|We Are | We are a church that will not be stopped|
|May 21, 2011|
Part 4 of 4 | May 22, 2011
This is fourth and final week of our series called We Are. We have spent the better part of a month to exploring who we are at ACC. We’ve been talking about the unique church that God has called us to be.
We kicked off the series by talking about the intense vision that God has given us. Because our vision is God-given, we will not deviate from it. We will stay true to the vision.
Then in week #2, we talked about commitment. We are a church that requires 100% commitment. And we make no apologies for it. Lukewarm doesn’t fly around here. A lukewarm, wishy-washy commitment to the church is not good enough for us because it’s not good enough for Jesus.
Then last week, we talked about our focus. We are laser-focused on lost people. That means that those of us who are saved will make a lot of sacrifices to reach those who are lost. But nothing is more urgent. Nothing is more important. Nothing matters as much as seeing people cross over from death to life. When even one person surrenders to Jesus, it is worth all the effort. All the work. All the sacrifice. It’s all worth it.
Today as we wrap up the series, we are going to see our church for what it really is: unstoppable. We are a church that will not be stopped.
This entire series comes from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s heart was broken because the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Without walls, the people were wide open to be attacked and conquered. Nehemiah had a God-given vision to rebuild the walls. And the first half of the book of Nehemiah is all about how that vision came to be reality.
When a vision is from God, that vision is unstoppable. The people would rebuild the walls. They would not be stopped. And we will build up God’s church. We will not be stopped.
Fear will not stop us. Say that out loud with me. Fear will not stop us.
That is why the walls around Jerusalem were completed. Nehemiah and the Jewish people didn’t allow fear to stop them.
And that’s why we will build God’s church at ACC. Because fear won’t stop us, either.
In Nehemiah 6, we read about how the walls around Jerusalem were completed. It’s absolutely amazing that this massive project was completed in fifty-two days. In less than two months time, the walls went from a pile of rubble to completely finished.
When you hear about that kind of timeframe, it would make you think that everything went smooth. There were no bumps in the road. It was a perfect project with no problems.
Not even close. Like I said last week, no big vision is ever accomplished without big-time problems. The bigger the vision, the bigger the problems. That’s always the way it works.
In Nehemiah 6, we read about some of the huge issues that Nehemiah and the people had to deal with. Whenever you are working toward a God-given vision, there will be roadblocks. There will be problems and issues. There will be attacks. But that doesn’t mean that the vision is defeated. Nehemiah’s vision wasn’t defeated, and the vision of our church will not be defeated. He had an unstoppable vision…and so do we.
Listen to what Nehemiah said in chapter 6. “When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.” (Nehemiah 6:1-4, NIV)
Not everyone was thrilled with Nehemiah’s vision. Not everyone wanted to see the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and a bunch of others launched a campaign to stop the rebuilding. They did what any critic does. They requested a meeting.
But Nehemiah turned them down. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. But four times. He refused to listen to the criticism because he knew there was nothing constructive about it. The only thing these critics wanted to do was derail the vision. So he wouldn’t stop what he was doing to meet with them.
But Sanballat and his cronies just would not give up. They were career critics. They were absolutely committed to their criticism.
Have you ever met someone who couldn’t even open their mouth without spewing criticism and negativity? That’s nothing new. Those people have always been around.
Nehemiah has already shot these guys down four times. But like I said, they are career critics. They try for a fifth time.
In Nehemiah 6:5, the Bible says, “Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (Nehemiah 6:5-8, NIV)
Nehemiah’s critics are grasping at anything. They are even making up stuff that isn’t true. When someone is a career critic, the truth isn’t always their first priority.
But now, listen to what Nehemiah said about all this in the very next verse. “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9, NIV)
Things escalated from simple criticism. Now Nehemiah’s enemies were trying another tactic: fear.
They were trying to scare the people away from the vision. They were trying to scare Nehemiah and the other leaders away from completing the task.
And Nehemiah combated the fear with prayer. Prayer cuts fear down to size because prayer reveals the size of our God. And our God is always bigger than our fears. Always.
Nehemiah knew this truth. In Proverbs 29, the Bible says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25, NIV)
If you want to be trapped, be afraid of people. Fear their opinions. Fear their criticism. Let them intimidate you from doing what God has called you to do. It is a snare. It is a trap.
But when you follow a God-given vision and you trust in Him, you are safe. It doesn’t mean that people won’t try to derail you and your vision. It just means that you recognize that God is bigger than anyone who is opposing you.
