REACHING OUT TO JERUSALEM, JUDEA,
TO SAMARIA AND THE UTTERMOST PARTS
Acts ch. 1 :7-8
"But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." Acts 1:8
Now I noticed in the magazine that this verse and passage of scripture has already had a write-up, but my sermon preparation requres me to look ahead 2 or 3 weeks in order to be prepared when the time comes, and I had already chosen this verse of scripture before I saw the magazine. It is worthwhile coming back on Missionary Sunday to one of the great passages of scripture in which every child of God should be interested. May I just point out to you, you had the word in the authorised version "power" and you have in verse 8 the same word "power" again, but in the original the word in verse 7 is "authority", and in verse 8 the blessing that is to come to the child of God is "power." The child of God is to start off with this tremendous affirmation which he is never to forget from the time that he is converted, and he shall know with increasing power throughout eternity.
This supreme God, whether they believe in him or not; whether the latest opinion poll is favourable to him or unfavourable, God has deliberately and without any equivocation of mind or will, invested Jesus Christ, his beloved Son with all authority in heaven and on earth. I know the trouble with some orthodox Christians is that they believe the bible but then don't believe what it tells them! If I were to attempt to prove to you tonight that these words were not reliable, I am quite sure you would be tremendously disturbed. What I am saying, my dear friends, is that Christians very often take hold of a verse like this and are supposed to believe it, but they really experimentally ignore it!
Do you, as a child of God, find all your life at this very moment shaped and determined by the ideas of men or do you believe from the bottom of your heart the profound reality of the Universe is that Jesus Christ is Himself, at this moment, vested with all authority in heaven and on earth. Now you tell the Lord which you believe, because it is all important, it is going of course, to make a tremendous difference to all our thinking.
The disciple said to our Lord, "Well now, is this the time when the Kingdom is going to be restored to Israel?" You see, going back all those years ago, they were thinking about the Kingdom being restored to Israel as men are thinking about it today. Only of course today all the secular places are looking at the matter through the eyes of the United Nations , whereas within the word of God it is His determination - His determination, that His beloved Son shall establish the Kingdom to Israel - from His coming again. You, my dear friend, you must, if you are a Christian, make up your mind, not whether you believe this as a little antidote or postcript, but whether you say Yes, I do believe this to be absolutely true; I believe this is the ground of authority in the Universe and whenever this truth is refused by men, the penalty is that lawlessness creeps in and works like a fever, an epidemic and you can see it if you've got your eyes open at this moment, that all authority is being whittled away. You are living in a false world, my dear friends, if you can't see that and the reason is because men say we will not have this man to rule over us.
Isn't it incredible that over 600 intelligent gentlemen are going to consider in this present session of Parliament, a Bill for the purpose of controlling gambling. Think of it. Ask yourself, my dear friends - we are of average intelligence here tonight - do you believe they can do it? It astounded me the other day when the Home Secretary said that when they passed these gambling liberties a few years ago, they never dreamed there would be so many excesses. Well, my dear friends, if they had asked a common Christian, an ordinary one, he would have said "Well, you are opening the flood gates," -but of course he would have been narrow minded and not to be heeded, because, you see the world is trying to put itself right WITHOUT - the authority of Jesus Christ and the whole thing is doomed from the beginning.
Therefore, my dear friends,and to young people particularly, let me emphasise this, if you really want to get an insight into world affairs, and to understand what is your responsibility today, ask God's Holy Spirit to unveil the truth to you. For at this moment, the Supreme Authority is in the hands of Jesus and whenever it is rejected, Man is helpless to put the world right. That is the very basis of our faith. Therefore, it is Jesus and Jesus only who is the answer. No human being alive, no matter what his ecclesiastical position may be, or his sociological ideas, there is no human being alive who can put authority where God has not put it and for society to survive under it. It is impossible. Of course we believe Jesus Christ is all-in-all, but it must become the working factor of all your thinking. So that you see at once as God's people, that every time Jesus Christ is rejected, men are rejecting the one solution to all their troubles. Therefore, the problems of mankind can never be solved outside of Jesus Christ.
