This sermon is number 5 in a series of 6
When God ACTS! - Part 5
by David Legge | Copyright © 2014 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
If you haven't been here, well, where have you been for a start! But you've missed some of our studies that we've been doing in the book of Acts called "When God ACTS!", when God does His work His way. We started off on Sunday evening looking at how, when God does His work His way, 'The Gift Of The Holy Spirit Is Released' - and that has really been underpinning all that we have said, and has been the theme right throughout our studies so far: the power of the Holy Spirit, the actual resurrected Christ moving in His own Body, the Church, by the power and instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. That's the way things are meant to be today, they never were meant to be any other way. Then we looked on Monday evening at how, when God does His work His way, there is 'Boldness in Witness'. There is an effectiveness in our evangelism and our preaching, but also an opposition towards it when we're doing it correctly. Then we saw on Tuesday night that 'The Miraculous Is Displayed' when God does His work, and we saw last evening that also when God acts there is 'Unity in the Body' - and there was an awful lot of food for thought last night, wasn't there? I do trust that you've taken that to heart, and will pray through it. Tomorrow evening, in the will of the Lord, we'll be looking at how 'Convention Is Challenged' whenever God acts. I'll leave it there, come back to the next session.
Tonight we're looking at how, when God does His work His way, there is 'Missionary Expansion'. We're just going to look at chapter 1 verse 8 as a springboard verse, because we're going to be looking - as we have done - at many other scriptures in Acts and other portions. But we will read this verse that we have referred to numerous times already, the Lord Jesus in His resurrected form, just before He ascends, is telling the disciples of the promise of the Father, that they heard of Him, of the Holy Spirit coming, and He says in verse 8: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Let us pray together. As I have invited you each night, I ask you to pray for yourself again. I don't know what your particular need is, but bring it to the Lord sincerely and with an open heart, and I believe He will speak to you tonight. Will you do that? Let's all together unite asking the Lord to meet with us: Father, we come to You in the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You that there is a day coming, and we believe it's sooner than ever, when at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, every tongue confess Him as Lord, of things in heaven, and things on Earth, and things under the Earth - every tongue shall confess that He is Lord to Your glory, Father. We thank You that You have set Him above all principalities and powers, we thank You that You have put all things beneath His feet. We declare tonight, Father, that He is Lord of all, and He is the one and only Head of the church, and He is the only one to whose voice we must listen - He is the Commander of the Army of the Lord of Hosts, He is the Captain of our Salvation. Lord, we would look to Headquarters in Heaven tonight, that Your will would be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. We want Heaven and Earth to combine this evening, we want Earth and Heaven to agree - oh, that You would come tonight, Lord, and open the windows of Heaven upon us, and pour out that mighty unction that the early church got that made them such an indomitable force on the face of this Earth. So come, Lord, we ask that You will break the bondages in our lives that prevent us moving out as we ought to in the Spirit. Whatever the enemy has on us Lord, break his power tonight, we pray. We pray that You will release people and deliver them from the power of the enemy this evening. We take authority in Jesus' name, and by the blood of the Lamb, over the forces of darkness even at work in this place - we bind you in Jesus' name. We pray, Heavenly Father, that through the power of the cross, that You will deliver people and transform lives tonight, as we look to You now in Jesus' name. Amen.
The result of the Holy Spirit being released at Pentecost, and standing in that great, mighty torrent of the river of God that has flowed ever since then, taking it as our own personally - as we saw, it's not enough that the Spirit came, we must ourselves, individually, enter into that experience of knowing Pentecost - but when that does happen, we will immediately become missionary minded: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son'. As someone once put it: God had only one Son, and He made Him a Missionary. Henry Martyn, the 19th-century missionary to India and Persia, said: 'The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary minded we must become'.
