Following in the Footsteps of Faith: The Presence of the Church
“Christianity is responsible for the way our society is organized and for the way we currently live. So extensive is the Christian contribution to our laws, our economics, our politics, our arts, our calendar, our holidays, and our moral and cultural priorities that historian J. M. Robers writes in The Triumph of the West, ‘We could none of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, dead, and buried, and then rise again.’ ” (From the book What’s So Great about Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza.)
Big Idea: When the church is present in a community it points everyone to Christ with both actions and words.
Read Acts 3:1-10
1. Christians of sincere faith recognize opportunities to minister in everyday life v.1-4
This was no special religious day. It was just an ordinary day.Everyday the Christians worshipped and prayed. It was the 9th hour of the day. Now, the people of this day kept time differently than us. The day started at 6:00am our time. That would have been the first hour. The ninth hour was 3:00pm (15:00hours). Peter and John, two of the leading were true followers of Jesus Christ, but the church had no place set aside for worship and since Jesus was the Jewish Messiah it made perfect sense for them to continue going to the Jewish temple to worship God. Almost everyone else there was still loyal to the Jewish faith. They were religious, but not forgiven. They were spiritual, but not saved. Although the Temple is a place of worship, it is a mission field for the disciples of Jesus to share the gospel.
It was just a typical day for the Jewish people as well. Everything that happened everyday was happening again this day. The sick and poor were gathering to seek pity from religious people in hopes of getting some money to scratch out a basic living. Some would be moved to help these beggars for various reasons. Some out of genuine compassion. Some were motivated by self-righteousness as they tried to earn God’s favor. Some were motivated by pride and wanted to be seen for their good works. Most people passed right by the beggars without even acknowledging their existence.
This man is being carried out to his place of begging just in time for people to come for their evening prayers. He is coming to the gate called Beautiful and he feels anything but beautiful. As he is being carried he spots Peter and John and he asks them for alms – food or money. What was Peter’s reaction? He doesn’t divert his eyes. He doesn’t refuse. But he doesn’t just toss over a few coins either. He wants to do something special that will change this man’s life. He wants to do something so special that it demands total attention and so he says, “Look at us.” There are hundreds of people passing by. By focusing his attention on Peter and John he is missing opportunities to ask alms from others.
1) Is your chief concern every day about living for Christ or living for self?
2) Is Christianity a Sunday thing for you or an everyday thing for you?
3) As an ambassador for Christ are you looking for the opportunities to serve others and be a witness that are around you everyday? They are there for all of us. However, we must train ourselves to look for them. God will provide the opportunities, but we must recognize them and that takes a conscious effort to look for them.
2. Christians care about the meeting the needs of others v.5-8
a. Recognize the immediate, but temporal problems.
b. Recognize the personal limitations.
You can feel this man’s anticipation. He is expecting to receive something good. Maybe he will get enough money so that he won’t have to beg for a few days – maybe an entire week?
c. Rely on the unlimited resources of God to meet the needs
d. Offer an on-going long-term solution.
Don’t treat the symptoms. Treat the cause. It is better to help people get a job than give them money. Invest in a few who can then invest in others.
Illustration: James 2: 15-17, 1 John 3:17-18
1) It is easy to get callous to all the needs around us. No we can’t help everyone with their physical needs, but we can help some.
2) Yes, some people are deceptive con-artists who take advantage of out generosity, but not all who ask for help are con-artists. Should we help everyone? No, we must be wise and discerning. Should we help those in genuine need when we have the ability to help them? Absolutely!
3) So how do we know when to help?
a. Remain sensitive to the needs of others.
b. Recognize your personal limitations.
c. Rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
3. Acts of Christian compassion grab the attention of the community v. 9-10
Explanation: verse 10. They saw, they recognized, they were filled with wonder and amazement.
We may not have the supernatural spiritual gift of healing today, but we are able to minister with compassion to meet people’s financial needs, medical needs, emotional needs today. Our methods might be different today, but we can and should actively minister in such a way that it inspires wonder and amazement.
When we help provide education, when we help with orphan ministries, helping with the malnutrition ward at the hospital, caring for the sick, helping train others so that they can make a living rather than rely on handouts…these are things that the world will see and stand in awe and wonder. Why do we do this? Because The Bible tells us to. Just read 1 Peter 2:9, John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:43-44, Romans 12:19-21.
Within Christianity there is a powerful emphasis on compassion, on helping the needy, and on alleviating distress even in distant places. If there is a huge famine or reports of genocide in another part of the world, most people in other cultures are unconcerned. As the Chinese proverb has it, ‘the tears of strangers are only water.’ But we rush to help….Part of the reason why we do this is because of our Christian assumptions….The ancient Greeks and Romans did not believe this. They held a view quite commonly held in other cultures today: yes, that is a problem, but it is not our problem….However paradoxical it seems, people who believed most strongly in the next world did the most to improve the situation of people living in this one.”
4. Christians of contagious faith take the opportunities to share the Gospel that are created by their acts of Christian love (Read v. 11-26)
a. Give the praise for the good works to God v. 12
b. Point people to Jesus v. 13a
c. Confront their sinful disbelief v. 13b-15 (John 3:18-19)
d. Proclaim that salvation is only achieved through faith in Christ v. 16 (John 3:36)
e. Sympathize with the guilty sinner v. 17
f. Point people to the plan of God v. 18
g. Call fellow sinners to repentance and faith v. 19-26
1) Doing good things without explain the reason for doing the good things limits the effect significantly.
2) We have only helped in the temporal world and left the person in better condition while still traveling to the final destination of hell.
3) Let us maximize the effect of each good deed we do by explaining the gospel to the one we’ve helped and to the watching world.
4) Our deeds earn us the right to be heard in the court of public opinion. Let’s take those opportunities to be witnesses of the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
5) With out deeds we can change people’s physical conditions, but only the Gospel can change their spiritual condition and their eternal destination.
As we leave the comfort of each other’s presence we go back into a world that opposes God. We have neighbors and co-workers who are in need, but try to act as if they need nothing. We are tempted to just go with the flow, but we are called by God to be salt and light. We are called to change the world by being witnesses of the life changing power of God as He changes us. The presence of the church has always been a purifying agent for community as long as the light was not hidden. This week let us each determine to let our light shine before men so that they will see our Good works and glorify God. Let’s share with them the gospel message that changed us and present them with the choice to accept it as well so it can change them to.