God Scandalous Generosity

Now, before we dive into our lesson for today, I did I was at the grocery store yesterday and I ran across something that I usually only see or hear about much on Easter. It’s what I want to share with you one of my favorite things. Starburst jelly beans. These are incredible. Are you with me? Yes, they’re just so good. I love this Candy. I usually don’t like lots of different candy, especially as I get older. It’s not really good for my teeth, but every Easter I’m all in on Starburst jelly beans.

One hundred percent. I was really encouraged to find these yesterday in the candy aisle of my local Wal-Mart. And I’m in a generous mood today. And what I’d like to do is I want to, with the help of Anita Price and Jenn Poole, they are my investigators and I’ve consulted with them. I had them do some research. I want to give this away to a very special person today, someone who’s very deserving. And I asked Jenn I asked Anita when I arrived, tell me who was one of the first people to arrive this morning.

And hopefully this is a person as well that’s one of the first people to arrive every Sunday morning. And I could have given it to so many people. And I don’t know how we got this exactly right today, but I know this person is just invaluable and always is here early. Yes, I heard the name out there. My favorite jelly beans go to Phil Mango. Khalid can you give this to Phil?

Phil, thank you for all you do. My generosity to you and I coudve given it to a lot of people today. He’s feisty, and he’s slightly opinionated, but he’s invaluable. And we love you, but that’s not all. I bought a second bag yesterday. A second bag, I have one more bag of my favorite jelly beans. These are so good, let me tell you, cherry, orange, strawberry, lemon, green apple and grape. Good stuff. Wonderful jelly beans. So I have one more bag. And what I’m going to do is I want to give these jelly beans away to the last person to arrive.

And Jenn and Aneda know who this is, and I’m not going to embarrass this person. That’s not the point of this. I don’t know who it is. This person may run late every week. I don’t know. Maybe they have a good reason. They were the last person. But let me tell you, if you get this later, you know, tuck it, you know, somewhere far away, No one will give you a hard time.

But hopefully after this lesson, they won’t give you a hard time. But I’m grateful for you that you were the last person. I didn’t buy- I’m sitting there and I was like man, should I buy a third bag for me. I almost did, but I want you to think about it a bit. If if you were the first to arrive here today, if you’re Phil Mangot or you’re Richard Martin, or one of the ushers or one of the singers, OK, you got to be thinking, OK, Marcus just gave away those jelly beans.

OK, I know Phil comes a lot, but he just gave them away to the last person. You know, if you’re one of the first to come early to church each week to serve or just imagine if you’re the first to show up at your job every day or if you’re the first one to do your chores at home. And then you get this special reward for all of your hard work, but then the person who was the last to arrive, the person who was the last to do the hard work, then receives the same reward or the same money bonus, as you.

How do you feel? You feel a good up at church right now? I’m talking about tomorrow when this happens. Right. How do you feel? I know that this happened with chores and allowance in our household. We could have a mutiny on our hands. This is scandalous. This is reckless. Equal rewards and unequal generosity.

So I asked you in that scenario, even today, who’s the most deserving of my generosity? When it comes to the jelly beans, who do you think is most deserving of my generosity? Think about it. Is it the first or is it the last? Let’s find out how Jesus would answer this question. Please turn with me Matthew Chapter 20. Who’s the most deserving? You know this month our theme is one God. And this comes from the seven sacred ones of Ephesians Chapter four versus four six.

Three weeks ago with Tyler, we studied out of freedom that we have in our relationship with God in Christ. Two weeks ago, we discovered that knowing God is knowing God’s name. And then last week Eddie took us on a journey of how God is incredibly long suffering with us. So now back to our question for today. Who’s the most deserving of generosity? Is it the person who works the longest and works the hardest, or is it the person who shows up at the last minute?

Let’s see what Jesus says about God’s generosity here in Matthew twenty verse one. I’m going to be reading from the new living translation. Matthew twenty verse one, Jesus says, The Kingdom of Heaven is like the land owner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed he agreed to pay the normal daily wage and he sent them out to work. At nine o’clock in the morning or coffee break time, he was passing through the marketplace and he saw some people standing around doing nothing.

So he hired telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard at noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. Then at five o’clock that afternoon, he was in town again and he saw some more people standing around and he asked them, why haven’t you been working today? They replied, Because no one hired us. The landowner told them then go out and join the others in my vineyard.

That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid each received a full day’s pay. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more, but they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner. Those people worked only one hour, and yet you paid them equal to us.

You pay them just as much as you pay us to work all day in the scorching heat. And he answered, one of them, friend, I haven’t been unfair. Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as she is against the law for me to do what I want with my money. Should you be jealous? Because I’m kind and generous to others.

So those who are last now will be first then and those who are first will be last. So there you have it. That’s the answer to our question, who’s the most deserving of generosity? In the kingdom of heaven, jesus turns generosity upside down. For the first shall be last in the last shall be first. Equal reward, but unequal generosity. You see, by human standards, by our own instincts, the map of God’s generosity simply does not add up.