You don't need to look too far in the book of Acts to see that the heart of God is a heart that is for missions. In chapter 8 you have the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. What you may not be aware of is that the Ethiopian eunuch was a son of Ham - you remember the three sons of Noah? Ham, Shem and Japheth, and after the flood it was through those three sons that God populated, or repopulated, the Earth. The Ethiopian eunuch is a son of Ham. Then when we come to chapter 9, you get Saul of Tarsus, who becomes the great Paul the apostle, and he's a son of Shem. When we go to chapter 10, we get Cornelius, who is effectively the first Gentile that comes to faith in Christ - he is a son of Japheth. So what God is showing us here is His mind and His heart: He loves the world of sinners lost and ruined by the fall. He desires that all men everywhere should repent, and come to a knowledge of the truth. Right away in these three chapters - 8, 9 and 10 - we have an ethnic cross-section of humanity. I don't know whether it's politically correct any more, but we used to sing in Sunday School: 'Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world'. Isn't it wonderful that that's the Gospel that we have to proclaim?
Not only is it such in the sense of ethnicity, but also in relation to class. When you look at chapter 16 of Acts, you will see three individuals who, I believe, come to the Lord Jesus. The first is Lydia, who is a seller of purple, a businesswoman, and she is from the upper-class. She was in this trade which was very lucrative, the dyeing of garments in purple, she was from the upper-class, the top rung of the ladder. Then we meet a jailer, remember Paul and Silas were in jail, and there was a great earthquake and they were freed - and this jailer is going to take his own life, because he doesn't know what to do. He wants to be saved, and they tell him: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved' - some of you maybe need to hear that tonight. He was saved, and all his house were saved, and they were all baptised and brought into the fellowship of God's people - now he was in the middle class, a jailer. Then in chapter 16 we get a girl, a slave girl, who was possessed with a spirit of divination or fortune-telling. She was delivered by Paul, and I don't believe he delivered her just to let her become prey to more demons, I believe that she came to Christ. It's not explicitly stated, but it's inferred. She was of the very lowest rung of the class ladder, the bottom end of the social scale.
All of this is telling us - whether it's ethnicity, or class, culture, or creed - God, the God of heaven, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is no respecter of persons. This has been His plan of the ages, right from the fall of man: that He should redeem a people from every cross-section of humanity - that's why Christ came into this world, that's why He shed His precious blood and died, that's why He was buried and He rose again the third day, that's why He ascended to heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit. Incidentally, that's why He's going to return. We read in Revelation chapter 5:9: 'They sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation''.
The early Moravians, that great pioneer missionary movement in modern times - not for us, but in world history - very small in number, and yet they really made a mighty dent upon the world in extending the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. When they were going to the mission field, they were going to die. They were never coming home on furlough, they weren't going to meet their family again. As they were being let loose into the ocean to sail away, as they watched their loved ones disappear for the last time, they cried from the depths of their soul: 'Let the slain Lamb receive the reward of His sacrifice'. I get a tingle up my back when I say that - it's what it's all about: that Jesus would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. There is an old hymn, I think it's in the Redemption Hymn Book, and it goes like this - you picture it in your mind:
'Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the wild and scorching desert,
Afric's sons awaked from sleep;
Jesus' love has drawn and won them,
At His cross they bow and weep.
Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the fields and crowded cities,
China gathers to His feet;
In His love Shem's gentle children,
Now have found a safe retreat.
Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the Indus, and the Ganges,
Steady flows the living stream,
To love's ocean, to His bosom,
Calvary their wond'ring theme.
Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the steppes of Russia dreary,
From Slavonia's scattered lands,
They are yielding soul and spirit
Into Jesus' loving hands'.
What a sight! Yet this sight, this vision, was born in the heart of God - for He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. We have seen already that the promise of the power of the Spirit was to be given as we go with the Gospel. It's as we go that the promise is fulfilled. We looked at the Great Commission one evening, Matthew 28 verses 18-20: 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, making disciples, baptising in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to do all things that I have taught you to do; and lo, I am with you always' - but it's as you go. We saw that great complementary commission in Mark 16, the very last verse, which is almost like a summary of the Acts of the Apostles, verse 20 of Mark 16: 'And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs'. But the miraculous, the supernatural demonstration and attestation that God gives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ was conditional to a certain extent upon their going.
