Pastor Miles DeBenedictis
A People With A Purpose
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We’re going to take a slight detour, Matthew Chapter 16. If you don’t have a Bible, you can raise your hand, and one of our ushers will bring you one. Matthew 16, we will pick it up at Verse 13 – give us a little idea of where we’re going. Matthew 16, Verse 13, it says, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’
“And so they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”
Father, we pray that You would speak to us. Such a cool passage of Scripture, and, no doubt, You have something You want to say to us. And so, God, would You ready our hearts for Your Word. Lord, we believe that Your Word is living and powerful, that it is sharper than any two-edged sword, that it is useful for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That we, Your people, would be ready, thoroughly equipped for the good works, the good works that You prepared beforehand that we should walk in tomorrow, and Tuesday, and on throughout the rest of this week. So there’s things that You’ve already pinpointed on our schedule, on our calendar, that You want us to walk in. So would You give us the grace, the ability, Lord, application from Your Word to ready us for those things, as we study to show ourselves approved today. For we ask this in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, ‘Amen.’
You can be seated.
As I said, and as Pastor Josh alluded to, we’re taking a little bit of a detour from our study in Paul’s trials. We’ve been in Acts 25, going into Acts 26. Thank you, Randy Broberg, for sharing last week, while I was taking care of my kids, while my wife was at the Women’s Retreat. And, but, next week we’ll get back into Acts 26, but today, as Josh mentioned, is a special day in the calendar, a Jewish feast. You may be wondering, “Well, why would we be celebrating a Jewish feast?” Maybe you’re wondering a little bit about that. So, I want to give a little bit of background, a little bit of information to set the stage for what we’re doing here.
The nation of Israel was commanded by God to observe three convocations and seven feasts. You may say, “What in the world is a convocation?” Well, it was three times that they were to convene together there in Jerusalem each year, annually, that the people would gather together for a big reunion, a big time of feasting and festivities, festivals in Jerusalem – at the beginning of spring, at the end of spring, and in the fall. And when they would come for the first convocation, at the beginning of the springtime, they would celebrate three feasts – Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits. And then 50 days later would be at the end of spring, the next feast, the Feast of Pentecost. And then at the end of the fall harvest, when the harvest would come in the fall, then they would gather a third time, and they would celebrate the Feast of Trumpets – Rosh Hashanah, they would celebrate the Feast of the Atonement – Yom Kippur, and then the Feast of Tabernacles. And this was something they did every single year.
Now, there are some Christians who think that we should, you know, look at these things, and delve into them, and celebrate everyone, and hey, if you can get your employer to give you seven holidays more, God bless you. [laughter] That’s awesome. But, you know, we’re not necessarily…we do think that these things are important, but their greatest importance is that they point to Jesus. Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. The law and the prophets are fulfilled in Jesus.
But this holiday, at the end of spring, called Pentecost, or Shavuot, is important to the church. It’s important to the church because something great happened on this day, we believe about AD 33. Which would make it 1,981 years ago today, that God did something great on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, and the people, the church, they were gathered together, and God birthed the church. So this literally is the birthday of the church. And we know that many years after that, they were still celebrating Pentecost. We know that Paul, in the Book of Acts, as we’ve been studying, he wanted to get back to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost; it was still a big deal. And I still think it is, in some ways, a big deal, because we are celebrating what God did to start the church, to begin this great movement and this great region.
