Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.
You gotta love thanksgiving. It’s like the least offensive Holiday.
You ever notice how offensive holidays are nowadays?
You can’t have Christmas celebrations in schools, you have to have a Winter Party.
You can’t talk about Halloween, because some think it’s fun, and others think it’s demonic.
Even Valentine’s Day…some people love it, and for other’s it’s their least favorite day of the year.
But Thanksgiving. You’re never gonna say “Happy Thanksgiving” to like the grocery store clerk, and have the kid say aback to you… “Sorry, we don’t give thanks in my family.”
It’s just a nice safe holiday…except maybe not a safe day for the Turkey’s…but otherwise a generally good day.
Speaking of a good day…well, good but sad…
Today is our very last day in the Book of Acts in the Bible.
The Book of Acts is the story of how Christianity gets started after Jesus goes back up to heaven.
And we’ve been on again, off again studying verse by verse through all 28 chapters in the book of Acts for 2 years now.
And today, we are going to finish it up.
A sad, but neat day.
If today is your first time visiting, first of all, welcome to you, or if you’ve been out of town recently, let me quickly catch you up w/ the context of the very end of the book of Acts.
Our friend, the Apostle Paul, was arrested for his faith in Jesus by the Jews, put on trial, but in the trial, he appealed to see Caesar in Rome.
He was put on a ship, which was lost at sea for 2 weeks, where he almost died, but they eventually crashed on the island of Malta…just South of Italy.
After spending the winter there, they begin to set sail again for Rome.
And that’s where we join them.
If you’d like to follow along, you can do so on the Holy Bible YouVersion App or on PAGE 910 under your chair.
We’re actually going to look at the first 6 verses while we look at a map…one last time in the Book of Acts.
SHOW ITALY MAP
(Acts 28:11-16) – DO NOT PUT ON SCREEN! SHOW MAP INSTEAD!
11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
So Paul finally makes it to Rome…2.5 years after God had promised him, and he’s allowed to live in his own house…but is guarded by a soldier.
Here’s what happens in the last 14 verses of the Book of Acts
(Acts 28:17-30) – NIV
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
So, like much of the rest of the book of Acts, when Paul gets to a new town, he seems to go first to the Jews to tell them about their Messiah…before he goes to the Gentiles (non-Jews)
And we see Paul tirelessly, even under house arrest…trying to share about God…with anyone he can.
One question I want to get to before we start unpacking what this passage means for our lives and for our church...is why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
It feels like it just kind of ends…like…where’s the rest of the story?
And what happens to Paul?!?
The main reason most evangelical scholars think the Book of Acts ends like it does is because Luke, the author, had taken us up to “present day” at the time.
There was nothing else left to tell at the moment.
Which would have been in the early 60’s AD
Things to continue to happen in Paul’s life though.
Some we know from other parts of the Bible…others we can piece together from tradition.
Firstly, we see in our passage today that Paul is under house arrest in Rome for 2 whole years
He actually writes many of the letters we have in the Bible during those 2 years.
So when you read books like Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians…you can picture Paul in Rome, writing those books under house arrest.
Based on what we see in his letters, and from what we can supplement from Tradition, it looks as if Paul is released goes on one more missionary journey across the region.
One way we know that is because he writes Philippians, for instance, while on house arrest, and tells them in 2:24 that he expects to see them soon…
We can see it in his other writings as well.
In Romans 15, he declares that he still intends to go to Spain
The writings of the early church fathers declare that Paul was released following his 1st Roman imprisonment.
And other writings of tradition say that he did take the gospel as far as Spain. One of the ends of the earth at the time.
Also, by looking at his letters and when they date them, it looks like he traveled back to modern day Turkey (places like Ephesus) and modern day Greece (places like Philippi) all AFTER he was on house arrest for 2 years.
Tradition then tells us that Paul is arrested again, in the mid-sixties…after presumably a few years out of prison…and he is imprisoned again in Rome under Emperor Nero.
We do know though from Scripture that he was now put in a real prison with chains…as he writes 2 Timothy (his last letter) from a prison...and he describes it briefly (so we know it’s different from the time he was on house arrest)
And tradition states, the Paul, after all of those years of escaping near death, was finally killed for his faith under Nero in AD 66 or 67.
A little over 30 years after he had that life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
WE’RE A RESCUE MISSION
And what strikes me most as we close out the Book of Acts…is the resilience of Paul to continue sharing about Jesus.
He just simply doesn’t care what they throw at him.
He’s been stoned, beaten, falsely accused, arrested, left for dead, left in prison, shipwrecked, you name it.
And he refuses to stop telling people about Jesus.