I think it was two nights ago, we saw that there were about 40 miracles in the book of Acts, and 39 of them took place in the marketplace. The effect of the Holy Spirit coming to that Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost, was to flush the disciples out into the street, into the world as witnesses: 'When the Holy Spirit is come upon you, you shall be witnesses unto Me'. A.J. Gordon, who had a great missionary heart, said: 'Whenever, in any century, whether in a single heart or a company of believers, there has been a fresh effusion of the Spirit, there has followed inevitably a fresh endeavour in the work of evangelising the world' - the two come together. Here's another good test of any claim to revival - now and again we hear of apparent revivals across the world - one good test is: is the Gospel central to it? Is the Gospel central to it? Is the Gospel even being preached? Are souls being saved? Does this revival, or this supposed move of God, drive Christians to win the lost and to go to the four corners of the world with the message?
You see, that's God's heart - and God's intention is always to spread the Gospel. That was even His intent through the persecution that the early believers endured. If you look at chapter 8 and you look at verse 4, it says: 'Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word'. Even through the persecution, the heart of God was being fulfilled, and people were hearing the Good News and coming to Christ. Now listen, as we said on our first evening: the book of Acts is not just a history, it is teaching us something about what authentic Christianity is, and what Christianity ought to be today. What it teaches us, as we look at missionary expansion, is: when the church is moving under the anointing of the Spirit, missions will be at the forefront of her consciousness. The heart of God will be the church's heart.
So, in the Acts, we see that the Head of the church - in the book of Revelation chapter 1 verse 7, we have a vision of the resurrected Lord Jesus, and we have a sight of the Throne of God. Before the Throne of God are seven Spirits, speaking of the perfect, complete, Holy Spirit - but because they are before the Throne, that speaks of administration of the King. Then we have a quick glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the church, moving among the candlesticks - that's the churches - and that means He is administrating His rule as the Head of the church, via the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. There is no in between, there is no middle body or board - it's Christ and His church. In Acts we see Him moving and giving directives as the Head.
Do you know that the early church were directed where to preach the Gospel? If you look at Acts 8 here and verse 29, we read: 'Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go near and overtake this chariot''. We just read these things and we don't even look to the depth of the meaning that is there - the Holy Spirit was directing Philip where to preach. If you look at chapter 10 in relation to Cornelius, he was seeking God and Peter was instructed to go and preach words to him whereby he would be saved - verse 19: 'While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them''. Clearly the Head of the church, the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit's administration, is directing where to preach.
The Holy Spirit didn't just direct where to preach, He directed where not to preach. Have you ever seen this? If you look at Acts 16 verse 6: 'Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them'. So in early Christianity, they heard from Headquarters where to preach, where not to preach, but also it was the Lord who ordained who should preach and who should lead the church. It was the Lord who gave the word on that. If you look at chapter 13, we were there the other evening, we see in verse 2: 'As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'', they laid hands on them and separated them, and verse 4 says, 'So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit' - it was the Holy Spirit who decided! The Head of the church - Jesus Christ, through His Vicar on Earth, the Holy Spirit, His representative on Earth - dictated and directed who preached, where they preached, and where they shouldn't preach, and who led the church as well.
In chapter 20 you see this, the elders who were in Ephesus - I hope you're not offended by me saying this, but they weren't elders through a two thirds majority, or whatever way it works in some places - they were elders through the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 20 verse 28: 'Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers' - the Holy Spirit made them overseers - 'to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood'. Now you say: 'Ach, but that's all pie-in-the-sky, you know, that's all subjective and very nebulous - you've got to get a handle on these things, how does this practically out work in everyday life?'. Well, I'll tell you how it did in the early church: they got on their face before God, and they fasted and they prayed, and they sought the Lord, and sought the Spirit's direction - and they didn't do anything unless they had His say-so.