And I think it’s fitting that the beginning of the church, the birth of the church, happened on the day where they’re celebrating the harvest. They’re celebrating the bringing in of the fruitfulness of the spring planting time. It’s important because a number of times, both in Jesus’ teaching and in other New Testament writings, we see that the giving forth of the Gospel, and the bringing in of people who believe, is illustrated by the sowing of seed and the reaping of a harvest. There’s a number of times where that is seen. You know, Jesus’ first parable that He tells in Matthew Chapter 13, is the parable of the sower who goes forth to sow seed. And He explains that that seed is the Word of God, and that the ground that the seed goes upon are the hearts of men, and then there’s coming a time where it’s gathered in, and the harvest comes in. And so it’s so fitting that that would take place, the birth of the church, at the time of the festival for the harvest.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 4, we read that Jesus was heading back to Galilee from Jerusalem, it was right around the springtime of the year, and He passed through a region called Samaria. Many Jews would try and stay away from that region, but Jesus went through because He had an appointment there. And as He came near a city called Sychar – John Chapter 4 describes this – He waited at a well outside of the city, and His disciples went into the Samaritan city of Sychar to buy provisions, to buy food. And He waited there in the middle of the day. It was noon, and there was a woman who came out to draw water. And you may remember, Jesus had quite a conversation with her there at the well. But at the end of that conversation, she goes back into the city to take a new word to the people of that city, believing that she had met, in fact she did, met the Messiah. And as she’s going back in, His disciples come back to Him. And now there’s a gathering of men coming out of the city of Sychar, Samaritan men, and Jesus says something awesome in John Chapter 4, Verse 35. He says, “Do not say, ‘Four months and then comes the harvest.’ For behold, the harvest is white. It’s ready to be brought in.” And then He says, “Pray the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth workers.” And so there were these guys coming out, they’re ready, the harvest is ready to be brought in.
And so the church begins at the time of the harvest. And we have seen, for the last 1,981 years, that God has been plowing and preparing and planting seed in the hearts of people. And then He brings in the harvest. And many times we get the opportunity to be a part of that harvesting in, bringing in of the people who put their faith in Jesus for salvation. But it was there, 1,981 years ago, on the Feast of Pentecost, when it had fully come, when God poured out His Spirit upon His gathered believers – about 120 of them there in the city of Jerusalem. We’re going to see it in a little while, in Acts Chapter 2, and the church was birthed, it was born right there. And it will continue on into eternity, an awesome truth that we find from the Scriptures.
Now, when we talk about these things, one of the things we have to do is define what exactly is church. What exactly is church? Because you’ll hear some people today say that, you know, when you get together at Starbucks with another Christian and have a coffee, that’s church. And that may or may not be the case, there’s a lot of different definitions of church. But the word that is translated in the Bible church is the Greek word ekklēsia, and it’s a Greek word that just means a gathering – a gathering together of an assembly, a group of people gathered under one common thing, one common faith, maybe. One of the other definitions of the word that you’ll find is: any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance or tumultuously. Under that definition, it would be a flash mob. A flash mob would be a church there, you know. So in just the Koine Greek language construct, the definition is just a gathering of people. But what is different about the gathering of people who are under the heading of Christ? You see, because you fast forward nearly 2,000 years later, and now people think of church, and when they hear the word church, they think of a building. And so they’ll say things like, “I’m going to church.” And then, “I’m at church.”
And then when you get home, your neighbor says, “Where you been?”
You say, “Well, I went to church.”
And so we have this mindset that it’s all about some place that we go to. And that’s a very temple-driven Old Testament mindset. But that’s not the reality that we find in the New Testament. What we find in the New Testament is that the church is the called out people of God, saved by His grace and for His purpose. The church is the called out people of God, saved by His grace and for His purpose. It’s not just a building, it’s a people; the people are the church. You remember that old little thing – Here is the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the doors, see all the people. That old thing – the people, that’s the church, the people, not the building. And so we’ve got to keep that mental mindset, that framework when we look at these things. We are, if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, then we are the people of God, saved by His grace. But not only saved to be saved, but to be saved for a purpose. So we’re saved for a reason, by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’re saved to a task.
And this whole thing is not the invention of man. You see, it is in the make-up of humanity to gather together in tribes, to gather together in groups. We’re always congregating together with people who look like us, talk like us, smell like us, think like us, have the same school that they graduated from, have the same team that they like to follow. Whatever it may be, they want to congregate together and be in groups. And there’s a lot of different fraternities and clubs and groups and foundations that people bring themselves under that banner. But those are all the construct of men, but the reality is that the church, Point Number 1 on your outline:
The Church Is God’s Plan And Not Man’s
The church is God’s plan, it’s not ours; it’s not something we came up with. It’s something He decided upon. And we know that because the very first time that the word church is used in the Scriptures is found in this passage that we began with in Matthew Chapter 16. Go back there for a moment, if you will – Matthew Chapter 16. We’ve already got the setting a little bit – Jesus is with His disciples in a place called Caesarea Philippi. But for many of you that may not mean much. Caesarea Philippi was in the northernmost part of the nation of Israel. If you go with us to Israel next year, we’re planning a trip, we’re going to go on November 2nd, I believe, of 2015. But our team that went this last year, and the team that I went on a number of years ago, we always go to Caesarea Philippi, and it’s one of the places that sticks out in my mind. It’s one of the places that I really enjoy going to. But when you go to Caesarea Philippi, there in the northernmost part of the nation, just below the mountain called Mount Hermon, there is this cliff, this red rock cliff, and for many, many hundreds of years people would gather there. There was a cave there that went down into the cliff. And there was a spring that sprung water up out from underneath the cliff. It would, it was one of the headwaters of the Jordan River. But in that cave there was a place of worship to the false god Pan. And then, over a period of time, many other places of worship came to be, and so, if you will, there were many churches, there were many gatherings to different deities, different false gods, where people would go and worship a carved image. And they would worship those things with sacrifices of animals, and sacrifices of fruits, and all kinds of different things. But they would go and they would worship a rock that was carved to look like something, and they would kill a goat and they would offer it there in that place.
