Robert's Sermons

Waking the Sleeping Giant

Part 3: Ready for the Ride?


This teaching series is based on the book of Acts, but before getting into the actual text, I have devoted the first two sermons to dealing with some ‘big picture’ realities. I provided some valuable background information concerning the book of Acts and in particular, the multicultural aspects of the society which existed at the time. If you missed those sermons, I would encourage you to review them first. They were more lectures in Missiology than sermons which inspire, but I believe they will become increasingly valuable as we explore the book of Acts in more detail.

It is important that we don’t put our brains in neutral when studying the Bible. It’s too easy to spiritualise everything and miss the big picture. There is no doubt that the Bible was inspired by God and that reading it without the supernatural anointing of the Holy Spirit will rob us of its power and relevance. However, it is also valid and important for us to look at things like historical context and the make-up of societies both then and now. Sociology has replaced faith for many and that is sad, but that does not make sociology evil or inappropriate in itself. It can be very valuable.

I affirm again that it is Jesus Christ Who builds His Church, but how does He do that? He builds His Church in partnership with people like you and me and so we need to be aware of the complex structure of human society in order to identify the doors that God may open. We need to have the cultural sensitivity to participate in His ministry rather than work against it through our ignorance. There is much we can learn from those mission specialists who have gone to hundreds of countries around the world to research, observe and report on what God is doing in the task of world evangelisation and what we can do or not do to participate in that vital ministry.

Now let me reiterate that the catchy and somewhat provocative title of this teaching series was not chosen in haste. The ‘giant’ to which I refer is the Church of Jesus Christ.  The Church is a giant because she is the Bride of Christ. The Church is a giant because she embodies the manifest presence of the King. The Church is a giant because she was created and is sustained and empowered by none other than the Spirit of the Living God. The Church is a giant because she is the most influential and relevant organisation on the face of the earth. The Church is a giant because she is the sole custodian of the solutions to all of this world’s problems. I could go on for some time … but I think even this brief resume would allow me the freedom to call the Church a giant.

So why a sleeping giant? I think you already know. When we look at the Church through God’s eyes and through the eyes of Scripture – she is most definitely a giant. But when we look at the visible Church today through the eyes of a lost and needy society – particularly in our city and our nation – this giant is, for all intents and purposes – asleep on the job!

The Church has very little real impact on the world around it anymore. In the eternal Kingdom of God, the Church is all those things I said and more, but in the human kingdom of this world, we Christians need to wake up and get in touch with our roots and the reality of who we are in Christ so the world can see the reality, the power and the impact of the Church.

I am not implying for one moment that the Church which Jesus promised to build will not be built without us and will not be perfect in every respect. That is an established fact. What this teaching series will attempt to do, as clearly portrayed in the title, is wake us up to acknowledge and step into the practical outworking of the true Church. We need to become in practice who we already are in theory. We need to wake up and be mobilised to let the truth of who we are in the eternal Kingdom of God shine into the darkness of the Kingdom of this world.

I know who we are in Christ.  I know how precious and perfect and spotless and powerful the Church is in the eternal Kingdom of God – hallelujah for that – but brothers and sisters, until the glory and purity and beauty and relevance and power of the Church of Jesus Christ impacts the darkness and despair and sickness and need of this society – that Church is asleep and ineffective in this world. While we all sleep and enjoy life in the comfort and protection of our Christian fortress, there are thousands of people surrounding us every day who are not going to know about Jesus until the next life, even though the Lord commissioned you and me to tell them.

So, if you don’t think the Church needs waking up in this city and this nation then stick around and journey through the book of Acts with me and you may change your mind. If, after going through the book of Acts, you still don’t think the giant is asleep today, then perhaps you’re not asleep – you’re most probably in a coma!

This leads me to a very important point about life in the kingdom. When Jesus said that we are in this world but not of this world, He was trying to explain the reality of the two kingdoms in which Christians find themselves. Until we understand this, we may very well struggle with a lot teaching about our position in Christ.