Paul was directed to Macedonia to preach the Gospel through a dream, look at chapter 16 and verse 9: 'A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us''. When Paul went to Corinth, I think he was a bit afraid, it was a rough time that he had there, and he was maybe wondering should he stay at all, the opposition was so great. In verse 9 of chapter 18 it says: 'The Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city''.
Now, why am I sharing all this with you? To show you that the early church was Spirit-led! It certainly was not people-driven, neither was it directed by a top-heavy hierarchy who threw their weight around, but they were directed by Heaven sharing its burden as the early disciples waited on God, and sought His mind and heart. Now, we need to get back to that - and when we do hear the heartbeat of God, we will find that it is missionary: the heart cry of God is to reach the world!
Now let me show you this specifically in more detail. Turn to chapter 8 - we've already been there, but we will look at this in more detail - verse 4, we've read it already: 'Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did'. Look at the things that were going on: 'For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city' - is there any wonder? Subsequently the Samaritans received the Spirit, we saw that on Sunday evening - verses 14 to 17. Then look at what happens - that's what we would call a revival or an awakening, and that's wonderful - I imagine if it was us, we would probably found a church, we would create a ministry of some kind, and we would settle down there for the rest of our lives just gleaning in the benefits of the outpouring of the Spirit there in Samaria. Am I wrong? We would write books about it, and take tours and hold conferences about it - how to have this happen in your church.
But, you see, because Philip's ear was toward heaven something very unusual happened - verse 26: 'The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, 'Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza'. This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go near and overtake this chariot'. So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?'. And he said, 'How can I, unless someone guides me?'. And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: 'He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth'. So the eunuch answered Philip and said, 'I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?'. Then Philip opened his mouth', I love this verse, 'and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?'. Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may'. And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'. So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away' - do you see this? Do you see the logistics here? 'The Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea'.
Do you see what happens here? There was an awakening in Samaria, where we would probably bed down for the rest of our days - but because Philip had the ear of Heaven, he heard the voice of the Spirit, and he went to one man in a desert, mark. This man was an Ethiopian, an official in the government of Candace, the Queen of the Ethiopians, and he was converted wonderfully by God's grace - and this is what happened, this is the backstory that you don't maybe know about: that eunuch took the Gospel back to Ethiopia, and effectively to Northern Africa, which very soon after became a centre of world Christianity particularly in Alexandria in Egypt. What if Philip had said: 'That couldn't be the voice of God, He wouldn't take me away from all this blessing just to the middle of nowhere' - he didn't know there was a man sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah, he didn't even know there was one man. If I had known there was one man, I would have said: 'Lord, one over there, or all these thousands of people getting delivered and healed here, Lord?'. But he went because the Lord spoke, and he recognised His voice: 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me' - and because of that, look at what happened to Africa! It's amazing, isn't it?
In Acts 9, God arrests Saul of Tarsus - who was, arguably, the greatest persecutor of The Way and of the Lord Jesus Christ in His living Body, the Church - and the grace of God, and the risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to him, turned this greatest persecutor of the faith to the greatest propagator and preacher of the Gospel that the world has probably ever known. What a wonderful story. A man, remember we saw him, he's just 'a certain disciple', that his rank, he's nobody special - well, he is special, we are all special, there is no rank anyway - but he wasn't an apostle, he's just called 'a certain disciple, Ananias'. He was commanded of the Lord to go and help Saul, to lay hands on him to heal him, to get him filled with the Spirit, to baptise him, and to disciple him - and he objects to going to Saul, and I mean who of us wouldn't? Here was the exterminator of Christians, and he hears God's voice saying: 'Now, I want you to go down to that fellow and speak to him' - and he starts to object, as any of us naturally would do, because this man was such a danger to Christians. Look at what the Lord said in verse 15 of chapter 9, the Lord said to Ananias: 'Go, for he', that is Saul, 'is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake'. We saw, I think, on Tuesday night from 2 Corinthians 11, that great list of things that Paul did suffer for the sake of the Lord Jesus' name - but what a vessel Paul would become for the carrying of the Gospel.
