Keep Going Forward for God
The Book of Acts - Part 93
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - August 2, 2015
*Tonight, we finish our study of the Book of Acts. John Phillips described the closing scene with these words: "That is where Luke put down his pen. He gives us this final glimpse of Paul, living victoriously despite his bonds, seeking to engage the affections of all to the Lord Jesus Christ. What better place could there be to end the inspired written history of the Christian church -- not just looking back but looking ahead!" (1)
*The Church of Jesus Christ must keep moving ahead, and it will keep moving ahead! How can we go forward?
1. FIRST: KEEP SPEAKING ABOUT OUR SAVIOR.
*Keep spreading the good news about Jesus Christ! That is what Paul did in vs. 20-23 when he spoke to the Jewish leaders in Rome.
*There Paul said:
20. "For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.''
21. And they said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you.
22. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.''
23. So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
*In vs. 20 Paul talked to them about the hope of Israel. He wanted them to know that the hope of Israel and the only hope for the world is Jesus Christ! Then in vs. 23 when the Jewish leaders came back, Paul talked to them all day long about Jesus. The heart and soul of Paul's message was always Jesus Christ.
*Some years earlier Paul had written a much needed letter to the church at Corinth. They were having all kinds of problems, and Paul dealt with many of those issues. But as Paul opened his first letter to the Corinthians, it is impressive to see the intense focus he put on Jesus.
*Please listen to 1 Corinthians 1:1-10, and count the number of times we hear the name Jesus Christ:
1. Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2. To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,
5. that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,
6. even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,
7. so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
8. who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
10. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
*Ten times! -- Paul specifically referred to Jesus Christ ten times in those verses! And that doesn't count the pronouns. Paul always kept the focus on Jesus, and so should we.
*Marilyn Anderes told the story of a devoted Christian lady named Cheryl Stephens. Cheryl was a young mother who struggled with cancer, but was determined to keep ministering to others. She went home to be with the Lord on November 19th, 2003 at the young age of 44. Cheryl's friends said she lived out Philippians 1:21, where Paul said: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
*Please listen to a poem Cheryl wrote in 1984, long before she began her struggle against cancer:
-"Remember me not for who I was
-But for who Jesus was in me.
-Remember me not for the things I've done
-But for the things Jesus did through me.
-Remember me not as one who loved
-Without remembering that 'He first loved me.'
-Remember me not as one who gave
-But one to whom much was given.
-Remember me not as one who spoke of God
-But as one who knew God through His Son, Jesus.
-Remember me not as one who prayed
-But remember the One to whom I prayed.
-Remember me not as one who was strong
-But as one who cried out to God to be my strength.
-Remember me not as one who died
-But as one who lives forever because I have believed.
-Remember not my life and death
-For they will profit you nothing.
-But please . . . remember the life and death of Jesus.
-For He gave His life that we might live.
-He died that we might never have to and He rose again
-That we might have eternal life.
-Remember not me, but do remember Jesus." (2)
*That is the spirit God wants us to have! We go forward by keeping the focus on Jesus. So keep speaking about our Savior.
2. ALSO KEEP STUDYING THE SCRIPTURE.
*In vs. 23 Paul showed deep knowledge of the Scripture. This verse tells us that Paul "explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening."
*This is the very same thing the Lord did on the day of His resurrection in Luke 24. First in Luke 24:27, with two of His followers on the road to Emmaus: "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Later in Luke 24:44-45, Jesus appeared to the eleven, He ate with them, and then said:
44. . . "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.''
45. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
*God wants us to understand the Scriptures: Both the Old Testament and the New. There will never be a time in our Christian lives when God wants us to stop studying His Word. And one of the things God wants us to know here in vs. 23 is that we can certainly find Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. We find Jesus in prophecies, pictures, and Old Testament appearances.
 First, the prophecies.
*There were hundreds of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. For example, there were prophecies of His suffering like we see in Isaiah 53:4-6. There God's Word says:
4. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
 In addition to the prophecies, there are Old Testament pictures of Jesus.
*For example, in Genesis 3:21, after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, an animal was killed. Its blood was shed to provide covering for their nakedness.
*Then in Genesis 7, we have the picture of Noah's Ark. That Ark was the one and only way of salvation. Noah and his family were safe in the Ark, just as we are safe in Jesus.
*Genesis 22 gives us a picture of Christ in the story of Abraham and Isaac. There God commanded Abraham to do what our Heavenly Father would do one day: Provide His only Son as a sacrifice. And there on the mountain, God provided a ram, just as He later provided His Son Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
*The story of Joseph is another Old Testament picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph was loved by his father, hated by his brothers, sold for price of a slave, taken to Egypt, tempted, falsely accused, bound in chains, placed with 2 other prisoners, one saved and one lost, and after his suffering, Joseph was exalted. (3)
*Of course, the Passover Lamb was another picture of Jesus with no broken bones, and his blood spread on the wooden door posts of the homes. The Children of Israel were protected by the blood of the lamb. And Christians, so are we! There are many other pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament.
 But there are also Old Testament appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.
