As we have studied through the book of Acts the last few Sundays, we have noticed that Luke stressed that the church grew and prospered. He sums up a work time and again by the fact that the church was growing by leaps and bounds. (see Acts 2:47; 4:4, 32-34; 5:14; 6:7; 8:4-8; 9:31, 42; 11:19-21; 12:24; 13:47-49; 14:22; 15:41; 16:5).
One has to be amazed, yet also wonder, why the church was that way in the first century, but not like that today. As I have tried to point out in my sermons, it was because of the disciple’s love for the Lord and for the lost that the church grew the way it did. They were committed to preach the gospel and give everyone a chance to hear the gospel and obey. Further, the church grew because they strengthened one another and built one another up in the Lord. When a church loves, it draws people like a magnet. When people see that the church loves as Jesus loves, it should draw men unto Christ.
Over the next few weeks, coming up to the New Year, let us examine some of the things they did to build the church up, and set some goals in 2019 (if God grants us to live that long) that will build HIS church.
First, WE MUST REALIZE THAT WITHOUT GOD WE ARE NOTHING! WE MUST PRAY BELIEVING THAT GOD IS STILL GOD, AND THERE IS NOTHING HE CANNOT DO. He can and does work through his followers, if his followers are committed in their love for him.
Sometimes our (my) prayers are so puny. We pray for the sick (as we all should), and we pray for things going on in our lives. We (I) get tunnel vision about (our) my problems and fail to realize that there are many out there much worse off than I. Read the prayer of Jesus in John 17 and think about how he did not pray only for himself (John 17:1-5), but the majority of his prayer was for his disciples and US (17:6-26). Look at the prayers of Paul in Ephesians 1 and 3, and notice that he prays for spiritual growth, spiritual sight, and believed that God would grant the Ephesians the things for which he prayed. Do we believe that God works through our prayers? Do we believe that God is working through us? HE HAS NOT ABDICATED THE THRONE.
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Oh beloved, we must again get a clear sight of God on His throne working for our good individually as well as for HIS church. To be a part of his church, and be used by him, is the greatest privilege we have as human beings. Are you being used by Him? Do you pray BIG prayers?
Another important thing we see is that the church MUST BE COMMITTED TO BUILDING EACH OTHER UP. We see in Acts where Paul and Barnabas, and later Paul and Silas, would “strengthen the churches,” or “edify or exhort the churches” in their growth. Suppose, for a few moments, that all of us would commit to “building up one another in 2019.” What would that do for the morale of the church? What if just five people would start writing letters to other members of the church saying, “I appreciate you,” or “Thank you for what you do for the church here at South Cobb,” and be consistent throughout the year. Paul reminds us in Romans 14, as he deals with immature Christians and mature Christians, that “none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” (Romans 14:7). We need each other. In Romans 14:19 Paul wrote, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” The word edify comes from a Greek word that means “build up.” Again, in Romans 15:2,“Let each one of us please his neighbor for good, leading to edification, (building up).”
Barnabas was known as the Son of Encouragement, and it was Barnabas who believed in Paul and introduced him to the brethren in Jerusalem. When Paul did not want to take Mark with them on the second missionary journey (Acts 15), they got into a dispute that sent Paul and Silas one way, and Barnabas and Mark another way. Barnabas believed in Mark and what he was capable of doing, and later, as we noted, Paul wrote, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11). If we believe in and encourage people, what a difference that will make!
Brothers and sisters, there is enough discouraging news and actions today in the world. We should not get it from the church! We ALL need to be encouragers. We ALL need to talk about how God is working through us and believe that He can work through us again as we encourage people to know Him and His word. We should have our faith in GOD, and believe that what we do, however minor or unknown we may think it is, GOD will use for his glory.
So, this week – make it a point to PRAY FOR THE CHURCH HERE AT SOUTH COBB and throughout the world, and pray every day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Say some encouraging words to someone here at South Cobb every day in 2019. Then — stand back and see what GOD will do through us.
MORE NEXT WEEK!