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Tag: love

For the last month we’ve been taking a look at the book of Acts. The full title of the book, as listed in your Bibles, is likely “The Acts of the Apostles” – but as we’ve noted previously, it might be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” or even “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”. While the different Apostles certainly play a key role in the various parts of this book, it’s clear right from chapter 1 that this book is all about the incredible activity of God in people’s lives.

And that’s exactly what we saw last week. Last week, we saw how the Apostle Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit – and he was enabled, not only to speak in languages that he had never learned, but perhaps even more miraculous, the Holy Spirit enabled Peter to boldly share the Gospel with a huge crowd of people and 3,000 of them accepted Christ as their Saviour and were baptized that day!

Now remember, this was the same Peter who had denied even knowing Jesus when a little girl asked him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples! In fact, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times that night – but now here he is, an absolutely changed man, boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Christ to the very crowds who had put Jesus to death 7 weeks earlier!

What a change! Now that the Holy Spirit was living within Peter, Peter was being absolutely transformed from the inside out.

And not only Peter, but all of the Apostles too, as well as the other 120 disciples, as well as the other 3,000 people who had just accepted Christ as their Saviour after hearing Peter’s message!

And of course, that made for a really interesting scenario! Here we have the very first church – and it’s a big one – over 3,000 people. But every one of them were brand new Christians! Even the Apostles had only just recently come to understand who Jesus really was, what He had done for them, and what the Kingdom of God was really all about!

This was all brand new for everyone! There wasn’t even any other other churches in history that they could look at and learn from! They just had to make it up as they went along – trusting that the Holy Spirit would guide and direct them as they learned what it meant to be followers of Christ.

And so today, we’re going to look at the final six verses of Acts chapter 2 that describe what that very first church did as they attempted to figure out what it looked like to be a church. 

Now many people would point to this passage in Acts 2 as the description of the ideal church – in fact, I think I’ve probably preached on this passage before with similar intent. But as I’ve grown in my understanding of the Bible over the years, I’m not so sure that we should read this as God’s blueprints for the perfect church.

These people that we’re going to read about were still imperfect people who made mistakes and still struggled with sin (just like you and I). In fact, as we read on through the book of Acts, we see that made quite clear to us with stories like Ananias and Sapphira lying about their donations to church or the racial discrimination that happened at the church food bank, or even (as Paul later mentions in Galatians) how Peter refused to eat with Gentile Christians.

This was not a perfect church, nor did they have perfect leaders – and so what we read here is not necessarily the prescription for what God intended church to look like. However, it is a description of what these first believers did to carry out their mandate to make disciples, to learn to love each other and to love God, and to grow in the knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is. And that’s what makes this passage so helpful for us.

While not everything they did was perfect, there was a lot of good stuff happening in that church, so I think there is a lot that we can learn from them.

So as I said, we’re looking at the last verses of Acts chapter 2 this morning, so let’s begin at verse 41, and then read through until the end. It reads like this:

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Washed Clean

Last Sunday we read through the story of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. This was the day when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem much like a King arriving at his coronation day.  Crowds of people welcomed him with shouts of praise and celebration – waving palm branches and laying their coats on the ground before him. They were overjoyed to finally welcome their long awaited Messiah – the King of Israel.

And as the streets of Jerusalem were filled with celebration and praises to God, Jesus affirmed that their praises were absolutely appropriate for the arrival of the Messiah, even if the crowds did have a terribly mis-shapen understanding of what the Messiah had come to do! 

You see, most Isrealites were expecting the Messiah to come in as a political and military leader – much like King David or one of the judges of old – and they expect that he would liberate Israel from the oppression of the Romans. But as we talked about last week, they had no idea that God had much bigger plans than just defeating the Romans. God had plans to defeat sin and death once and for all. He had come to rescue all of mankind! Overthrowing the Romans wasn’t even on his radar!

The Kingdom of God – that Jesus was about to usher in – was going to look entirely different from what everyone was expecting. Even the disciples had completely missed the point of what Jesus had come to do. 

For example, Luke 22 tells us that at the Last Supper – on the night before Jesus was crucified – the disciples were still arguing about which one of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom! Even at that point, they still didn’t get it!

But of course, Jesus patiently endured their blindness – explaining to them time and time again that the kingdom of God was going be unlike any kingdom they’ve ever seen or experienced.

