Thesis: Believers are best motivated from within.
a. "We tried a visitation program here but it didn't work."
b. "I started a daily BS & prayer time but things kept coming up."
c. "We tried knocking on doors but we never could get enough people."
d. "I tried having a weekly Bible Study in my home but it fizzled out."
2. From mouth of a 1st cent. rabbi comes a challenging response to these 20th cent. problems!
a. Who is that rabbi? (Jesus? Paul?)
b. None other than Gamaliel--an unbelieving Jew!
I. WHO WAS GAMALIEL?
1. Prominent Pharisee rabbi--greatly revered in his day ... and after!
2. Mentioned in a number of sources outside the New Testament.
3. Main guy in Pharasaic Judaism prior to A.D. 70.
II. AN IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE (5:38-39).
A. Is this a true statement?
1. Yes! (Tower of Babel; Saul in 1 Samuel; Israel in captivity).
2. Truly, "if God is for us who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
3. If an activity is of God it will succeed; if not, it will fail.
B. Our ability to recognize hand of God will largely depend on how we define success.
1. Man: John the Baptist, Paul, even Jesus were "failures."
2. God: Looks at two important measures:
a. TRUTH: is it right?
b. FAITHFULNESS: are we faithful?
III. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
A. Our motivation will reveal whether or not our efforts are "of God."
1. What we do is important; why we do what we do is even more important! (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
a. This is why a strictly "rules approach" to the Christian life will not work.
b. Rules are limited in what they can accomplish (Col. 2:20-23).
2. Nothing wrong with rules, as long as we are already motivated to obey them.
B. All of this is to call into question a common approach taken by many churches.
1. Establish a program of work; expect everybody to get on board.
2. It won't work because the motivation is external to the individual.
a. Programs are good--but they are lousy motivators.
b. Illust. Look at what the disciples were doing in Acts 5:42 (quickview) . Was it because they had a visitation and personal work program? Are you kidding? Just been flogged! (v. 40). Their motivation was to be faithful to Jesus! Instituting a program is often an admission that the work is not being done--otherwise you wouldn't need a program.
c. Programs are best seen as ways to coordinate & better accomplish work our love for God has already motivated us to do!
d. When programs themselves become the motivation--it is no longer of God and it won't last long!
1. When hearts are filled with a desire to obey God a church doesn't need to be pleaded with, prodded, cajoled, enticed, or hear nasty sermons to be active.
2. And all kinds of good things will happen. Remember what Gamaliel says: "If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop it!"