Who Makes Revival Happen? (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)

April 2, 2023 | Brandon Cooper


The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.

Good morning church, you can go ahead and grab your Bibles open up to First Corinthians chapter three will be in verses one to nine this morning, First Corinthians three, one to nine. This is the last week in our series on Revival. So let me just recap for us or if it’s your first time out, so you’re caught up to where we are. We said in week one, that revival is an extraordinary outpouring of God’s goodness and power. But it is an extraordinary outpouring not in the sense that it is an extraordinary work. It’s an ordinary work that is blessed to an extraordinary amount. That is there is extraordinary fruit from ordinary means this would be like harvesting 100 years of corn from a single stock, which does not often happen. And so we’ve talked about having this passionate belief in the power and goodness of God to do this. And then a passionate commitment to those ordinary meanings like confession and prayer, and the proclamation of the gospel. In fact, we’ve had these I word takeaways that kind of help us keep going with the ordinary means we started by interceding for the last around us pleading with heaven to do something in their lives. And we talked about opening our eyes to identify the people and the needs around us to see the crowds and to feel compassion for them like Jesus did. And then last week, we got into the nitty gritty of the how we do this, investing our lives in the lives of those around us opening our hearts, and homes and lives to them.
Now, on the one hand, all that is pretty simple.
On the other hand, you listen to this, and you start to think well, who is sufficient for all of this? Who is sufficient for this kind of work. And so there’s this feeling of inadequacy that creeps in almost immediately. We feel like we have inadequate time. That might be the main one you’ve been feeling throughout this series and adequate time or an adequate energy. And then certainly as evangelists, we almost always feel we have inadequate skill, ability. And so you might have felt throughout this series, a little bit overwhelmed, really,
maybe even some guilt, some shame mixed in there. And I need to I need to try harder, I need to do more. And so there’s this burden that is placed on us, especially when it can seem like there’s so little fruit from the efforts that we have put forth. You may be sitting there thinking revival. Like are you out of your mind? Revival. I feel like I’ve never even had a good conversation with an unbeliever. I’ve never seen God save someone. I’ve never I’ve never, I’ve never.
So we need to recalibrate. As we close. I asked him the question who makes revival happen?
Is it up to us?
Do we have some part to play even if it isn’t up to us? What does that look like? Exactly, it was set of Pandita Ramabai, who was an Indian widow who really spread revival in her country that she trusted God as if all dependent on him, but worked as if all dependent on her?
Is that it? Is that a good summary of this process? Is that good theology? If so, what does that look like? Practically? These are the sorts of questions we want to address as we look at First Corinthians three where Paul describes his own work of ministry, and the work of his co laborers as well. So we’re going to kind of pull our main idea from these three sections. If you fill in all the blanks, you’ll get the main idea as we go. But let’s start in the first section chapter three verses one to four we can what exactly? Let me read it for us first Corinthians three, one to four brothers and sisters. I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly, mere infants in Christ, I gave you milk, not solid food for you are not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You’re still worldly. For since there’s jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For one one says I follow Paul and another I follow up Hollis. Are you not mere human beings?
I pause there a little bit of context just because we’re picking up in chapter three and there were two chapters before this.
What has Paul said so far? He is talking to a mature church, but he’s saying you have really understood the message of the cross. That is you are really Christians.
So you have the spirit and the mind of Christ. That’s where he left us in chapter two.
But you just haven’t worked out all the entailments of it yet. So he says, you know, yes, you’ve received the Spirit that happens to all Christians at conversion, but you are still not spiritual.
That is you’re not shaped by or influenced by the Spirit. Instead, you are still worldly. So they may have the spirit, but they’re not living like they have the spirit. So there’s infighting and quarreling and arrogance. They are not cross shaped people yet. And so Paul says, Really, you’re still spiritual infants at this point?
It was Jesus who said, of course, you must be born again. And so yes, they’ve been born again. But just recently, and so they’re still in the nursing stage. They still need milk at this point. What a blow to their pride, by the way in the Corinthians were very proud church because of some of the miracles they had seen. They thought they had arrived. And here Paul’s saying you’re like infants? Is there anything
more helpless than an infant nursing? I don’t think so.