Even under house arrest, he somehow has this arrangement with the guard that people can come to his house to hear him speak about God
Paul knows so clearly that his mission, as a follower of God, is to help other people know about the forgiveness of Jesus.
And I wonder if we know that’s our mission?
Philip Yancey, who is one of the better Christian writers out there today, tells a story in his book “Rumors of Another World,” that I think will be helpful for us
Yancey mentions that he lives in Colorado and loves to climb mountains…and thus, knows a little bit about them.
He mentions though, that all the time, on summer weekends in mountains, he’ll see casual hikers, who have no idea what they’re doing.
They’ll stroll in with shorts and T-shirts, carrying a single container of water…and even in sandals sometimes.
Usually, they have no map, no compass, and no rain gear.
And thus, Yancey writes, are probably unaware of the lightning storms that often roll in on summer afternoons
He mentions that his neighbor is actually a part of a volunteer team, called the Alpine Rescue, and has told him hair-raising stories of tourists who must be rescued from certain death after wandering off a trail, falling, or simply being exposed to a sudden hailstorm or 30-degree drop in temperature…all while in their shorts and sandals.
Nevertheless, despite the ignorance of the climbers, the Alpine Rescue will ALWAYS respond to the calls for help.
Not once have they said to a tourist, “Well, since you obviously ignored the most basic rules of the wilderness, you’ll just have to sit here and bear the consequences. We won’t help.”
But maybe a hardened Park Ranger might look at the mission of the Alpine Rescue as simply enabling bad habits.
In fact, Yancey even asked his neighbor that question, “Shouldn’t you be more focused on rewarding those who do the right thing…rather than just bailing out those who don’t know what they’re doing?”
But she responded, “Do you expect us to leave a hiker stranded in the wilderness? I don’t care who they are – They need help. Our BUSINESS IS RESCUE!”
And in the church, it is no different.
It is not our place, to look to other people, who don’t know Jesus and say…what a mess. Or, what we’re they thinking? Or, they should know better.
No, OUR BUSINESS…OUR MISSION…is rescue.
Just like Paul…he doesn’t care that the people in Lystra tried to stone him, his mission is rescue…keep sharing the Gospel.
He doesn’t care that the people in Corinth are incredibly sexually immoral, his mission is to share that God wants to forgive them and love them.
He doesn’t care that the Jews in Rome are probably going to wrongly reject him like most of the other Jews…or that guards are official guards, and it’s “probably unprofessional to talk about his faith..”
His MISSION is an ETERNAL one…and he’s going to carry it out.
And every single one of us has that same mission.
Now…we play different parts on the team…You might not be called to be a international missionary…but EVERY ONE of us is called to spread the Good News about Jesus. EVERY ONE OF US.
To the people around you.
And the mission is Significant.
This is isn’t your Grandma’s Christian America anymore.
As we say often here, on an average Sunday, there are 48,000 people just in this city alone who aren’t in church.
48,000! Out of 60,000 people, who presumably, don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
And thus, will spend an eternity separated from Him.
If that’s not a serious mission, I simply do not know what is.
And that’s why we are so focused on trying to inspire you to get OUT of yourself here all the time.
It’s DEEPLY imbedded in our vision. To be a people being changed by God to change the world.
The idea is that we would be changed (grow in God…learn in God) WHY?…TO change.
That all of this stuff we do…is so that we would grow more like Him (yes to give glory to Him), but so that we could grow more like Him to be used by Him and be even more effective in reaching people.
THAT’S WHY WE STUDY THE BIBLE. So we could grow and know…and be changed TO change. To make an impact.
Not just for some Bible trivia game.
It’s not just about spiritual self-help. Oh, I’ll be a nicer person. Great. Who cares if you’re a nicer person and your neighbor is going to hell for eternity.
We want to be changed TO change.
And this church, has a BOLD vision for what we believe God can do through us as a body of believers.
Yes, we DO believe that he can use US to Change the World…and Change our city…and Change our county.
And change this city, one of the least churched in the State…to change this city from being one of the easiest cities to get lost in, to one of the easiest cities to get found In.
But that Vision…will only come true…if we commit…as a people…to not turn this into a Wal-Mart…where it’s all about us.
WE’RE NOT A CLUB
Think of it this way.
Do you remember learning about the Underground Railroad in school?
Where the slaves could escape to the North via a network of safe houses and guides who would help them direct them?
P.S. Sad confession, in elementary school, I was convinced they actually built an UNDERGROUND railroad…a subway…to get slaves out. …. Embarrassing.
But let me ask you a tough question.
Let’s say you were a slave.
And you had endured years and years of a brutal life in slavery…BUT…through the grace of God…someone helped you escape, and guided you along the underground railroad and to freedom.
