephen is selected to help deliver food to the widows so that the apostles can devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. What you should hear from that is Stephen's job, in one sense, was not that important. He was an elected teacher, he was an elected group president, he did not write any books. He was not considered to be one of the theological leaders of the early church.

He was just a table waiter. He was the meals on wheels, so to speak, of the early church. But Acts chapter six, verse seven, tells you that Stephen did his job so well, and his witness was so full of the Spirit, and it was so compelling that it got the attention of a lot of people in the community, including many of the Jewish priests who began to turn in large numbers to faith in Christ. Well, that got the attention of the Sanhedrin who began to try to discredit Stephen. I love this verse, Acts chapter six, verse 10. Yet they, the Sanhedrin, with all their degrees, could not withstand the wisdom, the wisdom and the Spirit with which this ordinary layman was speaking. In Acts seven, the Sanhedrin draws him before a Jewish council where Stephen proceeds to give the longest recorded sermon in the book of Acts, and, by the way, the least seeker-friendly sermon in the New Testament.

It's basically a detailed history of Israel showing how all the Old Testament, all of the Old Testament points to Jesus, and the basic point, the punchline of the sermon is, you and your ancestors killed all the other prophets, and that's why you killed Jesus, too. Stephen brings his message to a climax at the end of Acts seven, verse 54, and he says this, now, or this is how the story reads, now when they heard these things, they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, behold, I see the heavens open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.

But they cried out with a loud voice, and they stopped their ears, and they rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city, and they stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Now, if you know anything about the Bible, you recognize that Saul is the first name, the pre-conversion name of the man who would become the apostle Paul, and there he was, watching this take place. As they were stoning Stephen, Stephen called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then falling to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now, watch this. In your Bible, there's a chapter break right there, right?

And mine also. That's a terrible place for a chapter break, and I'm not criticizing the Holy Spirit when I say that, because the Holy Spirit didn't put the chapter breaks in there. That's just what we did to try to make it more readable and more accessible. But I think it's a terrible place for a chapter break, because the story of Stephen is not over yet. Look at chapter eight, verse one. And there arose on that day, what day?

Well, the day of Stephen Stoney, a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. And they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. The underlined stuff in your Bible, these are the words you ought to underline right here. Except the apostles. Jump down to verse four. Those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Y'all, there it is. The first time the gospel leaves Jerusalem.

And I want you to let this sink in. Not a single apostle is involved, even indirectly. It is Stephen's service that provokes the trial. It is Stephen's testimony that provokes the riot. And of all those who left Jerusalem preaching the word, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, goes out of his way to point out to you that not a single apostle was included in that number. Now, like I've told you, I think Stephen's story is given to you as an example of how the gospel expands globally. You see, Acts 1-8 is the key verse of the book of Acts. It gives you the outline of the book of Acts.

It gives you the trajectory of where things are supposed to go. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost parts of the earth. The fact that Luke brings up Judea and Samaria for the first time since he's mentioned that shows you this is the fulfillment of that.

Just like Jesus said it would happen, it is happening. You are going to be my witnesses and not a single apostle is involved in that expansion. Stephen is a picture of the so-called ordinary Christian.

And what happens when ordinary Christians, what happens in the church and what happens in the world when ordinary Christians are the people that they are supposed to be. So let me give you the first of these four convictions of those who transform the world. Convictions that should shape my life and yours. Number one, God wants to use me. By the way, these points are not profound. If you're looking for something really deep, complex, a lot of big words, that's not me. Wait for Dr. Jack Graham on that.

This is very painfully simple. Historically, ordinary believers have always been the tip of the gospel sphere. The gospel traveled outside Jerusalem and around the world through ordinary people like Stephen, not through apostles. There's a book called The History of Christian Missions written by a guy named Stephen Neal.