And so you can almost hear them responding to polls. They’re reading this letter going, but no, no, no, that’s not true of us. Like we have food beyond milk. Again, look at all the manifestations of the Spirit and stuff. And so Paul’s almost contrasting the true food of the gospel with synthetic substitutes, that the Corinthians like food that looks good, but it’s really more chemicals than food. At this point. You all have seen us in the grocery store, of course, you’ve gone to buy fruit juice or something like that, and says, you know, contains no juice, it’s just red food dye and 12 pounds of sugar. Paul saying you want the 100% Juice stuff, you want maybe even better, like a protein shake. Like it’s chock full of everything you need. It’s enriched and fortified and easy to digest. But the Corinthians they prefer their synthetic substitute, cheap grace, easy glory, that kind of stuff. And so they can’t actually stomach the milk of the gospel at this point.
As most of you know, my wife and I have been in nursing stage for the last 14 years or so.
According to her, we’re done, but we’ll see.
I don’t get to.
That’s the only thing you’re gonna remember from the sermon.
Now, I always enjoy the burping part. Since I don’t get to participate the nursing part I gotta get to Bourbon. We had one of our kids, I won’t say who and that doesn’t narrow it down much. But one of our kids who had the amazing ability to projectile vomit during burping. And it’s incredible to but there’s nothing easier to digest than breast milk. Like that’s what it’s made for. And still, their digestive system is just not up to snuff at that point.
Well, here’s what Paul’s saying. Some of us are world class projectile vomit errs when it comes to spiritual food. And so we need to grow up.
We haven’t learned to digest the gospel yet, which is just milk. So how are we then going to understand how the gospel changes everything. What the Gospel says to relationships, sex, marriage, work, gifts, all the issues that he’s going to hit later in this letter. Until we understand the whole of the Gospel for the whole of our lives, we’re going to struggle to keep the more difficult subjects down. And that’s a good reminder for us, if you’re struggling with some part of doctrine, it may be that you need to go back and get the gospel squared away. Make sure you’ve got that right first.
And if you are still worldly, that’s verse three. Right? Paul looks at me says you’re still worldly. The word there, by the way means characterized by the flesh. So your influence isn’t the spirit your influence is still your sinful human nature. You’re still selfish, if that’s you, if you’re acting like acting, not claiming but acting like Jesus isn’t real. Stop and think.
Stop and think like, what does your life communicate to your friends and neighbors about the gospel? Do people see the transforming power of the gospel in your life?
And by the way, if you’re here today and questioning Christianity, first of all, let me just say how glad I am that you’re here and how very welcome you are to wrestle through that with us. But if you’re here today and questioning Christianity, can I just on behalf of Christians everywhere say I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry that you’ve had to see so much fleshly living in the church.
It is both shocking and not shocking. It is not shocking because the Bible tells us quite clearly that once we come to
Christ, we are simultaneously saints,
and still sinners still works in progress. And so you are seeing that part of us come out. But it is shocking because there’s just been so much pettiness and division in the church, and always has been. It’s not just today. Here we are back in First Corinthians three. It’s Paul and apologists, you don’t know who a policy is, by the way, just a gifted teacher who’s conversion is recorded in Acts. So that’s probably not our division today. I don’t think anyone’s in the Apollo’s camp any more. But I mean, the divisions are what Republican and Democrat,
Baptist and Presbyterian, even if one of those is definitely right.
Contemporary versus traditional or whatever it may be.
When it comes to revival and admittedly we haven’t gotten to revival in the passage yet. Okay. Well, I’m looking ahead a little bit when it comes to revival there is a clear lesson here. And that’s that we can hurt the process. We can hurt the process. By living unspiritual worldly lives, distracted and divided by worthless things we can be a stumbling block to the world. So people will look at us and go, Why would I want anything to do with God? They claim, we make the gospel seem not just unattractive, but untrue. There’s no power in it clearly. Because look at the lives they’re living and so we dishonor Christ, no wonder some stay away. So take a moment mean even now, before we press on to the next point and examine your life. Are you more Corinthian than Christian?
And if so, confess, repent
and keep going.
Even as we keep going in the passage, so let me keep reading we can hurt or something else verses five and six. What after all is a palace? And what is Paul, only servants through whom you came to believe as the Lord has assigned to each his task? I planted the seed Apollo’s watered it but God has been making it grow.