And we’re certainly going to see that our passage today.

Today we’re going to look at the events of the Last Supper – but not so much the elements that we’re most familiar with – that is, the breaking the bread and the sharing of the wine in remembrance of Jesus – signifying his broken body and spilled blood on the cross. Now of course, that will be a part of our message today, but for the bulk of the message this morning, I want to focus on what happens before that. 

While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the sharing of the wine and the bread – John’s Gospel doesn’t include those details at all (probably because his Gospel was written quite a bit later than the others and he didn’t feel the need to include information that was already well established by the other Gospels.) Instead, John begins by telling us what happened before that part of the meal.

And what Jesus does there is completely unexpected and it completely flips the disciples understanding of the kingdom of God on it head.

We’re reading this morning from John chapter 13 – starting at verse 1.

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The Character of Joseph

Last week we began turning our attention towards Christmas – and we started, not by looking at the events surrounding Jesus birth, but rather by looking at Jesus Himself. We wanted to answer the question: Who exactly is Jesus?

And so to find that answer, we looked at the first few verses of the Gospel of John which remind us that before Jesus was even born, He existed as “The Word” – the eternal, all-powerful, second-person of the Godhead who is directly responsible for creating everything in the universe!

That in itself is a pretty astounding thought, but then we read John 1:14 which completely blew our minds! It says…

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. John 1:14a

That is simply amazing! The infinite God of the heavens permanently fused his deity with our humanity and became human. We call Him Emmanuel because He is God-with-us. He became human like one of us. Even today in his resurrected state, Jesus is both fully God and fully human. And why did he do that? He came to be with us so that we could with Him forever.

I kinda like how the message Bible puts that verse. It says…

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14a MSG

What an incredible thought! That God would love us (his created beings) so much that He chose to move into the neighbourhood to be with us!

But yet sadly, most people, both then and now, choose to reject him… As John stated in verse 10,

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:10-12

And that’s really what Christmas is all about! Christmas is about God coming into the world so that those who believe him and accept him might become children of God. John 3:16 puts it quite simply….

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV

And so to answer our original question of “Who is Jesus?”…

Jesus is the Word – the eternally existing second person of the Godhead – our Creator. He is also Emmanuel – God with us – born on earth as a human being so that we might become children of God and be with Him forever.

So that’s what we looked at last week. This week, I want to continue looking at the characters of the Christmas story and this time, I want to ask the question: who is Joseph?

For being such a central figure in the Christmas story, Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, is a little bit of an enigma. We don’t really read a lot about his life story and in fact, as the Gospels go on to record Jesus’ adult life, we actually don’t hear anything further about Joseph – even though we often hear about Jesus’ mother, Mary.

But despite having very little information about him, from the information we do have, we can see that Joseph was a pretty exemplary husband, father, and follower of God. He was a man that we would do well to model our lives after! So this morning, I want to look at the brief snapshot that the Bible gives us of Joseph and see if we can pull some things outta there that we can learn and apply from his life.

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Worship in Ekklesia

Well, last Sunday I kinda left you hanging…  For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the purpose of the church – or the purpose of God’s Ekklesia – the gathering of God’s family. And by last Sunday, we had already talked about the main over-arching purpose of the church – which is to bring glory to God. In everything we say or do, we aim to display and declare God’s goodness to the world around us.

But then we narrowed our focus just a little bit and began to discuss the specific tasks of the local church. Bringing glory to God is the ultimate aim for the church as a whole – but what is God’s purpose in establishing local congregations? How are we to bring glory to God together as a community in ways that we simply couldn’t on our own?

And so last week, we divided these tasks of the church into three main categories. They were: 

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

And so we started last week by digging into what it means to worship God – and that’s where I kinda left you hanging! We talked primarily about what the word ‘worship’ means – but we didn’t really dig into what that looks like as one of the primary tasks of the local church. But that’s where I want to go today.

So to do that, let me first refresh your memory as to what worship is all about – because today’s message really does build on what we talked about last week.

You’ll remember that last Sunday we looked at the old english word “weorthscipe” – which basically means to ‘declare the worth of’ something. And it’s from this old word ‘weorthscipe’ that we get our modern word ‘worship’.