And Stephen Neal in that story, in that incredible history of Christian missions points out, he says the only thing more remarkable than the rapidity of the spread of the gospel in the first century was its anonymity. He said by the end of the first century, by 99 AD, you had three major church planting centers established in the ancient world. Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. He said what they all have in common is we have no idea who planted the churches in Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. In fact, the story of the planting of the church in Antioch is recorded for us in Acts 11. And literally what it says is that some believers came to Antioch and the hand of the Lord was with them. That's all the detail you get, them. Them is like saying a bunch of guys whose names, I'm not going to tell you because you're never going to hear from them again.

This is bystander number three in the credits at the end of the movie. A bunch of people whose names are forgotten in history, but they planted a church that would one day send out the apostle Paul. Paul or Peter, neither of them founded the church in Rome.

We don't know who founded the church in Rome. It's referred to in Acts 28, same brothers who show up, not the exact same people, but the same kind of people. Brothers that show up and plant a church that would one day become the most influential church in the ancient world. The anonymity, it's ordinary people, it's the gospel spreading through ordinary people faster than the apostles can keep up.

Y'all, the same thing is true today. The gospel travels around the world faster on the wings of business than it does in the mouths of people like Pastor Greg, Lori, or me. I read this recently, I read this article about what's going on in missions around the world. Did you know the vast majority of what they call unreached peoples live in something that missiologists call the 1040 window.

Have you ever heard that term 1040 window? It basically means between the 10th and the 40th parallel. Think North India, East Asia, Africa, those kind of places. That in between there, that's where the greatest concentration of unreached people live. If you add up all the evangelical missionaries from every evangelical denomination that are at work spreading the gospel in the 1040 window, that number is 40,000.

Now praise God for that, we need 10 times that minute. But this same article said, get this, if you add up the number of American citizens, United States citizens, who are right now working so-called secular jobs in the 1040 window, that number this morning is two million. Two million Americans right now at work in the 1040 window. Now if demographic statistics hold up, and I assume they would, that means what 36% of them identify as born again? And let's just all kind of look at your neighbor and say, that's not really true, okay.

Just because they check it on the box doesn't mean they are. Let's write off two thirds of that number is not really serious about their faith. And let's just get that down to what, 10, 12% of people living in the 1040 window that are at least actively involved in following Jesus. You realize what that means if they understood that their primary calling in life, whatever their assignment was, whatever their vocation, was to be a disciple making disciple.

That means we would take the mission force in the 1040 window today from 40,000 to 240,000 without spending a dime. That's why I'm telling you the future of gospel expansion is not in the mouths of apostles, it is in the hands of ordinary people. The gospel always goes around the world faster on the wings of business.

We talk a lot today about the lack of funds and missions and that's a real thing, but I'm telling you God already has his people there. I think of my dad who, my dad was a godly businessman, never been paid a dime for ministering his life, managed a plant, he managed a textile factory in North Carolina. When he retired, the week after he retired, his same company hired him, rehired him for more money to go over into the 1040 window into East Asia and to set up a factory there where he lived for about two years. He got involved sharing Christ with other businessmen, East Asian businessmen, led a couple of them to Christ, was part of a church plant over there. By the way, total cost of the church, zero dollars.

In fact, we made money on the deal because he kept tithing while he was over there. I'm just telling you that what if God through business had already put all the evangelists he needed everywhere in the world. In his latter years, Billy Graham used to always say that he was convinced the next great awakening was going to take place in the marketplace. What if you quit thinking of guys like me and Pastor Greg as the ones in ministry that you're supposed to support and you realize that you are the ones on the front lines of ministry that Pastor Greg and I are called to support. In fact, the Bible tells us that the primary role of people like me and Pastor Greg is to equip you for the work of ministry.

You know Ephesians 4-11, right? If you've been in church, you've heard this verse, God has given pastors and evangelists for what? For the equipping of the saints in the work of the ministry. According to that verse, who is it that does the work of the ministry? The pastor?

No, the saints. In fact, that's why I tell my church that when I became a pastor, I left the ministry. And I then took on a role where I equip and support those who are actually on the front lines, the people like Stephen. In fact, get this, if you count up every miracle in the book of Acts, there are 40 total, 40. 40 miracles in the book of Acts, get this, of those 40 miracles, 39 of them happen outside of the church.

