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Paul’s Third Missionary Journey | The Book of Acts (Part 11)

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well good morning everyone it’s great to see you all this morning and uh you know I’m glad to be up here um but I have to admit you know Alex has done a terrific job taking us through acts and now I’m gonna do the last one in the series and that doesn’t seem to be quite fair but um I’ll do it but I’d love to hear what Alex would say about these in fact you know as we went through acts you know we kind of focused on that the first part and then we had a couple times dealing with Paul who was formerly called Saul who was on his missionary journey when he went to Philippi when he went to Athens and now we’re coming to the end and I’d love to see us revisit acts and do the second part of acts together sometime so I’ll just put that out as a request to Alex and um hey it’s going to be on tape so it’s there for all to see um I I welcome

you and you know we’re coming to thanksgiving it’s going to be a great time then we come to advent and um tonight Kerry and I are gonna hop on a plane and uh we’re gonna go back east and we’re gonna go back east for a family celebration my mom now this kind of gives away my age a little bit I always thought it was my hairstyle but my mom is turning a hundred this week and we’re going to have a chance to celebrate her yeah it’s a neat time it’s a neat time it’s going to be a sweet time and just reflecting as a family together but you know it kind of sets me into this thing of realizing hey we’re a family together and we reflect every week together we’re a community and I want to help us just kind of dig into some as we look at acts in which we see the birth of the church we see the birth of this community that’s been going generation after

generation after generation up until right now and will continue to go it’s amazing to see how I think there are two I’ll say solid themes that come in acts and are still as important today as they were back then and those two themes come out in the first couple verses of acts so we’re going to go back to the beginning of acts and just see what the author of acts his name is Luke but see what he kind of says as he’s getting ready to write this book now I would just preface all this by saying we’re going to go through like six chapters so if you’re gonna try to follow in your bibles it may be a little hard and I apologize about that we’re gonna fly through these so I’ll try to have the scriptures up there but just so you know it is the bible okay here we go uh back at verse 1 of chapter 1 in my first book I told you Theophilus about everything Jesus began to do

and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the holy spirit now he’s talking about his gospel or the biography of Jesus that he wrote Luke wrote during the 40 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 now that just seems a little odd to me um he’s with them he’s standing in front of them and he’s proving to them that he’s alive which means that some of them said prove to me you’re alive the resurrection from the dead Jesus was the first one to rise from the dead and that’s one of those themes that we get in the book of acts throughout the good news that Jesus is alive the

resurrection’s for real the resurrection brings a change a transformation if we really believe that there’s a resurrection from the dead and there will be a resurrection from the dead in the future it should bring an immediate impact on our lives right now and sometimes that immediate impact yeah we can be a little bit uh I don’t know scared sometimes to speak up about it because face it the resurrection can be kind of a stumbling block for some people and we don’t like to be criticized for something that we believe so strongly so there’s the next verse that he has in Luke chapter one and he talked to them about the kingdom of God once when he was eating with them he commanded them do not leave Jerusalem until the father sends you the gift he promised as I told you before john baptized with water but in just a few days you’re

going to be baptized with the holy spirit here’s this wonderful transforming belief about the resurrection and now here’s this wonderful transforming gift of the holy spirit of God himself who comes to dwell within us to empower us to be able to have that courage to be able to have that creativity to be able to know the words to share and so the second principle is hey this was God’s plan so he could live within us the holy spirit is for real and we see that on page after page after page after page of acts we see we see that the transforming power of these people who are a small scared little group and then the holy spirit came upon them and suddenly they have this courage to go out and speak to all these people on Pentecost and there’s thousands that come to believe and throughout the pages we see time and time again sometimes there’s

victory sometimes there’s questions and challenges sometimes it makes so much sense and other times it’s kind of why but the holy spirit is there all along the way and the power of the resurrection is there all along the way and it brings us then toward the end of acts in this life of Paul as we’re going to see how he ends but as I think of this transforming power of the resurrection I have to go back um I’ve been around south for a while and years ago there was a song that we used a chorus that we used to sing it doesn’t have any tricky metally or melody so we probably won’t sing it much today but the words are powerful every morning’s easter morning from now on every day is resurrection day the past is over and gone goodbye fear goodbye guilt good riddance hello lord hello son I am one of the easter people my new life is

begun I always have that going through my mind and um I don’t know how to end it but you know we used to sing it over and over and over but it makes someone say goodbye fear goodbye guilt good riddance because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ these things are put away the past is over and done and now we’re starting a new life with him a transformative life in which we are called with his purpose and power to step into the world to be his hands and feet that’s amazing and the spirit empowers us to do it and we’re going to see how Paul with his with his belief in the resurrection with the power of the holy spirit he endured he persevered he was determined at the end of this book of acts to do something I’m going to pick up here’s a map of what we call Paul’s third missionary journey which means he had two before that um so

he had three missionary journeys and you know Alex has been kind of focusing the last couple weeks on some things that happened during the second missionary journey when he went to Philippi and when he went down to Athens and spoke in both of those places that happened on his second missionary journey but in this third one we see where Paul went and he visited some of the churches that he had already planted and then he came to Ephesus and in Ephesus it tells us he stayed there for three whole years teaching and preaching and uh and telling them more and more about the resurrection and while he was there he heard that the church in Jerusalem was suffering because it was a famine and many of the people were very needy so he let all of his churches know that he had planted he let them know that this was going on in Jerusalem

and he wanted them to put money together and then he was going to take a big offering a big gift back to the church in Jerusalem so they could have it so that’s when you see him going over there into Greece and some of those places Macedonia and then you see that purple line that purple line is when he’s coming back towards Jerusalem and he sails back to Jerusalem and he lands at a place down there if you can read that word tire he lands it tire and here’s what happens in tire some people come to we went ashore we found the local believers we stayed with them a week these believers prophesied through the holy spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem when we returned to the ship at the end of the week the entire congregation including women and children left the city came down to the shore with us they there we now

prayed and set our farewells then we went aboard and they returned home you know I read that and I go now wait a minute wait I thought the holy spirit said don’t go and it doesn’t seem like Paul stopped they went um they went down the coast a little bit and they ended up a place called Caesarea and in Caesarea this happened several days later a man named Agabus who also had the gift of prophecy arrived from Judah he came over took Paul’s belt bound his own feet and hands with it he said the holy spirit declares so shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the gentiles and when we heard this we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem so I ask you what’s going on here because Paul went on to Jerusalem um you know when we look at the apostle Paul and if we

come back to acts we’ll look a little bit deeper into this but Paul listen to the holy spirit he didn’t disobey the spirit if I go back to this map right here if I go back to this map now this is the third missionary journey but what happened when he went on a second journey notice where Ephesus is he never got to Ephesus in fact he wanted to go to Ephesus but he started going and all of a sudden the spirit said no he it says he hindered him from going so Paul stopped I don’t know if he heard a voice I don’t know what happened but the spirit hindered him from going to Ephesus and Paul obeyed that so then he was going to go up to see that big word Asia right up in there is a is a province like Bithynia it’s called and he thought well it makes sense I’ll just go up north I’ll go to Bethania and the spirit stopped him from going there hindered him from

going both times he listened and I’m sure both times he said what gives come on and he ended up going over to Troas and when he was in Troas he had a dream and the dream said come across to us come over to Macedonia come over to Greece and speak to us and he interpreted that as the holy spirit he went now back to the third journey I’m sorry if I’m mixing you up but back to the third journey you see that purple line that’s after Paul collected all this money for Jerusalem and then he hopped on a boat and he went across and ended up down in tyre but when you look there it says he stopped not far from Ephesus and when he went to Ephesus he asked for the elders of the Ephesian church to come meet with him and basically he said goodbye to him and this is what he said to them and realized this was a few days before he got

to tyre and heard some of these prophecies about not going to Jerusalem he said to the folks in Ephesus and now I’m bound by the spirit to go to Jerusalem I don’t know what awaits me except that the holy spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead but my life’s worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the lord Jesus the work of telling others the good news the wonderful news of the grace of God the wonderful news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the wonderful news that the holy spirit empowers us I’ve got to go but you wonder wow his spirit is he’s bound by the spirit and the holy spirit tells him in city after city he’s going to suffer so I had to go back and do a little bit of digging and you know the bible was written in Aramaic and Greek and when I got back into the Greek I found

that that word spirit is pneumonia pneumatos pneumatus and that was that was there but right there where it says holy spirit there was also a second word agios which means holy and it defined the spirit it said this is the holy spirit who’s saying when you go you’re going to face jail and all kinds of persecution the first word and now I’m bound by the spirit to go to Jerusalem when I looked it was just pneumatos it didn’t have any aggios with it so it was just spirit and some people have translated that as saying Paul is saying I’m bound by my conscience I’m bound by my spirit to go because God’s spirit himself has told me yes I’m going to suffer but I’ve got to complete the work so I went back to the other things that were said to Agabus he came over took Paul’s belt bound his hand and feet and he said the holy spirit declares it and guess

what when I went in there yes it was agios and pneumatos it was holy spirit and when you look at his message it doesn’t contradict what God was telling him in Ephesus it’s the very same thing you’re going to suffer when I went to that other passage in tyre we went ashore found the local believers stayed with them a week these believers prophesied through the spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem in other words when I got in there and looked there wasn’t that word aguios there was just pneumatus now I know we can open up a whole can of worms when we get into this but I believe what was going on there these people were very well meaning and they were saying hey we’ve heard that things are going to be bad if you go to Jerusalem don’t go we feel in our spirit that you’re not to go to Jerusalem um you know I I guess uh I would I

would share a little personal situation that Kerry and I had and many well most of you know that Kerry and I have never been able to have children and that’s a great sadness for us and we’ve learned to live with that but years ago I’ve been at south a number of years and back in 1999 when I was an associate pastor earlier we went with a group of students from south down to Mexico and we had a great trip it was an amazing time and it stretched us out of our comfort zones I can still remember when we drove in we’d been driving on a bus all day we’d been driving all day Saturday we got there Sunday night about 4 45 and we were told we were going to be at a church at 5 30 and I had to preach a sermon that was out of my comfort zone but uh Thursday night I had fair warning so I was able to preach on Thursday night things went quite a

bit better we had a great time in this service and Kerry shared her story and she shared how we couldn’t have children and she was a teacher I was I can see this so clearly at the end of the service they were having some great times of worship and it was a much more emotional service and um all of a sudden coming down the aisle was this older gentleman with tears flowing down his face and he was raising his hands and he was just speaking in Spanish and I had no idea what he was saying and the missionary just kind of turned to me and said uh dan you better get prepared I said oh and anyway he came down and basically he announced the whole church God had told him that this woman was going to have a child and so they called Kerry down to join me and probably 40 people gathered around and laid hands and everybody

was praying they laid hands all over Kerry they were praying all over and I’m sitting there saying wow okay lord and the missionary said you better go home and paint your nursery I’m looking in the back of the church two rows of kids students at south who are sitting there saying what in the world is going on um we had to download that summon we said hey let’s meet in 10 months and see if this comes out we met in 10 months and as you can imagine no we didn’t have a child um and Kerry and I have had to wrestle and deal with that that will always be in my mind but I believe every one of those people in that church loved Jesus to the max and the last thing they wanted was for us not to have a child and so in their heart of hearts they were saying you’re gonna have a child but it says in scripture to test the spirits to make sure to make sure

this is a message coming from Jesus anyway I believe very much that Paul as he’s coming back these people met so much they so much didn’t want to see Paul suffer but he said I’ve got to go because I have to complete the work of telling others the good news about the grace of God and so he went to Jerusalem and guess what everything broke loose he goes to Jerusalem he meets with the apostles and the leaders of the Jerusalem church and they say you know some people are really questioning if you’re preaching against the law of Moses as as we present Jesus Christ and so Paul said okay I’ll go to the temple and I will prove that I still love the law of Moses but Jesus is the one who’d come and freeze us and so he went to the temple and while he was at the temple it was Pentecost so there were a lot of people there and some of the

Jewish men from Ephesus had hopped on a boat and come all the way over to Jerusalem to worship at Pentecost and when they saw Paul they recognized this man who had taught there for three years and they started sending out rumors that he had tried to undermine the Jewish faith listen to what happened the whole city was rocked by these accusations and a great riot followed and Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the temple and immediately the gates were closed behind him and as they were trying to kill him they were trying to kill him word reached to the roman to the commander of the roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar and he immediately called out of soldiers and officers they ran down among the crowd and when the mob saw the commander and the troops coming they stopped beating Paul now there’s

some pretty physical violence going on here and I would think oh my goodness you know if I were Paul you might say I should have listened but he was grabbed and he was dragged by a mob and then they were trying to kill him who knows what they were doing to him but at that time word comes to a commander in the roman legion that this is happening so he musters his forces and he comes down and dissipates it but that takes some time I think Paul was looking in pretty bad shape by the time they got there anyway the roman soldiers get around Paul they protect him they’re walking with Paul out of this mob and Paul says to him would you let me speak to my people wow he’s just been beaten up and now he wants to speak to them and so he speaks to them he shares that hey he’s just here to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus and

this happens the mob grew so violent at that that the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him and the crowd followed behind shouting kill him kill him kill him boy I can’t imagine being in his shoes and it just reminds me it reminds me when the holy spirit speaks it may not always be good news but it will be truthful when the holy spirit speaks and he does speak and his presence is with us but sometimes we have this picture of such a loving God who’s our best friend and he would never hurt us he would never discourage us it may not always be good news but he will provide the power to be able to follow into his truth and it reminds me of a verse that Paul gives us in romans when he said and we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his

purpose for them God will go with us into his truth and like Paul yes I I’m not saying Paul was not afraid man I’d be so afraid if I had a mob after me but the spirit of God kept him alive and kept him moving forward so that he could proclaim the good news um there’s four characters that we’re gonna see now four characters that Paul has the opportunity to be able to live in front of speak to and these four characters I doubt that he ever would have had the opportunity to come into their presence if he hadn’t followed the holy spirit’s leading to Jerusalem the first is a roman tribune Claudius lycias and Claudius lycias is the one who came down and saved Paul’s life from that mob he was in charge of a cohort which is part of a legion of roman soldiers a cohort is about 600 soldiers so this man was no pansy but he led these

soldiers there in Jerusalem which was a tough place to have a cohort of roman soldiers um so he not only saved Paul’s life then but he saved Paul’s life a couple other times that we’re going to see the next person that comes in is Marcus Antonius Felix he was a governor of Judea or a procurator of Judea this guy was kind of a he was kind of a character he ruled about eight to nine years in Judea he was known for being very rather vicious and uh cruel and also he was kind of conniving he was very greedy anyway Felix the next one is uh Porsche’s Festus Porsche Festus now he was the next governor that came in which kind of gives you a clue that Paul was under prison arrest for quite a period of time here enough time so that these two governors one could be deposed while the other one came in and what happened to Felix was that he got

a little too cruel and Caesar called him back to Rome and he was demoted at that point whereas Festus then was appointed to come in to uh Jerusalem into Caesarea and Judea and the final character we’re going to see is herod Agrippa the second herod Agrippa the second is king of Judea all four of these individuals have some kind of interaction with Paul over the next four chapters and we’re going to fly through these four chapters first lycias has this idea if I can just bring Paul together with this council of Jews uh the Jewish counselors then they’ll be able to reason together and I can find out what’s going on here so he brings them together and Paul says brothers I’m a pharisee as were my ancestors and I’m on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead and guess what happened after he said that a conflict grew more

violent and the commander was afraid they’d tear Paul apart now this is about a day later and these people are still after Paul’s neck because he believes in the resurrection because he believes in what all the Jews were hoping for that the messiah would come so he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress after doing that he uncovered a plot he would he was told about a plot that they wanted to kill Paul as they were going to escort him to the governor and he intervened with that but that night as Paul was lying in the jail cell and I have a feeling probably pretty bloodied probably pretty bruised this happened that night the lord appeared to Paul and said be encouraged Paul just as you have been a witness for to me here in Jerusalem you must preach the good news in Rome as well so

he has that promise he has a determination the resurrection is for real he knows the holy spirit is with him lyceus realizes it’s probably a little bit too hot to have him down here so I’m going to send him to Caesarea and I’m going to send him there by night so that there won’t be anybody along the way to assassinate him and he writes a letter to the governor Felix and he says these words when I learned that he was a roman citizen I removed him to safety but then I took him to their high council to try to learn the basis of the accusations against him and I soon discovered the charge was something regarding their religious law it was certainly nothing worthy of imprisonment or death so he had him taken up to Caesarea which is in the north part of Judea and governor Felix met him read Leicester’s letter and said okay I’m going to bring that

Jewish council up here and we’re going to hear what happened so he had the council come up there and uh they presented their argument they had a hot shot lawyer with them who presented their pa their case and then Paul stood in front of Felix and said these words these men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing but I do admit that I follow the way which they call a cult I worship the God of our ancestors I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets I have the same hope and God that these men have that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous the resurrection the resurrection um he’s saying that in front of this council which half of that council didn’t believe that there was a resurrection and Paul’s saying this before the governor I believe in the resurrection um he also

says ask these men hear what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of except for the one time I shouted I’m on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead at that point Felix said okay enough and he called the closing uh he called it to a closing and he sent the council back to Jerusalem and he sent Paul back to prison but listen to what happened next a few days later Felix came back with his wife Drusilla who was Jewish sending for Paul they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus as he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control in the coming day of judgment Felix became frightened go away for now he replied and when I looked up that word frightened it really means frightened which probably says a lot about his character that he would be frightened that here’s this

prisoner talking about righteousness and talking about justice and all of a sudden he starts to get convicted when it’s more convenient I’ll call you again and get this he also hoped that Paul would bribe him I’m not sure where he expected Paul to get the money unless he heard that maybe Paul had come to Jerusalem with a large offering for the Jerusalem church I’m not sure but for some reason he thought he could get money out of Paul but look at the last one so he sent for him quite often and he talked with him this lasted for two years two years that Felix didn’t let him out of prison two years that Felix would call him to come to him and talk two years that they would dialogue back and forth two years that Paul would share about the resurrection of Jesus Christ like I said Felix went a little too far he got a little too violent at one

point and Caesar called him back and so then he sent Festus and Festus came and Festus learned from the Jews that there was this guy Paul in his jail up there in Caesarea and Festus said well okay come up and talk to me about Paul and so they had a little interaction and then Paul said to Festus I’m not guilty of any crimes against the Jewish laws of the temple of the roman government if I’ve done something worthy of death I don’t refuse to die but if I’m innocent no one has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me I appeal to Caesar up until this time Paul has really had freedom to be able to go around and share his faith he’s been able to travel all around the roman empire now Paul is in jail Paul is confined and to tell you the truth Paul is dependent on the holy spirit to come up with his travel arrangements he is now in

a prison cell and he’s able to talk to Festus the governor um when his accusers came here this is Festus talking now and I should back up because Festus heard Paul and then sent Paul back to the jail cell and then king Agrippa came and he’s trying to explain to herod Agrippa the second about this prisoner when his accusers came for the trial I didn’t delay I called the case in the very next day and I ordered Paul brought in but the accusations met against him weren’t any of the crimes I expected instead it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus who Paul insists is alive I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things you know I read that and I thought man if Paul can be in a jail cell and he insists that Jesus is alive I should be able to do that over a cup of coffee isn’t this something how integral the resurrection is the

power of the resurrection the transformation of the resurrection Festus is explaining this to king herod ii inherits says well let’s hear Paul let’s let him share and so this is what Paul shares with uh Festus and Agrippa he says if they would admit it they know that I’ve been a member of the pharisees the strictest sect of our religion now I’m on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors yet your majesty they accused me because I have this hope why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead some Jews arrested me in the temple for preaching this and they tried to kill me but God has protected me right up to the present time so I can testify to everyone from the least to the greatest I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen that the

messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and gentiles alike and at that point governor Festus interrupted and said Paul I think you’ve lost your mind you’ve been reading too much the resurrection can be a stumbling block believing that the dead can come alive can stretch people so much but the resurrection is so crucial and look what herod Agrippa says do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly now that almost sounds like it’s a challenge some other versions put it this way you almost persuade me to become a Christian wow four men four chapters and at the end of each chapter you hear this same theme this man has done nothing to deserve capital punishment he does not deserve death but he’s appealed to Caesar so he’s got to go to Rome

and so he starts the next section of his journey with the holy spirit as his tour guide he hops on a boat he’s put on a ship and he’s going to be sent to Rome where he’s supposed to talk to Caesar and this is a little map of the of the trip that the boat takes when he goes um and I’ll just highlight a few things it goes up to Sidon that’s the first place they go to and Sidon actually the commander who was in charge of these uh the prisoners who were on this boat the commander lets Paul have freedom to be able to go and visit some friends inside so you can see Paul and this commander his name is Julius are starting to be able to know each other some then they hop back in the boat again and you see it curves around that they were in and this storm lasted for two weeks and there’s a verse in here that says they couldn’t see the sun they

couldn’t see the moon they couldn’t see the stars to be able to figure out where they were they thought they were going to crash into the shore of north Africa this was such a violent storm that the sailors actually took ropes and tried to lash the hull together I don’t know who went underneath to put the rope underneath and back up but they tried to keep the boat together that way it was being tossed torn apart and I can just imagine Paul he’s not in a jail sound now but he’s down the base of this boat and they’re being tossed all over and he’s probably thinking to himself I thought I was going to get to Rome it says that all the sailors and all the people on this boat didn’t eat anything for two weeks in this storm at first I thought that’s a that’s a stretch until I kind of put myself in their shoes and realized I probably would have lost anything

I would have eaten if I had a storm like that Paul says these words to him in the middle of the storm no one had eaten for a long time finally Paul called the crew together and said men you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete you would have avoided all this damage and lost but take courage none of you will lose your lives even though the ship is going to go down last night an angel the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and he said don’t be afraid Paul for you will surely stand trial before Caesar what’s more God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you so take courage for I believe God I believe it will be just as he said but we are going to be shipwrecked and we’re going to be on an island wow and you know what it happened just like that they were tossed around some more

um the storm was fierce they couldn’t tell where they were but as they were starting to take soundings they realized oh we’re coming to some landmass and the sailors actually thought there’s no way we can bring this boat in so they tried to steal the lifeboats and get off themselves the soldiers caught them before they could do that and then the soldiers cut the lifeboats and let the lifeboats go so nobody could get off the boat and the boat was driven farther and farther in and finally you know it looked like it was inevitable they were going to hit these rocks and so the soldiers themselves thought well these prisoners if they escape it’s our neck so they pulled out their swords and they were ready to execute these prisoners when the commander Julius stepped in and said no Paul said everyone’s going to let make it so we’re

going to make it together isn’t that amazing and sure enough they hit the rocks the boat went to smithereens the commander or the captain of the ship said everybody grab some wood and take it wherever it takes you and everybody got to shore safely but the drama didn’t stop there um they’re soaking wet it’s a storm as things began to die down they built a bonfire to and the people from the town came to help them and in the middle of gathering wood Paul gets bit by a snake a viper it’s hanging from his hand and it says the people from the town were saying oh this guy must really be a bad criminal because his justice is caught up with him and Paul shakes the snake off it goes in the fire and then they’re watching him saying this guy’s going to swell up and he’s going to burst right in front of us and he didn’t and he was healed and they said he’s a

God and then a little while later this happens near the shore where we landed which was in this island of Malta was an estate belong to the Publius the chief official of the island and he welcomed us and he treated us kindly for three days as it happened Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentee Paul went in and prayed for him and laying his hands on him he healed him then all the other sick people on the island came and they were healed as well and as a result we were showered with honors and when the time came to sail people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip the holy spirit the holy spirit with them every step of the way and they were provided with the means to be able to get from Malta up to Italy and from Italy where they landed up to Rome and when they got into Rome it’s amazing but Paul as he’s

coming there and he’s anticipating I’m going to appeal to Caesar I’m going to be before Caesar but the first thing he does is call the Jewish synagogue and say I want to meet with you as leaders and here’s what he says to them I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I’m bound with this change because I believe that the hope of Israel the messiah has already come he explained and he testified about the kingdom of God and he tried to persuade them about Jesus from the scriptures using the law of Moses in the books of the prophets he spoke to them from morning until evening but guess what he persuaded some he didn’t persuade others the spirit worked with some spirit did work with others and Paul stayed in a rest there in Rome for two years and that is the end of acts he

didn’t die at the end he still has some life to live but he spent two years in prison waiting to talk to Caesar but listen to this as the closing of acts for the next two years Paul lived in Rome at his own expense he welcomed all who visited him boldly proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the lord Jesus Christ and no one tried to stop him wow what a journey what a determination because the resurrection is true the resurrection is for real and what an empowerment because the holy spirit was with him every step of the way guiding him and I’m convinced that the same is true of us today the resurrection’s for real every morning is easter morning from now on every day is resurrection day the past is over it’s gone goodbye guilt goodbye fear good riddance because the resurrection’s for real and the holy spirit empowers us

um I wonder what Paul might have said to folks who would come visit him and I’m just going to read some last verses that are written in a letter to Corinth and the reason I’m reading it is because Corinth the letters that he wrote to Corinth first and second Corinthians that was written just before he hopped on that boat and came across to Jerusalem where all of this drama began to unfold and so this is some of his latest thought here’s what he said and this is a paraphrase from the message now let me ask you something profound yet troubling if you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive risen from the dead how can you let people say that there’s no such thing as a resurrection it seems like there were some people right in that Corinthian church who were saying you know I love this stuff about

Jesus but not the resurrection you just can’t believe that that’s too much and Paul’s challenging them saying no the resurrection is key if there’s no resurrection there’s no living Christ and face it if there’s no resurrection for Christ everything we’ve told you smoke and mirrors and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors not only that but we’d be guilty of telling a string of bare-faced lies about God all these affidavits we passed unto you verifying that God raised up Christ sheer fabrication if there’s no resurrection if corpses can’t be raised well then Christ wasn’t because he was in indeed dead and if Christ wasn’t raised well then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark as lost as ever it’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection because they’re already in their grave if all we get out of

Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years we’re a pretty sorry lot but the truth is that Christ has been raised he has been the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries and I believe that includes each and every one of us you know I I think of how I’m going to be going home tonight I’m going to see mom and we’re going to celebrate her 100th birthday which face it most people don’t get to that um we had a little open house for her yesterday and I wasn’t able to be there but my brother I talked to him last night and he said you know the interesting thing happened there was probably about 30 people all sitting there in the room they were all chatting and everything kind of quieted down and then mom just said very clearly to one of the ladies who used to sing in their church said hey donna would you sing at

my funeral everybody’s going whoa we’re here to celebrate your life but you know what she has said to me so many times on Monday mornings when we talk on the phone dan I want to go home I want to go home she totally believes in the resurrection now I know I’ll see her someday too and I believe each and every one of us the resurrection is so pivotal to our faith yes it can be a stumbling block and you know what God will take it when it’s when we stumble and he’ll help us to step back up and he’ll walk with us more and more into the power of that knowledge of the resurrection is true and that his holy spirit is walking with us let’s bow our heads in a word of prayer our dear heavenly father I thank you so much you are here I thank you so much that you were there with Paul I thank you so much you’re the way you spoke to

him and the way you revealed him that he was going to get to Rome the way you got them they’re safe and sound what a what a picture what a story what a fact and lord I thank you that today you are here and you are walking with each and every one of us the resurrection is real we love you thank you God thank you Jesus thank you holy spirit amen as Aaron in the band get ready uh to lead us in our last song I just want to share one thing this is kind of a little family news um but you know I think back to that story in Mexico when Kerry and I were there and when they came down and prophesied over us and we never had a child um it was a about a year after that time as someone from here at south who I highly respect and love and still do came to me as well and spoke to me and said dan I don’t usually say things like this but I just

sense God is telling me to say to you you’re going to have a little girl and you’re to call her grace I said well thank you and I went home and shared that with Kerry and you know I was playing with the Greek one day you know and I said okay grace Greek in grace in Greek is karis and I thought hey that’s the name we’re going to name our little girl charis and her nickname will be Kerry that makes all the sense in the world we were excited we were ready you know years passed and it never happened and Kerry wrestled through that wrestled through that and finally asked well I wonder I wonder who my charis really is and she came to the conviction to believe that you know what my charis is those 20 or 25 students that I have every year in second grade that I’m teaching that I’m investing my life in that I want them to know about the

resurrection of Jesus Christ being for real and I want them to know that the holy spirit walks for them and I had to wrestle with who was my charism and I came to the conviction that my charis is you is this church that God has placed me in for all these years I got a little something in my email that said dan Elliot has worked at south fellowship for 24 years as associate pastor I saying 24 years that’s a long time and it’s been a great ride and I just want to announce to all of you that you know we have a tremendous staff here at south and the time has come for me to think about retirement and when I say that I don’t mean leaving I but I mean gradually going I think I’d go nuts if I just went into retirement cold turkey but I’m gonna in a few months start working part-time and I’ll still be here but I’ll be working part-time and the elders have asked

that I take a sabbatical which I think is hey I like that idea but uh the reason that they would like me to have a sabbatical is so that other folks can come in and start doing the responsibilities that I’ve been doing and Jodi Nevins will come in and she’ll be taking over more and more of the responsibilities of local outreach which is community care and Jessica Rust is going to be coming in and she’s going to be taking over more and more of the responsibilities of care for our particular community right here and when I come back after sabbatical I’ll be part time working with them and for them I’ll still be here and I still love each and every one of you but it’ll be a little different anyway the resurrection’s for real the holy spirit’s for real and we will continue to go on as a church influencing this community for Jesus Christ let’s sing

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey | The Book of Acts (Part 11)2022-01-13T15:27:56-07:00

How to Share the Gospel | The Book of Acts (Part 10)

