The Last Crusade: The Spirit Enables Believers to Fulfill the Mission of the Church

Because men are fallen, God must provide a way for believers to share the message of return.
This sermon will be topical, exploring several passages that teach on a theme, instead of working through a single passage. Why did God give the world the Church? It marks a distinct change from the way God worked in the Old Testament. Instead of simply priests and high priests, a hierarchy of deacons, pastors, bishops, and patriarchs developed. Moreover, the Spirit upon every believer (as longed for by Moses and prophesied by Joel) enables every believer to go to God and present the Gospel to others.

The church is the body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 2:22; Hebrews 12:23).
Since God’s purpose concerning man is to seek and save the lost, be worshiped by man, to build a body of believers being conformed to the image of His Son, and to demonstrate His love and compassion to all the world, the priority reason for being of the Assemblies of God as part of the Church is:

  1. To be an agency of God for evangelizing the world (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15,16).
  2. To be a corporate body in which man may worship God (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  3. To be a channel of God’s purpose in building a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:12). To be a people who demonstrate God’s love and compassion to all the world (Psalm 112:9; Galatians 2:10; 6:10; James 1:27).

The Assemblies of God exists expressly to give continuing emphasis to this reason for being in the New Testament apostolic pattern by teaching and encouraging believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This experience:

  1. Enables them to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs (Mark 16:15-20; Acts 4:29-31; Hebrews 2:3-4).
  2. Adds a necessary dimension to a worshipful relationship with God (1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 1 Corinthians 12-14).
  3. Enables them to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of the fruit and gifts and ministries as in the New Testament times for the edifying of the body of Christ and care for the poor and needy of the world (Galatians 5:22-26; Matthew 25:37-40; Galatians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Colossians 1:29).

Everything the Church does should focus on one of three things: 1) outreach; 2) upreach; 3) inreach. We bring others to salvation, we worship God above, and we become more like Him in our actions and thoughts. If a local body finds it is doing something that does not fulfill one of these three items, it must drop that activity. Any activity which does not feed the Church must be discarded. God has given the Church to fulfill His mission. That mission must be pursued by us in all ways.

1) To evangelize. To seek and save the lost (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8).

  • Matthew 28:19-20 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  • Mark 16:15-16 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
  • Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Jesus came to make a way for the man to be reconciled to God. Since Eden, we have been in a state of rebellion. On a regular basis, men would sacrifice to God to atone for those sins. Yet it was never enough. Sacrifices always cost. David refused to make an offering where he had been given the animals because that meant it was not a sacrifice for him. With that final sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the debt were paid.

Imagine if God had turned away from the world. That our sins were so bad God saw no need to bring about redemption. Thankfully, He did not see it that way. God made a way. From before the foundation of the world, God’s plan was in motion.

After Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, He gave the Disciples a command. “Go. Teach all nations to observe these things just as I have commanded you. And be sure that I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

Our job is to spread the good news of Jesus to all the world. We know that wherever we go, He is with us. When Matthew told of Jesus’ birth, he said that He would be “God with us.” Now, at the end, Jesus says, “I am with you.”

The early church was characterized by growth. Every account in Acts talks about how many people were saved that day and baptized. Luke draws a distinction between water baptism and Spirit baptism, which he likens to being baptized by fire. When you are baptized in water, you are completely surrounded by the water. Likewise, when you are baptized in the Spirit, you are completely surrounded by the Spirit.

Something else common to every act of the early church is that it preached. It wasn’t just by actions that the message was given. It was by the spoken word. When you think of the ministry gifts of the spirit, notice how all of them we first think about are characterized by speaking: “And He gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” It’s not just the actions. It’s the word. Jesus is the Word of God. Scripture is the Word of God. We must speak. God does not allow us to be silent.