God’s grace is scandalous and it is reckless. And that’s the title of today’s lesson, God’s Scandalous Generosity. And many Bibles have a title, this section here as the parable of the workers in the Vineyard. But truth be told, this parable is not really about the workers. This parable is all about the scandalous shocking generosity of God. We said it before and we’ll say it again. There is no God like our God, and it’s not even close.

Our God is just different. First things first, check out versus one and two. You have a picture here of Palestine of a typical vineyard and we see in verses one or two, Jesus introduces us to an extraordinary landowner. And notice here it’s not the site manager, but it’s the owner himself who he goes out and he finds people to hire. First thing in the morning, 6:00 a.m., the landowner, he comes down to help the people. He strikes a deal with those in dire need.

They will work in his vineyard for one day’s wages. That’s God in his kingdom. That’s the gracious owner of the vineyard. He takes all the initiative with us. Then we move on to verses three to five. We have three more times during the day the generous land owner, he’s out hustling. He’s hustling to help people. He finds the hungry. He finds the hopeless day workers. He’s looking for those that are down and out. Then he hires these people on the spot.

By any stretch of the imagination this is not your typical employer. This business owner is highly unusual. Especially because he deeply cares about everyone that’s in need. The next we get to verse six. I’ll read this again at five o’clock that afternoon, the land owner was in town again and he saw some more people standing around and he asked them, why haven’t you been working today? And they replied, Because no one’s hired us yet. Well, the landowner told them then go out and join the others in my vineyard.

Keep in mind, it’s the last hour of the workday, the landowner at this point doesn’t need any more workers. It’s almost quitting time. Who hires people at quitting time? Who does this? Who needs 11th hour workers. Any new employees, any extra payment at this point would be considered excessive, wasteful, foolish, and yet in his compassion to alleviate the pain of the unemployed, this landowner recruits more people to come and enjoy his vineyard.

And not only that we see here, he finds the last in the least desirable, all the potential employees. These are the last ones picked because no one wanted to hire them. But then I guess you could say, well, at least these last minute workers, all things being equal and fair, they only get one twelth of a daily wage, right? Just give them your eight dollars and sixty five cents for this hour of work. Just give them the hourly wage.

Send them home. That’s only fair and equal treatment. Correct? And that’s when this parable takes a stunning turn of events and it’s worth reading one more time. You just can’t make this up. Verse eight, that evening the landowner told the foreman to call the workers and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay they then assumed that they would receive more, but they too were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner. These people only worked one hour and yet you’ve made them equal to us. We’re the people that worked all day in the scorching heat. How can this be? This is a total reversal of conventional wisdom. How could this be? The people that worked 12 hours are paid the same as those who worked only one hour?

That’s crazy. The unions today would be up in arms if this happened in your workplace. Every time I read this, I instinctively relate with the grumbling workers in verse 12. It just doesn’t feel right to me. This is not fair. This is discrimination. This is not right. I’ve worked hard. I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got. This is not generosity. This is foolishness. But here is why it’s vital we listen carefully to Jesus here.

This parable helps us reexamine how far our reactions are still governed by human ideals of what everyone deserves rather than the scandalous generosity of the kingdom of heaven. It helps us see where we’re at, where our mind is at. It recalibrates us. It’s a wake up call to us who are in the kingdom of heaven. But you may say, well, this is enabling. This is a reckless hand-out. This is no way to run a business. But you may be right, but this is not a business.

We’re talking about a kingdom of heaven. Where the first are last and the last will be first. And there’s no room for envy and there’s no room for competition. Now, here’s a reason Jesus may have told this parable in this context. If you look back to Matthew, Chapter 19, this parable comes directly after the encounter with the rich young ruler. And you may know the story very well. The rich young ruler refuses to give up everything to follow Jesus and he walks away sad.

And Jesus lets him go. Then Peter jumps in. All right, because I think Peter’s watching all this is like he says to Jesus, Peter says to Jesus and Matthew nineteen twenty seven and I paraphrase, unlike this guy, we’ve left everything to follow you. So what’s in it for us? And that’s what Peter says, and then Jesus goes on to remind the disciples that he reminds us today as well, what we’ve given up to follow Jesus pales in comparison to all we gain in this lifetime and the next.

If we follow Jesus, the return on that investment is one hundred times over. At least. Plus, a little thing called eternal life. So Jesus here, it’s a segue when he tells this this this parable, it’s on the heels of Peter saying what he did in reaction to the rich young ruler. Jesus warns his disciples against grumbling against this worldly mindset. Jesus wants us to understand God’s upside down generosity that the last will be first and the first will be last.

And yet, just like Peter, we get sucked into the world, we get sucked into ourselves. What’s in it for me in this church? And what will I get and will I get what he or she is getting? Are you with me church? Listen to God’s response to you and me and verse 13. Matthew 20, verse 13, read again, this is God’s response when we’re yet in this mindset of grumbling. And what about me and what am I going to get and what’s my reward here?

Friend, I haven’t been unfair. Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay the last worker the same as you, is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous, because I’m kind of generous to others, so those who are last now will be first then and those who are first, will be last. In verse 15 can also be translated is your eye evil because of this generosity? In other words, are you ungrateful because you’re blinded by self centered envy? You’re blinded to what you received. You have an evil eye as you look at others and you’ve forgotten what you have received. What you’ve been given. When you look at others in this world, are you envious because God is so generous to them? You read your news, you watch TV, you watch sports, you look around. Are you envious because God is so generous to others?