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good morning friends how you doing today my name is Alex I’m one of the pastors here it’s great to see you if you’re visiting I’d love to meet you after the service thanks for being here today we’re going to jump into acts chapter 17 verse 16 in a couple of minutes if you have a text that you’d like to open and get ready in front of you then feel free to do that I’d just like to complain for a little while just before we get into it about the fact that all of my kids were sick again uh so on Sunday night after preaching Sunday morning we had three buckets working in rotation around the three different kids and there’s only two of us which just isn’t fair um and someone should do a class on parenting that says to you this is what you do when all of your kids are sick at the same time just so you can deal with it and I said to someone I think maybe the most depressing part of being a parent the most depressing moment is the first time a kid throws up on your hand or you get poop on your hand or something and you just go oh well what can you do that’s just how this day’s gonna be and you just you shrug it off I got to a point after Jude had thrown up for the 14th time I just said well I’m just going to get through this together pal we’re going to be fine um and there we go so acts chapter 6 17 verse 16. while Paul was waiting for them is Luke and Silas in Athens he was greatly distressed to see that the

city was full of idols so he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and Greek and god-fearing Greeks as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happen to be there a group of epicurean and stoic philosophers began to debate with him some of them asked what is this babbler trying to say others remarked he seems to be advocating foreign gods this they said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus where they said to him may we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting you are bringing some strange idea to at ears and we would like to know what they mean all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about the and listening to the latest ideas Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said people of Athens I see that in every way you are very religious for as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship I even found an altar with this inscription to an unknown god see you are ignorant of the very thing that you worship this is what I’m saying I’m going to proclaim to you the god who made the world and everything in it is the lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything rather he

himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else from one man he made all the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands god did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him though he is not very far from any one of us for in him we live and move and have our being as some of our your own poets have said we are his offspring therefore since we are god’s offspring we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone an image made by human design and skill in the past god overlooked such ignorance but now he commands all people everywhere to repent for he has said a day where he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed he has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead when they heard about the resurrection of the dead some of them sneered others said we want to hear you again on the subject and at that Paul left the council let’s pray god as we open this text as we look at it and ask what you would have to say to us would you speak for those of us that are comfortable would you afflict us something new up for those of us that are afflicted that walked in here just surviving would you bring some comfort for each of us would you nudge us further on our journey and may we be

able to see just a little bit more of who you are may you reveal just a little bit more of yourself to us your people ah man okay so let’s start here I think today some years ago uh Mr. frank Sinatra sang the now immortal lines um start spreading the news I’m leaving today and he goes on to give this articulation of the incredibleness of this particular city of new York city if I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere it’s up to you new York new York is what he said it’s the story of a person bringing artistic talents to what he considers to be the greatest city in the world now my wife and I we lived in new York for a little while we were a bit further upstate but I remember the first time I went to new York city I remember standing there amongst all these buildings and looking around me and saying it’s no London it’s just not the same it’s just not as good enough it’s this place of that is truly spectacular truly incredible it has a commonality with London in that it’s one of those few places where you can spend 150 to hundred dollars on a meal for two and say huh I could have cooked that at home it was okay it was just average but there is for some people this idea that there is only one city that they would ever want to live again and that’s why you can buy penthouse apartments for 200 million

dollars in some of these incredible high-rise skyscrapers to a certain group of people this is the only place to be in its time the city that we’re looking at today Athens was perhaps that city Athens wasn’t the political capital of the world Rome was certainly that and it probably wasn’t the spiritual capital of the world that would be Jerusalem and some other cities like it but Athens was the place of intellect the place of ideas it’s the place that ideas went and they either lived or they died a bad idea would be ripped apart by the incredible Athenian philosophers they would think through all of the details of it and a bad idea would dissipate and good ideas would catch hold and they would be discussed there and they would flourish there so when we read that Paul walks into Athens and I love how Luke sets it up he sets it up as though it’s just Paul in this moment it’s really Paul versus everybody else all of these great thinkers Paul walks in bringing this new idea that he’s going to articulate for them this is the place where the gospel faces its toughest test it has so far moved around Greece it’s starting to spread it’s starting to catch hole but when it comes to Athens there’s this moment of can it survive here what does this gospel this this way of explaining the world this story what does it mean and can it survive amongst these people these people who bring incredible intellect who bring incredible

argument to everything and so we’re told immediately while Paul was waiting for them he goes for a walk he goes to see this city that he’s probably heard so much about and we’re told straight away he was greatly distressed as Paul goes and looks at what he can see there’s something in him that gets stirred up and to help you understand this phrase let’s dig into what greatly distressed means just a little bit it’s this word pariksano irritated stirred and some of you guys know this phrase because you live this phrase the core to this Greek word is this I’m gonna I’m gonna say something I’m gonna have to say something I’m gonna have to speak up and I don’t struggle with this at all uh so I did that strength finder test some of you may have done and it gives you your 34 strengths the lowest one of mine was harmony for some reason I don’t find awkward conversations that awkward I’m okay I once sent the same breakfast back three times I just said still not right still not right still not right take it back and my wife she’s just dying of embarrassment she looks at me finally and says something like I’m going to be in the car and I’m going to be driving home without you I just wasn’t that bad but she just she does not like those things we get some of us to that moment where we’re like I’m so irritated by this I’m gonna have to speak up and say something maybe a pictorial version that would help you is this

one it’s this moment of driving where you’re like you know there’s some wives looking at husbands right now and some husbands looking at wives like you have this problem and there’s something that can happen to us where we just start to get to that point the other day somebody cut me up uh they cut you know we cut right in front of me and I and I was about to pull up to a light and like when I get to that light I’m gonna pull up right next to them and I’m gonna wag my finger at them or something like that something you know very very much like that and then I realized I was driving the church van and it’s got south fellowship church emblazoned all over the side of it so I was like I can just picture them googling the church living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus except when we’re driving uh this this is where Paul is he is in that moment of I’m done I’m gonna say something has stirred inside him and he’s going to protest so he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and god-fearing Greeks this group of people that meets in in the Jewish synagogue and then the marketplace day by day with those who happen to be there the marketplace was known as the agora it was this place where market stalls everywhere conversations happening all over the place the hub of every day society and he starts debating with these two groups of philosophers a group of epicurean

and stoic philosophers so just a little bit of an aside on them epicureans were agnostics atheists they said this about the world there is a body and it is good for pleasure and it also can experience suffering so we can choose to experience pleasure we can deal with the suffering but that’s the essence of what makes up life there isn’t much else to it the gods if they’re there do not impact our day today they are distant far away the stoics were a little bit different the stoics had a traditional view of the Greek pantheon you may know those names Zeus beside and hades and they believe that those gods rule at least Greece if nothing else and so this is the group that Paul is chatting with debating with and we’re told this some of them asked what is this babbler trying to say what is this babala trying to say the word forbabila is spermalogus it is just as it’s exactly what it looks like when you read the first part of the word it’s where we get the word seed from so they look at Paul this man articulating this new idea and they say this you’re like somebody who just picked up seeds of ideas you don’t really have any grounding in them you don’t really even understand them yourself you just grab this new thing and now you’re here trying to impress us all with your wisdom but there’s nothing really to it you just there’s no there’s no substance poor it’s just a vague idea and we don’t buy it for those of you

that love movies the movie goodwill hunting has a great example of this there’s this moment where will the eidetic genius walks into a bar and his friend he’s having a conversation with a girl and another man approaches them and starts quoting random bits of a historical text and tries to pass it off as his own idea and because will is just so brilliant he can memorize these huge texts just and hold them there he comes alongside his friend and says wow you’re quoting this obscure book and you’re quoting page 68 yeah I’ve read that book is that what you do you just you grab a quote and pass it off as your own and he says to the guy there’s two certainties in life right don’t do that that’s a terrible way to live and two you wasted thousands of dollars on an education you could have got from late charges in a library like don’t put up a facade don’t play that you know what you’re talking about when you don’t really don’t be what they’re saying Paul is don’t be a picker-up of seeds someone who survives on scraps of knowledge when they hear Paul when they hear him present his story his idea they say no nepal we don’t buy that we don’t think that’s real you’re just talking it’s just nice sounding words you might say their accusation towards Paul is this your story has no substance your story has no substance and when I use the word story I want to make sure we’re on the same page of that because

story can seem very lightweight almost light-hearted we think about fairy stories we think about stories we tell our kids and yet story is actually a very robust word because you and I have stories that explain how we see the world if you grew up in a Christian home if you embrace this Jesus way of life the reality is that is your story doesn’t make it not true it just means that that is your worldview how you explain everything about the world and really everybody has one of these the stoics that we just talked about they have their story the epicureans they have their story and so Paul is to them bringing this new way of explaining the world and their first reaction is this Paul we don’t buy this you’re just picking up random threads we don’t believe this can explain anything about the way that the world works he’s a babbler trying to say things to sound clever and others remarked he seems to be advocating foreign gods they said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection but something that he says some comment is enough that they said we want to take you from the agora this place where people meet by random chants they discuss ideas we want to take you from there to the Areopagus this place where all of the best ideas of the day

are discussed they took him to the area of Pakistan brought him sorry they took him and brought him to a meeting of the ariel pagus where they said to him may we know what this new teaching you are presenting is so forgive me for just a second while I play like fourth grade geography or history teacher because this is the one place in the bible that I’ve actually been so I’m just going to live in this moment for just a little while so this is the area of pagas this is random rock in the middle of Athens up there is the Parthenon and all those famous buildings so this is me just with shorter hair and some terrible sunglasses just figuring out where I am and this is Paul’s sermon that we’re about to read that they’ve plastered all over the world wall so it was so fun to stand there at the break of day I went there at around sunrise just uh just to feel what it must have been like to have Paul articulating all of these ideas at that time and you sit there with these religious buildings overlooking this area and realize that you’re standing in a place where some of the most significant ideas in history were discussed and this moment where this gospel this message of Jesus faces this toughing toughest test does it stand up to a group of people who really understand how to think and this is the discussion that Paul will

have with these thinkers in Athens they took him to the area pagas where they said to him may we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting you are bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we would like to know what they mean all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas they are a group of people that like to think they like the newest ideas they like to know what is happening and now they want to know what Paul’s idea is Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said people of Athens I see that in every way you are very religious this is verse 22. so let’s pause there if you have a paper text in front of you depending on the version you have it may say one of two things it may say very religious or it may say too superstitious the first one sounds kind of like a compliment the second one sounds kind of like an insult and the truth is it’s so hard to know which Paul’s phrase is intended as this phrase Greek we’re going to say it together is dicey diamonsterous dicey diamonsterous you got that you now know more Greek than 99 of the world way to go it really could mean one thing or the other too superstitious very religious on one hand it’s got almost this compliment to it Paul

opens with this sort of complementary tone guys in Athens people that love to think you you’re

really searching for this stuff you’re doing a good job you’re investigating things and yet on the other hand it has this lurking undercurrent off but the way you do it the way you approach it you’re kind of like wearing amulets and believing that they protect you in some way you’re kind of tapping into old superstitions that we know don’t really work you’re kind of not being as intellectual as you pretend that you’re being remember this is a group of people famous for their intellect famous for discussing ideas and yet Paul’s accusation is really you’re dabbling with some like older stories that nobody really believes in anymore it’s almost like a challenge to them remember Paul is set up in this passage passages it’s him versus everybody else for those of you that can track with some old testament thinking remember Elijah the famous prophet who stands up to 400 prophets of another religion and they call down fire and there’s this moment where fire comes down when Elijah asks for it the passage has some sort of symmetry with that it is Paul versus everybody else and we’re left waiting for the tension of what will happen will the same thing happen has happened before does fire still come down from heaven Paul suggests to them you’re certainly very religious but maybe it’s just superstition maybe you don’t really understand what you’re talking about as I walked around

and looked carefully at your objects of worship I even found an altar with this inscription to an unknown god so you are ignorant of the very thing that you worship and this is what I’m going to proclaim to you Paul’s accusation his observation of these Athenians is you’re so superstitious you’re even naming gods that you can’t name it’s so vague so empty you’re essentially doing this you are walking around blindfolded and you’re building somewhere you’re building these things out of out of dirt and dust and you’re proclaiming that these things have substance this is just an excuse for me to play with sand by the way it’s just like a just a nice relaxing moment for me but you’re kind of building these things and they just they don’t stay they don’t go they have nothing to them Paul’s suggestion is that this group of people that claim to be so intellectual are still playing around with building things to gods that they don’t know and so then his proclamation will be eventually I’m going to tear that blindfold off the thing that you can’t see the thing that you don’t know I’m going to show it to you you’re going to get to see it for real when I unveil it to you but initially as they said to him his accusation towards them could be this your story has no substance you Athenians your story has no substance it’s not based on anything it’s not real he even uses this phrase a few times human

hands just articulate how human it is the god who made the world and everything in it is the lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands he’s not served by human hands as if he needed anything rather he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything in it his comment on the Athenians is this there is no substance to your story you’re still playing around building things to a god who doesn’t need them it’s not real there’s no substance there and then now we get to watch as poor this first missionary out in the world bringing this new Christian story to places that it has never been before now we get to watch as he articulates that we get to watch how he does it because this story has always spread this story has always been captivating enough that it is it has grown it is spread to other people that was its core in the beginning we see 12 scared guys standing in a room who then go out and spread the message in a street we watch as Christianity goes from being just a few hundred people right after Jesus death and resurrection to 100 a.d where it’s now 40 000 people and it spreads to this point where by 250 a.d there are 1.2 million Christians and now a couple of billion people that would proclaim to be Jesus followers this story has always spread always grown and yet for many of us in this room that say we are followers of Jesus we probably would

express this struggle with how how do I be involved in that I I don’t know that I find that as easy as maybe Paul would find it I don’t know if spreading this message is an easy thing for me I feel like I don’t always know how to articulate it and when I do feel like I’ve articulated well I feel like I get pushback I feel like people don’t respond to it how does Paul this early mission what does he take and what does he say to these incredible thinkers in Athens how does he shape this message how will Paul share this story Paul believes this story is big enough to encompass everything to him it’s not a competing worldview it’s not an argument against other religions it is pulling everything into it because it is the only thing that has substance that’s just how broad he sees it so how does he share it what does he say he starts here from one man he made all the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands Paul’s starting point is this this story is for everybody and that itself in that day and age was a new idea because most stories had a limit on them for most people when you track through this idea of gods and pantheons in Greece and in Rome when you read about the gods that were worshiped people like gods like Baal most of them in most thinking people’s minds had a limit on how much power they had they were controlled by their own geography Baal may be a god of one territory but he had no

influence outside of that the gods of Greece had power and influence in Greece but they had no influence out of that the gods of Egypt had influence and power in Egypt but they had no influence out of that or at least it was diminished outside of their territories that idea of henoism was how the world was seen to work and so now here comes Paul saying no there are no boundaries for this guy he doesn’t stop anywhere he pulls everything into his story that’s just how broad he is this story isn’t just for a select few this story is big enough to include every single person who has ever been born to us that idea may sound normal to people listening to poor for the first time that’s a new idea this really is big enough to include everybody this god set the boundaries he’s calling everybody into it god did this so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him though he is not very far from any of us for in him we live and move and have our being as some of your own poets have said we are his offspring one of the fascinating things about this passage is this Paul is giving his first sermon first address to this group of people in Athens he’s sharing this message of Jesus and he doesn’t once quote the bible I’m not just talking about the bible as we know it I’m talking about the Jewish bible the old testament scriptures he doesn’t once mention a single passage from the old testament the

Jewish bible doesn’t go there he quotes their own poets to them can you imagine the tension here if I were to give a sermon and say I’m just going to put the bible aside for the day we’re just we’re just not going to really deal with that I’ve actually bizarrely been in a sermon like that I was in a sermon once when a guy actually just read the dictionary to us he said I’m going to quote you the word audacious and I’m going to describe what it means and you need to know that god is audacious and that was the sermon that’s where we landed but if I did that here I would probably get run out of town I suspect and yet Paul here what does he do he approaches this group of people and he doesn’t go he goes to their own prophets their own thinkers the only explanation I can come up with is this he knows that the old testament means nothing to these people that they just aren’t tracking with that idea but he knows that the stories connect and he knows that when he goes to this point when he quotes these people he’s giving it a basis to then talk about how Jesus encompasses that story as well this story is not only for everybody but this story it seems makes sense of your story for some of you that came to follow Jesus in later life I would suspect that there’s some of you that would articulate it like

this there were things that I believed about the world experiences that I had that weren’t strictly church experiences once strictly Jesus experiences in my first understanding of them but then something happened then I experienced Jesus for myself and suddenly there was stuff from my past that suddenly made sense that there’s language that people will use when they experience Jesus of oh that was you all along I didn’t have a name for you I didn’t understand everything about what I was experiencing but somewhere all of this was leading me to this final moment when now you and I are in relationship I’ve heard that articulation from people over and over again and it seems like what happens here is Paul takes their past stories and says let me explain to you how this fits into what god has been doing all along these people have an understanding of how the world works and god is saying I’m pulling that into my story you are going to get to be part of this and it’s all because of Jesus therefore since we are god’s offspring we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone an image made by human design and skill in the past god overlooked such ignorance that now he commands all people everywhere to repent essentially Paul’s language is your old story matters your old story was leading you here but now it’s time now it’s time to come into my story now it’s time to get

involved in this thing my story is big enough this story according to Paul it has substance it has substance it has something that you can rely on that you can live into for he has set a day when he would judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed he has given proof of this to everybody by raising him from the dead and this is where it gets controversial because it seems like for poor they’ve been tracking they’ve been tracking they’ve been tracking okay Paul we get it you’re quoting our own profits to us we’re on board we’re on board we can buy into this and then he mentions resurrection and it’s like in one big gasp they say really resurrection we could go with you until there but we you lost us you lost us at resurrection he lost us at resurrection some of them sneered when they heard about the resurrection of the dead some of them sneered this story has substance because it’s grounded in the idea that Jesus died physically and rose again physically it is based on man made from dirt and then that dirt being re-animated back to life and that to the Greeks was nonsense they could not buy that idea this story has both substance because it’s based in history and actual reality and stumbling blocks because resurrection is maybe hard to believe maybe harder than anything to buy into a physical resurrection some of you may say something like I believe one day there’s a spatial

thing maybe everything will be okay there’s this better place that our loved ones have gone to the something up in the spacial sky somewhere up in the void and yet physical resurrection dead bodies back to life some of us in this room would say I find that stretch I find that difficult you might say that this story may be for everybody but everybody will not be for this story because this story asks a lot of you this story asks a lot of me physical resurrection for those Greek people listening one of their own poets Euripides had explained it like this when the dust has soaked up the blood of a man once he has died there is no resurrection when he has gone back to dust he is back to dust and that is it there is no way that that can be regathered that when its dust stays dust and I wonder if it’s this conversation what the Paul was thinking about when he writes this to this church in Corinth we preach Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the gentiles foolishness to the gentiles because they can’t buy that they can’t buy that dust can be re-animated isn’t it true that that idea is disruptive that idea is difficult in itself this is a passage from a pastor a poet Casey smith how now may we celebrate the radiant emergent the emergence the disruption that transfixed the faith for so few hours away ahead how would we paint and create resurrection the disruption that transfixed the

faithful this moment of we didn’t see that coming that wasn’t how we expected the story to go as Jesus starts to articulate this to his earliest followers before his death he says destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again the response from the religious leaders this temple took 46 years to build the Jews replied are you going to raise it up in three days but Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body the truth is that resurrecting the physical temple in three days would have been less surprising than resurrecting a dead body in three days the truth is he’s not saying no it’s easier than I’m making it sound he’s saying no it’s more difficult that I’m making it sound and yet the bible was unashamed that the first followers of Jesus were unashamed about their proclamation of physical in this earth in this dirt resurrection in 1933 the baseball player babe ruth in game three of the world series looks to the stands and reportedly points to the right field and then on the next pitch begins to proceeds to hit a home run to that very section that he just pointed about now it’s become something of an urgent urban legend and some people say it never really happened and yet it seems that this story is this moment where an incredible athlete says he’s going to do something incredible and then does it in some ways the story it mirrors this Jesus moment of

saying I’m going to die and I am coming back again we often treat the people in the first century as though they’re kind of just a lot more superstitious than us as though resurrection was a common piece of language in the first century and yet the truth is the dead stayed dead with the same monotony 2000 years ago as they do today this isn’t a normal story this has always been a supernatural story it’s as though that language that those Greeks used of once the man’s blood is in the dust there is no coming back from that it’s as though this god said huh we’ll see about that from dust you came to dust you will return but that isn’t the end of the story it seems like the last thing isn’t the last thing at all it’s the next to last thing that this this Jesus faith has always been bold in its proclamation of resurrection and yet also bold in its acceptance of death that the thing that we avoid the thing that we don’t like to talk about this faith this religion has always said no that’s a journey you will take outside of Jesus return that’s a journey you will take that’s a journey that I will take and yet this Jesus story has said would you like to take that journey alongside and with someone who has been that way before it’s as though psalm 23 somewhat prophetic in it it’s nature when it says even though I walk through the valley of death shadow I will fear no evil for you are with me imagines this journey with

Jesus alongside that says come this way I’ve done this thing this isn’t my first time here it may be yours but I’ve been there we’re going to walk this road together this isn’t the final word this isn’t the last thing Christianity this Jesus story has always been declarative in the idea that this resurrection is not some spatial thing one day this is real this is physical this is dirt this is uh the writer Fleming Rutledge the resurrection happened at night nobody was there to see it when the women and disciples arrived he was gone he arose from the kingdom of death and carried off its spoils the sun rising revealed the victory already accomplished we’re going to walk with a couple of people through the sacrament known as baptism baptism is this journey of death and resurrection when they go down in the water is this symbol of the death that every single one of us will experience and there’s this moment of pause of like two and a half minutes where they’re underwater it’s not two and a half minutes it’s like it’s like two and a half seconds whether they’re under water and that in itself encompasses every moment of life it isn’t already not yet of waiting for a resurrection that we believe in that we haven’t seen yet and in this glorious moment we pull them up from the water and they in their own hearts are saying I believe one day the death will lead to resurrection I believe one day that night will lead to day

that the sun rising will reveal the victory that he’s already won when the dust has soaked up the blood of man once he has died there is no resurrection it’s as though the god of the universe says we will see about that I took dust once and made humanity I can do it again that’s the substance of this story it is bold and it borders unabsurd and if you can’t believe it I kind of get that I kind of understand where you’re coming from and yet this story is so good why wouldn’t you want this story to be true so my question might be have you ever examined that story have you examined why people believe Jesus rose for the dead have you examined why it seems like that’s the best explanation for the next things that happened that the best explanation for the church and how it develops is the very fact that Jesus didn’t stay dead he did rise again and that changes everything that changes everything does your story have substance how do you see the world and what is happening amongst us and what will come next is it just somewhere up in the sky one day somehow or does it end with this god taking dirt as he did once before and breathing new life into it this is resurrection I’m going to invite Aaron and the worship team to come up on stage and we’re going to walk into this this moment of baptism where we’re going to celebrate with some people who have made that decision to follow Jesus together we’re

going to articulate a couple of things to help us understand this we’re going to recite a thing called the apostles creed it’s a statement of faith that’s a few a couple of thousand years old now and it reminds us of just what we believe and how robust how strong how detailed how it really is now we’re going to sing a song that articulates this idea Christ has died we are forgiven there is this promise of the forgiveness of sins that is encompassed in what Jesus did for us and then the next line is this Christ alive we are the risen when these guys are baptized what they are proclaiming in faith is this in that pause in that moment under the water that encompasses their whole life they are saying in faith one day this isn’t all there is one day death is followed by resurrection that’s their statement of faith and one that we as a bunch of people that are baptized get to sing together does your story have substance what story do you have that explains how the world works can you believe this story can you believe resurrection so I’m going to invite you to stand with me and you’re free to not say the apostles creed if you can’t get there but I’d love you to proclaim this with me so let’s stand and let’s recite

How to Share the Gospel | The Book of Acts (Part 10)2022-01-13T15:42:59-07:00

The Significance of Baptism | The Book of Acts (Part 9)

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good morning friends how you doing my name’s alex I’m one of the pastors here greetings on this wonderful daylight savings day a day that means nothing to you if you have small children as I do it’s uh it’s just this blip I it’s not that I’m mad at you guys I just resent you all to be honest I uh my kids got up uh five because they thought it was six and their life continued as it had the days before that so anyway I don’t know what I’m doing I’m just complaining um so we’re going to jump into our series on acts we’re in chapter 16. we’re going to start here I’m going to start by telling you a story and I’m just going to trust you just to hold on to this story for a while and we’ll we’ll kind of come back to it after a bit a man is traveling for work he’s in an airport he’s flying from seattle to houston and while he’s sitting at the bar waiting for his flight to board a beautiful woman comes over to him and says would you like to have a drink with me and he’s

like I absolutely would this is something I’ve been hoping would happen the whole of my life and it never has until this day I would love to have a drink with you and so she goes off and she comes back from the bar with a couple of bottles of beer and that’s the last thing he remembers before waking up in a bathtub of water and ice he begins to panic and he looks at the wall in front of him and there’s a sign that says don’t move call 911. looks to his right and there’s a phone sat by the the bathtub and he picks up the phone calls 9-1-1 and says I don’t know what to tell you but I I just woke up in a bathtub full of water of an ice and the sign says call 9-1-1 and the the person on the end of the line says don’t panic and he says that’s easy for you to say I mean this is a panicky situation no he says okay what should I do and the lady says well I want you to reach behind your back and can you find a tube in your lower back and he

said yes I can there’s a tube coming out of out of my back and she said okay what’s happened is this there’s a gang of criminals that have been harvesting people’s organs you’ve fallen victim to one of their schemes we’re going to send someone to be with you straight away now for a while this story was so common that everybody in us of a certain age in a certain period had a friend of a friend that this had happened to and yet there’s not one single statistical case of this ever happening anywhere in the united states it’s just never ever taken place and yet the story is so sticky that I’m going to ask you in about 20 minutes what you remember about the story I’m not going to actually ask you to answer but I’m just going to ask you to recollect the story and I would predict you can remember 95 of the details there’s something about story that

engages our minds and connects with our hearts that ultimately is transformative in a way that just information never is so that being said we’ll come back to it but for now let’s read a story we’re going to read acts chapter 16 starting in verse 16. if you have a text we’ll go through it verse by verse together but for now I’m just going to read down to verse 30 1. once when we were going to the place of prayer we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future she earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune telling she followed paul and the rest of us shouting these men are servants of the most high guard who are telling you the way to be saved she kept this up for many days finally paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit in the name of Jesus christ I command you to come out of her at that moment the spirit left her when her owners realized that their hope

of making any money was gone they seized paul and silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities they brought them from before the magistrates and said these men are jews they are throwing our city into uproar by advocating customs and lawful for us romans to accept or practice the crowd joined in the attack against paul and silas the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods after they had been severely flogged they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully when he received these orders he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks about midnight paul and silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken at once all the prison doors flew open and everyone’s

chains came loose the jailer woke up and when the prison doors open and when he saw the prison doors open he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped but paul shouted don’t harm yourself we are all here the jailer called for lights rushed in and fell trembling before paul and silas he then brought them out and said sirs what must I do to be saved they replied believe in the lord Jesus and you will be saved and you and your whole household then they spoke the word of the lord to him and to all the others in his house at that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds then immediately he and all his house were baptized let’s pray God as we look at this text would you speak to us would you give us wisdom wherever we are in our journey would you nudge us a little bit further on that journey thank you that you’re present here with us uh men so as I said

in this series on the book of acts coming swiftly towards a conclusion as we get to that time of year where we move into advent and we move uh into this christmas type season what we said back way at the beginning when we spent some time looking at luke this biography of Jesus life before we looked at acts was really these could be two parts of the same series of the same book there’s luke part one and luke part two and and luke is really what Jesus did and acts the second book is is what his followers did and in amongst these books there are these two big surprises the one surprise is that Jesus died nobody really expected that all of the the sort of the history all of the jewish promises prophets had said no no Jesus is going to come and or a messiah is going to come and he’s going to do something to rescue israel as we move into this season called advent we’ll get to go back and look at what some of those prophets said and

what they had promised this season where we build up to christmas which for some of you means switching from this obnoxiously quickly to this um there are some of you that are breaking all sorts of social conventions with your christmas decoration december 1st people uh is the time that’s allowed my kids are trying to watch christmas movies already I’m like nope you can’t dilute christmas you have to keep it in december that’s that’s how it works but this season is not just about this facade not just about the lightings this advent season is this this process of actually preparing ourselves realizing that this whole jewish nation waited for years for a messiah figure to turn up just as those of us that would call ourselves followers of Jesus today wait for his return and yet for them it didn’t look as they expected it to look the fact that Jesus died was a huge surprise to this early community of his followers the second big surprise

was this people like you and I were included now if you’re jewish you’re probably in the minority here generally gentiles were not expected to be included in this story and suddenly there’s these moments where they are now included and paul that we looked at last week we looked at his conversion this moment where he joins this Jesus story we’re told that paul will be this person that will begin to pull gentiles in to this big story the idea is the gut is interested in the whole world not just one small section of it and while it would be great to track all of paul’s journeys in a couple of weeks we don’t have time so we’re just going to spend the next couple of weeks looking at his visit to two particular towns or cities we’re going to look today at his visit to a town called philippi next week to his visit to a city called athens and so let’s go back to the start and track with what’s happening here with paul and the rest of his guys acts chapter

16 verse 16 once when we were going to the place of prayer so notice that we this is the first time or one of the first times luke is now actually involved in the story this author who’s heard sort of what’s going on he’s written down recorded details luke is now part of what paul is doing and luke silas paul a couple of others have been traveling from place to place we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future she earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune telling she followed paul and the rest of us shouting these men are servants of the most high guard who are telling you the way to be saved now to start with who sees a problem with this story particularly is there a problem with it I mean on the surface if you’re starting or or propagating or spreading a new religion and you walk into a town where there is already a great deal of religious activity and one of the major proponents

of that religion starts following you around saying these guys are right these you should listen to them on the surface is there anything wrong with that when you read it on the surface this seems like a huge advantage paul has walked into this town started sharing his message and someone who’s known to predict the future has said listen to this man he’s wise he has the truth on the surface we would say if we were going about starting a new faith or sharing a new faith people buying in that seems like a good thing and yet that isn’t how this story works so she kept this up for many days finally paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit in the name of Jesus christ I command you to come out of her at the moment the spirit left her this passage has a turn of I’m sick of you kids go to your room energy you know how like when when you are parenting finally get to that point I just need to be where you

aren’t and I need you to be where I’m not as well so just go to your room and stay there until I tell you this is the sort of language that we’re sort of tapping into here this idea of being annoyed grieved like a depleting grief at the end of your energy finally paul’s like I’m sick of this like just the implication is he could have done it days ago but he just he hadn’t been pushed far enough and finally he gets to this point of saying just just get out of here now the story is important for a couple of reasons luke this author has been really keen to show us the things that Jesus did his followers are now doing the things that happen to Jesus are now happening to his followers so in chapter 3 we saw this moment where peter is used by God to heal someone well Jesus healed many people there’s this moment where some of them are arrested and questioned and Jesus was arrested and questioned as chapter seven where stephen is

killed for his faith and Jesus was killed and in this incredible moment just like Jesus forgave his enemies in this moment of death stephen will do the same thing there’s multiple ways that we see that reflected and and this is another example of that Jesus had moments like this where he would say to a spirit just be quiet just I’m done this this same energy was present there on the surface there’s no obvious answer particularly as to why paul chooses to not take advantage of this person who’s basically saying listen to this guy but what I would suggest is maybe at the heart of this is this for paul there can be no association between this new way this Jesus way and the old ways if she walks around saying no listen to this guy and people do then by association there’s some connection between the two and what paul is very clear about is this Jesus story connects back to the old jewish story but it has no connection to any of these other

stories this is a new thing that is taking place God is doing something new and he’s doing it for all of humanity and so we see when our owners realized that their hope of making money was gone they seized paul and silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities they brought them before the magistrates and said these men are jews and are throwing our city into uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us romans to accept or practice now this excuse that they give is this really what’s bothering them absolutely not just like we saw with the jewish leaders in chapters three chapters four chapters five this passage again is primarily centered around power and how you can stay in power wealth and how you can keep hold of wealth we see what happens when established power is challenged by an alternative power and this narrative is there over and over again in acts the jewish leaders knew that a miracle

had taken place in chapter three and yet had to reject it because well what will happen if the people hear about this they chose to hide it simply out of ignorance same thing with these guys in philippi it’s no different because we’re now in the greek speaking world they know something significant is happening and yet just to keep hold of power same narrative what happens when power is challenged by an alternative power and that will happen throughout this Jesus movement the crowd joined in the attack against paul and silas and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with ruts after they’d been severely flogged they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully when he received these orders he put them in the inner cell and fasten their feet in the stock so this is the entrance of this character that will spend a little bit of time wrestling with he is told keep them secure so

what does that mean for him he takes them to the prison to the room with no windows he locks them in stocks as well to make sure there is absolutely no possibility of them escaping this is all about creating certainty that nothing can happen to continue the story the story has to end here and yet of course because it’s God’s story it doesn’t end there about midnight paul and silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them this is part of a maybe a narrative tradition across all of christianity over the world in nations where people are persecuted incredibly one of the wonderful aspects of christianity is in the midst of persecution followers of Jesus have been able to not only tolerate abuse but to rejoice in the midst of it the story is so real that in the midst of the worst they are able to sing and paul and silas muddle that for us and delightfully suddenly there was a violent earthquake such a

violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken at once all the prison doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose if you are paul and silas at this moment what is your response is your response hey God provides it’s time to leave let’s exit everybody we’re all off together notice it’s not just paul and silas that are included in this all the prison doors flew open everybody’s chains came loose suddenly there’s this possibility of mass exodus everybody just leaves the guilty and the non-guilty alike and yet again the story takes this slightly surprising twist because they don’t leave for whatever reason the jailer woke up and when he saw the prison doors open he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped he would be responsible for them he was supposed to keep them secure this is his job they’ve been given to him to guard and there’s this moment where he

thinks they’ve gone and now this is a problem he’s gonna take the ultimate step of killing himself but paul shouted don’t harm yourself we are all here the story whether intentionally or unintentionally is really vague did they not escape because they didn’t have time was it just really that sort of staccato there’s this moment of earthquake there’s this moment where the jailer runs in and they’re so close together they didn’t have time or did he intentionally wait for the jailer we just don’t know but either way paul is super concerned that this guy not take a step of harming himself don’t harm yourself we are all here and then the jailer rushes to them and asks this immortal perhaps question a question that has been reiterated in sermons all over the place he then brought them out and asked sirs what must I do to be saved which is an unusual question right I mean for him to ask we may think of it as normal if we grew up in

church we may have used that language a lot but what does he mean by that in this moment what does this greek man who has simply encountered this new religion that everybody is so criticizing people are being arrested for what does he think he needs what’s his felt need it’s it’s just left on the surface with no particular answer he has seen something in this narrative that tells him he has some need deep in his life now now we would say those of us that have been in this church think for a while well he realized his need for salvation for the forgiveness of sins and and I could say maybe maybe he did maybe he will eventually later we’ll see we’re told paul will unpack this Jesus story for him but in this moment I actually think all we can say is that there’s some felt need in him that says this story I am living by right now is not working and I see here this potential for a different story he doesn’t know what it is he doesn’t know at this

point anything that Jesus ever taught he has no real information that we would call concrete about who Jesus is and yet he has seen enough in this small story to say there’s something here I want in on this story friends all over the world there are people that are living stories that have just been given to them at birth perhaps or they’ve adopted later that are saying I need a better story to live by and need something else this story it’s just not working in this moment this jailer whatever else he comes to know sees this moment where he sees another story on display and his question is simply phrase what must I do to be saved but not in a jewish not in a christian way just in a very earthly greek I need something from you paul and silas what is it that you have that I don’t have wherever his story goes whatever he comes to understand later right now we can’t say that he understands much more than this and paul’s answer is delightful

believe in the lord Jesus and you will be saved you and your household and again the question would be like what does that help him with again very vague on what he even knows about Jesus at this point and yet paul’s answer is simply believe in Jesus I would suggest as a big broad term what paul is basically saying is is something like this enter into this new story now I know for some of you and I’m just going to point this out right now there’ll be a definite wait hold on a second but we have to talk about death crucifixion payment of sins resurrection absolutely we do that is a hundred percent part of the story and yet at this point all I’m saying is that paul is simply saying to this man there’s loads for you to learn you need this story though come and get involved in this story that’s his beginning in this Jesus thing that is what he steps into to start with I wonder whether poor when he thinks back to stories like this I wonder if he was

thinking back to moments like this when he wrote this to this church in a town called colisee devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful and pray for us too that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of christ for which I am in chains pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should be wise in the way that you act towards outsiders make the most of every opportunity think through the narrative that paul has walked through I’m in jail suddenly there’s an earthquake I have a chance to escape a jail is about to kill himself and to poor that’s an opportunity to bring someone into this Jesus story for you and I it’s a jumbled series of events for you and I it’s a moment of irritation of of panic all these potential different things to paul so focused is he so committed to this story is he that what he sees in this moment is a man who needs this Jesus story and in this moment he takes advantage of it to

