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Tag: Gospel

King Jesus

For the last several weeks we have been looking at Paul’s second missionary journey. So far on this journey, Paul (along with Silas & Timothy) had revisited all of the churches that Paul had planted during his first missionary journey. Then after that, being joined by Dr. Luke in Troas, they went on to Macedonia to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard the Good News about Jesus!

Their first stop was in Philippi – and the first person who accepted their message was a woman named Lydia. After hearing the Gospel, she and her whole household believe in Christ and were baptized. From that point on, she invited Paul & his team to stay at her home – and it appears that her home become the central meeting place for the newly planted church in that city.

However, not all was smooth sailing for this missionary team. Before long a slave girl – who was a fortune teller empowered by a demon – began following them around the city, shouting after them. This went on for some time until finally, in the name of Jesus, Paul commanded the demon to leave the slave girl – and the demon immediately obeyed. This was wonderful news for this girl – who was now freed from the grip of this demon – but it was terrible news for the slave girl’s owners who had made a lot of money from her fortune telling!

Well, these slave owners stirred up the whole city against Paul & Silas – and the city officials had them beaten and thrown into prison. 

And we didn’t talk about this last week, but you might have noticed that we’re only told that Paul & Silas were beaten and thrown into prison – there was no mention of Timothy or Luke being taken as well. This is probably because Paul & Silas were Jews, but Timothy and Luke were Greek. As we noted last week, the city of Philippi was a Roman colony and as such, their Roman’ loyalties were very strong. Of course, this also meant that they reflected Rome’s unfavourable view of Jews at this time. The emperor Claudius had just expelled all the jews from the city of Rome because he saw them as rebellious, trouble-makers. And so it’s easy to see how the city of Philippi (as a Roman Colony) could quickly be convinced that Paul & Silas were some of those rebellious trouble-makers as well!

But of course, being beaten up and thrown into prison was no hinderance to the ministry of Paul & Silas. It didn’t matter their circumstances, they were able to joyfully praise the Lord and share the Gospel message to anyone who listened – even the belly of a dark prison!

What’s more, God had carefully arranged all of this to happen so that the jailer and his entire household could come to faith in Christ! As we read last week, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing in the middle of the night, a tremendous earthquake struck the prison, and all the prison doors flew open and the prisoner’s chains fell off! Well, of course, the jailer woke up and saw all the doors open and assumed the prisoners had all escaped! 

Now of course, the penalty for allowing a prisoner to escape was death! And so the jailer concluded that if the prisoners were all gone, he might as well kill himself as quickly and as painlessness as he could – since the Roman authorities would not likely be as kind!

But Paul quickly called out to the man “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here.”

And this is when the jailer realized that something was very different about these men. They had something that he wanted. And so as he brought them out, he fell before them and asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Well, Paul & Silas were able to tell the jailer exactly what He must to do to be saved – He had to believe in the Lord Jesus! And He did! Even in the middle of the night, the jailer brought them to his house, washed their wounds, gave them a meal, and He and his entire household were all baptized because they had all put their faith in Jesus Christ.

And so that brings us to our passage today! At this point, Paul & Silas are still in jail – or at least, under the guard of the jailer! Since they’ve been hanging out at the jailers house, I’d guess they probably didn’t return to get locked up in the actual prison cell after that – they had clearly proven to the jailer that they weren’t going to escape!

But regardless, their situation with the city officials was not yet resolved. So we’ll see what happens as we read on today.

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The Right Direction

This morning we are going to continue working our way through the book of Acts. After taking a break for Christmas, last week we picked up where we had left off in November – which was in Acts chapter 16.

This chapter in Acts kicks off Paul’s second missionary journey – a journey that he took primarily because he wanted to revisit the churches that he had planted on his first missionary journey. He wanted to make sure that the believers in each of those cities were actually growing in their faith and becoming the kind of disciples of Jesus that go on to make more disciples of Jesus – which is really God’s call for all of us!

As Jesus stated in Mathew 28:18, one of our primary tasks in this life is to…

…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”  Matthew 18b-19a

This command is for every generation of believers since the time of Christ. We are to make disciples who will then go on to obey His commands and make more disciples. 

And this is precisely what Paul was doing throughout his missionary journeys. In fact, one of the disciples that he had made on his first missionary journey was a young man named Timothy. Timothy had accepted Christ as his Savior and had since grown and matured in his faith – so much so that Paul wanted to take Timothy along on this second missionary journey. And of course, as we talked about last week, Timothy agreed – and together, Paul and Silas and Timothy revisited all those churches that Paul had earlier planted, and encouraged them to continue growing in the Lord.

