Be the Church

All Believers Are Called To Share The Gospel Of Jesus Christ.

George Wright
Jul 19, 2020    39m
Learning how to share the gospel of Jesus Christ is a crucial part of being His follower. In this inspiring message we are reminded that we are all called to be the church, wherever we are, so that non-believers can hear the life changing good news of Jesus. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 01:18 I love peanut butter and jelly, I crushed a peanut and jelly sandwich yesterday, it was so good. Just never gets old, never goes out of style. You know, some things are just better together. Like us, we are better together as the church, we are better together. That's right, yes. Hey, we're happy to be in the room, we're happy to have you joining us online, those who are tuning in right now, we are better together. And we recognize that the Christian life is not an individual sport, this is not an isolation type thing at all. This is a community, this is a body, this is a family that God has knit together. We are better together.

George Wright: 02:03 What a privilege it is to be gathered right now, as we get to turn our attention to the word of God, and we're going to be looking at the beginning of the Book of Acts in the New Testament. So if you have your Bible, you can go ahead and grab that. We kicked off this series last week, looking at a few verses in Acts chapter 1. And we're going to cover some ground in Acts chapter 2 today, to really set up the rest of this series, the next few weeks, as we're looking at how the church, the people of God, respond to the calling of Jesus. After his resurrection, before his Ascension, he lays out this calling for his people, the church. And says, okay, if you're going to be my followers, if you're going to be the church, if you're going to be a Christian, this is what your life is to be about. And in the book of Acts, we see the beginning of the church, and we see the way the people of God respond to this calling and are empowered and filled with a supernatural divine power to live this out.

George Wright: 03:16 So we're going to turn our attention briefly to the end of Acts chapter 2, and then we're going to turn back to the beginning of Acts chapter 2 and see all that takes place to set the stage for the church to live out this mission. So let me encourage you, grab your Bible, turn to Acts chapter 2 we're going to look at verses 42 and 43. And I'd like to invite you, if you're willing and able, to stand with me all around the room, if you would stand. And as you join us online, you're invited to stand. I know that may feel a little strange, but many of you, I know, have been standing at home at the reading of God's word. And the reason we do this, if you're new to Shandon, and so that we can all be reminded when we gather together, and when we turn our attention to God's word, we are standing on the authority of the Holy scripture, what God has laid before us, that he says is right and good and true. So we stand on this firm, unchanging, foundation of the word of God. And this is what the scripture says at the beginning of the church. It says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awed came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles."

George Wright: 04:45 This is the very beginning of the church. And as we gather here in this room, and as we gather together online, I believe with all that I am that God has something specific to say to each and every one of us as we turn our attention to his word. So let's pray right now that God would do just that, that he would open our eyes to see what we need to see, and open our ears to hear what he desires for us to hear. Would you pray with me right now? Heavenly Father, as we come before you, as we stand before you and turn our attention to your word. I pray in the power of your spirit, that you would speak into our lives individually, as we gather collectively. How grateful I am for this day, this time to come together, to turn to your word, to hear from you. There is so much noise fighting for our attention. I pray, Lord, in this moment, this moment you have set apart for us, that we would hear your voice through all the noise. Use this time for your glory, to reveal to us with greater clarity the good news that we stand upon as the people of God. It's in Christ's name, we pray. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 06:31 I absolutely love the privilege of walking through the Book of Acts. And so as we spend some time here at the beginning of this great book, the acts of the apostles, we really are setting the stage, so to speak for what the church would become. What we do when we come together, what we do when we live the mission today, flows right out of the verses that we are considering this morning. Last week, we kicked this off by looking specifically at Acts chapter 1 verse 8, where we see the mission of God laid out by Jesus Christ after his resurrection, before he ascends into heaven, he says to his disciples, he says to his church, that's not even yet called the church. He says, you have a mission, and the mission is clear, Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”.