As I said to you, the majority of this book of Acts is about Paul, and I referred to the fact that it might actually be a treatise for his defence to Theophilus, who may have been an attorney who was representing him before Caesar at Rome. But what we see, in the latter part particularly of this book, is the missionary journeys of Paul - four missionary journeys to the known world. In Acts 13 and 14, the first journey to Cyprus and Asia Minor. In Acts 15-18, his second journey to Macedonia and Greece. In Acts 18 through to 21, we get his third missionary journey to Galatia, to Ephesus and Macedonia. In Acts 27 and 28, his fourth missionary journey to Malta and Rome. Do you see what God was doing through this vessel, Paul, who did not count his life dear to him, but all he lived for was to see the Gospel take hold across the whole known world like a mighty, mighty rushing torrent. But you also see beyond Paul to see the divine strategy. Many of these places that Paul visited were centres of culture, they were business centres, they were trade routes, where the people who were being converted were able to influence those who were sojourning, passing by and through - and so the whole known world and the Empire were being mightily impacted by the Gospel expansion.
Now let me just cast your mind back for a moment or two to where we were at the start in chapter 1, in this Upper Room, and cowardly disciples for fear of their lives meeting together - but the wind and the fire came, and the power of Pentecost was outpoured, and this irresistible, uncontrollable, unpredictable power of the Spirit took hold of these disciples and spread! F.F. Bruce entitled his book detailing the rise and progress of Christianity from its first beginnings: 'The Spreading Flame', because that's exactly what it was! Primitive Christianity did not spread quietly or slowly like a creeper up a wall, but it swept over vast territories like a raging, mighty furnace - because they went in the power of God's Spirit. When God does His work His way, when there is a release of the Spirit and there is bold witness, and when the Body is united, there will be missionary expansion.
But I've got to ask a couple of questions, because we're not wanting to learn about how things were done 2000 years ago, we are wanting to know what God's mind is for us today - and it is this very same thing, but questions need to be asked. Where now is the emphasis on soul-winning in the church? We have become practical atheists with regard to the issue of people's souls being lost, and there actually being a real, living hell - we believe it doctrinally, but practically we don't walk in these everyday realities. Our Christian lives would be so different if it were the case! Another question is: where is the emphasis on world missions in the church today, the modern church? Am I wrong in believing that we have lost the vision, the original vision that came from the heart of God to the early apostles that was the reason why the Holy Spirit was outpoured, that the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh, right across the globe? The Bible says: 'Without a vision, the people perish'.
Today, 9 out of every 10 people in the world are lost - 9 out of every 10 are lost! Six out of that 9 have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Of those 6 who have never heard, 3 have no one to tell them. Two thousand years from the death and resurrection of Christ, His ascension and the coming of the Spirit, this is where we are! Here's a question for you, a bit of a conundrum: what is 750,000 miles long, reaches around the Earth 30 times, and grows 20 miles longer each day? The answer is: it's the line of people who are without Christ. A.B. Simpson said:
'A hundred thousand souls a day
Are passing one by one away
In Christ-less guilt and gloom;
Without one ray of hope or light,
With future dark as endless night,
They're passing to their doom'.
Is it anything to you, to me? In our modern, materialistic ease and Western comfort, does it affect us any more? Don Curry served in the Sindh Desert region of Pakistan with the Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship in recent days. He is a physician and had a keen interest in community health, but also in tribal evangelism, and going into places where the Gospel had not been preached before - not laying on another man's foundation. With his wife Nancy, he visited a village of animists - that's people who worship their ancestors, and false gods, pagans - and he told them the story of Jesus. They were intrigued with Christ's teaching, particularly about love and forgiveness - they were deeply moved by the compassionate ministry of the Lord Jesus. He reported that they were stirred at the mention of the death and resurrection of Christ. Then along the way someone asked: 'Don, when did all this happen? 10 or 15 years ago?'. Don replied: 'No, it took place almost 2000 years ago'. Saddened, the man asked - listen: 'What terrible thing have we done? What terrible thing have we done that God should have kept this wonderful story from us for so long?'. It wasn't God did it, was it? Did God keep the Good News from these people?
