“Jesus Influence” -- “God’s got a bigger thing going on!”
Sermon for the Evening of April 26, 2015 (by S. Lucas):
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(The following is the prepared text of the Sermon I was blessed to be able to deliver – I’ve posted separately my darling wife’s story of our recent [and previous] “Adventures in Modern Medicine”. Friday and Saturday [the 24th and 25th of April] a “follow-up” test turned into a overnight Hospital stay, when Medicos “over-reacted” or “misread” the result of a CAT scan. I resisted staying in the Hospital any longer than I had too for several reasons, which I won’t go into, now, but chief among them was that I had really worked hard on this sermon, and had the Spirit “pushing” me during the process, and just couldn’t help but believe that it was meant for somebody that would be there Sunday night.
I’ve added some explanations and expansions in a some places, to try to give you more understanding of the actual “delivery”. Please note, this was scripted for the “ear” – as a presentation to be heard and seen, not for the “eye” as a text to be read, so the punctuation and other “elements of style” are not primarily “literary” but more “broadcast”. I have inserted scripture references as parentetical phrases... some had been displayed on screens in the sanctuary during the sermon, as were all that I read aloud.
I will attach a link to the audio recording of the sermon to this page, should it become available to me; the sermon was recorded, but I don’t yet have access to a copy of the recording.)
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Good evening... thank you for coming and let’s give our Musicians another round of applause for their leadership in our worship and Praise (applause)
Will you join me in Prayer, please?
Father God, Great and Gracious and Holy God, we do thank you and praise you for this opportunity to freely gather together to worship and praise and glorify you in Song, study, and exhortation…Thank you so much.
Father God, please Open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to your word and your message for us and use your ministers here as channels of your precious grace and love and peace. Use me, Almighty God, to your greater Glory.
If it be your will, precious Lord, touch a soul hearing this word with your grace and lead it home to you.
We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
I’m telling you… I just can’t stop Praising and thanking God for His inexhaustible grace and mercy and loving-kindnesses to me and to all that will accept Him.
He’s worthy of ALL our praise just for being who He is, but when you think about the things He does in peoples lives… well… we could… we can…
Praise Him without ceasing…
We can praise Him ‘til all the shackles that so tightly and painfully bind us fall away…
We can praise Him ‘til all the closed doors that stand between us and the freedom that is our birthright as God’s children…
‘til all those closed doors spring OPEN…
We can praise Him ‘til our wounds are healed…
Praise Him ‘til our pains and our tears are taken away and our tormentors are rebuked…
We can praise Him ‘til the “Jesus Influence” of our praise and prayers and worship helps save lives… helps change families… and towns… and cities…
helps change… The WORLD.
If you want to “turn on” your bibles or turn in your Bibles to the 16th chapter of the book of Acts, we’re going to be reading in there about a couple of other guys, guys a little bit more well known than you or me, who also just WOULDN’T stop praising, WOULDN’T stop worshiping God in some pretty tough circumstances… guys who changed the world because they WOULDN’T STOP.
And if you don’t have a Bible
(Big gesture… Arms raised and reaching toward congregation and strong vocal emphasis) WHY?
There’s some in the racks under the seats, and we’ll put the text up on the screens.
If you DO have a Bible... just stick a finger in there at Acts 16, or a bookmark or just stop scrolling when you get there… whatever… and I’m going to keep praising and thanking God… and Pastor Trevor Pound for the honor and the privilege of being able to talk to you about Paul and Silas and their “Jesus Influence” in the City of Philippi and in the world.
I’ve already personally thanked Pastor Pound for his trust and faith in me by letting me stand in for him while he’s at a District Assembly meeting this evening, but I’m publicly thanking him and thanking God, now.
If you are a regular here at Redland Church of the Nazarene… and if you’re not…
(Same big gesture) WHY?
But, if you are, you may remember that we are three weeks into a sermon series called “Jesus Influence”.
The first week, Pastor Trevor preached from the parable of the sewer (so-er) and about how “Seeds won’t grow if you don’t Sew (so)” ... How sharing the gospel is sewing (so-ing) seeds... seeds of salvation -- and how treating those around us with Christian love and kindness is helping to “improve the soil” of people’s hearts so that those seeds may sprout lives more abundant.
Last week, he spoke about how Jesus’ Influence on the scorned and isolated Samaritan woman at the well changed HER world, and the lives of many other people in her village, and thru them the lives of many others in the region and the larger world.
Some of the descendents of those people who felt the Jesus Influence thru that woman and that Samaritan village are part of some the oldest Christian Congregations in the world. They still live that region and some are facing horrific persecution for His name’s sake.
Tonight, we’re going to be talking about a couple of Christian people from the Middle East who also faced some horrific persecution for his name’s sake… for doing something good in Jesus’ name.
