James Merritt - Life Beyond Borders
When I read about the life of a believer and I read about what the life of a believer ought to look like and I'm just being honest, I'm not being fussy when I say this, I'm just having to be honest and I think you'll agree with me. If I were not a follower of Jesus and I just looked at the average run-of-the-mill everyday follower of Jesus, I wouldn't be real motivated to become a follower of Jesus. I'm just being honest. I just don't see, I don't see the joy. I don't see the thrill. I don't see the excitement. I don't see the real difference and I think there's something wrong with this picture.
That's why we're in this series that we're calling Life Beyond because I believe the Christian life is a life beyond. I believe there's more to life than this life. And we talked last week if you were not here last week or if you were here last week, you've already forgotten what I said, so let me kind of review what I said. I mean, I've forgotten what I said, okay. But last week what we said was, if you're a follower of Jesus there is more to life than this life and that we've been given the opportunity to have an impact that will live long after we're gone. We really can't have an impact on other people that won't last for a long time. It will last forever. We said the way you do that is first of all by becoming a disciple and then by making disciples. So, we said last week, you really can life a life beyond believe. Today I want to talk about a life beyond borders.
Now, let me kind of tell you, set this up what we're going to do today. Jesus has been crucified. He's been raised from the dead and since his resurrection, He has spent 40 days with His disciples getting them ready for His departure. Well, His flight is about to take off. I mean, the red light's flashing, it's time to board the aircraft. He's just moments away from leaving planet earth and before He leaves, He says something absolutely remarkable to these disciples who have been living with Him for three years, 24/7, they kind of probably thought, we kind of heard it all, seen it all, experienced it all but then He says something just before He leaves and it was so unbelievable, it was so mind boggling what He said. It is because of what He said and because of what they did as a result of what He said that we're here right now. It's because of what He said and what they did as a result of He said that there are two billion plus people on the planet that are followers of Jesus today and I want to show you what He said to them.
If you brought a copy of God's word or you use an electronic device, whatever you use, I want you to turn to a book calls Acts. If you don't know where it is don't worry, there's two testaments, an Old and New Testament. Go to the New Testament. There are four books right in the beginning Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Fifth books the book of Acts. I want you to turn to Acts 1. Now, as you're turning and finding that, let me just kind of tell you what's going on. The book of Acts was not written by a disciple. The book of Acts was written by a doctor.
You say, "Well, how do you know that"? Because when you read it in the Greek, the handwriting's so bad, you can't really understand it, okay? It was written by a doctor. And it really is the most unique book in the New Testament because unlike every other book in the New Testament, the main purpose of the book of Acts is not theological and the main purpose of the book of Acts is not doctrinal, the main purpose of the book of Acts is historical. It is the story of not only how the church got started but how the church started growing and it's actually the result of a vision that Jesus gave His disciples for them, a vision that was going to tell them this the life you're going to life.
This is the work that you're going to do. This is the church that you're going to grow and frankly it is the vision that we've adopted in our church after 18 months of a process of hard work, deep thinking, much discussion, a lot of prayer and we believe is leading us to where God wants us to go over however how long God allows us to do what we do. We decided that beginning locally, we want to have a gospel presence by planting satellite churches in communities where people live within a 20-mile radius of our Sugarloaf campus. When we planted this church, we had this idea, we'll be a regional church. We're right next to the interstate. People will come from everywhere. They'll come from Gainesville, they'll come from Decatur, they'll from Alpharetta and then we learned, you know what, the times are a changing. Back in the day, there were regional churches. Those days are gone.
Now people want to go to church where they live and where the work and where they play and where their kids go to school. So, we said, you know what? They're not going to come here, we've got to go to them. And so locally, we want to expand our presence within a 20-mile radius and have a gospel witness. Then we want to expand our presence nationally. We're planning churches in key communities. You may or may not know this, we've been a part of planning two churches in Washington, DC, because we believe that at the nation's capital there needs to be a strong gospel witness, so we planted a couple of churches up there and then we said internationally or globally, we want to be planning churches and taking mission trips all around the world. And all we're doing really is taking up the same mantle that Jesus gave His original disciples when He said the following statement that absolutely rocked their world.
Here's what He said. He said, "But," now remember when He says this, He's out of here. He says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth". Now, listen to what these disciples, all of a sudden the light comes on. They say, "You know what, we get it. You didn't just come out of that tomb to be kept within the borders of our own personal experience. You didn't just come out of that tomb to be kept within the four walls of any local church," which by the way, the early church didn't have a building.
And one of the reasons why is they understood from the beginning that the whole church deal was not to be localized in a building, it was built around the believe that Jesus Christ had died on the cross for our sins, that He'd come back from the dead, that He was alive right now and that good news ought to be shared everywhere with everybody at any chance that we get the opportunity. Because Christianity is not just a life beyond belief, it is a life beyond borders and in these memorable words Jesus says, "Okay, let Me tell you why I want you to do what I'm telling you to do and then I want to tell you how you're going to do it".
