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Church on Fire

Acts 4:31-33

 

 

Don’t worry—if the church were truly on fire we wouldn’t announce it in the bulletin or by way of a sermon.  But I’m proud to announce that this church is officially ‘on fire for God!’

 

Village atheist was not a bad man, he just didn’t believe.  He was not interested in church…and there was only 1 in the area.  It was cold and dead—a social club, with no decisions being made. 

        One day the church building caught on fire, and the whole town ran toward it to help extinguish the flames…including the village atheist!

        Someone hollered out:  “Hey, this is something new for you, the first time we’ve ever seen you running to church!”  He replied, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire!”

 

My desire is that our area will never be able to say that they haven’t seen a church on fire.  May GBC be that church!

        Most of us have had the sad experience of being in a cold, dead church, with no fire.

Someone stands to sing…and obviously they’re just going thru the motions, and their heart is not in it

[ushers/greeters/s.s. teacher/nursery workers/time to shake hands]

 

The invitation is given...and no one really expects anything to happen!

        (Ever visited a church like that? Ever been a member?)

 

Jesus threatened the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2 that He would remove their candlestick if they didn’t repent.

        Those who focus on what they “used to be,” usually “aren’t,” and “never will be!”

        6 years ago when I first came here I heard a lot of what this church used to be…and now I’m hearing from those who believe in what it can be and will be again! 

        The attitude seems prevalent in the city as I hear about how things used to be.  I toured Caterpillar and heard about how many workers they used to have, and heard about the Firestone plant that used to be here…I know, I know, and we used to be the home of the Chicago Bears!

        Whether good or bad, focusing on the past ruins the present and destroys the future!

 

Some say, what we need is some new converts, that’ll set the church on fire!  No, what you need is some fire, and there will be people converted!

 

(“Why don’t we have people saved?”  Can God entrust you w/ new converts?)

Spurgeon: “To put new converts into most churches is like putting live chicks under a dead hen.”

 

Gen. 22:  God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac to the mountains to become a human sacrifice.  They arrived at the location, and Isaac still did not realize that HE was going to be the sacrifice. 

        Isaac knew there had to be 3 things to have a sacrifice:  wood, fire, and a lamb. 

v. 7

7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb?

 

4,000 years later, as we look at most churches around us, we can invert the question and ask, “We have the wood, we have the Lamb, but where’s the fire?”

 

Wood—cross of Calvary

Lamb—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

But, where is the fire?

 

Let’s talk about Baptists, in general:

According to statistics, it takes 40 Baptists, on average, 1 year, to win 1 person to Christ!  Why?

        A lack of fire:  in the pulpit…in the pew!

 

If we could freeze the world’s population, so that no one was born, and no one died, and if the Bible based churches kept winning souls at the current rate, it would take 4,000 years to win the world to Christ!

 

So, what are the characteristics of a church on fire for God?

        We have an example of an on-fire church in Acts 4, so let’s take our points from there:

 

A church on fire is:

 

I       Endued with power

v. 8          The pastor.

v. 31        The people.

 

We need power to fulfil God’s purpose…we need God’s power, alone.  We can accept no substitute.

        We cannot depend upon man-made excitement to get the job done / programs, promotions, publicity / repetitive, empty, full of fluff worship choruses to stir the people into some kind of emotional high

 

Ill.—organ during preaching

 

None of these things can substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit upon a church.

 

I Cor. 2:4-5

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

 

Paul says, I’m not depending upon my wisdom, flamboyant sermons, tear-jerking illustrations, funny stories

(These don’t hurt, unless they’re mistaken for God!)

 

Ill.--Charles Finney, great revivalist of the 1700s, told about a church in a certain town…a church where the fire had totally gone out…no one saved, and even worse, no one cared!

        (How many of you want to see people saved at GBC?

        How many of you have to see people saved here?)