We’ll talk about how that’s a danger that ALL Christians in ALL places and ALL times may have to face, if they’re living a life that shows “Jesus Influence”.
In fact, we’re going to talk about how, if you follow Him, you can count on being treated unfairly… you can count on persecution.
So, at this point you may be thinking… “So -- preacher…
(Big gesture) WHY?
Why would I want to “follow” Him, if it means all that, trouble?
Well… we’ll talk about that, too. We’ll talk about the surety of trouble in this broken world, whether you’re doing right or you’re doing wrong… you can be sure you’re going to have trouble. But … (Gesturing upward) you can be EVEN SURER of Him.
See, we’re also going to talk about why that’s true.
We’re going to talk about the miraculous power of praise and thankfulness… the world-changing “Jesus Influence” power of walking and working your witness… or maybe of “sitting” it… like Paul and Silas, who sat in a jail in Philippi and sowed some seeds of Jesus Influence that changed our world.
Let’s turn to scripture… The sixteenth chapter of Acts, starting in verse 16:
“16Once when we were going to the place of prayer,” (All Scripture excerpts are from the New International Version (NIV) translation.)
‘Just so you know, the “we” that’s spoken of here, is Luke, and Paul and Silas, and some others… Luke is the author of the book of “Acts”, according to good evidence… back to the scripture…
“16Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved!’
18 She kept this up for many days.
Finally, Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit,
‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’
At that moment the spirit left her.”
OK, I’m going to interrupt Luke, again. Stick your finger in there or whatever …
Now when I think of, or I read this account of the happenings in Philippi, the first thing that goes on in this weird head of mine is a couple of gospel songs start playing on my internal MP3 player… I couldn’t afford an internal I-pod…
One of the tunes that starts playing in my on my internal MP3 is a southern gospel song called “God’s Got a Bigger Thing Going On”.
The song talks about something we’ll read about in just a few moments, and points out, in the chorus, that while Paul and Silas... SPOILER ALERT!... while Paul and Silas were chained up in the dark, but still praising and thanking God, God had a bigger thing goin’ on, than these little-bitty eyes can see.
I like that song because, I think it’s true… in ALL PLACES… in ALL TIMES…
“God’s got a bigger thing going on than, these little-bitty eyes can see”.
The other song about Paul and Silas I hear in my mind is a country gospel song…
SPOILER ALERT! It called… “Til The Shackles Fall Off”…–
“Keep on praisin’ ‘til shackles fall off”!
They do, you know… they fall off!.
But, I can’t think of any songs about this slave woman, and the thing that’s in my head… after the songs… is
(Big gesture) WHY?
Not… “Why are there no songs”, but… “Why was Paul so irritated”?
The King James Translation says he was “grieved”…
(Big gesture) WHY?
I mean… free publicity… she’s following them around, proclaiming TRUE THINGS about them:
“THESE MEN ARE SERVANTS OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, WHO ARE TELLING YOU THE WAY TO BE SAVED.”
So, a couple or three more things pop into this little-bitty mind of mine, one is that “even the demons” know there’s one God (James 2:19), and recognize Him and his servants (Mark 5:1-8).
Another is… it’s alright for Christians to be irritated or upset sometimes... as long as we don’t act on our “upset” in a sinful way (Ephesians 4:25-27).
Now, you may be going... “well - duh!”
But, really, a lot of us tend to fall into the idea that becoming “sanctified” or “holy” means we should be walking around always calm and serene… Maybe humming some hymns…
but, here’s the deal… God didn’t make any mistakes, and He didn’t make any trash, either.
If you’ve got the capacity to feel something, that feeling can be used to God’s greater Glory! (Romans 8:28) The fact that we don’t do that when we’re upset is our shortcoming, not His mistake.
Jesus got mad, but He didn’t Sin.
Jesus turned over tables and whipped some folks with a piece of knotted rope, (John 2:13) but He didn’t sin when he did that.
Now, my track record on acting out on my emotions isn’t nearly as good as His is... especially when it comes to acting on anger or “irritation”…
so I need to be careful and prayerful, when I’m upset, and I suspect you do, too.
And that’s like Him, too, when you think about it.
He was… careful… and… prayerful.
Another thing about this story of Paul and the prophesying slave girl... is that she was POSSESSED…
Not only was she possessed as property by men making a profit off of her…
She was possessed by a “unclean spirit”…
In the Greek it’s called a “python” spirit… a “SNAKE” spirit…
And, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Now, we don’t talk about much about “possession”, now-days, we’re not likely to say: (Change in voice:) “That one has a unclean spirit that makes her say things that she doesn’t want to say”. (back to “normal” voice: ) No, we say:
“That one has anger issues”… or,
“That one’s an alcoholic”…
Or this one’s “addicted to drugs”,
Or, “addicted to pornography”…
Sometimes… we just say… “SHE’S CRAZY”… “HE’S CRAZY”
I didn’t stand up in a meeting room more than 26 years ago and say “I’m Crazy”, and I didn’t say:
“My Name is Steve Lucas and I’m possessed by an unclean spirit that makes me drink too much and use other drugs and commit adultery and neglect my family.”