Now, let me just stop and say this. If you're a follower of Jesus, let me just go ahead and warn you of something right now. This whole message will be forcing some of you to get out of your comfort zone. I'm just warning you of that right now. If you're not a believer, you may say, "Well, good, I don't have to listen to because this is really not for me". Well, you'll learn when in the end of this message, I really want you to pay attention too. Alright? Here's what Jesus says. He says, "Number one, God empowers us to go beyond our borders. God empowers us to go beyond our borders". Now, I want you to remember, 40 days before Jesus is giving them these last instructions, we read last week, He's already given His disciples their marching orders, He says, "I want you to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations".
Now, 40 days that's been ringing in their ears. Forty days, these disciples, "Man, I gotta go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations". Now, what do you think those disciples were asking each other that entire time they were thinking about what Jesus said. "How are we going to do that? Who's He think He's talking to? How in the world are we going to pull that off"? And then Jesus gives the answer in verse 8. He says, "But you will receive power. When the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses".
Now here's what I want you to do. Go back 2000 years, you're one of those 11 men. You're one of those disciples. You're in sandals, you're in a tunic and all of a sudden, you realize what a revolutionary thing you've just heard because remember now, you're just a common guy. You're just an everyday Joe. You're just a regular Charlie and for them to be told, "You're going to receive power". I'm going to receive power, that was absolutely stunning. First of all, the idea that common people would have any kind of power was totally upside down thinking because remember they weren't living in the good old USA. They were living under the iron-fisted domination of the Roman Empire. They weren't living in a government of the people and for the people and by the people. No, it was the people of the government and the people for the government and the people by the government. The only rights they had was the rights the government said that they had and so back in that day in the first century, only kings and caesars had power.
And beyond that, generally the only people that had any power were either people that were born into it, you just happened to be born and your dad was a king or your mom was a queen or you took that power at the point of a sword or a spear and then Jesus comes along and says, "I'm giving you power and by the way, we're not talking ordinary power. We're talking about political power. I'm not talking about financial power. I'm not talking about military power. I'm talking about supernatural power". He said, "Hey guys, you know I've been talking to you about the kingdom of God? Well, let me just give you some news. You need to remember this. God's kingdom is different from human kingdoms". He said, "This kingdom is going to be preached through a gospel of peace, not a declaration of war. This kingdom is going to expand by the words of witnesses, not by the weapons of warriors. This kingdom is going to be sustained by the work of the Holy Spirit, not by the might of men".
Well, guess what happens. Jesus takes off, He leaves and not soon after He leaves, we read in the book of Acts about this thing called Pentecost where the Holy Spirit comes down on every believer, enters into every believer and He enters into those believers to stay. That has never happened before in history. In the Old Testament, you'll read this. I read about it just the other day. The Holy Spirit would come upon someone at a certain place at a certain time for a certain purpose and once that purpose was accomplished, the Holy Spirit would leave.
Now, Jesus said, "Nope, you're going to be a permanent residents". This is not a duplex. This is not a rental. This is permanent. The Holy Spirit's going to come. He's going to live in you. He's going to stay in you forever, forever, and forever and that's why by the way, the reason why if you're a follower of Jesus, the reason why we ought to be so different on the outside from the world is because we're so different on the inside from the world. We've got a power in us they don't have. We've got a presence in us they don't have. We have an authority in us they don't have and what these disciples were about to learn was God does not expect us to carry out His mission in our strength. He wants us to carry out His power, His purpose according to His power and here's the good thing: God is so determined, God is so absolutely rock-ribbed determined that people hear about Jesus and so determined that we be a part of sharing that story, He has empowered us to do it.
This business of making disciples is so important to God, it is so much on God's heart, He says, "Look, not only do I not want you to do it alone, I'm not going to let you do it alone. We're going to do it together". So every time we go beyond our borders, whether it's to take the gospel locally across the street to a neighbor, or take the gospel nationally to a place like Washington, DC, or go globally to a place like Nicaragua, we're not depending on our personality, we're not depending on our persuasiveness, we're no depending on our position, we're depending on His power and I'm telling you today if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, right this moment where you're sitting, you've got that power in you. We've been empowered to go beyond our borders.
Here's the second thing Jesus said. "God equips us to go beyond our borders". He doesn't just empower us, he equips us. Now, let me ask you a question. You're got the Holy Spirit living in your right now, why? You've got the power of God living in you right now. Why? God didn't put it in there to just stay there. He says, "Okay, let me tell you why I'm living in you, ready? You will be my witnesses". That word witness is one of the most important words in the book of Acts. It gives us the English word martyr. Now, today we think of a martyr as what? Somebody that dies for their faith. That's not what the word meant 2000 years ago. Two thousand years ago, a martyr was a witness. A martyr was just simply someone that said, "All I can do it just tell you what I've seen, what I've heard, what I've experienced, what I know".