The Spirit empowers us to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs. The Disciples stayed in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended to obey what He had told them. After the Spirit came upon them, they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth. Once the Spirit came, they started preaching. 3,000 souls were saved in a day, and the Spirit was just getting started. The Apostles spread out to tell the world what Christ had done. Mark went to Egypt. Andrew went to Byzantium, as it was called then. Later it was renamed Constantinople, and now we call it Istanbul. Peter and Paul died in Rome, far from their homes. Syria. Asia Minor. Africa. The Apostles took the message all the way to India in the first decades. Empowered by the Spirit to serve God, they went where He told them to go. Thomas, who went to India, didn’t want to go, and tried to run. Like Jonah, God got Thomas where he was needed. Jonah rode in the belly of a whale. Thomas was taken as a slave. Don’t be like Thomas! Work where God wants you to or you will be miserable.

2) To lead believers in worshiping God (1 Corinthians 12:13).

  • 1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

The Presbyterians have their larger catechism, which states, “man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.” Repeatedly in Ephesians, Paul states we are made for his glory. One of the heroes of the ancient church, St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, wrote “our souls are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Without worshiping God, humans beings are like pianos that have gone out of tune. They sound funny.

We are not just animals whose brain got big enough to notice itself and started walking upright. We are special creations of God with an immaterial part that reaches up to God. He placed that in us. While God called the other animals into existence, He lovingly shaped clay into Adam and then formed Eve from his rib and side. He placed in Adam the breath of life. It was then that man became a living soul. When you look across human societies, you will find they all have a concept of a higher power and the need to worship. Truly, it’s something that sets us apart.

A friend of mine was once a Christian, then an atheist, and as of the last time we spoke, neither. After he left the church, and his grandparents were missionaries, he began to feel hollow inside. For years, he struggled against it, tried to fight it down by reading science and philosophy. But there was an emptiness that would not go away. Finally, he went back to church. “Oh, not to be a Christian,” he told me while I read his email, dumbfounded. “I realized that all around the world, humans worship. We aren’t just matter that moves. Something more than atoms is part of us. That ‘spiritual’ side has to be fed and nurtured just like our body does.”

While it is true that every good and true action we take can be worship, the Church is a special place, provided to worship God together. You can make even cleaning the house a time of worship. We are told to take every thought captive for Christ. So every action can be taken captive also and used in worship. But never forget the place of the church in worship.

Baptism in the Spirit adds a necessary dimension to a worshipful relationship with God. As you read the instructions on the Holy Spirit, you will see over and over that the Spirit leads us in worship. The gifts are given not to make us the alphas of the world but to enable us to fulfill God’s work in us more easily. The spirit enriches believers and edifies us as children of God.

To use your gifts from God is an act of worship. When a healer prays and see the bones mend, he and the witnesses know that God was at work there. When a message is given in either tongues or prophecy, God is moving.

The worshipful church is the most powerful weapon in God’s arsenal. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not overcome the church. Think about that. Gates aren’t offensive weapons. A gated city was something to attack not be attacked by. When the church worships, it is moving against Satan and spreading the Light of the World a little further each time.

Before we go to the third point, think about some major ministries that had everything going for them resource wise. They had the man power, money, material, and technical skill, but those who didn’t rely on the Spirit died out. On the other hand, think of those ministries which started out with almost nothing but relied on the Spirit and shook the world.

The first Assemblies of God world missionaries took their belongings in a coffin. They did not expect to return to the United States. Now, in just more than 100 years, the Assemblies has more converts per missionary than any other missions sending agency.

3) To build a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:12). This in turn leads us to share the love and compassion of Christ with the world (Psalm 112:9; Galatians 2:10; 6:10; James 1:27).

  • Ephesians 4:11-16 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.

This is how the church nurtures us. We have reached out. We have reached up. Now we will reach in to grow from babes in Christ to mature saints. From milk to meat, as it were. The important question here is how do we know if we are growing in Christ? The Bible shows the answer. Galatians 5:22-26 lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you see these parts growing in others, know that they are growing in Christ. You will be hard pressed to find all of these in someone who is not in Christ.

