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Tag: forgiveness

Power in Ephesus

If you are just joining us today for the first time, we have been working our way through the book of Acts for the last several months. We are now in Acts chapter 19 and the start of Paul’s third missionary journey. 

Paul had been commissioned by God to bring the message of the Gospel to Kings, gentiles, and his fellow Jews throughout the Roman empire. And this is the third major excursion that Paul has undertaken to accomplish this task. However, this third journey is little bit different from his first two journeys.

In his first two journeys, Paul was really a pioneer of the Gospel! He brought the Good News to places far from Jerusalem – places that had never heard the message of Jesus. But now in his third missionary journey, he actually spends most of his time strengthening the church – working in places where he had already planted churches earlier.

If you look at the maps of Paul’s journeys, you can see that journey number three includes many of the same places that he had already visited during journey number two. But this fits well with Paul’s desire not only to preach the Gospel – but to help people grow and mature in the Lord. As we’ve mentioned before, Paul didn’t want to merely make believers – but he wanted to make disciples – followers of Jesus Christ would who grow, mature, and make more disciples of Jesus. This is part of the reason why Paul wrote all those letters that make up a good portion of our New Testament today – these were written to give instruction and encouragement for those new believers in the churches that he had planted.

And this is really the expectation that Jesus has for all of us! Not to write letters that will one day become part of the Bible, but to help each other grow and mature in the Lord. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 28:19…

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Matthew 28:19-20a

The second part of this command – to teach these new disciples to obey all of the commands of Christ – is just as important as the initial step of making disciples and baptizing them! And so as Paul traveled the world preaching the Gospel, he was very intentional about helping these new disciples grow in their faith and understand of Jesus. And we’re going to see that very clearly in our passage today.

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Unity in Christ

Last Sunday we learned some valuable lessons from the church in Antioch in how to deal with controversies and conflicts within the church. As you recall, there was one group of believers who believed and taught that Gentile Christians must be circumcised and follow the law of Moses like the Jews in order to be truly saved. But there was another group of believers – which included Paul & Barnabas – who believed and taught that faith in Jesus Christ was the only requirement for salvation – for both the gentiles and the Jews.

Because this issue was of such great importance – having eternal ramifications – the church in Antioch took this issue to the church in Jerusalem to seek the wisdom and guidance of the Apostles and elders there. To make a long story short, after much debate and at the leading of the Holy Spirit and following the counsel of Scripture, the decision was made that the Gentile believers did not have to become like the Jews to be saved. But rather, they affirmed that we are all saved the same way – by the undeserved grace of God. Jesus Christ did all that was necessary for our salvation – we simply need to believe and accept!

So with that issue settled, you might expect the church in Antioch to enjoy a long period of peace and unity. But unfortunately that was not the case. Even after seeing such a great example of conflict resolution within the church, Paul & Barnabas of all people – have a bit of a falling out. They have – what the Bible describes as a “sharp disagreement” and in the end, they wind up going separate ways. It seems to be a very different outcome compared to last week’s conflict which ended with everyone being in complete agreement.

Which makes us wonder – if the whole church can come together and arrive at a unified decision on such a terribly controversial issue – then why can’t these two key leaders of the church – missionary partners who had served God side by side for years – why can’t they seem to arrived at a unified decision concerning their issues?

Well, that’s what we’re going to look at today. We’ll start at verse 32 – which is still part of the story from last week as Judas & Silas (who are representatives from the church in Jerusalem) spend time encouraging the church in Antioch.

It reads like this:

32 Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. 33 They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.

36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 41 Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.

Acts 15:32-41

So let’s begin first of all, by noticing that verse 34 seems to be missing from this passage. Verse 33 says that Judas and Silas were sent back to Jerusalem. And then it jumps right to verse 35 which says that Paul & Barnabas stayed in Antioch. So what does verse 34 say and why is it missing?

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Jesus Invites Sinners

As most of you know, for the past month or so, we have been creating a timeline of significant events in the life & ministry of Jesus. Now of course, we certainly won’t get a chance to touch on every event in Jesus’ life – as we intend to wrap this all up around Easter time – but we do want to point out some of the more significant milestones along the way.

And so last week we looked at two significant ‘firsts’ for Jesus. We met some of his first disciples (specifically Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, and Nathanael) and then we watched him perform his first miracle as he transformed ordinary water into wine for a wedding celebration.

And we noted that Jesus didn’t perform this miracle in a flashy, spectacular way as to announce his arrival to the public – but rather, this was a rather subtle miracle – where only a handful of people even knew what He had done. But for those people – specifically those first 5 disciples who where with him – this was their first glimpse of the glory of Jesus, and as a result, his disciples believed in Him.

Of course, this would not be the only time that Jesus would reveal his glory to his disciples in miraculous ways so that they would believe in Him. This would continue throughout Jesus’ ministry. In fact, at the end of John’s Gospel we read:

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:30-31

And that’s really the overarching purpose of Jesus’ many miracles – so that his disciples (and us) would believe that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him we would have life by the power of his name.

God’s purpose and desire is the same for us as it was for those first disciples – it hasn’t changed over these last two thousand years – He still desires for us believe in His Son Jesus and have life through the power of His name!

And that’s exactly what we’re going to see this morning as we continue to look at the early days of Jesus’ public ministry. Today, we’re going to see how Jesus continues to gather his disciples – showing them his glory in miraculous ways – and then inviting them to come and join Him in his mission.

We saw last week that Peter was one of the first disciples of Jesus – and was introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew – although at that time, Peter was still going by his given name, “Simon”. 

Jesus would rename him “Peter” at that first meeting, but it seems’s he’s still going by Simon in today’s story. But AFTER today’s story we see Peter adopt his new name. And I think that makes sense.