And there, Jesus goes with His disciples, probably just the twelve. And they’re observing this, they’re seeing this, and Jesus says to His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
And they said, “Well, some people are saying You’re John the Baptist.” John the Baptist, by this time, was already beheaded, dead.
“And some say that You’re Elijah the Prophet.” There was a prophecy given by Malachi that, before the coming of the Messiah, Elijah would come first. And so they’re saying, “Well, maybe You’re Elijah.”
“And some were saying Jeremiah or one of the other prophets, coming in the spirit and power of one of these other prophets.”
And there in the midst of that, He says to them, Verse 15, “But who do you say that I am?”
Such an important question that every person needs to answer individually. The church is a corporate entity, but it’s built around people who have answered that question individually.
And so Peter, always Peter, “Simon Peter answered,” Verse 16, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Would you underline that word “living” there. The Son of the living God. There they are watching people worship rocks carved to look like images, and they’re worshipping them in very sacrificial and devoted ways. And he says, “Jesus, You are the Christ,” that means the anointed One, the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament, “You’re the anointed One, and You are the Son of the living God.” That means, “You have come with the authority and the power of the God who’s alive. Not like these images that people are bowing down to. But You have come with the authority and the power of God Himself.”
Well, if that was a test, Peter got an A. “And Jesus answered and said to him,” Verse 17, “‘Blessed are you, Simon Peter.’” I imagine he had a big old, big old smile on his face. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah.” He’s probably looking at John and going [pointing at Jesus]. “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” He says, “God just spoke through you.” That’s exciting. How awesome would that be to have Jesus say, “God just spoke through you? You’re like one of the prophets, Peter.”
“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Now, notice this, Verse 18, “And I also say to you that you are Peter,” the Greek word Petros, means little pebble, “and on this rock, great rock, this great foundational stone I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Notice there – “…on this rock I will build My church.” God is the One, Jesus is the One who will build this gathering. And how will He build them? Upon what will He build them? Upon this truth that we all hold in common – He is the anointed One, the incarnate Son of God, with all authority and power. Upon that statement the church is built. Believe nothing else, but if you believe that, you are a part of that gathering. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And so He says, “I’m going to build My church upon that foundation.” That’s not all the belief, but that is the core, that is the foundation, that is the important thing upon which the church shall be built. This is God’s plan, and it’s not ours.
Well, not only did Jesus say that He would build His church upon this crystal-clear statement that He is the anointed One, the One with all authority and power, the living God. But He is going to call forth this group of people, rescue them by His death, burial, and resurrection, which in the very next words Jesus would say, “I’m going to Jerusalem, and I’m going to be betrayed, and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, and they are going to crucify Me, and I will rise again the third day.” That’s what He says in the very next words after Peter says, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And so, “We’re going to Jerusalem,” He says, “and that’s the place where I’ll be crucified and rise, but then I’m going to redeem a people, I’m going to call them forth, I’m going to give them a purpose, I’m going to send them forth to do something, a task.”
Well, what is that? Well, turn in your Bibles to Matthew 28. You probably know where I’m going already. We commonly refer to this passage – Matthew 28, Verses 18 through 20 – as what? The Great Commission; the Great Commission. Matthew 28:18 says, “And Jesus, He spoke to them,” same group of people, the disciples, “saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Why? Well, because He is the Son of the living God. “’All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even till the end of the age.’ Amen.”
