MAKING LEMONADE FROM LEMONS
INTRODUCTION: AS WE APPROACH THIS PASSAGE, WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS WHAT I MIGHT CALL THE FINAL LEG OF THE GREAT COMMISSION (CULTURALLY SPEAKING). BY THE TIME WE REACH THIS PASSAGE THE GOSPEL HAS PROGRESSED FROM THE JEWS TO THE SAMARITANS, TO THE GOD FEARING GREEKS, AND NOW TO THE PAGAN GREEKS. THIS IS SEEN IN THE FACT THAT THE CITY OF ANTIOCH WAS A CENTER OF SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL INFLUENCE, SIGNIFICANT COMMERCIAL INFLUENCE, AND SIGNIFICANT MORAL CORRUPTION. OF PARTICULAR NOTE WAS A “PARK” ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CITY KNOWN FOR IMMORAL ACTIVITY. SO, CORRUPT WAS THIS CITY THAT IT WOULD BE REFERRED TO AS AN ILLUSTRATION OF IMMORALITY EVEN IN ROME!
IT IS TO THIS CITY THAT THOSE WHO FLED JERUSALEM DURING THE PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH WOULD SET UP SHOP AND SHARE THE GOSPEL. IT IS KIND OF INTERESTING TO NOTE THAT GOD CAN SET A CHURCH UP ANYWHERE, BUT IN ORDER TO BE EFFECTIVE THE CHURCH HAS TO BE RELEVANT WHERE IT HAS BEEN PLACED. THIS PAST WEDNESDAY IN PRAYER MEETING I MADE THE STATEMENT THAT THE CHURCH LOOKS DIFFERENT FROM THE WORLD BUT ACTS THE SAME. IN REALITY, TO BE EFFECTIVE, THE CHURCH NEEDS TO LOOK LIKE THE WORLD BUT ACT DIFFERENTLY.
1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
TRANSITION: SO IN OUR TIME TOGETHER THIS MORNING, I WOULD LIKE TO PROPOSE A BOLD VENTURE, SO TO SPEAK. AN INTERNAL ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT OF OUR CHURCH AND ITS RELEVANCE IN AND TO OUR COMMUNITY. FOR THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE HAS REMAINED FIRMLY PLANTED IN ITS OWN CULTURE, WHILE THE COMMUNITY AROUND IT HAS CHANGED.
PROPOSITION: IN ORDER FOR THE CHURCH TO REMAIN RELEVANT IN ITS COMMUNITY SO THAT IT MAY ACCOMPLISH ITS GOD GIVEN TASK, IT MUST CHANGE ITS WAY OF THINKING.
I. THE LEMONS OF THE CHURCH – The Negative Issues Facing The Early Church
a. REFUSAL OF THE CHURCH TO OBEY THE GREAT COMMISSION AND THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL
b. THE PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH – ACTS 9
i. SCATTERED THE CHURCH AWAY FROM JERUSALEM
ii. HAD TO HAVE BEEN A TOUGH TIME FOR THE BELIEVERS
c. THE DISPUTE OVER SALVATION TO THE GENTILES
i. REVEALED THE BIAS OF THE EARLY CHURCH
ii. REVEALED THE IMMATURITY OF THE EARLY CHURCH
iii. REVEALED THE LEGALISM OF THE EARLY CHURCH
II. THE LEMONADE OF THE CHURCH – The Church Responding To The Impact Of The Negative Issues
a. THE PERSECUTION OFF THE CHURCH PUSHED THE GOSPEL BEYOND JERUSALEM
i. THESE PERSECUTED GENTILES WENT OUT FROM JERUSALEM TO:
1. PHOENICIA – ALL ALONG THE COASTAL AREA
2. CYPRUS – THE ISLAND IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
3. ANTIOCH – THE SIGNIFICANT CITY TO THE NORTH
b. THE CENTER OF EVANGELISM AND MISSION WOULD SHIFT FROM JERUSALEM TO ANTIOCH
i. THIS WOULD BE THE DIRECT RESULT OF BRINGING THE CHURCH INTO THE COMMUNITY, NOT WAITING FOR THE COMMUNITY TO COME INTO THE CHURCH
c. PEOPLE WOULD COME INTO RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
i. BELIEVERS GOING INTO THEIR COMMUNITY ARE COMMUNICATING WITH THOSE WHO NEED TO KNOW JESUS IN THEIR COMMUNITY.
ii. THE RESULT OF GOING INSTEAD OF WAITING WAS, “A GREAT NUMBER BELIEVED AND TURNED TO THE LORD”.
d. LEADERS OF THE EARLY CHURCH AND WHAT IS GOING ON
1. SENT BY THE CHURCH TO CHECK THINGS OUT
a. PERFECT CHOICE
b. HE WAS A GOOD MAN
c. HE WAS A MAN FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
d. HE WAS A MAN FULL OF FAITH
2. CONCLUDES THAT GOD WAS INDEED AT WORK
a. SEES THE GRACE OF GOD
b. IS PERSONALLY GLAD – HE IS REJOICING
c. RESPONDS TO THE EVIDENT WORK OF GOD BY:
i. ENCOURAGING NEW BELIEVERS TO REMAIN TRUE TO THE LORD
ii. GOING TO TARSUS TO SEEK OUT PAUL TO ASSIST IN THE WORK – BARNABAS SEES THE NEED FOR ADDITIONAL HELP AND USES THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISCIPLE PAUL
ii. THE JERUSALEM CHURCH
1. STARTS TO GO OFF THE SCENE AT THIS POINT
2. MISSIONARY CENTER WOULD MOVE FROM JERUSALEM TO ANTIOCH
a. KIND OF INTERESTING THAT THE CHURCH IN THE CITY KNOWN FOR ITS IMMORALITY WOULD SERVE AS THE SENDING CENTER OVER THE CHURCH BORN OUT OF MOVEMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
b. GOD FINDS OTHERS TO DO HIS WORK WHEN THOSE HE HAS ASKED TO DO IT DO NOT DO IT!
3. THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM WOULD ALWAYS BE IN NEED
III. BUILDING OUR OWN STAND – Learning the lessons from the early church – thinking like a missionary in our own community
a. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND FIRST AND FOREMOST THAT THE CHURCH IS A SPIRITUAL WORK.
b. THE SUCCESS OF ANY WORK, ESPECIALLY SERVICE FOR CHRIST , STARTS WITH A GOOD FOUNDATION
Revelation 2:1-7 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
c. WE NEED TO BE FOCUSED ON OUR COMMUNITY
i. ASK OURSELVES THREE QUESTIONS
ii. WHO IS CHRIST AND WHAT DID HE SEND US TO DO?
iii. WHAT REFLECTION OF THE CHURCH IS BEST FOR OUR COMMUNITY?
iv. WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE THING WE CAN DO TO EXPAND THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN OUR COMMUNITY?
d. WE NEED TO BE FUNCTIONAL IN OUR COMMUNITY
i. THE CULTURE OF THE CHURCH IS ONLY MEANINGFUL TO THOSE WHO ARE IN THE CHURCH
ii. THE “CHURCH AS USUAL” MENTALITY IS PROGRESSIVELY TURNING OFF MORE AND MORE PEOPLE
FROM 2007 TO TODAY THOSE IDENTIFYING THEMSELVES AS PROTESTANTS HAVE DECLINED FROM 53% TO 48%. CURRENTLY 20% OF AMERICANS CONSIDER THEMSELVES OF NO RELIGIOUS IDENTITY.
IF THIS TREND CONTINUES, AMERICA IS DESTINED TO GO THE WAY OF EUROPE.
THE BIGGER QUESTION IS WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
THE SIMPLE ANSWER IS THAT THE CHURCH HAS NOT ADAPTED ITS METHODS AND ACTIVITIES IN ORDER TO PRESENT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST TO AN EVOLVING WORLD.
iii. WE LOOK DIFFERENT THAN THE WORLD, BUT A CLOSER OBSERVATION REVEALS THAT WE ACT THE SAME.
1. HOW OFTEN ARE YOU WILLING TO TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE AND LIKE?
2. HOW READY ARE YOU TO EMBRACE SOMETHING THAT UPON CLOSER INSPECTION IS HYPOCRITICAL IN A PRACTICAL SENSE?
iv. WE NEED TO LOOK SIMILAR TO THE WORLD AND ACT DIFFERENTLY
1. THE CHURCH NEEDS TO BE A PLACE COMFORTABLE TO THOSE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH SO THAT THEY WILL FEEL COMFORTABLE INSIDE THE CHURCH
2. IN ORDER FOR THAT TO HAPPEN, WE NEED TO BE WILLING TO MOVE AWAY FROM OUR PREFERENCES AND EMBRACE WHATEVER IT TAKES TO “BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE IN ORDER THAT WE MIGHT WIN SOME”
3. WHAT THE CHURCH IS DOING IS NOT WORKING, SO THE CHURCH IS LEFT WITH A CHOICE TO EITHER CONTINUE DOING THE SAME THING (WHICH IS A DEFINITION OF INSANITY), OR CHANGE WHAT WE ARE DOING.
4. THERE ARE TWO FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES IN REGARD TO THIS
a. WE NEED TO CONTEND FOR THE FAITH -- Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
b. WE NEED TO BE INTEGRATED INTO THE CULTURE AROUND US – IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF THE WORLD. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
e. WE NEED TO BE INTENDED FOR OUR COMMUNITY
i. RIGHT NOW THE CHURCH IS INTENDED SOLELY FOR ITSELF
ii. WE NEED TO MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON THE COMMUNITY AROUND US IN ORDER TO REACH THE COMMUNITY AROUND US.
iii. WHAT WE ARE DOING NOW IS DEMANDING THE COMMUNITY CHANGE TO OUR VIEW.
iv. THE FIRST STEP IS OUR OWN SPIRITUAL WELLBEING.
IF YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT BEING EFFECTIVE AS A CHURCH, OF THROWING OFF THE ISSUES AND SITUATIONS AND PREFERENCES THAT HAVE SEPARATED US FROM THE CULTURE, COMMUNITY, AND HARVEST FIELD AROUND US, I AM ASKING YOU TO START CHANGING RIGHT NOW.
AS YOU EXIT, THERE IS A SOMETHING I WANT YOU TO TAKE. IT IS A METHOD OF LOOKING SOBERLY AT OUR OWN SPIRITUAL CONDITION AND THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF OUR CHURCH.
I AM NOT GOING TO FORCE IT ON YOU; YOU NEED TO MAKE THE EFFORT. UNDERSTAND THAT IF YOU TAKE ONE, YOU ARE COMMITTING TO SEEKING THE HEART OF GOD CONCERNING YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL WEAKNESS AND THE SAME FOR THE CHURCH.
IF YOU TAKE ONE, I AM EXPECTING TO SEE YOU TONIGHT AT 6PM IN ORDER THAT WE CAN PRAY THROUGH THESE ISSUES TOGETHER, ASKING GOD FOR CLARITY, FORGIVENESS, AND REVIVAL IN OUR OWN SPIRITUAL WALK AND IN THE SPIRITUAL WALK OF THE CHURCH.