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Worship Message - The Bonanza Effect

The Bonanza Effect

June 9, 2013

Throughout May, and extending through last Sunday, the morning messages

concentrated on the topic of prayer. We looked at various aspects of prayer.

Specifically, how often we should pray, which is always, and how we should pray, which

is fervently and with belief that what we pray will be answered, and for what we should

pray, which is for the salvation of others, for our own physical and spiritual needs, and

that we as a congregation will have unity, harmony, and success, and for whom we

should pray, which includes all people in general, and specifically, our leaders, those

who are sick, missionaries, and children.

All those aspects are addressed in various Bible verses and passages, all of which

combine to teach that prayer is important. In fact, prayer - prayer to God - prayer to

Jesus - is one thing that will identify us as Christians.

Today, we are going to talk some more about what will identify us as Christians. How

we can live in ways that honor the name Christian.

First though, let’s spend a moment or two - maybe three or four - on a brief history of

the name Christian. Then we will look at some things besides praying that we are to do

to honor that name.

First, a bit of history about the name Christian, which first appears in chapter 11 of the

New Testament Book of Acts.

To lead up to that chapter, let me remind us that in the first part of the Book of Acts, we

have a record of much of what happened shortly after Jesus’ return to Heaven. What

happened in the very early days of the Christian church.

In that record, we have news of the very rapid growth of the church. The growth

happened because the Holy Spirit had come upon Jesus’ disciples and allowed them to

preach extremely effectively.

Remember the report? After one of Peter’s sermons, 3000 people accepted Jesus as

their Savior. Following another sermon a short time later, another 5000 accepted

Jesus. Actually, the wording that second time is 5000 men. Assuming there might have

been some women converted as well, the total number may been eight to ten thousand

people being converted following that one sermon.

The growth of the early church was phenomenal. But the growth was not just in

numbers. It was shown in spirituality as well. By what those who accepted Jesus did.

Some of what the early believers did is what we are going to get to shortly, but the early

believers were eager to listen and learn about Jesus. They were willing to share what

they had with others. They were ready to discipline each other in an attempt to keep

their faith pure.

The growth of the early church was phenomenal. But two things need to be said.

First, it all happened in Jerusalem. The capital city of the Jews. The city where Jesus

had been tortured. It was right outside Jerusalem where Jesus had been crucified.

Second, while accepting Jesus was a very good thing for those who made that decision, it

angered many of those who did not accept him. Including many of the most important

leaders of the Jews.

One of things those leaders did to try to dampen the enthusiasm of the early church, and

hopefully put a stop to it, was to arrest two of the disciples - Peter, who had been so

effective in his preaching, and John, who had also had some successes. The Jewish

leaders thought the arrests would scare Peter and John. They assumed their instruction

when Peter and John were released that they never speak of Jesus ever again would

dissuade them. The hope was that without Peter and John’s leadership, those who had

not accepted Jesus would be reluctant to accept and that those who did believe in Jesus

would change their minds.

However, Peter and John were neither scared nor dissuaded. Which only angered the

leaders more. It was anger that eventually led to the martyrdom of a man named

Stephen.

At first, Stephen had been chosen as one of seven men who were responsible for some of

the day-to-day business of the early church. However, his role quickly grew because the

Holy Spirit blessed him with the grace and power needed to do great wonders and signs.

The Holy Spirit also gave him a wonderful gift of preaching. Preaching that was very

forceful. Including being forceful against the Jewish leaders. A force that riled the

leaders so much they eventually stoned Stephen to death.

Immediately after that, a great persecution arose against the early church.

What a dangerous time it was for the early believers, which was of course a horrible

time. I hope I never face violent persecution. But it was a time that had a very positive

result. You see, because of the persecution in Jerusalem, many if not most of the early

believers left that city. Which means - this is the positive result - the message of Jesus

and the salvation He died to provide was no longer centered in Jerusalem. The message

of Jesus was spread to other parts of Palestine, and to other cities and countries in the

region. Which means Jesus was proclaimed, no longer just to Jews, but to Gentiles as

well.

Including Gentiles in the city of Antioch, many of whom, as it is worded in verse 11 of

Acts 11, believed in and turned to the Lord.

Since a great number of Gentiles were being converted to a faith that had begun among

only Jews, the church in Jerusalem - those who had not fled that city in the persecution -

decided the situation in Antioch should be investigated. The investigator they sent was

Barnabas.

I do not know what the church in Jerusalem intended, but listen to what happened.

Barnabas, described as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, arrived in

Antioch. There he saw that indeed, many Gentiles had made the decision to follow

Jesus as their Savior. Which made him glad - a gladness he displayed by exhorting them

- challenging them - encouraging them - to remain faithful to Jesus and maintain their

purpose of following Him. Which resulted in even more Gentiles accepting Jesus.

And get this. Barnabas then left. But he left to find a teacher for the Gentiles in

Antioch. A teacher Barnabas knew would be good for them. One who would join him in

being able to accomplish great things among them. A man named Saul, who would

eventually gain the name Paul. A Jewish man who earlier had been an enemy of

followers of Jesus. A man who had himself been converted to a belief in Jesus. The

conversion happened in a confrontation with Jesus. A man who had been given by

Jesus the mission of proclaiming the Lord, not only to Jews, but to Gentiles as well.

