Understanding The Bible
"The Triumphant Church"
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.
I walked into king’s Baptist church in Vero Beach, Fl. Several weeks ago where I was serving as interim preacher and a man walked up to me and asked, “Are those real cowboy boots? I said, “Yep.” He asked, “Do they hurt your feet?” I said, “Nope.” He then asked, “Are you from Texas?” I said, “Yep.” He again asked, “You don’t talk too much do you?” I said, “Nope.” He asked, “Are your sermons as short as your conversation.” I said, “Nope.”
How many of you like country music? I like to sing country music. I asked that question in a Port St. Lucie church several months ago and got a response I didn’t expect. Most of them are transplants and snow birds from Boston, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, etc. I was quite surprised, that most of them did like country music.
Country singer, Barbara mandrel said she sang three songs to her son Nathan when he was little. She sang: 1) Jesus loves me; 2) This is the day the lord has made; and 3) Jesus loves the little children. Mandrel said she always wondered which song he would sing first. His first song was, “All my exes live in Texas!”
Yes, I have been known to be long-winded! I preach long sermons! And, I’m too old to change now. I was preaching in one church, sometime back, and in the middle of my sermon a man got up and left. In a while he came back and sat down. After the service, I asked him where he went. He said he went to get a hair cut. I asked him why he didn’t get one before he came, and he said, “I didn’t need one.” Well… I don’t… not that long….
I want to thank your pastor for inviting me to share the Word of God with you today here at the First Baptist church in Sebastian, Fl. I’ve had the privilege to preach in over 20 states in the U.S. And pastor in four. Most of my preaching was done in Texas (twice), Louisiana, Mississippi and California (twice). Now, I’m retired here on the East coast of Florida, and have been blessed to preach up and down the Treasure Coast for over four years, preaching almost every Sunday.
Would you stand and read with me this morning, acts 1:1-14. I ask you to stand in honor of the infallible, inerrant written Word of The Lord.
If I were to ask you, “What is the greatest need of the Christian church today?” What would you say? Would you say we need more churches, more preachers, more missionaries, more money, more buildings, better programs, more schools, what?
Let me share with you what (according to my interpretation of the scriptures), is our greatest need today.
We need To be recaptured by the new testament spirit of Christianity. We must become more like N.T. Christians, or else!
Some years ago, Carl Henry said, “The world has not rejected Christianity, the world has read the New Testament and the book of acts, and compared it to our churches today, and they have rejected us!” Why?
We need to be like they were for revival and a great church. We must be like they were for a triumphant church!
Many things characterized the early church. I’d like to share a few with you this morning.
were: Committed to a person!
Verse 3 states, “to whom he presented himself alive…”
It’s no wonder that these disciples were not defeated and dejected this Jesus, whom they had followed, witnessed his miracles, been apart of his life changing events, who was dead, and is now alive. Jesus was now living in their midst. “He showed himself alive by many infallible proofs…” v. 3
The apostle peter said, “The Jesus that you crucified, God has raised up…” Acts. 2:23-24
The apostle Paul said, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father…” Rom. 6:4
Jesus is Lord. He is the living lord. And, because He is Lord, He deserves your love, your loyalty, your life.
In California, I visited a man one day who had been a member of the church all his life. He had gone through all through the prescribed rituals. He had taken catechism. He had been through new member studies. He had been baptized. He sang in the choir, and for a short time had even taught a class in Sunday school. I shared some scriptures with him, and all of a sudden he realized that he knew allot about Jesus, but, he did not know Jesus. He knew Jesus lived almost 2000 years ago, but he didn’t know he is living today. He gave himself to Christ, was saved and then baptized, and continued in victorious living from that day forward.
The Roman Empire said that all must say that Caesar is lord. These Christians would not do that! Because of this they were persecuted and put to death. Why? Because, they knew the living Lord.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “I once heard of a minister who can preach a sermon without ever mentioning Christ from beginning to end.” If you ever hear a sermon of that kind, you should make it a point never to hear another one from that man, for you soul is too precious to be placed at the mercy of such a preacher.
To have a triumphant church we must be committed to the person of Jesus Christ! He is the alpha and omega; He is the beginning and the end! Not only were they committed to a person,
2. They were:
Constrained by a power!
Verse 8 says: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you….”
Folks, just read the book of Acts, watch them as they burned out for Jesus.
This was the power of the Holy Spirit. This was the “dunamis,” the “dynamite” of God at work in their lives. They had power; the power of God!