Now the occasion of the text. Our Lord was risen from the dead and taken up -a very wonderful sight. Not all Christians believe that he was raised from the dead. Indeed, there are some Christians who think you can be a Christian without believing that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. You can't. The apostolic doctrine is perfectly clear; if Christ be not risen, your faith is vain, you are yet in your sins. It is impossible to be a Christian without believing that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Impossible, because you are looking at a grave; you are looking at death, and all your mind is concentrated on death, and you are needing Life, and therefore the Apostle puts this twin view of faith so clearly.
I must not only believe that Jesus Christ died and that he was raised again from the dead. Because within the terms of Holy Scripture you cannot leave Jesus there; not only was he raised from the dead, but this same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven, amplifying what our Lord himself had said in John 16. He had commanded them not to depart until the immediate effects of his assumption of authority in Heaven should be the gift of the Holy Spirit to his believing disciples. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ ascended; and while they waited, they believed in the Christ who had ascended into Heaven.They believed that He was in the place of all authority; they believed His promise and Pentecost was the result.
That is the person to whom God has given all authority and is to dominate your life dear friends and your outlook. We say to every person here tonight who is not a child of God, that however concerned you are about the burdens and troubles of the world and they are tremendous - we are just saying that if His authority is refused, you will never find a solution to the troubles of the world outside of Jesus Christ. And if sometimes as I have often been told that we are narrow minded, that we are not taking our share in the world events, the answer is that nobody outside of the people of God wants Jesus Christ to be in it.
Your central reformists want to see the world reformed but they do not want to talk a lot of nonsense about Jesus Christ being the answer to the sins of the world. But you see, my dear friends, you have got to take a look at Jesus today. It is so absolutely vital it cannot be overlooked.. It is God's intention that His beloved son whom He has raised from the dead and exalted to heaven and has now bestowed upon Him total authority in heaven and on earth, it is His will in His own time determined by Him 'over-ruling and governing all the affairs of mankind without them knowing it. It is his solemn determination that Jesus Christ shall return.
You have got to ask yourself - you are a Christian - do you believe the solemn words that Jesus has said? Has it become vital to you?. It takes a lot of courage to make a witness to this, doesn't it, but He has been invested with all authority and He will return. I have a very great respect for the archangel Gabriel when I contemplate how he dealt with Zacharias when he did not believe, he sentenced him to be deaf and dumb. I have a very strange feeling that when some Christians get to the other side after being canonised and had memorial services on this side, they will say "Well, look here, you must wait in that queue until Gabriel can deal with you. You believed in a Jesus of bits and pieces didn't you? You picked him out, you believed in the human Jesus. You believed He died." Of course, He must die some time. He would have died a natural death anyway, as someone has said, I think in one of our denominational papers this week that He would have died a natural death anyway. You do not believe He died for our sins, you believe He died as a martyr. If He died, you do not believe that He was raised from the dead. And if He was raised from the dead, you do not believe He was exalted into heaven - He entirely disappeared. And of course, nobody thinks about his coming again.
It is a very serious thing to take the narne of Jesus and then pick and choose what you are going to believe about Him. Then of course there was given to the aposstles the teaching about the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ m Heaven and the Holy Spirit in the believer. No person can understand and experience the Holy Spirit dwelling within him or her without being assured by the same Spirit that Jesus is there.You cannot step into the truth experimentally that the Holy Spirit dwells within you without also believing and rejoicing that Jesus is there. And it is no use trying to seek the blessing of the Holy Spirit to know the Spirit dwelling within the child of God but indifferent as to where Jesus is or ignorant of where Jesus is. You will never have the certainty of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you until the eye of faith has seen the Lord and the glory and you know that Jesus Christ, God's beloved son is in the place of supreme authority. That is the teaching of scripture.
Therefore we say to all men and women that we can never unite with them in any way whatsoever until we share with them the full revelation of the Spirit of God concerning Jesus Christ and know correspondingly the experimental blessing of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the child of God. So Luke tells the story of how his disciples continued while they waited for the Spirit. It showed that they must have been reading the word of God. They had been looking at it now after those two on the road to Emmaeus were so surprised when Jesus opened up the word to them. Peter and the Apostles read it; and they began to see the truth. My dear friends, especially young. christians do lay it to heart that the Spirit of God still wants to speak to you through the Word, and to open your mind and heart to Him; be sure that God is as active today at this moment as He was on the day of Pentecost.
