On Sunday Mornings, we are presently doing a 21-week jaunt through Acts. This past Sunday I preached on Acts 9:32-11:30. My focus was for us to wrap our minds around the “bigness” of God. Three of my four points were: God is big enough to deliver us from our infirmities, to rescue us from death, and to save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
My other point out of this two and a half chapter passage came from one tiny little verse that you can easily skip over if you’re reading fast—9:35, “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.”
God is big enough to save entire towns!
My church is in a town of ~1700 people in a county of roughly 18000, about 40 miles due south of Kansas City. In the surrounding area, they don’t grow the towns big but there are plenty of little communities scattered across the terrain. Most people you encounter “belong” (in the loosest sense of the word) to some church, so they claim. Yet on any given Sunday the seven churches here have at most 700 people sitting in the pews.
There are plenty of people in need of Christ.
One of the questions I had for the congregation: if God could save the entire population of Lydda and Sharon, then why doesn’t he do the same thing with Adrian? Of course to be biblically faithful, I talked about how just because God does something one way in the past it doesn’t mean he’s going to do things the exact same way in the future, but the overall point here is to begin to think outside the little boxes we like to put God in. Even if God doesn’t move here in the same way—he is still perfectly capable of saving all the residents of our little town.
And then I brought up a second question: what has changed? What is different today than it was almost 2000 years ago? Of course culture is always fluid—one generation never looks the same as the previous or the following (at least here in America). But at their core humans are still the same.
So have unbelievers changed? No. They’re still the same as they have been since Adam and Eve first partook of the fruit. Unbelievers reject God. They reject Jesus (unless it is some false idol of Jesus they have created in their own mind). It doesn’t matter if you’re inviting them to events at church or to a meal and a Bible study in your home—unbelievers are by nature disinclined to hear and receive the Gospel. Our methods won’t change that, only the Spirit of God preparing their hearts and opening their ears and minds will change that.
Well then, what about the Spirit? Has the Holy Spirit changed? Again no. Our God is the great unchanging God—the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the God who progressively revealed himself. He is the God who relates to us on a personal level. But he is the same unchanging God. The Spirit is the same today as he was in Acts. We have the same access to the same power and the same potential to see sweeping and true revival.
So what does that leave? What has changed? What about us?
The Bible tells us not to grieve or quench the Spirit—so we can affect not the Spirit’s power but how he operates within us. The Bible tells us to be filled with the Spirit “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).
Now there’s a question for us to ask: do we live filled with the Spirit? We might address one another with song each time we gather and sing hymns and praise courses and read Psalms, but… do we do it making melody to Jesus with all our heart? Are we people who are thankful always and for everything? Are we people who actively put our wills and pride aside to submit to one another? So first of all do we truly live filled with the Spirit?
Secondly what about our devotion to word and prayer? Has that changed? A few chapters earlier in Acts, it says the disciples devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (the Word) and prayer among other things—and they did this day by day both at the temple and in homes.
Is that us?
Do we seek God in his Word? Do we cry out to God in prayer? Do we daily pray “your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is heaven”? Are we as God’s people devoted to the word and prayer each and every day?
In John 17 Jesus prays on behalf of his disciples. He ask the Father to “sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.” We must be in the Word because it is what brings us to sanctification—to holiness. It is what helps us become more like Jesus. But as Jesus continues, flowing from our sanctification in the truth, he prays for us to be one as he and the Father are one, and why? “So that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Prayer shapes us. The Word shapes us. If we are not going to be people who are daily devoted to the Word and prayer, then we have zero reason to expect that the Spirit might move in our community like he did in Lydda and Sharon.
Yet if we are people (and all the church people—not just the pastors or the deacons or the Sunday School teachers—all of us) of the Word and prayer; people who live filled with the Spirit, then just maybe we will see the same thing happen in Adrian (or substitute with the name of your town) as we read about in Lydda and Sharon.
Unbelievers haven’t changed. The Holy Spirit hasn’t changed. God is big enough.
But will we change and truly embrace the bigness of God?