The evangelical church of the United States are perhaps the wealthiest group of Christians in human history. There are now about 37,000 career foreign missionaries that have come out of the United States - now, think of the population of the States, and the Christian population of the States - 37,000 career missionaries, and about 9000 of those missionaries are engaged in full-time evangelism. Not all of these missionaries are preaching the Gospel, only about 9000 say that they are preaching the Gospel. Robertson McQuilkin, in his book 'The Great Omission', says this of those figures: 'The truth is, less than 1% of full-time Christian workers are engaged in evangelistic ministry among the unevangelised of the world'. He asks the question: is this the way the Commander in Chief would assign His troops, or is someone not listening?
Are you listening? I'll be honest, it's not a call that too many of us warm to listen to, that God might send us somewhere. I think it was Keith Green wrote that song: 'We shouldn't be praying whether we should go, we should be praying whether we should stay' - because the commission is 'Go'! But you might be sitting here tonight and saying: 'But I have never felt any compelling call' - well, are you sure you are within calling distance? If the Lord did call you, could you hear Him, are you listening for Him? Or are your ears clogged up with all sorts of things from this world? That's what Jesus said in the parable of the seed and the sower, that the word of the Lord, the seed gets choked by the weeds of this world that choke the life of God in us - the love of money, the love of other things kills the seed of the word, and so we don't become fruitful. Are you within calling distance of hearing the Macedonian call that Paul heard in a dream: 'Come over and help us! Come over and help us! We need you!'?
Are you sure you're not called? Is there someone here tonight and you have been called, and you have been disobedient to that call? You have reneged on it, you have tried to drown it, you have ignored it, you've got involved in other things to try and salve your conscience over it, but you know God's call has been in your life and you haven't answered it. It's never too late, it's never too late. Maybe you're a young person and you sense - and there's a lot of young people, and I believe the new thing that God is doing is among young people. They are fed up with the superficiality, they're fed up with dead legalism, but they're also fed up with shallow modernism - they want depth, they want reality, they hunger after the real thing. Some of you tonight could have the call of God on your life, and He's bringing it into focus this evening. You are right, He is calling you.
But maybe you're here and you say: 'Well, I really can't go, and I'm not called'. Well, it is true, not all can go - but in some respects, in our modern age, something has shifted a little; because there are parts of our modern world that don't really need more workers. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not wanting to cool you down if you really have a passion to go for the Lord - but what I'm getting at is: what certain parts of the world needs is more money. Some of you here might remember World War II, and Winston Churchill pleaded with the Americans - he was looking for their support - and over the radio there was a broadcast, and in his own inimitable way he said: 'Give us the tools and we will finish the job'. There are parts, particularly of the Third World, tonight that are crying out to us in the West as Christians, and they're saying: 'Give us the tools and we will finish the job!'. The great tragedy is that there are plenty of willing labourers tonight in Asia, in parts of Africa, but they just don't have the resources! They're not looking you to pack your bags and go over, they're wanting you to put your hand in your pocket and give them the tools to finish the job!
If I could recommend a book to you tonight - and there are many - but in relation to missions it would be K.P. Yohannan's book, he is the founder of Gospel for Asia, and his book is called 'Revolution in World Missions'. It's not a very catchy title, but it's a wonderful book. I got it because it was free - you know when you're on a website, and something pops up and says 'free book', well, Christians will go for the free book! I went for this book, and boy is it worth getting - and you might even get it free. Really he has a vision from the Lord: why is the Western church so rich? His vision is that the Western church is rich in order to fund the Gospel to the poor, particularly in Asia - specifically financing indigenous workers, national people who are literally queueing up to take the Gospel, but they don't have the resources.