That is referred to as the Great Commission, but it’s not the only commission; there’s another one in Mark 16. Would you turn there? Matthew, then Mark, Mark Chapter 16; again, this is same sort of scenario – Jesus is with His disciples. This is after His death, burial, and resurrection. Mark 16, Verse 15: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be” what? “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” “Go into all the world and preach to every creature.” What are they preaching? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Those who believe and are baptized shall be saved.
But that’s not the only commission. Luke’s gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke 24 – Luke 24:46, Luke 24:46. Now, as you’re turning there, a tiny bit of background. Luke 24 is after the resurrection; but before the resurrection, when Jesus was with Peter, James, John, Bartholomew, Thomas – the twelve – when He was with them at Caesarea Philippi, back in Matthew Chapter 16, after He said to His disciples, after Peter had said, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God,” He says to them, “We’re going to Jerusalem; I’m going to be delivered over to the Gentiles; I will be crucified, and rise again the third day.”
And the same Peter who said, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God,” now he says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, what a minute. That will not happen to You! Far be it from You! That will not happen!”
And the same Peter, who heard Jesus say, “Flesh and blood has not revealed that to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Now, just seconds later, he hears Jesus say, “Get thee behind Me, Satan!” How many of you have felt your life be like that from time to time? You have like a big win for Jesus, and like 12 seconds later you’re completely down. Peter said, “No, that’s not going to happen. You’re not going to die.”
Look at this, after the resurrection, Jesus says to the same disciples, Luke 24:46: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Thus it was written, thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, to rise from the dead the third day.’” “It was necessary, Peter. Even though, at that point in time, you said, ‘No;’ it was necessary to suffer and to die, and to rise again the third day.’” Why? “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Not ending, beginning at Jerusalem.
Number 2 on your outline:
The Church Is God’s Plan To Accomplish His Mission
The church is God’s plan to accomplish His mission. It is not God’s plan to accomplish our ideas or our visions. The church needs to get in line with His vision, His calling, what He wants the church to do. The church is God’s plan to accomplish His mission, to go and make disciples, to go and baptize those who believe, to go and teach them, to go and preach the Gospel, to go and deliver the message of repentance and remission of sins to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. We are the people of God, saved by His grace, and we are on mission for God. This isn’t something that we have made up; it’s not the plan of man, but it is the plan of God, to fulfill His task, His mission.
But the interesting thing is that in the very same breath, when Jesus says that you’re to go, go, go, He slips something in, in Acts Chapter 1, which is the continuation of Luke Chapter 24. Acts is the sequel to Luke, so turn to Acts Chapter 1 briefly, and look at Verse 4. Acts Chapter 1, Verse 4, it says, “And being assembled together with them.” What’s that called, when Jesus is assembled together with His people? Church. “Being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem.”
Whoa, wait a minute! I’m confused. You said, “Go, preach the Gospel to all creatures. Go, make disciples of all nations.” You said, “Go, begin at Jerusalem, but go.” And now You said, “Don’t depart from Jerusalem, but wait.”
Why? Well, because we are unable, in our own ability, to accomplish the task given to us. It’s too big for us, by ourselves. And so He says, “Wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard of Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” Jesus said, “Go, but wait until you receive this power from God’s Spirit. Therefore,” Verse 6, “when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’”
You see, it is the temptation of the church to be inordinately focused on the coming of Jesus, and the establishing of His kingdom, always, for 1,981 years. But Jesus says something to us, just as He said to them, who were inordinately focused on those things at the end times; He says, “And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put under His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and then to Judea and then to Samaria, and then to the end of the earth.’”
The church, Point Number 3 on your outline:
The Church Is Called, Empowered, And Equipped By God
The church is called, empowered, and equipped by God. Turn to Acts Chapter 2, one page over, Verse 1: “And when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” What’s that? The church, about 120 of them, all in one accord, in one place. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them divided tongues, as of fire, that sat upon each of them.” I don’t know exactly what that is; it’s amazing and interesting. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
So God, by great power, ten days after He said, “Wait in Jerusalem,” and ascended into heaven, now ten days later, when the Feast of Pentecost had fully come, 50 days from when He had been crucified, now the Spirit of God is poured out on this gathered group of people in Jerusalem.