We concluded last week with this verse: 

“So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.” Acts 16:5

In other words, the believers in those cities were encouraged and spurred on to trust God more and more – and they continued to tell others about Christ – and more and more people came to know and follow Him.

So with that phase of the journey complete, Paul, Silas, and Timothy then went on to visit some brand new cities – cities that had never heard the Good News about Jesus. And that’s what we’re going to read about today.

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The Martyr of Stephen

Through the summer we’ve been working our way through the book of Acts – although recently, we’ve had some special speakers bring the Sunday morning message, and so it’s been a couple weeks since since we last left off.

But today we are getting back to Acts and we’re picking up the story in Acts chapter 6. We started this chapter three weeks ago and at that time, we looked at one of the first major leadership challenges faced by the church. If you were with us then, you’ll recall that as the early church grew by leaps and bounds, the pressures and demands on the Apostles grew as well – threatening to distract and derail them from preaching the Gospel – which of course, was the one, most important thing they had to do!

So to deal with this, the Apostles called for a meeting of the entire church and through some God-given wisdom, suggested that they appoint seven men to be deacons – men who would serve the church in an administrative role so that the needs of the church would be met – freeing the apostles to spend their time preaching the Word of God.

Everyone in the church agreed that this was a great idea and so they selected seven men who were well-respected, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of wisdom – and they appointed them to serve the church.

One of these men was a man named Stephen and it’s around him that our story revolves today. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. Even though Stephen is a main character – our story continues to revolve around Christ. Although this book is called the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ – every story centers on the person of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit – and that’s exactly what we’re going to see today.

So if you have your Bibles, let’s turn to Acts chapter 6, starting today at verse 8.

8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9 But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

Acts 6:8-10

Now it’s interesting – and I pointed this out briefly in the last message – that although Stephen was appointed to serve the church in an administrative role (specifically, to oversee the daily distribution of food to those in need), here we see him doing some amazing miracles among the people – and he was very actively engaged in sharing the message of Christ with non-believers. These are normally the things that we see the Apostles doing – but here we see Stephen doing them as well. And this is a great reminder that anyone and everyone can be used by God in some incredible ways. It doesn’t matter what your ‘official’ role or title is – if you’ve surrendered your life to God, God can do amazing things through you!

In this case, Stephen was doing miracles and sharing the Gospel with his fellow Jews. You’ll remember from our last message how there were two groups of Jews in Jerusalem at this time – there were Hebrew speaking Jews who where native-born Israelites (born & raised within the borders of Israel itself) – and there were Greek-speaking Jews who had been born and raised in other parts of the world, but who had now returned to live in Jerusalem.

Based on his Greek name, Stephen is very likely one of those Greek-speaking Jews who had come to live in Jerusalem – as were these other Jews who were debating with him. It’s even possible that Stephen was a member of the Synagogue of the Freed Slaves where he was debating with these other Jews.

This synagogue would have been one of the synagogues that had been started by Greek-speaking Jews who had at one time been slaves somewhere in the Roman Empire, but had since been freed and had come to Jerusalem. So maybe Stephen was part of that group? We don’t really know.

But what we do know, is that, like many Jews in Jerusalem, these men were not eager to embrace the message of the Gospel. And so as Stephen shared the Good News of Jesus Christ, these men began to debate with him – trying to argue against his claims that Jesus was the resurrected Son of God! But as we see in verse 10 – None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

And that is such a huge encouragement and reminder for us as we try to share the Gospel with the people around us!

It’s not our eloquent delivery or clever words that’s going to convince people to put their faith in Jesus Christ – but rather, it’s the wisdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that’s going to make the difference. 

I know many Christians are terrified at the thought to trying to share the Gospel with someone. What if we muddle our words or say the wrong thing? What if they ask us questions that we can’t answer? What if we end up looking like a fool and only reinforce their beliefs that we’re a religious nut job?

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Evangelizing the World

This morning we are wrapping up our summer sermon series! For the past many weeks we have been talking all about the Ekklesia – the church – the gathering of God’s people. And if you’ve been with us throughout this series, hopefully you’ve gained a greater understanding of what the church is, what it’s purpose is, and why your involvement in it is so important.

We began, first of all, by defining the church. And we were reminded that the church is not a building…  church is not an event we attend each Sunday morning, but the church is the gathering of God’s people.  The Bible describes us as the body of Christ or as the family of God.

And as such, we all have an important role to play in the church. Just like a physical body needs all the body different parts to function together (we need the hands to hold stuff, the feet to walk, the ears to listen, the mouth to speak, and all that stuff)… In the same way, every believer has an important role to play in the body of Christ – in the church. We all have a role in this family so that the church can do what God created it to do.

