A Church on a Mission: A Call to Joy

by | Mar 12, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor David Ball

Scripture: Acts 11: 19-30

Often in life we can become skeptical and doubtful and therefore hardened to experiencing the joy of seeing God’s grace at work in others. When we are unable to experience the joy of God’s grace at work in others it is an indication that we have lost the joy of God’s grace at work in our own lives. Act’s 11:19-30 is a call to rejoice in the grace of God first in our own lives and then in the lives of those around us.


Well the mission continues to expand for those who are visiting with us for the first time this morning were in the midst of a series on the book of Acts and we have made our way to acts 11 verses 19 to 30. uh and as we’ve worked through acts together we’ve seen the expansion of the Gospel both geographically and culturally from Jerusalem to Judea to and Samaria from the Jews to the Hellenistic Jews to the Samaritans and then last week in the past few weeks we’ve been looking at uh the God-fearing Gentile Cornelius a Roman Centurion and his family the Gospel of Jesus Christ the good news that God sent his one and only son into this world to give us new and unending life in him this gospel is for all people and this morning the expansion of the Gospel it continues just as Jesus had commanded his followers remember we read it in the beginning of Acts in Acts chapter 1 he told them you will be my Witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth and so far in Acts we’ve been to Jerusalem we’ve heard about their witness there we’ve been to Samaria with Philip as he bore witness to what was the most hated people group to the Jews we’ve been through Judea we’ve heard about Cornelius and Peter’s witnessing the gospel to him and today we begin the journey to the ends of the Earth a journey that begins an Antioch and continues today with you and with me as we continue to live on Mission as Witnesses for Jesus in this world and we’re told this in Acts 11 verse 19. those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as phenicia and Cyprus and Antioch speaking the word to No One except the Jews and that makes perfect sense it makes perfect sense the Jewish Believers uh when they fled from Saul and this persecution uh in Jerusalem they went to communities that they were familiar with or at least where they would have a sense of familiarity with the people who were there it was natural it was more comfortable for them and they’d been through so much trauma and so much suffering who could who could blame them and this is what most of us do don’t we most of us go to the places that we’re familiar with to the people that we’re comfortable with and that’s not all together bad you know Gracie and I uh you know I think we’ve told you that we’re uh we’re going to be going to Kigali in April after Easter for uh big Anglican meeting the global Anglican Futures conference uh and so we were thinking gosh if we’re going so far you know we maybe we should stay over a day or two and wherever that we were originally thinking wherever the connection naturally happened and I was looking at it and the natural connections were could be in a lot of different places like Qatar um or uh it could be in uh maybe Brussels maybe Amsterdam and we were kind of looking at those as you know we could stay a couple days there you know get a different experience spend some time together because how often do we get away from all four kids you know um but then we started thinking about but we’re like and we’re like you know but you know maybe we can work with the travel agent and they can figure out how to connect us through London you know we’re more comfortable there we’re not going to be there long and it wouldn’t make us as nervous about how to get around and all that kind of stuff and so that’s what we chose to do so I totally get it right you want to go where you’re more comfortable you probably you know the language you know the culture a little bit better you can relate to it uh don’t most of us do that you know we probably most of us choose our our homes where you’re living because it was probably in a neighborhood you were comfortable with with people you were comfortable with you felt you had shared culture with them you know it’s probably why you chose the church that you choose other than the excellent Pastor um and the outstanding music of course but uh but you know is people that you’re comfortable with that you’re familiar with you share uh things you share values things that make you you feel comfortable right so those who were scattered they went to the places and they went to the people that they shared commonality with language culture religious practices and their their convictions and when they did go to those places they spoke the word of God to them which was awesome and that was important in fact it’s all it’s an important form of evangelism to First maybe go to the people that you can communicate with right that you you understand where they’re coming from uh then they reached out to them but verse 20 tells us that there were some of them men of Cyprus and Cyrene who aren’t coming to Antioch spoke to the hellenists also preaching the Lord Jesus now believe it or not there is a lot to unpack in that one uh little verse about what this means and what it means to the context about what’s about to happen next first of all we need to talk about Antioch Antioch was a huge City by ancient near Eastern standards of