Years ago, I went out into the garage to fix the light. I changed several light bulbs. I took off the fixture and put it back in, still no light. My temper flared up. I was irritated. My little girl, Pamela, flitted out into the garage and asked, “Wacha doing dad? Why is it so dark in here?” Boy, that really helped my attitude. Then she flicked on the switch, and the light came on. It wasn’t hooked up to the power. No juice!
We have done all our genius, our hands, our flesh and our education can do. It’s time to see what God, and God alone can help us do. We need to be hooked up to the power; to god!
Our world knows allot about power. We have experienced the power of a hurricane, or a tornado, or a tsunami, or an earthquake. We have witnessed the power of an atomic bomb, and have heard about the devastation of the neutron and hydrogen bomb. We have witnessed the power of the laser; but we have not experienced the power of God.
In order to get the gospel to the whole world, we need power. We need the leading of the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who moves through an individual or through the church. The question is: will we permit Him to do so. God says, “you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.”
The great scholar, Thomas Aquinas went to Rome to visit the Pope. During his visit, the Pope proudly showed him the wonders of the papal palace, the treasury, chests of gold and silver. The Pope said, “Thomas, we no longer have to say with Peter and Paul, “silver and gold have I none.” Looking the Pope in the eyes, Aquinas fearlessly replied, “No, but neither can we say, “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Riches had come, but the power had gone! Peter and the apostles had poverty, but, they also had power.
What about us here in our comfortable 20th Century American churches? We’ve got everything, but where’s the power?
Not only were these early Christians committed to a person, and constrained by a power, but…
3. They were:
Compelled by a passion!
Verse 8 says, “You shall be witnesses to Me….”
Oh, the passion they had. They went everywhere taking the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ. They witnessed in the homes, in the streets, in the market place. They lived it, slept it, prayed it. They had a real passion to see men and women and boys and girls saved from sin, by the grace of God.
They were convinced of sin, the lost-ness of men without Christ, and the punishment in hell forever for the lost. It seemed as though they would die if they didn’t tell others about Christ. Paul said, “I ceased not to warn night and day with tears.” Act 20:31. Luke tells us, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42
These Christians (new believers), were threatened with prison or their life! Peter and John when threatened said, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20 the scriptures teach us that, “when they prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31 and, in verse 33 we read, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them.”
Folks, may I suggest that is what is wrong with our anemic churches!
Did you know that the southern Baptist convention is in the crisis of decline? We have almost 17 million people on our rolls, but over half cannot be located. Over 10 million are AWOL. Only about one-third attend church each Sunday. Over 10,000 churches reported no baptisms last year. Almost 18,000 churches reported no baptisms of youth under 18 years of age. Folks, our churches are dying, and we don’t care!
You know why we are dying? We are not reaching our lost friends and co-workers for Christ. We are in the boat, with the lifejackets, and thousands around us are drowning… and we are doing nothing!
On a Salvation Army billboard, it pictured a man drowning. His hand was reaching up. Another hand was reaching down. A little boy asked, “Daddy is he trying to save him, or just shake his hand?” What about us? Are we just shaking hands with the world, or are we trying to save them?
Pastor Martin Niemoeller, who was imprisoned and tortured in a Nazi prison camp and was finally released. A reporter looking for some “juicy copy” interviewed him. Instead of hearing about the atrocities of the prison camp, he heard a stirring Gospel sermon. The paper reported: “Six years in a Nazi prison camp, and all he had to talk about was Jesus Christ.” He was compelled with a passion!
What is the main topic of your daily conversation? The weather, the gossip columns, sports, business, what?
The great English preacher, Alexander MacLaren was preaching. A well known skeptic and atheist was attending his meeting every night. On the fourth night the man walked down the isle and told MacLaren that he was giving his life to Christ. MacLaren asked which of his messages brought him to this decision. He replied, “Your sermons were helpful, but they were not what finally persuaded me to come to Christ, a couple of days ago, while helping and elderly lady through the ice and snow. As we were walking, she looked up and asked me, “I wonder if you know my wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ? He is everything in the world to me, and I want you to know him.”
The skeptic went home, he said, “Her words touched my heart, and her question haunted me.” I knelt beside my bed and received the Savior. “Now I want to be His disciple and unite with His church.”
This elderly lady was compelled with a passion to share Jesus with everyone she met. Have you ever had this passion to share? Have you ever led another to Christ?