George Wright: 07:47 We talked about this last week, and we talk about this often at Shandon. We, as a local church, have a mission that flows straight out of the mission that Jesus lays before his disciples. So our mission statement as a church is simply this, right from Acts 1:8, we want to leverage who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever God takes us. We want to live as a witness to what we have received in the good news of Jesus Christ. And when we step back, and we consider what is in this simple mission statement, we realize very quickly, if we're willing to think about it, especially in the context of the first disciples hearing this mission statement, this is an overwhelming task. I mean, it's hard enough to think about these early disciples, living as a witness in their hometown, that's intimidating. It's hard enough to think about these early disciples, being a witness in the surrounding area, around their hometown, Judea and Samaria. But then Jesus adds this little line to the end of the mission and says, go be a witness to the end of the earth. Imagine what the disciples must have been thinking, no planes, no trains, no automobiles, no smart phones, no Google Earth, no Google Maps, how in the world do we take this mission to the end of the earth? How in the world can we be a witness to a people and a place that we have no idea how to even get to? How in the world can this mission be accomplished? Jesus says to the church, I've given you a secret weapon. You will receive power, you have power from on high, through the Holy Spirit. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, is going to equip and empower the followers of Jesus to take this mission around the world, to live as a witness of Christ and to fulfill exactly what Christ has called his church to be about. So here's the question for all of us today, do you believe in this power of God, do you believe the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead and empowered the church in its infancy to go into the world with the message of the gospel is alive and well and empowering people here today? Because that's what the scripture reveals.

George Wright: 11:09 And as we look at the beginning of the church in Acts chapter 2, specifically, we see the miraculous exploding in the early days of the church, as if to show the church the only way the mission will be accomplished is if you trust in a power that is not of yourselves. The only way that you can do what Christ has called you to do, is if you live from a power that is not about your strength, or your creativity, or your leadership ability, or your willingness to think outside the box, but is all about a supernatural divine power from God, granted to those who were followers of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts chapter 2 verse 1 is a crazy scene, you may have read this before, you may have heard about the events of Pentecost, maybe you've studied this at length. There is no other way to describe it, it is a crazy, weird scene, like something out of a science fiction movie, it is supernatural.

George Wright: 12:20 Look at what the scripture says, "When the day of Pentecost arrived," Acts chapter 2 verse 1, "they were gathered all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Now I know the early disciples did not have smartphones, but don't you wish they did? To film this scene, this crazy scene as a tornado blows into the room, and flaming tongues are floating around the room, and start to land on people as they sit they're overwhelmed, and then they're speaking in different languages. Now, if this blew up your social media feed, or if this video showed up in your inbox, do you think you'd believe it? This is divine, supernatural, power, and God is showing off. God is showing himself to the early church, so that they can recognize right up front, what I have called you to do, is something that cannot be accomplished in your own strength. What I have called you to do, is something that is definitely greater than yourself. What I have called you to do can only happen with power of the spirit of God, at work through the people of God, joining together for the sake of the mission.

George Wright: 14:15 And we see the mission being highlighted right up front, as the spirit falls on the first disciples. Look at Acts 2 verses 5 through 7, we see that God is showing his disciples the in dwelling power of the Holy Spirit is for the sake of the mission. Look at this, "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven." So Jews have gathered from all corners of the known world, they've come to Jerusalem to worship and to have this opportunity for a festival during these events of Pentecost. The city is packed with people, pilgrims from around the world coming to Jerusalem, to do what they were called to do according to their custom and the scripture. And it says, "At this sound, the multitude came together." The sound of the mighty rushing wind, "And they were bewildered, (listen to this) because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished saying are not all these who are speaking, Galileans?" Think about this scene, as the church is literally exploding onto the scene. The spirit of God's falls on these early disciples, equips them and empowers them for the sake of the mission, and they're able to speak in a language that they've never spoken before. So that those who are gathered around them from different cultures, different languages, different ethnicities, can understand what is being said.