When we worship something, we are declaring it’s worth or its worthiness. But worship isn’t simply about the words we say or the songs we sing in church. Worship is much more about the daily decisions we make and the priorities we have in life. It’s about showing how we esteem and value God (or anything else for that matter) by the choices we make every day.

Because whatever it is that is our highest priority, whatever it is that we value above all else, whatever it is that is our greatest consideration in every decision – that is what we worship.

It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21… 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NIV

Whatever it is that we hold most dearly, whatever it is that we choose above all else – that’s what we treasure – that’s what we worship in our hearts.

We don’t have to sing any particular songs. We don’t have to physically bow down. We don’t have to bring any offerings or sacrifices. We can do those things, but they only have meaning if they are outward reflections of what’s already going on inside in our hearts. We need to worship God in spirit and in truth, like Jesus said in John 4:23. He says…

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

That’s why the object of our worship isn’t necessarily revealed by what songs we sing on Sunday morning. The object of our worship is revealed by our daily decisions and choices. It’s those choices that truly reveal what we value in our hearts – what we worship.

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Living In Love

Today we are getting back into the book of 1 Peter. We took a bit of a break from Peter last week, as Mike brought us a message from the book of John, but today we’re getting back at it and my goal for today is to finish up this first chapter so that we can start chapter 2 next week. But in case you’ve missed the last couple messages from Peter, let me give you just a quick recap.

In this letter, Peter is writing to Christians who were really going through some really difficult times. At that time and in that part of the world, being a Christian was really not a popular thing. There were social consequences, (if not physical consequences) for pledging allegiance to King Jesus.

And we don’t know specifically what kind of trials these folks were going through, but we do know that it’s not too long after writing this letter that Peter himself is put to death for his faith. So it’s not hard to imagine some of the challenges and struggles some of these Christians might have been experiencing.

And so Peter is writing this letter with two purposes in mind. First of all, He writes to encourage those Christians as they experience these hardships and difficulties. He reminds them of the hope and the joy they have in Jesus. Peter talks about the priceless inheritance that they have to look forward to – and how they are dearly loved by God – chosen by Him to receive endless joy in his presence forever. And so that’s how Peter starts off this letter – with that encouragement.

But his second purpose for this letter is to instruct them on how live in this world until they receive their promised salvation in full. Peter mentions frequently how they are exiles or foreigners or temporary residents – and perhaps some of Peter’s original audience were literally exiled from their homeland because of persecution, but certainly every Christian both then and today – no matter where we are in the world – we understand that this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven – and thus we are all exiles and foreigners.

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The Value of Doctrine

Last week we began part two of our Visual Theology message series. You’ll recall that there are four main sections that we want to look at – four reasons why we study theology. 

#1. We want to grow close to Christ, 

#2. we want to understand the work of Christ, 

#3. we want to become like Christ, and 

#4. we want to live for Christ.

Those four things really summarize the four basic goals of the Christian life!

So last week we began looking at “Understanding the work of Christ” and we started with a super-condensed summary of everything that God has been doing since time began. We saw how all of history is part of God’s unfolding drama.  It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director, the world is the stage, and all of mankind are the actors. 

And we divided up this drama into four main acts.

  • Act 1 is Creation where God created the world and made everything good. 
  • Act 2 is the Fall where mankind chose to rebel against God and thus introduced sin and its consequences into the world. 
  • Act 3 is Redemption where God sent his Son Jesus to save us from our sin and it’s terrible consequences.
  • Act 4 is New Creation where God will finally eliminate sin and will once again make everything right.

And we discovered that we are currently living in Act 3 – where everyone of us has the opportunity to respond to God’s gracious offer of redemption which was made possible for us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now is the time to make that decision. Now is the time to invite others to make that decision. Because at any moment, we could move into Act 4 when Christ returns to judge and eliminate sin and to restore His good creation for all who have been redeemed.

So last week really was a really big picture of what God is doing in the world.

Now today we’re going to shift our focus just a little bit. This morning, I want to spend some time talking about doctrine.

Now the word ‘doctrine’ is just about as intimidating as the word ‘theology’ – but it isn’t as scary as you might think. Doctrine really just means ‘teachings’. In the context of the church, it simply refers to what we believe and teach about God, about the Bible, about salvation, about ourselves, about the church, and all that stuff.

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