“And there were,” Verse 5, “dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language in which we were born?’” And then there’s a list of languages and nations mentioned there in the next couple of verses. “And we hear them,” Verse 11, “we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
Now, this is prophetic. Would you put an exclamation point next to this in your Bibles? Because, listen, the task, the mission that God has given us to fulfill will not be fulfilled until all languages hear the wonderful Word of God in their language. That’s what started the church: We hear them speaking the wonderful works of God in our languages, and it should inspire us, the church, to say, “That’s what we need to be about, people hearing of the wonderful works of God in their language.”
“’We hear them speaking the wonderful works of God in our own tongue.’ And so they were perplexed and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’
“Others mocked, saying, ‘These guys are full of new wine.’
But then Peter, the same guy who, 50 days before, had denied that he knew Jesus, he stands up, and he begins to speak, and he preaches for the next several verses. And in the middle of his message, in Acts Chapter 2, Verse 36, look at this, Acts 2:36 he says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God, the living God in heaven, has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both” what? “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now Peter stands before this group of people that are marveling at this miracle that’s taken place, and he says, “Listen, you need to know that the living God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord, that is the One who has all authority and power from heaven, and Christ, that is, He is the anointed One.
“And now, when they heard this,” Verse 37, “they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’
“And then Peter said to them, ‘Repent,’” Luke 24:46, 47 – “Repentance and remission of sins shall be preached, beginning at Jerusalem”, and there it is. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized,” Matthew 28 – “Go into all the world and baptize them.” “…that you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” Luke 24:47, “and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.
“And then those who gladly received,” Verse 41, “those who gladly received His Word were” what? “…baptized; and about, and that day about 3,000 souls were harvested,” and the church began, it was birthed.
And here we are, 1,981 years later, and we celebrate the birth of the church. Point Number 4 on your outline, this is so important, we need to grasp this, as the people of God, the church of God:
The Church Will Not Fail
The church will not fail. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.” And for 1,981 years the church has continued. And I would suggest to you that it continues to grow and be stronger and strengthened, though there are people with a perspective that say, “That’s not true,” I can give you the stats to prove it.
I heard a pastor recently, a pastor I respect, I think he’s a great teacher, heard him on the radio. And he made a comment, I think I even wrote about it in one of the e-mails I sent out recently. He made a comment in the midst of all this, he’s bemoaning all the terrible things that are happening in our nation, and he said, “The church is one generation away from extinction.” And, you know what, that’s a great sound bite, but it’s bad theology. It’s a great sound bite, but it’s bad theology. Why? Because Jesus said, “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.” And not only do we have what He said in the past, but we have a prophetic promise that, in the future, something awesome. Turn in your Bibles, the last book of the Bible, Revelation Chapter 7, Revelation Chapter 7, Revelation 7, Verse 9. I believe, and I think most who are here today believe that Revelation Chapter 7 is still in the future, hasn’t happened yet. Revelation 7, Verse 9, look at this, this is where we’re going, church, this is our future: “After these things,” John, who had this revelation, he says, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues.” Where were they? “…standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
That is our future. Representatives from every tribe, and every nation, and every people, and every tongue, standing before the throne of God, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God.” That’s our future, church. And so when someone says that the church is going to fall apart, and it’s going to be extinct, and everything’s grim, and o-o-o-h-h, goodness… No!! The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.
There are 7.2 billion people in the world today, and we know, standing here today, we can say that 33% of those people – 2.3 billion people – stand under the banner: “Christ is the Son, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 2.3 billion people, and growing. Now, there are still, at this very moment, people who have not heard. There are still nations and tribes and tongues, linguistic groups, ethnolinguistic groups that do not have the Word of God, or any missionary reaching out to them at this moment. Even in the year 2014 there are still 2,000 distinct ethnolinguistic groups, 2,000 distinct language groups that do not have anybody reaching out to them with the Gospel, and the Word of God is not in their language.
But I was at a missions gathering on Wednesday, about 500 people, big movers and shakers in missions throughout the world. And they were reporting what is happening through Wycliffe, and through The Seed Company, and all these different groups that are reaching out to these people. And right now, there is such an escalation in the church, of reaching the unreached, that they, by their own measurement, say that by the year 2030, there will be people reaching out to every single one of those 2,000 people groups. By the year 2030; that’s in your lifetime.