For example: Do you believe that you are holy in the sight of God because of the finished work of Christ? If you believe that God has gifted you the righteousness and holiness of Christ as a free gift in salvation – hallelujah – because that is the truth!

Romans 5:17  “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”

Colossians 1:22  “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation ..”

OK, so in the sight of God; before all of heaven; in the eternal kingdom of God; you and I are spotless, clean, holy and righteous because the righteousness of Christ which has been given to us as a gift. So, let me ask you something, have you committed any sins at all in the last month? Have you been 100% obedient to every command of God and have not strayed at all? I am pretty sure I know the answer.

We are exhorted in Scripture to be holy – to flee from sin and evil. We are exhorted to make the right choices so that our life in this world will match up with our life in Christ.  So, you see our holiness in the sight of God is not negotiable, if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall embrace our salvation, we shall take our place as part of the spotless Bride of Christ – the Church.  But we all continue in this fallen flesh in a world run by the powers of darkness – powers that continue to tempt and entice and attack. We therefore need to make some choices if our life in the kingdom of God is going to be seen and make a difference in this broken and needy world.

When Jesus suggested we pray: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ..” He gave us the key to understanding everything in this fallen world. When Jesus came, He brought the reality of heaven to earth. He released; He ushered in; He birthed the Kingdom of God and brought men, women and young people into that kingdom as they trusted in Him. He came as a divine conqueror for one purpose – so that the kingdom of God would come face to face with the kingdom of Satan. The coming of Jesus was a declaration of war against the powers of darkness and we will see that war unfold on every page of the book of Acts.

Since that time the kingdom of God has been slowly, but forcefully eclipsing the kingdom of this world. As new covenant, redeemed children of God we are right in the middle of that action. Every day we face the reality of sin, suffering, hate and pain. Every day we face our own shortcomings, rebellion and pride. Every day we see the reality of this fallen world and that’s the only world that the majority of people around us will ever see.

However, you and I, and all Christians know a very different reality because we are also citizens of another kingdom. We may be seeing the darkness and despair of this world every day, but we are connected to the light and life and power of heaven. It’s that conflict; it’s that cosmic battle which defines our whole existence and provides us with our reason for even being here.

So, you see, in the kingdom of God, we are already righteous, pure, holy, redeemed and purchased by the blood of the Lamb. But in this human realm, we face the same sin and dirt and failure we always have. Therefore, if the holiness, righteousness and purity that is within us is ever going to be seen by the world, we need to make some daily choices about our attitude and actions as we deal ruthlessly with sin when it rears its ugly head – not to please God; not to earn His forgiveness and mercy – but to allow the life of Christ within us to emerge so that world will see Jesus and embrace His salvation.

Another example of living in two kingdoms is in the area of forgiveness. Understanding our dual citizenship will overcome the conflicts in dealing with passages on forgiveness. The Bible makes it very clear that we are forgiven, once and for all time, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In the eyes of God, in the eternal kingdom of God, our sins are forgiven – past, present and future – whether we confess them or not, whether we ask for forgiveness or not. The slate is wiped totally clean in the eyes of God and that was achieved by Jesus.

Yet in this world, in this kingdom where Satan continues to reign; we need to deal ruthlessly with sin and ensure that we confess it and appropriate or apply and walk in the forgiveness of God, every day.  Otherwise, Satan will inhabit our sin and bring hell into our lives. That’s why you should ensure there is absolutely no unforgiveness in your heart. Unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness are like the red carpet rolled out to the powers of darkness for them to march in and destroy your life. You will still make it to heaven because Jesus secured a place for you 2,000 years ago, but with unforgiveness in your heart, you’re going to get a taste of hell along the way.

I suggest that unless we understand who we are in Christ and know, beyond doubt, our eternal security in Him and our permanent resident status in the Kingdom of Heaven, we will struggle along the road of life, plagued by guilt and shame and left never really knowing who we are or what we are to do. We must understand that we still carry around our fallen flesh through which Satan can carry out his ministry of discouragement, dissension, division and death and our sin and unforgiveness and unholy actions invite his ministry and bring the full force of darkness down on us and others around us.