pull him in he sees a man on the brink of of ending it all a man on the brink of disaster a man who is broken and he in this moment sees this simply as an opportunity to bring him into the story make the most of every opportunity is what he writes to this church in kalasai and then the next step is that we’re told then immediately he and all his household were baptized he immediately immediately he and all his house were baptized which gives us an opportunity to talk about this thing that has been present throughout acts and yet we’ve seemingly had to just skip over in chapter two we read that a whole bunch of people joined the church and three thousand of them are baptized in chapter four a whole bunch of people joined the church and five thousand of them are baptized in chapter eight a man called philip meets an ethiopian eunuch that he leads into this relationship with Jesus and he says there’s water I want to be

baptized all the way through acts as this narrative of baptism they do the very thing that we’ll do next week will take some people and we’ll dunk them in water which if you’re completely outside of the church movement is just as fun and cool as it sounds in a religious ceremony we actually get to take people and dunk them into water this is this ritual this thing that churches have done for thousands of years but the question is and it’s not really unpacked here at all or in any passage which is why we get to unpack it together across the whole of axes why does baptism matter when the man has asked this question when he said what do I need to do to be saved the answer wasn’t baptism the answer was believe in Jesus and and you’ll be saved but then there’s this apparently automatic next step of baptism baptism doesn’t seem to do the thing itself and yet everybody in acts who jumps into this Jesus story follows it through with this

process of choosing to get baptized so a couple of passages couple of places that writers in the bible unpack baptism a little bit and then I’m gonna sort of maybe point out a couple of things that I think you will know if you’ve been around church for a while and maybe ask a question that is maybe a little new this is paul writing to a church in rome or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into christ Jesus were baptized into his death we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father we too may have new life this picture of baptism is this picture of it represents the death and new life that you and I experience if we choose this Jesus story it represents the death and life experience that this man this philippian jailer will experience in this moment that he chooses this Jesus story incredibly it means this that baptism means death

before it means life that there is this distinctness to the story that represents all that Jesus has done this is peter writing to a group a church that he’s planted in first peter chapter three God waited patiently in the days of noah while the ark was being built in it only a few people ate and all were saved through the water so he makes this reference to this older story that we won’t get into this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus christ for both of these writers for paul and for peter there is this connection to this story of baptism something that you are doing here represents your entrance into this new and different story it isn’t the thing itself and yet it’s important as a representation of the story you might say that for a lot of people baptism is first a cleansing of an old story baptism wasn’t new

to christians so lots of people were baptizing at the time john the baptist of course was doing a baptism very similar to this and as john unpacks it for the people that are joining his baptism he says when john saw many of the pharisees and sadducees coming to his place of baptism he said to them you brewed a vipers who warned you to flee from the coming wrath produce fruit then in keeping with repentance baptism somewhere is this recognition that you’ve turned and made a change something old is being left behind something new is being entered into but it’s also not a cleansing just of an old story it’s also maybe an initiation in to a news story it’s this moment where these followers of Jesus said publicly I am entering into this new story I am making this declaration a private personal internal decision suddenly becomes this thing you are announcing to everyone and and let me say this if you can make a decision I can make a

decision we can be baptized into this Jesus thing or something else but you are definitely baptized into something whether you know it or not it might just be that you’re simply baptized into this world system of consuming and producing we we live in this world and in this age where really we’re told our value is based on how much we can produce and how much we can consumer and what we’re told over and over again whether we know it or not is we never get enough and you never consume enough there’s always more to get and always more to consume and that’s why you have the dream car that you always wanted and then you get that car and then another car is released or an upgrade happens or something new is available to you you get the house that you thought your family would always be happy and everything will be great and then after a while there’s a better house or a bigger house or another location

there’s always something else to attain to and that’s sort of the world’s thing that we could be baptized into and sometimes we hear this narrative maybe that well that’s all just capitalism but yeah people have been sitting in towers counting coins for a lot longer than capitalism has existed we as humans for a long time have gathered more and more stuff and said that’s the value of life somewhere baptism as an initiation into this new story is a is a declaration I’m not for the world’s thing I’m decidedly in favor of this thing so you might say that somewhere cleansing an initiation is what baptism is it’s death and it’s resurrection it’s tomb and it’s also womb it is something that represents this moment of new birth but what I would say for those of us that have been doing this church thing for a while that’s all in the past right I mean for most of us many of you chose to be baptized maybe as a kid maybe you didn’t choose it maybe

you walk through that journey because your parents put you through it maybe you did it as an adult but many of us would have taken that journey and if you haven’t the invitation for you is the same as for the philippian jailer enter into this new story this story that gives you something a bigger story to live in this story that is about death and resurrection and new life and all that Jesus did enter into that story and then be baptized but what about for those of us that would say well we did that thing is it is all it is just a past thing that we hope that we jump through I spent a couple of years on a phd program and I had this incredible austrian supervisor who after a while when I was about to have we were about to have our first child looked at me and he said alex I don’t question whether you have the uh intelligence to do a phd a question if you have the arrogance I was like what do you mean arrogance he said well all of us academics at

heart we’re arrogant everyone has to suffer so we can jump through this hoop that enables us to do what we want to do but all it is is a hoop it just gives us access to teach and and we write this one paper and then they tell us now we can teach on any subject related to it without any particular qualification to do it but he said it’s really just a hoop and is that all baptism is is it just a hoop for you with your story of I entered into this Jesus story I was baptized is it simply it was a thing I did because I was supposed to do and it’s in the past is that all baptism is cleansing from an old story is great initiation into a new story is great but does it mean something today does it have any practical sort of meeting of a felt need and to tap into that felt need what I’d like us to do is read another story together this story to me is when I think about pathos when I think about heartbreak in the bible this is one of those stories that I go to I’m going to read

most of it out loud and I’m just going to throw the last few verses up on the screen this is lamentations chapter 5 which I’m sure many of you have read recently for your daily devotional readings chapter 5 verse 1 remember lord what has happened to us look and see our disgrace our inheritance has been turned over to strangers our homes to foreigners we have become fatherless and mothers are widows we must buy the water we drink our word can be had only at a price those who pursue us are at our heels we are weary and find no rest we submitted to egypt and assyria to get enough bread our ancestors sinned and are no more we bear their punishment slaves rule over us there is no one to free us from their hands we get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert our skin is as hot as an oven feverish from hunger women have been violated in zion and virgins in the town of judah princes have

been hung up by their hands elders are shown no respect young men toil at the millstones boys stagger under loads of wood the elders are gone from the city gate the young men have stopped their music joy is gone from our hearts our dancing has turned to mourning the crown has fallen from our head woe to us for we have sinned because of this our hearts are faint because of these things our eyes grow dim from mount zion which lies desolate with jackals prowling over it you lord reign forever you’re thrown in jaws from generation to generation why do you forget us why do you forsake us so long restore us to yourself lord that we may return renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure you lord reign forever you’re thrown in jurors from generation to generation why do you always forget us why do you forsake us so long restore us to yourself lord that we

may return renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure this prayer is the last words of this writer of this book lamentations it’s the lament the poem of a city that is in captivity a city that is falling apart that is on the brink of destruction a city that has no hope of a preferred future and yet it articulates what I would suggest is almost a universal cry in different moments of grief whoever you are up there why do you forget us why do you always forget us every single one of us in our human condition I would suggest has moments of saying I feel forgotten I feel lost I feel like something is missing I feel like the God of the universe could pay attention and doesn’t when I was six or seven years old I was left in the parking lot of school by my mother who was supposed to pick me up and I remember the ticking of the clock the five minutes that became 10 minutes I’m talking past the

time where you’re like this is just normal to the point where the teacher is now offering to give you a ride home because she’s genuinely concerned about your safety and I remember thinking why isn’t she here and if she isn’t here is she thinking about me is she at least concerned has she got that sense of like I should be there and for some reason I’m not there right now and now I have kids of my own and I forget them regularly so I understand all of the pressures that come along with parenting and stuff it’s not it’s it’s not uncommon right I’m just like you know get over it you sat in a parking lot it’s fine but at the time at the time the the sense of of neglect and the sense of being forgotten was so palpable and I would suggest that for so many people that is an articulation why do you always forget us and yet we often feel forgotten but is God the one that forgets is it God that forgets I would suggest that we are the ones that are

forgetful we are the ones that forget we often feel forgotten but while we may feel forgotten we are the ones who forget just by nature of being human we are forgetful people so many of you now I can open up some cans of worms in amongst relationships by saying has there been an anniversary that was forgotten has there been that moment of rolling across and looking at the other one and saying ah it’s just such a great day isn’t it and and the other one looks back and says uh-huh it is a great day isn’t it it’s some particular day that I feel in this moment that I may have forgotten something special happened on there is that the way that partner can look at partner and create deep fear of did I forget something that shouldn’t have been forgotten by nature we forget stuff as human beings and to sort of help us understand that I’m going to show you a list of words charger baptism that’s an easy one vacation grilla oh that’s grill I wait

pizza shoe watermelon classic grade school era didn’t leave myself enough room to finish watermelon crystal tea let’s finish with something very english is there anyone who feels that there is a possibility that they can come and recite every single one of these words from memory I mean I just gave you eight words you use more than eight words regularly surely somebody can come and say oh I can remember all of those words and yet it’s more difficult than we would think right we forget very easily the average western human being can memorize nine digits and that’s it now there are some freaks of of nature in terms of their ability to recollect stuff this man recited pie to 83 000 numbers I mean that’s they took him 16 hours to do this so there are some people that are able to remember incredible bits of information but interestingly when they do these memory things in competition almost every

single one of them when asked to memorize words they take those words and what do they do with them they place them into story they place them into story because as we said at the beginning story sticks and information doesn’t story works as a memoric device so many of you could come up and recite that story from memory that story about a man who was in a bathtub and it’s just a made-up story I had so many people come up to me in the first service and say I need some closure to that story what happened to that guy I’m like I don’t know he’s not real like he went and lived happily ever after everything was all was well um he’s now married with three kids and living in I don’t know seattle um we tell ourselves stories in order to live said the writer joan didion and I think that is true and yet I also think I could extend it to something else I think we tell ourselves stories in order to remember as well and that moment that we forget

our stories something goes missing in england I don’t know about over here but in england and memorial uh on a remembrance day we wear these poppies of red and black and I read this story just yesterday about a man who was walking down the street and he saw a lady a young lady wearing the puppy on her right side and he just went very gently over to and said well traditionally we wear it over our hearts and the red represents blood and the black represents this and and we do it because of this and this and as I heard this story I thought oh my goodness soon the people that experienced that won’t be around to share that story anymore and some of our society of memory disappears we need stories in order to live we need stories in order to remember when the soviets overtook the ukraine back in the 70s they gathered all of the poets and songwriters and storytellers to say that they wanted to meet with them to talk

about the new ukraine and then they killed all of them because they knew by nature that a nation that has no storytellers has no history has no way of remembering we tell ourselves stories in order to live we tell ourselves stories in order to remember and your baptism the thing that you did while it was about cleansing while it was about initiation is also a story a story that involves this element of water that is so ingrained in christian tradition that tertullian this writer of the first century said you could call christianity a religion of water it’s in all of our texts it’s in all of our language just think about something like psalm 42 as the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you my God my soul thirsts for God for the living God where can I go and meet with God in amongst the writing there is water water water and your story of baptism is this story that you need to remember that it still has life for you today the

writer eric peterson says this baptismal imagination this recollection this recalling this living back into a baptism moment a decision you made is an awareness that something happened to me back there it’s not just a thing that you jumped into and just did because it was a hoop to jump through it is a part of who you are now and who you are becoming if you jumped into this Jesus story that thing still has power still has memory in it I would suggest baptism is cleansing it is also initiation but it’s also a remembering of the story remembering that God said that you were never forgotten remembering in that moment of your deepest cry and ache of God has forgotten me no no he did not forget that that Jesus story that his death and resurrection is of a God that does remember that may be delayed that may wait longer than we want him to wait at times but still remembers still cares still knows when we re remember our baptism when we

remember back to that moment that decision that we jumped into we are remembering the God who does not forget and in that way it’s very similar to communion which we’ll walk through together in just a few moments this is first corinthians 11 for I received from the lord what I also passed unto you the lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread and when he had given thanks he broke it and said this is my body which is for you do this in remembrance of me in the same way after supper he took the cup saying this cup is the new covenant in my blood do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the lord’s death until he comes in that language of proclaim there at the bottom he’s like to herald to announce to say no I I am involved in this story this is the story that I choose to live by in all of my moments of wondering if I am

forgotten I choose to say that I am part of the story of the God who does not forget who does remember communion just like baptism is a remembering of the story and just how grounding and necessary it is for us to live in this philippian jailer we see this man who is essentially in a point of needing a different story whatever he means by what must I do to be saved it certainly means I need something else to live by and paul’s response is believe in Jesus enter into his story remember perhaps that you have not been forgotten we are the ones who forget God does not forget in a moment I’m going to invite you to come to a table wherever you are in a faith journey you can come into this story this story that in your moments of brokenness in your moments I feel forgotten is a reminder that you are not forgotten because this God doesn’t forget it’s us who forget psalm 25 says this remember lord your great mercy and love for they

are from old do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways according to your love remember me for you lord are good isn’t it interesting that the one thing it seems like God can forget is sins the one thing that he is able to say I don’t remember that is our own failures our brokenness that that Jesus story is just that good that that thing that we don’t want him to remember he is able to forget but for us he doesn’t forget you are remembered you are not forgotten it is us that forget and so we get to come and participate in sacraments and whether this week for you that means reliving some of what it was to be baptized maybe it’s the time that you drink a glass of water the time you climb in a hot tub or a warm bath or anything around water this remembrance and reminder of I have chosen to enter into this story I’ve chosen to enter into the story of the God who does not forget or it’s coming to this table and

doing the one thing that Jesus said to do alongside baptism which is to come and to remember him so I’m going to invite aaron to come and lead us in a song and together we’re going to say this congregational prayer as a way of preparing our hearts come holy spirit come awaken our senses to your movement remind us of christ’s sacrifice tear away our veils so we may encounter your real presence as we come to your table this table offers a different story to live by on the night that he was portrayed Jesus gathered with his earliest followers and taking bread he handed it to each of them and said this is my body broken for you in the same way he gathered the cup handed it to each of them and said this is my blood shed for the sins of the world as long as you gather together do this in remembrance of me so as long as we do this we remember the lord’s death until he comes God in this moment of your presence there are

probably some certainly some in this room who feel forgotten our story feels fractured it feels damaged yet you invite us into this new story a better story to live by you have not forgotten the Jesus story is at its essence a story of a God who has not forgotten this world that would ultimately give his own son to make it whole in our need for wholeness our need for forgiveness a deep cry that perhaps resonates with the jailer in philippi what must I do to be saved may we come to this table and find you present as aaron leads us in song feel free to come and grab the elements and take them back to your seats and we’ll take them together as we end the service come whenever you’re could it ready that my God would welcome me into this mystery say take this bread take this wine now the symbol may divide for any to receive

The Significance of Baptism | The Book of Acts (Part 9)2022-02-22T15:06:01-07:00

Signs from God | The Book of Acts (Part 8)

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good morning friends how are you doing today I love it happy reformation sunday uh also known as halloween I believe um we had some people dress up in the first service and none of you guys did I am disappointed uh next year put it in your memory banks I’m gonna jump straight into chapter nine and we’ll read the text together we’re in a series on acts for those of you that are visiting uh my name’s alex I’m one of the pastors here that may also be important to know chapter 1 9 1 meanwhile saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the lord’s disciples he went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in damascus so that if he found any there who belonged to the way whether men or women he may take them as prisoners to jerusalem as he neared damascus on his journey suddenly a light

from heaven flashed around him he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him saul why do you persecute me who are you lord saul asked I am Jesus who you are persecuting he replied now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do the men traveling with saul stood there speechless they heard the sound but did not see anyone saw got up from the ground but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing so they led him by the hand into damascus for three days he was blind and he did not eat or drink anything in damascus there was a disciple named ananias the lord called to him in a vision ananias yes lord he replied the lord told him go to the house of judas on straight street and ask for a man from tarsus named saul for he’s praying in a vision he has seen a man named ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight lord answered ananias I have heard many reports about this man and all

the harmony has done to your holy people in jerusalem and he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call upon your name but the lord said to ananias go this man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the gentiles and their kings and to the people of israel I will show him how much he must suffer for my name then ananias went to the house and entered it placing his hands on saul he said brother saw the lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here he sent me so that you may be see that you may see again and be filled with the holy spirit immediately something like scales fell from saul’s eyes and he could see again he got up and was baptized and after taking some food he regained his strength let’s pray together God as we look at this text this text is a moment where a man becomes alive in a different way would you speak to us as a community of people here we are

on all sorts of places on a journey some with very real questions some who feel like we’ve been doing this thing for a while but maybe still have some very real questions would you take this text that you breathed would you breathe into us and would we become alive please in new and different ways amen okay so book of acts this book that largely you might say is about transformation this is a book where people’s lives are changed in dramatic and spectacular ways those people then go on to partner with God in the world around them and see other people’s lives transformed in dramatic and spectacular ways this is a book of transformation and we’re going to jump into this first piece of the text we’re going to take these first couple of verses in chapter 9 verse 4. I’m going to make you work today if you have a text in front of you because we can’t do all of acts verse by verse we will jump around just a little bit if you feel a

little bit lost in that respect you’ll be okay you’ll find us again eventually as he saw near damascus on his journey suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him we are in the realms of road to damascus experiences this language is now common enough in our everyday society that you’ve probably heard it before even if it hasn’t been in this context it’s language we use when we have an experience that is transformative in some particular way now now those things can be normal things every day things if you are here and you got married that was probably a road to damascus experience there’s the moment where you were boyfriend and girlfriend and you got married and you’re like wow now they’re here all the time now we have to share a space now we have to have like common like sinks and stuff like that we have to share the same faucet all those different things all those different sort of learning experiences

about being married if you have children you have an experience where you realize just how much they are going to change your life and you’re going to have to need to be someone different to deal with it I remember the first time I took elena out of a car in a car seat I just placed the seat behind me and the car next to us started to reverse and she was at this point a day old and I I have this moment where I’m like I am ill equipped to be a good father I am gonna have to learn some stuff really quickly road to damascus awakening experience sometimes it’s about people’s character we learn something about someone and it changes our relationship with them the other day I was invited to a card game and now if that’s a problem for you then this is a confession um and you can grant me your forgiveness but in the course of this card game the guy I was playing with he he said you know what I’m not looking at my cards I’m just

going to play as though I haven’t seen them and I said okay that’s a really silly decision like if you want to do that that’s fine and and so we went on with the game and and then finally he flipped over his two cards that gave him an unbeatable hand and he looked at me with a smirk and he said oh I had seen them I was just lying to you and I was I felt betrayed to the depths of my soul I was so angry and I just you know I was like what do I do with this guy and he he then looked at me and he said I can’t believe it I lied to a pastor and I said yes you did and that has very serious consequences my friend the reason it’s different to lying to almost any other human being is because at some point now you will be in a sermon story as an illustration and this was like two days ago this happened so you can see I I didn’t wait I didn’t hold off very long but but I looked at this man and I was like I will never believe you again it doesn’t matter what

you tell me you have changed something about the nature of our relationship and yeah just you can tell how deeply it wrangles there are these experiences we have in life that transform something about the way that we do life whether it’s the way we behave whether it’s a relationship and yet in its original context this road to damascus experience is a spiritual revelation as he saw near damascus on his journey suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him saw saul why do you persecute me the character that we’re gonna deal with today is called saw in other parts of acts he’s called paul when he writes letters in the new testament he’s called paul the truth is just to set you up for my own failure I will probably interchange saul and paul multiple times through this sermon and there’s nothing I can do about it I apologize in advance I’ll try and use saul because that’s

how he’s referenced but I just know him as paul so it just is hard to change saul has this experience and maybe the tension point that we would name to start with is maybe we read this and say I want that why don’t I get that certainty what is it to see a blinding light to fall to the ground and then to be blind and then be healed of blindness for those of us that wrestle with doubt that struggle with is this thing real I want that why don’t I get that we’ll leave that tension there for a while and we’ll come back to it because I think it’s a very real question as we wrestle with this text as he saw near damascus on his journey suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him wears my light who are you lord saul asked I am Jesus who you are persecuting he replied now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do so a little bit of backstory it’s important to know a little bit about who saul is it definitely gives us

some insights into what’s happening here who is this man so we’ve now for those of you following week by week we’ve jumped forward we looked at acts chapter six last week we looked at a little bit of chapter eight one particular story we’re now in chapter nine for those of you that can count you realize that we’ve missed chapter seven so just for a second we’re going to go back and look at something that happens in chapter seven at one point we read in the story I think last week we looked at how the church realized it had an administration problem my road to damascus experience personally was realizing administration was important and you actually needed people who could organize things it seems like the early church had the same revelation they picked seven men who could help with those detailed kinds of things that would who could come along the earliest followers of Jesus and give structure to stuff last week

we looked at how philip one of those seven had gone on to do this remarkable thing he’d led an ethiopian unit to into a relationship with Jesus another character called stephen we’ll look at for just a brief second stephen has this experience where he gives a dramatic address he stands up in front of the religious leaders of the day and he simply calls them out he gives this incredibly stirring sort of review of everything that’s happened in jewish life and then finally says we were waiting for this messiah figure we were waiting for this character and when he got here just like you did with the other prophets you killed him obviously as you would expect this doesn’t go down particularly well and there’s the moment where the core the legal court of the day the sanhedrin will grab stephen and this is this moment where we get our first introduction to who saul is and our first insight into his character when the members of the

sanhedrin heard this they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him this is acts chapter 7 verse 54. but stephen full of the holy spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God look he said I see heaven open and the son of man standing at the right hand of God at this they covered their ears and yelling at the tops of their voices they all rushed at him dragged him out of the city and began to stone him meanwhile the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named saul saul is involved in the murder in the death of this young man who was coming to the church and brought organization to it part of this seven group of leaders that have been appointed by the church in today’s legal system he may not be charged with first degree murder but he’s definitely involved in some way this is our first introduction to who paul is alongside those religious leaders who have said

we’re going to oppose this new thing this new movement of faith this recognition that Jesus is the messiah we’re going to do everything we can to stop it happening and the end of stephen’s story is just so compelling we have to read it while they were stoning him stephen prayed lord Jesus received my spirit and that he fell to his knees and cried out lord do not hold this sin against them and when he had said this he fell asleep there’s such a beautiful symmetry in steven’s story with Jesus story the same way that Jesus can in his moment of death say lord forgive them stephen will do the same thing this is the type of people that this new movement this christian faith is producing saul is against it along with the religious leaders and so when we start not chapter nine verse one and three this is the person that we’re talking about this person who has decided I’m against what is happening here meanwhile saul was still breathing

out murderous threats against the lord’s disciples he went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in damascus so that if he found any there who belonged to the way the way was the name that christianity was known as at this point whether men or women he might take them as prisoners to jerusalem think about this for a second is he at this point got the same mentality as the religious leaders that we’ve encountered in this series so far if you’ve got so far if you’ve got a long memory think back to when we had this incredible healing story a man who was born lame is healed and there’s an incredible crowd that gathers thousands join the church is paul similar to those religious leaders I don’t know if he is really at his heart similar them to them at all think about what saul is about to do he’s about to go from jerusalem to damascus this is a journey that would just take four or five days at least an arduous journey

paul is so committed to what he’s doing that he’s gonna make this journey of four or five hours comparing for a second to those religious leaders that we looked at in chapter 3 and chapter 4. this is their response to this incredible miracle what are we going to do with these men they asked everyone living in jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign and we cannot deny it but to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name this group of religious leaders they’re opposing christianity but they’re opposing it believing that miraculous things have happened they know that they’re opposing the work of God they have become so consumed by power so consumed myself they are no longer interested in knowing the truth they are simply concerned with what benefits them the most is that who paul is is that who saul is I don’t think that is who he is at all

I would suggest this is the difference between the two of them I think they the religious leaders are working primarily for themselves their own personal interests are different points they’ll say things like man if if we let this thing grow the romans are going to come and they’re going to take over like all the temple and everything we’re going to lose our position this is going to be bad for us financially it’s going to be bad for us in terms of our positions of power I don’t think that’s who saul is I think saul genuinely believes he is working for God I believe he’s a true believer he is what the old testament would have caught a zealot or someone living out of zeal there were plenty of stories in the jewish bible in the old testament where people gave prophetic addresses that they were called false prophets or something like that and they were killed and people celebrated the action there were plenty of moments in the history of judaism

where people rose up claiming to be the messiah and they were stoned to death and people celebrated the action this society is in so many ways very different from at society I believe paul believes he is absolutely in line with what God wants he believes that Jesus was a liar he believes that the people that were following him are liars and he believes it’s his duty to stop this thing as quickly as possible while those religious leaders are centered around this question what can I do for me what benefits me that isn’t saul’s question at all saul is completely devoted for what can I do for God he is a zealot he is a true believer he is going to chase this thing down and so committed is he that he’ll go from jerusalem to damascus he’ll make a four or five day journey just to make sure if there’s any of these followers anywhere we’re going to shut this thing down we’re going to bring an end to it and that interestingly makes him more

dangerous than the other guys that makes it more dangerous to the church than the other guys c.s lewis has this wonderful quote about tyranny what he says is this of all tyrannys a tyranny sincerely exercise for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive it would be better to live under rubber barons and than under omnipotent moral busybodies the robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep his cupidity may at some point be satiated but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience those religious leaders from chapter three chapter four at some point they may say something like wow we really need to get on board with what God is doing genuine miracles are happening life change is happening here we need to get involved we’ve been going about this the wrong way they may admit to the fact that their financial interests are driving them

they may admit to the fact that power is driving them they may change their minds they may have mercy but paul will show no mercy because paul believes he is on the side of God in this matter and it is going to take something spectacular to stop him one of the sad parts of the history of the church has been our involvement in things that that really we thought were the will of God and it would seem historically we were massively wronger there was one point where the crusades were celebrated widely in the church and talked about as a good and healthy thing regularly the armies of jerusalem when they went out to war would yell God wills it we are on the side of God as they went out to slaughter innocent women and children the church has a history just like paul of getting things wrong getting things mixed up and believing deeply we are we are on the side of God we are doing his will and that’s who paul is this is a

moment where the villain of the story will become a hero in the story this is a moment where a villain in the story will become a hero in the story for those of you that love movies you know occasionally you come across those characters where you’re kind of watching the movie and you’re like this this is a bad guy but I kind of like him I kind of feel like I I’m on his side and I want him to be on my side and then there’s the wonderful moment where he finally makes the switch from the dark side to the light side saul is basically a biblical darth vader he is this guy making that big switch and if that spoiled the end of star wars for you I have no apologies because it came out 40 years ago so if you haven’t seen it at this point I don’t want to tell you this is paul’s great switch moment the ultimate villain in the story is going to switch and become part of the hero narrative the guy who’s on the side of dark will switch to the side of
light so let’s go back and look at those first verses we looked at as he saw near damascus on his journey suddenly a light from heaven flashed around and he fell to the ground and heard a voice say saul saw why do you persecute me who are you lord saul asked I am Jesus who you are persecuting he replied now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do the men traveling the saul stood there speechless they heard the sound but did not see anyone saul got up from the ground but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing so they led him by the hand into damascus and for three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything the question I have for us is this why does saul get this special treatment as I touched on earlier attention point is I want that certainty and I know lots of other people that do too maybe you are one of those people maybe you have friends family members that are like I

could jump in on this Jesus thing if I could know for certain but they can’t and yet paul seems to get that why does paul get that one of the first jobs I ever worked I worked with a guy called danny who became a good friend and because I had a car and he didn’t I would regularly drop him home after work and we would sit sometimes for an hour two hours talking about faith and occasionally I would ask him and push him and just say what is it that stops you exploring faith is it simply that you know you don’t want to give up some of the things that you feel like you might have to give up if you jump into this Jesus journey or what’s the thing that holds you up and he looked at me and he said it’s just that I can’t believe I just can’t get there and he said if God is there I would love him love him to step in and just show me if he could show me I’d be fine why does paul get this kind of special treatment why does paul get certainty the simple

answer that the text will give us is this God needs him for a special task and the bible is okay in acknowledging that God needs him for a special task God is going to use this character to do something very specific and that’s a weird shift for this book acts that has emphasized the community is more important than the individual in this case when we read it on first reading there’s a bit of a switch it’s like no this guy is so essential I’m gonna I’m gonna break the normal patterns because this story is unusual even for acts there are not many stories in which someone has this kind of individual supernatural encounter that pulls them into the story in a particular way there’s these fun stories been going on all around the world I don’t know if you’ve missed these or caught hold of some of them but not long ago a guy was swimming off the coast of israel and he pulled this out of the ocean it’s a crusader sword from about a

thousand years ago and in itself this was just a fun little anecdote a guy found an old sword but almost at exactly the same time just a few weeks apart another guy was swimming off the coast of norway and pulled out a viking sword from the ocean and then at a similar time a young girl was swimming in a lake in cornwall in england the lake that apparently king arthur threw the legendary excalibur and she pulled a sword out of this deep lake and you get this feeling that some force in the universe is building some kind of team to accomplish some target or something like that that’s almost like a an avengers type feel to what are these people going to do with a newfound power and newfound swords the swords may not be much use now they look a little rusty but there is this like this field what’s going on here now of course there is no sort of power pulling people together with old swords to do anything in particular that I’m

aware of I could be wrong but in this case that’s exactly what is happening God is pulling someone into his story for a specific purpose in damascus there was a disciple named ananias the lord called to him in a vision ananias yes lord he answered I love just how normal this is to ananias I think I would be freaking out at this point the lord told him go to the house of judas on straight street and ask for a man named from tarsus named saul for he is praying in a vision he has seen a man named ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight lord ananias answered I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in jerusalem I love the dialogue there’s this moment where ananias is like yeah this isn’t the guy you won I I’ve heard about this guy are you aware Jesus that there’s some issues with him I think you should reconsider but the lord said to ananias go this man is

my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the gentiles and their kings and to the people of israel I will show him how much he must suffer for my name and I also love the fact that that’s the moment ananias is in on this plan it’s like oh yeah you’re gonna make this jerk suffer I can get on board let’s pull him into the story you do whatever you want the whole narrative here with saul is based around God has chosen him for a specific task and remember back to when we started with acts one of the things I said to you guys is this there is this surprise in acts this constant surprise for the early church will be this gentiles non-jewish people are included in this story they’re going to get pulled in and nobody expected that maybe they should have if they’ve read some of the texts in the old testament but nobody expected that and paul it seems will be hugely important in making that happen what we’ll see as acts unfolds is we’ll see that

the original 11 followers of Jesus will begin to go to the jewish people primarily and and paul and some of his followers will begin to go to the gentile communities it seems the wrong way around on the surface because paul is very very jewish he’s studied under famous jewish leaders it seems he would go to the jewish people and peter and some of those disciples very rough and ready on the fringes of judaism you think they would go to the gentiles and yet maybe God and his plan says you’re going to need to rely on me for this guys for whatever reason he has this distinct plan for paul and that is as much reason as we’re given for his special treatment as it were for his road to damascus appearance he gets this moment because God is going to have a plan for him but it doesn’t deal with the question why can’t we all have that why can’t we all have that kind of experience why can’t my friend danny have that certainty

that he says will lead him into faith why can’t you in your lowest moments have the certainty that there is a God present in the universe why can’t your friends your family members that ask you those questions why don’t we get certainty a few years ago I happen to see a cloud formation I don’t know if it translates to this big screen but I had this cloud formation outside my window and I took a picture because it kind of looked like a huge torso and head of a man standing there in the clouds and it sent me down this trail of imagining what would we do if God did appear in this spectacular way would it change everything for us the writer frederick beekner sketches out in his sort of imagination this idea of what it would look like for God to write I exist God in the sky or I am really here what would happen what would be the outworking and he said in the moment no doubt it would be spectacular people would fall to

their knees churches would become stadiums full of people and pastors would have the unusual experience of actually having people believe them when they talk of actually having people take them seriously outside of you know the small group of people sitting here of course that he imagines this transformation being spectacular lives might change completely people might live in different ways there would be cries of repentance of change but then he says what would happen after a month or two months or a year what would happen then he said someone probably a child would ask the very perceptive question so what what does that mean why does it matter I would suggest that the question you and I ask in those moments the question that my friend danny was asking the question that people we know are asking isn’t really is the regard somewhere in the universe that piece of information is not particularly

unique or original doesn’t really matter all that much the question we would want an answer to is does that God in the universe care about me is he involved and present with me does he have any interest in me as an individual person that at its core is more of the question and no road to damascus experience can give you that knowledge I would suggest christianity is not a belief that God exists it is the belief that God has acted in the world through Jesus and that that action was done for us and it transforms us think about this experience paul has for a second does this experience convince him God exists no he was already a hundred percent God convinced that God existed that was a certainty for someone like paul he had believed this all of his life he had been ingrained to believe that the God of israel was the God of the universe as well he has no particular doubts about just the existence of God what this transformation

experience does is it pulls paul into a story that assures him he is loved and he can be a different person that’s what happens to him soul is transformed by knowledge that he is loved by God think about how he’ll unpack his own stories in letters that he’ll write to churches this is a letter to a church in a place called galatia I have been crucified with christ and I no longer live but christ lives in me the love life I live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me who loved me and gave himself for me I do not set aside the grace of God for if righteousness could be gained through the law christ died for nothing the life I live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me paul is transformed when he understands that life with God is a relationship not just a piece of information he’s transformed by knowledge that he is loved by God and by a continuing

partnership with him as he unpacks what life has looked like for him since this moment later in his life he says not that I have already obtained all this or have already arrived at my goal but I press on to take hold of that for which christ Jesus took hold of me to take hold of that for which christ Jesus took hold of me brothers and sisters I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it but one thing I do forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in christ Jesus I press on to take hold of that for which christ Jesus took hold of me as we read his road to damascus experience we are seeing this moment where he believes God took hold of him and now in return he spends the rest of his life trying to take hold of everything for which God took hold of him we are seeing paul transformed not by this new knowledge that God

exists by this awakening to God’s presence in the world the idea that God is present with him loves him particularly owns him and that he has acted in the world and that changes everything so here’s the good news you may not have had a road to damascus experience and you may never have one you may never have that bright shining light that tells you God exists but if you have walked into relationship with Jesus if you are becoming aware of the fact that he loves you if you are seeing what it is to be transformed by him the details are different but your transformation story is the same the details are different but your transformation story is the same over the course of his life paul never once celebrates the fact that God appeared to him in this supernatural way never once celebrates the moment of a flash of light never celebrates the fact that he was blind for a while and then begins to be able to see again what he does

celebrate is this he celebrates the fact that the God of the universe loves him knows him and owns him and that the God of the universe will partner with him you won’t experience the road to damascus lights but you can experience the transformation that follows and that that is what the new testament celebrates let’s continue acts chapter 9 verse 19 saul spent several days with the disciples in damascus at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the son of God all those who were who heard him were astonished and asked isn’t he the man who raised havoc in jerusalem amongst those who call on this name and hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests yet saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the jews living in damascus by proving that Jesus is the messiah there is this moment where paul who has this earthly mission that he feels is so important to stop what he sees happening

that moment there is this moment in which a heavenly calling triumphs over early mission paul is called and commissioned to do something that is what this story is about it’s about a man who believes fundamentally he is doing stuff for God and there is this moment where he is now invited to do things with God and so what do we learn from that I don’t know which person or people in the story you identify with or at which point of their journey maybe you identify with the jewish leaders from chapter three chapter four maybe you you would say this fundamentally describes my life it is centered around what I can do for me and maybe you’ve made a journey from that maybe you would say that your life is centered around what I can do for God and yet both of them miss this move that paul makes paul is centered around doing things for God and yet he’s invited to do things with God paul lives his life doing things for God

and yet he’s wildly unso wildly incorrect about what God is actually calling him to do his moment of transformation is the moment where he realized he’s missed this new story his moment of transformation happens when he jumps in on this new story and says I’m going to live into that story to follow Jesus is to be able to pray a prayer that looks like this our father in heaven hallowed be your name your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven that moment of praying into your kingdom come is as we’ve talked about this moment of surrendering our own kingdoms and making decisions that live in the consequences of that how can I help you understand this just a little bit I sometimes think our mentality is a little bit like the state of texas so if you don’t know flags this is fun with flags with alex or something like that this is the flag of texas and there’s this rumor about this particular flag because if you know

people from texas I’m sure we’ve got some here they’re very passionate about being from texas it’s very important to them and the rumor behind this flag is this this is the only flag of the 50 state flags that can fly at the same level as the flag of the united states because texas was a nation before it joined the union so it has that privilege you can fly it higher than you can fly other state flags at least that’s the belief but in actual fact it’s a completely it’s a rumor it’s it’s completely untrue in actual fact any flag of any state can fly at the same height as the flag of the united states but the flag of the united states always has to take precedence whether it’s texas or another state when you look at flags in this country at least when you look at which flag is highest and to the left it will always be the u.s flag because it is the flag of preeminence and no other flag can sit at the same level as it I think one of our great struggles in following