George Wright: 16:11 Now imagine, if the world renowned international business school, the University of South Carolina, held a global convention. Now I know conventions are a thing of the past, you may not even remember what that is. But that was a time when people would come together in a room, a lot of people from different places, and they'd learn things, and they'd see things that maybe they'd never seen before. That that was a convention, in case you forgot over the last six months, and your mind is just blurry, you don't know what that is. A convention is when people come together to see something new, to learn something new, to hear something new. So let's just say the international business school hosts a global...That was supposed to be a joke, and when you're wearing a mask, I have no idea if you're smiling or chuckling or what, I just see your eyes staring blankly at me. And then I look at the camera, and I have no idea what you're doing on the other side of the camera, if you're joining online, so help a brother out. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Your applause is very heartfelt, I appreciate that. Let's go back to this example that's falling short. So the business school's hosting a conference, right? And people come from all over the world. And let's just imagine for a second, that everybody who's hosting, and greeting at the doors of this conference at the University of South Carolina are undergrad students from the state of South Carolina. And so you've got students from Manning, and students from Buford, and students from Moncks Corner, and students from Batesburg, and Aiken, and they all speak in this beautiful South Carolinian southern drawl. And yet, as the guests who attend the conference, walk into the building, these South Carolinian students begin to speak to the invited guests in the native language of their land. That'd be incredible, that would be amazing, that would be newsworthy as delegates of this international conference show up from around the world, and these local students from South Carolina can speak in every language of those who are attending the conference. Amazing! And that's what we're seeing here in the beginning of the church.

George Wright: 18:40 Why does the Spirit empower the people of God to speak languages that they've never spoken before to those who are listening? So that those who are listening can understand the good news of the gospel. Please don't be afraid of the Spirit of God, don't be afraid of what the scripture teaches about the early church as it talks about speaking in these different languages, the different languages were for the sake of the gospel advancing. This is all about the mission. This is not about people coming together and say, hey, let's speak in a language that we've never heard or understand, so that we can be more spiritual than other people. No, no, no, this is the Spirit of God in dwelling and empowering some, so that they can speak in a way that the gospel is made clear and the mission advances.

George Wright: 19:43 And so as this Spirit-filled moment takes place, and the crowd is gathering, hearing the good news, the apostle Peter stands up, you can read this in Acts 2. His entire sermon is recorded for us in Acts 2, the first sermon of the church, he begins to preach with Spirit filled power, the message of the gospel. And he says to the crowd that is gathered, who can understand what he's saying in their native tongue, Jesus has come to this earth, lived a life without sin, just as the prophets said, the Messiah would. And he gave his sinless perfect life at the cross, just as the prophet said that he would, to die for your sin in your place so that you could receive the forgiveness of God that only comes through the gift of salvation.

George Wright: 20:44 And as the crowd hears the gospel, as the crowd hears the message, they begin to respond with a question. Please don't miss this, it's the most important question that anyone can ask as they hear the message of the gospel. This may be right where you are today, they begin to ask this simple question, what should we do? If you're telling me that Jesus died on a cross for my sin, and you're telling me that Jesus Rose from the grave defeating sin and death, and you're telling me that Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, where he is sovereign and reigning overall, if you're telling me that truth and claiming it to be true, it must demand a response of some kind. What should I do? Acts chapter 2, verse 37 and following says this, 'When they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Do I need to buy this gift of salvation? Do I need to earn this gift of salvation? Do I need to clean up my life so that I can receive this gift of salvation? Do I need to get everything straight religiously so that I can be good enough for God to inherit this salvation? What should I do? Peter responds, and said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." The church literally explodes onto the scene, through the power of the Spirit of God in-dwelling the followers of Jesus to stand and speak the message of the gospel, and call people to turn to Jesus.

