Any movement of God has to be grounded in its people encountering God!
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are in the middle of the a 3-week series on “How to change the world”
We’re taking 3 weeks to unpack our vision as a church and talk about our hopes that God would use us to change the world.
If you weren’t here last week, or you’re visiting for the first time today, here’s the vision of Renovation Church
To be a people being changed by God to change the world.
And that vision comes out of our three core values:
To be a people (community)
Being changed by God (encountering God)
To change the world (reaching people)
One of the things we’re doing in this series, is studying how the early church in the Bible had exponential growth and (literally) changed the world after Jesus went back to heaven.
And letting that serve as a good blueprint for us for what world-change ought to look like.
One of the things you see over and over and over again in the early church…is people Encountering God (like our 2nd Core Value)
So that’s what we want to talk about today…specifically how that core value…relates to world change.
WHAT DO WE SEE IN ACTS
So how exactly are these new Christians encountering God?
We mentioned last week, when we talked about community, that they were meeting together constantly.
And we’re told this in Acts chapter 1, and chapter 2, and chapter 4, and on and on, that when they meet, they pray.
They encounter God…they always seem to be seeking Him.
And thus, it’s God through them, that leads to world change.
This is very plainly seen through Jesus’ last instructions to them in Acts 1:8…and His similar instructions recorded at the very end of the Book of Luke.
(Luke 24:49) – NIV
49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The instructions are very clear, before you do anything…wait for my power.
You want to change the world?!?
Wait for my power!
That’s how it’s going to happen.
And so any church, any Christian institution, any non-profit that is hoping to change the world because of their clever plans or strategies…is set-up for failure.
This is what Ben Pierce of No Longer Music talked about when he was here two weeks ago.
Strategy is Good.
Planning is Good.
But they must be directed and empowered…by God.
Let me show you an example of this from the Book of Acts
In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John (2 of the original disciples) are thrown in jail for healing a man in Jesus’ name, and then speaking to crowd of onlookers who gathered, and leading many of them to accept Christ right then and there.
The next day, the Jewish Religious leaders, the same people who had just had Jesus murdered (about 2 months earlier), confront Peter and John
And yet Peter and John boldly speak to these murderous leaders about Jesus
(Acts 4:12-13) – NIV
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
I LOVE that last part, don’t you?
Do people ever make that note about you?
Do they see something extraordinary in your life…and make a note that you’ve been with Jesus?
Because that’s a huge part of God’s world-changing plan.
That people would see unparalleled compassion, love, power, courage in our lives
And take note that we’ve been with Jesus.
WORLD CHANGING PLAN – FULLNESS LEADS TO BOLDNESS
Therefore, the foundation of this world-changing plan, is that we need to be a people who have “been with Jesus”
These early Christians were full of the Spirit…full of God…because they constantly encountered God.
So our goal…is to lead this church in such a way that we can best lead our people to be filled up with the Holy Spirit by encountering God.
I read a quote this week from Charles Spurgeon’s successor A.T. Pierson, where he said:
“No one attribute is more needful today for Christ’s witness than Holy Spirit boldness due to Holy Spirit fullness.” – A.T. Pierson
I think this sums up our philosophy well.
The Gospel really starts to impact entire cities and regions…NOT when people finally have a good program or idea, but when people start to finally be full of God
Holy Spirit Fullness leads to holy Spirit Boldness.
This is what I feel like what I experience in my life.
When I get close to Jesus…when I have those seasons when I’m REALLY close…I don’t’ know about you…
But I get energized.
I just start talking about Him more.
He seems to roll off of my lips more naturally because His Spirit is overflowing from within me
But when I get in those seasons when I’m not close to Him.
I lose my energy.
I often want to draw inward.
I don’t want to talk to anyone.
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit, who is God, resides in every Christian…everyone who believes that Jesus is their Savior.
But the Holy Spirit inside of us is a bit like a balloon.
I’d use a real balloon to illustrate this, but I’m allergic to latex.
Which, I swear we hand out in Renovation Kids here once a month.
Sometimes I think our leaders are secretly plotting my demise. :)
But the Holy Spirit is like a balloon within us.