When you look at others in the vineyard with us, are you envious because God is so generous? Where’s my extra compensation? What’s in it for me? And here’s a very dangerous way to think you start to believe you’ve been in the vineyard since early in the morning and then entitlement begins to eat you alive.

Trust me, I know. I go their way too often. I can think look, look at all I’ve given up since I’ve been a Christian, I’m forty eight years old and I don’t own a house. Or, you know, why are people always take shortcuts and they always end up having more than me. I’m working so hard for this church during this pandemic, why are people not showing up for me?

That’s such a satanic worldly way to think, and I must constantly repent. I must go back to the love I had first. I’m the man that God chased down and found at quitting time. God has a reckless love for me. God has given me and continues to give me scandalous generosity that I do not deserve more than I deserve.

So here’s the truth that will keep you centered grateful and happy in the church. This is what I have to do, number one, always remember this, you are an undeserving eleventh hour worker. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you started working for Jesus at six a.m.. Like, I’m part of the six AM crew around in this church long before everyone else. I’m one of the originals, see that leads to entitlement grumbling. What’s in it for me? Attitude.

Stop counting your years of service in the church, God knows he knows these things, he will richly reward you in due time you stop counting be forgetful about that. You’re an 11th hour worker. This will keep you happy in the kingdom. Never, ever forget God searched for you. God found you. God saved you. Just before quitting time. And then secondly, for some, maybe you’re here today, and I’m glad you are, if you feel like you’ve wandered away from God and you’re here, but maybe your heart’s not completely here or or maybe you have not yet made Jesus your Lord in repentance and baptism, I would say here you get to work.

Time is short. Today could be the 11th hour for you. Do not procrastinate. Tomorrow is not guaranteed after the final song set up a Bible study, talk with someone, have that awkward conversation. Say, you know, I just have not been feeling exactly right about me and Jesus. I need to learn what it is to follow Jesus. Let’s talk today. Let’s have lunch. Let’s open the Bible together. Let’s discover how Jesus defines Christianity.

I want that. Get to work. Get into the vineyards. Now is the day. Stop running. From the one that loves you. More than anyone ever could. Then lastly, and I think this is for all of us, go find workers for God’s vineyard. Instead of comparing ourselves to others or biting and devouring one another in our minds, get out of someone else’s head and get in the head of Jesus. All right. Go with God.

Get it to the marketplace. Stop grumbling. Stop being consumed with our rewards of what we have and what we don’t have. Let’s join God as he goes out to find new workers, to find men and women who need Jesus. Let’s go out and give this city hope. Go and find workers for God’s vineyard. Brothers and sisters, friends. Let’s be captivating, let’s be motivated. By the extraordinary generosity of the almighty God. There is no God like our God, and it’s not even close.

Our God is just different. Imagine if we all had this mindset. If we only could just think, and repent and meditate on this thought only by the generosity of God, I am an 11th hour worker. Praise God for that. Imagine if we embrace the scandalous math of God’s amazing grace. Imagine how we would treat one another deep or meaningful relationships. Imagine how our family, friends, neighbors would be drawn into this church. They would see something they want something that’s different.

They would see a people who no longer think, well, what’s in it for me? But instead they would hear us tell them over and over again. Let me share with you just how generous my God has been with me. You can have this, too. And I pray that you envision your work on this earth is done and you stand before the generous land owner and he tells you, job well done, good and faithful servant. Come take your inheritance.

It’s been waiting for you. The kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Have you ever felt like you were last? Now your first.

One Spirit

INTRODUCTION

In John 7:38 Jesus says: “The one who believes in Me as Scripture says, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him”. (NAS) It says that, from their innermost being, will flow rivers of living water.

And that’s really what we are as a church. We are striving to change our inner person, striving to please God, striving to have the Holy Spirit deep within us. Christianity is not just something that we do. It’s not just a list of commands that we obey. It’s not just a checklist of having our quiet time, sharing our faith, getting to church on time, showing up for midweek, turning on your camera during your zoom meeting. That’s not really what Christianity is all about.

If you have a relationship with Christ, you then have streams of living water, you become a source of water and refreshment for others. And so that’s really what we as a church desire to be for central Florida. We desire to be a source of Christ, a source of living water, and so I pray that you will enjoy today’s service, you will be inspired as to what we’re going to be doing to share the gospel with the city of Orlando in a more profound way online.

The Holy Spirit is revealing new, refreshing and fun ways to share the good news of Jesus with more people in central Florida.

Now, speaking of the Holy Spirit: During this month we will explore the theme of “One Spirit”. Last month we studied the “One Body”. Let’s now read a Scripture that connects the one body with the one Spirit. We find it in Ephesians 2:21-22 – “In Him (or: in Christ) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a Holy Temple in the Lord and in Him. And in Him (in Christ) you, too, are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” There it is! The church has become the new place in which God lives by his Spirit. With the Holy Spirit the immortality of God is now bundled in your soul.

