Summary: We must adjust our AIM to the TARGET our Lord has set before us in order to fulfill the missions mandate.
Counted Worthy To Suffer
We come back again to our series through the book of Acts which I’ve entitled, “The Church on Mission.” By God’s grace that is what we are seeking to be. But in order to be a church on mission, we must know what the mission is. If we don’t understand and clearly communicate with certainty the nature, the goal, the focus of our mission we’ll be shooting at the wrong target.
Matt Emmons of New Jersey is a competitive marksman with a rifle. He qualified to represent the United States at the 2004 Olympic games. At the Olympics, he was going into his final shot in first place with a comfortable lead. He only needed a mediocre score to seal the Gold medal. As he positioned his rifle, he brought the sight to the top of the target that was 50 meters away. He slowly lowered it until the bull’s-eye was fixed in the middle of his sight, he exhaled and felt his heart beating, waiting to fire in between heartbeats as he has done thousands of times before. As he pulled the trigger and the bullet left the rifle, it hit right in the center of the target – a perfect shot! Unfortunately, he was aiming at the target in the next lane. All he needed was a 6.7 to win Gold – a mediocre shot at best. But his score on that shot – 0. That dropped him from 1st place to 4th which meant he didn’t even medal in the event.
In my estimation a perennial problem the church of Jesus Christ has today is aiming at the wrong target. Some churches focus on being a political force to help get candidates elected – wrong target. Some churches focus on being a kind of club where people can socialize with others who are like them – wrong target. Some people view church as the center for social justice for the down trodden in the world – wrong target. Others see the church as a place to make contacts and network for business or other benefits – wrong target.
Now here’s the deal – we can look at churches and ministries and say, “They are successful. They are hitting their target with great precision.” But are they aiming at the right target? Let’s turn the question inward – are we aiming at the right target? Jesus gave his followers and by extension he gave to us the target in Acts 1:8. We’ve identified this verse as the theme verse for the book of Acts, and the theme verse for our emphasis this year: “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.” Acts 1:8
That’s the target, that’s the goal, that’s the mission for Christ’s church – to be witnesses in those concentric circles from right here in our own community to the very end of the earth. And by the way, we have six of our members who on mission right now in Providence, RI worshiping with Travis Rymer. We’ve got an informational meeting immediately after our service today for our first trip to BA and I encourage you to join us.
The early church was that kind of church. They took the commission of the Lord seriously and were seeking to fulfill that mission in their lives. And they did that even in the face of severe opposition. But what we’ll discover today is that even in the face of that opposition and physical persecution, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy by the Lord to suffer for their testimony about him.
We have a lengthy passage before us today – 30 verses in total. Time doesn’t permit us to cover each verse in depth. However, as we peruse this passage we can see five elements or five characteristics that this early church had which propelled them forward to being a church on mission, a church that could rejoice in the face of persecution as they sought to fulfill that mission. The first element I want you to see is…
I. PURITY – Willingness To Deal With SIN
To fulfill the mission mandated by the Lord, a church must be willing to deal with sin. Remember, our text today follows the easy text I left for Wade to preach last week – the killing of Ananias and Sapphira by God. Because of their hypocrisy, because they presented themselves in a certain way that was not truthful – wanted to be seen as more spiritual or more sacrificial than what they really were – God took their life away. God dealt with their sin. God desires a pure church to carry out his work. Let’s begin reading in verse 12: 12Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. Acts 5:12-14