20190623 Sunday Worship Sermon
“The Church of the Lord's Hand” (Acts 11: 1-9, 19-24)
Thanks for your prayers, I’ve safely returned after attending the annual conference.
Please continue to pray for our United Methodist Church and Cal-Pac Annual Conference.
Through this Annual Conference I was re-appointed to Olive Church.
I know that this appointment is not because of my qualification but because of God’s grace.
As you know, all UMC pastors are appointed through the Annual Conference every year.
Through this appointment all pastors can re-confirm their calling and ministry.
The important thing is for us to work together.
To accomplish this calling that God has given to our church, I hope that we will continually work together.
This year, theme of the Annual Conference was "I see a new church."
I was able to think a lot about the church today.
So today I want to share some stories about the church.
In Acts 11, there is a story about two churches.
One is the church in Jerusalem and the other is the church in Antioch.
As you know, the Jerusalem Church is a wonderful church that began with the Holy Spirit coming to the 120 disciples gathered at Pentecost.
At that time, Peter's sermon was filled with the Holy Spirit, that brought about three thousand believers to Jesus, and soon after, many came to the church in Jerusalem.
But over time, the Jerusalem church had declined.
As for the Antioch church, was a reviving church where many faithful believers were developed, although it was a fairly new church.
It was the church that sent Paul and Barnabas out to the world as missionaries, a church that played a central role in bringing the gospel to the Roman society.
So why did the Jerusalem church become a declining church, and the Antioch church become a reviving church?
In short, the reason for the decline of the Jerusalem church is that it could not cope with "change" properly.
As the gospel was witnessed from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and to the Gentiles, numerous gentiles believed in Jesus as the Savior.
God called Paul for the mission of the Gentiles, and at the house of Cornelius, the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit came just like Pentecost.
The Gentiles began to return to the Lord.
In other words, the mission situation was changing.
But the problem is that the people of the Jerusalem Church did not fully understand where God is working.
At the time of the very important transition where God calls many Gentiles to God, the Jerusalem church was critical to Peter because he was entering the gentile home and preaching the gospel.
Look at verses 1-3,
"The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Here the word "circumcised believers" refers to those who still consider the Jewish tradition among the people of the Jerusalem church.
They were people bound to tradition and doctrine.
They are now questioning why Peter entered the house of the uncircumcised gentile Cornelius and preached the gospel to him.
From their perspective, it was wrong that Peter entered the house of the Gentiles because of their traditions and doctrines.
Here, we now know how different the minds of the people of the Jerusalem church are from God.
God wanted the gospel to be a witness from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles.
But the people of the Jerusalem Church, especially the leaders of the Jerusalem church have only been speaking about traditions and rules without understanding that God is now doing evangelistic work to the Gentiles.
These things are the same nowadays.
The world is changing rapidly.
Values and worldviews have changed, and people's spiritual needs have changed.
Also, the passage of people's gospel has changed a lot from the past.
In other words, the mission situation has changed from the old days.
But many churches still do not see the changing world like the Jerusalem church.
They do not think about where God works and what God wants.
The most important task of our time is how to approach the changing world with the Gospel.
If the Church is still committed to the old ways and traditions, it will be difficult to revive the changing world.
Of course, it is not wrong to keep the doctrine and tradition.
It is necessary to keep good tradition of faith.
But because of keeping tradition and doctrine, we should not lose love.
It is so important to love God, to love one soul, to reach out to them and to preach the gospel.
Brothers and sisters, God does not discriminate against Jews and Gentiles.
It is God's heart to save not only the Jews but also the Gentiles.
But the Jerusalem church did not know the heart of God.
Acts chapter 15 tells the story of a meeting at the Jerusalem church by the question of the salvation of the Gentiles.
They gathered and debated.
Until then, the Jerusalem church was not prepared to open the door to the salvation of the Gentiles and to welcome them.
Because after that, the Jerusalem church lost the leadership of the gospel.
It had become increasingly weakened, and later it has become a church that must be financially supported by other churches.
Why did the Jerusalem church become like this?
It was because they did not know God's heart and God’s plan.
That is why God established another church in place of the Jerusalem church to carry out the Gentile mission.
That is the Church of Antioch in verse 19.
If the Jerusalem Church had declined, the Antioch Church was increasingly revived and became a gospel-led church.
Let’s look at verses 19 and 20.
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.”
Here, we can realize the fact that the people who came to Antioch began to preach the Gospel to the Greeks.
Then many Greeks believed in Jesus.
Then they broke the tradition and the rules and started worship with the Gentiles in the heart of God.
The most important characteristic of the Antioch church is that it is a church where Jews and Gentiles gather together.
Surprisingly, it pleased the heart of God.
God blessed the Antioch church and began to revive.
In verse 21 it says, "The Lord’s hand was with them."
In other words, "God's power was with them."
And many people came back to the Lord.
It was indeed an amazing revival.