Jesus is we have other flags that we long to fly in place of that flag we long to put other flags in precedence over that it could be our politics it could be our sexuality it could be our ethnic background it could be a national heritage it could be any of those things and yet we find ways for those flags to find precedence in our life and yet the prayer that Jesus followers were taught to pray your kingdom come your will be done is to surrender those flags to the one flag that takes precedence that flag of following Jesus that’s the only flag that can sit in that place for a true follower of Jesus I would suggest that this prayer that we are taught to pray that paul will soon learn as a new follower of Jesus is this prayer to say God how can I participate in your kingdom not for your kingdom but with you in your kingdom that’s the move that paul can make and the invitation that we see here is this invitation to say not what can I do for God but

what can I do with God a question for you and for I think this week is how is God calling you or inviting you to partner with him we see with paul what happens to a man who is so convinced he’s doing things for God and yet he’s wildly wrong in terms of what God is doing in the world I wonder whether you and I fall into the same trap at different points what is it that is happening in your life that God is inviting you to partner with is it something a decision that you’re making around a company or a business is it a job decision that you’re about to make are you asking are you praying about a family issue is it a friendship relational issue it could be anywhere on that spectrum and yet when we get into the mindset of I’m going to do things for God I’m just going to act I think we end up in the wrong direction more often than not I sit here regularly when you guys aren’t here because I get to sit and not talk for a while and I’ll sit in this space

and I just spend some time just asking Jesus questions and just trying to give him space to talk to me and one time as I sat here one of the questions or one of the things that I heard was this are you doing this or are we doing this are you doing this or are we doing this there is one it’s one thing to say I’m gonna actively try and do something good for God and for his kingdom it seems it’s a completely different thing to say God how might I do something with you this week this month this year as you guys live your lives this week as I live my life this week the challenge is to say God how are you calling me to partner with you now what can I do for you but how might your kingdom come if we partner together paul is a man who all his life has done things for God his big transformation his big shift is to move into relationship with God and to live life with him in partnership transformation happens when we become aware of God’s distinct love

for us and his desire to partner with us I’m going to invite the worship team up on stage let’s pray

Signs from God | The Book of Acts (Part 8)2022-02-22T14:59:55-07:00

You Have Something to Offer | The Book of Acts (Part 7)

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good morning friends how you doing today my name is alex I’m one of the pastors here if you’re visiting we’re super glad you’re visiting and we hope you get to say hi uh later we’re in a series on acts I’m going to read a passage in a second this week was an interesting week for the walton family because we ended up with a child in er and if you’re thinking hey wait these are the notes from last week because that happened last week which it did it happened again this week so we were like wow there’s some kind of like thing going on with the house or something gets turned against us for looking after it less well than the former owners did because just that’s how we roll um and and unfortunately the good news is we now no longer have any children left to get sick like they’re all being sick and hopefully now that means that’s the end of it the er visits are done we’ve had three in like the last two months um so I could do it no more

thank you uh so we’re in the series on acts this is chapter six when do we read it you might say why pick this passage on the surface it seems like a really kind of boring administrative passage it’s not one that jumps out at the page here we go in those days when the number of disciples was increasing the hellenistic jews I’ll explain that in a little while among them complained against the hebraic jews I’ll explain that in a little while because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food so the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables brothers and sisters choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom we will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word this propo please the whole group they chose stephen a

man full of faith in the holy spirit also philip prochorus nikana timon peremanus and nicholas from antioch convert to judaism they presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid their hands on them so the word of God spread the number of disciples in jerusalem increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith let us pray together God as we open this passage may you speak to your people well on all sorts of different points in a journey some of us would say you are a mystery and we’re not even sure what it looks like to walk with you some of us would say you are still a mystery even though we’re trying to walk with you wherever we are on that journey God would you nudge us along would you speak to us as a community those that call south home as individuals would we have the bravery to say God speak even when that might be painful and ask difficult things of us so as we wrestle with

this text speak to us oh man okay so in a book a series on this book called acts acts is written by a guy called luke very intelligent guy probably a doctor of some kind he has researched the story of Jesus very closely and he’s written a book that he called luke or at least we call luke he probably didn’t call it luke that’s nowhere in the text this book luke could be called luke part one and then we have acts which could reasonably be called luke part two the first is what Jesus did the second is what his followers did but those followers would say they only do what they do and acts is full of miraculous spectacular supernatural events they only do what they do because it is a partnership God and man this isn’t about them doing the things this is about them doing the things that God inspires them to do it is a partnership and so we’ve wrestled with some parts of these texts last week we read a passage in acts chapter 4 that seems

positively idyllic so I asked you as a community or as individuals what do you think of when you hear the word idyllic maybe it’s pictures like this from the amalfi coast this place that I’ve longed to go to for years maybe it’s a place maybe it’s like this house of elrond half elven in the lord of the rings a house that was said to be good whether you liked reading or telling stories or just sitting in the eating or maybe a mixture of all three just to be there was restful and peaceful maybe it’s the picture of a community that you’ve either known or still no we see these communities on television that are probably a little bit too idyllic a little bit too good to be true six impossibly good looking people living together in deep friendship it just doesn’t seem real does it and yet that’s the presentation we get on tv all the time these types of things are normal and so wherever you’ve seen that kind of idyllic sort of community this is what we

see in acts chapter four with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the lord Jesus and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them think about that for a second wherever you are on the faith journey however you feel about Jesus however you feel about the divine you might say this I would love to live in a place where there were no hungry people I would love to see that kind of provision that itself seems kind of compelling and from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles fee and it was distributed to anyone who had need that is a kind of community that we might say I can get on board with that that feels like that’s how the world should operate surely this community to use a delightful word is delightful it’s this picture of what we would long for a

community to be but last week we wrestled with this question what happens when delightful becomes frightful what happens when there’s that moment of shift think about every sort of horror or thriller movie you may have seen maybe you don’t watch them but maybe you have seen some and think about that moment at the start of jaws that starts with a midnight swim and everything just seems perfect and then there’s the first couple of notes of that sound that we all know now and we know that something is about to happen and the movie turns very dark from that moment it’s also solely the reason my wife won’t go swimming in the ocean just that movie was enough to finish her desire to swim off there’s that moment of switch from this is nice this is innocuous or even perfect idyllic delightful and then there’s the switch in movies to something different and we see the potential for this switch in the passage we looked at last

week in acts chapter five there was this moment of tension in the community in amongst generosity two people appear that are trying to manipulate the community and there’s this moment of supernatural judgment where we read that they dropped dead in the middle of a service or gathering not unlike this and you may say I’m not sure I can believe in those kind of things but the text just takes it and said no this happened doesn’t say it happened all the time doesn’t try and defend the supernaturalness of it just says in this moment this community was at risk and it seems that God stepped in and acted to protect it in acts chapter 5 we see God steps in to protect this new community this community is pure that is pure and beautiful it is protected in this one moment of divine action and we’re left with a question is that how it’s always going to work is it always going to have these moments where a God who is invisible

and mysterious becomes an agent in the world and actively acts to stop something happening or to protect the community we’re left waiting to see and and we’re gonna skip most of chapter five sadly but I’m gonna drop in on just one bit because I think it just highlights what it is to wait to see what God is doing to ask good questions whether you’re a person of faith or a person of no faith whatsoever this is a character called gamaliel who just appears very briefly a pharisee who usually get a bad rep usually presented as somewhat of the bad guys a pharisee named gamaliel is a teacher of the law who was honored by all the people he stood up in the sanhedrin and ordered that the men the apostles that have been arrested these early followers of Jesus be put outside for a little while then he addressed the sanhedrin men of israel consider carefully what you intend to do to these men I advise you leave these men alone let them go

for if their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail but if it is from God you will not be able to stop these men you will only find yourselves fighting against God thus this moment where a religious leader says I’m just waiting to see he’s hopeful maybe even expectant that God will do a new thing in this first century community hasn’t decided yet but whereas we see some of the other religious leaders have already decided we don’t want change we want everything to stay as it is this guy’s like I want to see and if God is behind it I am ready to jump on board and if he’s not the thing is going to disappear anyway and 2 000 years later this church worldwide is still functioning still there still existing there’s this moment where gamaliel paints this picture of what it is to ask a good question is God in this in this new thing is he working in some way and so now we move to chapter six and we get to ask the question again what

happens when delightful becomes frightful what happens when there’s this potential moment where a community is damaged where it becomes fractured where it’s not what it’s supposed to be will God act supernaturally to protect it again or will something different take place acts chapter 6 verse 1 in those days when the number of disciples was increasing the hellenistic jews among them complained against the hebraic jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food remember we just said this community is a place where everybody has enough nobody goes without and now there are some people that are going without there’s a group called the hellenistic jews a group called the hebraic jews so helpful in understanding this the hebraic jews primarily a group of jewish people that lived in jerusalem that stayed in jerusalem and the surrounding areas they were the locals if you like and then

another group the hellenistic jews that for the most part came from all over the place for those of you that have been traveling this act series for a while you remember maybe back in chapter two it says all of these different people speaking different languages from all over the place have gathered together and there’s this moment where the church grows dramatically by about 3 000 people we’re told people had come from arabia people had come from as far away as rome which was days and days of journey they’d gathered together and had this moment where something spectacular had happened and they’d just stayed that stayed in this community but they are different maybe the best way to understand this idea of diaspora what it is to move away from your own culture and homeland is to think about the beautiful state of colorado just as a survey how many of you guys are natives in the house today how many

natives do we have we got maybe oh man I’m going to say when I was hiring the first service I’m saying that’s like four percent that’s a very accurate number I have no no reason for believing it’s four percent most of you and myself we come from out of state we are not locals to this area so we move to colorado and what happens changes begin to take place just inherent to being in this area suddenly people do ridiculous things like riding two-wheel devices up mountains this is a very bad picture of me at the front in the white shirt you put the slowest guy at the front so you know how to keep pace and so this is me adventuring into the world of mountain biking I I was miserable for the entire time except when we were going downhill which I discovered was less time than we spent going uphill so just in terms of the odds I’m like man the odds are not in my favor in this respect most of it misery occasional moments of joy

but I got through it and and so you move to colorado and you do things like this you suddenly start waking up at five o’clock in the morning and you invite me for breakfast at six o’clock in the morning looking at you tom walker and and and I never want to get breakfast at six o’clock in the morning just so you know uh I like to get breakfast between eight and ten with the emphasis on ten that’s just my clock uh so something changes right as you move to a different place now that’s colorado you’ve moved from maybe a different state in america the change is perhaps significant but perhaps incidental you go back to those places you come from and you annoy your family or friends by telling them about 300 days of sunshine and how beautiful the mountains are in the summer and the winter and the fall and the spring there’s a change but it’s not it’s not life-changing think about what diaspora looks like moving from a different nation

and some of you have done that think about what it is for large numbers of italians to move to america over the past couple of hundred years think about what it is for large numbers of indian populations to move to britain over the last couple of hundred years think about what that looks like and the changes that take place you put into a completely different culture and it begins to change you and and maybe you don’t change in a huge amount but your kids start to change more and their kids change even more to the point that maybe two three generations in you go back and you don’t even speak the same language maybe it’s just a secondary or tertiary language now the old ways the different culture is now almost foreign to you you are shaped as much by the culture you are in as the as much as the culture you are from and think what it is for some of these first century early followers of Jesus that we’ve just read about to leave

jerusalem maybe two three generations of family ago and now to be in a place like rome the center of the world right now this place that’s culturally just miles ahead of jerusalem and then what it is to come back to jerusalem there’s potential that there is huge difference now and yet for these group labeled the hebraic jews well to them they are the faithful they’re the ones that stayed they didn’t leave with everybody else they stayed in the home homeland even when things were bad they stayed and so this is the tension that we’re reading about this is entirely now about ethnicity this is two groups of people that don’t see eye to eye they have the same religion they have made the same move to follow Jesus but in so many ways they are now so so different and we see what it is for one group that has power that is in its own locale its own safe space they are the the ones in residence to mistreat this whole group that sits on the

fringes this conversation is entirely about power entirely about ethnicity and yet in amongst this a group of Jesus followers are those brave enough to remain whilst also speaking truth to a community falling short of the way of Jesus these early followers of Jesus have seen how he lives in the world they have seen how he treats those on the margins and they are willing to say this isn’t how it’s supposed to work friends Jesus was incredible in providing space for those that didn’t belong that didn’t fit in pulling them into the center and this group of people are brave enough to stand up and say this isn’t operating the way that Jesus would have it operate this group that does not have power speaks this truth to those that do have power what I love about them specifically is this word remain would they be entitled to just leave absolutely would they be titled to say the people that what you’re supposed to be caring for the widows

the orphans when they’re in our group you don’t care about them when they’re in your group you care we’re done this thing clearly isn’t what it was professed to be this is falling short of who Jesus was and and there’s every potential that they say no we’re out but they remain they are willing to fight for this community they believe in this community but a huge risk to themselves they stand up and say this community is not functioning as it’s supposed to function and maybe you’ve experienced that at some point in your in your life maybe you’re a church person who has been hurt by a church community and it still resonates somewhere in the back it still gives you those moments of wow that was painful definitely wasn’t all it was supposed to be and maybe you tried to speak up tried to voice the need tried to voice the way that the community was failing and you weren’t listened to maybe you’ve done it in a group of friends

maybe you’ve done it in a family maybe you’ve experienced what it is to be in a community and say this isn’t functioning as a real community is supposed to function and that’s difficult when it’s family and friends but it’s potentially even more heartbreaking when it’s a church because in a church it feels like we should all be on the same page right this thing is supposed to operate different this thing is supposed to reflect who Jesus was and we see Jesus as though that the one who brings in the outsider who protects the vulnerable and what is it to be in a church community and say I didn’t see that happen all I saw was brokenness all I saw was damage and yet at the same time look at the next passage it’s fascinating right so the 12 gathered all the disciples together the truth is these people leading the community it seems weren’t even aware

of it they didn’t even know they designed this thing or helped design this thing to to be beautiful to be wonderful and how many church leaders have I heard say that we helped create this thing because it was supposed to give life it was supposed to be different it was supposed to not be painful and yet it fell short because we’re human and were broken it seems like for these earliest followers of Jesus the thing was supposed to be functioning and they didn’t know that it wasn’t functioning and it took people to come to them and say this is a thing that we need to fix this is a thing that you need to address seems at the heart these are guys that want this thing to function well and in this moment they’re left with a choice there’s a couple of questions this church has to answer is it in the business of social justice or not now depending

on your political persuasion the word social justice may give you a little bit of I don’t know if I like that word it has different connotations I’m not really interested in the politics of it I’m asking the question from the beginning from its essence was the church interested in caring for those that could not care for themselves was it interested or was it not interesting this is the moment they have to decide that do we pursue these things or do we just let it be what it will be do we just leave people to provide for themselves or is the church an instrument of care and then second question they have to answer is this and if it is who makes that happen who does the stuff is it these 12 guys that we see mentioned here did they make everything work does everything tick around them in essence in the the first century world they are the paid staff they are the ones that are employed they are the ones that are there 40 to 50 to 60 hours a

week and do they make it happen is that how church works best when paid people do things what do you think I don’t know well maybe I do I’m going to change track for a second I’m going to ask you a question that might seem that it’s unrelated but it’s deeply related think about your home life for a second what do you if you’re a homeowner do you choose to outsource what do you take and say I don’t want to do that thing depending on your skill set depending on who you are there’s a whole bunch of different answers I have one friend who was in the first service who very confidently told me my job is to earn as much money as I can so I have to do nothing in the house so I can pay somebody else to do everything and some of you will be like yes I am that person and unashamed about it some of you are so skilled and so knowledgeable you can do everything my father is that person I’m sure he’s somewhere deeply

embarrassed about his son who has no discernible skills in manual labor but he can fix anything he just has that ability where he picked the knowledge up I don’t know because he didn’t even have youtube but somewhere he got that knowledge somewhere he has made this thing work depending on who you are you may say I do some stuff I do know stuff you may dislike what you have outsourced you may love what you have outsourced you may live the dream of my friend who says one day I will do nothing in the house and it will be wonderful if you are looking for advice apparently this is what I’ve been told the first thing you should outsource when you have enough money is your lawn care apparently it’s if you’re not good at it it takes you a long time and you do it very badly and you can pay someone a moderate amount of money to come in and do all of it for you but regardless we make decisions about our home on some kind of

equation I would say we are used to equation based decisions on outsourcing in the home and it looks something like this whether you realize you’re processing it like this or not somewhere you’re asking how long is this going to take and that obviously is determined by how good you are how skilled you are and what kind of task you’re doing so you kind of measure that you say how long will this take me and then you times that by well how much is my time worth what else could I do with this time would that be more valuable could I earn more money could I build my business in that time could I do any of those things and then maybe you ask yourself well what can I afford as well like what makes sense for us financially and all of that as you multiply it up you then divide it by what is my interest in this task do I like doing it do I not like doing it I tried finishing a basement in a house we had in new york and it took me about three

months because I’m terrible I just watched youtube videos to survive and then the basement flooded and the insurance paid to put a brand new basement in which was win-win I felt for everyone except potentially the insurance company we do these sums in our head and say what do we take and what don’t we want to do anymore what do we want somebody else to do and society is set up to push many of us constantly in that direction I was just cleaning out the hot tub that we inherited and I didn’t think it needed needed cleaning and then I looked and it definitely did some of you that looks terrifying too it’s very unclean um definitely mold growing in different places as I watched this youtube video I was constantly told by the person doing the video if you don’t want to do this you can pay us to do it for you they must have said it five or six times if you don’t want to do this someone can do it for you just pay us a fee we’ll

come clean it we will take care of it we are constantly pushed in this direction of outsourcing and that my friends is fine except in a Jesus community outsourcing which works so well in so many arenas of life is toxic in a Jesus community if our model of Jesus center communities we can just pay more people to do stuff then ultimately the thing doesn’t look like the thing it was created to be if this axe community wrestles with this to the point where they say do you know what we’re just gonna take those apostles those first 12 guys who are somewhat paid at this point and they’re just going to do everything and we’re going to do nothing then the thing isn’t what it’s supposed to be I sketched out for you a couple of weeks ago these five things that I think make a Jesus centered community thrive that the community is supposed to be about hospitality who will you invite in it’s supposed to be about that connection piece it’s supposed

to be about solidarity you should be lifting people up I should be helping lift people up it’s supposed to be about mutuality you get to play a part it’s not all done for you it’s not all done for me it’s about humility who can you listen to how can you learn from somebody else and and it’s about generosity what can you bring those five principles all matter in acts and they all matter for south and at any church today and yet there is a tension between principle three and principle five you may not be aware its attention but it’s lurked in the church world for years we have said that generosity giving money is an excuse to not do stuff and you can see this all over the world all over the western world in how our church budgets operate we just say how do we show we’re interested in something well we just give more money to it we have a missions budget and we’ll give more and more stuff an outreach budget and we’ll give more

and more money and yet that can mean that less and less people actually get involved in doing it we say we’ll hire more and more staff and I love our staff and want them all to stay and I also like you to keep paying me if you don’t mind as well but there is this tension between hiring more and more stuff and so there’s less and less room for volunteers to operate and many of you that have been in the church world for a while just think about how that has worked you may have seen the ways that at one point we had a team of volunteers that would clean the toilets after the service and slowly over time you move to a system where you pay people to come in and clean the toilets we constantly learn to outsource what our church does and I’m not saying that that’s all negative but I’m saying it’s definitely a tension to be managed if we get to a point where any of us get to say you know what I give some money to the church so I don’t

need to serve in the church we may be missing out on something yes giving is important and steve just came up I don’t want to negate what he just said about talking about the importance of a giving community and yet giving can’t come at the expense of that mutuality if we learn just to outsource more and more stuff to pay more and more people to do things the cost of us actually been involved I don’t know if this community represents the acts community very well at all let’s see how this community deals with this struggle where something needs to be done and they could just leave it to those early followers of Jesus or they could find a better way so the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables you could have a discussion about how derogatory that weight on tables feels on one hand in the first century people didn’t love

service you had servants to serve you didn’t do it yourself that could be a somewhat demeaning role and yet on the other hand they had Jesus as a model and Jesus was constantly taking a position of a servant whether it’s derogatory or not it continues brothers and sisters choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom we will turn this responsibility to over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word when given a choice do we the paid people just keep doing more stuff or do we find other ways to get other people involved this community says there is something for more people to do here we are going to pull more people into what God is doing and they pick specific people people known to be the full of the spirit if that language is unfamiliar to you you might say people that are in tune with what God is doing and then people that have this characteristic

wisdom as well so you’re familiar with wisdom you may even be familiar with the greek word wisdom it’s actually one of the fairly well-known ones in the original language it would use the word sophia but sophia comes from this other route that really kind of means clarity you might say that they choose people that see things clearly there are these apostles these first 12 guys that are maybe the visionaries they’re maybe the ones doing the teaching the praying all of those big picture things and and yet they pull in these people that see clearly and to understand how that operates I’d like to show you a picture a picture that will give some of you a little bit of sort of ocd this is my garage it’s chaos I don’t even know what’s going on there there’s cupboards that are just wide open there’s the only thing that I care about clearly is the ski stuff

because that’s well organized at the back but everything else is just a hive a mess there is a white sofa with bikes leaning up against it which doesn’t seem like a recipe for success so there is my garage and then there is other people’s garage there is my garage and my neighbor’s garage there is my garage and maybe your garage there is these two things and one is not like the other thing right they don’t look the same and I just don’t operate in a way that enables me to make my thing look like this thing it just doesn’t work for me and yet some of you do you know where your passports are and you always have jumper cables ready to go and you’re that person that in a parking lot will say oh I can definitely help you and I’m the person that says I would love to help you but my jumper cables I don’t even know where they are and so different skill sets right and yet it seems like these early followers of Jesus pull in people who can do this

to help alongside people who can do this they pull in people who can do this alongside people who can do this they pull in people that help manage the chaos one of the first ministry jobs I ever had I had an assistant who came alongside me and she spoke very very much spoke truth to me truth that I didn’t particularly want to hear she said this to me every time you talk about admin you talk about it in a derogatory way you talk about it as though it doesn’t matter that we could live without it and she said what I think is this you say things like that because you’re not good at it and if it’s important you think you have to be good at it and then she said but the reason that we get to function well is because I do what I do well and that lets you do what you do well and the whole system thrives and it was a painful truth to hear and she was definitely right I mean she was wrong about everything else but she was definitely right about this thing

there was this learning curve of I actually am not designed to do everything because when I do things it looks like this and other people take this and turn it into this some of you are like I’d love to come and clean your garage for you and you can if you want I have no problem with that any volunteers no no takers done it I was really expecting that to work there is a need for more of this and that’s what these seven guys come in and do they find a role to play that the original 12 cannot it seems do they do not have the capacity and perhaps don’t have the skill set anyway it seems that early on this church realized that it worked best when there were lots of people doing lots of different roles and yet we so often push people out onto the peripheries and concentrate everything in just a few people who become increasingly overworked and increasingly overstressed this is also affected by how we work with age and so some of you

would say I don’t know that the church has a role for me anymore because I’m over a certain number perhaps that number is 60 and and yet we’ve kind of adopted this society where we’ve said something in many places like this just at the time where you have the most wisdom the most free time and the most money we’re going to send you off to florida or something like that and you’ll live there or arizona or wherever or go up to a mountain place and stay there just at the time when actually the church needs you the most this church thing has never supposed it’s never ideally been about age it’s always been about having space for everybody to get involved whether they are these people or these people this early church and asking this question are we in the business of social justice says emphatically yes but not just by paying people to take care of it and let me say this one of the things I love about south is the way that

we tap into some of these things to see 40 or so of you at a training on how to help care for afghan refugees just warmed my soul and I’m so grateful for the team and jody dan and others that helped put that together um hannah everybody I mean I could mention names but I just I just ran out of names I there’s so many people involved I loved seeing 200 people here to talk about homelessness this week there is just something about south that says we long to do those things but there is always room for more to get involved and you have gifts that are needed this isn’t about staff this is about community doing it together this proposal pleased the whole group they chose stephen a man full of faith and of the holy spirit and also philip prochorus nikana and timon and paraminus and nicholas of antioch convert to judaism they presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid their hands on them and then there’s

this delightful little connecting word so that just really ties those two clauses together the church grew because it was structured like this it seems like when the church is operating as it should it becomes compelling to the world around it including to this little group here the priests finally this is this moment where these older jewish religious leaders start to jump in on mass they suddenly start to say there is something about this community that makes sense think about it from their perspective for a second this is an old passage in deuteronomy and maybe they grew up reading this if anyone is poor among you for your fellow israelites in any of the towns of the land that the lord your God is giving you do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards them rather be open-handed and freely lend them whatever they need generously give to them and do so without a grudging heart then because of this the lord your God will

bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to they may have read or they would have read passages like this and yet every single prophet in the old testament wrestled with the community isn’t what it should be spoke directly to those in parents said you need to fix this so imagine what it felt like for a priest to see a community that said you know what they’re doing it they’re making it happen there are no hungry people and when problems arise they deal with it well for this group of priests this moment was like this is the community we’ve been promised and this is the moment they jump in when the church functions as it should be it was compelling in the first century and I would suggest is still compelling in the 21st century and this works because some chose to wait at tables whether that was demeaning or not they chose to wait at tables and we don’t have time to pick out all the stories that come out of these

seven but there is one story that I’d love to look at just for a little while one character mentioned called philip who begins waiting on a table begins in this position that could be seen as demeaning and then goes on to do this now an angel of the lord said to philip go south to the road the desert road that goes down from jerusalem to gaza so he started out and on his way he met an ethiopian eunuch an important official in charge of all the treasury of the kandaki if you don’t have a definition for eunuch I’m just going to leave you to work google and the internet machine and all those things and and you can get one this man had gone to jerusalem to worship and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of isaiah the prophet this man had gone to jerusalem to worship this man had driven in a chariot hundreds of miles to worship but how had he been received there what had happened when he got there

there’s a passage back in deuteronomy that would have been important to the religious leaders that says this no one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the lord there’s every potential that this man drove hundreds of miles only to be rejected only to be told he didn’t fit only to be told he didn’t belong then philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading isaiah the prophet do you understand what you are reading philip asked how can I he said unless someone explains it to me so he invited philip to come up and sit with him this is the passage of scripture the eunuch was reading he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before it shear as his silence so he did not open his mouth in his humiliation he was deprived of justice who can speak of his descendants for his life was taken from the earth the eunuch asked philip tell me please who is the prophet talking about himself

or someone else then philip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus what is that good news is it that you go to heaven when you die maybe yes not just that is it that you get to have your sins forgiven yes it is but not just that what is that good news for this eunuch it says that philip starts in isaiah 53 this passage he reads and then starting from there he began to explain all the rest of the scriptures and I would love to believe that in his providence God had him start with isaiah 53 and continue reading because as you start with isaiah 53 you keep reading and you come across this passage in isaiah 56 let no foreigner who has joined himself to the lord say the lord will utterly exclude me from his people and let the eunuch not say I am but a dry tree for this is what the lord says to the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths who choose what pleases me who hold fast to my covenant I will give them

in my house and within my wars a memorial and a name better than that of sons and daughters I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off I would love to believe that philip in his journey with this man led him to believe that not just he was promised heaven when he died or that he could have his sins forgiven but also that he who was an outsider was included that he was on the margins was brought in close this moment in acts chapter 6 is a moment where the church says are we interested in social justice or not are we interested in those that are on the margins or not or is this just about gathering together and feeling good as we sing songs there is this moment where they wrestle with this question and people like philly who start off waiting on tables end up doing things like this as God moves them philip changes this man’s narrative out of nowhere this man’s life will be different and then there’s this joyful

moment where it says as they traveled along the road they came to some water and the eunuch said look here is water what can stand in the way of me being baptized he jumps into this new community and we are doing a baptism service on november 14th if you would like to be baptized and you haven’t been we would love to baptize you you can contact dan who deals with all things in that manner at dan at southfellowship.org he would love to help with the administration of that task because dan is very administrative and he gave orders to stop the chariot then both philip and the eunuch went down into the water and philip baptized him and when they came up out of the water the spirit of the lord suddenly took philip away and the eunuch did not see him again but went on his way rejoicing this man doesn’t stay there on the desert road he goes back to his communities and this Jesus message begins to spread all over

the place as people like philip wait on tables and become obedient to what God is calling them to do this community spreads because some chose to wait at tables but they didn’t stop there I don’t know where you serve and how you feel called to serve I don’t know if it’s become a point of tension that you don’t feel like it fits anymore I don’t even know what you’re supposed to do but I know if south is your home you’re made to do something you’re made to bring what gifts you have and use them in this community just as I am as this axe community wrestles with this idea of is it just the paid people or is it everybody their definitive answer was oh no this thing is about everybody because it can’t be done by me and staff alone this thing is too big and the moment it becomes outsourced just to us it loses its life it’s no longer the thing that it was made to be wherever you are in that journey of figuring out serving it may be that waiting on

tables doesn’t feel like what you’re made to do eventually and philip went on to do some things that were spectacular and incredible that didn’t look like waiting on tables but who knows what this preparation period looks like I remember the first time I was invited to join a small group being mentored by a pastor and we would gather together every week and every week he would say to me alex make tea for everybody ken doesn’t really work in this culture but in england that’s a big deal that’s like the servant’s job you go and you make the tea and that every week was my task and there were moments where I’m like I feel God you’re calling me to do something else why am I doing this right now somewhere in that act of service God was preparing me for what I was going to do it didn’t start here it started somewhere else I don’t know what you are doing right now or how it feels but I do know that you are made to do

something and there is so much to do so while you are waiting well you are unsure I would suggest this piece of advice while you’re waiting do what waiters do while you’re waiting do what waiters do they serve they serve I would love you to find whatever your place is in south and I believe we’ll be a richer community when we find that together let’s pray God as we uh wrestle with what a healthy community looks like thank you for so many people that play so many different roles in south thank you that this isn’t a church just built on paid people and yet we just like everyone else will wrestle with what do we what do we outsource what is the to do what what do we find paid people to what roles do we find paid people for what roles do we use volunteers for there’s so much in that and there’s so many people that give their time so generously to south so often and I’m so thankful we are that type of community and yet I know

that in a community this size there are those that are like I kind of feel at this point I’m a little bit sad on the sidelines maybe that’s a short season where that’s right but ultimately I feel like I believe I see that you call us to serve you call us to be involved as we wrestle with what our individual role is would you speak and give wisdom amen

You Have Something to Offer | The Book of Acts (Part 7)2022-02-22T14:55:16-07:00

Ananias and Sapphira | The Book of Acts (Part 6)

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good morning friends how you doing today resounding I love it my name is alex I’m one of the pastors here my bible has finally got to that point where it’s losing important pages um and I was going to give you some kind of like you know overly spiritual thing like see a bible that’s falling apart and there’s a christian that isn’t or something like that but I well I did it anyway but uh I will yeah hopefully purchase a new one we’re gonna read in a second from acts chapter five man we had a a weekend in the walton household uh we had one of those moments where one of our kids I got got kind of sick we uh had little gigi there she she suddenly her breathing got really labored and had one of those parental panic moments where I dashed her off to the hospital because she just wasn’t really responding to me and what was amazing to me was we live in this incredible place where there’s a hospital right down the road that you can get to in

four minutes and that is a joy and what amazed me in this moment as well as the resilience of a child that gave her one of these breathing things and she went from not really responding to me me struggling to get her to answer to eating popsicles with like a joy that was unheard unseen before in her she’s like within seconds um so we were thankful but it was one of those moments like wow life is stressful and life with kids is even more stressful so if you are a stressed parent stressed grandparent if you are a grieving parent if you are many of those things man my thoughts and prayers are with you today because I needed them this weekend acts chapter 5 is what we’re going to jump into we’ve been following this community that’s developing and one of the fascinating things about this book axis is yes on one hand it’s the apostles that are doing these incredible things but not really through their own power at all

they are doing it because they are empowered by this spirit but another thing that I find just compelling about this acts community is is this they look like Jesus Jesus lived in a particular way taught particular things he had a way of living in the world that was different as he sketched out what his mission would be he said things like I have come for the poor for those of on the margins I have come to release prisoners I have come to create hope in the hopeless so when we look at Jesus and see how he acts we should look at this group and say oh that’s interesting they act like that as well and hopefully at some point we get to this place as a community where we look around us and say is that how we live in the world around us we have a big sign that says living in the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus to the extent that we do that to the extent we take what he did and copy him we are thriving and successful as a

community and to the extent that we miss it well we need to catch it we are a community called to what what the book of acts calls it is bear witness and that doesn’t just mean tell people that Jesus died and rose again it doesn’t even mean just potentially die for your faith and the word witness simply is the word martyr in greek which raises that possibility that this might cost you something but we are also called to take how he lived and display it to the world the longing for this community is we get to reflect him and so as we’ve tracked through the book of acts we’re seeing this community develop and start to shape last week we looked at this interesting way that the religious leaders around them acted out of power and this community chooses to act without power they choose to turn to an alternative kind of power and now we get to read chapter five which man this is a text hold on to your seats because this

is a tough one acts chapter five now a man named ananias together with his wife sapphira also sold a piece of property with his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself but brought the rest of it and put it at the apostles feet then peter said ananias how is it that satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the holy spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you receive for the land didn’t it belong to you before it was sold after it was sold wasn’t the money at your disposal what made you think of doing such a thing you have not lied just to humans but to God when ananias heard this he fell down and died and great fear seized all who heard what had happened then some young men came forward wrapped up his body and carried him out and buried him about three hours later his wife came in not knowing what had happened peter asked to tell me is this the price you and ananias got

for the land yes she said that is the price peter said to her how could you conspire to test the spirit of the lord listen the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door they will carry you out also at that moment she fell down at his feet and died then the young man came in and finding her dead carried her out and buried her beside her husband great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events and now if we were in an anglican church or something of that tradition I would say to you this is the word of God for the people of God and you would respond thanks be to God and you may question is that the appropriate response to this text a better response might be something like God help us this is a text that is full of just struggle and yet this is the text we are called to read and this is the one we will enter into today so let us pray God as we handle a text that is difficult a text that might even be

repulsive to some of us a text that may make us question many things about what we believe perhaps a text we would like to remove from these writings God as we wrestle with it would you use it to shape us as individuals and as a community I along with my brothers and sisters I give you my heart and ask you to transform me and I pray the same for them wherever we are in a journey of faith would you speak and would we listen amen you wake up juan early morning sun is bright outside and you do what you’ve done every day for some weeks now you go and you join this community that is increasingly been called the way it’s a group of people that have followed and gathered around the teachings of Jesus and even though people said that he had died this group believes that he has risen again and as you come to worship you are thankful for this community that you are experiencing you are seeing people’s lives

transformed people seem to be engaging with something and to start with when you heard Jesus teachings you had a chunk of questions but now now you’re seeing these followers followers of his engage with his teaching and seeing them as transformed people you just find the whole thing compelling and so you’ve jumped in and you love the way that this community seems centered around these incredible concepts there is hospitality you have been welcomed into more meals in the last few weeks than you can remember at any point in your life there is this solidarity people are willing to stand up for you in this community and you realize I’m part of something bigger as well there was this mutuality that is just compelling it isn’t just about one person it’s about everybody there’s a humility that seems to be there as well not everybody has to be right all the time they are people that are learning to live with their differences and

finally maybe the most compelling thing is there is this incredible generosity just the other day a man called barnabas walked in with a box full of gold coins he announced that he’d sold some land and he wanted to give it as a gift to the community there was this moment where everybody applauded and everybody cheered and suddenly people that had been into town that had come into town and had joined this community of faith that had no resources of their own suddenly people have food to eat there is food on the table because this man gave so generously this is a community that is built on generosity and it’s exciting to be a part of it it is a community of transformed people and as you begin to worship together as a group of people there’s a moment where a man named named ananias walks in to the meeting he carries with him too a box of gold and he walks to where the apostles are leading the service at the front

and carrying this box of gold everyone begins to murmur as he makes his way to the front everybody stops and he loudly proclaims I sold some land here is the money from it and everybody applauds and cheers this man who was given so generously then as the the conversation the murmurs stop peter who’s been leading this group of apostles whispers just a few quiet words is that all of it ananias ananias responds indignantly yes of course it’s all of it I saw the land and here is the money and then peter whispers a few more things that you can’t quite catch but then suddenly in the midst of this time of celebration and worship ananias this man you have talked to you have known falls down dead this is the story that luke presents us with a man comes into a community not unlike this one with a generous gift with a large sum of money presents it to the community and at the end of the service he is no longer living he is

now dead depending on your engagement with a story you may feel multiple different things you may feel if you’re a church person who’s been connected with a church community for a while oh this is the service where they talk to us about giving and money and all those kind of things and and maybe you kind of nudge husband or wife and he’s like did you bring the checkbook this week because I forgot and all those different murmured conversations uh maybe there’s a panic that we’re going to have you write down how much you gave in the last month and you’ve got to hold up a sign that announces it to the community and then maybe at the end of the service after we’ve gone through this passage you’ll write a different number and reveal it to the community maybe if you’ve been engaged with the church world for a while

there is somewhat of a panic that of course it’s just about money and that’s what we’re going to land on today maybe if you’re someone who would describe yourselves as de-churched or over-churched or lots of those words with churched and a prefix in front of them maybe this if you’re honest is one of the passages that is making you feel pushed away from the church of organized religion of any kind maybe this is one of those passages where you look and say how is this fair and how is this right the passage has a ton of tension in it because the name ananias unbelievably means the lord God is gracious and you read this passage and you say where’s the grace in this this is this is all judgment this is the fire and brimstone thing how is this fair on these people you think through the old testament the older scriptures that we have and you think of all the things that people do and live and ananias gives a gift of lots of money and he’s

dead and then his wife is dead with him how does that seem fair I I suggest that a generous reading of ananias and sapphira is is very similar to these two guys these two guys one of them is daniel radcliffe not being harry potter at this point uh this is gildan stern and rosencrantz from shakespeare’s hamlet any of you that are familiar with the story you may know these characters they are bit character side characters hamlet the hero is melancholy he is out of sorts so his uncle the king who is really the bad guy invites a couple of college pals to come and spend some time with him they’re supposed to cheer him up so they arrive just on that principle no pretensions just to do what they are asked to do but in the course of doing that they start to realize this is an opportunity this is an opportunity for them to gain significance this is an opportunity for them to become wealthy so they enter into this story on behalf of this

evil king and they begin to try and work all these sort of in all these systems they realized kind of quickly that they are playing checkers when everybody else is playing chess they are out of value some of you are like that’s that’s work that’s life for me I feel like that all the time but these guys feel it particularly in this moment they are guys that enter into the story think they are playing a significant part and find that they’re just being manipulated by everybody else they are playing catch-up and they end up stood in front of the king of england with a note that they believe says reward these men give them lots of gold and the note actually says kill these men and they end up with nooses around the neck the english playwright tom stoppard took these two characters and wrote a whole play just from their perspective and as they stand there with the nooses around their neck they kind of look at each other and say how did this

happen where did we go wrong like what what did we do they are caught up in this game that they don’t really understand a generous reading of ananias and sapphira would say the same about them they have got involved in a story that is bigger than they realize and they end up somewhat as the victims of it and yet there’s a manipulation to how they go about it that suggests that that maybe they do know more than rose and cranston guildenstern maybe there isn’t that innocence there and that while the story to us as westerners may seem unfair to many other people they would say it is fair much of the rest of the world would say that the community itself is far more significant than the individual and if an individual has to pay a price for the community to survive that’s that’s good and right we have this view of the individual’s rights that says no it’s not fair because they deserve better than this and yet that’s a tension

that many other people would question maybe you look at this story from the perspective of someone who’s very unchurched maybe you’ve never really considered Jesus before maybe you look at this story and say why does it even matter why does the death of a couple of people a couple of thousand years ago matter how can it impact us today and do those kind of things even really happen does God act like that in the world depending on your connection with church you may have all sorts of different reactions so so let’s start with that question why does this story matter what can we learn from it so if anything at least on the surface this story pushes us in a specific direction when you read the christian scriptures what you tend to get a picture of is this the there are levels in which God is close and imminent that he longs to be our friend and that’s good and right and yet there are other passages other writings that would

suggest God is high and holy and distant and unapproachable now if you’ve been involved in the church world for any length of time you may have observed that different churches tend to trend to one end of the spectrum or another and and that’s probably because we’re spectrum people I I would like to believe I sit in the middle the reasonable middle of every discussion and every argument but that’s a very naive point of view the reality is I’m just not self-aware enough to see my own lens and so there are political spectrums we trend to go one side or the other side there’s lots of different spectrums out there in the church world there is a spectrum between what you might call the imminence of God and the eminence of God if you want easier language God is nigh he is close he is a friend and the other side God is high he is distant he is holy he is to be revered and he would seem that those two things aren’t compatible how

can you get close to someone who is so far above you and yet the christian story has said over and over again that Jesus is the answer to how that might work in practice if you think about the shape of a cross you have an up beam that might reach out reach upwards as God is holy God has high standards God is distant and that respect far above us and then you have a cross beam that reaches out and that might reflect that God loves us that he is all embracing that he longs to pull us in and and he might say that the cross is God’s way of having his cake and eating it he gets to be holy and keep that standard while embracing broken people like you and I the intersection of the cross is where Jesus dies and that’s what makes all of this possible but but inevitably as followers of Jesus we tend to trend to seeing God as close gracious intimate or we tend to trend to see him as holy distant above there is this need to find some balance there and

so as we sang that doxology you may have felt that moment where it suddenly felt like maybe the atmosphere feels a little different there is a holiness and a reverence there I grew up in a pentecostal church so to me reverence was the normal and I can remember engaging in services and prayer meetings where it felt like if I just reached out a hand he would disappear through a veil between the physical and the spiritual world that I was touching something different and yet you might say I’ve never experienced anything like that in church and some of your struggle with church might be just how unspiritual it is at times we are called as followers of Jesus to land somewhere in the middle of that that closeness and that holiness we are called to have our cake and eat it in the same way that God gets to do that as well if nothing else maybe this passage is a reminder that God isn’t just gracious but he is also all of those other

things as well and if that’s all we took that might be a good thing in lamentations as the old testament wrestles with this it is of the lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not they are new every morning great is thy faithfulness assumption what it is for a holy God to engage with humans and yet there is also this compassion and as Jesus teaches his followers to pray he even uses this language there is the language of father abba intimate close and there’s the language of hallowed distant above transcendent if we took nothing else that might be a good thing and yet I suspect that the story isn’t just about whether you see God as holy or whether you see him as close and intimate I would suggest there’s a whole community aspect going on that is important in this story as well why does this story matter to understand acts chapter 5 the verses we just read I don’t think you can understand it

without understanding what comes just before it so we’re gonna jump back to acts chapter four and and just look at what was going on there acts chapter four verse 32 onwards all the believers were of one in heart and mind no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own but they shed everything they had with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the lord Jesus and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them brought the money from the sails and put it at the feet of the apostles feet and it was distributed to anyone who had need this community is made up of a lot of different people there are people that live in jerusalem some of them whom are wealthy there are people that have traveled in for the festival where pentecost takes place and they have stayed and they

have just the food supplies they would need for a few days travel and now they are there in jerusalem with nothing really to their name and and what we see is a community that comes together that shares a community that that really just takes everything and throws it into a common pot and it’s available to all and as you see it described isn’t there a sense that wow this is idyllic this is incredible to to see a community live on these terms so there are questions from secular writers about the new testament who they say luke is luke is being unreasonable luke is writing about things that could never have taken place because how can a community be this good and to enter into that idea I’d like you just for a moment to use your imagination I’m going to ask you this question what does idyllic mean to you if you can create the place and space that you want to create what does it look like where is it what what’s the landscape like is

it ocean is it mountains is it boring flat plains of kansas or nebraska hey it’s your idyllic vision you can pick whatever you like what people are with you and what do you do how do you function in that community and most of us after a walk and say oh it looks like that I have this picture uh some friends that were on honeymoon sent me this picture from the amalfi coast I should say some former friends because they know I love the amalfi coast so I’m now just not talking to them I haven’t talked to them since they sent me this picture but not resentful at all but but maybe that kind of starts to make you think oh I could be there for a while there’s this description in the lord of the rings tolkien’s description of the last homely house looks something like this that house was as bilbo had long ago reported a perfect house whether you liked food or sleep or storytelling or singing or just sitting and thinking best or a pleasant

mixture of all of them merely to be there was a cure for weariness fear and sadness some of us are like ah let’s go there for a while that that sounds good a few years ago I was working with a guy and he invited me over to his house we were working on a project together and he was living with his parents at the time and so he gave me an address and I was looking for his house and simply couldn’t find it eventually found this tiny trail that went away into some woodland and as you came around the corner there was this incredible house in front of you that I later found that his dad built with his own two hands it was stunning beautiful and you walked through the door and everything was just laid out perfectly he said would you like a glass of water I said I don’t really like well water and I assume you run a well here he said no we have this reserve reverse osmosis system I think you’ll like it and he came and handed me a glass of

water that is still to this day the best glass of water I have ever enjoyed and then we sat on his back porch for a while and I looked as his mom and his dad played catch with his two younger siblings who they were homeschooling behind them there was a lake with a small boat sitting floating on it and I got kind of spooked by this place I went back to the office and people said what’s wrong with you where have you been I said I think I went to narnia or something like that anyway I I I went to this place and and people were different no difference not the word better people were better than us in this space there was something about it that was just beyond description we have those moments that we think this is idyllic this is perfect this is too good to be true and as we read this story in acts we might say the same about it wow I could go there for a while this seems to be what community looks like and take your vision for a second

your picture of what is perfect or what is idyllic and let me ask you this question what would you give to create that space or place and what we read in the new testament is that God gave incredible amounts to create this space and place that this community came at incredible cost it’s a longed for community this is back in deuteronomy 15 imagine yourself as a jewish person finally starting to engage with this acts community and know that this passage has been important for a long time if anyone is poor among your fellow israelites in any of the towns of the land the lord your God is giving you do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward them rather be open-handed and freely lend them whatever they need give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart then because of this the lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to this is a community that these jewish people have

been longing for and now it’s finally here we are seeing a longed for community a community that cost a great deal to create and a community that must now be treasured some philosophers have talked about how true beauty actually has an emotional quality to it it actually has a sadness to it because you see something beautiful and compelling and you know it can’t last forever there is the potential of losing it and we see this community that is beautiful and compelling and it has a sadness because what if this community becomes damaged or broken if you could create your idyllic community a second question is what would you do to save that space or place would any cost be too great to crit to save this incredible community that you have created in your mind and this is what we see with this early acts community I would suggest we see a community that is beautiful that is compelling but is also at risk could

also be lost in a moment because we are people we are broken even though we are transformed even though we are changing even though the message of Jesus is you have moved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light that is true in the moment that you started following him there is still this constant transformation that takes place over years after years and so we are still people that are flawed and broken the times of london once asked a question of all their readers what is wrong in the world and gk chesterton the english writer and philosopher sent them a short note that just simply said this dear sirs I am gk chesterton that was all the notes said I am what is wrong with the world so when you see broken people engage with the community what does that look like and here we see two examples of what it looks like to engage with this community one person who does it well and

another couple that seem like they don’t joseph a levite from cyprus whom the apostles called barnabas which means son of encouragement sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet a first positive example is this man who experiences this community sells all his land and then comes and presents it and if you have a house you want to sell and want to give them money I have no arguments no objections whatsoever but don’t feel any pressure because it seems like this was unusual barnabas is driven by what the community needs and what he feels called to give he is driven by what the community needs and what he feels called to give it’s not just the need of the community it’s also how he engages with questions with God in questions and says what what is it that I’m called to share in this moment he is a transformed person who longs to enter into the community with no strings

attached it seems like for barnabas he is engaged with this second principle that Jesus teaches in prayer I talked about how Jesus on one hand recognizes that God is father on the other hand recognizes that he is hallowed the next part of the lord’s prayer will say this your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven there’s this engagement with God that says God I long for your kingdom but there’s a tension with that passage because you have a kingdom as well you have a kingdom now we may be uncomfortable with the language of kings especially in a country that has a reputation for overthrowing benevolent kings uh like george iii but the language is useful and important for us the truth is we could translate kingdom as something like circle of influence but it doesn’t quite give it the same ring there is something about the language of kingdom that recognizes that we have the potential to rule with some kind of

power over those around us now that is true if you’re an employer who has staff that is true if you’re a parent that has a family that is true over your friends you have a circle of influence you have a kingdom of your own and to pray your kingdom come your will be done is essentially to pray God dethrone me from my own kingdom you take this thing and you be the ruler of it the truth of kings is that can only be one in a certain place and a certain space what barnabas seems to be able to do is he seems to be able to go all in on this kingdom this community and acts to the extent that his own kingdom is now extinct or at least he is no longer the ruler of it barnabas is a positive example of what it is to take everything that we have the resources the connections the relationships the the property and say God I am no longer the ruler of this thing this is your thing this is surrendered and now we have ananias and I’ll talk about ananias

but really it’s ananias and sapphira they come to this as one thing now a man named ananias together with his wife sapphira also took a piece of property with his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself but brought the rest and put it at the apostles feet is ananias generous with his money I guess to an extent is yes if anyone in our community came to me and said I sold a piece of property I sold a house here’s half of the money I would say wow that’s an incredible gift to give it seems like on the surface when you look at it to start with he doesn’t do anything wrong at this point he has some property he sold it and he gave a gift seems like that is to be celebrated it seems like the core of what is wrong with ananias is this he isn’t honest about it he isn’t honest about it and ultimately his kingdom is still his own he still gets to decide it seems like the undercurrent of this story is this ananias feels called to

give it all and yet he can’t he can’t let go he’s still got this hold on his possessions and the truth is his possessions still have a hold on him and now this is the hard part this is potentially the unfair part I would suggest that every single one of us are expected or called in following Jesus to take our possessions everything that we own all of our connections and hold them with an open hand I believe that’s what it is to say I am no longer king of my own kingdom but it can get unfair because you may get a different answer to anybody else as to what to do with your stuff you could be sat here considering buying a third home in the mountains so you can spend weekends there and God may say that’s a good thing do it you could be thinking about buying a new couch to replace one that’s 30 years old and God might say I have better use for that money there is a tension there that it isn’t always fair what it is to walk with Jesus and no

longer be king of our own kingdom is to take everything we own and say this is your decision and it is no longer mine it’s to let go it’s to say I’m no longer in charge of this ananias I would suggest is not all in on this kingdom and his own kingdom continues to thrive but there’s a problem with your own kingdom thriving right because this kingdom that Jesus presents is an eternal kingdom the kingdom you rule over is a temporary kingdom the kingdom I rule over is a temporary kingdom it lasts until that last breath and it seems like engaging with this community ananias continues to keep his own kingdom but it doesn’t last very long at all then peter said ananias how is it that satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the holy spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land didn’t it belong to you before it was sold after it was sold wasn’t the money at your disposal what made you think of doing such

a thing you have not lied just to human beings but to God I would suggest ananias is driven by what the community sees and how much he can hold back he is an untransformed person who longs to keep his kingdom while receiving the adoration of Jesus kingdom it would be fine to say ananias for ananias to say I can’t go that far I’m going to keep some of it I can be generous to a point I feel I need to care for my family’s security I’m going to hold some of it back it seems like that would be fine but he longs long’s lungs for the community to do for him what it did for barnabas it long he longs to be celebrated by this community for his generosity but it isn’t real he wants to have his cake and eat it to use that same phrase when ananias heard this he fell down and died and great fear seized all who heard what had happened then some young men came forward and wrapped up his body and carried him out and buried him and that language

of buried him this is the only time in acts that this is used of a follower of Jesus in actual fact the new testament is very determined in celebrating the death of a follower of Jesus as a good thing it’s the same way that paul wrestles with you know what I’d really like to go and be with Jesus but it’s good for you guys that I stick around for a while at no point in acts is the death of a follower of Jesus seen as a sadness as a loss except at this point this is the only time that that language is used of someone who passes away who is following Jesus this is a loss this is brokenness and about three hours later his wife came in not knowing what had happened peter asked to tell me is this the price you and ananias got for the land yes she said that is the price peter said to her how could you conspire to test the spirit of the lord listen the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out also at this moment she

fell down at his feet and died then the young men came in and finding her dead carried out had carried her out and buried her beside a husband and great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events there’s so much symmetry here with the garden of eden there is a man and a woman and they deceived together they are in it together and now there is a new creation and a new thing that God is doing and there is a man and a woman and they become deceptive together and their story becomes broken there is this new community that needs protecting and what happens to that idyllic community that we looked at if this becomes its story if this is okay if this is now acceptable somewhere in this it seems that God is protecting and nurturing this little community that truly is an incredible community and that seems to be the justice of the story this is a story about the corporate and the community it’s not about the

individual it’s the community that what matters so here comes the difficult question what do we learn from this because it’s not just give more money or something like that there’s so much going on in this story about community what do we learn what do we take away and I think for me it’s a confession it’s a confession that looks like this I am ananias I in so many ways am ananias community costs me and at times I run from it community costs me and at times I run for it from it think about those five words that I gave you early that that we sketched out of some of the beauty of this community hospitality means I will welcome you in but at times I don’t want to solidarity means I will lift you up but at times I don’t want to do that mutuality means I need you and yet I want to believe I can do it or myself that I’m okay humility means I could be wrong and I don’t like to be wrong and generosity means I bring what I can and yet so

much of the time like ananias I long to collect my stuff and hold it near because I will be better for it community costs me because it costs me my kingdom that at times I am not very good at surrendering at times I feel like I’ve surrendered and at times I raise my flag again and declare myself king again and it seems to be part of who I am it seems to be this constant wrestling and constant battle I am ananias community costs me and I run from it and yet at the same time just like ananias community compels me because there is something incredible about this picture that is created that says to me even at the cost it comes at I want more of that thing that is magical and these people aren’t just different they’re better than me this is narnia and I long for it I long for that idyllic picture that we are given all the believers were one in heart and mind no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own but they shared everything

they had with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the lord Jesus just the tension in that passage is incredible it is compelling but it comes at an incredible cost and it comes with some chaos I was once listening to a sermon from a church who simply took a load of buckets and put them out at the front of the church and then they said if you’ve got more than you need come and put money in it and if you’ve got less than you need come and take money out of it people wrote checks and put no name on them and people came and saw an amount they needed and wrote their own name in the payee column think about the chaos in that and yet this is essentially what this group of people did they shared everything they had with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the lord Jesus and you wonder how much the great power they were able to do with this was connected to the type of

community they had become and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that they there were no needy persons among them from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet and it was distributed to everyone who had need community comes at a cost but it is also compelling because it of what it offers us who are so often broken and needy people hospitality is the potential that I I with all my flaws all my faults I’m invited in anyway solidarity means that in the moments that I am weak there is someone there who will lift me up who will help me to walk mutuality means that I I I with all my limitations I am needed and that the community is less than it could be without me humility means that if you could be wronged as a possibility for once in my life I could be right and that seems something worth celebrating and generosity

means that yes the cost is I bring what I can but generosity means that I might be able to receive what I need this is this picture that this new testament community creates and it is wonderful it is idyllic but it comes at a cost my suggestion is this that we need to be people who choose to commit even when it costs and this isn’t me giving like the speech about you must commit to south it means that you and I need community somewhere wherever that is and my longing for you is that you find that community somewhere and in some place that works for you that gives you this thing because you need it and I need it some questions as I invite the worship team to come back some things that you may ponder I’m going to give you these five different words all ending in itty again um I liked the common ending here’s some questions and pick one take it home with you ponder it hospitality who will you invite in solidarity who

can you lift up mutuality how can you play a part humility how can you listen generosity what can you bring maybe as you pray the spirit will whisper to you that one of those things is the thing for you maybe there’s a brave and bold step to take that you haven’t taken before I don’t need to tell you what it is you need to be able to listen and I need to be able to listen we get to choose to commit even when it costs God as we worship as we ponder may you challenge us thank you for the picture of incredible christian community of what it looks like to follow Jesus well together to the extent that south looks like that we celebrate to the extent it doesn’t we long for it may we reach that longed for community that we see in this early church it may not look exactly like it but mate find those common heartbeats those common ways of being may we as individuals learn what it is to walk in the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus but may we

recognize that we do that best in community however you want to speak would you speak as we sing together thank you that you are the God who is both holy and high but you come close and near amen

Ananias and Sapphira | The Book of Acts (Part 6)2022-02-22T14:44:33-07:00

Power and the way of Jesus | The Book of Acts (Part 5)

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good morning friends I was having this crisis moment just stood there I was like did I turn it off when I was talking to people in the foyer and how do you tell without taking it all off and everything so we’re all good now good to go ready to preach we’re going to jump in quickly today part of the reason is I got told off for running over by about 15 minutes last service and then someone came to me and said not only did you run over in the first service you ran over in the second service as well and I said what’s the same sermon what you expect like and then apparently uh there was a belief I could change as I went which I I think is beyond me so usually I like to get us started with a little anecdote and stuff make sure if you’re new you can track with the accent we don’t have time for that today although bizarrely I’m telling you an anecdote about not telling anecdotes which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever I’m just wasting time we’re going to jump in on chapter four we’re in this book acts that that we call

acts of the apostles we call acts of the earliest followers of Jesus and yet one of the things we’ve talked about is is it really them I mean yes they are people that God is using and and the historian that wrote this book luke he takes very seriously the idea that the things he is reporting are facts they may be hard to believe facts at times but he takes them as facts that we can trust in so really what we’re looking at is it’s acts of father son and holy spirit this guard that we’re presented with in the passages of scripture as they choose to partner with humanity this is this moment where God is now working in the world in a different way but the wrestling point for us as 21st century followers of Jesus is this should we copy them or learn from them another way we might say it is is what they’re doing prescription or is it just description another way of saying that yet again is is this church juvenile is it just learning or is it supposed to be an

example to all of us and and the answer might be yes and no at the same time there might be some things that we see them do and say absolutely we should copy them I would suggest that today is one of those passages there’s other times where we might read them and say we can clearly see that they’re figuring this out as they go because while they start with one practice they may change it some pages later and we see a group of people learning what it is to follow Jesus in their space and time good news just like you and I are doing today we live in a world that’s challenging and figuring out what living like Jesus looks like will always be a difficult thing to do so this is where we got to last week this is the miraculous supernatural event that luke presents as factual that we left off with last week taking him by the right hand he helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong he jumped to his feet and began to

walk then he went with them into the temple courts walking and jumping and praising God the language there is like an athlete that springs up from the ground onto a high service service it is explosive it is spectacular now just to give you some perspective on just how spectacular jewish people of this time had almost two categories of miracle it was one thing to heal the eyes of someone who had become blind it was another thing to heal the eyes of someone who had been born blind it was one thing to heal the legs of someone who had become lame it was a different thing altogether to heal the legs of someone who had been born lame for whatever reason they considered the one easier to do than the other so you see this moment where this event is truly spectac spectacular I’ve coded these guys in every time I say the word spectacular the lights will go off and on didn’t work that time spectac no I lost it it was magic for a moment

so this is the event that we see take place and now we move into chapter four and to help us navigate chapter four I kind of broke it down into some scenes for you because we’re going to spend most of our time towards the end of chapter four scene one john and peter these two followers of Jesus that God has used will be arrested scene two there’ll be a trial scene three there’ll be a judgment the john and john and peter will be removed from the scene and these religious leaders will make some kind of judgment on them fourth I’m kind of giving away the ending here if you don’t know it they’ll be released and then five we get to see their response we’re gonna wrestle with some questions today and we’re gonna talk about two kind of emotive subjects we’re gonna talk about power and how we deal with it and we’re gonna talk about forgiveness and how we deal with it we’re going to watch two groups of people some

older religious leaders that have been in power for a long time and then this new group of Jesus followers that increasingly will be called the way or christians or something like that and I’m going to ask you which of these groups do you see represent the church that you know and I’m talking about the church with the big c the church worldwide and which of these two groups do you see represent yourself the best because we all wrestle with power and we all wrestle with forgiveness and so we’re going to push ourselves a little bit but first we just read about a supernatural supernatural event let me ask you this how do you respond to something spectacular something unusual something that grabs your attention are you a person that believes easily do you buy in easily to it do you respond well are you a person that’s skeptical how do you respond to something like this maybe you’re a person like many people today

where you just film it that’s just your first automatic step I was at a wedding yesterday and there were two people in their 70s or 80s both filming the wedding and watching it on their phones I was like wow you are trend-setting octogenarians that’s an impressive impressive thing to be um sometimes we just that’s our response to the supernatural I’ve got to get it on camera and then we get to be the first people to upload it the other day facebook was down for however long and I just sensed this sort of moment where hundreds maybe thousands of people are waiting for facebook to come back up so they can be the first people to comment on the fact that it was down just to be like you know just in case you missed it people I saw this and you may have missed it there’s this sort of question of what do we do when we see something unusual this is a story about mickey wright an australian surfer on vacation in hawaii

and he saw a woman caught in these big waves potentially drowning so he used the bodily strength that God has given him and he swam out rescued her polder back in and sat with her on the shore as people gathered round to see this not supernatural but spectacular moment where a man had rescued performed a service for somebody else what does he expect in that moment he might expect to be thanked he might expect to be praised he probably doesn’t expect to be dragged off and arrested for what he did and yet this is what we’re going to see happen in this story with john and peter we’re going to see two people through God do a service for someone change completely the quality of someone’s life and yet in this moment they’re going to be arrested for what they have done so let’s enter into acts chapter 4 the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the sadducees came up to peter and john while

they were speaking to the people they were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead are these pharisees these leaders these sadducees as they’re described in different ways these priests this captain of the temple guard are they interested in the fact that a miracle has taken place are they interested in the supernatural part of this story at all no they are entirely focused on the fact that something may be happening here that they are uncomfortable with for those of you familiar with the the gospel stories the biographies of Jesus life this is very similar to one of those stories this times where Jesus does something supernatural spectacular and the reaction is who told you to walk on the sabbath day or something like that it’s a similar piece of action now happening with his first followers they are deeply concerned that these people are teaching

people and especially that they’re talking about Jesus and his resurrection of the dead so they seized peter and john and because it was evening they put them in jail until the next day but many who heard the message believed so the number of men who believe grew to about five thousand there’s some tension in this passage because while peter and john have been arrested and dragged off for judgment the sort of a maybe an even an army starting to build if these people power or some kind of uprising they have this army in place just waiting to go 5 000 people ready to fight on your side is a significant number and this number is only going to get bigger so just hold that in your mind for a second there is a lot of people now starting to form themselves around these first followers of Jesus the next day the rulers and elders and the teachers of the law met in jerusalem and us the high priest was there and so was kurthus john

and alexander and others of the high priest’s family they had peter and john brought before them and began to question them by what power or what name did you do this so how this courtroom setting would take place is 70 or so jewish leaders would gather in a big semi-circle and the the people being questioned would be placed in the middle it was designed to be intimidating it was designed to be a position where you felt your own weakness and you asked question after question it’s a similar process that we saw Jesus go through and now as he predicted his followers are beginning to go through this as well and their question there is by what power or what name did you do this we are watching something take place that could be called disruption there is this moment where those that are in power or have been for a long time are beginning to feel the potential for a change and anyone who has power that loses it