You know what that means? I work inside the church, so does your pastor. That means that Pastor Greg and I have access to one 40th of the power of God. That's not great hermeneutics, Pastor Greg, I realize that, but you get the point. The point is the things that God wants to do, he wants to do through Stephen's outside of the bounds of the church. God wants to use me, that's the first conviction, it's the realization of where the tip of the spear is. Which leads hand in hand to the second conviction, number two, the Holy Spirit fills me. What makes Stephen remarkable is his confidence, a confidence that he apparently gained from an awareness of the fullness of the Spirit within him.

The most common characteristic repeated about Stephen was that he was filled with the Spirit. What gives ordinary people such extraordinary confidence and effectiveness is the knowledge of the power of the Spirit within them. And I clarify that, the knowledge, because all of you have the Holy Spirit if you are a believer. It is the awareness of the power that is available that actually makes the difference. Jesus made such extraordinary promises about the power, the potential power of the Holy Spirit in believers.

They are so staggering, they are so staggering that if you don't watch yourself, you're just not gonna take them seriously. In fact, let me prove that, I'll give you a couple of them real quick this morning. John 16, seven, one of my favorites, features a lot in that book Pastor Greg mentioned. John 16, seven, Jesus said, nevertheless, I tell you the truth. By the way, that's a little device, rhetorical device, just to get your attention. Jesus was not in the habit of telling lies.

He did not have to stop and clarify, okay, now I'm actually telling you the truth. Whenever he says that, it's because what he's about to say is so mind-boggling that if you don't get your mind around it, if you don't turn your mind on it, it'll go right over your head, which is what happens with this verse. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, he says, it is to your, what's that word church?

Advantage, that I go away. Because if I don't go away, then the Holy Spirit's not gonna come to you, the counselor's not gonna come to you, the helper. Y'all, how absurd must that have sounded to those first disciples?

Excuse me, it's to my advantage that you, Jesus, go away? How awesome would it have been to have walked around with Jesus for three years? You ever think about what that experience was like?

And what's that even like? You go out for a day of ministry, you come back, you got a really difficult theological question about Calvinism. Bam, Jesus answers it.

You're at your small group and you run out of Chex Mix, bam, Jesus multiplies the Chex Mix so that there's 12 baskets left over. Your beloved dog dies, bam, Jesus raises your dog back from the dead, right? Your cat dies, Jesus digs a hole to bury the cat and get rid of that thing forever and ever, am I right?

I'm just kidding, okay. Maybe it wouldn't have been exactly like that, but clearly, clearly, y'all, it would have been awesome to have Jesus as a ministry companion and now he's telling you that to your advantage that he goes away? Whatever he was saying about the Holy Spirit was so significant that he said that if you had a choice between having me beside you or the Spirit inside of you, if you really understood the Holy Spirit, you would choose him every single time.

Is your experience with the Holy Spirit, does it justify that statement? Or think of it like this, you have a beloved pastor, one of the most beloved in America. I know you love him as your pastor and if he stood up here at the end of the service and said, folks, I got some bad news, God has called me to transition off and I'm not going to be your pastor anymore.

Oh, there'd be a state of gloom in this place, right? He said, no, no, no, don't worry about it. Don't worry about it, I got good news and that is we already have a new pastoral candidate, we've already accepted his resume, it's Jesus of Nazareth.

He's taken over. I'm thinking that your gloom turns to joy because Pastor Greg's preached some great sermons but sermon on the mount, I mean, he's never come close to that. And all of a sudden, you're going to have Jesus as your, you're going to go out and tell everybody, right? Are you as excited that you are leaving here this morning with the Holy Spirit inside of you as you would be if we told you Jesus was coming to lead you?