So, let me affirm once more that you and I and all who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are part of the precious, perfect, pure, spotless Bride – the Church of Jesus Christ. But I also affirm that in this life, while ever the Lord leaves us here in this world which is dominated by evil, it is our responsibility to make the right choices every day that will align our thoughts, our prayers, our priorities, our activities, our efforts, our hard work and yes, even our, to the truth of who we really are in Christ.

We face choices every day: we can act in a way that is consistent with who we are as the Church of Jesus Christ, or we can act in a way that is inconsistent with our true identity. That is why I am bold enough to refer to the Church as a sleeping giant. That is why we are looking at the book of Acts because here we are reminded that it is Jesus Christ who builds His Church; we are reminded of who we really are in Christ; we are reminded that the power that dwells within us is the same power that created the whole universe and raised Jesus from the dead; we are reminded that all of this is made possible by God and not by us.

However, as we saw in my last teaching series, it is equally true that if we choose to not participate in what God is doing; if we do not align our choices and our prayers and our whole lives with what God has already achieved in Christ, then in this life we will not see the Church wake up. Others will – many are experiencing the power of that giant right now as she sweeps across whole villages, cities and nations – but we will never see that in our nation if the Church remains an activity on our daily planner – rather than the life we live and our true identity! Until we reconnect with the power, the glory, the reality and the priority of the Church that Jesus established and promised to build, Christians across this great nation will continue to be an irrelevant minority group which has no impact on our society.

There are certainly some nonrepeatable events in Acts, there are also some transitional happenings; but the basic spiritual principles are the same today as when Peter and Paul ministered. In our study of this important book, we need to look beyond the accidentals to the essentials and discover afresh the spiritual dynamics of the Word of God and prayer, love and fellowship, persecution and personal witness for Jesus Christ.

I wish I could tell you how much you are going to enjoy this series – but I can’t.  Because most of us won’t enjoy it at all if we actually take it seriously. If we look in mirror of God’s Word and see what it says to us, for a while it will be anything but enjoyable! We will not be able to examine the book of Acts without having our whole life and every principle and priority we have, challenged head-on.

But if we face that challenge with courage and determination and the willingness to let the Spirit of God transform us, the result will be a fruitful, active, powerful, nation-transforming Church as God intended and the joy that will flood our hearts will totally remove any memory of the struggle we may have had getting there. None of us enjoy a trip to the dentist, but after it’s over and the pain and memory fade, the result is amazing! So, this will not be hand-stroking, back-patting preaching that makes us all feel like we’ve made it.  Nor will it forget the truth that our salvation and our security in Christ has nothing at all to do with our performance. That truth will remain in my preaching as long as I draw breath. But friends, in case you hadn’t noticed, the world in which you and I live is in a real mess and it will not get better without a major intervention from the only One Who can fix it.

Jesus is the way, the truth and life. Jesus is the only answer to every spiritual, political, social, psychological and physical problem in the world. But unless His Body; unless those who are indwelt by His very life and power don’t decide to get off their backsides and get reconnected with the urgency and the priority of His mission in this world, the Church will remain peripheral to the world around us, which is never what God intended.

Brothers and sisters, we are not going to move this world by criticism or by conformity, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God. The early Church had none of the things that we think are so essential for success today – buildings, money, political influence, social status –  and yet that Church won multitudes to Christ and saw many congregations established throughout the Roman world. Why? Because the Church had the power of the Holy Spirit energizing its ministry. They were a people ignited by the Spirit of God.

The same Holy Spirit is available to us today to make us more effective witnesses for Christ. The ministry of the Spirit is to glorify Christ in the life and witness of the believer (John 16:14) and that is what is important. God’s people today share the same dynamic that energized the early believers. If we are yielded to the Spirit, we can be adding new chapters to the exciting story of the Church. That is God’s plan. That is our purpose. None of that will happen if we remain asleep.