Then the Jerusalem church sent a commissioner to the Antioch church to hear how the Gentiles believed in Jesus, observing the Jews and Gentiles worshiping together.
At that time, the person they sent was Barnabas.
But what did Barnabas see when he came?
Let’s see verse 23.
“When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”
Yes, Barnabas came to the Antioch church and did not see anything except the grace of God working through the people of the church.
Here we can see the difference between the leaders of the Jerusalem Church and Barnabas.
The leaders of the Jerusalem church criticized Peter for entering the Gentile Cornelius’s house and preaching the gospel.
They closed their eyes on the Holy Spirit coming down and the Gentiles being saved.
They really did not see what they needed to see.
But Barnabas came to Antioch and saw the grace of God.
He saw the grace of God being poured into the Antioch church, and saw the hand of the Lord with them.
If Barnabas were to only see with a critical eye and a condemning eye, he would have been able to catch many weaknesses in the Antioch church.
But Barnabas began to see with the eyes of grace.
Yes, it is important for us to see with the eyes of grace.
There are people who first see negative aspects when they see others.
But God does not want to see it like that.
The declining Jerusalem church was filled with a spirit of criticism.
However, the reviving Antioch church was filled with the spirit of grace.
The same differences are between a reviving and non-reviving church.
'The eyes of grace!' is important.
We must have this view of grace.
Brothers and sisters, please take a look at ourselves.
There is nothing righteous for us.
If God saw us in a critical view, perhaps we could not live without being judged right now.
However, what is amazing is that God does not see us with a view of criticism and condemnation.
God sees us with the eyes of grace.
We are not righteous.
But God sees us as justified.
This is the love of God.
It is to tolerate us with his grace.
Although we are sinners, we are tolerated.
Sometimes we are not worthy to be called ‘children of God,’ but God proudly says, 'You are my children.'
In Luke 15, we see “a parable of the prodigal son.”
Here, as we know, it seems like the problem is the second son who has received his father 's fortunes, left the household and spent it all.
But if we look closely at the Bible, we can see that the first son is a problem as well as the second son.
Because the first son did not think of his father's mind at all.
When the second son came home, the father accepted the son.
Father made a feast, rejoicing that his second son was back.
This is the Father's heart.
But the first son got angry when he heard that his father is having a feast for his brother.
He said this is unacceptable.
First son complained to his father.
Then the father said, "Well, you are always with me, so everything is yours. But your brother was dead and has lived, so is it not pleasure to rejoice because I have gained what I lost? "
The heart of the father who rejoices in his son returning is the heart of God.
But the first son did not know the heart of his father.
He did not know his father's heart, so he criticized his brother and blamed his father.
Yes, this is the problem of the Jerusalem church.
At times, when we complain, can be compared to the first son.
Brothers and sisters, today we must have a view of God, and a view of Grace.
We must have God's heart toward those who do not believe, and we must be a church that answers the gospel to a changing world.
Let me ask you, “Who is the hardest person that God needs to use?”
I think the hardest person to use is the stubborn person.
In other words, the person who does not want to change.
God cannot use those who hold self-determination, self-thought, and self-experience.
In today's text, we can find the possibility to have the heart of God and have the view of Grace.
In today’s text Peter explains how he entered Cornelius's house and how the Holy Spirit came to the house.
Then, in verses 16-17 he says, "Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
Here Peter said, “I remembered what the Lord had said” and he said, “who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
In fact, Peter was also a traditional Jew and was in a conservative group.
Nevertheless, he opened the door of his heart before God.
As Peter watched God's Word was being done, when God told him to go to the Gentiles through a vision, and seeing the Holy Spirit pour out at the house of the Gentiles, Peter no longer insisted on his thoughts.
He did not insist on the habits that he was holding.
Brothers and sisters, we can hear God's heart when we defeat our own stubbornness before the Word of God.
To be honest, the most difficult people in the church are those who do not listen to God's Word and those who hear the word but do not repent.
In other words, those who do not apply God's Word to themselves are the most difficult to change.
For example, someone listens to the sermon and then goes to the pastor to talk after the service.
"Pastor, I received grace in today's sermon. But, Pastor, today's sermon has to be heard by Mr. Kim, but unfortunately Mr. Kim could not come today.”
These people are people who do not look themselves through God's Word but blame others.
These people are hard to change.
Brothers and sisters, what is a blessing?
It is a true blessing that God's Word is 'realized by the Word that is given to me', so that it is changed by the Word.
We saw today, the Jerusalem church and the Antioch church.
It is important to remember that the Jerusalem church has declined and the Antioch church has revived.
Doctrine and tradition are important, but it is more important to bear God's heart.
We should be able to see where God is working.
Barnabas came to the Antioch church and saw the grace of God there.
I hope that our Olive Church and all of you will have the heart of God and have a view of grace.
I bless you in the name of the Lord to be a blessed church in which the grace of God and the hand of God are joined together, and thus the work of revival that fully fulfills the mission of the gospel witness. Amen.