So against this background of jealousy and strife, and Paul asks, what’s all this Apollo’s talk about anyway? What’s all this Paul talk about? Anyway? It’s ridiculous to rank workers according to their jobs. Since Christ is the one who assigned all their jobs to them. It’s ridiculous to rank people according to their gifts. Because well, the keys in the word right gift
not something you developed something that was given to you. So why would we rank people according to gifts? Why not just focus all of our attention on the giver of all those good gifts. This reminds me a little bit about where we ended collections. We were looking at guys like Tychicus, no nastiness, who just did really uninteresting work.
That was vital for the advancement of the kingdom of God. There are no small jobs in God’s kingdom. That’s Paul’s point. Look, we’re only servants through whom you came to believe the point isn’t the discrete tasks. But the end result. We’re all in this together, we’re cooperating to see that end result. And really, the agricultural analogy drives this home. And we’ve all got different tasks, but you know what we all want food at the end of it. Like let’s just get fed goats grow crops so that we can eat we don’t all starve to death during the winter. That’s what matters, not who got to dig the trench versus who got to water.
Actually, gardening, I think is just such a perfect picture of our work. What it is we do, when we share the gospel, we scatter seed generously,
but gently, like there’s care and precision in what we do.
I’ve said many times before, we’re called to a bold but winsome evangelism.
And gardening captures this. What do you do when you plant seed? I think symbolises Vangelis we buy a giant bag of seed and we just dump it on the ground.
That’s just bird food at that point. Okay, nothing’s gonna happen there. No, there’s got to be that care and precision you want to plant seed, you got to prep the soil. You got to know what kind of seed you’re planting and what it requires. You got to know the soil you have.
What’s the pH balance this need more? You gotta get your coffee grounds out there or something. You need to add peat to this. How deep am I supposed to dig the holes the seeds must be an inch deep are supposed to be a foot deep.
And then you you place the seat you cover it. Does it need mulch? you water it. He may even put some stuff around it because you really don’t want to trample it right after
You did all this. Well guess what a great lesson for us is don’t trample the seat. Okay? Like step one. But I mean, that’s it. That’s the picture. What do you do you invest in people,
you get to know them. The way a farmer knows the seed in the soil, you, you listen, you speak directly to them as an individual. You follow up, you care. And you do all of this, lovingly. Exactly what Peter says famous passage, First Peter three verses 15 and 16. But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have bought.
Do this with gentleness, and respect, gentleness, keeping a clear conscience, not being worldly, all that kind of stuff so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. And that just sums up there’s a whole passage so far. First, do no harm keep a clear conscience be gentle, there’s the reminders and we can hurt or
help. Real simple fill in the blank we can hurt or help so you keep that clear conscience your your gentles that you’re not hurting, but then, but then you get to work, then you help your roll up your sleeves, you get to work, you give an answer. In Peters language, you plow the ground, you fertilize you plant your water, whatever God calls you to do at that moment.
And there’s a helpful reminder here to in all of this, because there could be a whole lot of gardeners, and there can only ever be one harvester.
You could have 10 1215 people involved with, you know, the mulching, the planting the whatever, and only one person gets to pick that ear of corn.
And that’s kind of how evangelism works to right, you might have 678 10, a dozen people building in prison, like sharing the gospel, and only one person gets to lead them to Christ. What that means is that you should be in lots of people’s stories. Even if you’re not the climax of the story, you’re not the climax of the story. Anyway, I got news for you. So we’re just helping people along use Greg kokles. Memorable phrase, we’re just putting stones in shoes, right? So people kind of walk funny until they go, Alright, I gotta stop and figure this out. You should be in lots of people’s stories. Even if you don’t get to see the end of the story. You can get the glory, you can hear the end of it, then it’ll be great. When I think of this, I think a Billy Graham in particular. I mean, I don’t think there’s been anyone in history who harvested more than Billy Graham.
But there’s an untold part of that story that we neglect. When we focus on Billy Graham so much how did all those people get to the Crusades? How did they go to hear him?
They’ve done the research, we know the answer to this question.
They came with their friends,
the person who’d been building into them
for weeks and months and years and decades. So why wait, we’ll come on, come with me.
They didn’t get to pick the ear of corn. Who cares? Who cares?
Be that friend?
Be that friend.
So you might invest a lot of time and energy in somebody, you’re having them over for dinner, you’ve shared your testimony, you’ve shared the gospel, you’ve asked questions, you’ve listened to their answers, you’ve responded, you’ve invited them to kickoff and Christmas even to Easter next week.
