21st Century America Is Still in Need of a 1st Century Church

Independence Day - July 4th  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:22
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Disciples Turn the World Upside Down

If you have not already found the scripture to be read this morning, please turn the pages to or type in Acts 17:5-7 - Acts is the great History book of the 1st Century Church - the 1st church. Acts is really the great book of His Story - King Jesus using his disciples to build His church and to turn the world upside down.
Acts 17:5–7 CSB
5 But the Jews became jealous, and they brought together some wicked men from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. Attacking Jason’s house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. 6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, 7 and Jason has welcomed them. They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king—Jesus.”

A Christian Nation?

1001 Illustrations that Connect Illustration 45: Christian Continental Shift

At the start of the twentieth century, only 10 percent of the world’s Christians lived in the Southern continents and the East, while 90 percent lived in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Today at least 70 percent of the world’s Christians live in the non-Western world. More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined. There are more Baptists in Congo than in Britain, more people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe, and ten times more Assemblies of God members in Latin America than in the United States.

—Christopher J. H. Wright, “An Upside-Down World,” Christianity Today (January 2007)

What makes a nation Christian?
Is it the laws of the land, the displays of the 10 commandments in public places, the majority of the people on the roles of churches, and that majority voting for certain politics and policies?
In the Great Commission, Jesus told his followers to go and make all nations into Christian nations. Shockingly half of the people in church this morning do not know if that is true or not.
Released in March of this year were the results of a Barna Research survey regarding the Great Commission, and what they revealed is quite depressing to a pastor.
51% of churchgoers say they do not know the term Great Commission.
6% not sure if they have ever heard the term or not.
17% have heard it but have no clue what it means.
25% know they have heard it but do not completely recall what it says.
Matthew 28:18–20 CSB
18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus did not tell his followers to go and make all nations into Christian nations. He didn’t even tell his followers to go and make Christians in the nations. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of (meaning from)every nation who would obey His teachings and make more disciples.
That is what the disciples of the 1st Century church did, and that is why these people were described in the text as ones who had turned the world up-side down.
If you are not a person who professes to be a Christian today, then this sermon is not for you, so sit back and feel free to listen well, but today is for the people who profess Christ as savior and lord.
21st Century America Needs a 1st Century Church like the one we find here

A Church of Disciples with Ears Eager to Listen to the Prophetic Preachers

The man God has ordained to preach should stand with one foot in the public square and one foot in the pulpit. Calling the sinners to salvation and the saved to sanctification. Pointing out the social immorality in the community and the spiritual immaturity in the church. Doing that often times gets the preach duck rocks from both sides, but it is the calling of God. We see that in Peter and the other Apostles
Acts 2 - Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood boldly before the crowd on the day of Pentecost. Remember Peter was preaching to his own religious group. At that time, the disciples were operating within Judaism to a large degree.
Acts 3-4 - Peter and John preaching in the Portico of the Temple and healing a lame man are arrested and told never to preach again the name of Jesus.
Acts 5 - Peter, as pastor and leader of the church at the time, prophetically holds Ananias and Sapphira accountable for lying to the Holy Spirit. Shortly after arrested again for caring for the oppressed and sick and preaching. The leaders reminded them of their restrictions They told the leaders that disobeying God was not something they could do.
Acts 7 - Stephen stands before the High Priest and Religious rulers preaching reminding them of their rebellions against God, then he is killed.
Acts 8 - Saul persecutes the church, but they keep on preaching - sending Philip to Samaria. Peter and John call out one pretending to be a Christian.
Acts 9 - Saul is converted and begins to preach Christ to the Jews who try to kill him.
Acts 10-11 - Peter goes to the despised Gentiles and preaches the gospel then defends what he did to the Jewish believers who tried to be legalistic in their Christianity
In Acts 12:1-5 - James the brother of John is killed for his service to Jesus and Peter is about to be
Later in Acts 13:46 - it says Paul and Barnabas grew bold and told the Jewish leaders that God offered salvation to them but they rejected.
In Acts 15 - when Jewish believers again tried to be legalistic and say Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved the Apostles confronted their hypocrisy.
If you pay close attention while reading the book of Acts - you will see how often Luke sets up the contrasts. Acts is the contrast of the church and the world and its powers against the Holy Spirit power working to build the church.
One of the major contrast is seen in the life of King Herod Agrippa I in Acts 12. Turn and let’s look at this chapter for the rest of our time together.
Herod was the populace pleasing political leader of his day
As the current King of the Jewish nation, He was a very egotistical, narcissistic and disingenuous leader
When he was with the mainline religious group he played the part saying he was very religious, but when he was in the presence of the political leaders of Rome, he was very Roman, being the quintessential politician
His duty from Rome was to keep the Pax Romana - “The Peace of Rome” so he advanced the causes of the political majority and worked to suppress the minorities
Herod’s passion was to be liked and loved by the populace, and doing all he could to win the favor of the religious majority and its important leaders
He moved the government seat from where the world said it is, Caesarea, to where the religious majority said it should be, Jerusalem
He began rebuilding the nation border wall in the north
Many of the nation believed his days of leadership to be a better era than many of the leaders before him
Even turning on citizens of the nation that the leaders didn’t like - James purebred Jew. Grandstanding at rallies to the crowds in Acts 12:4 and Acts 12:21-22 - wrongly taking the praise reserved only for God
Acts 12:21–22 CSB
21 On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!”
I was there when Pence delivered a speech to SBC
What does the church in America, us as disciples have to learn from this:
As I studied this chapter I began to see how this sounds eerily familiar - it is a warning to the Evangelical majority that there is a fine line which is extremely easy for us to cross from being the disciples in this chapter to being the Jewish Pharisees and religious majority
who feel like the political left, Hollywood and the media is Rome
who feel like America is the new Jerusalem, when it can just as easily be the Great Harlot
who can overlook a lifetime of immorality and lavish praises on an immoral leader because he or she does what they felt God should have done long ago
Which leads to the next point
21st Century America Needs a 1st Century Church like the one we find here.