The Holy Spirit is a deposit that guarantees your inheritance in heaven. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit shows you and me how to live as Jesus would live in this world.

Now, keep in mind, no one is automatically born with the spirit.

You cannot receive the Spirit from a family member. You don’t get the Spirit just by showing up for church and and getting fired up about things. You cannot work for the Spirit. You cannot buy the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift you receive by faith and the waters of baptism.

And if you’re not sure if you have the Holy Spirit – if you want to study in the Bible how to get the Spirit, we can help you with that.

Please click the connect button on the home page of our website or click the link that’s pinned to this thread are down in the description of this video.

Connect with us on that form and we will contact you A.S.A.P. Let’s discover true Christianity together the way Jesus defines it in the Bible.

Now, next up, Acts chapter two. The Book of Acts is the Super Bowl of the Holy Spirit.

And last year, as a church, we spent the first six months on the Book of Acts and what Acts does. Acts shows us how to have the wind of the Holy Spirit in our sails.

And here’s what I mean: In John, Chapter three, Jesus compares the Holy Spirit with wind. And the wind, as we know, is powerful! The wind can propel a large windmill to generate electricity, the wind can move a massive ship around our planet.

The wind can also give us that gentle whisper to comfort the soul – that wind is the Holy Spirit.

It’s also very mysterious. You hear the wind but, as Jesus says, no one knows where it comes from or where it’s going. So it is with the Holy Spirit. You can only see or experience the effects. Listen for it. Wait for it. Every moment of the day. This is very similar to when a little boy asked his grandfather, “Grandpa, what is the wind?” “I cannot explain the wind to you”, the old fisherman said, “but I can teach you how to raise the sails in the same way.”

This is how Jesus teaches us about the Holy Spirit in John, Chapter three. This embodies so much of what it means to follow Jesus. This shows us what it means to be a Spirit-led man or woman of God.

And as a church, as individuals in the church, we must raise the sails in anticipation of His inspiration. We must listen, watch and wait for the winds of the Holy Spirit to blow in our lives.

Let’s read about a perfect example of this. Acts chapter two, beginning at verse one: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. Now, there were staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one of them heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not all these men who are speaking, Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?'”

What I love here is that, when the time comes, these disciples are ready for the Holy Spirit. When the massive winds of the Spirit begin to blow, they absolutely crush it, they’re not asleep at the wheel, their sails are raised, the disciples are together as one. They don’t miss the moment. And that defining moment comes when thousands of hearts are wide open to the message of Jesus because they’re ready.

Check out what the power of the Spirit does here. We see it in verses four, six and eight. The disciples preach the good news of Jesus in many different languages, and the rest, of course, is history.

Three thousand were added to their number that day. Three thousand respond to the message as they hear it and their own language. They repent, they’re baptized. They receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. As I said before, this is the Super Bowl of the Holy Spirit right here. By the power of the Holy Spirit, every open heart, here’s the good news of Jesus in a language he or she can understand. Now, fast forward two thousand years.

Our goal today remains the same. By the power of the Holy Spirit we must share the gospel with central Florida in such a way that they understand what we’re saying. So here’s our reality in twenty twenty one. Most of the world nearly makes all of their life decisions on the Internet. Think about it! I know for me the last few times that we’ve bought a car, Amy and I found it on a Web site. We researched there and we discovered our house here in Orlando while we were living in Scotland, we saw it on the Internet and found it.

In the pandemic, we ordered nearly all of our groceries on a grocery store app, and I don’t even want to know how much money I’ve spent on Amazon this year or even the last five years, you know, really who needs a door to door salesmen when I can just go on a website, see reviews from a thousand different people, look at the pictures and pick the product I want to buy while I’m sitting on my couch.

When I want to fix something or if I want to repair something, where do I go? I can watch a DIY video, of course, on YouTube. Before we moved to Orlando, I met so many of you in advance through Facebook or Instagram; we became friends before we even saw each other in person here in Orlando.

I have good friends who found their wives on DT Heart and Soul, a dating website; and that’s how many people are meeting and dating and getting married today, they go looking online. That’s our world today. That’s our current reality. That’s the language that so many people now speak. Most of the world will make their major life decisions now online, including those critical decisions about religion and the meaning of life.

I see it this way: as a church we have an incredible opportunity here, we have an opportunity to save souls for Jesus with the language that we speak online.

Now let me share some good news with you from our sister church down in Broward County and for the last five years, they’ve invested a great deal in their online presence. Since they restarted in-person services at the beginning of this year, they’ve had 15 to 20 newcomers per week. And nearly all of those newcomers found out about the church online.

Since the pandemic began last March, here’s how newcomers are finding the church in Broward. Well, fifty-five percent are finding it from family and friends and I think: meeting people face to face that we already know, that’s always going to be the best and always going to be reliable.

But check out how all the others are learning about the church now in Broward County: 6 percent from Facebook, 10 percent from Instagram, 16 percent from Google searches.

More on that in just a moment. And in this picture here, you see your new brother in Christ. This is Fernando. He was baptized early last year. He found the Broward Church doing a Google search.