If not, you've never actually taken that promise seriously. It is to your advantage that I go away because the Spirit inside of you is even better than if I were standing in front of you and if I were leading you. Ordinary people filled with the Spirit are more important to the kingdom of God than gifted church leaders, even if that church leader is Jesus himself. I'll give you one more, Matthew 11, 11, another one of my favorites, Jesus said, he said, truly, again, there's a little device there. Truly, truly, I say to you, there's never been anybody born among women, which is everybody, greater than, stop, real quick, who was Jesus' favorite preacher of all time? It starts with J, rhymes with on the Baptist, John the Baptist, very good guess. Jesus loved him some preaching to John the Baptist, he podcasted John the Baptist, he wore, you know, WWJTBD bracelets, right?

He loved John the Baptist. Jesus looks at a group of people, he says, truly, truly, I say to you that the one of you who is least in my kingdom is greater than John the Baptist. Least, what does least in my kingdom mean? Well, it means you have the least talent, you're the least gifted.

You know the least about the Bible. You've got the worst personality. You're the kind of person you walk in a room and nobody even knows you're there. Right now, somebody in here, in this room right now, somebody in here is the least of the kingdom of heaven in here.

I'm not saying that to be mean, but mathematically it has to be true, right? Right now you're sitting there thinking, that might be me. And God in heaven is like, yep, it's you. You're at the bottom of the pile. What I'm telling you is, even if that's true, you have more potential in ministry than John the Baptist.

Why? Because you've got something John the Baptist never had and that was the permanent infusion of the Holy Spirit inside of you and the knowledge of the resurrection. And Jesus said from that point on, from that point on, it's not about your abilities in ministry, it's about your availability to the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit can accomplish more through one act of obedience than all the most talented people can accomplish in 10,000 lifetimes.

You've got another great example of this. This is just the Holy Spirit showing off at the end of Acts 8. And that's another ordinary guy named Philip. Again, not an apostle. He's involved in this incredible revival taking place in Samaria when all of a sudden the craziest, the Holy Spirit says the craziest thing to him.

I want you to leave Samaria and I want you to go up north to this little dusty place, basically a crossroads, gas station up there, and I want you to hang out and wait. So Philip leaves this incredible ministry, goes out in the middle of nowhere and he stands and he waits and he doesn't know what he's doing but along by comes a guy that we now refer to as the Ethiopian eunuch. And Philip shares the gospel with him in obedience to the Holy Spirit and that Ethiopian eunuch professes faith in Christ and gets baptized.

Eusebius, the fourth century church historian tells us that that Ethiopian eunuch went back to sub-Saharan Africa where he was from and he started a church planting movement that you can now trace some of the African church back to this original thing that happened. What happened in one act of obedience by an ordinary person to the Holy Spirit was more than the apostles could accomplish in seven chapters. We had a girl in our ministry, her name was Amy, she was short, she was quiet, painfully, painfully shy. Last person in the world you would think that God would use for something incredible, she was part of a team of college students who were trying to do something evangelistic on their campus. There was no campus ministries to speak of at her campus so this was entirely student led. They just wanted to host a big event where they could share their testimony and have somebody share the gospel so they did the standard thing you do.

You get some local bands that are good and they got that and they got somebody to share the gospel and they offered free food and they put up flyers everywhere and sent out invitations and all these things. The week of the event, despite all the flyers they put up, the buzz on campus was nonexistent and they knew that this thing was going to be a flop, at least it looked like it was going to be. So they had a meeting the day before and they were at lunch, they were sitting around the dining room there at their college campus and they were talking about the things they could do. The guy who was in charge of the team said he was talking with some of the leaders over here and all of a sudden behind him he hears this commotion and he looks up and there's this Amy standing up on top of the table. She starts stamping her foot and she said it was the most awkward thing I've ever seen in my life. He said the hope of 500 people in this dining room, they all got really quiet and everybody's like is she about to dance, what's about to happen here? And he said in as loud a voice as she could muster, she just spoke hardly above a whisper, she said hey I know this is really unusual. She said but tomorrow night we're going to have some people share the gospel about how Jesus changed our life and we have found this firsthand that you're not going to find any better friend or savior than him and we just want you to come so that we can tell you about it. That's all I've got to say and I don't know how to end this and so I'm just going to sit down and y'all go back to eating and she sat back down at the table. And my friend said he looked over at a cup and he's like looking in it like what is in that cup that she was drinking.