Every Christian has a Holy Spirit Balloon in them.
And Jesus…is like our helium tank.
And the time that we spend encountering God…
In prayer every day, in reading God’s Word, in sitting at his feet…fills up the balloon.
It fills up our Spirits.
It’s changing us to change
It’s giving us the power of God within us.
And filling us up with God.
I think of the principle this way:
God will move most powerfully through us…when we are most full of His power.
So yes, God can move at anytime, but He often chooses to move when we are “powerFULL” (full of his power), so that it is obvious that it is HIS power that is overflowing in our lives.
And we become full…when we encounter God.
When we’re intentionally meeting with Jesus every day.
And by the way, there’s a big difference between being around Jesus and being with Jesus.
Too many American churches in the last 25-50 years have unfortunately done a better job of getting people to be “around Jesus” rather than “with Jesus”
But Remember, even Judas, was “around Jesus,” but that didn’t lead to life change.
It’s very “American of us”, but often our churches have endless amounts of programs catered to endless amounts of unique and personal interest.
And thus the church becomes a busy bastion of activity…but it’s just that…activity.
But being around Jesus isn’t what makes us “full of the Spirit”
That’s not what makes his power-FULL in us for world change.
It’s when we encounter him…it’s when we’re with Him…not around Him.
And so therefore, as we structure this church in a way that’s going to best lead to “world-change,” we’ve made some really conscious decisions about what we do have and do not have as programs
And for the most part, we have House Groups (which we KNOW leads to community & to encountering God) and our School of Theology in the Summer.
And there’s not a lot else.
And that’s on purpose.
People are sometimes disappointed because we’re not activating a new idea or program, but we make those decisions intentionally because we’re incredibly serious about using our time and resources in the best way possible for you to encounter God.
Are we doing it perfectly right now?
But that’s the metric in which we make decisions, and will make future decisions, on what we do.
Will people ENCOUNTER GOD?
That’s why, those of you in House Groups know, that we take our Personal Renovation Plans, seriously.
Those are plans that our House Group attenders make where they set goals to meet with God in prayer…and read Scripture…every day.
Because we know THAT is what’s going to change you…to change the world!
This even applies to our philosophy on impacting and discipling children and students.
Did you know that NOWHERE does the Bible ever mention a youth ministry or children’s ministry.
These are nice modern inventions of the church.
Instead, the Bible assumes, over and over again, that it is PARENTS who will disciple their children…
That parents would teach their children the Bible…teach them how to pray…teach them how to follow God.
That is God’s best plan for your kids to know Him.
And so anything that church does is meant to just enhance that…it’s a cherry on top…to what your role is at home.
We know the best way your kids will grow spiritually is if, (just like you), they learn to encounter God daily…
Not just have a good program at their church.
Our philosophy on you encountering God plays into how we teach here.
Whether it’s me, or one of our excellent guest speakers, our hope is that you absolutely encounter God through our Bible teaching.
That the Holy Spirit is filling you up through that.
And because that’s our hope, we are committed to teaching ALL of Scripture.
And so when you come here, some Sundays you’re going to hear really practical messages (because sometimes the Bible is intensely practical)
Sometimes you’ll hear messages that tug at the heart, some that mess w/ your mind, and sometimes you’ll hear messages that might make you squirm in your seat a little bit…
And that’s because…when I read the Bible…that’s what I do sometimes!
I squirm in my seat…along w/ those other things.
Our philosophy on how we’ve set up worship is based on the same principles of encountering God.
Our goal has never been to entertain, to play secular music, to wow you with fog, or any of those things.
We want to create an atmosphere, specifically through music…where you can encounter Jesus…and be FILLED UP with the Spirit.
I believe having high quality music is a part of that, just like it’s a part of communication…
That’s why we’re blessed to have someone like Zach Foty as our worship pastor.
But the greatest thing he, and our worship volunteers do for us, is the lead us into the presence of God.
Here on Sundays, and on our worship nights, called Encounter.
So if you’re new around here, our goal is not that you come here and watch…while the music happens.