He found the church and next he watched a sermon online. After that he finally decided, OK, I like these people. I like the message that they’re preaching. Then he came in person before the pandemic. Fernando became a Christian. He’s now your brother in Christ. He’s serving as a drummer in their band in the church, and also runs the online sound for them.

An amazing story. Since the pandemic began, eight people have become Christians in Broward exclusively from their online platforms.

Praise God. This is good news. This also demonstrates that there are many people out there today who will initially choose their church by the research they do online.

And that’s exactly why we’re raising the sails of our online platforms here in Orlanda. When the winds of the Holy Spirit blow, we must seize the opportunity to help more and more people become Christians. That’s what we’re all about. We want to make sure, though, that we speak their language. We want to make sure that thousands upon thousands of people hear the good news of Jesus. I’m thrilled that we have a new logo. I’m excited. We’ve made upgrades to our website, our Facebook, our Instagram, our YouTube. Those platforms are getting a facelift. Jake Rock is working on an incredible app that I think is really going to enhance the fellowship of our church family.

The cat’s out of the bag. I don’t think there’s any turning back at this point. The toothpaste is out of the tube and I think once this pandemic is finished, there will be a new normal.

And I think we’re going to be ready to face that as a church and it’s going to be very exciting for us to do that by faith.

There’s no going back at this point with Zoom and so many new ways of communication via technology. I’m very faithful and I dream about the endless possibilities that are in front of us.

People who live far away on the outskirts of Orlando, they can now connect with our fellowship. Distance is not an issue. Our elderly members and our members with chronic illness, they can join us for more fellowship from home. We can reach out to more professionals for Christ, like doctors and nurses who work the night shift. And they can now visit our church services in new times and new ways to hear the message of Jesus. The potential here is extraordinary.

And you see in this slide, as I mentioned earlier, 16 percent of the new guests in the Broward Church found them with a Google search. So with this in mind Lucas Ferrer, one of our church members in Oviedo, runs a company called Hit or Click Marketing, and he’s been really one of the reasons Broward has found people online that are receptive to the gospel.

He’s worked with the Broward Church for a number of years. He’s also worked with their private Christian school and finding new students for them via his business. So the good news here is that, in an effort for us to make disciples in Central Florida, we’ve now hired Lucas Ferrer part time this year. Amen. He’s going to help our church online with what’s called search engine optimization.

In layman’s terms. What is that?

Well, what Lucas strategically does is he figures out what people are talking about on the Internet and with his research, he finds ways to connect them to us as a church.

So we’re excited about these possibilities.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing will ever replace face to face conversation.

Nothing’s better than face to face worship together.

Nothing is better than a hug, even a side-hug. All right. And nothing beats sitting around the table and sharing a meal together. And it was the same for the first century church.

John, Peter and Paul, they longed to spend time with people and to spend time with the churches face to face. But the reality was for them the same as for us. It wasn’t always possible for them to do that.

And yet the apostles leveraged the Roman roads. The apostles leveraged the technology of the time with a global mail system and by the power of the Holy Spirit, their letters of communication back then to one another. Those now have become for us, the word of God.

God has a proven track record that He will move powerfully by the Holy Spirit from one generation to the next, and my prayer and my hope is that each and every one of us will raise the sails and we will make sure that we capture the moments when the powerful winds of the Holy Spirit blow in our lives.

And one of the major reasons we’re able to try new and innovative ways to get the gospel out there to Central Florida, is you. It’s your generosity. It’s your weekly offering.

It’s this church family continuing to invest, continuing to give by faith. And of course, there are so many different ways to give. Perhaps the best and easiest way will be with our new church member App and Jake Rock will talk about that in just a few moments.

But if you’re giving on the website, Orlando Church dot org, as of now, it’s two easy clicks. That’s it. You click the three bar menu in the top right hand corner. It’s on every page of the website. You click there and then you click online giving.

It’s as simple as that. Let’s go to God in prayer and thank him for all that He’s done for us. Let’s pray for our offering.

Our father in heaven, holy is your Name. We’re so thankful for all the good gifts you’ve given to us, especially the gift of the Holy Spirit. God, we’re thankful that, as Christians, you give us exciting lives that are dynamic and ever-changing by way of your Holy Spirit. I pray that we take all the good gifts that you give to us, and as we give that back to the church, that many souls will be saved.

Bless the new adventures in front of us this year. I pray that we can see many people become Christians in many different ways this coming year. God, bless our efforts to reach people out there through the language of our online platforms.

We love you, God.

We praise you. We thank you for this time of giving and we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.

SERMON PART 2

Good morning, Church. I am so glad I get to come before you and share the second part of our sermon together and even just to celebrate on Super Bowl Sunday, like Marcus, as a cowboy fan, I get to labor over the fact that my team has not been in the Super Bowl since the 90s, since I was a kid. We were probably close to the same age, maybe the last time that our teams were in the Super Bowl. And I just get to enjoy watching other people’s teams play and just try to celebrate with a good attitude, hoping that I get to see a good game. And I really love what he shared to you about the Holy Spirit. And that’s trying to listen to the whispers, to the voice, to the wind of the way that the Spirit is moving and all the ways that the Holy Spirit really is calling us to do some new things here together.

