Skip to content

Tag: Holy Spirit

Peter & Cornelius – Two Lives Transformed

When we began our study of the book of Acts back in early summer, I mentioned to you that the title of this book may not be the most accurate. Of course, the author Luke didn’t name this book – it was written as a letter to a man named Theophilus. But today in most of our Bibles, this book is commonly referred to as ”The Acts of the Apostles”.

However, for the last several chapters that we’ve gone through, the story hasn’t revolved around the Apostles at all! We’ve seen God do some amazing things through the lives of guys like Stephan and Philip. These two were not apostles, but rather were administrators in the church – their job was to make sure all the widows and orphans and those in need were taken care of! But of course, that certainly didn’t discount them from sharing about Jesus wherever they went – and as we’ve seen – God used both of these guys to spread the Gospel far beyond the borders of Jerusalem!

And then last week, we were introduced to three new characters who all played a very significant role in the growth of the church! Most obviously, we saw the Holy Spirit totally transform Saul from being a murderous zealot trying to destroy the church into a passionate evangelist who would do more than most to build and strengthen the church! And in addition to Saul, we also met Barnabas & Ananias – again, not apostles, but just faithful men led by the Holy Spirit – and who played significant roles in the salvation and transformation of Saul.

So it really isn’t a book about the Acts of the Apostles – but rather it’s a book about the amazing Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles and the many other faithful men and women who yielded themselves to the Spirit’s leading.

Which leads us now into today’s passage. Today the focus shifts back once again to the apostle Peter. And while we are going to see the Holy Spirit do some amazing things through Peter, perhaps more significantly, we’re going to see the Holy Spirit do some amazing things in Peter!

Because just like how Saul needed to be transformed from the inside out – so did Peter! And so do you and I!

All of us need the Holy Spirit to radically transform us to become more and more like Christ! And certainly that process had already begun for Peter some time ago, but we’re going to see another significant step in his journey towards Christ-likeness today.

We finished off last week with Saul being sent to his home town of Tarsus. He’s going to hang out there for a while – growing in his understanding of the Gospel and in his relationship with Christ – until Barnabas goes to find him in Acts chapter 11. And at that point they’ll go on to minister in Antioch and help start the first church there!

But until then, the story shifts back to follow Peter for a while. And there are three incidents in the next couple of chapters that are recorded for us from the life and ministry of Peter at this time – two shorter ones first – and then a much longer and more detailed one. 

And it initially seems like the three are just a selection of snapshots – just some random examples of the ministry that God was doing through Peter at this time. But I think Luke is doing more than just that. He’s writing about these particular events in the life & ministry of Peter for a reason. I believe he wants us to see, not only how the Holy Spirit was working in the world, but also to see how God was working in Peter’s life – transforming Him into the likeness of Christ. So let’s take a look.

Leave a Comment

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?

Leave a Comment

Poured Out On All People

This morning you guys are in for a real treat, because today you are going to hear one of the most powerful and most effective sermons that has ever been preached to mankind!

Now to be clear, it’s not my sermon this morning that I’m referring to. The sermon I’m talking about is the very first sermon ever preached by the Apostle Peter, on the day he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a witness for Jesus Christ.

As most of you know, we’ve recently begun studying the book of Acts – a book that is introduced as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. In the opening words of this book, Luke writes:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach…

Acts 1:1

The implication here is that, while the Gospel of Luke is all about what Jesus began to do and teach, the book of Acts is all about what Jesus continued to do and teach – primarily through Apostles empowered by the Holy Spirit.

And that is very much what we are going to see in our passage today! On the very day that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples – in fact, probably within the hour of that event – the Apostle Peter boldly stood up and preached a powerful message to all the people who had gathered there and more than 3,000 put their faith in Jesus Christ that day and were baptized!

It was an incredible kick-off to everything Jesus would continue to do through the Apostles and the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s sermon begins in Acts chapter 2, starting at verse 14, but before we read that, we should probably back up a little bit to review the first 13 verses so we understand what’s going on here.