George Wright: 23:47 Now, as we are starting to gather again together in person, if you weren't aware, this is our second week of coming back together in the building. As we continue to meet together online, we realize this is a strange time. And I know that there's some of you that are back with us today, that have been in church your entire life, this is just what you do. There are some of you joining us online that you look forward to the day that you can come back, you're not quite ready, or maybe your health is restricting you from coming, or there's other reasons why you can't be here in person, but you are grateful to gather with the church because this is a part of your life. But I also recognize there are some with us today in person and online, and this is relatively new. Maybe you've been in church before, but you're coming back for the first time in a long time, or maybe you're really just investigating your faith and trying to determine what you believe, or maybe you're here for the first time altogether. This message proclaimed in Acts 2, may be the exact message you need to hear today, that Jesus Christ has died for your sins, and Jesus Christ has invited you to receive the gift of salvation. So what do you need to do? Repent. What does that mean? It means turn from your sin, turn from your life of living like you are the Lord and master of your life, turn from living a life that says I'm in control and I run the show, and turn to Jesus. For he gave his life so that you might truly live, and he died on the cross for your sin. And in the power of his resurrection, he defeated sin and death so that you could be invited into this gift of salvation, this gift of grace, not anything that you have to earn a gift and you can only freely receive. So trust Jesus. Some of you have been following Jesus for quite some time, and yet you've never gone public with your faith. You've never shared what God is in your life, you've never stood up and said, I'm a follower of Jesus. Be baptized, trust Jesus, repent of your sin. Be baptized, show that you are following Christ, and live the mission.

George Wright: 26:38 We've got a number that's on the screen here, it's also on the screen if you're us online. You may just want to pull out your phone right now, if you're wrestling with whether or not you need to follow Jesus, or you want more information about following Jesus, or today you know that God is leading you to trust your life to Jesus as your Lord and savior. Just text that number on the screen, our ministry team would love to follow up with you. There is nothing that we consider more important than the individual trusting their life to Jesus Christ, and we would love to talk with you about this most important decision.

George Wright: 27:17 The Bible says over 3000 people trusted their life to Christ following that first sermon of the church, what an amazing scene of God at work. But here's the question, what do you do when you have a group of 3000 brand new followers of Jesus, they don't have any clue how to live their lives as a follower of Jesus? Do you tell them they need to go find a very nice building where they can attend from time to time, and if they're really committed attend once or twice a week? No, the scripture actually shows us something very different, we're going to be talking about this over the next few weeks. You don't tell new believers to go find a building to attend, you tell new Christians what it means to be the church, because as a follower of Christ, you are the church. And so we go back to the beginning of the church, so that we can be reminded what has become so painfully clear to all of us over the last three or four months, and that is the church is not a building, the church is the people of God living out the mission of God. And I don't want to confuse anyone here, because we are so excited to be back together in the building. God has given us a beautiful place to come together and to worship, to be equipped, to be empowered. We are better together, we need one another and I have missed this like crazy. But we know this right, the coronavirus did not close the church, COVID-19 did not shut down the church because the church is the people of God living out the mission of God in the world. We come together to be equipped and empowered to do exactly what Jesus has called to do, and what happens in here is intended to impact and change and even dictate the way we live our lives out there. We are better together, because we need to be reminded together, of why we gather together. We gathered a worship the Lord, not to be entertained, not just so we can feel good about a song that we like. We gather to worship the Lord collectively, so that we can be reminded this was never about us to begin with. Worship is to fix our minds attention, and our hearts devotion, on who God is and what he has done. Our worship is to be about him, not about us. We gather together to be reminded of who he is, and what he's done. We gathered together to be equipped, because we need to be reminded of the word of God. We need to learn, we need to grow in knowledge and information of the Holy scripture, so that then we can live out what we say we know. And we gather together to be empowered for the mission. Because again, the Christian life is not an isolation sport, this is not a solo deal. God has blessed us with a family, the people of God, and we gathered together to be empowered through the spirit of God to go back into the world, to share the very message that has changed who we are if we are followers of Jesus Christ, with a world that so desperately needs to hear the hope that we have.