And maybe they start coming. Maybe they come for six months for a year. Maybe you move they’re still here. Again, who cares? Who cares? Do the work that God has given to you in that time, it doesn’t matter who harvest because it’s not about you, or me or anyone really.
It’s about God and verse six makes that shift, right? Some guy planted some guy watered. We could forget those names easily, but it is God who keeps it growing. In fact, that change of tenses so important there did you see it? I planted that’s one time. Apollos watered. That’s one time but God has been making it grow. There’s this ongoing work that God and God alone does. Chrysostom the church father summed it up like this. This is his paraphrase of this verse. He says, I first cast the word into the ground. Apollos added his own part, but the whole was of God. That’s it exactly without God’s power and God’s grace working in that situation. All our gardening is like burying pebbles in the backyard hoping for an apple tree. It’s not going to happen. There’s no harvest. There’s no life without the work of God. So we can hurt or help. Like we have a real part to play. But God is the decisive factor. And God who makes the sunshine and the rain fall; God who sustains all things by his powerful word. He causes the growth that’s so free, isn’t it?
Do you feel like a burden lifted from your shoulders?
You might not feel like Paul or Apollos. I don’t think many of us do. It doesn’t matter. God causes the growth. And he loves to use the weak and foolish as he doesn’t. And he can, he can because well, let’s keep going. So we can hurt or help. But long fill-in-the-blank here, let’s figure it out verses seven to nine. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. One who plants the one who waters have one purpose, they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are God’s coworkers.
We are co-workers and God’s service, you are God’s field, God’s building.
So this is just as simple as can be. Right? I mean, only God can make it grow. Only God can raise us to new life, change hearts open eyes. Again, there’s such relief there such freedom, such encouragement because it’s not up to you, thank God, it is God’s work from first to last.
By the way, that’s true, not just for the worker, but for the seed as well. The seed cannot do anything to make itself grow, either. So a quick word again, if you’re here and questioning Christianity, I think I already said how glad we are that you’re here. But we are really glad that you’re here. So please hear me again. But hear this too. You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to earn this. It is not up to you. In fact, you can’t earn this, only God can cause growth. So stop trying to climb the ladder to get to heaven. And instead just confess your inadequacy.
I’m fleshly I’m worldly, I can’t even digest milk. I can’t do this. I am as selfish as the day I was born.
And then cry for help, Lord, what I can’t do would you do for me, knowing that he has done it. And the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you cry out for help. We call that help, Grace.
So we started by talking to you. This feeling of inadequacy that we have; the reason why you feel inadequate; is because you are totally inadequate. Amen.
And yet God chooses to work through us. Like I understand the fear. I really do. We’ve got gardeners in our midst, I know, Have you ever killed a plant before
you overwatered or you’re underwater, you’re not in the right spot, the wrong all that kind of stuff. We’ve done it and you’re looking or like parents tell me you don’t have this fear, where you’re going to get your first while you’re looking at the plan and going well.
So how am I supposed to raise kids?
But then you’re thinking like I’m going to either overwater or underwater. I’m going to mess this up. And my kids are going to leave the faith.
You’ve felt that? Surely I get that, I get that fear. God is sovereign. We can trust him. He calls and uses us perfectly. We cannot forget his plans. Thank God. And frankly, God loves to use the weak and foolish, which is great. Because that’s all of you and me.
He loves to use the weakened force because then there’s no confusion about who was causing the growth. You see this throughout the Old Testament like I tell the Gideon story all the time. Gideon sets out to march against Midian, who’s invaded Israel. He’s got 30,000 strong evil warriors with Him. And God says No way. Not a chance. Because if you win this battle, you will think Man, my military strategy, these soldiers were awesome. Ha, why don’t you send 29,700 of them home, the 300 of you can go up against this formidable force.
And then when you win, there’ll be no confusion about where the victory came from. If it hadn’t been pipsqueak David but some mighty warrior who stood up against Goliath, whose name would they have been shouting?
The name of the warrior as it is they looked at David and when we should worship God, I think because clearly only he could give the victory. So that’s the good news. But that doesn’t let us off the hook at the same time. Like there’s the other flip that we talked about. You fall off the horse right? Both sides, okay, here’s the other side of the horse is you go well, then he can do it without me. Clearly, I’m not necessary in this process. He could, by the way, do it without you. That’s not challenging for him, but he chooses to work through us ordinarily. That’s verse eight. The one who plants- the one who waters- they have a purpose and it will be rewarded according to their labor we are called to do so.
