Setting the World on Fire

Bible Book: Acts  2
Subject: Church; Christian Living; Holy Spirit; Witnessing; Growth, Church

Setting The World On Fire!

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor of www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Our scripture today comes from selected passages found in Acts, chapters 1 and 2. Here we see the birth of the Church and how that Church set the world on fire. By that I mean that those early Christians launched the Church into high gear by bringing thousands to salvation, and they did that while suffering many sorrows and often death for the cause of Christ.

In these recents days a pandemic has swept through our world and some believe it is going to come back through the population again. During this pandemic streets in large cities that once teemed with traffic became so empty that wild animals from the forest were seen ambling down the middle of the road. The COVID virus spread from one person to another. Thinking of this, I began to wonder ... is anyone catching the Jesus-virus from us? I mean to ask, do we have something in our spiritual lives that is catching? Has anyone caught the Jesus-virus from you or from me? This pandemic is setting the world on fire - that is what you and I are supposed to be doing with our witness and life for Christ. That is exactly what the early did.

Today I want us to look at the New Testament Church as it began in Jerusalem. They, indeed, had something catching - they were setting the world on fire with the gospel of the risen Christ and we can see that happen in our generation - in our own city or community today.

After His resurrection, Jesus met with disciples on several occasions and He gave them instructions for facing the future. Some of what He said to them is recorded for us and not without good reason.

Look with me at Acts 1:8 ...

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

With these words, Jesus told the disciples that they were beginning a ministry, a work, that would span the globe – that would reach the entire world. But, how could this uneducated,seemly unimportant, tiny band of fearful men and women have an effect upon the entire world? Actually, they were four essentials that they needed and all of them are as available to the Christian in the church today as they were to the disciples that day when Jesus spoke those fateful words to them. These four critical ingredients caused the disciples to turn the world upside down.

Before I tell you these four essentials, let me share four challenges we face in seeking to take the Gospel of Christ to the world.

i. Cynicism

Many people are cynical concerning the message of Jesus. They question the veracity of our message concerning the risen, living, reigning Lord. The cynic looks for any reason to question the veracity of our message about Jesus. They were there when the work of evangelism began and they will be around till Jesus returns.

ii. Worldliness

Also, worldliness grips society. People don't want to hear about Jesus because they love the world. This has always been true and is especially true today. Never before in history has there been so many ways for people to be preoccupied with worldly endeavors and Satan uses them to keep people from turning their attention to eternity and the state of their eternal souls.

iii. Science

Science has replaced the message of Jesus in the lives of many people. They see only the natural world, and they have been taught that there is nothing else but the natural world. They do not believe in the spiritual nature in human beings, at least in so far as it concerns the true and living God.

iv. Media

The media as a whole detests the gospel. They see the true believer in Jesus Christ as a right-wing, radical, religious nut. Interestingly, the modern media speaks of radical Islam and refers to right-wing elements in the Middle East as a danger to the world. Then, they turn around and call devotees to Christ right-wing or far-right believers. In other words, they often link a person who has faith in Christ with those who wear suicide vests and blow up men, women and children around the world.

As you can see, we have a great mountain to climb when it comes to preaching the gospel around the world and overcoming the bias that is against us. But always remember, He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world!

Be assured there is no difference in the world that Jesus faced when He gave His disciples the Great Commission and the world we face with the gospel today. Remember that when Rome burned, Nero falsely blamed the Christians. Satan has always been out to attack, belittle, shame and harm Christians who share the gospel.

There are those in the world who do not want the Church to have any measure of success. They would just as soon see our churches die, close up and all of us simply go home and stay there.

Let me tell you a humorous story. A man went to the hospital for an X-ray. The report came back with the results listed as N.E.P.T. The man trembled as he picked up the phone to call his doctor. You see, he was sure the letters stood for the phrase: Not Expected to Pull Through. He called the doctor’s office very nervously. They said that he was not to worry, the letters stood for the words: "No Experience of Pulmonary Tuberculosis."

There are those today who think they see the handwriting on the wall for the Church of our Lord. They think the Church is in trouble but let me tell you something very important – the Church of our Lord will thrive because the Founder is alive! The Foundation is strong and sure. The Church will be triumphant. The world xrays the church and sees a fatal disease - we know that they have misread the condition of the Church - for the true believer is in the Church with a capital "C". The Church Jesus founded will never die - the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against it.

It is true, however, that some local churches can and do fail. They fail sometimes because the conditions around them change drastically, but others fail because the ingredients necessary for success in God’s work are lost to them. Dear friends, it is imperative for us as a church body to keep the necessary attitudes and actions for success alive and at the forefront of our church life. What are they? They are the basis of this message today.

