If the fire is hot enough in the church, it will singe everybody else.
JANUARY 5, 2023
If the fire is hot enough in the church, it’ll singe everybody else. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew, executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches that God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.
Thank you Matthew. We’re looking at the 19th chapter of Acts as a part of our study in Acts, and we’re looking at verses 8 through 10, where the Apostle Paul comes into Ephesus and he goes to the synagogue, and for a very long time, he presents the gospel. Then eventually he says, I’m shaking the dust off my feet and I’m going to somewhere else. And he takes the disciples and he goes out into the highways and the byways and sees tremendous results. And we saw yesterday that Paul did something that is always God’s way. Before God changes the world, he changes his people. Before God changes your city, he’ll change you. Before he’ll change your neighbors, he’ll change your house because God always starts with his own. Jesus said.
A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you’re my disciples, that you have love for one another.
I served a church in the Miami area for a whole lot of years, almost 20 years. And you know something, we hardly ever had an evangelistic program. And you know why? Cause we didn’t need to, something was happening in the church. God was moving amongst his people. We were becoming aware that we were a lot worse than we thought we were. And God’s grace was a lot bigger than we thought it was. God was doing stuff and when people would visit, they would get warm by our fire and become Christians. I remember a young lady, from England, who was an administrative assistant in a large corporation in Miami, and she came to visit us on a Wednesday night. And we used to pray for the sick on Wednesday night sometimes, and we saw God do some amazing things and she came fairly regularly to that church, both the services on Sunday and on Wednesday night. And one Wednesday night, I noticed she came in the church and we had doors, it was in the rounds, so there were a lot of doors. She came in the back, walked down the aisle, stood there, looked around, and then turned and moved as fast as she could out the door. I saw her the next week and I said, what was that all about? You looked like a scared rabbit when you ran out of the church. And she said, I was. And I said, why? We’re not dangerous. And she said, I stood there and I felt something going on in that church and I knew if I stayed, I would become a Christian and I’m not ready to become a Christian yet. What was going on? She was warm by our fire. That’s how God does it, he starts with his people. I think that passage that’s quoted so often in II Chronicles 7:14 is sometimes misapplied, and I may be doing a little bit of that in giving it to you, but at its heart it illustrates what I’ve been teaching. And that is God starts with us before he goes to them. It’s important, God starts with us before he goes to them, that passage says.
If my people who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Now, I don’t have time, but we could spend a long time on that verse. But at least at minimum it says God starts with us before he goes to them. You know, one of the problems I think in our taking the message of the gospel to the world is that we are going to them as if we are fixed and they can be fixed, if they will become like us, that’s a lie. That’s from the pit of hell and it smells like smoke. As a matter of fact, we aren’t fixed, and a part of our witness is to say to the world, we’re not fixed. And Jesus loves us anyway. And when we do that, people begin to say, say what? I said, I’m not fixed. And Jesus likes me a lot. And you can’t be fixed either. And Jesus will like you a lot if you’ll go to him. God starts with us before he goes to them. And the apostle Paul knew that, when he went into Ephesus, he first went to the house of God’s covenant people, and from there he solicited disciples to Jesus. And then he spent his time with them and they changed the city of Ephesus. Why is that? Cause to repeat myself, God starts with us and he goes with them. I was talking to a friend of mine. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the Jesus movement, pretty much that started at Asbury College and it was incredible. I mean, they had regular chapels and God for some reason poured out his Spirit at Asbury. They ended up going days and days, talk about a long worship service. They went days and days, and then teams started going out and God beginning to work all across the country, God’s Spirit was poured out and literally hundreds of thousands of people came to Christ. There were mass baptisms in California at the ocean, and I was a pastor in those days and benefited by that and was blown away. And sometimes in my time with the Lord in the morning, I think of those days. And the excitement of it, and I say, Lord, do it again. Do it again. Let me see you do it again. I believe that he’s getting ready to do that, but I could be wrong cause he doesn’t check with me about anything. At any rate, I talked to my friend about that time at Asbury College and what had happened. He said, it started with just a small group of Christians who said, God has got to deal with us, and God accepted that and did. They started confessing their sins to one another and publicly. They started falling on their face and worship. They started saying, God fix me. And once he started moving with them, God was ready to move into the country. And that’s because God always starts with us before he goes to them. Okay. Somebody said, that the church is the easiest institution in the world to get into and the hardest to get out. You know, I thought about that and I thought, that’s really true. You want to join the church. They’ll accept you, man. They accept anybody. Who was it that said, I don’t want to join a club that would accept me as a member. I kind of feel that way about the church, but you want to join the church, you know, they’ll require you go through a couple of classes or maybe, but maybe not even that. If you want to join, you can join. Now, the problem is when you want to get out, that’s not so easy. They’ll send a committee to visit you. The pastor will sit down with you. All kinds of things will be brought to your attention. It’s just not easy to get out of the church. You know something, maybe it should have been the other way around. Many Christians have this philosophy and I have and do on occasion, we should never, ever give up on anyone, any time, ever. That’s not true. As a matter of fact, sometimes we should give up on people. There were times when I actually as a pastor, and it always surprised the person to whom I’d addressed my remarks, I would sit down with somebody and say, Sam, I love you and all, but this isn’t your church and you need to leave. One of us has to leave cause you don’t like me and I don’t like you and I can’t leave. So, it’s up to you. I’m going to pray for you and if you need help, I’ll help find you another church. But you need to leave. And they were absolutely shocked because most pastors would sell their soul for another warm body in the pew. And I made it easy for people to leave because that’s the way it ought to be. Sometimes, and I don’t have time today, we’re going to get into it next week. But sometimes it is appropriate to let go. Sometimes it’s appropriate not to speak the gospel. Sometimes it’s important to say, listen, I’m going to somebody else. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. Steve Brown there, wrapping up a dynamite week of teaching from Acts 19. Remember, if you missed any episodes, you can stream those anytime you want at Keylife.org that’s also where you can find transcripts for each and every episode. And be sure to join us tomorrow for Friday Q&A when Steve and Pete will answer a question about cremation. So, Happy New Year. Is it too late for gift? Is it too late to say Happy New Year? Well, I hope not because we have a great one for you. It’s the 2023 edition of Key Life magazine. This is our annual print magazine and no joke, this is our best one yet. It features an article from Steve called The Bible is a Crazy Book. The magazine also features challenging and encouraging pieces from Chad West, Jenni Young, and Kendra Fletcher. And bonus in the magazine, you’ll find details on a very cool new subscription service from Key Life. All of that is waiting for you in the 2023 edition of Key Life magazine. Claim your copy now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine, and if you’d like to mail your request, just go to Keylife.org/contact to find our mailing address. Again, just ask for your copy of Key Life magazine. Finally, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.