Something Yeah, but it encourages us in our work.
We don’t have to be Paul or Apollos.
Just have to be willing to be used to do what he called you, to do right then according to His purpose, striving for the same and, and trusting him for growth.
So let’s pull the pieces together then we can hurt or help, but
who makes your Bible happen? God makes it happen. God makes it happen. We can hurt or help, but God makes it happen. That was so easy. You knew that already. A lot like last week, not wowed by the sermon. That’s okay. God loves to use the weak and foolish.
Easy, but let’s not skip past this part too soon, either. Like, let’s really lean into this idea that God makes it happen. Let’s take a long drink of the nutrient-rich gospel milk –who makes revival happen? God does –I knew that. But who exactly is this God, who makes revival happen?
Well, here’s who he is, when God in ages past, determined to create us to glorify and enjoy Him, and to create a place for us a place that would display His glory so that even the stars and the sun and the moon display His glory.
What did he do? All he did was speak and the cosmos came to be, and history began. That’s who this God is.
When a little while after that, God determined to set his redemptive plan in motion by calling Abraham to be the father of many nations. And Abraham raised his hand and said, That’s great, Lord, there’s one problem. I’m not even a father. And I’m pushing 100 and my wife is pushing 90. We didn’t have kids back when we were fertile. We’re past that point in life. Now. God just brought that miracle-promised child out of an aged and barren womb.
And Abraham is indeed the father of many nations today. That’s who this God is. When Abraham’s children got to Egypt, because God is really sovereign, and he did some cool stuff with Joseph, but we’re going to skip all that. And then Egypt, turn them into slaves and Israel cried out to their god for rescue in Egypt.
Well, God called weak, foolish stuttering Moses, first of all, and Moses stood before Pharaoh,
and said what God was going to do.
And as Moses spoke, God turned the Nile River, which is one of the bigger ones if I got my geography right into blood, and he sent frogs or knots or hail or darkness as the need required, and eventually his Avenger, to come and show who has the power and it is not Pharaoh, but God Almighty, to show what happens to obstinate sinners, to show what happens those who are sinners, but who cry out for grace, and put the blood on the threshold of their door. That’s who this God is.
When Pharaoh’s army saw 2 million slaves leave and thought better of it, and went after those slaves so that the nation of Israel is now trapped between a large body of water and advancing chariots with nothing but you know, some unleavened bread on their backs. Will God simply split the seas, they could walk right through it.
And when Egypt followed them into it, he closed the sea back up again. That’s who this God is. And when that nation got to the Promised Land, having seen the miracles that God had done, having walked through the Red Sea on dry land, and then looked at the people there and said, Well, they’re a little taller than we are. So I don’t think we can take this land over how quickly we forget. And so they wander around in the desert for a couple of decades. What does God do? He feeds them every day with bread from heaven. Millions of people, when they complain, they’re thirsty, he brings forth water from the rock. When they complain, they’re not getting enough protein, he sends a flock of quails into their camp. That’s who this God is. When they finally reached the promised land and coward before Jericho. Our God didn’t even have to huff and puff to blow those walls down. And when Midian invaded as a chastisement because of Israel’s sin, and God said, Well, how about 300 Soldiers only? How was it that the 300 were able to defeat that force? Is because God had already sent a dream so the Midianites were quaking in their boots before the 300 got there. All they did was blow a trumpet, and Midian took off running when a wayward Prophet thought he could outwit and outrun the Lord Almighty.
God sent him an underwater
goober to get him to the shores of Nineveh.
When there are 180,000 Assyrians at the gates of Jerusalem before their time before it was time for Jerusalem to follow the King who went home without any soldiers. Because when it comes to God versus 180,000 Soldiers 180,000 Don’t have any chance at all when it was time for Jerusalem to fall. When the Babylonians were at the gate a few decades later, they went off to exile in Babylon, God through His prophets, two different prophets set the date and the name of their return. He said, Cyrus of Persia, will send you back home, even though Cyrus hadn’t been born. And Persia wasn’t a power yet, because that’s who our God is. And when, in the fullness of time, God was ready to save his people not from Egypt or Babylon. But once for all time from sin, He placed His divine son in a virgin’s womb. And we all conspire to put that perfect son to death according to His foreknowledge and plan, we laid his broken body in that tomb. Well, you all know how that story ends, God sent some angels to roll that stone back and Jesus with keys of death in his and walked right out of that grave.
