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Tag: witnesses

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!

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A Future of Hope

Over the last three weeks we’ve been looking at all the background of the Christmas story. And we’ve discovered that this history of hope goes all the way back to the beginning of time when God created the heavens and the earth. 

You see, God had set up the perfect system for the perfect life – He would be the source of everything mankind would ever need. He gave them life, He provided delicious food to eat, He gave them an amazing place to live, meaningful relationships, purpose in their work – everything they needed, He would provide. 

And as their source, He would also be their authority. Of course, He certainly gave them incredible freedom – as well as authority and responsibilities of their own, but He was to be the ultimate authority. He was the one to determine right and wrong. 

And that was God’s setup for the perfect life. As long as mankind looked to God as their source and as their authority, life would be amazing!

And it worked great! With this setup, Adam & Eve enjoyed life to the fullest as God intended it – and it was sweet. They had everything they wanted. Their relationship with God and with each was perfect and beautiful – Never any conflict or never any strife – it was exactly what you might describe as heaven.

But something happened. Sin happened. Adam & Eve rejected God as their source and as their authority and they took that role for themselves and as a result – everything fell apart. Their relationships with God and with each other was broken. The sweetness of life turned to bitterness and life on earth became painful and difficult. In fact, life for all of mankind has been a struggle ever since.

But of course, God had a plan. God knew this would happen even before He created the world, so all along, God had a plan. And this is what we’ve been looking at for the past three weeks – God’s plan to put things back to the way they were when He first created them.

And all along the way, we’ve seen that God has given us hints of His plan – He’s given several different people several different promises that all point to the same thing. 

But in case you missed the previous three Sundays, let me give you just a quick summary of some of the promises that God had given to various people throughout the Old Testament: 

  • On week one, we learned how God promised Adam & Eve that one day, one of Eve’s descendants would crush Satan’s head and defeat sin and death for all time. 
  • On week two, we learned how God promised Abraham that one day, one of his descendants would be a blessing to every single family on earth. 
  • On week three, we learned that God promised King David that one day, one of his descendants would be King for all time.

And as we looked at some of the old testament prophecies, and then as we looked at the Christmas story as recorded in Luke, we came to realize that all these promises were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. He was the one that God had been promising for some 4000+ years. He was the one who would crush Satan’s head. He was the one who would be a blessing to every family on earth. He was the one who would be King forever.

And that’s what made that first Christmas such a big deal – its because finally, after years of hoping and waiting for God to fulfill his promises, finally, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ was born as a human being and He would make things right again.

But here’s the big question that we were left with last Sunday. If you look around at the world today – it doesn’t really seem like everything’s right again – does it? There’s still pain. There’s still suffering. Satan seems as active as ever. Sin is still around in bountiful supply. Our relationships with God and our relationships with each are far from perfect. 

So… what happened? Did God’s plan fail? Did Jesus not accomplish everything He was supposed to do? Did we somehow misunderstand God’s promises? Or is it just that the story isn’t over yet? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at today. 

In our progression through this History of Hope, we left off last week with the angel Gabriel declaring to Mary that she was about to have a baby. And perhaps you came here, on this last Sunday before Christmas, expecting to hear the story of the angels and the shepherds and the wiseman and the manger and all that good stuff. 

But I’m guessing that you probably already know that part of the story and if you don’t, you can tune into our Christmas Eve Zoom party later this week and we’ll be reading through all that part of the story – complete with visual aids provided by all the kiddos! But this morning, I’m going to fast forward a little bit. I actually want to focus on what happened after Christmas – so for now, we’re going to skip the whole birth of Jesus part of the Christmas story.

I won’t spend much time talking about Jesus’ childhood either. In fact, apart from one incident from when He was about 12 years old, we don’t hear anything about Jesus until He was about 30. That was when He started doing all those miracles and teaching the crowds and training his disciples and doing all those things that you read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Most of what happens in the Gospels happens within a period of about three years when Jesus is probably in his early thirties. But that’s still not the part I want to focus on – let’s fast-forward just a little further.

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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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