But now, check this out. It wasn’t over yet for Nehemiah.
In Nehemiah 6:10, Nehemiah said, “One day I went to the house of Shemaiah…who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”
But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.” (Nehemiah 6:10-13, NIV)
Nehemiah’s life was now being threatened. His enemies would stop at nothing. They hired Shemaiah to try to scare Nehemiah away with death threats.
I love his response. In verse 11, Nehemiah said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!”
A few weeks ago in our Death By Love series, I talked about how the people of God should walk with a swagger. We should have a holy arrogance in our God. Nehemiah lived it out. His confidence in his God was so complete that he even stared down a death threat.
He said, “Should a man like me run away? Should a man with a God-given vision run away? Should a man who is loved intensely by God run away? Should a man whose God is as big as mine run away? You bring it on! Because there is no way that a man like me is running away!”
What are you running away from? What fear is dominating you? A man like you should never run away. A woman like you should never run away. Your God is too big…your God is too loving…your God is too powerful for you to run away.
A man like you…a woman like you…a church like us should not and will not run away!
Now, read what Nehemiah said in verse 13 again. “[Shemaiah] had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.” (Nehemiah 6:13, NIV)
If Nehemiah had given in to fear, he knew he would lose all credibility. But even worse than that, he said that it would be a sin.
It is a sin when we allow fear to trump vision. It is nothing short of sinful if we allow fear to stop us from pursuing God’s vision for our church. And that is exactly why fear will never stop us.
Pursuing a God-given vision is scary. Look at all the danger and the traps that Nehemiah had in front of him. All he was doing was pursuing God’s vision, and it almost cost him his life.
Whenever you pursue what God wants you to pursue, it will a wild and scary ride. When you follow God, there will be risks-a-plenty. You can bank on it.
The question is not whether fear will be present or not. It absolutely will be. The question is what will we allow that fear to do to us? Will fear drive us to prayer, like Nehemiah? Will fear deepen our resolve and commitment to the vision, like Nehemiah? Or will we allow fear to stop us?
Here at ACC, we will not be stopped. Fear will never stop us from pursuing God’s vision for our church.
We believe wholeheartedly in the truth of Psalm 27. “The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:21, NIV)
When you really know God…when you see Him for who He really is…you realize that nothing and nobody should scare you! When you understand the size and the scope of your God, what are you going to be afraid of?
The size of our God is always bigger than the size of our fears. And that’s why we believe this truth from Nehemiah 6. God will not fail us.
There is a reason that fear will not stop us. Because we know that God will not fail us.
Let’s wrap up our time in Nehemiah with these verses from chapter 6. Some of the most powerful verses in the entire book. “So the wall was completed…in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:15-16, NIV)
God did not fail Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem. They had all kinds of critics. There was a lot to be afraid of. But they did not waver in their faith that God would not fail them. And He did not. The vision was accomplished because God did not fail them.
And God will not fail us.
In 1 Chronicles 28, David said to his son, Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you…” (1 Chronicles 28:20, NIV)
This is a life-verse for our church. Here at ACC, we believe this promise with everything that is in us. We know that God will not fail us, so we will not allow anyone to discourage us. And we will not allow anything to scare us.
Through the power and the presence of God, we will be strong. We will be courageous. And we will do the work. God has called us to an amazing work, and nothing is going to stop us from doing that work.
God is doing amazing and crazy things in our church. This is the sixth straight Sunday where we have baptized someone into Christ!
We have already set an attendance record for Sports Camp this year. And sign ups will be open for two more weeks. We’re not done yet.
Several of our people are going on a mission trip in June, and thanks to God’s grace and the generosity of His people, that trip is fully funded.
As we look around, it’s getting harder and harder to find a seat or a parking space, isn’t it? It’s awesome. But we also know that this means we’ve got to be looking ahead. In the short term, we’ve secured permission to park cars at the American Legion. Our church’s leaders are parked up there today. And if you’re willing to join us, that will free up more parking for people who are coming to hear the gospel.
We’re going to have to get more creative with our seating to accommodate the growth that God is bringing. We’re working as hard as we can to keep up with God’s pace right now.
But we’re also considering longer term solutions. There are some wild days ahead. Our leaders will be faced with daunting decisions. And we all need to be praying for God to lead us.