No, I stood there and I said”
“My name is Steve Lucas and I’m an Alcoholic…”
And they didn’t raise their hands and command the “unclean spirit of alcoholism” to come out of me.
No, they told me about the 12 steps…
12 steps that can be summarized in six words: (gesture with extended index finger and thumb) “Trust God… (Thumb and three fingers) Clean House… (thumb and all fingers on one hand, thumb on the other) Serve Others”
Those 12 steps lead me back to the foot of the Cross…
And they taught me to “keep on praising’ ‘til the shackles fell off”.
What I’m saying is we shouldn’t look at the snakes… or the “bad habits”… or the addictions… or the “crazies” -- and we shouldn’t worry about what to call them…
We should look at the cross…
It is written, in the third chapter of Gospel of John:
“14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness(Numbers 21:9), so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”
I don’t know if you have things that are keeping you in darkness, that are enslaving you to others or to things or to substances, or to something else unclean and unholy, but I know of a way to cast those things out of our lives... I know of a way that will make the shackles fall off… and it’s going upset some people, people that make money on keeping others enslaved and entranced and obsessed, and it’s going to shake up some demons.
Can you imagine if one of us raised his hand and changed Beyonce so that she became a modestly-clad gospel singer? Do you think some people might be a little upset about that?
Let’s go back to back to the scripture... Acts 16, verse 19…
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
OK, stick a finger …
Aren’t you glad that couldn’t happen now?
Aren’t you glad that mobs of people aren’t dragging Jews and Christians before magistrates because: “These people are advocating customs that are unlawful for us Americans, or us Europeans, or us Muslims to accept or practice.”?
Aren’t you glad?
OK…Should have given a “sarcasm alert”, I guess.
Because... that is still happening, and if scripture is any guide… and it is… it’s going to get worse before the Lord returns.
Some of our Brothers and sisters in Christ are, right now, being subjected to worse things than Paul and Silas were… in Philippi, anyway…
And right here, right now, in our lives, we can run into all kind’s of trouble by following Him, by rebuking unclean spirits and unclean ways. People will be upset with you if you tell them that the ways they do things may not be good ways, or that they need to change their ways, and more upset if you actually begin to change the ways things are being done in ways that affect their pocket-books.
Maybe we ought to think about the best ways to show “Jesus Influence” that sows seeds and changes people’s worlds. We may face some pretty tough opposition because of our witness…
Let’s not be persecuted for doing it wrong or just half-way…
Let’s be persecuted for a great and effective effort…
And if they take it us all the way out... lets go out in a way that somebody that see’s it is going to say:
“Wow, surely, that one was a child of the Living God!”
Back to the scripture, verse 22 --
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods.
23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.
24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
OK, stick a finger…
The earthquake didn’t free the prisoners…
The EARTHQUAKE didn’t shake their chains off…
I mean… think about it, if it were possible to shake the chains off, then the prisoners would do that.
(“Officious” voice:) “Officer, where’s the prisoner?”
(“Meek” voice:) “I don’t know, Sir, he escaped… he shook his handcuffs off and escaped!”
Then, a ROMAN magistrate would order the officer killed… for dereliction of duty.
That’s exactly what happed when the angel of the Lord freed the Apostle Peter… without an earthquake, by the way, from a Roman jail in Jerusalem.
All the soldiers that were guarding him were executed, because He had escaped…
You can read that true story just a few pages away in Acts…
But not now… now listen to me…
GOD made the shackles fall off and the stocks on their feet open up…
GOD opened the doors, and GOD shook the jail to its very foundations…
(Big gesture) WHY?
Not to free the prisoners… He already did that!
And, He doesn’t need an Earthquake to that.
The earthquake woke a jailer, asleep in his sins, in another part of the jail!
God Had A Bigger Thing Goin’ On than these little bitty eyes can see …
Back to scripture, Acts 16 verse 27:
27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
Stick a finger… they were ALL there… ALL the prisoners were STILL there…
You understand… the miracles are continuing…
God shook the chains off ALL the prisoners -- we just read that -- but ALL the prisoners stayed…
And thus, they saved that jailers life…
God Had A Bigger Thing Goin’ On…
And I guess that when those other prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas keep on praisin’ til the shackles fell off… they were listening real well.