Naturally, we all have to work on this part. It doesn’t just come to be. St. Peter tells us, “2 Peter 1:5-11 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

A final aspect of this point is that as we become perfected in the image of the Son, our hearts grow and our compassion for others swells.

  • Psalm 112:9 He has given freely to the poor, His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted in honor.
  • Galatians 2:10 They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.
  • Galatians 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
  • James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

If a church has the gifts but not the fruit, it hasn’t finished its job. The church has a high responsibility in making sure that the saints grow in Christ. We aren’t perfect and won’t be this side of Heaven when we are fully sanctified. But we must be growing.

The Church has a high calling, and the members share in it. Each and every one of us is a part of that body. If we don’t do our job, not only do we fail, but our job in the church must be done by another. That’s right, we each have a job to do. God won’t let His kingdom fall. The only question is will we do our job or force Him to give it to another?

The Spirit enables us to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of the fruit and gifts and ministries. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the first step in a full relationship with Christ. I can’t imagine how my life would be different without it. What I found personally is that sins which plagued me constantly were demolished by the Spirit power after my Baptism.

Unless you listen to the Spirit and immerse yourself in Him, you will not grow fully in Christ. Would a marshal in a western go after the James Brothers with only three bullets in his six shooter? Why, then, would you want to face the Devil with a major part of your arsenal unavailable? I know I wouldn’t.

The Spirit empowers the Church to bring the knowledge of Christ to the lost. The Spirit enables the Church in worship. The Spirit makes us more like Christ. The Spirit empowers us to serve.

Let me tell you of a man whom you’ve probably not heard of, but he shook the Roman empire to it’s very core. His name was Telemachus, and the historian Theodoret tell us he was a monk. One day in prayer, the Spirit told him to go to Rome. He had no desire to see Rome with its buildings and crowds, but he listened and went. While there, he felt the Spirit urge him to go to the Collessium. Well, for a man like Telemachus, that rated slightly above walking through Rome’s Red Light District. But he went. There he saw gladiators fight each other to the death, and he saw wild beasts tear people to pieces, and he heard the crowd cheer and yell for more blood.
And sick to his stomach but empowered by the Spirit, he made his next and last action pure worship. He cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop this thing!”

The crowd looked around. What is this? Who is this little monk to spoil our fun? They laughed and continued to watch.

Telemachus pushed his way to the railing overlooking the stadium and cried again, “In the name of Christ, stop this thing!” Hurling himself over the railing, he ran to the close fight, a soldier going in for the kill. The little monk threw himself upon the standing gladiator’s back.

“In the name of Christ, stop this thing!” were his last words as the gladiator, threw him off.

The crowd was upset that their fun was spoiled. They leaped into the arena themselves and stoned the monk.

This was January 1, 404. Word of this event got to the Christian emperor, Honorius, who told the bishop to list Telemachus in the role of martyrs and then declared an end to the gladiator games which he hated but did not have the political capital to stop until that day.

The monk Telemachus was the last person killed in a sanctioned gladiator match in the empire. Making his life one of worship saved the lives and souls of thousands.

Conclusion. The choice is yours. Many of you have already chosen to respond to God’s call for salvation. Those who have not will not find a better time than now. God gives no one a guarantee of tomorrow or even of one more hour. If you feel God calling you to salvation, grasp it.

For those who are already saved, you may be feeling God’s call to a deeper walk with Him. In your worship, let the Spirit flow through you. Look at your life and see which fruit of the Spirit are not as well formed as the others. Did you notice that there are gifts of the Spirit, given as He wills and no one has all the gifts but the fruit of the Spirit is singular? The Holy Spirit intends for each of those to be on display in a believer’s life. Do you lack self-control? You need it. Gentleness? Ask for it. Patience? And all the others.

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About frankluke

Professionally: pastor, programmer, writer. Personally: husband, father.
This entry was posted in Assemblies of God, Christianity, New Testament, The Last Crusade and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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