Not only were these early Christians committed to a person, constrained by a power and compelled by a passion, but …
They: Continued in prayer!
Verse 14 says, “They continued in one accord in prayer and supplication.”
Not only for these 10 days, but all through the book of acts they prayed! When they were persecuted - they prayed! When they were thrown in prison - they prayed! When they were with people - they prayed! When it was unpopular - they prayed!
What about us? It’s no wonder we can’t call down miracles from Heaven with our little “now I lay me down to sleep (so-called) prayers! The apostle James wrote: “we have not because we ask not.” James 4:2 when was the last time (or have you ever) you were ever broken and wept over lost souls? May God forgive us all!
Also, there can be no victory in our churches with unconfessed sins.
James also wrote: “You ask and do not receive, because You ask amiss (wrongly) to spend it on your own lusts (pleasures)” James 4:3. You are trying to get your prayers answered, while there is sin in your life, sin that you refuse to give up.
We sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer; oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”
“Are we weak and heavy laden, ‘cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee, take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms he’ll take and shield thee; thou will find a solace there.”
The attitude of the apostles and the other believers was that of oneness, in prayer, and in waiting (on the Lord.)
These early Christians continued in prayer. What about us?
were: Comforted by a promise!
Verse 11 says, “men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the heavens, don’t you know that this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven shall also come in like manner as you have seen Him go into Heaven?”
This Jesus was crucified, buried and risen. He was now gone, but, they were comforted by a promise: “he is coming again!”
One pastor preached a message one Sunday on the second coming of Jesus.
When visiting in a home the next day a beautiful little blond-headed, 6 year old girl had been working in her bedroom, putting things in place. Her mother said, “How nice and neat your room is. What’s the occasion?” She replied simply and sweetly: “Yes, I am putting it in order, for Jesus might just come today.” She wanted to be ready … what about you?
Until we believe this we will never be the church we ought to be. We might believe it with our heads, but not our lives.We will never be the teachers we ought to be. We will never be the leaders we ought to be. We will never be the witnesses we ought to be. In fact, we will never be the Christians we ought to be. Why? Because without believing this promise we will live discouraged, defeated, powerless, lifeless, and meaningless lives.
When these early Christians left that upper room they were unafraid, filled with boldness, because they believed that Jesus could come back at any moment.
Oh, why can’t we believe this great truth? Jesus is coming again! Hallelujah! Are you ready for that day to come?
Booth Tucker of the Salvation Army was preaching in Chicago. A man interrupted from the audience and said, “Booth Tucker, you can talk about how Christ is dear to you; but if your wife were dead, as my wife is, and you had babies crying for their mother, you couldn’t say what you are saying.”
Only a few days later, Tucker’s wife was killed in a train wreck. At the funeral, Tucker stood to speak. “The other day when I was preaching, a man said that if my wife was dead and my children were crying for their mother, I couldn’t say, ‘Christ is sufficient.’ My heart is crushed, bleeding, and broken, but, there is a song in my heart and Christ put it there. The savior speaks comfort to me today!”
The man was present, and on hearing that stood and walked to the front of the church to surrender his life to Jesus.
This is the picture of the “triumphant church.”
Committed to a person….Jesus
Constrained by a power - the power of the Holy Spirit
Compelled by a passion - to witness
Continued in prayer - to our heavenly father, and
Comforted by a promise - Jesus is coming again!
Would you want to be a part of a church like that? What will you do about it? The world is watching us! Your neighbors are watching you!
Church members time are growing short, and eternity is sure. What will you do with Jesus?
Billy Sunday, the pro. baseball player, who was gloriously saved and became a great evangelist used to tell the story of the village atheist, who was running vigorously into a burning church, intent on joining the others trying to subdue the flames. A neighbor observed him and exclaimed, ”This is something new for you! I never saw you going to church before.” The atheist replied, “Well, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a church on fire.”
I wonder just how many would really come to Christ if we were on fire for Jesus? If we really loved Jesus?
Would you bow your heads. Shut out the world for a moment by closing your eyes. We are going to sing in a minute but before we do, I want to ask you if you know, really know, the lord Jesus. If not, would you consider allowing him to become your Lord and Savior? And Christian, would you turn you life over to him completely for total commitment?
Dr. Glen Clifton
Used by permission
The Race of Life"
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton
1. Dr. Clifton had been preaching at King's Baptist church in Vero Beach, Florida where he was serving as Interim Preacher for about 9 months (as of October 2006). Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here. He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.
Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography