We are working our way through Acts and the story of the early church, how the people of God transition from Jesus Christ on earth to the resurrected Jesus in heaven and the followers of Christ guided by the Holy Spirit. This story of Peter and Cornelius is the challenge of the gospel reaching across cultures. The AXE of the Holy Spirit is a challenge to them/us to go forward in ways we’ve never done before, to go places we never thought possible, to believe in the power of the gospel to change lives, to love and believe in those who we never imagined could be reached. The outline of this message is a W-O-R-L-D… lesson of Peter and Cornelius: how to make a WORLD of difference.
One of my favorite titles for people who put their faith in Jesus Christ is people of The Way. [The Way] is a lesser known designation for people of faith which did not stick… you heard it last Sunday when Chad spoke about the amazing life transformation that took place with Paul and us… READ Acts 9:1-2. If my quick search is correct, only 2 more references of The Way in the Bible, both Acts 24, refer to Christians as followers of the Way (Acts 24:14, 22) Paul speaking in Acts 24:14 READ.
The Way did not stick as a title, but it’s a beautiful title ~ a way of life, emphasizes the transformation Chad spoke of last Sunday… Everything changes, live a new way, think a new way, new values, new habits, a new life of service and purpose.
Acts 9:1-31 Paul's Amazing Tranformation to the Christian faith(and How Ours may be different) ~ Chad Hammond
Five truths from the scripture:
1. Nothing we can do to deserve God's grace
2. Jesus is always near.
3. We need other people to help us in our journey
4. We are saved for a purpose.
5. Jesus transforms us. It may be a sudden tranformation like Paul, or more commonly, a transformation of incremental changes.
(The correct orientation comes a few moments into the live stream)
As difficult as last week’s message was about Simon the Sorcerer, the contrast could not be more stark with this week’s story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Dennis Shaw wrote a note in response to the sermon that he has always seen Simon as a complete egomaniac, wanting the attention… Yet the Bible says Simon believed and was baptized. He is so unlikable it makes us wonder if he’s sincere… contrast that with the Ethiopian Eunuch.
a self centered egostical showman in Simon vs. the ultimate servant in the Ethiopian Eunuch. As a eunuch it means he’s been castrated; in those days Kings would often use Eunuch’s to be in charge of their harem or wives ~ (The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts ~~ EE ~~ is in charge of the treasury under Queen Candace of Ethiopia. I read that in Ethiopia, the King was revered as the child of the sun. He was so holy, his mother served in his place, “Queen Candace” is not actually a name, but means Queen mother… it was common in the ancient world for servants of the court to be eunuchs (it still happens)….
The story of Simon the Sorcerer is disturbing. / liberating. You might hate it, / love it. Simon the sorcerer (Magus, magician, witchcraft, etc) is disturbing because he is converted to faith without letting go of his past. Simon’s story is similar to the story of the mass baptism of the Crusader soldiers. As they went down into the water of baptism signifying their commitment to Jesus Christ, they raised their fighting hand with sword drawn high not ready to commit all to Christ. As we seek to unlock the mystery of this story do so with humility asking the Lord to learn from the example of Simon the Sorcerer striving for Christian maturity.
I love the story ~ it gives me hope for my own salvation in that I am still a sinner; Jesus loves me so much he [puts up] with my sins while challenging me to [mature].
[First part of sermon is an intro do the current reality of persecution and martyrdom of Christians around the world.]
Stephen is an early martyr who is killed for standing firm in his faith. Persecution of Christians has never stopped! Let’s take a few moments and spotlight persecuted Christians and martyrs in today’s world. An excellent website for current information is Open Doors (opendoors.usa.org).
Stephen is a great man of faith! He stands firm in the face of fierce opposition in the conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is unwavering in the truth that Jesus Christ is alive! ~ “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Stephen dies with the same forgiving attitude found on the lips of the dying Jesus: “do not hold this sin against them.”
Today and next week we focus on Stephen, a man with an incredible story used by God in a most amazing way. This week what happened, next week Stephen’s threatening message. Many challenging lessons can be pulled from Stephen’s example, and chief among them: On what hill are you willing to die?
4-5 times a person asking for help from the church will feel a need to tell me how they believe in Jesus/spirituality but they don’t like the organized church. I smile. I said to one young man who needed gas money to get to a medical procedure, “How did you find me?” ~ He saw the church. He called me. I smiled. He got my gentle sarcastic point. He smiled. But he doubled down on his criticisms anyway. All I can do is love people as best as I can… only God can change the heart.
Problems are common in churches, disagreements, new people bring a new flavor, new outreaches can be awkward as we’re called to do new things in new ways we’ve never done before. Today’s scripture begins a major turning point in the young Church… an exiting movement of the H.S. emerges that continues to this day. The early church is shaped by diverse groups forming a movement like the world has never seen. The church always faces problems ~ let’s view problems like the early church: opportunities to refine our mission and strengthen our calling to carry the banner of Jesus Christ.
Life with Christ is full of surprises!