In that book I read of evangelists who haven't enough food to feed their children. I read of an evangelist who went into a tribal area where the people were illiterate, so he couldn't give them the Bible, he couldn't give them Gospel tracts, so he decided he would show slides - but he hadn't got a projector, a slide projector, and he couldn't afford one. So what did he do? He went to his local hospital every week, and he sold his blood to buy a projector to share the Gospel. He sold his blood. What would you do? What are you doing? Where is your money going?
An elderly missionary, a lady who had been in Africa for 50 years without one furlough, was interviewed upon returning home. Her interviewer asked her: 'Is it true that after 50 years of service, you only saw one soul who was saved? How do you feel about that now that you're home? Was it worth it?'. The elderly saint's answer was just profound, this was what she said: 'I would do 100 more for one more soul'. You see, that saint understood the value of a soul:
'O teach me what it meaneth,
O teach me what it cost Thee
To make a sinner whole;
And teach me, Saviour, teach me
The value of one soul!'.
James, isn't it James says, one soul converted will save a soul from death and cover over a multitude of sins - one soul! Fifty years and one soul! David Pawson says the Gospel will not save anyone by being preserved, it must be propagated and only then will it achieve its potential. When the Holy Spirit comes in mighty, awakening power - as it happened originally in Acts, and as I believe God wants it to happen again today in a modern generation - there will be missionary expansion, and the heart of God will start to deepen in the heart of His people. Charles Peace was executed - he was on death row in the United States for many, many heinous crimes - and as he was being walked down the green line, there was a clergy man who was in front of him or behind him reading some liturgy. He talked about the awful dreadful day of God's wrath, and the need for repentance. Charles Peace, remember minutes away from his own death, this ungodly man turned round to the clergy man and said: 'Do you believe that?'. He said: 'If I believed what you say you believe, I would crawl on my knees and my elbows across broken glass to the four corners of the world to warn people'. He went to a Christ-less eternity, as far as we know.
I hardly knew whether to share this story with you or not - but it was Charles Swindoll told it, so it wasn't meant for Magherafelt or Union Road. A famous artist was once commissioned to paint a picture of a dying church. It was expected that he would paint a small humble congregation in a dilapidated building, but instead he painted a stately edifice with a rich pulpit, and a magnificent series of windows. Near the door, you could hardly see it in the painting, but near the door there was an offering box marked 'Mission' - and very delicately he had painted over the contributions slot, cobwebs. That was his image of a dying church. There is a modern song by Don Moen that goes like this - and, oh that this would be all our prayers tonight:
'Father of Creation, unfold Your sovereign plan:
Raise up a chosen generation
That will march through the land.
All of creation is longing
For Your unveiling of power;
Would You release Your anointing,
Oh God, let this be the hour!
Let Your glory fall in this room,
Let it go forth from here to the nations.
Let Your fragrance rest in this place,
As we gather to seek Your face'.
'Ruler of the nations, the world has yet to see
The full release of Your promise,
The church in victory!
Turn to us, Lord, and touch us,
Make us strong in Your might.
Overcome our weakness
That we could stand up and fight!
Let Your glory fall in this room,
Let it go forth from here to the nations.
Let Your fragrance rest in this place,
As we gather to seek Your face'.
Let us pray. O, there is such a heavy sense of God's Presence - I hope you sense it, I hope that you're not too deadened that you can't perceive the stillness, like the dew upon the tender herb, like the summer rain upon the flower. The Lord has come down, He has been strangely near these nights - but I sense Him very near this evening. I'm not going to play about: is there anyone here that's not converted, not born again? Though I have not been preaching the Gospel, you have sensed God and you're under conviction, and you need to get right with the Saviour - you're lost and you're heading for hell if you're not saved. Do you want to be saved tonight? Is there anyone in the meeting tonight who wants to be saved? Is there anyone who will acknowledge their need of Christ, just where they are seated, by raising a hand? Heads are bowed and eyes are closed - is there anyone, young or old, here tonight that will say: 'Tonight, I want to be right with God, I want to know my sins forgiven, peace with heaven. I want to know I'm on my way to an eternity with Jesus, and not be lost forever'. I'm not going to prolong this, but is there anyone here that will say tonight: 'I want to get saved', and we will help you and pray with you now. Just raise your hand where you are. Is there anyone? Just raise your hand, young or old, I'll see it, raise it quickly and we will pray for you.