Now, here's the amazing thing. When Jesus said to these 11 guys, you're going to be my witnesses. Someone has said never in history has a more important assignment been given to a less qualified group of people. You remember, you're the disciples, there's not a PhD among them. There's not a college graduate among them. There's not a rich person among them. Some of them may not could have even been able to sign their name. There's not a gifted public speaker among them. They're just lower class, minimum wage dudes. I mean, we're talking farmers and fishermen, shepherds, and yet Jesus with 100% confidence said, "You're going to do what I'm asking you do to. You're going to pull off what I'm asking you to pull off. You're going to be successful". He didn't say, "Well, you might be my witnesses. Maybe you could be my witness. You know, you really ought to should be my witnesses". He said, "You will be my witnesses. You are going to pull this off".
Now I want to bring this down to where we live right now and I'm talking to you if you're a follower of Jesus, okay. You're a Jesus follower. Who is the you right there? Somebody tell me, who's he talking to? He's talking to you. He's talking to me. You. In other words, you could put your name in there right now. Jack will be my witness. Theresa will be my witness. John will be my witness. Sophie will be witness. James will be my witness. He was talking to all of us. He didn't qualify what he said. He didn't say, "You church pastors will be My witness". He said, "You disciples will be my witnesses". He didn't say, "You church staff people or your seminary graduates". He said, "You will be my witness".
That's every disciple. That's all of us. He was talking to every day run-of-the-mill dime a dozen, ordinary people just like you and just like me. You're probably thinking right now, you talking to me? You talking to me? Yeah, He's talking to you. He's talking to all of us. He said, "You will be my witnesses". Because of the power of the Holy Spirit, God has equipped you to be a witness for Jesus but see here's our problem. A lot of you right now, I'm telling you right now, you're saying, "Can't do it, it's not in my comfort zone. You don't understand how timid I am, how shy I am, how fearful I am, don't have the personality, just can't do it".
Here's why: You've convinced yourself of something about the word witness that's just not true. The word witness, don't think about salesman. We're not asking you to sell anything. We're not asking you to force anything on anybody. Not doing that at all. That's not what a witness does. Listen, God's not called you to be His prosecuting attorney and God has not called you to be His defense counsel. He's just called you be a witness. A witness is simply someone who shares their story. You remember our mission statement? We gave it to you last week, we're gonna put it up again. Remember this? Our mission statement is pointing people to Jesus and inspiring them to live the cross-shaped life. Let's say that together, ready? Pointing people to Jesus and inspiring them to live the cross-shaped life.
I am so glad our church is named Cross Point 'cause that's what we want to do. Point people to the cross and point people to Christ. And the amazing thing is not only do we have the power to do it but thank God, it's such a simple thing to do. I know for some of you it's just not in your comfort zone, I get that. Well, let me ask you this. How about all the people out there that are in the comfort zone of their sin and how about all the people out there that are in the comfort zone of an empty life that need to hear there's a risen Lord that can forgive you of your sins. And there's a risen Lord that can give you fullness for your emptiness.
So, I want to just challenge you. I just, I just believe that's all in my heart. I'm just telling you, I believe it. You cannot hear the gospel and know the gospel and believe the gospel and be changed by the gospel and sit on the sidelines and never share the gospel. You just can't do that. If you understand the gospel and you say, "I know what the gospel is, I believe what the gospel says. My life has been changed by the gospel," you cannot help but want to share the gospel and God says, "Good, here's the good news. I've empowered you to do it. I have equipped you to do it. It's so important to me, you're not going to do it by yourself. We will do it together by the power of the spirit". So, why do I want you to go outside of our borders? Get out of our comfort zone, why? Well, God's empowered us to do it.
God's equipped us to do it and then here's the last thing. God expects us to do it. God expects us to go beyond our borders. Now, if these disciples had not yet had their world rocked, if they weren't reeling yet, they were about to be. Because listen to the last thing that Jesus says and we're going to bring all this home, ready? He said, "Okay, you're going to be My witnesses, I'm going to give you power". That blew their mind. "You're going to be My witnesses". I'm going to be? "You're going to be my witness". Then He says this, "In Jerusalem". I can do that. Maybe, wait, no, no, "and in all Judea and Samaria," that began to suck the air out of the room. And then, "And to the ends of the earth".
Now, Jesus is so brilliant in what he does. Look what He says, look fast, "First of all, just start being witnesses in Jerusalem. Just start where you are. Let's just start locally". You know where He was standing when He said that? In Jerusalem. He said, "Okay, guys, let's just start where you live, where you are. Let's start right here". In other words, the reason why you and I live where we live and work where we work and know who we know and do business with who we do business with? Those are divine opportunities for us to be witnesses right where we are. Now, that wasn't hard for the disciples to grab. They could get their hands around that, okay? They grew up in Jerusalem, they knew Jerusalem, they were Jerusalemites. That was not a big deal.