Our goal is that it’s an aide to you to help you encounter God….BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT’S GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD.
THE REVIVAL OF 1857
This is how God works and it’s how he HAS worked in the past.
One of my favorite stories from American history is the story of Jeremiah Lanphier.
In 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier was a 49-year old merchant in New York City, who felt led to start a prayer service at noon on Wednesdays when businesses would often close down for an hour for lunch.
Just 6 people came to his first meeting
But 20 came to the second, then 40
Then they switched to meeting daily.
In a short time, crowds of 3,000 would pile into the whole building…and all around it…daily…to pray…to encounter God.
Often people could only pray for just 5 minutes, just so others could get in
Within 6 months, 10,000 people in NYC were gathering for prayer at noontime at 20 different prayer meetings.
And hundreds of people started giving their lives to Jesus as they ENCOUNTERED GOD
Stories like the following one were happening constantly at meetings
At one meeting, a man got up to pray for his friend’s adult son (who wasn’t saved), and he prayed passionately that that young man would give his life to Christ.
Unknown to the man praying, his own adult son (who also didn’t know Jesus) had come into the meeting that day.
His own son was so taken by hearing his father pray for another man’s son, that he made himself known to the meeting, and told all that he wanted to surrender his life to God.
As 1857 turned to 1858, meetings then spread to Philadelphia, to Boston, and all throughout the East
Listen to some of the real headlines of the major papers from NY and Connecticut and DC from 1858
“Firemen’s meeting attracts 2,000”
“Five Prayer Meetings Go round the clock”
“State legislators get down on knees to pray”
“Ice on the Mohawk River Broken for baptisms.”
Soon, the revival spread to Cleveland, to Cincinnati, to Minneapolis, and all the way to the West Coast
In fact, one day, a man showed up at the original prayer meeting in New York City to report that at a church in the Midwest, 25 women got together once a week to pray for their unsaved husbands.
The pastor joyfully reported to those present at the NYC meeting, that on the Sunday he had left, the last of the 25 husbands had given his life to Christ.
At the movement’s high tide, 50,000 Americans were coming to Christ EVERY week.
In 1858, the church in America grew by 10% in one year…
Hundreds of thousands of people in just 12 months
What was the plan for such a powerful and effective move of God?
PEOPLE ENCOUNTERD GOD.
That was the plan
FIND WAYS TO ENCOUNTER GOD
And so believe, for us, the people of Renovation, that every thing has to be grounded in people encountering God.
Our teaching, the worship, our house groups.
If we want to see world-change, our strategy has to be grounded in us encountering God, not just us enacting what we think is a good idea.
And we each have to own this idea of encountering God…not just as a strategy for our church, but something that WE ALL do on our own.
Jesus tells us that one of the best ways we can pray and encounter him…is on our own.
(Matthew 6:5-6) – NIV
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Do you want God to change more of your life?
Do you want God to move through you to change other’s lives?
To be changed TO change like our vision says?
Then, meeting with Him every day in prayer…and reading His word, is exactly where it all starts.
Encounter Him…every day.
In the closet.
Or in your car.
Or at your kitchen table.
Or wherever works.
It all starts with each of us encountering God on our own…
And once we’ve done that, we also encounter God in public.
Listen, if we’re going to change the world, we need to be like the Christians in the book of Acts!
They got out…and let God’s power go to work through them!
That’s what Jesus said to them, “The Holy Spirit’s coming down…and then GO! GO!”
The experience of God is meant to be a conduit for God’s power to reach out to others, but too many American Christians are trying to turn it into a personal vacuum…to suck more in for themselves.
And thus, they’re not really experiencing God’s power.
Francis Chan, one of the great Christian communicators of our time, who’s not afraid to say anything, says it this way:
“If you've never really experienced the Holy Spirit, ask yourself, ‘Am I out there making disciples? Am I out there being His witness? Or am I just trying to get myself in a room to feel Him? I'm not saying you can't experience Him in a room. But I see in Scripture, that when people are obeying his commands and living the great commission, they experience the Holy Spirit of God.” – Francis Chan
So yes, we need to encounter God on own, but one of the main reasons we do so, is SO THAT we can see Him move in public.
