Summary: How was the early church able to grow so fast and steadily? They believed three key truths: Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Ruling, and Jesus is Returning!
If this sermon is helpful to you look for my latest book, “The Greatest Commands: Learning To Love Like Jesus.” Each chapter is sermon length, alliterated, and focuses on the life and love of Jesus. You can find it here:
Witnessing The Difference
by Scott R. Bayles, preacher
Church of Christ
The average church-goer will, over the course of their life, hear 4,000 sermons, sing 20,000 songs, participate in 8,000 public prayers... and lead zero sinners to faith in Jesus Christ—it’s a sobering and sad statistic. How close are you to average? If you have never been a part of bringing another soul to Jesus, then you’ve missed one of the most precious experiences of life. Sharing Jesus with another person and seeing the difference he makes in their life is one of the most wonderful experiences you can have.
Sadly, many people miss out on it. According to a recent study, on average within three years of a person becoming a Christian, they will no longer have any close friendships with people who aren’t Christians—which happens because of multiple factors, but the end result is that Christians are loosing evangelistic contact with other people.
Before returning to heaven, Jesus gave his followers what is known as The Great Commission. He said, “So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time” (Matthew 28:19-20 GWT). The Great Commission is a personal, individual command to every child of God to go into his/her own personal world and share Jesus every person who will listen.
The apostles and other disciples took that command to heart and the church in Jerusalem grew from just 120 people to well over 20,000 in just a few short years because of it. So let me invite you to read Acts 1:3-11 with me and let’s try to discover what made the difference—what moved these 12 ordinary men to turn the world upside down?
After his death, [Jesus] showed himself to [his followers] and proved in many ways that he was alive. Once when he was eating with them, he told them not to leave Jerusalem. He said, “Wait here to receive the promise from the Father which I told you about. John baptized people with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When the apostles were all together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, are you now going to give the kingdom back to Israel?”
Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.”
After he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. As he was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go.” (Acts 2:1-11)
In the next chapter, the apostle Peter went on to preach the first Christian sermon. He preached with such passion and urgency that three thousand people responded to the invitation of Jesus that day. What was the difference in the evangelistic endeavors of these Christians versus those of today? I don’t think it was a matter of strategy. It wasn’t that they preached a different message. It wasn’t that they gave the people what they wanted—in fact, it was just the opposite. The difference, I think, was their faith! They were truly convinced of the things they had seen and heard.
This morning, I want to point out three facts of which the early Christians were convinced—and how it affected them. To start with, they believed...
• JESUS IS RISEN:
This gave them a message! Luke said that, “After his death, he showed himself to them and proved in many ways that he was alive” (vs.3-4).
Paul later provides us with some details about who Jesus appeared to, saying, “He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, Jesus was seen by more than five hundred of the believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today…Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all he was seen by me” (1 Cor. 15:5-8 NCV).