A Church of Prayerful Disciples Who Trust in the Power of God

Acts is a history book about the church not a bunch of buildings. It is the history of committed disciples who have a close and dependent relationship with their Savior and Lord.
Look at Acts 12:5
Acts 12:5 NKJV
5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
That relationship has prayer as its lifeline; a lifeline of hope when the situation is hopeless - the word “constant” carries the idea of one “stretched out in intense and diligent prayer”
That relationship knows that God is in control and has the power to overcome the circumstance or a purpose to allow the circumstance to continue.
No one but God knows why James had to die
No one but God knows why Peter was rescued
The church knew there was nothing they could do, but they didn’t protest, petition or politic with the government officials. They simply hit there knees in prayer, and in Acts 12:7-10 the angel appears and leads Peter out of the city past the gate opening automatically
“The Angel fetched Peter out of Prison, but prayer fetched the Angel out of heaven.” - Puritan Preacher Thomas Watson
There were a large number of believers together praying and God answered.
As I said Luke writes about contrast - Acts 12:14-16 says Rhoda recognized and believed the answer but the believers did not, so Peter kept knocking.
Someone stated this is the only time in Church history where is was easier to get out of prison than it was to get into a church prayer meeting
In the book of Acts, Luke repeatedly reminds the 21st Century church how seriously the 1st century church took their privilege and responsibility of prayer
Could that be why our country and our churches are not much different than one another?
From this we must learn
to spend more time in the church house praying together, than the politicians do in congress house pontificating and the judges do in the courthouse deliberating.
to pray for God to do something only He can do, and we cannot do without Him
to put our hope in God not in the Government - Supreme court Justices are great when conservative - but God is still God when they are liberals
when God works, we must be persistent saints believing in God’s miracles rather than being pessimistic pew sitters belittling God’s messengers
that God will take care of our problems and our persecutions in his time and his way, just as he did Peter and Herod Acts 12:23
Conclusion: The key lesson for us in Acts 12 is The Sovereignty of God over church and country.
In the book of Acts, Luke throws at us again and again the dominant control God maintains over his church - guiding human history to achieve His purposes - Acts 12 is one of the major events to illustrate that reality.
God did what he did all for the purpose we find in Acts 12:24
Acts 12:24 CSB
24 But the word of God flourished and multiplied.
The rest of the book of Acts tells about the great missionary work of the church, as God used them to make disciples of all nations.
*****At youth camp this week, the teens are hearing a difficult message*****
On May 21st, 1973 I became a citizen of the great United States of America by birth, but in the fall of 1982, at the age of 9, I became a citizen of the true shining city on a hill, heaven, when God saved me by his grace.
Jesus, in His Word, the Bible, tells me that my citizenship in heaven supersedes my citizenship in America, meaning heaven has more authority over me than America, and Jesus’s words and commands hold more weight in my life than any President, governor or mayor does.
As a citizen of heaven, I should want most for God to make his church great again whether he makes the country great again or not. My efforts should be to that end.
As a citizen of heaven I should want people from all nations to hear the gospel so they too can become citizens of heaven. My efforts should be to that end.
I preach and pray so that if you proclaim yourself a Christian you will do the same.
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