 

Well, it was a dead church, and no one cared…except for 1 man, and it was not the pastor.  It was a blacksmith.  He was not much of a talker…he stuttered so badly it was painful to hear him speak.

        But he had a heart for God, and wanted revival fire again.  He was so burdened for the fire, that one day, he closed the doors of his shop, and went home and prayed the rest of the day.  The next day he approached the pastor.  “I’ve been praying for revival, for God to rekindle the flames around here.  Can we schedule some kind of a meeting, some kind of a revival.”

 

The pastor grudgingly agreed, w/ a warning that no one will come.

        They had the meeting and to the pastor’s surprise, the building was full!  He stood up to preach as always, but he felt very different.  The power of God was so strong in that place that everyone could feel it.  Dozens of people were saved that week…the fire was reignited.  Why?

        It wasn’t methods or programs, activities or organizations.  It wasn’t because they had a youth pastor, or a PowerPoint screen!  It was because somebody prayed.

 

v. 31        “When they prayed!”

        Nothing is born w/out travail

(this is true for the natural world [childbirth] and the supernatural)

 

When God is working and decisions are being made, you can mark it down and take it to the bank: somebody paid the price / travailed in prayer!

 

Prayer will lead to growth of some kind. This is not to say you have to be growing in numbers to be an on fire church … sometimes God’s plans are beyond our understanding and He has something different in mind…like Spiritual growth!  Matter of fact:  I’d rather have a handful on fire gathered in the first couple of rows than a full house you could hang meat in!

 

Ill.—One day while on vacation D.L. Moody visited a large but dead church in London.  The pastor prevailed upon him to preach there in all services…he didn’t want to, but agreed to anyway.  He preached, and later said that they were so unresponsive, it was all he could do to get thru the morning message.

        Then it occurred to him that he’d have to endure the same thing that night, when he’s supposed to be on vacation.  He dreaded it all afternoon!

        But behind the scenes, something was going on.  An elderly woman that morning went home to her invalid sister, and told her about Moody being there.  Her eyes lit up, for she had been praying that God would send Moody to England.  “Put lunch away, we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in prayer and fasting,”  she said.  And they did.

        Moody said he stood up that night before the people, and he could tell something was different.  It was alive w/ the electricity of the power of God…you could feel it in the air.

        He preached with unexplained liberty, gave the invitation to rise if they wanted to be saved.  500 stood to their feet.  Shocked, he thought maybe they had misunderstood.  “Be seated,”  he said.  Now, I’m saying, stand up if… (He repeated w/ more detail)  500 again stood.  It was the beginning of what became one of the greatest revivals that ever swept England.

Why?  Because 2 old ladies, 1 of them bed-ridden, said, we don’t need more organization or activities, we need the power of God on this place…and they paid the price in prayer!

 

What happens when a pastor and a people are endued w/ power?

 

1.               Souls will be saved (at least 8,000 in Jerusalem when this happened in Acts)

2.               Worship services will be inspiring, the music will be uplifting

Eph. 5

18 …be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

 

Wanna add life to our song service?  Be filled w/ the spirit!  You can hire a music man, but it won’t help!/fix sound/add instruments, speakers/build a talented choir…but until you’re endued w/ power, you’ll never know what a song service can be! 

 

3.               World outreach missions program will be divinely directed by God

(Write these ref. down and you can read about it on your own:  Acts 8:29, 13:2-4, 16:6-10)

In each of those cases you’ll see the Holy Spirit divinely directing their missionary work.

 

4.               Divine wisdom will accompany all our church decisions

(Acts 15:28)

 

What is the result when the pastor and people are not endued w/ power?

        The result is always the same:  burnout!

Your fire will dwindle to a flickering flame…a small spark, and eventually be snuffed out, unless somebody fans the coals, and, on their knees, searches for some kindling!

 

Serving God will be a chore, a burden, if you do it in the energy of your flesh, rather than being endued w/ power!