God wouldn’t bring us these blessings if He intended to just drop us. God doesn’t set His church up to fail. He is setting us up for even greater success. But greater success will not be achieved easily.
Our church will be called to take greater risks than ever before. And it’s not all going to make perfect logical sense.
But that’s why it’s called faith. In 2 Corinthians, the Bible says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV)
And in Hebrews 11, the Bible says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV 1984)
God’s church is called to operate by faith, which means that we are not governed by what we see. We do not buy into the fears that we see. We believe in the God that we don’t see.
There are amazing and scary and wonderful days ahead for our church. I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen because I don’t know. I can’t tell you exactly where God will call us to go or what He will call us to do, because I don’t know.
There’s a lot about our church’s future that I don’t know, but here’s what I do know. I know is that God has revealed His vision for our church. And pursuing that vision will take faith. But our God is faithful. He has not and will never fail us.
We can be that confident in God’s faithfulness because we have a God who died for us. Why would Jesus die for us, only to drop us later on? He wouldn’t. His love for us is total. His commitment to us is complete. And that’s why we can march so confidently into the future. Even though we don’t know everything that the future holds, we know who holds the future. The future is in the hands of our faithful God.
In Psalm 9, the Bible says, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:9-10, NIV)
That is true for our church and that is true for your life. God never forsakes those who seek Him. The future may bring uncertainty and problems and trouble, but we have a God who walks through it all with us.
Jesus died for us and rose for us and will never, ever leave us. In fact, He pursues us. And for some of us, it’s time to stop running the other way. You have a God who loves you. Who wants to be with you. Who wants to save you.
Today can be the day when you stop running. It can be the day when you surrender to a God who never wants to leave your side. You are loved. You can be forgiven. You can be set free. All through the blood of Jesus.
That’s why our church will not be stopped. Because the love of God is unstoppable.
You can’t stop God from loving you. It’s not possible. You simply cannot stop God from loving you.
In Psalm 103, the Bible says, “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion...” (Psalm 103:2-4, NIV)
God forgives all your sin. There is no sin in your life…past, present, or future…that can stop God from loving you. You know that sin that you can’t get over? The sin that you so regret…that causes you to live with so much guilt. God can forgive it. No sin…absolutely no sin…can stop Him from loving you.
This passage also says that God redeems your life from the pit. Regardless of where you are in your life…even if you’ve made a mess of absolutely everything in your life…it doesn’t stop God from loving you. Your life can be a little messed up or it can be an absolute train wreck. It can’t stop God’s love for you.
This text says that God crowns you with love and compassion. You know who gets to wear crowns? Royalty. A prince and a princess wear crowns, and that is exactly who you are. Because Jesus paid the price for your sin on the cross, you are adopted into God’s family. You are a son, you are a daughter, of the King. You are a prince. You are a princess. And the King crowns you with love and compassion.
You may not feel like royalty. You don’t see yourself as a prince or a princess. But that is exactly what you are through the lavish, unstoppable love of God.
And it’s that love that compels you to come to Him. You have a chance to respond to the love of God today. His love for you cost Him His life. Jesus’ love for you was so unstoppable that it sent Him to His death. And it’s through His death that you can have life.
We are part of an unstoppable movement of God. That movement is known as the church.
In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18b, NIV)
The church cannot be stopped. The very powers of hell cannot stop the church. The church is the vehicle to take God’s unstoppable love to the world. And our church is going to do our part.
Fear will find us. But God will not fail us.
The vision is too intense, the mission is too important, the gospel is to urgent for us to back down. A church like us doesn’t run away.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been more excited about a church in my life than I am about our church. This is our moment. This is what we’ve been praying for. And we will not be stopped.
In Romans 8, the Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:32b, NIV)
If God is for us, then fear will not stop us. If God is for us, we will dream big. If God is for us, we’ll pursue audacious goals. If God is for us, then we will go all in. If God is for us, then we will not be stopped.
I said this at the beginning of this series and I mean every word of it. This is not a game. This is CHURCH! It’s time for us to go all in with our passion. With our time. With our money. With our prayers. With our commitment. With our love. With our lives. How can we not go all in when eternity hangs in the balance? How can we not go all in when Jesus went all in for us?
This is the kind of church that ACC is. This is who we are. We are a church that is unapologetically sold-out to Jesus. He is our Messiah. He is the Name above all Names. He is our Redeemer. He is God with us. He is the one who loves us. He is the one who will not fail us.
Let’s celebrate! And let’s get to work.
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