Covered: Acts 20-28
Scripture Memory: Money / 1 Timothy 6:9-10
Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth! As we wrap up the book of Acts, we are left with stories of a man named Paul who did extraordinary things by the power of the Holy Spirit to further the kingdom of God. God took Paul, a Christian hating murderer, and turned him into history’s greatest Christian evangelist and missionary. Just like Paul, our generation of the church must continue to be obedient to the mandate of Christ to reach the nations. We must commit our lives together to make disciples and multiply churches among the nations, no matter what it costs us. In order to do that – in the words of David Platt, “Something Needs to Change.”
Most of us have heard the story of Paul, originally known as Saul, who was born in Tarsus of Cilicia or modern-day Turkey. Saul was a very bright young man and was very zealous for his faith and convictions. He later became a religious extremist accepting no compromise. He became determined to eradicate Christians because in his mind He was doing the will of God. Acts 8:3 tells us, “He began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, and he would put them in prison.” To the human mind, Paul would be the last person God would use to spread the gospel. He hated Christians, he was arrogant, mean, radical. However, God saw a man that was perfect for the task. Saul just needed to be confronted in a radical way, and that’s exactly what happened. On the road to Damascus, Saul was blinded, and Jesus revealed Himself and how Saul was persecuting Him. Then, Jesus sent a man named Ananias to restore his sight. Ananias told him that the Lord had appointed him to be a witness for Him to all people of what he had seen and heard. Then Ananias encouraged him to not delay, to call upon the name of Jesus, have his sins forgiven, and be baptized. Saul was “obedient” in all these things, and “immediately” began going to the synagogues proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. What a transformation! The people were amazed and skeptical, as his reputation was well known.
As we pick up in our reading this week at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, we see that God used this passionate and bold man for the advancement of His kingdom. We also learn from this story that God can save anyone. God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ can still transform sinful, broken people around the world. God can transform the lives of despicable people, as well as, those who are just trying to live a “good” moral life. Today we might look at people like ISIS terrorists, Hindu radicals, those involved in Human trafficking, or maybe even certain political figures and celebrities like Kanye West and think there is no way God can transform a life like that. However, Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Every person matters to God; however, we need to be careful, not to focus too much on the “people” God transforms. Our focus needs to be on “God” – the one who transforms the lives of His people. We see Paul share his personal testimony in Acts Chapter 22 and 26. His testimony points to how God delivered him from his sins through Jesus Christ. Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught all things concerning Jesus Christ boldly and without hindrance (Acts 28:31). Unfortunately, many Christians today are thinking more about what God can do for them instead of what they can do for God. We live in a very self-centered culture that promotes a belief that God just desires to bless us and make us more comfortable. Even though God does desire to bless His people, we distort the truth if we stop right there. Jesus gave the command, not suggestion, to all believers to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) This Great Commission is not finished. There is still much work to be done. Steve Childers, a mission mobilizer, said, “God takes great pleasure in manifesting His presence and pouring out His power on those who will dare to align radically their purposes with His for the nations.”
Henry Blackaby in his study, Experiencing God, says that “God is always at work, and He invites us to join Him in that work.” God doesn’t need our help, but He invites us to be a part of His global purpose. How exciting is that! What a privilege it is to be a part of God’s global plan. We need to be more like Isaiah, when he says, “Here I am Lord, Send me!” God sends some people like Paul to the Gentiles, Peter to the Jews, He sends people to China, Africa, India, and others He sends to friends, co-workers, and next-door neighbors.
Many times, we must address a physical need, before we can share about Jesus. We must feed the hungry, help those affected by national disasters, take care of orphans and widows, etc. However, if we only address the physical need, but don’t tell them about the hope we have in Jesus, and neither does anyone else, then when their time here on earth is done, they will spend an eternity separated from God. We should share Christ out of love for them. We are ambassadors for Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:14-21) The Great Commission requires obedience in the lives of Christians. It also requires boldness. In Matthew 10:16-31 Jesus talks about how we will face suffering, rejection, and hostility when we are obedient to God’s call. Paul shares with us his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, one of those dangers being bitten by a viper (Acts 28:3). Paul also had to do some serious traveling (lots of walking and boat travel) to share Jesus and start churches. He would not have known what to do with himself if he would have had planes, trains, and automobiles like we do today. Instead of falling into self-pity, Paul learned to delight in serving God despite his circumstances. We too must remain faithful to the task at hand. Hudson Taylor, missionary to China said, “Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith.”
According to JoshuaProject.net, there are still 3.19 Billion people (7,100 people groups) who have not heard about Jesus! Oswald Smith, a mission’s mobilizer said, “We talk of the Second Coming of Christ, yet half of the world has never heard about the first.” Most of these people live in what is called the 10/40 Window (between 10- and 40-degrees north latitude stretching across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central and East Asia.)
The countries that make up most of these 3.19 billion unreached people are India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Did you know that out of every dollar of Christian giving to all causes less than one penny goes toward reaching these unreached peoples? Did you also know that out of all the missionaries around the world, less than 10% go to these unreached peoples? If this is where the majority of people are living who have never heard of Jesus, then why isn’t more being done about it? Why aren’t we doing more about it? In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
When we look at God’s story, we are at the end. Although we don’t know exactly when Jesus will return, we are closer today than we were yesterday. Matthew 24:14 tells us that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” We must live with an urgency for those that live around us, and those around the world who do not have a relationship with Christ. If you were the person living on the other side of the world on a road leading to Hell and no one had ever told you how you could go to Heaven, how would you want that person on the other side of the world to live? So, what needs to change in our lives to make this happen? We can focus on ourselves, our comforts, our church buildings, our programs, etc., but this is not what God has called the church to be or what God has called the church to do. So…Can you go? Can you pray? Can you give financially? Can you be an encourager to those who go? Can you teach? Can you disciple? Can you start a business in an unreached area? What can you do to further the message that Jesus is the Savior of the world?
Did you know that the Chapel currently has missionaries around the world that you can help support? Did you know that the Chapel is currently sending new individuals and families to GO and make disciples among these unreached groups? Did you know that the Chapel has opportunities for you to share Jesus around the world or right here in our community? Did you know that the Chapel exists to help people meet, know and follow Jesus on the campus, in the city, and around the world!
God’s heart and mission is that all peoples know Him, and our mission as believers here at the Chapel can be no less!
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30
Written by: Julie O’Neal
Photo Credit: Julie O’Neal