And of course, that leads us to the question, “Well, what then did God create the church to do? What is the purpose of the church and what’s my role in it?”

Well, we identified three main purposes or tasks of the church.

  1. To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  2. To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  3. To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And so far, we talked about bringing glory to God through worshipping God together – honouring Him by being obedient to all the things that God has commanded us.

We talked about bringing glory to God by edifying God’s people – or building each other up – helping one another become more like Christ.

And now today we want to talk about bringing glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And you may be glad to hear that we don’t have any more greek words to learn today! It seems we’ve had a new foreign word to learn every Sunday in this series – ekklesia, weorthscipe, oikodomeo – but I don’t plan on teaching you any weird and wonderful words today.

I think most of us already have a pretty good understanding of what it means to evangelize the world – the hard part isn’t defining it – the hard part is actually doing it!

But just so that we have all the bases covered, to evangelize the world really just means to tell everyone the good news of Jesus Christ.

That is one of the key purposes of the church – we are God’s means of letting everyone know the good news about Jesus.

There are several places in the Scriptures where we are told this, but perhaps one of the clearest examples in found in the books of Acts.

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Remembering the Gospel

Most people are pretty intimidated by any words that end in ‘ology’. When we hear things like ‘neurophycology’ or epidermeolgy’ – our eyes almost immediately gloss over – assuming that this topic is far too complex or complicated for us to understand. That’s stuff for people with PHds – We best leave that for the experts to talk about.

So when we hear the word ‘theology’ we might be inclined to react the same way. We might think theology is just something for pastors (and Brian) to talk about. It’s something that is studied in Bible school or Seminary – but it doesn’t really have a place in every day life. Theology is something you discuss with your professor – not your kids or your co-workers.

That’s often the concept we have of theology, but that’s not the case at all!

The word theology simply means “the study of God.” 

Just like how we study life in biology or we study the stars in astronomy – in the same way, we study God in theology.

Theology is our attempt to understand who God is and what He is like and what He is done. 

And theology is critical for every Christian. Without theology, we would know nothing of Jesus. We would know nothing of the cross. We would know nothing of our own sin. We would know nothing of salvation. We would know nothing about anything of eternal value!

As Christians, if we claim to know and love God – theology has to be part of our lives.

  • I mean, really, how could we love a God that we don’t know?
  • How can we obey God without knowing his instructions?
  • How can we honour and glorify God without knowing what things bring Him honour and glory?

Theology is critical to the Christian life.

Now that being said, I understand that ‘theology’ is still an intimidating word. Even for those of us who went to Bible school, when we hear the word theology, we probably envision a big thick textbook, filled with words like ‘justification’ and ‘sanctification’ and ‘propitiation’ – and we’re feeling lost even before we get started!

But that’s exactly why I’m so excited for this sermon series that we’re starting today. Sometime ago I order a book called “Visual Theology” by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And the idea behind this book is to help people grasp the keys ideas in theology by presenting them in an easy to understand way – complete with lots of visual aids in the form and style of infographics.

I thought this would be a cool ‘coffee-table’ kind of a book that I could just leave out and people might flip through when they come over to visit or whatnot. But when I got the book and read through it, I enjoyed it so much and I found it to be so helpful to me that I wanted to share it with you.

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The Work of the Holy Spirit

I’d like to think that we’re a friendly church, and so I imagine when most of you arrived here today, you were greeted by a smiling face and the question that starts off near every single small-talk conversation that you’ve ever had. And that question is: How are you?

Sometimes there is some variation in the wording of the question – sometimes it’s ”How’s it going?” or “How was your week?” or “How was work?”

But the main thrust of the question is all the same. Really we’re inviting the other person to describe their recent experiences in life. 

And how do most people answer the question “How are you?” 

“Good”.

That’s the typical answer: “I’m good – how are you?” That’s not always the truthful answer, but that’s the standard answer that most people give and what most people expect. Occasionally, however, you’ll meet someone who actually tells you the truth – and most often in those cases, it’s not “I’m good”. It’s usually “I’m not good at all, let me tell you about my terrible life….”

And I don’t bring this all up to convince you to be more or less brutally honest in your small-talk conversations – but I do want you to truthfully consider the question: How are you?

Really. How are you? If you had to describe your life as you reflect on your last week or your last few months or even your last few years – how would you describe it? Is your life mundane? Exciting? Painful? Discouraging? Challenging? And I’m sure there are moments of all those things – but overall, how would you describe your life?

How would you finish this sentence? My life is _______________.

Hard? Easy? Crazy? Pointless? Amazing? How would you describe your life?

Well, Jesus once said – in John 10:10…

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