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Church on Fire! Faith Service Worship Vision

Acts 4:31-33

14 June 2011

What does “to be on fire for God” mean? Can you describe what it looks like? Are you on fire? The village atheist was not a bad man, he just didn’t believe. He was not interested in church... and there was only 1 in the area. It was cold and dead— it was more a social club than a place of worship. One day the church building caught on fire, and the whole village ran toward it to help extinguish the flames... including the village atheist! Someone shouted out: “Hey, this is something new for you, the first time we’ve ever seen you running to church!” He replied, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire!”

Is the 21st century church on fire? I’m sure we can all name churches that are not on fire, many of us have had personal experience of being in a cold, dead church, with no fire. A lack of fire can be manifested in many ways: n

the person who stands to sing who is obviously just going through the motions, and their heart is not in it

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door stewards or greeters who find it impossible to smile

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Sunday school teachers who go to church to teach others on a Sunday morning and would never think of going to an Evening Service so that they can be fed too.

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People who rush in and rush out and then complain that nobody cares about them, when they make no effort to be in relationship with others.

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The person who calls themselves a Christian, yet never prays, never reads the Bible, never tithes, and never actually goes to church.

Stuck in the past? Do you long for the “good old days”? Those who focus on what they “used to be,” usually “aren’t,” and “never will be!” Whether good or bad, focusing on the past ruins the present and destroys the future.

Do we need new people to set the church on fire or do we need some fire so that there will be new people? Why don’t we see more people saved in the modern church? Can God entrust us with new converts? Charles Spurgeon said: “To put new converts into most churches is like putting live chicks under a dead hen.” In Genesis 22: God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac to the mountains to become a human sacrifice. They arrived at the location, and Isaac still did not realize that HE was going to be the sacrifice. Isaac knew there had to be 3 things to have a sacrifice: wood, fire, and a lamb. Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, Father? Yes, my son? Abraham replied. The fire and wood are here, Isaac said, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? (Genesis 22:7) 4,000 years later, as we look at most churches around us, we can invert the question and ask, “We have the wood, we have the Lamb, but where’s the fire?” Wood—cross of Calvary Lamb—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God But, where is the fire?

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What are the characteristics of a church on fire for God?

The Believers’ Prayer On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. Sovereign Lord, they said, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. 23

We have an example of an on-fire church in Acts 4, so let’s take our points from there: Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 1

They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 3

But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. 4

The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 5

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 31

They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: By what power or what name did you do this?

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The Believers Share Their Possessions

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. 8

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:1-35) 34

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 13

Power A church on fire is endued with power Who should be on fire? Both the The pastor(s) (v. 8) and

So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 What are we going to do with these men? they asked. Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name. 15

the people (v31).

We need power to fulfil God’s purpose, we need God’s power and we must not accept any substitute! We cannot depend upon man-made excitement to get the job done, programs, promotions, publicity or reputation do not bring the fire. We could sing worship choruses for hours and some people may experience an emotional high but not have the fire.

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. 21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. 18

Nothing can substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit upon a church. The Apostle Paul wrote: My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

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In effect, Paul says, he is not depending upon his wisdom, flamboyant sermons, tear-jerking illustrations, funny stories (These don’t hurt, unless they’re mistaken for God!)

had been praying that God would send Moody to England. “Put lunch away, we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in prayer and fasting,” she said. And they did.

Do you want to see people saved at our church?

Moody said he stood up that night before the people, and he could tell something was different. It was alive with the electricity of the power of God…you could feel it in the air.

Charles Finney, the revivalist of the 1700s, spoke about a church in a certain town a church where the fire had totally gone out with no one saved, and worse, no one cared!

He preached with unexplained liberty, gave the invitation to rise if they wanted to be saved. 500 stood to their feet. Shocked, he thought maybe they had misunderstood. “Be seated,” he said. Now, I’m saying, stand up if… (He repeated with more detail) 500 again stood. It was the beginning of what became one of the greatest revivals that ever swept England.

It was a dead church, and no one cared, except for 1 man, and it was not the pastor. It was a blacksmith. He was not much of a talker he stuttered so badly it was painful to hear him speak. But he had a heart for God, and wanted revival fire again. He was so burdened for the fire, that one day, he closed the doors of his shop, and went home and prayed the rest of the day. The next day he approached the pastor. “I’ve been praying for revival, for God to rekindle the flames around here. Can we schedule some kind of a meeting, some kind of a revival.”

Why? Because 2 old ladies, 1 of them bed-ridden, said, we don’t need more organization or activities, we need the power of God on this place…and they paid the price in prayer!