Barnabas went to the city of Tarsus to find Saul. He did find him. Together they

returned to Antioch, where they spent a whole year teaching the new believers about

Jesus.

Then look at the last part of verse 26. In Antioch, the disciples - the followers of Jesus -

were for the first time called Christians,

So, what does Christian mean?

It means, first of all, someone who has accepted Christ as Savior.

But according to Acts 11, it also describes someone who is willing to learn about Jesus.

Again, for a whole year, the Christians in Antioch learned from Barnabas and Saul. They

learned about Jesus.

And can we not take it the next step by saying that a Christian is someone who applies

what is learned, doing all he or she can to honor his or her namesake by obeying what

Jesus taught about how to live?

Now, from what I have read, when others in Antioch called the followers of Jesus in

Antioch Christians, that was not a positive identification. It was often said by others

with sneers or derision.

But to the Christians themselves, the name was anything but negative.

Why? Well, first of all, there is equality inherent in that name. The believers no longer

identified themselves as Gentiles, which the new believers might have done, or Jews,

which Barnabas and Saul could have done. Instead, they identified themselves as

Christians. They were the same spiritually. Spiritually, they were equal with one

another.

Second, calling themselves Christian was a constant reminder for them that, yes, they

had accepted Jesus as Savior. As such, they needed to follow the example He had set.

They needed to learn and apply His teachings. They needed to make sure they thought,

spoke, and acted in ways that would honor the name of Jesus. They needed to avoid

doing anything that would bring dishonor to the Lord.

What did they do? More importantly for us, what should we do to honor the name

Christian. What are things we are to work on?

Well, Saul - who came to be called Paul - the one who taught the Christians in Antioch

for a year - the one who continues to teach us through his letters in the New Testament -

gave, in chapter 3 of Colossians, a whole list of things, first to avoid, then to have.

Let’s look at each part of the list - things to add to the need to pray - all of them for the

purpose of honoring the name we have. The name you have if you have accepted Jesus

as your Savior. The name Christian. May we all listen so we, like the believers in

Antioch strove to do, can honor the name of Jesus.

Colossians 3. First, a list of things to avoid.

Verse 5. “Put to death what is earthly in you, including fornication and impurity.”

Fornication and impurity refer to sexual relationships outside of marriage.

“Put to death passion and evil desire.” The former refers to being a slave to desires to do

things that are harmful to others. The latter refers to having a passion for things that

are wrong.

“Put to death covetousness.” Covetousness is the desire to always have more of anything

- food, water, money, popularity, power, physical pleasures. The word infers stepping

on other people’s toes or feelings or security or rights to get more of any of those things.

There is an interesting thought in verse 7. In all the things just listed, “you once

walked.” In other words, before they in Colossae had become Christians - before we

became Christians - those very things did describe the believers in Antioch and may

have described us.

But it has to be different now. If they called themselves Christian - if we call ourselves

Christian - the things in verse 5 must no longer describe us because each one of those

things dishonors Christ - the example He gave and what He taught.

And, in verses 8 and 9 there is more to avoid.

We are also to “put away anger and wrath” Wrath is a quick temper. Quick to start and

quick to end. The kind that often leads a person to say things that ought not to be said.

Anger is longer-lasting. It includes holding a grudge.

And “malice.” That word means to actually want bad things to happen to someone else.

Then there are three things that address our words. We are to avoid “slander, foul

talk, and lieing.” Slander is saying vicious, hurtful things about someone. Foul talk

refers to obscenity. Lieing. That, of course, is telling untruths.

All those things are also to be avoided. Why? Because they are all old-nature practices.

Christians have a new nature. A nature that is to be displayed with the good, positive

things we are to “put on.” Things that are listed, beginning in verse 12.

“Compassion,” which can be defined as - I read this and was impressed by the wording -

a heart of pity.

I was reminded in my study of this word that at the time of Paul - at the time of the early

Christians - compassion was not, in society, a common thing. The sick, the old, the

simple-minded, orphans. Those with such problems were at best ignored, at worst

mistreated.

And again, some of the Christians in Antioch may themselves have ignored or

mistreated those who suffered. But no more, Paul wrote. Now that they were

Christians, they were to have compassion. That is a challenge for us as well.

“Kindness.” That is wanting for others as much good as we want for ourselves.

“Lowliness.” That means humility, or lack of arrogance. It results in wanting others to

be treated as well as we ourselves want to be treated, not thinking we deserve more

goodness than someone else.

“Meekness.” Another word for that is gentleness, which - I was interested in this, too, as

I studied this word - meekness - gentleness - refers to allowing God to keep our anger

under control. That yes, we can be angry when others are hurt, but we are not to be

angry for ourselves.

“Patience.” Wow. T he list just keep getting more and more difficult the farther it goes,

does it not? Patience even when someone in trouble has only himself or herself to

blame? Yes. Patience even when our children or grandchildren disobey? Or when our

parents are hard to get along with? That last part is OK for me to say because my

parents are both gone. No one can hold me to that one. But patience even then? Yes.