Then He says, "Oh, by the way, and I also want you to go to Judea and Samaria. In other words, I want you to get beyond the borders of your home, beyond the borders of your neighborhood, beyond the borders of your county, beyond the borders of your city, I want you to go national because that's what the country was known, it was known as the country of Judea". Well, that was okay but then He adds and Samaria. Now, that wasn't too thrilling. That's a bridge a little bit too far. You say, "Well, why's that"? Because they didn't want to go to Samaria. Why didn't they want to go to Samaria? Well, we would call Samaria today the other side of the tracks and all of a sudden now, the light's starting to get brighter and brighter.
Oh, I get it now. I understand who we're to witness to and where we're to go. We're not just to go to the Jews next door. We're going to go to people regardless of whether they are Jews or gentiles and He says, "Oh, but it gets even better than that. I don't want you just to go locally and I don't want you just to go nationally, I want you go to globally. I want you to go to the ends of the earth". The furthest that Jesus ever traveled Himself in His adult life was 60 miles. These guys for the most part had never been outside of Jerusalem and all of a sudden He says, "Hey guys, you're going to go to places you've never seen. You're going to go to people you have never even met and you are going to be my witnesses".
In other words, what blew their mind was, He said, "Look, you're not just going to go everywhere geographically, you're going to go to everyone ethnically. So, in other words guys, here's the picture for you. It doesn't matter whether they're Jew or gentile. It doesn't matter whether they're black or white. It doesn't matter whether they're slave or free. It doesn't matter whether they're male or female. We're going to witness to everybody everywhere". And Jesus said, "The word is to be worldwide and we're to go to the ends of the earth until the end of the earth".
Mind boggling, mind blowing. You know why? Because to these Jews, this was unheard of. Judaism didn't have what we call missionaries. As a matter of fact, there was no faith in that day that had people that would go locally and globally and nationally trying to win people to their faith and Jesus is saying, "We are because we're different and you know why we're different? Because unlike anybody else," and I'm sorry if this is not politically correct and I'm sorry if it sounds a little bit arrogant, that's okay. Jesus said, "I'll tell you why we're going everywhere. We've got the only message that works. We've got the only Lord that's alive and risen from the dead. We've got the only solution to sin. We've got the only hope for people who are hopeless. And that's why we're going everywhere and that's why we're going to everybody".
Now the disciples are finally getting this big picture, wow. Christianity is never meant to be localized to a building. Nope. And it's never meant to be centralized in a denomination. Nope. It's never meant to have any borders. Nope. Jesus said, "I want the light of Christianity to be seen everywhere. I want the gospel, the word of the gospel to be heard everywhere. I want to fire of the gospel to be felt everywhere". That's why we say at the end of every service, you know what we say now, you're not leaving this church, you're being sent from this church. That's what we're all to do. We're all to be sent and go out on our mission and by the way, this is where I want to kind of bring some of you in.
So, some of you here are not followers of Jesus. I know that. I know some of you and some of you know who I'm talking to. You're not a follower of Jesus. The reason why I'm glad you were here is this. At least now I hope you understand why we do what we do. I hope you understand now why I preach the way I preach. I hope you understand why we do step outside the borders of our church and our comfort zone and we do, with your permission, try to get into your borders. No, it's not just because we've been commanded to do it. So, well, Jesus said, I gotta do it, so I guess I gotta do it. Oh, it's better than that. We know what Jesus has done for us and we know what the gospel has done for us and we know that what Jesus has done for us, He can do for you and what the gospel has done for us, He can do for you.
So, that's why we got this passion and this fire so let me just wrap this up. So why is it the last thing Jesus said, think about this, these were His last words were these words. Here's what I want you to get. The reason why Jesus came and did what He did and the reason why Jesus said what He said, is because He sees the world and He saw the world totally different than the way most of us see this world. So, here's what I want to leave you with. When you leave here in a minute and you walk out to your car and you get in your car and you drive where you're gonna drive and then you go home, I want you to ask God to do one thing for you.
I want you to say, "Lord, just for today, just as I'm going home, just ask I'm driving back into my neighborhood, Lord, would you help me to see what you see and would You help me to see it the way that you see it? Lord, I don't want to look through rose-colored glasses, I want to look through blood-covered glasses". Because here's what you'll see. You'll see a lot of lives out there that are empty and a lot of lives that are broken and a lot of lives that are absolutely hopeless but we know a risen Lord that can radically change every life. And all God has said to us is this, "I have given you the power to go beyond your borders and share the news that everybody needs to hear".