Back to the scripture, verse 29:
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
Stick a finger…
There was no light, where they had been chained in stocks…
They were in utter darkness, but they kept on praying and singing praises...
They kept their faces turned up to the light, even though, for the moment, they could not see any worldly lights…
(Big gesture) WHY?
Paul later told the world how this works, in a letter to a church…
A church that grew out of these events…
In the sixth verse of the fourth chapter of the letter to the Philippians, he says:
“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You see… their faith and their confidence, the fact that they kept on praying and they kept on singing while their wounds were still bleeding…
While the shackles and stocks were still on them…
That peace and that faith... that “Jesus Influence”...
Helped change the people around them.
The prisoners that had been listening in the dark… they felt the “Jesus Influence”, and when the jailer rushed in and saw the that they were all still there, unchained and free, but still there, he knew that this was God’s work.
You see, YOU can’t shake your shackles off, not with your OWN power and the power of an earthquake’s not going to do it, so that leaves the jailer or God, and the jailer knew it wasn’t him.
Back to the scripture in Acts, verse 30:
30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Is there any more important question in the whole world?
Any more important question than “what must I do to Be Saved?”
You know, there may be…
It might be: “Do you know My lord, do you Know that He will free all the Prisoners? (Psalm 146:7; Isaiah 51:14; Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 9:11; Luke 4:18)
It might be “Do you know you’re a prisoner?”
(Mall story … ad lib, something like:
“A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around in a local mall with my wife and granddaughter, when I began to realize that I was suffering some kind of mental or physiological event, ONE where I wasn’t sure of some basic things about my situation. I wasn’t sure whether or not I was still working and whether I needed to go to work on Monday, among other things… I knew my wife and I knew my Granddaughter, and I knew we were in a Mall on a Saturday in Miami… and I knew my Lord, cause I was silently praying about how to tell my wife about this weird thing that was happening. I didn’t remember that something like that had happened exactly two weeks before, and that the doctor’s were testing and working to try to figure out what caused these ‘events’ … by the time we sat down in the ‘food court’, my memory and ‘orientation’ returned – the whole thing lasting about 15 minutes. The point is, it is possible to not know some important things about ones-self and ones circumstances, and it’s possible to not know that you don’t know.”)
But anyway, the jailer asked a really, really important question…
30b … “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
OK, you can take your finger out…
But don’t let those books get to far away, and don’t put them away until next Sunday or next Wednesday, or whenever the next time somebody else starts to read parts of them to you.
(Big gesture) why?
Because, If you do that you may not be ready to for the next time somebody treats you unfairly, or the next time you’re really hurting, the next time you’re in the dark and can’t see the way out, you may not be ready when you find yourself shackled to a habit or in some kind of prison of circumstance.
Worse yet, you may not be ready when somebody ELSE needs some “Jesus Influence” to bring them out of a dark place or clean up THEIR wounds or needs some help to keep on prayin’ and keep on praisin’ ‘til their shackles fall off.
See, Paul says the jailer was more important than him, telling the Philippian church, which, by the way, almost certainly, included the jailer and his family, in the second chapter of his letter to them:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
This Book, or should I say these books... they contain the stuff that you need to cope with whatever trouble is going to come your way. And -- It is going to come... our Lord promises it.
The Apostle John quotes the Lord, in verse 33 of the 16th chapter of his gospel,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So, how do we make sure we can remember that... that we can have this “peace” and this “Jesus Influence” in any circumstance, so that we can keep on praisin’ ‘til the shackles fall off... off of us, or off of the people around us?
Paul answers that question, too. He says in Philippians four-eight:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
These Books are absolutely full to over-flowing with what is true and noble, and right and pure, things that are lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy, and if you believe in the Jesus whose influence is throughout them, you will be saved, and when you are baptized and the Holy spirit unchains your understanding and brings you the light of his unfailing love in your studies, you will begin to be able to pray and praise in all circumstances and you’re going to be able to keep on praisin’ til the shackles fall off all around you, and YOUR Jesus Influence brings light to the darkest places.
If you want some of that, if you want to try to grow your Jesus Influence, if you want to just give forth with some prayer and praise and some shackle-shaking or if you want to be saved, come on up to the altars, while our Musicians come up and bring us a couple of closing songs, come pray and praise with our ministers and brothers and sisters in Christ. If you feel a little shy about that, that’s OK, some of us will hang around after, and we can talk, or you can go directly to the Lord and say:
“Lord I believe, I am a sinner and I’m in the dark and I hurt and I’m sorry for what I’ve done but I believe in you”, and you will be saved.
(ad lib, after “altar call” song, about how Paul died in chains, and how our shackles may not be removed, even though we keep on praying and we keep on praising, because “God’s got a bigger thing going on…)
(after song) Thank you for this privilege and honor... you are dismissed.