The church will not fail. The church will not fail. And I know that there are all kinds of pessimistic prophecy updates that are out there today about darkened suns, and blood moons, and all that sort of stuff. Let me tell you something, the church will not fail, because it’s not a move of man, it’s a move of God, and He will finish the mission through His church, because it’s not dependent upon you or me, it’s dependent upon His Spirit at work in us. We ultimately have an optimistic vision of the future. The church will not fail.
Let me give you some stats, just to hammer this home. How many of you have this thing called the You Version Bible App? How many of you have that thing on your “device?” Many of you do. Okay, let me just tell you about this device for a moment. In 2008, Life Church, here in America, built this App, gave it away for free. To date, it’s been downloaded 143 million times. It is nearing the point where it is the most downloaded App on Smartphones in the world. Since 2008, when they started with just a few languages, and a few translations, now, on that App, there are 628 different languages that you can get the Bible in 924 different versions. And since it went live, it has been read – they record how many minutes it’s opened and read – it has been read a total, this is phenomenal, 94 billion minutes has been logged in reading in different languages. If you calculate that out to years, it’s 183 thousand years of reading time. And it’s increasing by 4 billion minutes a month, 4 billion minutes a month. Let me tell you something, how many of you have heard that it’s hard to get Bibles into certain places? You know that Apple and Motorola and all these different companies, they want to get these little things called Smartphones to all those unreached places, because it increases their bottom line. And, you know what, they get to be the Bible distributors for us! [laughter] Apple and Motorola, on these little things. [holds up Smartphone] 186,453 years have been logged in Bible-reading time since 2008, on that one App, for free.
You meet someone, and they say, “I speak Farsi.”
You can bring it right up there and say, “Here, read this – John Chapter 3, Verse 16,” on your iPhone.
They give you some strange name of some language that you’ve never heard of before. “I don’t even know what that is.” And you can bring it right up on there, and say, “Well, here, read this – John Chapter 3, Verse 16.”
“What’s that? You read Abau? Achang? Achi? Oh, I didn’t know there was a language called Akoose. Here, you want to read it? John Chapter 3, Verse 16.” There’s 628 of them; they’re adding 10 languages a month to their App, 10 languages a month, for free.
The church of God, the gathering of His people, saved by His grace and for His purpose, is the unstoppable force in the world today, and no blood moon will stop that. That’s my prophecy update. [laughter] Things look good. [laughter] God’s doing good things. [applause] And we praise the Lord for that, and He will continue to do good things. And that’s why today we’re celebrating the birth of the church.
That’s why when we go out, you can get a hot dog. They’re kosher. I know, if you’re really into that sort of thing, you go, “How can you celebrate a Jewish feast and have pork hot dogs?”
You can’t. That would be a problem. So, we have cake. You say, “Whoa, why are we eating cake?”
Well, let them eat cake; it’s good. [laughter]
And we have a gift for you, if you want one, you can get one of these. [holds up license plate holder]. It says Cross Connection Church on it. They’re free, in the area out there. So.
Let’s stand together, and let’s pray.
The church is the unstoppable force in the world today. You will hear people say that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. It’s not. There’s people that have a political interest to say such things. [lights go out]
Let there be light. [laughter]
There’s people that have a political interest to say such things. There’s people that don’t like the church of Jesus Christ. But the church will continue to grow and thrive.
Father God, we thank You for the fact that the church is not our movement, it’s Your movement; it’s not our work, it’s Your work. You said You would build the church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Lord, Gamaliel said, “If this is a work of men, it will fail, but if it’s a work of God, you can’t fight against it.” And Lord, we know it’s a work of God, because for the last 1,981 years it has gone from 120 to 2.3 billion, 2.3 billion. God, we are thankful for each soul that comes to salvation, and is added to the billions, and that some day we will stand before the throne, and there will be an innumerable number of people worshipping You from every tribe and tongue and nation of the world. Lord, help us to be a part of that work of bringing the good news. We thank You so much for our team that’s going out to Mozambique to bring Your Word to people who cannot read on little things that read it for them. What an awesome, awesome task. Lord, bless Your church, You already have, and use us to be Your mouthpiece, for “How shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach unless they be sent, and how beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things.” We know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by Your Word. Help us to be those who give forth Your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.