Leave a Comment

The Priority of Prayer

Well, last Sunday we began working through a new book of the Bible – the book of Acts – and we noted that it was written as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of everything Jesus began to do and teach during his time on earth.

This book is traditionally titled “The Acts of the Apostles”. However, as we pointed out last week, it really would be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” – since it is He who continues to be the central character throughout the book!

The book opens with a brief summary of the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven. During this time, Jesus appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions and he proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive! And of course in those visits, as He had done throughout the previous three years, Jesus talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

And one of the key things that Jesus talked to them about concerning the Kingdom of God, was their role in the Kingdom. Specifically, how they were to be his witnesses – telling people about Him everywhere they went.

Now of course, this would be quite a daunting task for such a ragtag group of fisherman! They weren’t trained professional speakers. They certainly weren’t powerful or influential in society… They were really just a bunch of nobodies… Who were they to boldly tell the world all about the Messiah of Isreal and what He had done?

Besides, had Jesus forgotten that just a few weeks earlier, his disciples had all abandoned him and fled when he had been arrested and put on trial? Why, even their fearless leader, Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus!

And yet now, Jesus expects them to go out into the whole world and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has been raised from the dead? And to boldly do that in the same city where Jesus had just been put to death 40 days earlier!

How could Jesus ever expect the disciples to carry out such a task? In their own limited strength, they would surely fail!

Well, Jesus never intended them to accomplish this in their own limited strength. God was going to strengthen and equip and them in an incredible way – He was going to send His Holy Spirit to dwell within them – empowering them to be His witnesses where ever they went. For the rest of their lives, they would have the power of God enabling them to do anything that God wanted them to do!

Leave a Comment

To Be His Witnesses

This morning I’m excited to begin preaching through a new book of the Bible. 

As most of you know, for the last four months we have been working through a sermon series following the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection – from Christmas to Easter.

And of course, if you were with us two weeks ago on Easter Sunday, you’ll recall how we concluded that series by reading through the details of Christ’s resurrection, his appearance to his disciples, and finally, His ascension back into heaven.

However, while those events did conclude the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, they certainly did not conclude the work of Jesus Christ here on earth.

Jesus would continue to accomplish the Father’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the disciples and the many others who would eventually come to faith over the next many years. Or to put it another way, Jesus would continue to bring about the kingdom of God working through his redeemed people – the Church.

And that’s what I want us to look at for the next little while. Specifically, I want us to read through the book of Acts.

Now most of you probably know this already, but the book of Acts is actually the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Luke, who happened to be a doctor and a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote both of these two books as a carefully researched account of the events surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus.

We see that right in the opening lines of Luke chapter 1. Luke begins that book by saying:

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Luke 1:1-4

So here we see that the author Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke as a careful, historic account of the life & ministry of Jesus Christ – written for sake of this fellow Theophilus – so that he could be certain of the truth he was taught!

Then after writing this first book, Luke went on to write a second book – again for this same fellow Theophilus as a continuation of that story. Take a look at the opening lines of the book of Acts. It begins like this:

 In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2  until the day he was taken up to heaven… Acts 1:1-2a

So just from those few opening words, we can see that the book of Acts is very clearly a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the story. And actually, even though the traditional title of the book is “The Acts of the Apostles” – it’s probably more accurate to call it “The continued Acts of Jesus” because it really is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do! 

While the stories in the book of Acts certainly feature several of the Apostles, Jesus is the one key figure throughout! It’s all about what Jesus continued to do and teach through the Apostles and through the early church!

So while the Gospels tell us what Jesus began to do and teach – the book of Acts tell us what Jesus continued to do and teach – primarily through the work of the Holy Spirit.

And even beyond the book of Acts, Jesus continues to “do and teach” through the Holy Spirit even today!