Patience when someone insults me? Yes.

Verse 13. “Forbearing one another and forgiving each other.” Our example for both of

those is Jesus, who has forgiven each one of us who are Christians. If Jesus put up with

me - if Jesus forgave me - should I not also be willing to put up with and forgive others?

And verse 14. “Above all the other good things just mentioned [the things Paul instructs

Christians to put on - the things that are to describe those of us who call ourselves

Christian - above all these], put on love, which binds everything together in perfect

harmony.”

I should mention there are two more verses I want to highlight. One that tells those of

us who are Christians how to avoid what is bad and do what is good, and one that gives

another wording for how we are to live to honor the name Christian. But first, let me

share this, which, as the title of the message indicates, I am going to call “The Bonanza

Effect.”

Remember the old Bonanza TV show. It still can be seen via reruns on channels like

TVLand, but it originally aired from September 1959 to January 1973. Lasting 14

seasons and 430 episodes, it ranks as the second-longest western series ever. Second

only to Gunsmoke.

The setting of Bonanza was the 600,000-acre ranch in Nevada called the Ponderosa.

The show centered on the Cartwright family, which owned the Ponderosa.

One of the family members was Adam. I did not know this until I just read it that Adam

was, on the show, an architect. He is the one who built the ranch house.

There was Little Joe, the youngest of three sons. He was the hot-headed and impetuous

one. Maybe he was that way because he always was called little. What a constant

reminder that he was the youngest.

There was Hoss. Did you know his show name was Eric? Hoss was the warm, lovable

giant of the show.

And of course Ben - Pa - who held the family together.

I was a watcher of Bonanza in my pre-teen and teen years. I still remember at least the

gist of the plot of the series, which was that the Cartwrights always fought for truth and

justice. they did not lie. they did not cheat. And yes, they had lots of money, but the

feeling you got was that they had earned all they had. And they often used what they

had to help others. Not only friends, but those who were down and out, in need of a job

or an encouraging word or protection from bullies.

What I remember about the Cartwrights is that they knew who they were. They knew

their name meant something. They always made it their goals to honor their name and

avoid doing anything that would dishonor it.

That is what we, who go by the name Christian, are to do. We are to avoid dishonoring

the name of Jesus. We are to act in ways that show we know our name means

something. Which we can do by praying, which we have talked about recently, and, as

we have talked about today, by avoiding things that are sins and by doing the good,

wholesome, helpful, spiritual things listed in today’s passage.

But how? The answer is in verse 16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

And how can that be done? By “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”

And get this. Teaching - Christian teaching - is helpful, not only for students, but also to

the teachers because of the study needed to prepare to teach. Studying gives teachers

reminders of how Christians are to live.

Teaching and admonishing are important to the learners, as they are made aware of

behaviors to have and behaviors to avoid.

That working together - both teachers and learners working together - reminds me of

one more thing about the Cartwrights. No matter what, they stood up for each other.

Adam? If he had trouble with some business deal, the others were there to take his part.

Little Joe? If he let his mouth get him in trouble, there were the others to defend him.

Hoss? Sometimes people picked on him because they mistook his gentle nature as a

weakness. Hoss could usually take care of himself, but if he needed some help, there

were the others. And Pa? He stood up for his sons, and they stood up for him, including

whenever anyone thought he or they were not as nice and good as they tried to be.

Which brings to mind one more point. A related point. Not everyone liked the

Cartwrights. Some thought they were too rich or that they put on airs - things like that.

But to the Cartwrights, that did not matter. They lived true to who they were.

That is what we are to do, whether we are liked or not. whether anyone appreciates us

or not. which is proclaimed in verse 17.” Whatever you do, in word or deed, do

everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

We are to honor the name Christian. We are supposed to help one another do that,

thereby helping ourselves, helping each other, and bringing honor to Christ, the source

of our name. The source of who we are.

Today’s closing song is We Are Called to Be God’s People.

We are called to be God’s people, showing by our lives His grace,

One in heart and one in spirit, sign of hope for all the race.

Let us show how He has changed us, and remade us as His own

Let us share our life together as we shall around His throne.

We are called to be God’s servants, working in His world today,

Taking His own task upon us, all His sacred words obey.

Let us rise, then, to His summons, dedicate to Him our all,

That we may be faithful servants, quick to answer now His call.

We are called to be God’s prophets, speaking for the truth and right,

Standing firm for godly justice, bringing evil into light.

Let us seek the courage needed, our high calling to fulfill,

That all people know the blessing of the doing of God’s will.

Let’s pray. Lord, help us to be Your people, Your servants, Your prophets. Help us to

show that You have changed us and that we are willing to answer Your call to be

dedicated to You. As it has been stated today, help us to honor - individually and

together - the name You have given to all who accept You as Savior. The name

Christian. That is so important because our name is even more important than was

the name Cartwright. Our name represents not Adam and Little Joe and Hoss and Ben.

Our name represents You, our Savior and our Lord. Help us. Thank You. Amen.


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