And the only reason why we look back is to be reassured and then to be confident that what God did on the day of Pentecost he can still do with power in any company of God's people wherever they are willing. So having received the Holy Spirit, they were to understand their task; that they were to be witnesses unto Jesus . That is why I believe that the theme of the pulpit is Jesus. I really cannot see what else we have got to say to men. What can I say to you, dear friends tonight? It can be a help to you if it isn't Jesus. Ask yourself, here you are, sitting here tonight; you've got your problems and your trials and your difficulties, whether you are young or old . I have nothing to offer you. Your judgements may be better than mine; your education may be better than mine; your connections may be better than mine; but if you don't know Jesus, I have the message and I can tell you that Jesus Christ meets your every need.
We are very much troubled about the brain drain in this country. People who are educated in our universities with marvellous grants while they are training (which would have seemed absolutely like the cave of Aladdin when I was a youngster) - when they have finished their training go off to America to get better salaries. My dear friends, there's a worse brain drain than that. It's the brain drain that is going from our churches. The people who are being saved, but have not yet seen so conclusively that they must devote themselves, not merely to going into the ministry, that is a side issue - they must devote themselves to the things that Jesus Christ devoted himself to.
His miracles counted him little on the day that he faced Pilate; for there wasn't a single blind man who came up to Pilate and said "T his man gave me sight." Nobody said that. There wasn't a single leper to come out from the company and say " Sir, until two years ago I was a leper and in a terrible state. This man healed me of my leprosy and I am here to witness to this." Not even Lazarus, not even Lazarus, raised from the dead just a few days before bore witness to the fact that a week ago he was in a stinking den and this man raised him from the dead." Where was Lazarus? We are told how we have got to help the world, but we are not to help the world with the Gospel; that is altogether secondary. I am to say my dear friends, I believe Jesus Christ made the Gospel. His miracles were secondary.And it is our business as God's people to see to it that we are keeping before men and woman every day of our lives the truth concerning Jesus Christ.
We are simply being bemused. There is no bigger business, no bigger business in the world than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and so few people know it, and the majority of professing Christians don't know it, so that we cannot afford one single true believer to stand aside from the testimony of Jesus Christ. I say this with a good deal of conviction because my dear friends, unless we are going to face this fact as Christians in our churches we are writing our own doom. I don't want to be a pessimist, although two good baptists have told me recently that I am a pessimist, but as I am older than either of them, I hold onto my own opinion. I am not a pessimist, I am a realist I trust. But I want to say to you dear friends, you musn't be too contented in Rye Lane Chapel. You haven't yet felt what is coming across all our churches You probably don't realise that the average Baptist church tonight has got a congregation of perhaps 50 or 60 and think it is very good. Are you one of those who thinks that we must ask the world? What do you want? What sort of a church do you want? What sort of a service do you want ? We will put on exactly what you want. " My dear friends, we are not under authority to the world, we are under authority to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is scheduled back and He means business. He has vast enterprises on hand He is coming again. He is going to restore the whole creation to God. That's big enough business for any of us.
That's why I say with a great regard, and I hope you will not misunderstand my words,that a church like Rye Lane Chapel, which has got a great opportunity, and a tremendous nucleus of God -fearing people, must take the present issue very, very seriously, and reflect upon it to know what is the duty of the people of God. I doubt if we've got more than 2 or 3 years before the avalanche will fall and the time is all too short. So, how do you get a call to the mission field. I remember many years ago now which was before my time, Rye Lane Chapel was very concerned about the mssionary work overseas so a missionary was brought from a church in Cardiff and he became a member of this church in order that he might stimulate missionary interest and get everybody in Rye Lane Chapel interested in missionary work. Well, my dear friends, you cannot really do it that way You just can't. Now there is a different way for our church to become a missionary church. We think of our missionaries in various parts of the world and we've got a wonderful company. But you see missionary work begins at home, it doesn't end there; it begins at home. Ye shall be witnesses unto me, first of all in Jerusalem- and to be a witness at all, you must be a saved sinner. You can't do Christian work unless you are a saved sinner. You can't be a vital church member unless you are a saved sinner, but if you are a saved sinner, then the technique is this, you begin at Jerusalem. It is very difficult to begin at Jerusalem. But supposmg you say to yourself, Well now, God has saved me and that indicates that there is somebody that I am touching who can be saved. Now Lord, where are they? How many years have you been a C hristian dear friends - 5,10,15,20,25,30 years? I was talking many years ago now to a very well known baptist minister and I admired and respected him. He said to me, and I was astounded when he told me, "I have never known a person coming into my vestry speaking about Jesus". Well, it's a terrible thing isn't it?