Let’s look at four things they had in the early church that the church and the Christian must have today.

I. Passion

Passion is an intense emotion that compels action. John Maxwell says that passion disappears when the precious becomes familiar. That is another way of saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” A lack of passion reveals that a person is centered in himself or herself, or has become distracted by something deemed to be more important.

Passion is the first need above all things in the Christian today and the Church today. The disciples had passion – a passion that was centered in these things.

A. A Passion for the Savior

They loved Jesus! Before Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, He told his disciples that He was going away. Upon hearing this they were heartbroken. Yet at His resurrection they were overcome with joy. Then forty days after His resurrection He told them He was going away, but on that occasion He shared that He was going to send the Holy Spirit to be His presence with them. They were instructed to pray and wait for the Spirit, and that is exactly what they did. They prayed for ten days and then the Pentecost event occurred.

Pentecost did not give the disciples passion - passion gave them Pentecos. Don't miss this point. it took a deep passion for them to trust what Jesys told them to do. Make sure you understand this. They loved Jesus - they had a passion for Him - they obeyed Him and waited as He instructed them. They prayed in one accord for ten days and the fire of the Holy Spirit came upon them. Listen, my dear fellow Christians, we need a renewed love for Christ. Too many are like the Church in Ephesus, as mentioned in The Book of Revelation, that had left their first love.

The Christian must fall in love with Jesus everyday. Listen to what Jesus said. “If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross DAILY and follow me.” If we become too familiar with the things of Christ, they begin to lack the preciousness they once meant to us. We have to guard against that.

Not only did they have a passion for Jesus, but they had ...

B. A Passion for the Scripture

They loved the scripture. When Peter preached the first sermon of the New Testament Church age, it was filled with scripture. When the Church began to meet, we are told that they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine. That is, they were in love with the doctrines, the teachings, and the truths of Jesus.

In addition, they had ...

C. A Passion for Souls

They wanted to see people saved. The first sermon of the Church was a soul-winning sermon. We are told that 3,000 precious souls came into the kingdom on that very first day. Everywhere they went they were leading people to faith in Christ.

We must never, ever lose the passion for seeing people come to know the Savior. I am afraid for many Christians that this is not a priority today. Did you know that among our Southern Baptist churches about 35% will not baptize one person this year? They will not baptize a son or daughter of a church member. They will not baptize one adult. In other words, they will not win one person to faith in our Lord or add even one new convert to the local church in an entire year. When 35 out of 100 churches do not baptize one person, it means we have lost our passion for evangelism.

I read some years ago about a woman who was pulled from burning building. She cried and wept as she sat on the sidewalk outside the burning structure. Rescue people came to her and assured her that she was okay. They were trying to comfort her and seeking to help her get over the trauma of almost dying in a fire. She then said, "I know I’m okay. I not crying out of fear. You see, I didn't help anyone else get out. I could have and I didn't." She sat there and cried for a long, long time. All her tears could not bring back one charred body from the fiery building. Her tears were for what she considered neglect of the dying people in that building. Do we have any tears for the lost? Are we escaping the fire of judgment but leaving others behind because of indifference?

We must keep a passion for rescuing people from the coming judgment – from missing out on the chance to know Christ and be with Him in eternity.

Yet, see one more thing they had. They had ...

D. A Passion for Service

The people who came to Christ in the New Testament became servants. They served! Look at the New Testament epistles and note the call to service or the examples of service that are mentioned. Every Christian should be a servant. We need a passion for serving God.

Look at Jeremiah 29:13 ...

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

God is available to those who have a passion for Him, but be assured that God doesn’t take second place in our lives. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)

  • Passiveness must be replaced with passion in the hearts of God’s people.
  • Laziness must be replaced with a love for Christ that motivates us to action and service.

It is sad when leaders in the local church go around begging people to take positions of service in the church. Each of us must step up and be servants of the Most High God who redeemed us.

Not only do we see the passion within the New Testament Church, but notice also ...

II. Proclamation

The joy of knowing the fullness of the Lord cannot be contained. We are compelled by the love of God and the Spirit to proclaim Him to the world. Note what happened at Pentecost when the Church was birthed. Peter stood up and preached a sermon that lasted about ten minutes. It was a message of God’s love for the lost. It was a message to those who only e few days before had mocked the Lord. Peter delivered a call to faith in Christ. It was a call to salvation. It was a call to embrace the King of Glory and to know the peace, joy and forgiveness,,which only Jesus gives to all those who receive Him.