Now, I don’t know how you feel talking about the Holy Spirit, but I feel torn oftentimes in this discussion. There’s one part of me that gets really excited about the Holy Spirit, about how He comforts us. He seals us for heaven. He prays for us. He reminds us of what is right, even when we’re saying things that are stupid.

I love parts of the mystery of the Holy Spirit, the things I don’t know, all the all the ways that He is operating in the spiritual realm, that I can’t quite hear the way that He’s probably in the shadows listening to me pray and having reactions like this.

But the Holy Spirit also really scares me. There’s much about the spirit that I don’t understand. Trusting in what I can’t see, trusting in the adventure that the Holy Spirit wants to take each of us and collectively as a church on – the challenges and all the unknown. That there’s parts of thinking about the Holy Spirit that just makes me uncomfortable. It scares the pants off of me like this kid on a roller coaster. But as we’re we’re really getting into this discussion this month, I love that we’ve gone back to the Book of Acts.

I know the church really went through this a lot last year, but it’s good to revisit because the Book of Acts is such a great case study because it really introduces us to the Holy Spirit as the main character of the story that even we need to share, and right now. It’s like a Marvel movie that Jesus for four gospels teased about this Holy Spirit that was going to come, that it was going to live inside of us, and now we get to witness. In the Book of Acts he show’s up to be on the scene to move in Acts Chapter two.

But then throughout the book, as He’s leading his people to do new, scary, adventurous things in the first century. But then also the case study for us about what it means for us now as disciples today.

We’re going to pick up in the book in Acts Chapter 10 with the story of Cornelius. But before we read it, I think there’s some things that we need to understand about what makes this story so significant. In Acts, Chapter one, before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples: “…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses and Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the Earth.

You see for the first seven chapters of the Book of Acts, possibly even 10 years had gone by. But the disciples were still stuck on the Jerusalem part. They’re still stuck on Jesus saying go to Jerusalem, but there’s other places I want you to go as well with My gospel. And then about 10 years later, Stephen is killed and everyone scatters and the Holy Spirit then uses this tragedy, this moment in their history to move them towards part two and three of this verse.

Even though Jesus told them to go everywhere, to go to these other places, they stayed put until Chapter eight. Then we see the Holy Spirit showing up in big ways to seek out people from Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth. And he does it by sending the disciples people that that probably most of us, even now, would consider to be the most unlikely to be Christians. We see in Acts Chapter eight, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, the Holy Spirit taps Philip on the shoulder and says, I want you to go down to this road, the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza.

And while he’s going down there, he says, you see that chariot? Stand next to it. So he walks up to this chariot of an Ethiopian official who’s reading a copy of the book of Isaiah. This man who had gone to Jerusalem to worship would not have been welcome in the lower courts of the temple.

Philip goes up to him and is able to teach him about Jesus and help him to become a disciple, and a lot of historians even think that this man might have been the beginning of God’s church spreading throughout Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church might be rooted in this man.

Then acts Chapter nine. Jesus blinds Saul, the Jewish Christian killer, and tells the man that we never meet again in the Book of Acts, named Annanias, to go meet him and restore his sight and baptize him. He says: “This man is my chosen instrument”. Now, in Acts Chapter 10, we meet a man named Cornelius that we’re going to be reading about here in a minute, but you can see this narrative through these three chapters of God saying to his people: “Look, I’m doing things that you’re not on board with yet”.

I want to meet people. I want to do things. I have a vision that is so far beyond what you can see right now. Now in Acts Chapter 10, where we meet Cornelius. Let’s pick up at verse one and let’s read a little bit about him. You’re going to need your Bible. It says in verse one: “At Caesarea, there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion, and what was known as the Italian regiment, he and his family were devout and God-fearing.

He gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about 3:00 in the afternoon, he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God who came to him and said: ‘Cornelius!’ Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered: ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon, who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is by the sea.

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who is one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.'” We’re going to pause here. So what do we know about this guy, Cornelius? We know that he was a centurion, which means several different things, that means that he was a Roman. He was not of God’s people. He was he was technically one of their oppressors.

He had lots of power. A centurion commanded one hundred soldiers. That’s where the word centurion comes from. He had authority. He had clout that at face value, we would look at a man like this, like a four star general in the Army or something and say he’s probably not a likely candidate to become a Christian, to be a follower of Jesus. But it also tells us in the Bible that he and his family were devout and God-fearing, that somewhere in their story – we don’t know exactly where – they had heard the message about Jesus and it had made an impact on them. And they weren’t just intellectual believers, they weren’t just hearing about this guy and some of the miracles that He had done and just kind of praising from a distance. It says that it changed their lives. It says that he gave generously to the needy; he prayed to God regularly; that he was practicing his following of Jesus to the best that he could; that this was no small guy just taking this passively.

This man was impressive, he was respectable, he was fighting to be faithful in every way he knew how. This is a lot like the Ethiopian eunuch. I love both of these stories combined because this always reminds me of the Scripture in Jeremiah twenty nine 13. Says that when we seek after God with all of our heart, we will find Him. That God takes note when people pursue Him. God pays attention when people are doing their best, and God saw this centurian and sends him an angel to meet him, telling him: “You’ve got to go find this guy named Peter.”