Now you begin at Jerusalem. Did you ever realise that when you were saved God was trying to get through you to somebody else, for nobody is ever saved as a kind of cul-de-sac. As soon as the Spirit of God is given to one man or woman it is because He intends to make contact through that new convert to another and nobody is exempted from it. You don't need exemption. This is the wonderful way in which the S pirit of God works. If only every member of the church said, Well of course, I received the Holy Spirit who is a communicating Spirit. He longs through me to reach another. Well then, I must speak to somebody either by letter, by testimony and put myself into the hands of God and into the hands of Jesus Christ my Saviour whose authority I desire to recognise. I ask thee 0 Lord to open up a way for a word of testimony, meet my many fears,and my inadequacy because I know so little of the truth. Forgive me my prayerlessness which has been so neglected, but 0 Lord God forbid, that I should end my days as a Christian without ever touching my Jerusalem.
Indeed, I would say no man is fitted to the mission field and if I were having my time over again I should be very concerned about this that no man or woman should go to the mission field, reaching out to the uttennost parts of the earth, before they have dealt with Jerusalem. Now I appeal to my fellow members here - do have regard to Jerusalem; if you forget all else, put yourself in God's hands, that by the blessing of God, the Spirit of God whom you have received, shall use you in God's own way. That He may direct you, and so open up a conversation with another for whom God designs grace as he did for you, that he shall hear the truth through you. That would be one of the greatest blessings I would think probably, the greatest blessing, that could come to the people of God in all our churches. Secondly, of course into Judea which is a larger field, but you rnustn't bypass Jerusalem; but having done Jerusalem, you can then reach out, reaching out of course to the world of business. Very difficult, isn't it? Exceedingly difficult in the world of business. How to speak to a man or woman tomorrow who hasn't been inside a church for years and when they have been, they have been doped with a lot of superstition. How to reach this man or woman? Well you can't - but God can. You are just being baffled by fears. God wants you to stand in His authority. Take the opportunity and venture the Word. The Spirit of God will begin to bless your word. You will begin to feel the thrill, the wonder and the joy of having reached out towards Judea. Then of course, the next period will be more difficult, because you are getting experience. You must now reach out to Samaria and that is a very important field because the Samaritans are the people you don't like. Have you ever said, Well of course. if Mr So and So is in heaven, I don't want to be there! Well, perhaps God will answer your prayers if you are not very careful. Did you ever think that God wants to reach Mr So and So as much as He ever wanted to reach you, but you are mixing with Mr So and So and you are touching him, but you don't like him, and you have got a prejudice against him, and therefore you leave him alone.
God wants you to have a care about it, and a burden. Ask yourself is it possible that the devil is taking hold of me and is trying to create a prejudice in my mind and if I could be delivered from this predjudice, this is just the person that I could help. The spirit of evil is always round about. God wants to use you dear friend. Jesus Christ loved the world and while we reject sinners, Christ died for us. Of course I know how conscience works and tonight you are going through your little list. You can't believe it's a stumbling block to your own Christian grace. But it is! Ask the Lord in his mercy to give you the harvest out of Samaria. That is what Jesus did at the very begining of His ministry. Then of course finally, there is the world to think about. When you've dealt with your Jerusalem and your Judea and your Samaria, then God begins to give you the vision of the larger field. Now you begin to feel the pulse of Calvary; and you begin to think in terms of the world. Now you begin to see the world as Jesus saw it when He died for it; and you begin to feel the burden of sin that is lying upon those who know nothing about Jesus; their helplessness and their misery, their despair in the social conditions in which they live, which can never be altered until they step into the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Then you begin to say, Lord, if thou has a place anywhere in the world for me, I am ready, but in the meantime, it is Jerusalem and it is Judea and it's Samaria and I want to feel the pulse of Calvary within and to see that Jesus Christ is the answer to men's needs and to give myself to it. God will accept you.
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