The message of the Church is not a message of the things we are against, but a message about the One we adore. Yes, at times we must call sin by its real name, but our main message is one of grace. We proclaim Christ as the Savior who came to free sinners from judgment and wrath. The church that makes it a priority to take this gospel to the community with love and joy will find a fertile field for the seed of the gospel.

We have the Word of God. This is the only truth available in this world. It is interesting how all the sciences have been forced to change their theories through the centuries. Once the great scientists said the earth was flat and boldly proclaimed that if man sailed too far in his ships he would fall off the end of the earth. Early medicine believed the way to cure the body of disease was to “bleed” the patient. Many patients bled to death while doctors tried to rid the body of some illness. In recent years we have seen text books rendered useless because of new discoveries.. We could cite many modern examples, but the point is this, the Bible is the same today as it was when it was first penned. It will never change. It is settled in heaven forever. I started out hearing the Word of God from my preacher when I was but a little boy and now, a full three-quarters of a century later, it remains the same. The Bible is as pure, true and helpful as it always has been.

Listen, dear church family, we must proclaim this Book. We must make the Savior of this Book known to the world. We must base our lives, habits and beliefs on this Book.

Notice yet another element that marked the New Testament Church…

III. Partnership

The third thing the New Testament Church had which brought about great success was their partnership. They worked together to get God’s work done. They united with one another in order that they might change the world. There is no substitute for unity in the body of Christ.

  • The met together faithfully.
  • They studied the Word together.
  • They shared their joys and sorrows together.
  • They gave to God’s work together.
  • They witnessed together.
  • They prayed together.
  • The ate meals together.

It was their unity they helped make them powerful. The were a small group but a united body, and as such they had power from God to touch the world.

One of the sad symptoms of the modern church is division. We will never think exactly alike or desire the same things in exactly the same way in a local church. Yet, when God’s people put aside personal predilections and preferences for the cause of Christ, the Lord sends power into that church body.

I thank God for our unity – it is the greatest unity I have ever seen in a church, but we must not take it for granted. We are partners in this great work for our Lord and as long as we remain that way God will continue to bless our efforts.

Now, one last thing that the New Testament Church possessed …

IV. Power

All that the early believers sought to do would have been in vain without this last ingredient that marked them. They had power from above – that had the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives and in their Church.

It is said that some years ago a cleric was showing a man through a great, expensive cathedral. Silver and gold objects were everywhere. The minister turned to the man and said, "We don't have to say with Peter, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’"

The layman with the cleric remarked, “That is true, but neither can you say, 'In the name of Jesus rise up and walk.’”

Listen folks, we may be richer than those early Christians, but you have to admit that we are weaker. We need the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

When Jayne and I were in England a few years ago, we visited a working windmill. Inside was a large grinding stone which no man could possibly turn. Grain was poured into a large spout from above and the stone ground it into meal. Outside huge blades were set to catch the wind and turn the immense grinding stone. Without the wind, the mill was just a big blob sitting idle and inactive. With a full wind, grain was ground as fast as the workman could pour it into the chute.

That is a picture of the church. We must have Holy Spirit power to do God's work of witnessing to our lost world. Note some important facts about this power.

  • This is not a Physical Power like that of Samson.
  • This is not a Mental Power like that of Solomon.
  • This is not a Speaking Power like that of Some.
  • This power is a Supernatural Power that comes from the Holy Spirit.

You cannot invent this power, you cannot earn this power, you cannot enlarge this power. Yet, we can open up in full surrender to God and He can fill us with His Spirit to do the work we cannot do on our own. You can allow this power to surge through your life and make you a mighty witness for God.

Conclusion

An old man had an excellent garden which was the envy of all who saw it. One of his neighbors said to him, “I hear that you asked the Lord to give you a good garden.” He said, “That’s right, but I never pray for a good garden unless I have a hoe in my hand. I say, ‘Lord, you send the sunshine and the rain, and I’ll chop the weeds.’”

W.E. Sangster was a marvelous preacher in his day. He was once interviewing ministerial candidates for his denomination. One specific pastoral candidate admitted that he was shy and quite, and he stated that he would probably never set the Thames River on fire. He used this phrase to say that he would probably not turn a community upside down with his personality. Sangster responded by saying, “I’m not interested to know if you can set the Thames River on fire. What I want to know is this: If I picked you up by the scruff of the neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”

That is the question today for us. If the Lord picked us up and dropped us in Lake Lanier, “Would the lake sizzle?” Are we on fire for God? The Christian who lacks the fire of the Spirit of God burning inside will never set the world on fire outside.