without choice usually finds themselves very uncomfortable with that situation we are observing a disruption so I would like to help you understand what a disruption is just a little bit more if you are wearing eyeglasses I’d love you to take them off and see what name it says on the side of them anyone what have we got here who are we wearing these days we might have some gucci some ray-ban some yves saint laurent some just different brands uh and yet the truth is whatever name it says on your glasses the chances are they were all made by the luxetaki luxartica group they make around 80 of eyeglasses worldwide and they make a fortune doing it now they put on all the brands so you feel like you’re amazing making a choice but the reality is you’re not really making a choice this system has been set up to make these people lots of money by selling glasses with a brand on it this is what it is to have power these guys in

our analogy are the group of jewish leaders that have had power control of the the religious world of this area for a long long time so about five years or so ago this group this group of guys put together a business called warby parker warby parker only initially started online they do have now storefronts but what these guys did is this they they didn’t ask the question how much do eyeglasses cost they asked the question how much do the parts that make eyeglasses cost because if we figure out how much it is to make the frames if we figure out how much it is to make the lenses well we can figure out the cost and then we could sell it for a little bit more enough to make a profit but way way less than you would pay to get gucci or if salarant or something like that and your glasses this is this moment of disruption those that have power those that have sway suddenly potentially begin to lose it so to imagine yourself where these

jewish leaders are there is a fork developing in the road it could go one way or it could go the other way it could continue on the journey that it has been on for a long time where this group of people have power and control over who says what about religion in this place and space that they live in or it could fork massively and that if it does who knows where that ends up this is a map of the uk motorway system or highway system I used to live somewhere just up here I’m just educating you so you about my history now and and I would regularly drive this road called the m40 all the way down to london because I used to pick lots of people up from the airport and bring them back to spend time with my family so after doing this journey repeatedly over and over again I now had a journey where I had to head over to wales for those of you that don’t know maps or geography this is wales over here it’s not labeled but it’s there um you may

never visit and that’s fine you’re not missing much no it’s beautiful um so there’s this moment where I now have to take this journey down the m5 and the road splits and you can go one way or the other just because I’m on autopilot in this moment I head down the m40 instead of the m5 and I don’t realize where I am until somewhere about here now you guys over here you have these wonderfully straight roads that you can follow for mile after mile and they’re big and wide not every country has these things I’m just saying this is unusual for many parts of the world so I’m left with this moment of tension here do I just go back and and head all the way back up here and then take the right road or do I sort of make this loop around here and head off over here or do I just sort of cross country myself all the way across here driving down these tiny lanes that only fit one car and I don’t mean one car in both directions I mean one car just in

any direction you sometimes have to back up half a mile just to clear the road and I’m left with this anger and rage that I took the wrong journey and didn’t realize sooner this fork in the road that I hit I’m I’m well into the choice before I even realize it and these jewish leaders are in that process in that moment of what happens if we go down this journey if we allow these people to start talking about Jesus about resurrection about all of these different things where will it end up as the road splits they’re left with this question how do we stop this happening their question might be phrased who gave you permission for this kind of disruption because they know it wasn’t them and they’re used to being the gatekeepers they’re used to deciding who gets to say what and suddenly this now is questioned so a question for you and a question for eye what is the primary goal of this group of religious leaders these jewish leaders that have

held power sometimes as whole families for decade after decade century after century what is their primary goal here is it to know what really happened is it to ask is God behind these spectacular events we’re hearing about is it to ask is there a new story for our faith is it any of those things no they have one goal and one goal only they want to stay in power they want to keep the status quo they want this thing to stay as it was later as we’ll see in the text they’ll actually acknowledge we know this thing happened this is a real moment where something supernatural has happened and yet still they have no interest in trying to understand why their sole goal is power and isn’t that true for us at times as well if you think about how much the western church has become united with being in power and are longing to keep that in place if you think about how often pastors in churches have operated simply out of power for those of

you that like to listen to podcasts you may have heard podcasts like the rise and fall of mars hill you may have read books like the church called toe and we’re starting to see some of the outworkings of what it is for the church to operate on the world’s systems just so we can keep power power is addictive just just because I was interested and I’m just convinced that many of us as human beings just become addicted a little bit to power I just looked up how many presidents had resigned or or had said you know what after one term I’m kind of done I feel like I’ve done what I’ve felt called to do I feel like somebody else can carry this burden for a while I’ve achieved in four years what I felt was was possible for me and it’s pretty scarce three presidents in the last 150 years have said after one term I think I’ve done all that I can do and those three all of them had served one part of somebody else’s term so with the unspoken rule

that you don’t do more than eight years they would have crossed that eight years mark easily it seems that very easily we get into that mode of saying no I have to keep powering any time anything that comes up and says you’re gonna lose some of that power that can be a tension think about the way at times we work with our employees we are in charge we get to be the boss and so even in times where we know we could be wrong there can be this moment of saying no I’m I’m going to choose to operate in power with our kids grandkids that can be this moment I know secretly deep down I’m wrong but I’m gonna I’m gonna use the fact that you’re little and I’m big and I’m gonna make this decision I’m gonna force this thing through I would suggest that so many human beings struggle and wrestle with power and so many of the rest of us struggle with what it is to work with someone who is increasingly becoming obsessed with

power some of you now can identify a boss who is somewhat power obsessed who operates in that way and you’ve wrestled with how do I deal with this person I would suggest that so many people just struggle with what it is to have power and when we have to lose it or we choose to lose it that itself can be an identity crisis this is a quote from pete cesaro to true freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes sometimes the addiction or obsession with power is simply how it makes us feel around everybody else it gives us an identity that we get to celebrate power for this group of people it seems is a deep issue it is the only thing that they are now concerned with and so we watch how to how do peter and john engage with this group of religious leaders that are demanding that the status quo stays the status quo the next day the rulers and elders and the teachers of the law met in jerusalem

we already talked about this whole group there they had peter and john brought before them and began to question them by what power or what name did you do this because it isn’t our power and then peter filled with the holy spirit said to them rulers and elders of the people if we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and now being asked how he was healed then know this you and all the people of israel it is by the name of Jesus christ of nazareth whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead that this man stands before you healed the first response from peter and john is actually somewhat humorous it’s the same thing we were talking about with this surfer mickey right are you really arresting us for doing something good they actually use this word for a good work a thing usually rewarded there’s almost this question of like did you call us here to to thank us did you

call us here to celebrate the fact that we’ve done this for the this man it’s almost kind of pushing that ironic sort of level it reminds me because I have kids and I get to watch lots of pixar movies it kind of reminds me of this moment in the incredibles for those of you that are big pixar fans and and what I would say is we’ve watched these movies so many times that now our kids are getting sick of them and the adults are the one that once want to watch them apparently it’s just you can turn that corner eventually but there’s this moment or this storyline within the incredibles where when mr incredible ends up in a court case for saving someone trying to commit suicide and the man says no I didn’t want you to save me you you’ve done the wrong thing and he actually has to stop being a superhero because of this situation there’s almost this irony to it and it’s almost to play here like what what did I do that was so terrible

what did we do that was wrong we took a man that couldn’t walk and he couldn’t walk from birth the ultimate in spectacular and now he can what’s the problem why are you making such a big deal of this but if you want to know who it was well it wasn’t really us it was in the name of Jesus christ of nazareth whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead that this man stands before you healed peter goes beyond just saying it’s a bit absurd that you’re taking this thing that’s happened and making it sound like it’s something negative but but even more so the person that you killed the person that you crucified he’s actually responsible for all this as well he’s the one that is making this whole new thing possible Jesus is the stone you build as rejected which has become the cornerstone salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given by to mankind by which we must be saved peter and john

stand up in front of this group of religious leaders and give this articulate defense of what they have done and yet just like the miracle this isn’t really them either this is just another moment where Jesus has told them something or promised them something that seems almost unbelievable he’s told them that you would perform greater works than I have performed and they’re beginning to see it he’s told them that it is better that I go away because otherwise the spirit won’t come and and it’s now happened and now there’s this moment where he promised them that they will arrest you do not worry about what to say or how to say it at that time you will be given what to say for it will not be you speaking but the spirit of your father speaking through me in this moment it’s not them in this moment they are standing up to those that are in power and this spirit is speaking through them and there’s this beautiful moment where

these religious leaders will say when they realize the courage of peter and john and realize that they were unschooled ordinary men they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus is this the first time they realized that they were Jesus followers no they they knew that all along it’s just like this is the first moment that the dots were put together wait a second we said that Jesus was not schooled in the way that we were schooled and yet he taught in these spectacular ways and he did these spectacular things and and we thought we’d cut the head off the snake as it were but now it seems like multiple heads are growing back and it’s almost this moment where these people in power realize that they have a real problem on their hands that if these men are now equipped by some spirit to do the same things Jesus did and there are many of them or what does this world look like now what what changes take

place what are we going to do with these men they asked everyone living in jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign and we cannot deny it do you see the absurdity we know it happened and yet we’ve got to fix the problem we’ve got to keep the power but to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name so they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus but peter and john replied which is right in God’s eyes to listen to you or to him you be the judges as for us we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard peter and john stand up to those that are in power they stand up to those that would oppose them and yet I would suggest as we wrestle with it they do it in a way that is completely other to how the world might approach it and I would suggest that as we figure out what it is to

stand up to those that are in power it raises good questions for us just as to how do we do that as people that encounter powerful bosses encounter people that choose to operate in power how do we approach that situation so after further threats they let them go they could not decide how to punish them because all the people were praising God for what had happened for the man who was miraculously healed was over 40 years old in obedience to Jesus peter and john choose not to fight power with power this is what Jesus said in the moment of his trial in the moment of his dealing with power he says my kingdom is not of this world if it were my servants would fight and for so many of us I think we would say our instinctive reaction to seeing power and having to oppose it is how do I fight back on the same terms and yet it seems that these earliest followers of Jesus their challenge to us is we don’t fight on the same terms

so how do they respond I would suggest that they respond with a completely alternative power we talked a few weeks ago about how this is an alternative community this Jesus community that springs up in acts 2 it doesn’t operate in the same systems that other communities do it it builds this community around hospitality around solidarity around mutuality all these different things that don’t fit into the normal ways that the world works how does this community take something and respond with a kind of power but a different kind of power and the release peter and john went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them when they heard this they raised their voices together in prayer to God their response to dealing with power is prayer but what they pray is almost more fascinating more interesting than that they pray let’s take a look at this prayer that they pray together

sovereign lord sovereign as in ruler sovereign as in above the systems of this world you made the heavens and earth and the sea and everything in them you made the things that are close to us the court system that we just faced the religious rulers and yet you made everything else as well so much bigger than what’s in front of us you spoke by the holy spirit through the mouth of your servant our father david why do the nations rage and the people’s blood in vain the kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the lord and against his anointed one indeed herod and pontius pilate met together with the gentiles and the people of israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed they did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen their first moment of prayer is to say something like this God you knew all this was going to happen a long time ago and

somehow you’re in charge of the system they recognize that God ultimately maintains control that is their first entry into prayer God you are in control of this you know that it’s happened and on some level you’ve allowed it to happen at some point they choose to be okay with that and then second they acknowledge the attacks they acknowledge the way that this group of religious leaders is persecuting them is maligning them they acknowledge the problem and that I think is something that is key for us as well because while we might not have religious leaders dragging us off I would suggest that everything that we’re reading here is relevant to you and I as we wrestle with what it is to feel attacked to feel the victim of some thing or somebody because I think that’s true for a lot of people that sit in any room some of us have stories that go back year after year after year some of us have stories of brokenness and hurt some of us

would wrestle with what it is to forgive someone who has abused us has damaged us in our minds that is true of so many people in any room it seems that in this prayer they are they are okay with acknowledging that the attack has taken place there’s these moments within the psalms called imprecatory prayers these moments where people throw out their human emotion to this incredible degree one of the most famous ones is is psalm 137 verse 9 it’s this story that’s reimagining the the attack of babylon on israel and it says something like this God happy are those who take your little ones and smash them against the rocks it’s this deep emotion and deep hurt that’s coming out and that sometimes is absolutely okay but it seems in this story at least God longs to bring us beyond just that emotion into something else as we

deal with power and abuse and her look what happens next now lord consider their threats they do not pray for a change of power they do not say God would you remove these people incredible as that might seem to us they do not pray for judgment of and on the religious leaders they don’t even pray for the attacks to stop I am baffled by this group of people because they do everything opposite to how I would do it I would approach this by saying God you’ve got to remove these people they are damaging they are toxic you’ve got to change this I would approach this by saying God bring judgment upon them because these people have acted in ways that are unacceptable I would pray God you’ve got to stop them doing this and yet in this moment they don’t pray any of that and that to me is fascinating and I wonder if we find tension in this because I think so much when we think about the idea of forgiveness one of

our deep concerns is does that mean that they just get off or get away with it does that mean that there’s no justice do I have to say that what they did is okay now notice none of what they say says that it’s okay none of what they pray says that what they are doing is good but but what it does do is it enables them to say God ultimately you are the judge of them it enables them to refuse to participate in the judgment of another human being and then finally enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus the third thing they do is they ask for help in being faithful in the midst of this God keep us faithful and those of you that have worked or been involved in any area of the world where christians experience real persecution would know that there’s people all over the place that are praying stuff exactly like

this regularly and often in the midst of persecution God help us to keep being faithful to you help us to continue to be the witnesses that you would long for us to be why is what they pray important and what can we learn from them I would suggest this the earliest followers of Jesus are aware that the human face in front of them is not the real enemy no matter how they have acted refusing to pray against them maintains the humanity of all involved and creates the possibility of forgiveness and for those of you that are wrestling with that that idea of forgiveness imagine the person in front of you that that creates that sense of oh they just need to experience judgment or that person has hurt me so much that person that inspires those rage fantasies that says I would love to see them in their moment of trial and judgment I would love to see them punished for what they have done it seems like for these earliest followers

there was no praying against them because that dehumanizes that removes the possibility that forgiveness may be part of the journey now let me give a caveat to that that does not mean there may not be a court case that does not mean they may need to move out of the house that does not mean that they may not go to prison that does not mean any of those things there may be still so many legal processes there may be ways that they experience judgment and yet what this does is it refuses to participate in that judgment it refuses to say it makes it possible to say God you are suffering you know and ultimately I choose to allow you to be the judge of them it allows us to tap into Jesus absurd command to us I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you perhaps one of the things that most separates Jesus from really any other religious teacher how can you ask this if people that are hurt and

wounded love your enemies it seems beyond what we can be expected to do at times and yet Jesus in a serious voice says love those that you would long to see harm come to it seems like for these group the primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what you think God ought to do but to be properly formed it’s like this recognition that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities against powers against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places as terrible as the people that we long to hate might be it seems like there is something behind those people that is the real enemy that they even at their worst and not the real enemy it’s this idea that prayer can change our perspective and help us form pathways of forgiveness even when what is done is atrocious and terrible this is a picture of simon weissenhall he became famous as a nazi hunter

at one point he tracked down many of the people that had worked with the nazi party and helped bring them to justice this is a man who has seen a whole group of people do the most unspeakable acts and while in a concentration camp uh he was working in a hospital doing some of the the grounds work and he was asked by a nurse to come with him to a room upstairs he was very nervous about what to expect he was like he’s suspecting some some kind of trick but was taken to the hospital bed of a young nazi officer who lay there slowly dying from the wounds that he had received and in that moment this young nazi officer looked at him and said I need to ask a jew any jew to forgive me and began to outpour some of the most terrible things that he had done things are things that I don’t even want to particularly repeat in this room but but at the end came back to his point of saying I would love you to forgive me

and simon weisenhall talks about in this moment he’s asking all of these questions silently in his head is this even mine to forgive how can I forgive for a whole nation what should I do and in that moment he said I got up and I walked out of the room and I shut the door behind me and the young man died just a couple of minutes later he left this man this human unforgiven to face death by himself those final moments now we could have all sorts of different reactions to whether he did the right thing or wrong thing but interestingly he himself had this struggle with whether he did the right thing or the wrong thing and during the next few decades he wrote letters to a hundred different religious leaders asking for their opinion on how he’d acted of those 199 of them responded saying you did the right thing you can’t be expected to give their forgiveness for an entire nation the crimes were not against you he has to face judgment for

them you did the right thing only one religious leader wrote back and said I feel like the fact that decades later you’re still wrestling with it means that you did the wrong thing means that the pathway to forgiveness was the pathway you should have taken what simon weissenhall it seemed discovered what this religion pointed out was that in the midst of holding this unforgiveness even when the crimes were unspeakable in the midst of holding that unforgiveness he thought he was holding this young man in prison in actual fact the person he was holding in prison was himself he was actually damaging himself more than anybody else and it seems like Jesus command for us to love our enemies is not necessarily for their sake it is not to say that what they did is okay it seems like he does it for us it seems like he says to us you cannot hold this burden of hate it is damaging to you and the best pathway even when it’s

painful is to choose to forgive to choose to relinquish judgment to one who can be trusted to judge not to say that what they did is okay but to choose to say God it is up to you and this moment as this disciples face this this persecution by this group of religious leaders which I will say is only going to get worse they’re going to have to react this way not just when one of them is arrested and released but they’re going to have to act this way when one of them is arrested and stoned to death when the roman emperor emperors take the church as their enemy and begin killing them by the hundreds and the thousands this approach isn’t just for now this approach is for always and it’s going to get harder and harder and harder to live by this principle but in this moment as they pray as they choose this journey we read the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the holy spirit and spoke the word

of God boldly the invite that God gives you and I as we respond to power is to not fight as the world chooses to fight the invitation we’re given is to forgive even when forgiveness seems unreasonable and impossible and we don’t have the strength to do it in those moments we get to pray God you are sovereign I choose to remove myself as judge please give me the strength to be faithful I’m going to invite the worship team to come back and we’re going to pray together God as we process what it is to hold power there’s some of us in this room that are considered powerful and maybe the challenge is for us to ask how we hold that how it shapes our identity there’s some of us in the room that are wrestling with how to deal with powerful people we have bosses that we don’t like that we’re wrestling with that we would love to respond with the world’s power and yet you call us to a different way there are those of us that

are wrestling with forgiveness we have been hurt so deeply and it is not okay in our moments of praying out God would you judge this person would you bring some vengeance would you make it fair your invitation to us is to surrender that desire your invitation is to say God you are sovereign I choose not to be the judge I choose to ask that you would help me to be faithful even in the trial for those of us holding that sense of unforgiveness would you free us to forgive would you free us from the prisons that perhaps we’ve bind ourselves in would you lift the burden that it creates for us in this time of worship would you speak to us amen I’m going to invite you to stand as aaron leads us in worship

Power and the way of Jesus | The Book of Acts (Part 5)2022-02-22T14:39:10-07:00

Does the Spirit still heal? | The Book of Acts (Part 4)

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good morning friends how are you great to see you today mike that was a great one thank you I felt valued uh if you’re visiting here my name is alex I’m one of the pastors we’re so glad that you found us I hope you enjoy your time with us aaron sung just has this beauty to it and and the fact that he can reach that range always just stuns me I will say I got to contribute one line to that song principally because I thought man this song could go really big like what if he releases it and stuff and maybe I can just get my name on some of the writing credits or something like that it’s got aaron bjorklund in huge letters with just just a little alex walton underneath and I’ll be happy I feel like I contributed um so beautiful right fall is here uh in my sort of experience of the midwest longing for for genuine foreline experiences and somebody said someone who came from the midwest they just happened to ask when does the color

really happen here like when are the dark reds and all those kind of things and I said to them well look at the mountains and they said what is that where the color changes first or something like that I said no the color doesn’t really change but when you remember you have mountains everything sort of feels okay it’s like a relief okay there is there is something really good here and so we went exploring just trying to find something that was genuinely fall-like and so we drove over to greeley I didn’t tell my wife I was telling this story so I may be looking for a couch to sleep on or something tonight we drove over to greeley area uh looking for anderson farms some of you may have been there it’s this delightful place got so much for the kids and then we arrived there down this dirt track and we looked around and said this is just a farm like literally it’s just a farm there’s nothing here so we jumped on google worked some

things and found that there’s actually two anderson farms and we had driven past one to get to the other one which was the wrong one and so we had to drive 45 minutes back in the other direction the best part was when she looked at the adults in the cars and said oh you know what this happened last year as well so so so she’s been to anderson farms the rockets and farms twice uh and most people have never been once so delightful experience we’re in this series on the book of acts it’s our fourth weekend uh for those of you that are joining us late the summary of the book of acts might be something like this it’s actually the acts of father son and spirit as they partner with humanity the full title that we often give it is the acts of the apostles and yet the truth is anything they do is only possible because they have this partnership with the God that set all of these things in motion and as aaron said as he walked

us through during this time of worship it really wrestles with the tension of these two somewhat absurd things on the surface that Jesus said to his followers before his death and resurrection with a straight face he says to them I tell you whoever believes in me will also do the works that I am doing he will do even greater things than these things because I’m going to the father and then later just a couple of chapters I tell you it is for your good that I’m going away unless I go away the advocate will not come to you but if I go I will send him to you imagine these first century followers of Jesus wrestling with some of these questions wait we’re going to do more things than you may maybe the language of greater is just greater in number rather than greater in their spectacular nature but there’s still this pause point where they might say Jesus you’ve done an awful lot in this world you’ve changed an awful lot of lives and

now you’re saying that we’re going to participate in those kind of things and then to say well it’s better that I go away there’s so many questions right there because on the surface imagine what it would look like to live everyday life with Jesus when you’re in that moment of trial that moment of struggle to be able to turn to him and have a one-on-one conversation and the truth is I don’t I don’t know about you but but I can picture Jesus he’s kind of middle eastern looking he has hair about my length but a much better beard and and I’ve got this visual that that helps me when I’m asked to picture the holy spirit it gets a lot vaguer and so these first century followers are really left in the same place you and I might say where we are in today were wrestling with what a relationship with this holy spirit character that we’re introduced to looks like how do we figure that out there’s so many tension points there it’s this idea that the

spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you and Jesus seems to say this seriously so over the first few weeks what we’ve done is is we’ve wrestled with these big sort of moments there’s this moment where the spirit is given you might call it the birth of the church the moment that these followers of Jesus come out into the street and begin speaking in different languages I don’t know about your comfort point but some of you might say I wrestle with whether that could really happen I don’t know if I believe those kind of things take place and then more incredibly perhaps the proof that it’s all got some sort of solidarity some some realness to it is that a community is formed it’s not the miraculous act that’s that’s so much maybe the miraculous center to the story it’s that 3 000 people who don’t know each other who don’t speak the same languages from all sorts of backgrounds come together and form this

community that seems to be so life-giving and and so last week we sketched out the the fact that this Jesus community that’s formed around this spirit is centered around these things it’s it’s a place of hospitality you are welcome dean regardless of what you have done regardless of how broken you feel regardless of anything that you feel sort of stops you from joining this community no no in this community you are welcomed in exactly as you are you get to belong here first before you change your behavior before you believe the right things solidarity I I will lift you up this is a community that lifts up those that are struggling they share their finances we’re told some of them sell whole pieces of property and say we’re going to put this in the common pot when people need it it’s going to be accessible to them mutuality we can do more together and maybe this is where Jesus suggestion or comment that you guys will do greater

things maybe that’s where it comes from because now there are just so many more people participating in this thing and and then finally the one we really wrestled with last week humility I could be wrong to stand with a group of people with all sorts of different views and say I believe this thing very strongly but I could be wrong about it that takes a deep work of the spirit almost to get to that point but this is how this community is founded and and now today we get to wrestle for the first time with what happens when one of Jesus earliest followers is put in a place where something miraculous might happen and Jesus isn’t there on earth this whole idea that the spirit inside you is greater than Jesus beside you this is like test case one for this moment of what will happen so we’re gonna enter into this story what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna read this story in acts chapter three twice we’re gonna read the first story twice

then we’re gonna take a second story and we’re going to read that once because I would suggest this passage is loaded with tension today we get to talk about a passage where again with a straight face these this historian luke says peter and john offer their hand to a man and he is healed instantly it’s something that the bible takes seriously and yet in a community like this there may be some of you that have experienced that type of healing and yet there may be some of you that have been promised that type of healing and haven’t seen it happen then maybe some of you have seen that as a kind of abuse a kind of struggle and it just is triggering to hear about those kind of things there’s some people in a community like this that have prayed desperately for a child or a loved one to be healed and haven’t seen it happen so how do we as followers of Jesus take a passage like this and one take it seriously but two also ask

some questions about what does it mean today and what does it mean for all the ways that I have questions about it so the first time we’re just going to read it on surface level one day peter and john were going up to the temple at the time of prayer at three in the afternoon this is acts chapter three now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate corps beautiful where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts when he saw peter and john about to enter he asked them for money peter looked straight at him as did john then peter said look at us so the man gave them his attention expecting to get something from them then peter said silver or gold I do not have but what I do have I give you in the name of Jesus christ of nazareth walk taking him by the right hand he helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong he jumped to his feet and began to walk and

then he went with them into the temple courts walking and jumping and praising God when all the people saw him walking and praising God they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called beautiful and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him let’s take a moment to pray before we do that regularly I say to us as a community this my longing for sermons for longing for teaching is that God would comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable uh what do I mean by that I mean that so many of us walk into a place like this feeling weighed down feeling like we are we are struggling we are holding on and my my hope is that teachings and worship and this this community in general bring this sense of hope and this sense sense of life and yet I also know that just the way our society works is that so many of us just get very comfortable just going

through the motions and just like a mother bird at some point will start to stir up the nest so those little birds can get out and start to fly my hope is that when we feel comfortable what we do starts to afflict us and starts to make us say there is more to this and and maybe more than any other sermon I would say that that that is relevant today there’s so many people that when we talk about healing we might find ourselves in a place of affliction and I long that God the God of the universe would bring comfort and there’s so many of us in the western world that were comfortable and along that God would bring affliction would stir up those nests so in that vein let us pray together God would you comfort the afflicted and would you afflict the comfortable would we take this passage and take it seriously know that this is a historian that is speaking to us about events that took place and yet we bring so much of our own stuff and

baggage and own experiences to this text and maybe we already have questions about why why there and not here why then and not now for so many of us we’ve seen abusive church of our environments where healing has been used as a manipulative tool and so in the midst of that tension and conundrum as we take these passages would you speak to your people and would you give us the thing that you always give that we need most of all would you bring your presence for those that are in our community that are unsure about faith are still on that journey would you speak thank you that you are good amen okay so on the surface a story that is simply presented to us as this incredible moment of divine healing walking towards the temple towards something like the equivalent of modern day church peter and john see a man and feel inspired in that moment to say we’re going to offer him a hand and he is going to walk

this story does not sort of give us any escape from that simple event that takes place this isn’t a story like a moment where someone gets up and slowly limpingly starts to walk this is a moment where spectacularly one thing happens and everything is different because of it the language there is the language of a man of an athlete that might jump up onto a high platform there is an explosiveness to it I know some of you have been through operations you’ve been through surgeries and you’ve had those moments where recovering you you sort of say man my body doesn’t feel like my own anymore more maybe through sickness you get up out of bed for the first time and suddenly the steps you’re taking you’re like I don’t feel like myself and it takes a while to regain that energy I had never been through that until recently and so when my my wife had surgery the doctor said you need to help her get onto a feet you know tomorrow at

some point so I was trying to be the good nurse I was around the bed saying come on let’s go okay time to get moving you know the doctor said it’s good for you to move around and yet for her in that moment of recovery she was like I just don’t know that I am ready to do that so we have those experiences of saying I’m starting to put one foot in front of the other again this story is not that story this isn’t the story of someone praying for someone and helping them take slow faltering steps there is a suddenness and a divineness to this this this spectacular moment of he wasn’t walking and now he is leaping and the celebration around the event leads into that suddenly everything in this story is different and think about the man’s narrative there has been a consistency to not walking and suddenly in that moment everything changes that on the surface is the story and yet already maybe some of you have some questions about that the

writer charles short wrote a book called the secular age where he wrestled with this idea that something changed society-wise somewhere around 1500 a.d if you were to find the worst criminal the worst murderer and ask them questions about what would happen to them after they died almost none of them would have questioned that there was some kind of guard some kind of afterlife where they would be judged for their actions it was almost a universal belief and then fast forward to 2021 by this point even the most devout spiritual leader might say the times I question whether the spiritual world is even there is this all that there is why is it that in 1500 a.d the worst criminal didn’t doubt that the way that they would receive judgment in an afterlife but in 2021 devout spiritual leaders have questions about the reality of the spiritual world there is a shift there that says to us man is this stuff real maybe you could phrase the

question like this is God still an agent in the world was he ever an agent in the world does God step actively in this space and do things happen does the veneer the sort of the divide between the spiritual world and the everyday world does it ever get cracked does that happen the writer kenda creasy dean sort of sketched out this framework that she she said that much of the the western world has kind of landed on a kind of christianity that doesn’t really resemble the original type of christianity she called this moral therapeutic dayism moral in that God wants you to be good so you guys be better than you are now step it up like get to a higher standard of living therapeutic in the sense that you’re supposed to feel good God wants you to feel good about you he wants you to feel good about life he especially wants you to feel good when you’re in church doing these churchy things and dayism in the sense that really at its core God is

not really active he may have been active at one point but he’s not active now she would suggest that so much of our western expression of church has landed in this type of belief and yet it’s completely foreign to anybody that would live in the first century and yet at the same time many of us in this room have traveled to different places around the world and we question why is it that we’ve seen supernatural things happen all over the globe but here there seems to be something different why is it that you can go to africa and see people healed regularly and often why is it that you can go to I’ve been to the philippines and seen people healed regularly and often I’ve been to haiti and seen similar things and yet we say in this space what is different there is a tension in this there’s a taking seriously of this passage and saying it seems like God does this kind of stuff and yet I don’t know why has something changed and

sometimes it’s easier just to give up on all of that and say well it must have been a different time a different place and we get very comfortable with just being better people believing that God on some level wants us to be happy and on some level embracing the fact that he’s there somewhere somewhere beyond the divide but doesn’t really affect what we do now he certainly doesn’t step in and change things these are tensions that the church has wrestled with why is it that we don’t see those things happen today in this place and this space and so to kind of help us wrestle with that I want to ask a completely different question on the surface this is the question what grows here now it’s a serious question like in colorado what actually grows because stuff that have grown successfully in the past doesn’t grow in this place and in this space it’s still something of a mystery I was out for a walk a couple of weeks ago I had a friend

that was supposed to meet me early in the morning he was in the first service and I just reminded him gently that you know you forgot about me and left me and I think that maybe God knew that I needed some kind of solitude some kind of space just to wrestle and as I walked along uh the platte river I came across this you all know what it is because you live here it’s a cactus but it doesn’t grow in lots of places in actual fact none of the multiple places that I have lived before now does this grow outside of some kind of greenhouse outside of some particular environment and yet walking along the plat river there it is in all its glory and to you it doesn’t look amazing but to me it had this moment of wow this grows here and yet other things don’t grow here we tried to grow different types of vegetables some of them just died almost instantly and yet we were able to grow watermelons that we could never imagine sort of

growing where we’d lived before it’s so hot here in the summer and the sun just beats down I’m like I’m gonna take all my potted plants and just stick them in a refrigerator somewhere just to cool them and then they’ll go back out to die in the sun and yet there is this there is this struggle with what grows and that and sometimes I I’m so persistent I want to grow something particular even though it doesn’t fit in this environment so I tried to grow a wisteria because I love wisteria they just they grow and they dangle down from the decks or from the trellises and they just look spectacular so I brought you my wisteria to share with you today that is my wisteria genuinely it looks like I just grabbed a stick off the ground and shoved it into some dirt but somewhere in there there is a root system which could convey life um there is some very dry soil because I kind of gave up on this one and when the hail came through it destroyed all of

its leaves and and then slowly the rabbits just came along and ate what was left of it and this is what I am left with for those of you don’t know this is what an actual wisteria looks like and one of these things is not like the other thing there is definitely some struggle there some travail and and yet because I want so much to have a wisteria growing up on a deck behind the master bedroom I I am persistent so so here’s the thing you can grow a wisteria here but you have to be very intentional about growing you have to carefully cultivate the ground that it stays and sometimes it might mean preparing that ground for a year removing some of the the very acidic soil and putting in some other stuff and just allowing its space to develop to grow a wisteria requires a cultivation that other plants like apparently watermelons do not require here they just grow like crazy I would suggest that when we take stories like this and we wrestle with why

in different places and why not here why then and what now one of the questions that we have to ask is what kind of soil are we cultivating for that to happen it seems that there is something intentional about our process that that might be needed that that doesn’t simply mean just work harder but it does mean perhaps engaging with a spiritual world and with this spirit in a way that maybe we haven’t always taken seriously one of the things I regularly noticed in my time in haiti time in the philippines was that many of these people didn’t get didn’t have another option here I think in the west maybe we have plan a plan b plan c plan d and plan e and finally there might be a moment of prayer it often takes the removal of all those other plans to get us to a point of engaging seriously with the fact that God might be a healer and then sometimes just sometimes I just wonder whether the way we hold those beliefs just

doesn’t really make sense to the people that we’re even praying for this wonderful gentleman is a guy called george canty he passed away about 10 years ago but for a brief period I got to do church community with this incredible man at 97 he had at this point been a pentecostal pastor for 80 years and engaged with some people that had seen some of the most incredible things happen and we got to have him come and talk to our group of people at the church who prayed for people and george I’ll be honest was pretty brutal with us he really let us have it and and what he said was this he said the problem is many of the people you guys might pray for believed they might be healed when they came to you but the time you’re by the time you’re done praying for them they don’t believe it anymore there’s something about the way that he heard us vocalize our prayer so often they might start with well God we know that occasionally