Psalm 55 contains some sympathetic words that describe how many people feel in today’s world: a desire to be liberated from the conflicts and suffering of the day. READ Ps. 55:4-8. “Oh that I had the wings of a dove”. As Psalm 55 peaks, there is no indication God brings David peace by whisking him away to a secluded cabin on a lake in the woods ~ David simply affirms an eternal truth of what life with God is like: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall…[and he ends with a direct prayer to God: “as for me, I trust in you.” Ps. 55:22, 23c). God answers our deepest prayers in His way…. Our desire may be to check out of reality and get away… but that is not God’s typical plan. People of faith are forged in the fire. Life with Christ is full of surprises! There are a many fun surprises in today’s scripture.
Acts is a beautiful story from life with Christ on earth transitioning to his followers carrying on the same mission after Jesus ascends to heaven. The way forward is through the AXE of the H.S… as He empowers and emboldens his followers to continue Jesus’ mission of sharing the message of salvation to a lost and hurting world. Today’s scripture is a pause in a breathtaking story that summarizes where the young church is at this early stage….it is worthwhile for us to consider where we are as a church.
Before we look closely at this scripture, listen to the first verse then I have an open question…. READ Acts 5:12 (explain Solomon’s Colonnade or “porch” ~ the church is so young it is still a branch of Judaism…) It says “All the believers used to meet together”… I invite you to respond, (we’ll visit same questions at end to see if any additions)….
What motivated the people to meet together? Expectations? Purpose? Or if you don’t like that question, what is our purpose of meeting as a Church? Motivation, expectations? As we gear up to gather again, this is an important question ~ I don’t want to gather just because that’s what we do… what are reasons/expectations…. [List answers on sheet of paper]
Where are we in Acts? Something new that has never been done before: when Jesus walked on earth he promised the coming of the H.S. to lead the way forward. The Church has now been born. The promise of the H.S. has roots through-out the O.T. E.g. Zechariah was encouraging one of the later leaders of Judah, Zerubbabel, after the Fall of Jerusalem… One of the great lines from the preaching of Z as he is charting the way for how the nation is to go forward. “So [God] said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty!” (Zech. 4:6). Acts is the beginning of a new way of living in the fullness of Z’s prophecy: “By My Spirit.” While they sat at Jesus’ feet for three years, many times they assumed Jesus was going to conquer the Romans and restore the glory of Israel through military might. Now they get it. They are beginning to understand it’s about the transformation of the heart. By My Spirit
Be bold. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation! Amen? Choose to be bold to express your faith in Jesus Christ in our crazy and confusing world. I found an insightful quotes from Mike Yaconelli… writer/founder of Youth Specialties and the Wittenberg Door…
Boldness isn't something you're born with; you either choose it or you don't.
One person defined boldness as going outside of your comfort zone. / stretching yourself. The verse which establishes boldness as the theme of this chapter is Acts 4:13 READ.
Sally and I were at a leadership conference on Merritt Island, Fl, with TFC, base camp of Teen Missions International. Merritt Island is in shadow of Kennedy Space Center. The Odyssey, a probe to Mars, was launched, Apr. 7, 2001. As the time approached for the launch, all eyes looked to the skies. Soon we could see a small blur streaking upward in an arc leaving a trail of smoke. Visually, not much to look at, but the significance of the launch was breathtaking ~ I saw with my own eyes the launch of a probe to Mars. Even the locals were thrilled saying, “we never get tired of watching.”
Today, in the book of Acts, the spacecraft is launched. The day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is over. The probe/church is readied, on the launch pad. It’s time for the H.S. to explode. The ministry of the disciples of Jesus Christ begins in Jerusalem, as Jesus said, READ Acts 1:8. The Church is on the launching pad. She is filled with the fuel of the Holy Spirit. Boom. Take off.
Today I reintroduce an ancient phrase I am as guilty as anyone of not using enough: repentant faith. Deep faith in Christ is more than about Christ blessing us, comforting us, doing good things for us, keeping us safe… the fullness of faith asks the Lord to change us... Repentance means returning to God, with a heart of obedience to walk in His ways!
Repentant faith is a scary/beautiful phrase ~ turning away from sins and turning towards God. I love the way one person explains it: “Repentance is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ.” (Tish Harrison Warren). True repentance is a way of life ~ like the steady rhythm of a drumbeat.
Two quotations ~ what do you think?
The book of ACTS describes the upheaval of the lives of the followers of Jesus as they transition from life with Christ on earth to life with the ascended Christ and the sending of the H.S. I really like thinking of the word ACTS as AXE….
Today’s message: The waiting room. The setting of this scripture: the disciples are between the lightning ascension of Jesus, and the thundering day of Pentecost. They are told by Jesus in Acts 1:4 to go to the waiting room. READ. Waiting rooms do not normally evoke warm and fuzzy thoughts… Newsflash: waiting is part of our discipleship. “WAIT” is a command of Jesus. I found a great description by Max Lucado of what its like to be in a waiting room:
Carl Crouse, Pastor
At SACC we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Every Sunday the worship service includes a message from the Bible. My words are an attempt to understand and apply the Bible to our daily living. I post weekly sermons and other biblical messages on this page. May you find meaning and hope as you read through each message and seek to hear God's voice. Leave a comment to ask questions or inspire others with your insights.