And when He comes again, He will lead us all out of that grave and into his perfect kingdom where every wrong will be set. Right? That’s who this God is.
Now, let me ask you a question.
With a God like that.
Do you think he can help you when you share the gospel with your neighbor?
What are you scared of? What are you scared of? If God is for us, if God is with us, if it is God alone, who causes the growth and who can stop us? This is back to First Peter 315. We skipped the first part, right? But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord, then you’ll be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason you’ve got so much hope in you. The degree to which we’ve set apart Christ as Lord is the degree to which we will be willing to step up and speak out in Christ’s name. I’ve said before we lack confidence in the power of the gospel, how are we going to change that you increase your knowledge of who God is, that’s what will increase your confidence. The best way to increase confidence is to increase our sense of the majesty of Christ. Who is on the throne? Who is reigning? over all things?
Was Australian evangelists. John Dixon has asked the question, Who owns the room?
Who owns the room?
It’s not the politicians. It’s not the journalists. It’s not the influencers on tick tock. It’s not your snarky, antagonistic, atheist friends and neighbors and family members. Jesus owns the room, Jesus owns every room, wherever you find yourself, he is always on the throne. Jesus has never once asked you to speak up when he isn’t with you and raining at that moment. That’s good news.
Because that gives us a cheerful confidence to jump into the fray. And a cheerful humility to lose Well, if that’s what God asks us to do in that moment without fear or anger. So cheerful confidence because the guy who can split the sea and raise the dead can open eyes and change the hearts.
But even if he doesn’t, or doesn’t, as quickly as we might like, so what? He is still on the throne.
We could plant we could water and see no growth. So
does that change anything about who God is? Of course not. So there’s that cheerful willingness to lose well — to be used without seeing the fruit. I’ve shared. A few of these stories already. Martyn Lloyd Jones quoted him a lot that first week prayed for revival for decades and never got to see it. William Carey missionary to India, decades upon decades, upon decades, single digits, converts all that time. Or in Korea, which is where we started this whole series, the 80 years of a handful of churches, nothing more.
What’s God doing? You don’t think they asked that question? Of course they did. And yet, you could draw a straight line from Martyn Lloyd Jones through revival in New York City in the early 2000s. Under guys like Tim Keller, and William Carey, yeah, he did not see many converts, but he did launch the modern missionary movement, which is spread to every country on Earth. And in fact, is the whole reason they were missionaries in Korea to begin with and we know
how Korea ended because we started with that story. Or even Paul. I mean, Paul gets thrown in jail on a number of occasions, by the way. So there he is sitting in the jail cell who owns that room, by the way, the Romans,
Jesus. And so he and his buddy, start singing the hymns, because that’s what you do when you’re in jail. But you remember that Jesus is on the throne, and an earthquake comes. And the prison doors swing open. But they’ve got a cheerful willingness to lose well, so they’re not worried about their circumstances. They’re worried about the advancement of the gospel. So as the jailer goes to kill himself, because the prisoners have escaped, they go, we’re still here.
And the jailer says, What must I do to be saved? Who owns that room? By the way, because I don’t want us to get a false triumphalism here. You know that God didn’t always open Paul’s prison cells, right.
He’s eventually killed for his faith. But he’s sitting in prison chained to a Roman guard. He’s writing letters to people like the Philippians. Go on. This is great. Because you know what’s happened when I’m chained to this guard, the Gospels going out? Because Jesus owns this room, the guard comes in, he you know, gets hooked next to Paul. And Paul goes, Hey,
what’s your name? Tom. I’m Paul. Hey, Tom, let me ask you a question you’ve ever heard of Jesus. And the guy is going right up with key like, this is this is big trouble. I don’t want to be here. This is worse than that, you know, cross-continental flight kind of thing. If I’ve got the resurrection, right, if I’ve understood the point of the resurrection, that God often brings victory from defeat, like a lifeless body tossed into a tomb is how God conquered sin and death forever.