And now…you’re free! You can live a life in freedom!
But in the back of your mind…you know…you KNOW…that millions of people are still in slavery.
What would you do? Just live out your life in freedom? Or risk your safety, reputation, and your life…and go back and help other people find their way out?
Most people did nothing. They stayed in the North or in Canada and enjoyed their freedom.
But some went back.
People like Harriet Tubman.
She was able to escape to the North…but was so thankful for the help that she had received that she decided to risk her own life to go back and save others.
She took 13 more trips to the South…and saved more than 70 slaves.
Maybe you can’t answer the question of what you would do if you lived back then, but you can answer the question of what will you do right now…
Because if you are a believer in Christ, the Bible says you have been set free from slavery of sin.
You are now, as a believer in Jesus, enjoying the many fruits of freedom.
But will you go back?
Will you join the rescue team?
Or will this just be about you and YOUR freedom?
We can not, and will not, sit idly by in a city where so many are perishing with out the knowledge that God loves them….LOVES THEM…so much…
We can not sit by…with out them hearing the Good News.
We must do something.
And we are doing something.
In just 3 years, many of you in this room, have come met Jesus here…and had your lives changed.
But even with the growth we’ve seen…and the number of lives changed that we’ve seen… our mission is not over.
Far from it. And it never will be. It’s just beginning.
It never was over for Paul.
He kept GOING. No matter what. Even in Rome…under house arrest. He just kept GOING.
There was always one more person he could get to.
That is the Theme of the Book of Acts: GO.
Maybe you’ve missed it this whole time even. That’s the series. It’s what it says on the screen every week. GO: The Book of Acts.
That’s what the story is all about.
From the beginning to the end.
The key verse from the beginning of the Book is Chapter 1, verse 8, when Jesus is about to ascend back to heaven…
(Acts 1:8) – NIV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In a sense, he’s telling them…Get GOING. GO. Bring my message, to Jerusalem, Judea (the braoder area), Samaria (the area just behond them)…and to the ends of the earth.
And that’s what this whole book was about.
That the mission…that was their mission… To bring the Good News…the Gospel…to all peoples.
That mission is still upon us.
And we try and do that here at Renovation. We have our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
For us…that’s Blaine…and Anoka County…and planting churches all over the metro…and reaching people all the way in Haiti.
But our first and foremost focus…is the very people that YOU and I know.
Our friends. Our family members. Our neighbors. Our co-workers. That simply do not have a relationship with God.
DO NOT underestimate why God has put YOU in their life.
He has a mission for you. To share the most important thing they will ever hear.
And DO NOT underestimate what HE can do through you.
If it feels like something you can’t do…you’re right…you probably can’t.
But HE CAN.
We want to be a people of the GO here at Renovation.
A people…together in community…Yes.
Being changed by God…Yes.
But mostly…the reason…we do all of “this” is to dramatically impact our area for Christ.
That’s why we started this church.
Because there are A WHOLE LOT of people in this area…who God wants to impact for eternity.
And I want you to be on mission with us.
We have to do this together. We can do this together.
And as this church has grown from 80 to 250 people…I believe God is only calling us to have an EVEN GREATER impact.
We often encourage you to have conversation with people about God…but at times we want to bring strategic opportunities in front of you as well.
Next week, we are starting a very interesting new series about the “End of the World.”
As you may know, the Mayan Calendar ends on December 21st, 2012, and in a few short weeks, coverage of that on the news, is going to outshine even Santa this year J
But just like Paul was always so savvy in speaking in culturally relevant terms to his audience, we want to do so.
SO in the month of December, where this is what people will be talking about, we’re going to study what the Bible actually says about the End of the World
When’s it really going to happen? What will be the signs? What do the prophecies REALLY say?
And I believe…it is a perfect time for you to boldly invite a non-believer that God has been putting on your heart. A perfect time.
We’ve given you invite cards on your chair today…and will give you a postcard…on the way out today…
But as I close today…I want you to grab those cards…and put them in your hand…because I want to pray over them.
Would you do that??
“I’m going to pray that God would make us a people who put His mission to rescue people… FIRST & FOREMOST
May that be what they say about us.
“Oh…those crazy people at Renovation…they’re that church that keeps reaching all of those people for Christ!”
Let’s do what God created and called us to do.
So much of the modern church looks nothing like the book of Acts.
It looks like a club. But we are not a club.
We are a rescue mission!
“And let’s pray that God would give us the boldness…to use this tool…to invite the people He has strategically already put around us to hear about freedom.
And let’s pray that we would not be satisfied merely in our own freedom…that we would go BACK…on a rescue mission.
May God use US to change the world.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.