you heal but in reality we know you use doctors most of the time so we pray for wise doctors to come alongside this person and really do the right thing for them he saw in our language something that didn’t genuinely speak to any belief that God actually was an agent in the world the bible in a serious way says that God does step into this space that healing is possible and in this moment this man who was not walking is suddenly leaping and the bible and luke the author offer no apology for saying this they speak about it as a genuine fact in a way that suggests it could happen today in the same way that it happened then it could happen in this space and place in the same way it happened in that space and place this man who did not walk was suddenly leaping and yet there’s a tension there as well more tension to impact so let’s read the story a second time and just think through some of the things that we’re reading back

to the start one day peter and john were going up to the temple at the time of prayer three in the afternoon I love that this story fits right after 3 000 people have joined the church if this was a modern western pasta these guys would have been wandering around like leonardo dicaprio in this picture like just swaggering along everything’s great we’ve done something spectacular and yet for them it’s just a we’re going back to praying we’re going back to engaging with what we’re doing and they’re walking through the streets noticing the people around them now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called beautiful where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts this was a very common occurrence the temple courts would be surrounded by people often begging for money for food there was just so much of that struggle for finance in this place and space that

it was an everyday reality and yet there’s some mysterious things to this text this beautiful gate doesn’t actually exist no one has been able to discover what does this name mean and how does it associate with the other temple gates that we actually know about but the language behind it doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful as we would understand it but it means beautiful more in the sense of it’s ripe it’s ready at a specific time this this thing something is ready to happen here so to an early reader you have this sort of undercurrent of what’s gonna happen now like the the some kind of action point that’s been sort of held off and now is about to take place and think about the background to this passage for a second there’s a potential that Jesus has walked this pathway regularly over his three years of ministry regularly at least potentially he has walked past this man who were told was born lame who sits there begging every day

he’s walked past him and there has been no healing peter and john have potentially walked past hundreds of other people that are in a similar situation and there has been no healing what we see in this story is not that mass healing breaks out everywhere but this story it happens and that matters it tells us that these things do happen that they are real yet there are so many questions about well why why not when Jesus walked past him if it was meant to happen why did Jesus not make that happen if they’ve healed this person why not all the other people around them the story at least under the surface has some tension to it one person is healed not everybody is healed God does work supernaturally but not always in a way that we can find to be predictable then peter said to him silver and gold I do not have but what I have I do give to you in the name of Jesus christ of nazareth walks and the man does what stops you

and are offering that same hope and promise I would suggest it’s this it’s this deep fear that it might not happen and we know from proverbs chapter 13 hope deferred makes the heart grow sick think about how many times you’ve been promised something from the sort of fun sort of or retrospectively fun moments as a child where you felt promised something and it didn’t happen quite as you expected it to your expectations of christmas or a birthday and that feeling oh that just didn’t live up to my expectations and think about that all the way through to the realities of churches that have promised healing in specific places almost as a guarantee and it hasn’t happened and so I think for many of us we’d accept this there’s this tension with this idea that we see healing within the bible and yet for the most part we say does it really happen and what happens if it doesn’t what happens in this moment if peter offers his hand to this man

and the man stays lame what happens if there is no explosive moment where a man who has never walked leaps from the ground like an athlete jumping onto a high ledge in this explosive manner what happens if that doesn’t happen and many of you are in situations where you may say I have wrestled with that because I have been offered promises like that and seen them not live up to my expectation the writer kate bola is is a young person 33 years old who was recently given a diagnosis of fourth stage colon cancer and in her book she wrestles with that experience she wrestles with what it was to be told by a doctor that she had this disease that was far more progressed than they would usually see in someone her age and wrestle with the idea of what it meant for her life she was told that she had a 14 survival chance and she was told in this case survival means living another two years and so she said suddenly in this

moment life became a clock it was ticking ticking ticking ticking she said I calculated I had two christmases left at most I calculated that I had 107 thursdays left to live and everything inside me just wanted to get out of this hospital space to get on with whatever it was I was able to do because there would never again be enough time and she was told in the course of this that well she couldn’t leave yet even though she wanted to do she needed to be able to pass some solid food she needed to be able to again like we talked about move around the space and and actually sort of exist like that and so she said I did everything I could to show them that I was ready to go that included making a journey all the way down to the hospital gift shop and she said I was horrified as I looked at the bookshelf and there were all these books by preachers and pastors that I knew promised healing and spoke about financial prosperity as a guarantee

of what Jesus had done and so she said in this moment of anger I began to tear every single one of them off the bookshelf retrospectively she said it may have been a little hard on the teenage staff worker that had to watch this display of anger but she said I felt it was appropriate at the time and in beginning to tear them off the staff worker went and got the manager and the manager asked what what’s wrong with these books and she said this is was my reply normally okay I can handle this but you can’t sell this in a hospital you can’t sell this to me just let me point out the books that blame people for causing their own diseases she said this angst just swelled up inside her and she looked at these book titles and said no these promises aren’t real they’re certainly not guarantees in the way that people speak them as guarantees and she said very kindly they removed all of one particular prosperity preacher’s books from the shelf and

she came past the next time to find that had just been replaced with his newest book which wasn’t really what she was looking for but but this central core of like this is our wrestling this is our struggle yes we read these passages we read these stories within the bible and they speak about them seriously and maybe some of us have seen those moments and maybe some of us have been to different places and questioned why there and not here and yet for some of us there is also this deep tension of I have prayed and it hasn’t happened I remember my mom telling me as my uncle passed away from liver cancer this final moment where they gathered as a family to pray for him convinced in this moment he would be healed and he wasn’t healed and there’s those stories of brokenness there right there’s those stories of struggle there unfortunately I think because God is good while there’s these stories in the bible where a man

leaps in this explosive way there are also stories for us as well when we’ve experienced the opposite of that this is the story of jacob there is the story of jacob jacob at this point in his life has has left home as a deceiver has tricked his brother into handing over his birthright a big deal in eastern culture and he has left his hometown with nothing but a walking staff a stick and has come back years later with now two wives so many people in his family tribe that he can’t keep them in one camp they’re split into two camps so much wealth he doesn’t know what to do with it and yet he’s returning home deeply in fear of what awaits him what will his brother say how will he be treated when he returns and in this moment of returning home there is this pause the two camps are set and now jacob after helping everyone else across the river is now left on the other side of the river waiting for this journey waiting for he doesn’t really know

perhaps what and this is what we read so jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him till daybreak when the man saw that he could not overpower him he touched the socket of jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man then the man said let me go for it is daybreak but jacob replied I will not let you go unless you bless me the man asked him what is your name jacob which means deceiver the answer then the man said your name will no longer be jacob but israel means a prince with God because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome jacob said please tell me your name but he replied why do you ask me my name then he blessed him there so jacob called that place peniel saying it is because I saw God face to face this man jacob has an interaction with God that few of us would describe ourselves as having had and yet my life was spared it’s the same language that moses

will later use as he connects with God and then the sun rose above him as he passed peniel and he was limping because of his hip he was limping because of his hip we read two stories where two different people engage with God this first man enters God’s presence through these followers of Jesus that are now empowered by the spirit and he walks away leaping explosively with great joy and another man enters God’s presence and he walks away limping he walks away with a body that is now broken and the bible takes both of those stories seriously and we are left to wrestle with this tension we’re left to wrestle with the tension of entering God’s presence doesn’t necessarily end in a predictable way that there are these moments that we see where it brings this healing and this leaping and great joy and then there are these moments where it seems like it can lead to limping and that doesn’t necessarily make sense one

man enters God’s presence and leaves leaping another enters God’s presence and he leaves limping now what we see delightfully in jacob’s story is that there are other things going on he receives this new name there is some kind of healing deep down but not perhaps the healing we would expect and as someone that got to participate in services of prayer that saw people healed I was sometimes just amazed to see someone who might walk in and ask for prayer for cancer and might find that their hearing was healed and I don’t have an answer to that we would have people walk in who had been lifelong followers of Jesus and particularly devout and they would ask for prayer and nothing seemed to happen and we had people walk off the street for the first time and receive healing and I don’t have an answer for that and yet these riders within the bible these people who have experienced God they seem to be quite

comfortable with this tension that it doesn’t always make as much sense as we would like certainly it seems to peter and john as they unpack this as we get to the back end of acts chapter three the healing is important it’s a detail it’s a spectacular story but it doesn’t seem to be the most important thing to them either while the man held on to peter and john all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called solomon’s colonnade when peter saw this he said to them fellow israelites why does this surprise you why do you stare at us as if by our own power and godliness we have made this man walk the God of abraham isaac and jacob the God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus you handed him over to be killed and you disowned him before pilate though he had decided to let him go you disowned the holy and righteous one and asked the murderer be released to you you killed the

author of life but God raised him from the dead we are witnesses of this peter and john take this story that to us is spectacular and they completely move away from the healing as the central event of the story it gets referenced to but but almost in the sense of well this is like a micro thing this is important and yet there is something more that is central to the story and they refer once again to this beautiful idea that we are witnesses you killed the author of life but God raised him from the dead to them the story of what Jesus has done for this world and for us as individuals is far more central than whether one man walks or doesn’t walk by faith in the name of Jesus this man whom you see and know was made strong it is Jesus name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him as you can all see I love that they’re able to take this passage and take healing seriously as a deeply important fact as a thing

that you and I can see today as a place or space that we can cultivate where things that don’t normally grow can actually grow that is a part of their language and yet to them still the constant story the constant reminder is there’s a bigger story behind it now fellow israelites I know that you acted in ignorance as did your leaders but this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets saying that his messiah would suffer repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out and that times of refreshing may come from the lord and that he may send the messiah who has been appointed for you even Jesus heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore all things far more important to peter is this idea that this God someday is restoring everything that you can see and everything that you can’t see because let’s talk about this lame man for a second does this lame man believe he will

never die based on what has happened absolutely he doesn’t he doesn’t even have any reason to believe that at some point those legs that now work won’t at some point start to work against him he doesn’t have any reason to believe that the same strength he has now one day won’t be present as his life passes on and yet this idea that this peter and john sketch out that God is restoring all things it is far bigger than a man who was born lame starting to walk again central to what they say is there’s this bigger narrative there’s this bigger narrative this might be what you call micro renewal it’s a little glimpse of what God is able to do but ultimately this story centers around the fact that God is renewing everything they take healing seriously as this possibility and maybe even at times that expectation and yet ultimately isn’t the main purpose some years ago I had a friend who had leukemia and was wonderfully healed 15 years later it

returned and he passed away during that season he got to expand his business he got to provide for his wife and kids got to see his first son married he had so many wonderful experiences and yet it was never never a promise that he would never die yes we chase after healings yes we long to see bodies healed minds healed souls and hearts healed but ultimately the main story the lead of all of this is that God is restoring all things that all of this takes place is done all that takes place is done by and for the glory of the God who will restore all things he will restore all things as Jesus sketches out what it is to believe in healing to wrestle with the tension we’re told that a man in a crowd brings his son to Jesus teacher I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech now there’s a whole lot of stuff going on there that we can’t get into because for the most part people in the ancient world

took this as a sign of demon possession we might ask whether it’s a mental illness and and we can’t get into that today we’ve got to move on there’s not enough time whenever it sees him it throws him to the ground he foams at the mouth and lashes his teeth and becomes rigid I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit but they could not you unbelieving generation Jesus replied how long shall I stay with you how long shall I put up with you bring the boy to me Jesus asked the boy’s father how long has he been like this from childhood he answered here it has often thrown him into the fire or water to kill him but if you can do anything take pity on him and help us now this interaction coming up I think this man speaks for so many of us as we wrestle with subjects like healing if you can said Jesus everything is possible for the one who believes immediately the boy’s father exclaimed I do believe help me overcome my unbelief for so many

of us as we talk about these subjects we wrestle with can we even create ground where these kind of things grow in this place and in this space and for so many of us who have prayed earnestly for particular things and not seen them happen who have longingly prayed for children and loved ones we might say I do believe still there is this colonel there that believes that God you’re gonna have to help my unbelief I’m not sure that I have it in me my favorite writer frederick beekner who I quoted the other week is becoming a friend of south through the pages of his book says this believe somebody is listening believe in miracles that’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic child Jesus said all things are possible for him who believes and the father spoke for all of us when he answered lord I believe help my unbelief as we wrestle with the tension I think this is our heart cry he goes on to say and what

about when the child is not healed when listen to or not listen to the prayer goes unanswered who knows just keep praying Jesus says keep on beating the path to God’s door because the one thing you can be sure of is that down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer the God you call upon will finally come and even if he does not bring you the answer you want he will bring you himself and maybe at the secret heart of our prayers that is what we are really praying for it seems that as we wrestle with these conundrums as we pray and as we long and we have these unspoken things that we don’t even know how to voice as we cried in prayer it seems like the one thing God guarantees is he will bring his presence mad in itself is a mystery we don’t always get the answer we think we want and yet he always brings his presence and somewhere perhaps that is enough hope deferred makes the heart grow sick

but longing fulfilled is a tree of life perhaps somewhere in that moment God is bringing us the thing that we long for deeply that we don’t know how to articulate that healing can happen and yet still there is lust still there is brokenness somewhere God will bring his presence the writer of psalm 84 says better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere I had this challenging moment in a retreat the other day where walking around I said God I would love to experience more of your presence but as I unpacked my own desires it was so that the church could be better or my family could be better or I could be better at my job or any of those things and deep down somewhere there was this whisper that said are you willing to long for your presence just for its own sake just for my sake are you willing to long just for me somewhere it seems that we get to come and we get to say God we would love to see a healing

in this moment and because he said to do it today we are going to do it and if that’s a struggle for you theologically that’s absolutely okay but just confidently and because he said to ask we are going to ask and we’re going to do that through this communion table that some of you may call mass some of you may call eucharist some of you may call the lord’s supper we’re going to in this moment invite you to come and there’ll be people around that would love to pray for you and they would love to pray that God would bring his presence and they would love to pray that for you not knowing exactly what that might look like they would love to do that knowing that there are stories in the bible where God’s presence leads to leaping and great joy and there are stories in the bible that it leads to limping we would love to do that knowing that some of you come need a healing deep in your emotional core some of you need healing

deep in your hearts some of you need healing in your body some of you need healing in your mind and we come to it knowing that there are so many wonderful medical people that can help with that and yet we come and ask simply because we are told to ask as children of this king that loves us you may go away leaping you may wake you may go away limping but you will go with his presence which seems to be the one thing he always promises so in this space as people are moving around as aaron lee and the team leaders in worship there’ll be people dotted all around they have little tags on that let you know that there’s someone that you can ask to pray with you you can come and find them you can come and do that first and then take the communion elements back to your chair you can just come for communion you can come for neither you can sit and rest but in this moment I’m going to lead us to this table and as I

always do I’m going to lead us through first corinthians chapter 11. for those of you that are unfamiliar with the bible that’s fine I’m going to quote it for you I’m going to follow it with a passage from isaiah which is different for us on the night that he was betrayed Jesus gathered with his earliest followers taking the bread he passed it to each of them and said this is my body broken for you in the same way he took the cup handed it to each of them and said this is my blood shed for the sins of the world as long as you gather together do that in remembrance of me for those of us that call ourselves followers of Jesus we do this and remember Jesus who came and began to restore all things but we also remember Jesus who was a healer and we’re told in isaiah he was pierced for our transgressions he was crushed for our iniquities the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed this table is

centered around his presence that in some particular way as we gather he is present in a different way in this moment we invite you to come if you need prayer people would love to pray for you no one will notice lots of people will be moving around you can come for prayer for a body that is hurting for a mind that’s mind that feels like a minefield for a heart that is wounded a soul that is struggling and we do not know in God’s presence what he will do but he will give you himself and maybe that’s what you wanted all along would you stand with me friends God as we begin to approach this table would you speak to our hearts or just show us the ways that we need healing would you show us the ways we need your presence would we long for that presence for its own sake

Does the Spirit still heal? | The Book of Acts (Part 4)2022-02-22T14:33:33-07:00

Unified in the Spirit | The Book of Acts (Part 3)

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good morning friends how are you my name is alex I’m one of the pastors here if you’re visiting it’s really good to see you today we’re in the middle of a series on this incredible book act but firstly just a little sort of in-house stuff last week um it seems like I just went short on the sermon I didn’t give you everything that you were supposed to get 30 minutes is not a real sermon in my book I’m just you know and some of you are like 30 minutes this is great like is this the new normal no it’s not the new normal and we had this awkward moment at the end of the first service where I said like with the click of the fingers and now the band are going to come back up and there was no band they have this great little tradition they’ve been starting off grabbing a coffee in between the first service I mean I don’t expect anyone to listen to me twice I wouldn’t want to listen to me twice so they have their moment of sharing together and

all those different things and and so they were still happily in this moment of community of fellowship and as I did the click moment no band whatsoever um and so it was definitely awkward for just a few moments really all that to say my main drawing point from all of this is you guys still owe me 10 minutes from last week if you’ve heard of rollover vacation this is roll over sermon time so if the normals 40 minutes just think like 50 minutes just prep yourself for that kind of thing and uh and everyone will be happy that’s just you know we’ll be good we’re in this series on this book I won’t go for 15 minutes uh this book acts uh and really this book if you were to give it maybe a more accurate title it’s not really acts of the apostles which is its traditional title yes this is the book about things that they do in the world around them if if luke this biography of Jesus life is what Jesus did yes in some sense this book is what they do but

they don’t really do it by themselves do they for those of you that have any familiarity with it this book is really at its heart it it’s a partnership it’s maybe the acts of father son and spirit as they partner with humanity think about that song we just sang that reflected the work of father son and spirit in this this church and how it has grown and and developed over a couple of thousand years this really is is maybe a more accurate title these are people that are partnering with God in a way that have never been done before something has changed and we’ll get into just what that is that has changed but it will be true to say this book is our book there is nothing that happens within these pages as startling as miraculous as it is that cannot potentially happen if you as the person you are a partner with this God who is father son and spirit the things that happen are possible today in the same way and yet there is this wrestling that we’ll

come up with or or wrestle with occasionally do we copy it or do we learn from it what are we supposed to do with this book is everything in there just for us to copy the way they do church all of those different things or are they just like us a group of people trying to figure out what it is to follow Jesus in their particular world are the actions description or are they prescription is it what we could do is it what we’re supposed to do because as the church for a couple of thousand years has wrestled with this book well there’s some stuff that we’ve just kept doing with we’ve taken on board and said this is maybe the way to build a community this is the way to live in the world around us and yet there’s other things that the church worldwide has maybe stopped doing as we get to acts chapter 16 we’ll read a story where paul who has become one of the central characters at that point will end up in a town called philippian during

the course of events will be thrown in jail as he interacts with the people there the jailer and his family every single one of them choose to follow the same Jesus that paul is following and paul in this one moment says okay we’re going to baptize you right now on the spot in this moment now as the church grew over the next couple of hundred years what you found was as the roman empire became strongly christian it became politically advantageous to become a christian and so the church kind of changed its way of acting in the world instead of just baptizing people instantly what they would do is something like this they would say well following Jesus is really hard it’s not someone not for someone who’s faint-hearted when you take Jesus teachings and read them for you why don’t you decide if this is something that you want to commit to and if after a year you’ve decided yes I’m in come back to us and then we’ll

baptize you and you can join the community do you see the way that the actions of the worldwide church church started to tweet now we could say that they were wrong to do that but it is at least something to wrestle with is this book trying to tell us what to do or is it just trying to show us how a group of followers of Jesus might wrestle with just what it means to follow their him in this particular world so as we jump into chapter 2 where we’re going to take off where we left off last week this is the first few verses of chapter two when the day of pentecost came they were all together in one place suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them all of them were filled with the holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them

this is this experience of this first group of Jesus followers I don’t know that they knew much about what was happening I don’t know if you’d have asked them to give you some kind of theological reference point whether they could have done that but they are in the experience in the moment and then we get to see the the view of those outside of the experience outside of the moment the crowd that gathers says we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues amazed and perplexed they asked one another what does this mean what does this mean and last week for those of you that were away we wrestled with this word spirit what does that mean on one hand the word spirit in most ancient languages is simply the same word as breath the thing that gives life you have breath and think about your breath even just you and I as common human beings walking around our breath has this ability to give life right we

see someone who needs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and our breath even breathing out has enough oxygen to kind of sustain that person and if that’s just us imagine what the breath of God is able to do it’s one of the things that this peter character will unpack he starts to say he’s imagine stories where God breathes on a group of people and and the transformation that might happen there what we read in this early part of acts is that the life of the spirit is transformative it takes people and it changes them but I would suggest it’s not just about the individuals what we’re reading here is also deeply it’s a corporate experience God is doing something with this group of people and we’re going to tap into a couple of old stories along the way so before we get to this this is our key text for today I’m going to read you some of the earlier part of the text we got to chapter 2 verse 13 last week I’m going to read verses 14 down

to verse 36 and then 36 to 47 is going to be our key text for today that sounds like a lot of reading and if it sounds like a lot of reading it’s because it is a lot of reading so if you have a text in front of you feel free to open it and read along then peter stood up with the eleven raised his voice and addressed the crowd fellow jews and all of you who live in jerusalem let me explain this to you listen carefully to what I say these people are not drunk as you suppose it is only nine in the morning no this is what was spoken by the prophet joel in the last days God says I will pour out my spirit and all people your sons and daughters will prophesy your young men will see visions your old men will dream dreams even on my servants men and women I will pour out my spirit in those days and they will prophesy I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth belows blood and fire and pillows of smoke the sun will turn to

darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the lord and everyone who calls on the name of the lord will be saved fellow israelite israelites listen to this Jesus of nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles wonders and signs which God did among you through him as you yourselves know this man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and for knowledge and you with the help of wicked man put him to death by nailing him to the cross but God raised him from the dead freeing him from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him david said this about him I saw the lord always before me because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices my body will rest in hope because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead you will not let your holy one see decay you have made known to

me the paths of life you will fill me with joy in your presence fellow israelites I can tell you confidently that the patriarch david died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day but he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him an oath that he would put one of his descendants on his throne seeing what was to come he spoke of the resurrection of Jesus that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead nor did his body see decay God has raised this Jesus to life and we are witnesses of it exalted to the right hand of God he has received from the father the promised holy spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear for david did not ascend to heaven and yet he said the lord said to my lord sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet peter takes what has happened and he ties it into all of these older stories he pulls different passages from the old testament says see this was coming

all along and then he invites them to a response therefore let all israel be assured of this God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both lord and messiah when the people heard this they were cut to the heart and said to peter and the other apostles brothers what should we do peter replied repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the lord our God will call with many other words he warned them and he pleaded with them save yourself from this corrupt generation those who accepted his message were baptized and about 3 000 were added to their number that day they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching unto fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by

the apostles all the believers were together and had everything in common they saw property and possessions to give to anyone who had need every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people and the lord added to their number daily those who were being saved that’s a lot let’s pray God as we wrestle with this text we’re in all sorts of different places we have people looking at faith asking if you really are who you say you are we have people that have been on this journey for a long time and we as a community are on a journey asking who are you shaping us to be as we look at your earliest community help us to ask difficult questions help us to change our behavior in those moments where you challenge us would you take those that are afflicted amongst us and comfort us bring us hope

would you take those that are comfortable amongst us and would you afflict us and challenge us to new things would you take this book that is alive because you say you breathed on it and would you use it to breathe on us may we become alive in new ways amen okay so back to the start verse 36 therefore let all israel be assured of this God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both lord and messiah and when the people heard this they were cut to the heart and said to peter and the other apostle of the apostles brothers what shall we do so for those of you that grew up in church I grew up in a pentecostal church so we did this moment regularly in services where we would say towards the end if you need to know Jesus what we want you to do is get up from your chairs and we want you to walk down to the front of the church now I grew up with a fairly strong guilt complex so I probably made this journey about 300 times I’m

not actually exaggerating in any way shape or form there was one moment where the pastor of the church looked at me and said you need to go back to your seat you shouldn’t be here it may be the only time in history that someone has been banned from responding to a message in church and if this creates some fear in you that you might be called to do the same thing here um then no I won’t do it here it wouldn’t be appropriate but this was this moment that peter sort of leads them through there is this moment of response to the message of Jesus and the question we might ask is what exactly at this point are they responding to what do they know is is there like a common theology that they might have they’re certainly not a common language we’ve been told they’re from all sorts of different backgrounds they’re from all sorts of different ethnicities they don’t have much in common at all some of them have a connection to

judaism some of them are what are called God theorists they sit on the outside there’s almost nothing that we can take and say everybody there has this in common the one thing that they are responding to is this they believe that when peter and the other followers of Jesus say Jesus died and rose again they believe that they’re telling the truth that is their one theological belief that they have in common and perhaps they have this sense of guilt or some sense that all is not right between them and God there’s maybe this need for some kind of forgiveness and this belief that Jesus died and rose again which which really you would say changes everything this is what peter invites them into and and peter tells them you need to repent and be baptized that word repentance many of you will know is simply a turning around it’s you’re going in one direction you turn and you go in another direction his suggestion is you are walking away from

God you are invited to walk towards him and then there’s this one external marker that they’re invited into be baptized to show the world that you have made this decision and then he says down here at this bottom part the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the lord our God will call this just a hint there in this moment of how wide this story is going to get up until this point it’s essentially a jewish story and we get just this hint that it’s going to expand beyond that and as we get to acts chapter 10 and chapter 11 we start to see people called gentiles pulled into the story and the church has to wrestle with do they fit here do they belong and yet the incredibly surprising good news of acts is just how wide the story gets anybody can jump into this story and we’re told that about 3 000 were added to their number that day picture that for a moment a community of 100 people or a group of people of

a hundred suddenly has 3 000 added to it in today’s church well this would be a moment of deep panic what do we do with these people we’ve got a room for 400 ish maybe people and now we need to find room for 3 000 there’ll be all sorts of people asking questions do we have enough small group leaders for this group like do we have a way to disciple them how are we going to contact them how do we get them to sign up to the email chain all those different things that we might ask in the modern world and yet for this group of people none of those questions seem to matter simply 3 000 people come into the community and everybody says that’s okay we’re going to figure this out this this is going to work the thing is that and for some of you that have traveled with us for a little while you may have got sort of hold of the idea that there’s quite often a story behind the story and I would suggest that this story we’re reading

today is really impossible to understand without understanding another story from the old testament central to the jewish identity of who they were was this story of exodus this whole nation of people had been slaves in the land of egypt they’d begun as visitors they’d be go gunners people that were welcomed in and during the generations that passed this group of people had become slaves to the egyptians and in this spectacular moment God rescues them and leads them out of egypt in to the desert it’s a moment of great celebration and again something that jewish people a story that they would tell over and over again this is what God did for us and if you have a bible in front of you you can turn to deuteronomy chapter 16 if you don’t know where deuteronomy is you can look in the front because there’s a little thing that tells you where all the different books are this is deuteronomy 16 verse 1 to 2 observe the

month of aviv and celebrate the passover of the lord your God because in the month of aviv he brought you out of egypt by night celebrate this moment where God rescued you but what’s fascinating is this the group of people that God rescued were not all jewish they didn’t have a common identity when we read this story in the the book exodus what we’re told is this the jewish people left and a whole other group of people went with them the hebrew word is a mixed multitude a ragtag bunch a bunch of weird people that gathered together with nothing in common no common language no common experience no common ethnicity if that sounds familiar maybe it will become more familiar in a few minutes this group is pulled out into the desert and yes they celebrate the fact that God rescued them but there’s this question in amongst this group of people who are they what is their common identity that the estimates

are that somewhere between half a million and two million people left in the exodus from all sorts of different ethnic backgrounds with all sorts of languages with no common experience other than that they were slaves together and God leads them out into the desert and yes there’s a rescue yes there’s a supernatural experience but who are they and so standing on a mountain we’re told that God gives them the law he gives them 613 commands to obey so everybody knows on the outside who they are they live in a particular way that is distinct from everybody else around them and then he gives them one marker which I can’t display without a small infant male child a pair of scissors or other some other such device and a license to practice medicine because they also circumcised their male children and that was the one common marker that they had outside the law this group of people needs an identity they

don’t have one they’re just a mixed multitude of people from so many different backgrounds and so you see that God says something else to them celebrate the fact that I rescued that you but celebrate something else too count of seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain the time you begin the harvest then celebrate the festival of weeks to the lord your God by giving a free will offering in proportion to the blessing the lord your God has given you this is deuteronomy chapter 9 chapter 16 verse 9 remember that you were slaves in egypt and follow carefully these decrees this second celebration 50 days after the passover became about celebrating the law that God had given them celebrate the fact that I rescued you then celebrate the fact that I made you a community I gave you an identity I pulled you together and gave you this common experience celebrate the community I made you so think

about this story lurking in jewish consciousness for a few hundred years even a couple of thousand years you have passover then 50 days pass and then you have this festival called shavuot or pentecost 50 days 50 days after passover they have this moment of celebration of becoming a community you could say that this jewish people became a community on pentecost you might even go further and say they became an alternative community on pentecost because this community does not look like any other community around they believe very different things they live in very different ways they have different practices to everybody else around them in this moment thousands of years before the story we’re landing in today this group of people celebrated becoming a community so think of yourself as a first century jewish person think about how this story starts to grab you when you realize that Jesus dies on

passover and he’s raised to life again spectacularly beyond all expectation you get to encounter him and for 40 days he teaches you about what’s coming next but concerningly his common messages I’m leaving this story to you you guys are the ones that are going to be responsible for it in the future and as these days begin to pass and Jesus returns to his father there’s 50 days that slowly take over and then you find yourself on this day pentecost 50 years later where your nation celebrates becoming a community and there’s just in the air some lurking suspicion or expectation of what happens now what comes next the jewish people celebrated rescue and then 50 days later celebrated their community and now this new group of people celebrate their rescue and 50 days pass and the spirit is given peter even says if you join this community in this moment you will receive the gift of the holy spirit you will be pulled in and this 3 000

people that join the community on this day they become part of a community’s birth they become a community on pentecost that’s why for a couple of thousand years people have talked as about pentecost as the birth of the church the moment that it came to life they become an alternative community on pentecost too but this community again is different to every other type of community this jewish community has been based on obeying laws it may have had the circumcision thing as a an identifier but that’s not particularly visible to the outside world but nor is it anything to do with internal change in this moment this new community is founded on one thing and one thing only they are people of the spirit now it’s only possible for for that to happen because of what Jesus death and resurrection mean so I’m not trying to minimize that but the one thing this community have in common is they are

people of the spirit they are people who something has happened to internally and that starts to spread to the external that is the marker of this community they are people of the spirit and now trying to understand what will read as this community shapes she is shaped it really is affected by this question of what do we call community today because I would suggest this community we’re about to read about is so different that almost none of our experiences outside a real Jesus community really compare to it at all what do we mean by that word community what do you and I call community it might be something like this we gather around a table with friends there is a joy in that community maybe that’s the best example we can find of real community maybe family biological family is another example but there’s others that are a little weird thus the office environment what is it for a group of people to gather around

simply the business or the type of work they are involved in is that real community as we’ll wrestle with community later there is the common experience of supporting the same team I would love to talk a little bit about the ryder cup but I actually don’t want to right now for some reason being a european and if you know you know and if you don’t you don’t know so let’s just move on but there is that experience of supporting a common team maybe some of you have kids that are in kids sports and so you know like the the joining together in wrath of of soccer parents or some other parents that are upset about the way that things are going and to show it’s not just a gender issue I have both genders just getting very salty about a particular thing there’s this common experience that pulls people together and I can tell that this is in england because I see an umbrella located in the back left corner and only in england do we sit in the

pouring rain watching our six-year-olds play soccer and treat it seriously I think but maybe you guys too too not in colorado I’m sure um and sometimes this just gets wild right because because people take these things very seriously there is a building of community of a type around them I took this picture on the way home yesterday this is the back of someone’s car they want you to know that if you’re voting in douglas county for the school board please could you vote for holtzman martinez lund and watkins because community matters and even this recognizes the word unity within community there is something important there some type of connection but this is not an endorsement of these guys because my neighbor would like you to know you should vote for myers winniger williams and peterson so take that into account when you go to the ballot as well what do all of these experiences have in common we call them

community but in reality they are defined by one thing what can my community do for me we’re happy with these types of community until the moment they no longer provide us with what they want we have a group of friends if they upset us we find a new group of friends potentially at least we work in an office environment when the company no longer provides us with the benefits we think are worthwhile we choose to leave we think about all of these when the political parties that we support when they don’t live up to what we think is the right standard we choose to move on and vote for a different political party when our kids move to a different soccer team where we start supporting that team every one of these things has this in common our understanding of and our commitment to community is generally based on the following equation what does my community do for me at its at its core most of our

communities are still very me centric and the moment that that equation doesn’t make sense well it’s over the unity lasts while the equation makes sense while it works so that’s our baseline really I would suggest for community it’s really quite me centric and so now as we move on to this last part of acts chapter 2 and we start to wrestle with the type of community father son and spirit will create well we start to see something in practice I would suggest is very very different indeed so verse 40 this is what happens to this 3 000 people that join this community on this day they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer everyone was filled with all the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles all the believers were together and had everything in common they sold pro property and possessions to give to anyone who had need is this community centered

primarily around what the community can do for me it’s not there’s multiple occasions where people do things for this community to enter into it that don’t benefit them on the surface at all they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need one of the fascinating things about this passage is this that this is the passage that karl marx took and based communism around he simply took God out of the equation and discovered that it doesn’t work without God in the equation but what took place here was incredibly supernatural and incredibly hard to believe this is a group of people that take their possessions and find them in common how does that benefit the best of the people that are the the best off surely these are people that are entering into this community for something other than self-interest something very fascinating is going on here every day they continued to meet together in the temple