around 500 000 people and it was located north of Jerusalem almost in my all the way to the modern day turkey and it was founded by one of Alexander the Great generals and he named it after his father Antioch was a multi-cultural Center of Trade that reached uh to the no All the known world at the time and it had a large Jewish Community because Antioch had offered equal citizenship to Jews and so there was a large community there but it also had a large population of Asian people because it was strategic in doing its trading into India and even further to the east through its trade routes and ports so Antioch was huge it was it was known as being a beautiful city a beautiful city with lots of diverse people with very diverse beliefs and religions and so it’s not surprising that a few of the Jewish believers who would fledge Jerusalem found their way to Antioch because there was that large Jewish Community there and they I felt like it would be a good place to go but what is surprising is that they preach the Lord Jesus to the Hellenist they preached to the hellenists so who are these hellenists I’m sure you’re wondering right uh well to be honest we’re not exactly sure this is actually one of those things that have uh academics stumped or at least they know the the kind of the uh the a roundabout who they were but within that there’s some there’s some disagreement about it uh we know that back in Jerusalem there were Hellenistic Jews who had come to Christ remember when we read about the controversy that uh that happened in the in the church in Jerusalem over the distribution of of food to the widows uh that that little controversy that broke out was between the Jews and the Hellenistic Jews and so we know that they were there so one of the thoughts is that these hellenists were a group of Greek speaking and Greek culture Jewish uh Believers or Jews there uh but the word itself is fairly unique and it’s simply translated just means uh Greek or Gentile so it could be that these were totally purely Pagan gentile people uh that they were speaking of the Lord Jesus too it could also mean that they were like Cornelius remember he was a God-fearing uh Gentile and the New Testament uses this word to describe Greek speaking people and Greek cultured people which means that we’re going to have to use the context of the rest of this passage to really settle on on who these people were and we’ll get to that in just a moment but I think the most important fact is that we’re told the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number came to believe and they turned their lives over to Jesus this was conversion that happened on a large scale this was a large-scale Revival with con new converts to the faith you know imagine I know we’ve been probably all following the the Asbury Revival but imagine it a little different imagine that breaking out in a completely secular place you know like the University of North Carolina you know sorry I can say that because I went there uh but not at a Christian College where where it happened you know like imagine it really in a secular place like that it breaking out and people coming to the first time to hear the gospel and coming to the Lord it was such a big deal that word got back to the the church leaders back in Jerusalem to the apostles and there was some level of concern about what was going on uh that there so much so that they sent a representative to check it out to make sure that that everything was legit uh and to see obvious or if they see if there was anything they could do to help and to assist this new movement this revival that was happening in this place Antioch uh there was enough curiosity or concern or doubt that they needed to go and verify and see what was going on and it’s from this context that leads me to believe that these hellenists weren’t just Jewish Greek Believers uh I really believe that they or I don’t think that that Jerusalem would have been as concerned about it uh they already knew about Hellenistic Jews like that was a normal thing uh that wouldn’t be a level of concern uh this has got to be something new and especially when we take it in context of what we just read about uh Lucas just told us about Cornelius the Gentile coming to Faith an unclean person a common person coming to faith in Christ and that immediately follows up with that one convert follows up to what’s happening in Antioch on a on a large level these hellenists were most likely Greek Gentile pagans and the church in Jerusalem needed to provide some accountability and some verification about what was going on there so they said Barnabas they sent him off to Antioch to verify what was going on we know at this point this is the first time we’re introduced to Barnabas and so we don’t really know anything about them at this point except for we know that he’s not uh he’s not an apostle he’s not an apostle so they sent him though as a representative later he becomes known as the son of encouragement and we kind of get that idea from what we’ve read about him here we can see in verse 23 we’re told this when Barnabas came to Antioch and saw the grace of God he was glad and he exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose that’s how our translation from the English Standard Version uh translated it but I think I like the way the the NIV uh translates it much better this is what it says when Barnabas arrived and Saul with the grace of God had done he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all of their hearts