Now he looks at her and then he says this, he says what in the world? And she said I don't know, I just felt like God told me to do that. Now I'm not suggesting to you that you go into random restaurants and stand up on the table and invite people to the Gregorian Crusade.

In fact I think we would actively discourage that. But what I will tell you is that the next night over 700 students showed up at this event and 52 people professed faith in Christ. I'm just telling you God accomplishes more through one act of obedience than all the talent can accomplish in the world. Y'all listen in the book of Acts success in ministry is not doing great things for God with great talent.

Success in the book of Acts is simply figuring out where the Holy Spirit is at work and then joining him in it. And what you and I need are eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit of God is doing around us and to join him in it. Knowing when he wants you to speak up, knowing when he wants you to pray, knowing when he wants you to trust him for a miracle. One of the things that I pray every single morning is God open my eyes to where you are at work around me so that I can see you at work. It's one of the reasons we fast. You're not fasting in order to punish your body because then God has been a better mood to hear you.

You fast to train your heart for the ability to see and hear him better. And so you're listening and you're praying saying God open my eyes and you're daily offering yourself. Or how about this, like Phillip maybe you should ask God, God I'm in the midst of something great here. But maybe you're wanting to take me to be a part of something out in the middle of nowhere to be a part of a church planting tea. As Pastor Greg mentioned or at least some of you know this is in the bulk our church has gotten very committed to church planting. And so we've sent out 1600 of our members to go on church planting teams. Just by saying why don't you offer yourself to God and say God I'm going to put my yes on the table and let you put it on the map.

1600 people over the last 10 years have said yes, we planted 502 churches doing that. We tell all of our students at our church, we're like hey you got to get a job somewhere. Why not get a job in a place where God is doing something strategic. You want to know what it means to discover the will of God we tell our students?

It means you do whatever you're good at, you do it well for the glory of God. Do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God. Just put your yes on the table and let God put it on the map. We tell our retirees, people like my dad, we're like hey why not let this greatest chapter of your life that's coming up where you have the most to offer.

Why not do it in a place that is strategic. My wife and I do it, I've been pastoring this church for 20 years, God has blessed it. But I'm really really afraid of it becoming an idol that I just kind of coast through. And so every single year for the last six years my wife and I, New Year's, we take a week and we just pray God is this the year that you're going to uproot us from this church and send us somewhere overseas.

It's the scariest thing that I do every year. For the last six years God has said nope not yet. And maybe he'll say that to the day that I die but one of these years he might say no this is what I want you to do. But I just don't ever want to lose that familiarity with the Holy Spirit because I know obedience to Him is greater than all the effectiveness in the world. The problem with ministry and life is you can get good at it and the moment you get good at it you lose your dependence on the Holy Spirit.

I've got to move on. Number three, as Jesus was to me, here's to Stephen's conviction, as Jesus was to me so I will be to others. Y'all verse 59 might be my favorite part of this whole story because it gives us a window into Stephen's soul showing us what Stephen was thinking about at the very moment of his death.

Look at it again. And as they were stoning Stephen, Stephen called out, Lord Jesus received my spirit. Then falling to his knees he said, Lord do not hold this sin against them. Question Harvest Church, where have you heard, where have you heard those statements before? Isn't that exactly what Jesus said when he died on the cross? Father forgive them for they know not what they do and Lord into your hands I commit my spirits. It seems that in Stephen's dying moments Stephen was thinking about what Jesus had prayed on the cross for him. And in Stephen's dying moments, get this, he was praying for others when he heard Jesus pray for him. Because see friend, that's what it means to follow Jesus. It means to sacrifice your life for others like Jesus sacrificed his for you.