And I want to take a second to take note of something with this. For a lot of us we would look at a guy like Cornealious probably and think he’s good. He’s faithful, he’s praying, he’s doing what he needs to. But God saw this man, and how he was trying to live to please Him. But God didn’t say “OK, he’s good, he’s doing what he needs to”. He noticed the good that he was doing, the angel tells him: “Your gifts to the poor, your prayers, are a memorial offering to God.”

He saw this. And then God sent him to someone who could teach him the rest of what he needed to know about Jesus. And Marcus offered this up earlier, but if you’re watching this and you’re doing your best to honor God in any way that you know how, maybe God is calling you right now . To now reach out for someone who can show you what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus; that God does take note of our efforts to please him, but He never designed for our relationship with Him, for our part the following Jesus, to be something that we do solo or something that we just try to figure out on our own with the Bible at home.

He knows that all of us need help to be sure we’re following Jesus biblically. So I want to just again extend an offer. Please reach out to us – if you’re looking for your relationship with God, if you’re trying to figure out if you’re doing things in the way that will really honor Him, please reach out to us. You know, for time’s sake, we’re not going to read this whole story. There’s a lot to this about 50 verses in this chapter.

But I’m going to summarize what happens next. Peter doesn’t get an angel when God shows up for him. He gets a vision – a hunger trance! It’s like on Thanksgiving, if you’re one of those people that likes to fast on Thanksgiving, maybe even the day before, because you just want to go go nuts on the meal, that you’re starving yourself before Thanksgiving, but you can smell the food in the oven cooking.

You know, God is smart, he also knows that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It tells us that Peter was hungry and he’s waiting for his meal and then he falls into this trance and he has a vision. And in this vision, there’s this this large sheet that falls from the heavens and lands on the earth and it’s got all kinds of animals on it. And then God tells him something I know we all love to hear: “Kill and eat.”

But as a Jew, he notices that most of the animals that are on that sheet are not kosher-friendly. Most of them fit the categories in the Book of Leviticus that he, is a Jew, would not be allowed to eat. And so he tells Him: “No, no, no, no! No unclean thing has touched my lips. I won’t, Lord.” And I love how God responds to him. In verse 15 the Voice speaks to him a second time: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

It tells him: “Look, you really don’t know what I’m getting at here, but don’t call something impure that I have made clean and pure. And three different times. This vision, you can read it in Acts 10. They go back and forth saying: “Kill and eat.” And Peter says: “No, that’s unclean!” And He tells him again. If you know Peter from the Bible, this is the classic Peter Fashion. He oftentimes needs to be told things three different times.

But when he wakes up from this vision, he has no idea what this is about. And contrary to the carnivore’s out there, this vision is not about eating whatever meat we want to. Other scriptures in the Bible talk about that for us. OK. But while Peter is mulling this over and he’s wondering why he had this vision as a Jew – about impure food that he’s not supposed to eat and breaking this food law. The spirit actually has to spell it out for him, says: “Look, there are three men coming up. They’re going to want you to go with them. They’re going to take you with them. Just go.”

So they leave to go and see Cornelius. Let’s pick it up in verse twenty seven, when they get to Cornelius’ house. It says : “While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: ‘You’re well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a gentile.'”

Just for a minute: imagine that this was the first thing you told somebody when you met them. Hey, you know what?

I hope you remember that I’m not supposed to be here. You filthy gentile. I’m not. You know, that our law (and if you notice there, it’s lower case “L”, not upper case “L”). It was their oral tradition. Not something in the Old Testament. The first-time meeting Cornelius. He says: “You know that it’s against the law for me to be here”, but let’s look at what happens.

[Peter continues:]”‘But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?’ Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, and at 3:00 in the afternoon, suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon, who is called Peter. He’s a guest in the home of Simon the Tanner, who lives by the sea. So I sent for you immediately and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.'”

You’ve got to love his attitude. “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.'”

This is an amazing story of God seeing someone who is searching for Him. I love the truth of this narrative in the Book of Acts. But there’s probably, maybe, something more important for us to understand here: that in this story, we see that the Holy Spirit had to pull Peter (and the other Jewish disciples that are with him) to pull them into what God was trying to do. They kept missing it. Ten years maybe after Jesus told them to go to Samaria and the ends of the Earth, they hadn’t done it yet.

The Holy Spirit had to say: “Now is the time. It’s time to get to this part”. That even there’s a part of this that seems like they resisted. I think part of why that is, is that, for the Jewish Christians (for the ones that had been followers of God up until this point, before Jesus even!), this meant sharing what they had with their enemies. This meant loving the people in a nation that was oppressing them.

This meant including people that racially, culturally, historically offended or threatened them. They were ready to share what they had with Samaria and the world. The Holy Spirit had to lead them there. At the end of Chapter 10 God sends the Holy Spirit to show up in dramatic fashion. Peter starts preaching to them about Jesus and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit comes down just like it did in Acts Chapter two that Marcus read earlier, that He now shows – He kind of shows off – the power of the Holy Spirit to gentile believers, showing that they’re participating in the same thing that the Jews had gotten two years earlier.