or maybe even better Eugene Peterson gives his interpretation of this uh in the message he said as soon as Barnabas arrived in Antioch he saw that God was behind and in it all he threw himself in with them got behind them urging them to stay with it the rest of their lives you get that real sense of encouragement in that don’t you presumably Barnabas would have been in Jerusalem when when Peter reported all that God had done uh in and through Cornelius the the unclean the common Gentile and now Barnabas having heard the report from Peter in Antioch he’s now seeing it firsthand what’s going on here this work this major outpouring of God and the lives of and the conversions of of these Gentiles and so when he saw it with his own eyes and he recognized that this was God at word this was God’s gracious power at work in their lives bringing these Gentiles to Faith In Jesus and we’re told he was filled with joy that’s what that he was glad means somehow I think being full of joy sounds a little bit more accurate right than just being glad uh yeah that’s a good thing no no he’s rejoicing his heart is moved like this is this is powerful stuff seeing God at work in such a powerful way through his grace in their lives he wasn’t threatened by it he didn’t try to correct every irregularity that he might have seen he didn’t try to make them now become Jews so that they could get out of this commoner type of Life they were living and now become exceptional and and promised like the promised people the Jews uh he didn’t tell them to follow all the the Jewish laws he was simply filled with joy at what he saw I brought joy to his heart how do you feel when you see someone come to Faith in Jesus how do you feel are you filled with joy does it feel your heart with joy now I wish I could tell you that was always my first reaction I wish I could tell you I want it to always be my reaction but it’s not it used to be it used to always be my reaction when I first came to Christ I always felt that Joy when I saw others coming to know Jesus but I have to confess over the past 30 years my heart’s gotten hardened just a bit my first reaction is oftentimes now skepticism maybe even caution is this really real you know I’ve experienced too many who’ve said they’ve been born again but later just have walked away from the faith or too many who said they were born again but then later it just became obvious that they were using it as a way to manipulate people to abuse people in some way for their own selfish gain

why can I not allow myself to experience the joy all the time because I’ve been jaded and I’m for some weird reason I think I take it personally somehow someone’s salvation is dependent on me or or a reflection of me Lord knows I I need forgiveness in that I need a little bit of barnabas’s heart towards these new Believers can any of you relate to that have you gotten hardened at all maybe a little bit of skepticism a little bit of doubt enters your own mind is this real is this for real Barnabas had no problem experiencing the joy just as Jesus said there’s more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents in over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance has Your Heart Like Mine grown skeptical and jaded friends

we need the Lord to break into our hearts and give us a renewed joy for all lost people who turn and repent

and come to Jesus as Lord and savior of their life of their lives because it was out of that sense of joy the Barnabas encouraged them he was an encourager because of the joy that he experienced seeing the grace of God and work in other people’s lives not seeing all the bad things or the potential pitfalls or you know you didn’t get this all right now he experienced the joy and it turned him into an encourager for them you know the the ESV used the word exhort and I think that you know that word it’s a true word it’s a true word but too often it sounds like that he just then uh started to reason with them you know it makes it sound like he just used words to reason with them uh to tell them to be true now now keep on keep in line you know yeah you’ve received the grace but now you need to do this to stay close to Jesus but the word it means to encourage he encouraged them which means bar and encourage the word it means all these things it means Barnabas he affirmed them Barnabas came alongside of them he lived life with them he comforted them and he taught them the joy that Barnabas experienced for the grace of God that he saw at work in them it compelled them to throw himself in with them and get behind them in this new life that they have in Christ he didn’t just simply say all right now go do these things and you’ll be fine

entered life with them he entered into the messiness of life with them Barnabas was more concerned about their hearts than he was about their behavior or their religious practices it’s like what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in first Thessalonians chapter 2 verses 7 to 8. he wrote to him just as a nursing mother cares for children so we cared for you because we loved you so much we delighted not only to share the gospel with you but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us

friendship evangelism is all about loving people

staying and walking through life with them being an encourager in their lives Luke tells us that Barnabas was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith it’s the most encouraging thing to me about Barnabas is this is something we can all do something we can all relate to all of us can get behind this Barnabas wasn’t an apostle he didn’t have the authority like that

we’re not told that he uh that he did any Miracles or any healings he was simply an encourager willing to come alongside these new Believers to love them to care for them Comfort them affirm in them what God was already doing in their lives he recognized it he took joy in it and encouraged them to keep their hearts focused on Jesus as their lord and you know what the result was verse 24 and a great many people were added to the Lord Barnabas didn’t witnessed it in any great Display of Power that wowed people we aren’t even told that he preached by the way but rather by encouraging and throwing his life in with them he was witnessing to them the love and encouragement of God and his son Jesus Christ but it all started with the joy in his heart at seeing the grace of God that was in that was at work in the lives of others that’s where it started

