Sermon Audio & Review
- Category: Morning Worship Series
- April 12, 2015
Pastor Kent Hobi: Where Do We Go from Here?
After the high excitement of Easter, a natural question arises: What now? After the resurrection, what does Jesus want His church to focus on until He comes back? He has clearly laid out our mission and given us the resources to determine the specific way to fulfill it. How does the church discern God’s personal will for a local body of believers?Listen
The early church was faced with this question after the unbelievable events of the resurrection. Jesus left them with abundant resources:
- A new goal. Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24 that He was seeking true worshippers.
- A new foundation. Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18).
- A new task. The task of the church is not to do philanthropic good works or to be the social police, but to be disciple makers (Matthew 28:18-20).
- A new helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
These never change, but each generation of the church asks the question, How should we carry out this mission in our context? The book of Acts records the progressive history of how God communicates His purpose to His people in the church age. Because it is history, we are not to take our daily marching orders from its pages but to learn principles from the events. How can the church be sure it has discerned God's will? The New Testament answer is this: the Holy Spirit produces a unity through Spirit-filled men and women that directs a local church. We'll look at four decisions the early church had to make and how they went about it.
The first question the apostles needed to answer after Jesus' bodily ascension was, Who will be the new apostle? Judas had abandoned the group, betrayed Jesus, and taken his own life. In order for the number of 12 apostles to be filled, they needed to appoint a replacement (Acts 1:15-26). How did they do this?
First, they set out basic requirements. The new apostle must have been an eyewitness to Jesus' earthly ministry. (This is how we know there are no apostles today.) After identifying two men who met the qualification, they prayed for God's direction and drew lots. Matthias was chosen to fill Judas' spot.
In an Old Testament context, God gave the people of Israel four ways to discern His personal will. They were dreams (1 Samuel 28:6), the Urim rock, the word of prophets, and drawing lots (Proverbs 16:33). This last one is the method the apostles used to choose a replacement for Judas. It was appropriate for them to do so since the Holy Spirit had not yet come, and Spirit-directed unity in the church was not yet available.
The apostles also needed to decide who would care for the widows in the church. This question came in Acts 6:1-6. Because it was after the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, they used a different method. They gathered the congregation to select deacons who would oversee the ministry to widows.
Again, the apostles gave qualifications: those selected should have a good reputation, be wise and Spirit-filled. It should be evident that Jesus Christ has changed all of their life. They should display the fruit of the Spirit instead of asserting their authority by "muscle and mouth." These are easily observable characteristics for a Spirit-filled congregation!
What had changed since the appointment of Matthias? The church was born with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Everyone was invited to this new body, whether Jew or Gentile. The Spirit directs the church through filling its members. This is a special new work of the Holy Spirit, and the life of the church and the spread of the gospel depend on it.
Next, the early church had to decide, Who should we go to with the gospel? A problem arose when Peter ate with Gentiles, which was not permitted under Old Testament Jewish law. His reaction in Acts 11:1-18 was not to assert his apostolic authority, but to offer an explanation. He laid out the facts in a detailed and orderly fashion so that all had access to that clarity.
Always beware of a leader who tries to bypass the intellect. Feelings are not the final arbitrator in decisions of the church, and neither are experiences of a supernatural epiphany. Reason is not everything, but God has given our intellect to be informed by the Word of God and used to make decisions.
The situation resulted in a blessing: Unsettled concerns were quieted. Those who had disagreed with Peter had to change their minds and admit they had been wrong. In the end, everyone rejoiced in the Spirit's unity. Spirit-directed unity comes through the process of genuine, authentic inquiry and a well-reasoned response.
The fourth major question the early church had to answer was, What does the gospel require? Must all believers be circumcised and observe the Old Testament law after salvation in order to be authentic Christians? In Acts 15, the apostles, elders, and whole church gathered to decide this question.
Never before in the history of God's dealings with mankind had He directed by the unity of a Spirit-governed people. In the Old Testament, leaders were chosen by God and brought to the people. They had no choice in the matter. In the church, each member has a critical part in determining God's will. This is a great privilege with great responsibility. Every believer must study to understand the Bible so that the Spirit can use them to direct the local church.
The whole church reached a consensus and came to a unity of mind. And the Spirit agreed with their decision, showing the interplay between believers in the church and the working of the Spirit. The New Testament church doesn't need lots, lodestones, or prophets. It has people filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces unity through Word-saturated, Spirit-filled men and women that directs the local church.
- People who are Spirit-filled are very evident to others around them. What do other believers see in your life? Do you display the fruit of the Spirit, or do you need to make adjustments? Don't fool yourself. We're family -- we can tell!
- Always beware of a leader who tries to bypass your intellect. As a believer, you can expect an orderly explanation and evaluate it by the Word of God. Leaders, do not be exasperated when people of the church ask this of you.
- If you are a believer, you have a critical part in determining God's will for the church. It's not only the pastor's responsibility to keep the testimony of the church bright and vibrant: it's yours! Are you taking this responsibility seriously? Do your part to study and understand your Bible and remain Spirit-filled so you can evaluate decisions using reason and the Word of God.
- Spirit filling is sought and maintained through spiritual disciplines. It is evidenced by public testimony to unbelievers and joyful ministry in the local church. Are you exercising these things? Proper decision-making in the church relies on the personal obedience of its members. Your devotion affects the direction of the church.
Tools for Further Study
A Hymn to Encourage: "Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart"
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.
Teach me to know that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unceasing prayer.
Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own - soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the heaven-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
Quotes to Ponder
"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe."— Reformer Martin Luther