And it’s at this moment. In Chapter 10, it says that God was showing Peter that the Holy Spirit was bigger than Peter’s comfortable plan of staying in Jerusalem with the people that he felt cozy with. It took God saying three different times in a vision and a miraculous display of the Spirit to get him there. And in the next chapter, we see that it’s not just Peter. God was starting with Peter, but in Chapter 11 when he goes back to Jerusalem, when he’s telling the disciples there what had happened, it says that they were criticizing him.

The Jewish Christians there were criticizing Peter for stepping into Cornelius’ home, and he has to explain the whole story to them and tell them what God had done. But I love the words here in chapter 11, verse 17: “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who am I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Peter is saying: “Look, I got to watch the Holy Spirit come down on them in the exact same way He did in Acts Chapter two, and if God was doing that through the Holy Spirit, then who am I to stand in God’s way and what God was doing?” It’s at this moment that the other Jewish Christians were like: “Man, let’s go along with this. Let’s go along with what God is trying to do.”

This is true of us as disciples today. We are creatures of habit and comfortability. We love when we go to church, we sit in the same seats, we tend to sit with the same kinds of people, we tend to talk to the same people.

We, you, might even have your after-church ritual of where you’d like to go to eat. We are creatures of habit and comfortability. And because of that we often find ourselves not ready to be on the ride with the Holy Spirit and maybe, even whether we realize it or not, may even unintentionally be standing in the way of the new things that God is wanting to do. The new people that God is trying to reach, the new places He wants us to go, maybe the digital world, the online world that he wants us to reach.

When I was in college, I was out sharing my faith with with one of the other evangelists in the church there, and he was training me. She and faith for Bible talk, and we stumbled across this guy named Evan. And Evan was a Marine. He had a shaved head. Looked like he was angry. And as we were out sharing our faith, I saw him and I kind of looked away. But Steve, that I was with, said: “Hey, share your faith and go invite him to this retreat we have coming up.”

And my heart just doesn’t want to. I don’t want to do this. He doesn’t look happy. I’ve already been let down today. I don’t want to do this. But if I was like, OK, fine. And I went up to him, handed him an invitation, gave him a very half-hearted (you know!) “…love to have you” kind of a thing. And to my surprise, he actually responded. Evan ended up studying the Bible and becoming a disciple.

Then, after Evan became a disciple, he reached out to Michelle. You’ve known Michelle from several of his classes. She actually took classes with other disciples there, too, but he starts bringing Michelle out. Michelle starts studying the Bible, she ends up becoming a disciple too. Michelle and my wife are best friends. They share the exact same birthday and the same spiritual birthday. We love them. Evan and I ended up being roommates in college. And we’ve known each other for years now .

Throughout the course of our lives, things continue to go on and I get engaged and get married and Evan and Michelle got to be in our wedding as some of our best friends. And then, shortly after that, we got to be in their wedding. And often, as I’m thinking about what we’re talking about here today (it’s easy to go to a place of thinking), what if I hadn’t listened to Steve, what if I hadn’t listened to the Holy Spirit trying to prompt me out of my comfort zone, to share my faith with someone that I didn’t feel like I wanted to talk to?

What if I had stayed and put my head down instead of opening my mouth? That’s what I wanted. What friends my wife and I could have missed out on – their kids, our friends, with our daughters -and they’ve been growing up together! What would we have missed out on in our lives with a grander vision that God had?

But I needed to be pulled along by the Spirit at that time. We don’t know God’s vision. We can’t see what God wants to do, but we’ve got to be listening to the voice of this Spirit, prompting us and whatever directions He wants us to go. And as we take communion together, I want to close with the Scripture from John, Chapter 17. At times Marcus shared a lot about this. Two weeks ago.

But in verse 20 it says: “My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I in You; May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as We are one. I in them and You in Me, so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and loved them even as you love me. Father, I want those You have given to Me, to be with Me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory You have given Me because you love me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You and they know that You have sent Me. I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known, in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.

Before Jesus’ crucifixion, He prayed for the people that would hear the message through us. He prayed that our oneness through the Holy Spirit – Him living inside of us. There our unity in the spirit would reveal to the world how much God loves them. That no one would be excluded, no race, no sex, no culture would be left out from sharing in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit wants to lead us to new people, to new places, to new open doors, even in covid, even from our homes.

And as we remember, Jesus dying on the cross, as we take our communion here in just a moment, He died to send us the Holy Spirit.

He died so that we would have the opportunity to share in this thing that would be inside of all of us, that would make us one connected to Him. Let’s continue to pray that we will listen to the voice of the Spirit here in Orlando. And let him lead us. And what he wants to do next, rather than standing in his way.

Let’s pray for the communion. Father, I do want to just thank you so much. For your patience with this. God, thank you that when we resist you, when we we’re missing what the voice of the Spirit is trying to say, that You still have the patience to pull us along to be part of your story. God, I pray that right now as we’re thinking about Jesus going to the cross, as we think about the fact that his death and resurrection is what allows us to have the Holy Spirit. Help us to remember. Part of what the purpose of the Spirit is, to let it be for us to be led by Him to where You want us to go. God help us to not be in your way. We love you, we thank you. This in your Son, Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.