And so God can bring victory from our defeat, let me share another John Dixon story, he was asked to participate in a debate and debate in Sydney, Australia, very different context, the United States truly a post-Christian nation, which we are not at least not yet, the debate topic was the world will be better off would be better off without religion. He was part of the team arguing against this point, they lost, they lost coming into the debate, they lost, leaving the debate as well, pretty handily. In fact, they did gain one person who was like 600 to 400. Beforehand, it was like 599 to 401. When they left, and he met the one guy, the guy came up to him afterward. He’s like, I’m the one who’s like, Alright, tell me your story. He’s like, Yeah, I don’t believe in Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, but he said, Something Dixon said, asked at one point is think of the person you know, who believes and just, you know, picture that one person would the world be better off or worse off without them. And the guy said, I pictured my hand. I knew the world would be worse without her. So I changed my vote. But that’s not the point of the story here. One of his fellow debaters was the head of the religion department at Sydney College, City College, which is, you know, a secular university and whatnot. And she so enjoyed debating alongside John Dixon, that you invited him to teach a once-off class on Jesus, among other healers. And so there he is speaking in a secular public university, about Jesus among other healers, even that’s great. But she enjoyed that class so much, she invited him back to develop his own four-credit course, on Christianity, which he taught at that college for the next 10 years.
Because they lost their debate,
because they lost How did that happen? Because, because God makes it happen. God alone causes growth, God alone and can bring revival. So with that confidence and awed by the majesty of Christ, we set to work, we want to help not hurt. That’s verse eight again, right? We do what God has asked us to do precisely because we know that God causes growth.
Because we know he causes the growth we set about the task of planting and watering, trusting in His sovereignty. We work like it all depends on us because we trust and know that actually it all depends on him.
God makes it happen.
So get to work
is such a beautiful tension in the Gospel, isn’t it?
God makes it happen so get to work. These are our eyes right? We’ve had our takeaway the four I words so you get to work intercede, first of all, is begin with prayer. Because that’s the acknowledgment that God is the one who makes it happens. We’re asking him to make it happen. As we intercede for the loss, we begin to see them around us. We identify
the crowds. We see what they’re going through, we feel compassion for them. Then we invest in their lives, intercede, identify, invest. And then lastly, I didn’t give you a blank or a slide. I’m trusting you guys here. Okay. Lastly, we invite. We invite.
There’s that cheerful confidence to jump into the fray, and the cheerful willingness to lose if that’s what God has in store for us if it goes badly, but we keep calling people like Jesus calling Matthew to follow.
You invite them to Easter. Sure, absolutely. I mean, who is this God? That makes it happen? Yeah, we can make an invitation even to somebody we’re pretty sure would say no, because who knows what God will do. So grab an invite card on the way but out. The backs are blank. So you can write a handwritten note so they know it’s coming from you because you’ve invested in their lives, invite them to the series after that, which is geared towards them, doing a series called wishing and hoping, looking at the some of the greatest challenges we face today. Things like anxiety and depression and loneliness and stress. We’re talking about the difference between just wishing things would get better and hoping that things will get better and hope biblically speaking is sure in certain how does that happen? It’s a question we got to address. Invite them to dinner, invite them to coffee, invite them to tell you how their day or week went. Invite them to tell you about their troubles. Their questions. But ultimately invite them to meet Jesus. share the gospel boldly and winsomely plant the seed and trust God.
I do not know if God will grant us extraordinary revival.
That’s his business. I know that God has called us to be faithful and to leave the question of “fruitful” to him. We know he can. We know he can bring revival in our day we have the same promises. We have the same God and we have the same need. So let’s do what we’re supposed to do what’s beseech heaven and befriend centers. Let’s pray and proclaim let’s cry out and call in let’s intercede and identify and invest and invite because we know who our God is. Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory.
working wonders, let’s pray.
Lord, we stand before you now in awe and reverence
in our hearts, we revere you as Lord Christ.
We know who you are, we have seen what you have done. We know your heart, we know your character, your goodness, your holiness, your wisdom, your grace, your power, and your love. We have every reason to have all confidence in you. Would you increase our confidence, Lord?
Would you help us to believe? Help our unbelief?
In light of who you are? Would you help us to drink deeply of nutrient-rich gospel milk and to grow in grace? To grow to do the work you’ve called us to do trusting you for the results, but truly trusting you for the results. Trusting you would not have called us to work if you did not intend
for our work to accomplish your purposes.
Lord, we pray for the harvest. So this whole series has been about we pray for the harvest, we know that you are the best news. We know that what people need more than anything else is to be made right with you again.
Now all of our problems, stem from that root, that failure to know you and acknowledge you.
So God if that’s the greatest need and we can meet it because we have the gospel would you send us Would you empower us and ultimately God?
Would you cause the growth? We pray for your namesake. Amen.


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