Think of it this way. Where would you be without Jesus this morning? Where would you be had Jesus not come into your life? Where would you be had Jesus chosen not to die on the cross?

There's a lot of ways you could answer that question but let me give you an unusual one. You'd be at exactly the same place that millions of people are in the world without you. Because the salvation process includes the sharing of the gospel. It's like Martin Luther used to say, it wouldn't matter if Jesus had died a thousand times if nobody ever heard about it. The preaching of the gospel is an essential part of the gospel. And that means that people around the world who have never heard the gospel are in the same place that you and I would be had we never heard about it.

And friend, that demands something of us. It is hypocritical for you and I to lift our hands in praise thanking Jesus for giving his life so that we can be saved and not doing everything we can to get the gospel to people who have never heard about that. Friend, have you wrestled with the obligations that your knowledge of Jesus, what it gives you to the world? Have you squarely faced up to the fact that there are 2.8 billion people in the world with little to no access to the gospel? 2.8 billion.

By the way, do not turn that number into a statistic. Like Joseph Stalin, who I typically don't quote during sermons, but Joseph Stalin, like he said, the death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is just a statistic. That's a chilling statement coming from him, but you know what he meant? He meant when you think about the one, you think about somebody like you, somebody who's made the image of God like you, somebody who hurts, is lonely, is afraid, who loves their kids like you love yours. For whom going to hell will be every bit the tragedy that would be for you and one of your kids. It is hypocritical to say thank you Jesus for saving my family and then not offering your life like Stephen is doing so that that salvation could come to others.

Friend, you actually believe the gospel. I'm thinking this morning, I prayed this morning before I got up here for places like Northern Yemen. It has a population of 8 million, which is what I think the size of all of Orange County I think. You know how many believers are in that entire, you talk about California being unreached and lost. You know how many believers are in Northern Yemen in 8 million? 20.

I'm talking about unreached places like that, 20 believers, every single one of those people, somebody just like you. I can say something to our younger generation here this morning, college students, 20s below. Yours, one of my favorite things about your generation is yours is a cause driven generation.

You've got to grow up with this global sense. We've got to end injustice. We've got to eradicate poverty. We've got to end the disparities. We've got to correct some of these systemic problems. We've got to save the world from plastic straws or whatever, okay?

And a lot of those things are really good. You want to relieve suffering. You understand, to quote John Piper, that the worst kind of suffering is eternal suffering, right? And if you're going to give your life to something in the world it is for people to hear about Jesus so that they can escape the wrath that is to come. Stephen understood what Jesus did for me, I've got to turn around and do it for somebody else.

Here's your fourth conviction. Jesus is worth it. Let's return one final time to Acts 7. As they begin to hurl the stones at Stephen, Stephen says, behold, verse 56, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man, see this? Standing at the right hand of God. Scholars point out here, and I'm sure Pastor Greg has explained this to you at some point, but Jesus standing here is odd. It's odd because everywhere else you see Jesus at the right hand of God, he is what? Sitting, that's right.

In fact, that's an important theological point. He's sitting because the work of salvation is done. So you have to ask the question, why is he standing? And the answer is, he's standing to receive home his Son. The world in this moment has risen up against Stephen to tell him that he's a fool, that he's a traitor, that his life is a waste. And y'all, it's almost like Jesus can't help himself.

He stands up and he says, no! Well done, good and faithful servant. They call you heretic, I call you son.

They stone you with stones, I welcome you home. And Stephen looks up at the face of Jesus, and with his face beaming with angelic brightness, he says, yes, Jesus, you are worth it. One of the things that I've learned is that you will never go all the way with Jesus until you are convinced that Jesus is worth more than everything else in your life. A lot of times we talk about coming to Jesus as bringing peace into your life and fulfillment, and that's very true. But at some point, if you're going to be serious about following Jesus, following Jesus is going to take you 180 degrees opposite of the direction that you think you want to go. And in that moment, you're going to have to decide whether or not Jesus is worth everything to you, or whether or not your obedience is conditional.