Is there a backslider, and you know you're not where you should be with the Lord? You've walked away from discipleship, you think it's just enough to have a profession years ago that is long past its sell by date, and doesn't seem to measure up to much today? Is there anyone who says: 'I'm coming home tonight, I realise the seriousness of why Jesus died for me - it's not to sit on a pew warming it, it's to do something for the extension of the Kingdom'? Is there anyone who is a backslider tonight, whether you're in the world or not, but you're cold and you're dead - is there anyone who will say: 'I'm coming home tonight'? Is there anyone who will raise their hand to say: 'I'm coming back to the Lord tonight, I'm rededicated my life to Him, I'm confessing my sins and getting right with Him' - is there anyone tonight? Just raise your hand quickly and put it down, and we will see it, and we will pray for you and with you.
Is there anyone who has the call of God upon their life, and you've sensed it for some time - maybe you have reneged on it, or maybe it's becoming new to you, the first you've ever sensed it, and it's growing stronger. You realise tonight that God has spoken to you - now don't play games with God, if God is not speaking to you, don't respond. I'm not looking for people to respond for the sake of responding, I'd rather you didn't respond, as made a vow to God and didn't pay it. Does anyone here tonight sense the call of God, not just to go deeper - and you need that filling of the Holy Spirit. One old pioneer missionary sent a letter to those who were sending help to the field, and he said: 'For God's sake, stop sending me men that are not baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit!'. So you need to get that power from God, but He will empower you if you come by faith and you go in obedience. Is there anyone here tonight that will say: 'I have heard the call, and like Isaiah 'Here I am, send me''? God bless you, God bless you - may you be a Mary Slessor or an Amy Wilson Carmichael, God bless you. Is there anyone else? Is there anyone else who will say: 'Here am I, I will go'? Is there anyone else?
Now, if you want to get saved tonight, and you didn't raise your hand, or you want to come back to the Lord, just pray with me this prayer and mean it: 'O God, I come to You in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I confess my sin, and I repent of it, turning from it and turning to You - and I ask You to cleanse me in the Blood of Jesus. I ask You to save me because He died for me, and rose again for me, and I confess Him as Lord of my life. I surrender all that I am to Him, I renounce Satan and all his works, and I ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit'. If you're a backslider, pray something similar, confess your sins, repent of them, come to Calvary, renounce Satan and all his works, surrender to the Lordship of Jesus - all that you are and all that you have - and ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit, and He will.
There are great personal issues in the balance: people's lives, their futures, eternal ramifications in souls and destiny - 8 billion souls tonight, 8 billion living, never dying souls. O Lord have mercy, have mercy on me, let me not preach and not be willing myself to do anything that You tell me, Lord. I know that I would be frightened out of my wits, but Lord we do believe that You always equip whenever You command. O Lord, I pray tonight that Your glory fall on this place, and let us go forth from here to the nations. Those of us who don't go, may we dig deep in our pockets and give to those who will go, but can't go because they don't have the tools. Lord, we pray for our brothers and sisters in lands who are being persecuted tonight; those in prison; those who, for their bold witness, are suffering for the name - be with them tonight, be with them Lord, give great grace and mercy to them. But help us to ask ourselves: how can we wash their feet? How can we minister to them? O Lord, let Your fragrance remain upon us now - and for our final night tomorrow, Lord, come ahead of us and be here to meet us. Thanking You for Your sweet presence, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Union Road Presbyterian Church in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his 'When God ACTS!' series, entitled "Missionary Expansion" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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