Spring Life Part 1- This series theme is being preached all over the country by Wesleyan pastor’s for the 2008 Easter season. The outline of each message is inspired from the denomination but the content is original to Pastor Ryan Akers.
Pastor Ryan Akers
Easter Season! What an opportunity!
Every week I sit down to write a message. I do my best to make the scriptures come to life by using stories, props or videos. I try to figure out what God is really trying to tell us in His Word on things that are relevant to our lives today. Sometimes those messages are good and sometimes those messages are…not so good.
People have said to me multiple times, “I could never do what you do. I could never write a sermon and preach week in and week out!” I just say, “Me either! I make Eric write them!” ☺ But I like to tell them that although they may not be called to preach from a stage in a church they are commanded to preach from the heart to any who will listen.
Easter is the time to preach- everything we believe in, everything we stand for, everything we hope for that is to come all hinges on this moment in history. The resurrection of Christ is the absolute most critical part of our beliefs. Because if Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the grave what we believe holds absolutely no water. Without the resurrection there is no conquering of Adam’s in. Without the resurrection our religion is worthless and we might as well close the doors.
But out of all the messages I have preached there is one message that always seems to trump them all and that is my own personal story. There is no greater story that can be preached then the story of how God brought you from a sin filled life to a life of grace and love and salvation. My salvation story has always been my best sermon because it is the most personal. People can relate. When we openly tell our story the Holy Spirit will move in us and in turn open other people up to being receptive. Your personal story has that power to transform even the hardest of hearts and see them come to know Jesus Christ as savior. Your story is not about showing your vast biblical knowledge, its not about pretending you know the answers, its not about knowing all the history and the Greek and the Hebrew and what all the little symbolisms and traditions and roman’s road and all that stuff.
It’s about saying, “Once I was lost.” Once I was a snot nosed kid, living a selfish life, addicted to pornography. But the Lord grabbed me. I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it and I don’t want to but I felt something change in me on a Thursday night in 1993 at Camp Wah Sha Shee. I was sitting there and all of a sudden I felt this immense feeling of joy overwhelm me and fill me up from my toes to my eyes and it began to release itself through uncontrollable tears. I didn’t know why I was balling but in that moment I felt free.
I felt forgiven. I felt such an intense feeling of love that somehow I knew no human could imitate and I just knew it was God. God was speaking to me and saying, “Child, I forgive you.” It was a feeling that I have only felt one other time in the 15 years since then. It is that moment that changed everything I have stood for. It was that moment that caused me to deny myself and deny my selfishness and live all out for something truly bigger than me. And I just have to tell people about it. People have to know that they can experience this joy. They can be freed from the guilt, from the pain, from the hurt, from the abuse, from the stress if only they would hear how Jesus Christ freed me.
God’s word tells us that when we believe in Christ that the Holy Spirit is going to enter us in order to fulfill God’s great commission. Matthew 28:18-20- not go do more programs, or go start new ministries, it’s all about spreading the gospel.
Acts 1:8(written by Luke)- I didn’t get a heads up that the spirit was coming that night, but Jesus told the disciples to be ready because their lives were about to change.
Jesus had just spent the last 3 years of his life teaching all who would listen, healing the sick and mentoring 12 of the most rag tag ragamuffin group you could imagine. These guys got to walk with Christ yet they didn’t get it. They made so many mistakes and sometimes would just tick God off. They saw countless miracles, John 20:30-31, yet they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t fully believe. They still were unsure if Jesus was who He said he was. They believed in their head but they didn’t believe with their heart. Examples…
Feeding the 5,000- Matthew 14:17, “We have only 5 loaves and 2 fish.” Had no faith- They have already seen Christ overload a boat with fish, calm a storm, healed a paralyzed man and a sick girl. WHERE’S THE FAITH! (We are the same way, God has provided over and over yet we keep worrying how am I going to get through this problem.) Believed in their heads, even when they were witnesses to the miracles they were never totally sold out to Christ.
Who would be the greatest? Mark 9:33-36- fighting over which one of them is holiest.
They all left Christ when he was being crucified- hid for fear of the Jews- John 20:19-22- they all denied Jesus, not just Peter. His own family didn’t believe except his mother. John 7:3-5- what’s the point of these examples?
Here are guys who have an AMAAAAAZING story to tell. How they were once just poor fishermen, hated tax collectors, doctor, businessmen, farmers but now they are children of God. God changed their lives. But they didn’t do that. Instead when their time came to stand up for what they believed, when they seemed to be on their own they froze. The hid form their enemies. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t get it. But they would.
Acts 1:8- Jesus has rose from the grave. He has spent time with the disciples and appeared to many witnesses to prove that he rose. Now Jesus is giving his followers some final details and instructions. He is giving them hope. I can imagine these guys were like, “Wait, what are we going to do when you’re gone. How are we going to carry the message? We can’t do miracles like you, we are cowards! Were you would confront the enemy we hid from them in the time were we should have believed and stood firm. What are we going to do without you”
Now they needed faith. What Jesus says here in Acts 1 is meant to give them hope of what is come.