 

This is how we must serve God: in the energy of the Spirit, rather than the energy of the flesh…it’s not us trying to make something happen, but us allowing something to happen TO us and THRU us, or even DESPITE us!

 

The church on fire is endued w/ God’s power.

 

 

II.            Equal in position

v. 24        all in one accord

v. 32        all of one heart and one soul

 

All pulling in same direction / locked arms together toward a common goal / no preferential treatment (for social status, or church position they hold) / no cliques (ground is level at Calvary) / no looking at each other (too busy looking at Christ). 

 

Listen:  This church is on fire for God!  We have a common goal we’re looking for, and we all must join hands in equality and unity.

 

 

 

 

3 dangers members can fall into:

1.               Magnifying our importance (feel so indispensable that we deserve special treatment / privilege / consideration / recognition…and by the way, “my opinion matters most!”

 

(many people gave me a lot of the credit for what happened at in Missouri / at times, in pride, I started to believe it / when we left, we learned just how small we are and just how capable God is of continuing the work just fine w/out us!)

 

        (Some people left this church over the years, fully expecting it would go under once they were gone…surprise!  When God decides to build a church, even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it!)

 

This problem of magnifying your own importance can happen to anyone, any church member…but it usually develops in the heart of a leader!  Pride has taken down many great preachers.

 

Another danger:

 

2.               Minimizing our importance

Attitude of unfaithfulness which says, it doesn’t matter if I’m there or not / in choir or not / in nursery or not / tithe or not / attend business meeting or not

        Hey, the greatest ability is dependability…anyone can be faithful, but some will go to the grave saying, “nobody’s gonna tell me what I should do!  I won’t.  And the reason I won’t is because you so challenge me to!”

 

Poem of faithfulness:

 

“A Sunday School teacher, I don’t know his name

A wonderful preacher, who never found fame

So faithful, so earnest, when I was a boy

He stuck to his task…though I tried to annoy

He never was missing in cold or in heat

A smile his face lighted the moment we’d meet

He taught by example as well as by word

This splendid old teacher who honored his Lord

He helped my young life more than ever he knew

Later years I remembered, and tried to be true

I suppose he is gone now to join heaven’s ranks

May it be my good fortune some day to say thanks”

 

Don’t minimize your importance to this body of Christ.  There is something for all to do, and little is much when God is in it!  Just be faithful!

 

3.               Misplacing our importance

This is trying to be something God never intended you to be.  This person wants to sing a special even if God hasn’t gifted them in that way.  (How do I know if I have that gift?  Simple:  other people will have the gift of listening to you!) 

(Spiritual gifts—everyone has at least 1 to use for God)

 

A church that’s on fire for God is not only endued w/ power, and equal in position

 

A church on fire is always, without exception…

 

 

III.        Evangelistic in priority

 

Many of you are on board on this one.  It’s very evident, as you bring people to church, you witness on the job, etc.  That’s the very best outreach a church can have, is one that is lived by it’s people as they go on their way.

 

It’s what an on-fire church is all about…evangelism!

 

Vance Havner:        “Evangelism is to Christianity what veins are to our bodies.  You can cut a true Christian anywhere and they will bleed evangelism”

 

“We major on evangelism”  (church slogan)

duh!  That’s like a doctor saying he majors on healing…that’s our business!!

 

The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a soul-winning diet!

 

R.G. Lee, “God never intended for the church to be a refrigerator in which to preserve perishable piety…He intended it to be an incubator in which to hatch our converts.”

 

GBC is to be a hospital for sinners, not a rest home for saints.

We are to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium!

 

That’s why He left us here!  And when we forget that, we lose our fire!

 

 


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All Sermons and PowerPoint Slideshow Presentations ©Copyright Jerry Shirley and Grace Notes Ministries® unless otherwise credited.  These resources are yours to use freely, but only in public worship services or private study groups and devotions.  They may not be sold, republished or retransmitted in any form without written permission.