Joy’s the most powerful motivator of all here’s the hard reality it’s been my experience that when we fail to experience the joy of the grace of God that’s at work in others it’s usually a symptom of the fact that we’ve stopped experiencing the joy of God’s grace that it’s worth that work in our own lives we’ve forgotten our first love we’ve forgotten that we once were lost utterly lost before the grace of God intervened in our lives and brought us to faith in Christ it’s become a distant memory uh faded into the background of our minds and our reductive history when we look back we’ve begun to think that maybe we came to Faith by our own Works maybe we just were smart enough to make that decision for Christ or we were wise enough to know that we needed Jesus or that we were good enough so God rewarded us and blessed us and loved us

well friends we need the Holy Spirit to give us a history lesson because none of us were good enough or smart enough or wise enough to follow Jesus amen in Ephesians 2

Paul reminds us no we were dead in our trespasses in which we once walked following the course of this world following the prince of the air the spirit that is now at work and the sons of Disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and we by Nature children of Wrath like the rest of mankind but God being rich in Mercy because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive with Christ by Grace you’ve been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the Heavenly places in Christ Jesus can you see the grace of God at work in you

does it give you Joy we were lost but now we’ve been found Rejoice brothers and sisters again I say rejoice

you know what I think will wake us up from our doubt and the skepticism and reluctance to witness our faith in Christ with others more than anything else I think it’s Joy I think it’s Troy rejoicing finding joy in Christ every day as we wake up experiencing the joy of our Salvation anew Romans 15 13 Paul says may the god of Hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may have abound in Hope Joy produces hope which breaks through the the hardness of skepticism and doubt that we have towards others I pray for an outpouring of Joy from God for you and for me

here’s what I know about Joy

Joy is something that God can restore

if you’ve lost it you’ve become hardened Joy is something God can restore Psalm 51 David Cried Out restored to me the joy of your salvation O Lord I know the joys found in the presence of God Psalm 16 in your presence there is fullness of joy O Lord I know that Joy comes from trusting the Lord and what he’s done for you and what he’s done for me in Christ by his grace alone

Barnabas Ministry was effective because he found joy in God’s grace as it was at work and others and in his ministry of encouragement was so effective that he recognated kept growing and people kept coming to Christ through it that he recognized he needed help he couldn’t do this alone so Barnes was not only uh he was not only an encourager he was a humble man he didn’t make this about him he went and he found Saul and Tarsus and he brought him now why did he go after Saul well we would believe that he would have heard that from Saul’s own conversion what God had said to him God had said to Saul that he was his chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles and at the end of the verse 26 we’re told that it was there in Antioch that these disciples were first called Christians why here why now well it’s because here in Antioch the church first looked like what the church was and is supposed to be it was not just made up of Jewish Believers now there’s Gentiles and Jews alike together under the lordship of Christ and so they needed a new name a new distinction so now they’re called Christians meaning simply they’re followers of Jesus Christ as their lord and savior men and women who knew the joy of their salvation and found joy in every person who came to know Jesus as their lord and savior have you lost your joy

has your life of following Jesus gotten full of skepticism and doubt does it feel like a burden to you to carry that more of a barrier to carry it than it does the free gift of God’s grace that’s at work in your life then this morning be renewed be renewed in the joy of your own salvation first that you might begin to take joy in seeing God’s grace at work and others remember your own story how the grace of God came into your life and how he drew you to Jesus

as you come to the table this morning to receive the bread and the wine the body and blood of Christ by faith remember that it’s a New Covenant of joy that God has made with us that Jesus died in our place making a full atonement for our sins and him by faith we’re accepted into God’s family and welcome to dine with him at his table now and forevermore

may the Lord restore the joy of our Salvation again and may we then have joy in recognizing God’s grace and work in others and become encouragers as we witness for Christ and the mission that he’s called us to amen


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