1. Jesus promises a gift- 8a- Without Christ these guys were powerless. They were cowards. They ran in fear. When Jesus wasn’t around they were like lost little sheep without a shepherd. Now Jesus is gone but power is coming to replace him. That power will give the disciples the power to preach, the power to stand firm, the power to do miracles. It would give them the power to have faith in the good and bad of life. In the same way we can never see God move in us unless the power of God’s Spirit is in us.
I know that what I say up here each and every Sunday will mean absolutely nothing unless the power of God’s spirit is speaking through me. God’s spirit is what changes you not my words. It is not I who accomplishes great things it is because of God’s spirit moving in me, giving me the gifts, the abilities, the motivation, the heart to do His work. Without that power we are cowards who hide in the corner and never do anything for God because we are afraid of our enemies. Those who hate Jesus Christ.
And until we truly want that power we are going to be cowards. We are going to be people who just settle for coming to church on Sunday and being with like minded people who are not going to rock the boat but are going to settle for the status quo. No, no, no. If you want power then you have to know that God is going to push you to move. When you want power you are no longer going to fear the lost you are going to run to the lost. You no longer settle for who you are, but you wake up every single day wanting to be better. You want more, you thirst more, you hunger more knowledge, wisdom, love and understanding. You want more grace, more compassion. You want to overcome, you want to be a conqueror of sin, and you want to see all of hell overpowered by the love of Christ.
When the power of the Holy Spirit overtakes you there is nothing that can happen to you that will detour your faith. You can lose your job, your home, your family but the power of the holy spirit that is in you will overpower all evil of the world and the more you life gets rocked the more passion you will have for Christ.
When the power of the Holy Spirit enters your soul you will proudly call yourself a Jesus freak. Life is too short to not long for the power of God’s spirit. When these men didn’t have that power they clamored in fear. But in Acts 2 the power of the Holy Spirit comes on these men and in that moment they were sanctified and made holy. In that moment they became bolder and had more faith than they ever thought possible. In that first day they didn’t run and hide they ran to the lost and led 3,000 to Christ. When you are empowered by the Holy Spirit you will gain a new urgency in life. You understand that your time is short. Every waking moment needs to be spent in our relationship with Christ and a mission to save. Everything else in life is just details. (THIS IS SANCTIFICATION)
The sooner we understand this as “believers” the sooner we can begin God’s work. Right now some of you are still playing church. I want to tell you quit playing church and start being the church. Be empowered. Get bold, get real, quit pretending. There is a lost community right outside these doors and we are missing our chance to show Warrenton who Jesus Christ is.
Having the power of the spirit requires responsibility…(like Spiderman- “with great power comes great responsibility.”)
2. Responsibilities- “you will be my witnesses…”- This is not a suggestion. When the power of the Holy Spirit empowers us we need to share what God has done. This is where your story comes in. Its not about knowing how to write a 3 point sermon. It’s simply about telling others, “look, I don’t understand it all, but I know once I was blind but now I see.” If you look at Acts 2,4,8,9 you are going to see examples of these disciples who boldly proclaimed what Christ had done for them. Their story would lead thousands to Christ. And it’s not about having some amazing testimony. You don’t have to be a former drug addict, alcoholic or porn addict or runaway or abused person to be effective. God just wants you to be faithful. When he prompts you to speak will you speak? When he nudges you to witness will you be His witness?
There are people in this church right now who have amazing stories that we don’t even know about. We have no clue. We see these people as wonderful godly people. Prayer warriors, servants, and small group leaders. Yet we know nothing about how they got here and we are shocked to learn about their past. (Barbara’s Testimony)
What a great story. What an amazing testimony about how the power of the Holy Spirit moved in this person and brought them back to Christ. It is our responsibility to be Christ witnesses. We are the light of the world; we are the salt of the earth. If we don’t share what Jesus has done nobody is going to.
3. Jesus gives us a target- 8c-
Jerusalem: Start in your neighborhood; at your job; where you hang out and have fun. Do you know your neighbors, co-workers, and casual acquaintances? Are you building a foundation of real relationship that will give you the “right” to share your story with them?
Judea and Samaria: Share with others by serving or going beyond your sphere of influence in your community, region, and beyond—both those you may have something in common with, and those you don’t. Share with those who you never associate with.
All the ends of the earth: This may actually be closer than many of us think. What about those you know are hungry and thirsty and homeless and…this isn’t about sending money to a missionary, but being challenged and extended out of our comfort zone to reach any and all for His kingdom. No matter where we need to go to work.
This scripture is a direct command from Jesus Christ. We can’t pass this off on the crowd and say, “The church is doing it, so I don’t need to get involved.” This is a personal command to every one of us as individuals. The Lord is commanding us to GO.
The disciples went from being cowards to being heroes of faith. Almost all of them died because of the undying commitment to the telling of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They died because they shared their story. They died for their faith. One day the Lord is going to call us home. We are all going to get there a different way. I hope and pray that before you die you will quit hiding behind the locked door and you will finally let the Holy Spirit empower you to do God’s work. To tell your story, to leaders all who will hear to the cross.
Take This Home: The World is Waiting- who will you invite to hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ for Easter.
Communion- make this your commitment to GO! (Closing Song- Worthy is the Lamb by Hillsong)