But that makes most of us nervous, right?
Because we think, “Okay, if I do that, if I start putting myself out there for God, telling people what God’s doing in my life, or inviting people to church, or…”
“…it’s probably not going to work because I don’t know enough…I’m not good enough…or I’ll say the wrong thing!”
But hold on…let’s think through this!
In the Bible, in history, what is it…that’s effective for world change?
It’s not us being educated and perfect in our speeches!
We’re not trying to woo people to “us!”
In Acts 4, Peter and John are talking to the very people that ordered the murder of Jesus…and yet their accusers are practically speechless…and they let them go…because of the power of God!
It specifically says, (for people just like us), these men were “unschooled and ordinary men”…it was the power of God that moved.
The Apostle Paul gave the same credit to God in his ministry
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5) – NIV
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
We hear the story of Jeremiah Lanphier, and the movement of the 1850’s, and we long for that in America.
And it can happen.
Do you know where it IS happening in the world in present day?
Mostly in places like China and other parts of Asia…often where the believers are still very new and have way less Biblical training than we do…BUT…they’re encountering God!
And their Holy Spirit Fullness is leading to Holy Spirit Boldness…
And people are taking note of the power, connecting the dots, and saying, “Wait, these people were with Jesus!”
And yet in America, we are some of the most educated Christians in the world…and yet, we’re some of the most timid Christians
I would say to some of you…what have we been doing all of these YEARS (or decades for some of you) as Christ followers?
We’ve done all the different quiet times with God, we’ve read all the devotionals, done all the studies, taken all the classes…
Is it all just for you?
It’s time to believe that God is God…and that He is powerful.
That He has filled you up with the purpose of pouring you out.
(Hebrews 11:1) – NIV
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Which means…that if you truly believe God is powerful and God can move, then you will move!
Just 2 weeks from this weekend, we have an incredible opportunity to live out the vision of our church.
To be a people, who are being changed by God (filled by God)…to change the world.
To tell more people about his grace and salvation.
If you look under your chair right now, you’ll see there are a few invite cards to our Easter services and outreach.
If you don’t have any yet, please go ahead and grab them right now.
Over 150 of you have already committed to pray consistently for this event for the next 14 days.
Because we believe, in our plan for how to change the world, that all of these things go together.
We plan, we pray, and we move in faith (we invite).
Don’t just pray…for if you just pray…than you don’t really believe what the Bible teaches.
That God is filling you with the Holy Spirit to use YOU boldly.
That He’s filling you up…to pour you out.
And don’t just invite…
Because then you’ll think that the power is in you.
So the question is: who are you going to pray for over the next 13 or 14 days?
Do you believe God can bring them? Is that too hard for God?
Do you believe God can powerfully use His Spirit in you?
Do you believe God could cause that person to surrender their life to Him?
Do you believe God could be working even if they tell you no?
The very first person who told me about Jesus, I told him he had 10 seconds to get out of my house…and yet, God was working was He not?
Listen, God is going to move.
At our office nowadays, our staff and leaders pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe Easter.
Like, literally, I breathe in 20,000 pieces of candy as I work.
I’ve threatened multiple people not to eat any because I don’t want to change the billboard to say 19,998 pieces of candy.
We’ve been working on it for months.
But without God’s power, people will not be saved. They will not be moved.
So will you Encounter God like crazy with us these next 13 or 14 days?
We need people to walk in and experience the power.
A lot of the new Christians at our church, have said the following thing to me…almost verbatim.
They say, “When I was in the service, and I heard what Jesus did for me, and it was explained that I could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him, “I just felt like I had to stand up…like I was compelled to…like I didn’t have a choice”
THAT is the power of God.
It’s the power of God that started in prayer, moved through the walking out of faith in an invite, and then moved all the way through the service.
And so our prayer is that you trust that that same power is in you these next two weeks.
And that two weeks from now, when your eyes are closed…our prayer is that you hear the sound of the chair next to you backing up, and your friend standing up to surrender their life to God…because they encountered God!
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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