What happens when preaching and a people are endued with power? Souls will be saved (at least 8,000

The pastor grudgingly agreed, with a warning that no one will come.

in Jerusalem when this happened in Acts). Worship will be inspiring, the preaching, the music and the fellowship will be uplifting.

They had the meeting and to the pastor’s surprise, the building was full! He stood up to preach as always, but he felt very different. The power of God was so strong in that place that everyone could feel it. Many people were saved that week. the fire was re-ignited. Why?

Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

It wasn’t methods or programs, activities or organizations. It wasn’t because they had a youth pastor, or a PowerPoint screen! It was because somebody prayed.

Do you want to add zest to your spiritual life?

If you want to see people saved at our church, how often do you pray that it will happen?

What is the result when the peaching and people are not endued with power? The result is always the same:

burnout! The fire will dwindle to a flickering flame, a small spark, and eventually be snuffed out, unless somebody fans the coals, and, on their knees, searches for some kindling! Serving God will be a chore, a burden, if you do it in the energy of your flesh, rather than being endued with power!

v. 31 “When they prayed!” Nothing is born without out work, this is true for the natural world [childbirth] and the supernatural.

To get God working does somebody need to be in prayer? Prayer will lead to action. This is not to

Do you serve God in the power of the Spirit or in the energy of your flesh?

say a church must be growing in numbers to be an on fire church, sometimes God’s plans are beyond our understanding and He may have something different in mind - like Spiritual growth - a handful on fire is better than a full wet or dry room.

We must serve God: in the energy of the Spirit, rather than the energy of the flesh - it’s not us trying to make something happen, but us allowing something to happen TO us and THROUGH us, or even DESPITE us! The church on fire is endued with God’s power.

One day while on holiday D.L. Moody visited a large but dead church in London. The pastor prevailed upon him to preach there in all services, he didn’t want to, but agreed to anyway. He preached, and later said that they were so unresponsive, it was all he could do to get through the morning message.

Position A church on fire is equal in position

Then it occurred to him that he’d have to endure the same thing that night, when he’s supposed to be on vacation. He dreaded it all afternoon!

v. 24 all in one accord & v. 32 all of one heart and one soul Everyone pulling in same direction, together toward a common goal. No preferential treatment (for social status, or church position they hold). No cliques (ground is level at Calvary). No looking down at each other (too busy looking at Christ).

But behind the scenes, something was going on. An elderly woman that morning went home to her invalid sister, and told her about Moody being there. Her eyes lit up, for she

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Priority

Are we a church that is on fire for God? Are we working with a common goal?

Evangelistic in priority

3 dangers church members can fall into:

Many of us are on board on this one. It’s very evident, as we bring people to church, witness at work.

1. Magnifying our importance

Is the best outreach a church can have, one that is lived by it’s people as they go on their way?

We should never feel so indispensable that we deserve special treatment / privilege / consideration / recognition or have the attitude that “my opinion matters most!”

An on-fire church evangelises.

Is God capable of continuing the work without us?

Vance Havner: “Evangelism is to Christianity what veins are to our bodies. You can cut a true Christian anywhere and they will bleed evangelism”

When God decides to build a church, even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it. This problem of magnifying your own importance can happen to anyone and it usually develops in the heart of a person! Pride has taken down many people.

R.G. Lee said, “God never intended for the church to be a refrigerator in which to preserve perishable piety… He intended it to be an incubator in which to hatch our converts.”

2. Minimizing our importance

Church is to be a hospital for sinners, not just a rest home for saints.

We must avoid an attitude of unfaithfulness which says, it doesn’t matter if I’m there or not on Sunday, in the midweek meeting, tithe or not, attend church business meeting or not.

We are to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium! That’s why He left us here! And when we forget that, we lose our fire!

Is the greatest ability dependability? Anyone can be faithful, but some will go to the grave saying, “nobody’s going to tell me what I should do!”

A church that’s on fire for God is not only endued with power, and equal in position a church on fire is always, evangelistic in priority.

A Poem of faithfulness: “A Sunday School teacher, I don’t remember his name A wonderful preacher, who never found fame So faithful, so earnest, when I was a boy He stuck to his task…though I tried to annoy He never was missing in cold or in heat A smile his face lighted the moment we’d meet He taught by example as well as by word This splendid old teacher who honoured his Lord He helped my young life more than ever he knew Later years I remembered, and tried to be true I suppose he is gone now to join heaven’s ranks May it be my good fortune some day to say thanks” Don’t minimize your importance to the body of Christ. There is something for all to do, and little is much when God is in it! Just be faithful!

3. Misplacing our importance This is trying to be something God never intended you to be. The person who wants to sing a solo even if God hasn’t gifted them in that way.

What Spiritual gifts do you have that you are using or should be using for God?—everyone has at least one to use for God.

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2011_06_13 Church on fire