If someone met me for the first time and declared, your name is David, but you shall be called “Henry” – I don’t know that I would immediately go around and start introducing myself as Henry just because this stranger told me so.

But after what happens in our story today today, it’s not surprising that Simon would suddenly give a whole lot more weight to words and instructions of Jesus. But you’ll see what I mean as we go through the story. 

If you want to follow along in your Bibles, we’ll be reading from Luke chapter 5 today – and we’ll be starting at verse 1.

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Overcome Evil with Good

As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, reading the stories of Saul, David, & Jonathan, we’ve come across several defining moments for these characters – critical moments where they have to make a certain choice and that choice then becomes the foundation of their character for the rest of their lives – for good or for bad.

Well, today we are going to read about one of those key, defining moments in the life of David. In fact, I would argue that this defining moment is probably even more significant even than his famous battle with Goliath. David’s battle with Goliath defined him as a man of bravery, boldness, and trust in God, but it’s today’s story that really begins to define David as a man after God’s own heart.

Now if you haven’t been with us recently, let me just quickly give you the run down on where we are in our story today.

King Saul is the current king of Israel, but because of his disobedience to the Lord, the Lord has declared that He will take the kingdom away from him and give it to another – a man who will obey God and do all that God desires. Saul’s son-in-law, David, has been chosen by God to be that man. God has told David that he will one day be king. This has created an interesting dynamic between David and Saul. 

Of course, David has been completely loyal to Saul and has served him faithfully – commanding Saul’s armies and being very successful at that. But Saul has grown increasingly jealous of David and has repeatedly tried to kill him.

In fact, for the last several chapters of 1 Samuel, Saul has been chasing David around the countryside – trying to capture and kill him, but David so far, has escaped – sometimes just by the skin of his teeth.

Just last week we read how Saul was only moments away from capturing David, when an urgent message arrived – telling King Saul that the Philistines were attacking – so Saul left to fight the Philistines, and David escaped. Of course, this wasn’t by chance or by luck, but by the hand of God. Throughout these stories we’ve seen God at work, keeping David safely out of the grasp of King Saul.

But in today’s story, we’re going to see things flip around, and it’s not going to be David in the hands of Saul, but Saul in the hands of David.

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The Wicked, the Wrathful, and the Wise – Part 1

For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at some of the lesser-known stories of the Old Testament. And I’ll tell ya – it’s been quite a mixed bag of goodies! We’ve had talking donkeys, floating axeheads, human cannibalism, and more! They may be lesser known, but these have been some of the most sensational stories of the Bible! And all of them have been packed with important lessons about God and how He wants us live in this world!

Now the story I want to look at today isn’t quite as sensational, but it’s still an incredible story – one that I think would probably make a pretty fantastic movie! It’s got some great movie characters – a villain you love to hate, a band of blood-thirsty vigilantes eager for revenge, and a brave & beautiful leading lady who saves the day! It would be an Oscar winner for sure! And like those other stories we’ve looked at – it’s not the most well-known story in the Bible, but there is much that we can learn from it.

We find this particular story in the book of 1 Samuel – chapter 25. So let’s turn there now and the author will introduce us to all the main characters in the first few verses. It begins like this:

Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon. 2 There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. 3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.

1 Samuel 25:1b-3

So there is at least one familiar character in this story – I’m sure most of you have at least heard of King David. Although at this point, David has not yet become king. Saul is still the King of Israel, and he has been hunting David like a criminal – chasing him all around the wilderness – even though David has never done anything to harm him! Saul is consumed by his jealousy of David and is determined to kill him, but David continues to be loyal to Saul and is equally determined not to harm Saul in any way.

In fact, in just the chapter before this, David was hiding from Saul in a cave when Saul just happened to come into that very cave to go to the bathroom. David snuck up and quietly cut off the corner of Saul’s rob – showing Saul how He most certainly could have killed him if he wanted to – but he didn’t. 

Of course, when Saul realized how David spared his life, he repented and left David alone for the time being and went back home – but David, knowing that Saul would soon change his mind, headed out further into the wilderness of Maon.

Now in Maon, we find our two other characters in this story. We have Nabal – who was a very rich sheep farmer and was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings. And then we have his wife, Abigail, who was known for being sensible and beautiful! 

These two characters seem to be quite a contrast to each other. I guess it’s true that opposites attract – or it could be that this was an arranged marriage. We’re not really given that information – we’re just simply told that Nabal was known for being crude and mean while his wife, Abigail, was known for being beautiful and sensible.

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The Process of Change

In the game of tribond, you are given three words and your job is to determine what those three words have in common. 

For example, if I say the words Christmas, family, and oak – what do these things all have in common? They are all kinds of trees.

How about this one: dentures, bats, stars – they all come out at night

How about this one: skates, the lawn, and your shoulder – they all have blades.

How about this one: oil, a diaper, batteries – and as a bonus word, Christians

Answer: They are all things that are frequently changed!

  • Every 5000 km, you’ve got to change oil in your car. 
  • Every few hours you’ve got to change the diaper on your baby. 
  • Every few months, you’ve got to change the batteries in your remote
  • And every day, if you’re a Christian, you’ve got to change to become more like Christ.

And of course, this is all a segway into today’s message.

If you haven’t been with us recently, we’ve been going though a series called Visual Theology.

It’s based on a book called “Visual Theology” by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And as you can see on the title page, there are four main sections that we’ve been looking at.

So far, we’ve looked at growing close to Christ. We’ve looked at understanding the work of Christ, and today we are beginning to look at becoming like Christ.

And that’s why I’m bring up this whole idea of change – because becoming like Christ requires change.

As you read through the Bible, you will not find one single person who accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour and then didn’t change! It’s just not possible! No one who enters into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ can ever remain the same. Change is a required part of the equation.

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