courts they broke bread in their homes and eat together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people and the lord added to their number daily those who were being saved this community that we see shape around the spirit is doing very unusual things has very unusual standards for what’s normal this is an alternative community centered around a new organizing principle me for my community and my community for the world these people enter in with no particular expectation that it has to benefit them they are giving generously into the community and then this community is deeply concerned for the world around it and this is why the earliest christians when parents decided they couldn’t afford to keep a child and left them out on the streets sometimes to die this is the community that said we can’t allow that to happen we’re bringing them into our community this is the

community that when plagues hit cities they stayed behind to care for those that are sick this is the community that made very remarkable decisions about how they lived decisions that don’t always make sense when we think about community as an equation does this work for me they jumped into something long-lasting sometimes for not obvious reasons and there’s one passage particularly one moment in this text we just read that I find deeply fascinating that I’d love us to focus on for just a few minutes they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts that word sincere is this greek word aphotos it simply means no stones they lived a life on a pathway with no stones why would the writer use such an interesting piece of language what does he mean by that and so from home I brought some stones I think my neighbor thought I’d gone crazy because I was digging these up this morning at some ridiculous

hour and I’m just gonna spread them out there a little bit this word has this deep connotation or root in this idea of what it is to walk along a pathway and when it describes this community he says it’s like they’re living life on a pathway that doesn’t have stones all over it imagine yourself walking bare feet and the pain that these stones cause you and I’m actually going to demonstrate it for you just a little bit because we know if you’ve got this kind of stones in your driveway they actually hurt a great deal to walk on uh I have an uncle that’s a farmer and he could just do this without any pain whatsoever but for whatever reason he compares this experience ouch of these earliest followers of Jesus he talks about life essentially as this experience of struggle of toil and for this community there is something happening that their experience of life is different think about where you may take this metaphor think about the

fact that so often we are burdened and and broken by so many things there is so much struggle we feel like we are maybe stooped down bending over just trying to survive on this kind of pathway covered in stones think about your conversations with many people in the world around you doesn’t it feel like we’re living in a society where we don’t have ease between us there is so much struggle in just having a conversation there are so many divisive viewpoints that we can’t actually share dialogue we are people that are constantly on edge we are people that are walking pathways that feel like they are covered in stones and we don’t actually know often how to deal with that one of the most beautiful pictures this writer gives us is this is a community that met together in english with glad and sincere hearts but in greek with this idea of it wasn’t like walking on stones with these people it doesn’t mean that their struggles

disappeared completely it doesn’t mean that life was easy but for whatever reason something this community provided felt like it smoothed the pathway it wasn’t that they didn’t have disagreements we just talked about the fact that they have different languages different backgrounds all of these different things and yet for whatever reason something about this community brought people together from all these different backgrounds and instead of my experience of standing on these stones it was like the experience of life was different for these people this is maybe the compelling thing that drew people into this community that said to them no I want to belong to something like this my question in life is is why do I feel like I encounter so many stones why is it like a pathway is so often strewn with so many difficulties so many struggles whether it’s me personally or my interaction with others and it’s not that I

just expect them to go away but I’m just I’m just compelled or excited by this experience of this group of people who said no they met together and it was like the stones were gone it’s like the pathways were smooth what does that mean and what do I do with all of these stones that I encounter because the presence of stones especially my interactions with other people means that actually the easiest thing to do is to just pick them up and throw them at people and that seems to be our experience of the world today there seems to be so much throwing of stones and other things it feels like we struggle to just exist together and that applies to the church as well as to the world what do we do with all this how do we find this genuine community that this group of earliest followers of Jesus found where they could live in this delightful unity and it felt like the pathway was smooth so the writer glenn pickham has these few ideas around

what builds genuine community with that word unity highlighted maybe some of these things speak to what you need from a community but also to what you are able to provide to a community there’s this idea of hospitality that a community has to welcome people in and you and I maybe have to embrace that challenge what does it take to include someone what does it take to do what this acts community does and pull in the outsider but there’s also this idea of solidarity if walking on a pathway strewn with so stones is painful and hurtful if people are coming in with that experience of life what does it take to stand with them and not fix the problem but to lift them up to say I’m here for you to support you to to help you in this what does it take for a community to come together in mutuality and and say we can do more together that the idea of the earliest church is that they came together and they transformed

the world around them because they were united people all of those things maybe have challenges for different parts of this community different people within this community but there’s another one that I just felt compelled to talk more about today there’s a fourth strand to this and it’s this one it’s humility and the idea attached to that is this I could be wrong it seems like for a community to clear a pathway of stones to have that genuine sense of unity that this question of human humility is is an important one it’s maybe something that we feel like we’ve lost today in the world I heard this interview a while back that just I found so fascinating and it connected to this idea of humility it was an interview with a conscientious objector during vietnam now different people had different reasons for becoming conscientious objectives some of them it was just simply fear and again I’m not criticizing that but this person

had a specific principle that he said led him to refuse the draft he was an anabaptist and this is how he described his system of beliefs he said as I read the sermon on the man I read that Jesus said when somebody strikes you on one cheek then you should turn the other cheek I decided when he said it he was speaking literally he decided that that meant that he should become a pacifist now again we could disagree with his theological perspective and that’s absolutely fine but what he said is this when he made this decision life was no easy journey often what happened is these people that made this protest they ended up serving in mental institutes in a time where there was no security for them they would work with prisoners that were often violent this man describes being beaten regularly and he describes his everyday life as I literally picked up thesis cleaned up urine to the point that it just became part of how I smelt he said

there was this moment where I sat down for the first time to eat a meal and realized I hadn’t even noticed that this stench was in me I gave up washing my clothes that I wore to work I just simply existed this way for 10 years imagine having a principle so strong that you could live 10 years with that kind of existence many of us might say we’ve never had a principal tested to see if we would do something like that and yet this man lived this experience that in itself I find extraordinary but it was what he said next that I found to be the most extraordinary part of the interview as I read the sermon on the mount I read that Jesus said when somebody strikes you on one cheek then you should turn the other cheek I decided that when he said it he was speaking literally but of course I could be wrong but of course I could be wrong can you imagine holding a principle so deeply that you can serve in this way for 10 years but be able to hold it

with such humility that you can take this principle and say in conversation but you could be right and I could be wrong someone once said that the wisest word in philosophy was the word perhaps to be able to take an idea and say perhaps it’s right perhaps it’s wrong but but I actually can hold it loosely my feeling about our struggle with community uh my feeling with this idea that we are constantly walking on stones in our interactions with each other is maybe that somewhere we’ve lost some of this we hold principles or beliefs about things outside of particularly who Jesus is perhaps and we hold them so strongly that we can no longer say perhaps to them we can no longer say perhaps I’m wrong and yet this community that is gathered around so many different people of different language backgrounds different ethnicities can come together around this concept of who the spirit is and this internal change

and they seem to be able to let the rest of the things go and to hold them loosely and I wonder if we can today I wonder if we’ve lost that ability mother teresa of calcutta said we learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully and it seems like that’s what this man did for 10 years as he interacted with the world that he was given this community that we see early in acts centered around this very unusual principles the fact that it pulls in people of so many different backgrounds so many different environments and they live together in this path they describe as having no stones was compelling and the lord added to their number daily those who were being saved as we wrap up my question is what what type of community is this one here can it reflect that early acts community can we take those principles can we be an alternative community centered around a new organizing principle me for my community and

my community for the world or are there just so many stones on the path are we just weighed down by so many things are interactions between us now just so broken that that we can never be this community that Jesus dreamed of and the spirit created as we are challenged individually my question as a final question is what will you bring as you follow the spirit into community this is a community that is about me for my community and my community for the world and that type of community is compelling I’m going to invite the worship team to come back on stage and we’re going to close God as we wrestle with this idea as we wrestle with this picture of a first Jesus-centered community that is empowered by your spirit we recognize that we are those people many of us followers of yours many with the same internal experience of a spirit that dwells within us and yet we often feel different to them we often feel like we are

walking on pathways strewn with stones and we are lifting burns we cannot carry them with our interactions with people feel so broken so maybe even unfixable would you speak to our community would you challenge us as individuals what is it that we hold so tightly we can no longer say perhaps is it an essential like who you are and what you did in the world or is it something that maybe belongs on the edges maybe something we have to learn to say perhaps about maybe we need to learn to articulate those words again but I could be wrong God for this community for south my longing is for hospitality my longing is for solidarity my longing is for mutuality but my longing is also for humility thank you the way you have made us as individuals thank you for the way that you can bring us together in community may we embrace the challenge that you give us for those that come in feeling broken down hurting in these moments would you come alongside them would they know the gentle presence of your spirit as we sing would you be with your people amen

Unified in the Spirit | The Book of Acts (Part 3)2022-02-22T14:26:58-07:00

What is Spirit? | The Book of Acts (Part 2)

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good morning friends how you doing today splendid responses always I love it my name is alex I’m one of the pastors here if you’re visiting we’re really glad that you’re visiting uh and just in before we get to what’s on the screen I just wanted to just add a little note uh today’s a year since laura and I and the kids moved to join you here at south and it’s it’s gone very quick and um and and just for me it’s just a thank you of making this a space where we felt welcome my kids feel like they own this building they’re very proud that they’ve been on the roof and most people haven’t and all of those different things they know the different hiding spaces and they feel like they belong and just as someone moving to join a community that’s so important but I do feel this tension that last week nearly ended my time with this community because I

managed to insult both the broncos and cat lovers within the same week um which which again like with the broncos hey you guys did great last week maybe they’ll continue and and and you guys don’t care because there’s a game on right now and you’re sat here dan elliot’s somewhere checking his phone every couple of minutes but but for the most part um like this is where like 20 people like I forgot about the game they go dashing for the doors um so so that’s fine broncos with the cat thing I don’t apologize at all um I just for a couple of reasons one I’ve actually owned like 15 cats in my life so I actually kind of like them but they keep dying on me so I have a bit of a resentment in that respect and the other reason is you cat levels are so easy to wind up it’s just like it’s just not even fun so until you get less sensitive it just your easy fodder for a sermon so there we go um we survived another week a year in it’s about that time

I’m thinking about a sabbatical which I was told is like once every two years or something like that for this role so we’ll see where we get we are jumping into this series uh the book of acts so if you missed week one let me just catch you really quickly uh up to speed we started with this question what kind of book is this and the the sort of like smart answers it’s the bible but but there is so much breadth to that bible which is 66 books with so many different authors and and you and I probably know if you’re a reader you jump into a book and and you deduce very quickly what kind of book you are reading you you maybe know that it’s a fantasy novel you know that it’s a romance novel you know that it’s fiction or know that it’s non-fiction and you do that very intuitively but there’s times that it can catch you off guard as well if I were to throw you the line once upon a time there were a princess there was a princess what book is

that now on the surface you’d say very quickly well it’s fairy tale it’s fiction but once upon a time there was a princess he’s also the opening line to a 1997 biography on the life of princess diana of way of princess diana of wales so so you can be caught off guard by just slight nuances what kind of book are we reading when we jump in to reading a book like acts well the truth is when luke writes acts he believes he’s writing history but yet for those of us that are 21st century people we might say this this isn’t history as we would expect history to be written there is so much in it that is supernatural that is different that is distinct that it catches us off guard at times because luke will write things as fact believing that they happened we may question whether he’s accurate or not but for him he’s writing history as he has heard it he believes he’s giving us the real stuff and that’s why he gives us so many details particular little

things that only an avid historian would know to make sure we know we can trust him on the little things and therefore maybe we’ll trust him on the big things so we’re going to jump into a passage today that that is just one of those passages if we would say that luke this biography of Jesus life was about what Jesus did acts is then what his followers did you could say it’s luke part one and then luke part two the the books are united they just flow into each other but when we say acts is about what his followers did there’s a tension there as well because it’s not really then is it if you have any familiar familiarity with it you’d say it’s not really them doing the stuff a better title might be something like this the acts of father son and spirit as they partner with humanity and there’s a lot of religious language there if you’re new to the church thing but but really God working with humans is what the book is all about it the spectacular stuff it’s

God that does it humanity’s job is to partner with that garden and so we might say this we might say that this book is our book if you’re a follower of Jesus one of the hard things to wrestle with is this there is nothing in this book supernatural as it is that cannot happen today if you partner with God and I partnered with God as these people did everything in this book is still up for grabs and that in itself has been a tension point for so many people there’s this story of a fairly well-known pastor who becoming converted in his sort of late teens goes to the pastor of the church and says when do we do the stuff and the pastor says what do you mean small groups do you mean potlucks what do you mean by the stuff and he says no the the stuff that I’m reading about there’s all these things that these first followers of Jesus did that are miraculous that are spectacular everything from being able to share their faith and and who

Jesus was in a dynamic way so that the church grew organically like crazy all the way through to seeing people healed speaking in different languages and his question was but I don’t see that it can cause us some tension now maybe you have a nice easy answer to that maybe you don’t believe stuff like that happens today and and we’re not going to wrestle with that too much today but but at least on the surface there seems to be this idea in acts that that this Jesus story and the spirit that he’s given afterwards provides some kind of power for followers of Jesus to work in the world around us and our question might be well do we still see that so we’re gonna jump into acts chapter two and this passage in itself is supernatural if you have a text in front of you you can read along this is the new international version if that means anything to you verse one when the day of pentecost came they were all together in one place

suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them all of them were filled with the holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them lots of language there that will unpack now they were staying in jerusalem God fearing jews from every nation under heaven when they heard this sound a crowd came together in bewilderment because each one heard their own language been spoken there’s this question with this piece of the text did the these followers of Jesus actually speak in other languages or did people just hear their own language again it’s a fine detail you might want to look and research yourself but we’re not going to have a chance to get into it too much today utterly amazed they asked aren’t all these who are speaking galileans

then how is it each of us hears them in our native language parthians medes and elamites residents of mesopotamia judea and cappadocia pontius and asia phrygia and pamphlea egypt and parts of libya near cyrene visitors from rome both cretians and arabs how many of you know more than two of those places or where they are in the world if you did props to you good job I went to seminary I definitely missed a few of them so you are in good company if you’re like I don’t know amazed and perplexed they asked one another what does this mean some however made fun of them and said they have had too much wine let’s pray God as we unwrap this passage as we ask what you might have to say to us we ask that you would speak there is a supernatural element to this passage and there’s all sorts of people in this room all sorts of people watching online and we come from all sorts of different backgrounds and have

all sorts of different questions and for some of us the supernatural might be okay yeah I can handle that and some of us might be I’m not sure about anything that claims this kind of thing and yet there’s this character this holy spirit that we’re introduced to and on some level we see that he brings life and these people come alive in new ways and that in itself is compelling so as we learn together would you speak might we become alive in new ways in the ways that we feel tired the ways that we feel broken weighed down by life would you lift us up would you bring a life to us your people amen so back to the start I would suggest that when you look at this passage one of the fascinating things about it is this there’s really three different groups of people that we’re going to encounter yes there’s this character of the holy spirit who is central to the whole thing we’ll get to him in a second but but there’s these three different groups that

that maybe aren’t super different from the groups that might be in this room so we read at the start of the passage when the day of pentecost came they were gathered all together in one place this is the the insider group the people that are going to experience the event that know to a certain degree what is going on suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them all of them were filled with the holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them the event may be strange to them it may be new to them but they are in the middle of it they are somewhat compelled by there’s something that’s happening to them that is unusual that is different they are the insider group they are the insiders but there’s another group there’s the the curious

ones the ones that sit on the edge of the event the ones that watch it happen the ones that have significant questions about it now they were staying in jerusalem God fearing jews from every nation under heaven when they heard this sound a crowd came together in bewilderment because each of them heard their own languages being spoken utterly amazed they asked aren’t all these who were speaking galileans the galilean accent was particularly distinct it stood out so even for people on the outside they were like we know where these guys came from there’s something very familiar about them and yet the languages that they’re speaking it doesn’t doesn’t make sense there’s something that’s happened instantly now you and I would say like you can learn a language over a few months by rosetta stone or duolingo or something like that but to be able to suddenly speak in a different language and convey

religious truths well that’s a different thing and so that’s the curious group that asks this question amazed and perplexed they ask one another what does this mean and then finally you’ve got this other group some however made fun of them and said they have had too much wine this is the dismissive group and aaron bjorkland our worship pastor said to me you should go with the line they didn’t think it was the spirit they thought it was the spirits and I said I can’t pull that off and he was right apparently it doesn’t work so thanks for the tip um these three groups exist within the text they all observe what’s happening in different ways with different expectations some of them believe it because it happened to them others are observant and interested on the fringes still but with questions and the third group are the ones that are just like no that’s not for me now my question for us as a community is this which group do you

identify with because within this room on the back of a screen whoever whoever’s watching whoever’s connecting with this there’s probably different groups that we might identify there’s definitely these three different groups and and you might be in any one of those places you might describe yourself as been part of the dismissive group the some however made fun of them and said they have had too much wine maybe you come to this community thing because long ago you agreed with your husband or wife well I’ll keep coming uh I’ll keep attending but I’m not sure this thing really makes sense and it’s it’s just we do it for the kids or or whatever there’s there’s potential that in even in a church environment there’s some people that like I can’t buy in to this kind of thing church is fine to a point Jesus is fine to a point he has some compelling teaching but but I don’t believe anything particular about him that might not be true

of buddha or any other great religious teacher we might find ourselves in that group and and there’s this other group this curious group that if you’re part of that dismissive group I would invite you into because this group is fascinating this language that this writer luke uses about them amazed and perplexed they asked one another what does this mean they are seeing and observing something that is supernatural and different but their questions are what is this what what exactly is happening is this something that’s accessible that I can be a part of the greek language behind the text that we don’t necessarily see is made up of these two words existing displaced disrupted the idea is to stand aside like when you see something unusual shocking you kind of step back and you just observe for a while maybe you ask that question am I out of my mind am I really seeing and hearing what I think I’m seeing and hearing but the language

then moves on the word perplexed this word thomaso is to begin to chatter about so so when I took a group of uh missionaries up to the top of the mountains in haiti haiti’s got mountains beyond mountains and they really just drop down into the ocean it’s quite spectacular spectacular and as we drove along these lines they would look out either side of the windows and just gasp and then they would call to each other from opposite sides of the bus are you seeing this this is incredible you maybe have your own experience that is the moment of pause that moment where you can’t speak that moment where you’re just blown away you stand to one side am I out of my mind and then there’s that moment where you start to maybe unpack with someone maybe you think I know someone who would want to talk about this and you begin to chatter this is this process that these first curious people go through a few years ago I

was visiting my parents and this rainbow that was just beyond a normal normal rainbow appeared outside the house there was actually a double one sort of over the top of it that you couldn’t see and whether it was just the light or the time of the evening I remember people walking outside of their houses and just staring and stopping am I out of my mind am I seeing this thing and then you would later unpack it and you would talk about it remember that time that we saw that rainbow that just and you could probably pick lots of different things that you have seen maybe the first time you drove towards the continental divide in colorado and you just see this landscape drop away from you like wow am I really seeing this there’s that moment of pause and then that moment of conversation and that’s exactly what is happening to this curious group the movement that happens here is this movement from I just can’t talk

about this to and now I’m going to start to ask some questions amazed and perplexed they asked one another what does this mean and one of my questions if you find yourself in this curious group maybe I would say even my apologies is this I feel like sometimes as followers of Jesus we jump very quickly into language that isn’t necessarily accessible we use these words partly because we don’t have better words so we maybe talk about sin and redemption and even the word spirit I would suggest lands at that camp if you’re a follower of Jesus yourself and I would say to you something like explain to me the holy spirit but you’re not allowed to use any religious language what would you say how would you describe this character that has just appeared in a distinct way in this point of the narrative you can’t rely on well of course it’s the holy spirit the third member of the divine trinity who came to infill the lives of believers and

suddenly that language has already lapsed into language that he’s only used in church and so what I’d like us to do as a community for a second is to backtrack a bit and just start to unpack what exactly is this who exactly is this character what do we mean when we use a word like spirit what even is spirit and to do that I would like a couple of volunteers and if I have to stand here awkwardly until someone volunteers I will I don’t I don’t like the broncos lions don’t play till tomorrow night so I need someone that isn’t afraid to be just a little you know on stage and uh and if I don’t find someone soon I’ll have to pick someone one person thank you maya way to go come up here join us and oh so interesting two guys volunteered in the first one and my wife volunteered in the second one okay so so here we go we’ve got some we’ve got some tools here and um two two is perfect okay there we go so if you come over this side and sorry

what was your name again laura laura laura great to see you maya laura welcome to the stage so what I want you to do for a second is imagine yourself back in 1776. some stuff happened there that I’m told over this side of the pond is fairly important it matters to you guys we could argue all day about who was right and who was wrong and whether a benevolent king was usurped against and whether taxation without representation is really that bad but we won’t discuss that today and and so in the middle of this conflict you have two sides and I have for you a red coat red coat there we go so picture yourself you’ve got a noble revolutionary on one side and you’ve got a the bad guys sorry the the red coats on the other side and during the the battle there is this moment of conflict I guess they used swords maybe at times in that day and age I don’t really know but these are swords um they’re stolen from my kid’s tent but during

the conflict there is this moment of striking each other with the swords you guys can feel free to have at it just you know there we go it was far more aggressive in the first service I will say this when we had two guys on stage it got vicious and and during the conflict what happens the the good old revolutionary the good guy he attacks and he stabs the bad guy and so there is this moment of tragedy and and they fall to the ground you don’t have to fall to the ground you can stand up um but then the revolutionary they dash off and celebrate with the other bad guys and um and then our red coat stays here for just a second now this poor young soldier 4 000 miles from home one battalion fighting against 65 others in a way most people would say just isn’t fair but is is tragically killed and and then then what happens when their friend the other redcoat finds them what do they want to know are they alive or are they dead and how

do they find out whether they’re alive or dead well maybe in this scenario what they do is they grab a feather from their cap or whatever I don’t even know what they wore back then but they they do something they grab a piece of paper or something and they hold it over the mouth because they want to know what are they breathing are they are they alive or are they dead is linked to this question are they breathing or are they not breathing you can take a seat laura thank you very much very very good volunteering let’s give them a round of applause maya thank you so much for thousands of years when we talked about language or we look at ancient language the language of breath and the language of spirit are very closely tied together in latin we see the word spiritus which is both breath and spirit in hebrew the word ruach breath and spirit in greek the word number breath and spirit what we’ve known just language wise for

years is that when something is breathing it is alive and when it stops breathing it is no longer alive there is something that has happened that has taken away the life the breath has gone the two are tied together so on a very basic level the word spirit is simply the idea of breath the writer frederick beakner would describe it like this spirit is an animating power the livingness of that which is alive you have breath you have spirit when when breath is gone you are no longer alive and in the same way you would say this is is that God has breath God is spirit now his aliveness is different to our aliveness it is on a greater level and yet there is a unity between the two when you stop breathing you are no longer alive breath is what gives you life and God is spirit and he is breath so when we look back into the early parts of the bible genesis chapter 1 now the earth was formless and empty darkness was over the surface of the deep and the spirit

of God was hovering over the waters there is this idea that God’s breath God’s spirit is is brooding over this world that isn’t yet taken shape and then he breathes into things he breathes specifically into humans and they become alive in a distinct way when Jesus unpacked who God was he said God is spirit the source of life yet invisible to mankind and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth there is something about spirit that is this animating power if you like pictures as ideas if they are the thing that connect with you take a look at this picture this is good old crash from finding nemo swimming around doing his thing and look at the left hand side of the picture this is before they put light into the image and this is after they put light into the image and look at the way that the texture changes there is something about that picture that is more alive more real than this side that we see and there

is something about spirit that is the thing that gives life if you are part of that curious group to reduce it down to like non-religious language spirit is this animating power that is the aliveness that makes things alive and then there’s the question of this other group what does that mean for us as insiders what about the insider group which so many of us would say we are and are more comfortable with that language of the holy spirit and who he is what is happening in this text and what are we supposed to take from it there’s this moment where something supernatural happens and God comes to what we’re told dwell within us in a different way it’s not like the old story where God was accessible connected with human beings but external on the outside what is happening in this moment that we’re supposed to grasp and take away well I would suggest there’s two stories at least that are behind this story one is implicit and one is

explicit one is kind of the story that that people would know in the first century the other one is the story that peter one of the followers of Jesus will talk about so aaron read this passage during worship this is from ezekiel 37 the hand of the lord was on me and he brought me out by the spirit of the lord and set me in the middle of a valley it was full of bones he led me back and forth among them and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley bones that were very dry he asked me son of man can these bones live I said sovereign lord you alone know then he said to me prophesy to these bones and say to them dry bones hear the word of the lord this is what the sovereign lord says to these bones I will make breath spirit life animating power enter you and you will come to life I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin I will put breath in you and you will come to life then you will know that I

am the lord so I prophesied as I was commanded and as I was prophesying there was a noise a rattling sound and the bones came together bone to bone I looked and tendons on flesh appeared on them and skin covered them but there was no breath in them then he said to me prophesy to the breath prophesy son of man and say to it and prophesy is simply this idea of speak new things into tell a better story four give a preferred future to say to it this is what the sovereign lord says calm breath from the four winds and breathe into these slayed that they may live so I prophesied as he commanded me and breath entered them they came to life and stood up on their feet a vast army this text wrestles with the idea of lots of things are seen as dead can God bring a life to that which is dead and the idea within this text is yes absolutely he can so for hundreds of years this text hovers around this group of people these israelites as

something that is important to their story and yet when the thing actually happens it doesn’t look exactly like they are expecting it turns out that when God talks about breathing into bones and them coming alive is that possible yes but in this story of the spirit it happens in a different way in this story of the coming of the spirit God takes everyday humans like you and I and comes to dwell within them and that in itself makes us alive in a different way that this Jesus story has long been associated with the idea that God is not just external not just giving rules not on the outside but he actually comes and lives within us and is transformative within us these disciples these followers of Jesus are alive now in a new way that they weren’t alive in before something significant has changed and then there’s the story that’s explicit there’s the story that peter actually shares then peter stood up with the eleven raised his voice and
addressed the crowd fellow jews and all of you who live in jerusalem let me explain this to you listen carefully to what I say these people are not drunk as you suppose he addresses the dismissive crowd that says they’ve just simply had too much wine he says no no it’s nine o’clock in the morning that hasn’t happened that’s just not proper there’s another story behind this no this is what was spoken by the prophet joel and he quotes another old story in the last days God says I will pour out my spirit on all people your sons and daughters will prophesy your young men will see visions your old men will dream dreams even on my servants both men and women I will pour out my spirit in those days and they will prophesy new things will happen God’s spirit may have interacted with the odd unusual person in the old stories but now this story is for everybody anybody can participate in this interaction with the spirit this is how

spectacularly the story changes in this moment and this is why for thousands of years we might say this is the moment that the church is born Jesus death and resurrection were leading to this moment where you and I can interact with this holy spirit in a completely different way than was ever accessible before you might say this the spirit is the one who animates the life of Jesus followers the one without whom nothing is possible and with whom nothing is impossible that we will read in this book act is only possible because of this moment right now in chapter 2 verse 1 through 13 this is the moment where this group of everyday people will become people that can change the world this is the moment where a group of 11 people who really if they’re honest are probably hiding terrified that the same thing that happened to their leader might happen to them this is the moment where all of the things that take shape over 2000 years

become possible this story is our story and yet the tension point I would say if you’re a follower of Jesus is this are we inside us with the same questions as the curious group now if you’re sitting here and you say I’m part of the curious group what I have to say you’re very welcome to listen in on and gather what you can but I’m not asking you to do anything because you haven’t yet made this decision on who Jesus is it’s a decision that you’re invited to make but right now you’re free from having to do or having to ask this question but but if you are my question is are we insiders with the same questions as the curious if you think about this character of the holy spirit do we have the same uncertainty as so many people who would say they are outside church I I have often wondered I have this sort of working thesis that the holy spirit in church is kind of like when you have a wedding if you have a crazy uncle who kind of does some unusual

things who acts differently you have to invite them because they’re family but what you do is you put them on table 27 over in the corner with the florida cousins that you weren’t sure you wanted there either because it’s just expensive to pay for the meals and so you say will you sit out there don’t do anything unusual don’t don’t dance on tables don’t act out don’t do any of those things were terrified that you might do and I have this theory that within church life this character of the holy spirit creates the same nervousness the writer gordon fee said this ask most followers of Jesus to draw a picture of the holy spirit and what that draw is a is a gray oblong shape we have the uh the the humanity the personification of God the father in the old testament so we might draw a picture that looks kind of like gandalf the wizard or something like that we we have this idea of what Jesus looked like so we can draw him but when it comes

to this character of the spirit we’re left with this sort of like I just don’t know so this beautiful character that God introduces that Jesus talks about as a gift to the church gets pushed off to one side because we just don’t know how to interact and yet what Jesus promised was this was this this spirit came to give life to us that this spirit came to stand alongside of us in our lowest and weakest moments that this spirit came to empower us indwellis that any life change that we experience is because of this spirit later the writer paul will unpack these fruits of the spirit of love and joy and peace and patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self-control all of these things that we might say as followers of Jesus where we’re moving towards and yet he leaves us no doubt that the only movement towards them is based on relationship and interaction with the spirit who is transformative and I wonder if we just don’t know how to

interact with this spirit and maybe worse for those of you that would describe yourself as curious we owe you a deep apology because perhaps so often we’re not really as transformed as the story which would suggest that we should be that you may have interacted with christians of all sorts of backgrounds who seem to be no more loving or patient or kind or good than anybody else and so we kind of have a credibility issue at times maybe simply because we don’t know how to interact with this spirit there’s a song by a band called the lumineers called submarines it’s imagines a world back in 1944 something like that where submarines appear around the coast of america and this guy sees one of them a japanese submarine during war time and he goes to tell everybody and nobody believes him and this is the lyrics I believe submarines underneath deep blue seas saw the flags japanese no one will believe me an attack

is imminent some big story is being shaped and there’s this nerves what do we do in this moment and what he says is this in the end it boils down to credibility I had none so I will die with the secrets of the sea this man has news to share and yet for whatever reason whether his background or his history nobody believes what he has to share it’s like the fairy tale of the boy who cried wolf so many times he saw a wolf he claimed and and comes to tell the townspeople and after a while they say but you’re always lying and then when a wolf does turn up nobody believes him this story talks about credibility and I question whether we have the same problem as a massive aside when I searched submarines to find these lyrics the first thing that came up was submarines for sale and because no guy is ever much more than a 14 year old boy I actually spent 15 minutes just looking at what submarines were for sale I was very

disappointed to find that they were all just pictures of submarines so I then googled real submarines for sale and found nothing good either but I just wanted to share that with you and apparently france has a now a little political joke for you going on there and so if you want one maybe there’s some good deals right now there is this idea that the spirit is supposed to be this one who animates the life of Jesus followers the one without whom nothing is possible and with whom nothing is impossible and yet I wonder if those of us that would call ourselves followers of Jesus really live into that this story speaks of this moment where the spirit engages with humanity and everything that we see take place in acts is because of that moment and yet when we ask ourselves what we see today we might say does it look like that we’ll wrestle during this series with a question is it supposed to look like that the stuff that happens in acts

that we might say man that just doesn’t seem like it fits with what we know of God we’ll wrestle with the question are we supposed to copy these people or are they just humans figuring out how best to follow Jesus for themselves how best to interact with the spirit but certainly it seems there are moments where through humans that are engaging with the spirit the world changes and I think we long to see a world that changes whichever group you sit in dismissive curious or insider I would suggest you and I are invited into deeper engagement with this spirit and with his heart and who he is and this writer that I quoted earlier frederick beekner has this fascinating passage that I just every time I read it just engages and teaches me something more and I’d like to share it with you most of the time we tend to think of life as a neutral kind of thing and the common view is that life doesn’t care one way or another any more than the

ocean cares whether we swim in it or drown in it to say that God is spirit is to say that life does care that the life giving power that life itself comes from is not indifferent to whether we sink or swim it wants us to swim he wants us to swim this picture that we are given of of this holy spirit is this character that Jesus introduces as a counselor someone who walks alongside someone who places an arm around a shoulder in a lowest moment someone who uplifts when we deeply need uplifting and to say that behind this world is not just material but is spirit is God is this breath that gives life this energy that gives animation that that brings out all that makes this world alive is to say that life is not indifferent to the struggles that every single one of us dismissive curious or a face that each one of us has these moments where we would say I feel like the ocean is dragging me down the weight of this life the struggle of this life is just too

much whether it’s the fact that the bills come through the door with greater frequency than the money fills the bank account whether it is simply the next argument with a child with a spouse with a sibling whether it is the constant weight of I have employees to pay who rely on me whether it is any of those stories the 24 out of 7 news cycle that that makes us feel weighed down makes us feel hopeless any of those things in those moments what this tells us is that this spirit he doesn’t want us to sing he wants us to swim he wants us to swim you and I are invited into this relationship with this God who is knowable who longs for us to be something different than we are we started off with that idea that an animating power the livingness of that which is alive but that in itself isn’t enough what the story of acts tells us is this that this holy spirit is not just an animating power he is knowable relational and longs to be with us in a particular

way he is God’s great gift to this world and doesn’t deserve or need to be pushed to the side of the church because he’s just a little bit more difficult to understand whether dismissive curious or insider you are invited into relationship with this spirit in a new and particular way I’m going to invite the worship team to come back up on stage and we’re going to take a moment to pray together and to begin to engage with that God that spirit that loves us

What is Spirit? | The Book of Acts (Part 2)2022-02-22T14:21:24-07:00
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