Like I said this really quickly, because I want to land this plane. I spent the first two years of my ministry, the first couple years as a missionary over in Southeast Asia, working among Muslims. It's very difficult work. One night, I hadn't seen hardly, very few people were seeing come to faith in Christ. One night, about 11 o'clock, I got a phone call from another Christian friend who lived three hours south. And he called me, he said, hey man, I need your help with this.

And I said, what do you need help with? He said, you know, I can't tell you that, because they, our phones, they listened in all the time. So he said, just come and meet me at the place.

And I knew what he was talking about, so I got on a bus, midnight, three hours down, go meet him in the middle of the night at this place, and sit next to him as a guy I've never met before. His name was Fajar. Fajar was 32 years old, he was a Muslim. Fajar said, my friend, I didn't speak the language that well yet, my friend said, okay, tell him what you told me. And Fajar said, okay, he said, well, he said, he said, about a month ago, he said, I had this, I guess you would call it a dream? It was more like a vision than a dream, he said, but, he said, basically, when I went to sleep, he said, as far as I could see, in front of me, behind me, to the right, to the left, he said, there was nothing, just emptiness, I was walking in a field, I walked in the field for what felt like days. He said, I feel like somehow that's a picture of my life, because my life feels empty and directionless, I'm very committed as a Muslim, but I just feel lost. He said, after walking for what felt like days, he said, I heard a voice behind me.

He said, the voice was not, the person was not there before. So I turned around, he said, I looked, and there was this towering figure, he said, his face, which meant it shone like the sun. He was wearing this white raiment, he said, I could hardly look at him, and he said, this man reached inside of his robe, and he pulled out a copy of the Injil, that's their word for the gospel. He pulled out a copy of the gospel, and he said, Fajar, this is the only thing that will get you out of this field.

He said, I looked at it, and I considered it, he said, and I pulled back, I was afraid, because that's Christian, I can't touch that, I'm a Muslim. He said, I woke up immediately the moment I turned him down, and I knew I'd made a terrible mistake. He said, next time I went to sleep, I had the exact same vision, exact same dream, he said, walked in the field for what felt like days, all of a sudden I hear his voice calling my name, and I turn around, and he said, Fajar, this is the only thing that's gonna get you out of this field. He said, this time I wanted to take it, I wanted to take it, he said, but I just couldn't work out the strength, he said, I just stood there paralyzed. He said, after standing there for a few moments, he said, again, I woke up in my bed, and I knew I'd made another terrible mistake. He said, third night, I didn't even want to go to sleep, he said, because I knew what was gonna happen, he said, sure enough, I go to sleep, and all of a sudden I'm in this field again, and this time there's no walking around, it's just him standing there. And he looked at me and he said, Fajar, this is the last time I'm gonna tell you, this is the only thing that's gonna get you out of this field. He said, this time I watched someone's involuntarily, his shaking hands reached up and grabbed a hold of this copy of the Enjil, and he pulled, I pulled it into my chest, and I woke up peacefully in my bed the next morning.

And this guy looks at me, and I kid you not, he said, now my friend, my friend tells me, you are expert at Enjil. Can you tell me what my dream means? Now, I was raised in a really conservative country, Baptist church.

Dreams and the interpretations thereof were not part of our spiritual repertoire. But I'm happy to tell you, despite a lack of seminary training, I knew exactly what to say in that moment. I said, brother, you are so in luck, dream interpretation's my spiritual gift. And I shared the gospel with him, for the next two hours, walked him from Genesis to Revelation, showing him how all the Bible pointed to Jesus. And remember, we got to the part where Jesus died on the cross, and he said, you mean this is God, the creator doing this? And I said, yes, tears streaming down his face.

Remember, he just said, halahu akbar, which is their word for God is the greatest. And I was like, we got some discipleship to do, but I appreciated what he was doing. We get to the end of this whole presentation, and you're like, Professor Gray, I didn't know what to do. I mean, I've been a youth evangelist, I was like, do you want to receive Christ? He's like, yes, I do.