While Jesus may not be physically present among us as he was 2000 years ago, He is still very alive and is very much at work in and through our lives – and that’s really what the book of Acts is all about. It’s how Jesus continued to bring about the Kingdom of God – working through the Apostles and all those who would eventually trust in Christ – empowering them by His Holy Spirit – just like what He continues to do even today!

And I think that’s partly why I’m so excited to go through this book with you over the next few months! We might find it difficult to relate to the some of the Gospel stories because we don’t have a physical Jesus walking and talking with us – we can’t watch him walk on water or see him touch the eyes of a blind man. But yet, we can have the exact same experience as those early disciples in Acts! 

We can be filled with the Holy Spirit – empowered by God to boldly share about Christ and his kingdom! What Jesus did through those early disciples back then is exactly what he wants to do through us today!

So I’m totally excited to see what we can learn from this book over the next little while – and I trust that God will use this time to shape us and direct us and to show us how we can join Him in what he is already doing in our little town of Penhold!

Let’s begin.

Acts chapter 1, starting at verse 1:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.    Acts 1:1-3

Let’s pause here for a minute. When you read through the resurrection story from the Gospel of Luke, you might conclude that Jesus rose from the grave, appeared to the disciples, and then ascended into heaven all on the same day. We read through Luke 24 on Easter Sunday, and that’s kinda how it all reads. But that account is really just concise summary of what happened over the course of several weeks.

We know that because here in Acts, Luke clarifies that there was 40 days between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension into heaven. And during that time, he appeared to the apostles several times and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive! It wasn’t just appearing to those guys on the road to Emmaus or to the disciples in the upper room. Jesus appeared to many different people at many different times.

In fact, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul states that Christ appeared to over 500 people during that time. He writes:

Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

1 Corinthians 15:3b-8

The point that both Paul and Luke are making here, is that there were many witness who personally saw the resurrected Jesus over a period of many days! It was not just one or two people who imagined seeing Jesus or had a dream that He was alive. But rather, many people saw and talked with him on many occasions – and as Luke says, Jesus proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive!

Leave a Comment

From the Pasture to the King’s Court

Today we return to our study of the book of 1 Samuel. Before our easter break, we had just introduced a new character to the story – a young shepherd boy named David. Of course, this is the same David who would one day kill the giant Goliath and eventually become perhaps the greatest king of Israel. But for now, still being very young and with seven older brothers, David was almost the forgotten one of his family.

In fact, he had been left behind to tend the sheep as his father and brothers went to join the prophet Samuel in offering a sacrifice to the Lord in nearby Bethlehem. His father Jesse likely considered David to be too young to bring along for this event, and so left him behind to care for the sheep.

But as you recall, this was no ordinary sacrifice. God and Samuel had some ulterior motives in inviting Jesse and his sons to this sacrifice. God was going to reveal his choice for the next king of Israel.

The current king, King Saul, had been a bitter disappointment. Although he was strong in battle, he was weak in character. He had repeatedly disobeyed the command of the Lord, and so God determined to end Saul’s dynasty and replace him with another. This new king would be one of the sons of Jesse.

But as Jesse presented his seven oldest sons to Samuel at the sacrifice, God revealed that he had not chosen any of these men to be king. Even though Jesse’s sons were tall and handsome – much like the current king Saul – God was not impressed by their outward appearance.  You’ll remember 1 Samuel chapter 16 verse 7 which says…

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

King Saul and the seven older sons of Jesse all had an impressive appearance, but they didn’t have the kind of heart that God was looking for. God was looking for a man after his own heart – someone who would do all the things that God wanted him to do.

And that someone was the young man David – the forgotten one left behind to tend the sheep. Well to make a long story short, when Samuel learned that Jesse still had one other son back home, he called for David to join them, and when he arrived, the Lord confirmed that David was the one he had chosen to be king. So there, in front of his father and older brothers, David was anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel.

Leave a Comment