*Remember that in John 6:46 Jesus told us that no one "has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father." This means that every Old Testament appearance of the LORD was the pre-incarnate Christ. For just a few examples, the LORD appeared to: Hagar in Genesis 16:7-13, Abraham in Genesis 17-19, Jacob in Genesis 32, Moses in Exodus, Joshua in Joshua 5-6, Gideon in Judges 6:11-23, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and Job in Job 42. (4)
*Who did all of these people see? It was not God the Father. It was God the Son. Jesus Christ is most certainly found in the Old Testament! In fact, every book of the Old Testament has some kind of connection to Christ. For just a few examples:
-In Genesis He is the Seed of the Woman.
-In Exodus He is the Passover Lamb.
-In Deuteronomy He is the Prophet like unto Moses.
-In Joshua He is the Captain of our Salvation.
-In Ruth He is our Kinsman Redeemer.
-In Esther He is the one behind the scenes watching over His followers.
-In Psalms He is the Lord our Shepherd.
-In Isaiah He is the Prince of Peace.
-In Jeremiah He is the Righteous Branch.
-In Ezekiel He is the one who makes the dry, dead bones come to life again.
-And in Daniel He is the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace. (5)
*We could spend a hundred lifetimes and never learn all that Jesus is to us. But we can go forward by studying the Scripture.
3. WE ALSO MUST BE SURE THAT MORE PEOPLE WILL BE SAVED.
*Two thousand years ago in Romans 1:16, Paul said: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
*The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the same power today! And we can be sure that as long as we are in this world, God can use us to help more people get saved.
*Just like we see in vs. 24-28:
24. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.
25. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,
26. saying, 'Go to this people and say: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27. For the heart of this people has grown dull. their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.'''
28. Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!''
*Many, in fact most people will surely and sadly be lost. That is no surprise to God. The Holy Spirit spoke about these unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. But in vs. 24, some people did believe! And they still will today.
*John Phillips wrote: "Thus the gospel always divides. Its message is one of life unto life, or of death unto death. Whenever the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit drives His plowshare through the audience. Some believe, some do not; and between the two henceforth is a great divide, a great gulf fixed. Every time the gospel is preached, heaven and hell are in the balance, eternal issues are at stake." (1)
*I remember some of the times in my life where I have seen this truth so clearly. The first time was in Athens Georgia during Spring Break in 1974. I was over a year away from trusting in Jesus. But I had been seeking the truth for over a year, and God was definitely working on my heart.
*In 1974, I had gone back to Georgia to see my family and friends. And during a Saturday night of partying with college friends, the talk turned to religion. I remember telling my friends, "Maybe the Christians are right." Their response was instant and overwhelming. They absolutely rejected the message of the cross with great ridicule and passion.
*After that, I went outside by myself. On the top of a pine-covered hill, with the wind whistling through the trees, there, for the first time, I was aware of the presence of God. It was indescribably profound. God was patiently drawing me to trust in the Lord, and 14 months later, by the grace of God, I was saved!
*Some will be saved. And we must keep trying to reach them, even though many will reject the message, just like they did here.
*Wray Ivey was one of my mentors when we lived in Macon. He was our pastor at First Baptist Church, and a great guy. One Tuesday night Wray and I were out visiting, and I was discouraged about our lack of results. There are so many lost people out there, and we were reaching so few. It almost seemed like "What's the use?"
*But Wray said, "Suppose you were standing next to the ocean, and you saw thousands of people drowning, and you had a life ring in your hand. What would you do? Would you give up and say, 'What's the use?' -- Or would you try to save as many of them as you possibly could?"
*We must try to reach as many people as we possibly can! God's not through saving people yet! The fields are still white unto harvest! Be encouraged. Some will be saved! We can keep moving forward by believing that some will be saved.
4. AND BOLDLY KEEP STRIVING TO SERVE THE LORD.
*Verses 30-31 close out the Book of Acts by saying:
30. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him,
31. preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
*God wants us to boldly go forward, serving the Lord with all confidence. We all need to be like Paul. Keep striving to go as far as you can as long as you can for Jesus Christ. Do your best! Make every effort!
*Pastor Bobby Roger summed up the Book of Acts with these few words:
"The Savior Went Up.
The Spirit Came Down.
The Church Went Out.
The Lost Came In" (6)
*The church is still to go out, and the lost will still come in. The story's not over yet! Let's keep moving forward for Christ.
(1) EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Power over situations" - Acts 28:11-31
(2) "If Only For This Life" by Marilyn Anderes, Good News, March/April 2004, p. 44 - Source: online sermon "A Gratitude Adjustment" by Billy Strayhorn - Luke 17:11-19 - Oct 10, 2004
(3) Seen on GodTube.com - "Portraits of Jesus in the Old Testament" - submitted by ProclaimHisWord
(5) http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/InnerSanctuary/323928 - Also see http://www.biblestudyplanet.com/s147.htm for similar thing
(6) SermonCentral sermon "A Final Word About The Gospel" by Bobby Roger - Acts 28:16-31