I was like, every head bowed, every eye closed. And I started to lead him in a sinner's prayer, and we got two phrases into the prayer, and I was like, stop. I was like, I mean, you realize this is a big deal, when you receive Christ, you're going to get baptized, and you know that that's going to put your job in jeopardy, you might get kicked out of your family, you might get killed.

We know people in this region who've been killed for this, and never forget, he looked at me and he smiled, he said, of course I knew that. He said, why do you think it took me a month to work up the courage to talk to you? He said, but in that month, I knew that you were going to tell me that that person in my dream was Jesus, I knew it. And I decided in that time, that month period, that if this really was Jesus, and he did for me what the Christians said he would do for me, then I would go anywhere with him, regardless of what I had to leave behind. At which point I was like, I think you need to leave me in the sinner's prayer, because I need to get saved now.

He got saved, he got baptized. Harvest, there's something in the heart of every single believer. When you hear that story, something in you rises up and you say, yes, yes, Fajar, he is worth it. I'm just going to tell you, it is hypocritical to say, yes, Jesus is worth it. For Fajar to leave everything to follow him, and you and me not be willing to do whatever it takes to get the gospel to people like Fajar.

It's just hypocritical. At some point you've got to decide what's worthy of the offering of your life. At some point you've got to decide when it's okay for the stones to come. For those of you that are younger, you've got to decide if you're going to fulfill the dreams of your parents or if you're going to follow Jesus. Your parents are precious, your dreams are important, but they're not going to be waiting for you around the throne when you die one day.

It's going to be the Lord Jesus, and you've got to decide where you want to go and whose approval you're seeking. That retirement portfolio you built, that's an important thing. You did a good job, that's security, but that's not what's going to be waiting for you around the throne. And you've got to decide what is worthy of the offering of your life, because what Stephen came to was the realization that yes, I've got all these things that are important, but there's only one who has created me, only one whose blood has redeemed me, only one whose glory I am supposed to live for for the rest of my life, and yes, Jesus, you are worth it. There are four things, there are four convictions that shaped Stephen's life that made him change the world as an ordinary person. God wants to use me, the Holy Spirit fills me as Jesus was to me, I will be to others, and Jesus is profoundly worth it.

Do those convictions shape your life? Why don't you bow your heads if you would at all the campuses, those of you joining us online. Maybe you could just do right now as a believer what I said my wife and I do every January, Lord, blank slate, blank check, here I am, send me.

I'm going to put my yes on the table, you put it on the map. Maybe it's going to be to be more involved in the ministries here at Harvest. Maybe it's going to be to serve an underserved population in the area. Maybe it's going to be to say, hey, tell me where I can be a part of something Samaritan's Purse is doing around the world or where there's a church planting. Show me how I can use this chapter. Right now, in fact, you might just even take your hands and just open them on your lap and symbolic of, Lord, it's, here I am, send me.

Where? While you're doing that, let me talk for a moment to guests, friends. You're like, I just don't, I feel like something's missing here, like how do I know that I belong to Jesus?

That's a great question. What Stephen understood is that Jesus had died for his sin. Friend, he died for yours too. And the good news this morning is that he offers it to you as a gift that you just have to receive.

If you've never received it, you can do that right now in this moment. Lord Jesus, I surrender to you as Lord. I receive you right now as my Savior.

You receive that gift that he wants to give you because that's the beginning of a life that he's going to use to transform others in the world. But let me pray for you. Let me pray for you. Father, I pray in these moments, God, that I pray this morning that you would send out laborers into your harvest from harvest. I pray to God that you would, those who need to come to faith in Christ, you give them the courage to tell somebody and for those that you're calling to give their lives into telling other people about Jesus. I pray that you would show them what the next steps look like. We pray and we ask that, Lord, in Jesus' name. In Jesus' name.

If you agree with that, say amen. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries, follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally, go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-31 04:32:22 / 2023-03-31 04:54:29 / 22

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