George Wright: 31:47 And hasn't God given us an unprecedented opportunity, in these unprecedented times, to be the church right where we live, to be the church outside the walls of the building. We've been hearing story after story of how this has been happening in the Shandon family, and it's been beautiful. There are several groups of families in our church that have begun to host watch parties in their houses, or watch parties on their back porches where neighbors who have never even attended Shandon in person, can come over to a comfortable environment in someone's house that they know, and see the service, join in the service, and then just talk about what they see and hear. We're seeing all kinds of stories of people connecting with neighbors in ways that they never have before, back porch Bible studies, backyard cookouts with a purpose, for the sake of living out the mission right where God has placed us. Because the church has not been shut down, the church is just being reminded of what is most important.

George Wright: 33:07 I love this quote from pastor J.D. Greer, and I'm getting ready to wrap it up right here, but I just absolutely love what he writes, "The local church is the paint that makes the invisible Christ visible to our community, in its fellowship, its holiness of life, its multicultural diversity, its selfless acts of love, and i's forgiveness and boldness, it reveals the contours of the eternal heavenly Christ that dwells within them. When local churches equip their people to embody the gospel in the streets, they make the movements of an otherwise invisible Christ visible to their community." Are you living what you say you believe, in unprecedented times that have provided unprecedented opportunities for us to be the church?

George Wright: 34:13 Now, next week, we will dive back into the verses that we started with at the end of Acts chapter 2. And we're going to begin to talk more specifically about what does it mean to be the church. But for today, as we wrap up, let's just be crystal clear, what we see in the beginning of the church, the church is not a building. The church is the people of God, living out the mission of God, to be a witness to the world of the hope that they have in Jesus Christ, the hope that the world so desperately needs to see and hear. And so we leverage who we are, and we leverage what we've been given for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are for such a time as this, and wherever God takes us. The mission is advancing. Are we involved? God has given us opportunities to be the church. Are we living with open eyes?

George Wright: 35:27 You may be with us today, knowing that you need a relationship with Christ, and we just want to close giving you the opportunity to respond to what we believe is the greatest news that anyone could ever hear. Jesus has done for you, what you could never do for yourself, and if you trust him in faith, and receive this gift of salvation, and repent turn from the way you've been living and turn to Jesus, he will change your life from the inside out, and you will receive the gift of salvation.

George Wright: 36:05 So let's pray, and let's provide a time for those who recognize that they need to respond to Jesus, to trust in Jesus. And let's as a church, ask God to open our eyes to the opportunities around us and remind us of the power that he has given us to go and be the church in the world around us. Would you pray with me as we close our time together? Heavenly Father, I'm so very grateful, so very grateful for the privilege that it is to be the church, to gather together, we are better together. Lord, we are so grateful for the people of God, so grateful for the family of God, we need one another. And Lord, I pray that we would be reminded of why that is, because you've called us to this beautiful mission, to be the light of the world, to show the hope of the world, to share love with the world, and to point to the good news of what Jesus Christ has done. So that we might receive the gift of salvation, and be set free from the wages of sin, to walk in new life with Christ. Lord, use us as a church to be the church. Lord, to remind us that we're not called to just attend church in a building, we're called to be the church living on mission, right where you've placed us. And Lord, we recognize there are some among us today here in person, some among us today online, that have really been wrestling with where they are in relationship to you. There are some that have been in church a long time, they're very religious, but they've never stepped out on faith to say, Jesus, I'm ready to follow you with my life. I'm ready to stop trying to control everything, and trust the one who is in control. I'm ready for a new story, as the scripture says in Acts 2, a story that is for generations, for my children and my grandchildren. I'm ready for the narrative of my life to change, and so Jesus, I'm ready to trust you, forgive me of my sin. I'm ready to follow you, make me new in your grace and in your mercy. Father, there are some today wrestling with that prayer of faith, I pray that you would give them the faith to trust their life to Jesus, and I pray that they would never be the same. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit guiding us, thank you for the beautiful, good news of the gospel, and thank you for calling us to something that is greater than ourselves by inviting us to be a part of your family, the church on mission. We love you, and we are grateful for this time. It's in Christ's name. I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206