Sunday – March 15, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 8:1-25 “Simon and Simon”

Sunday – March 15, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 15, 2020

Acts 8:4-6
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.

In the Old Testament, God seldom used those who appeared to be the “most likely to succeed.” He used Moses, who was an escaped fugitive and who made all kinds of excuses as to why he was not the one God needed to deliver the nation Israel from its Egyptian bondage. He used David to kill Goliath, in spite of his youth and the disparaging comments of his brothers. He used Samson and Balaam, and even Balaam’s donkey. God used Pharaoh and his hardened heart to demonstrate His power over the gods of Egypt.

The Book of Acts is no exception. God has already used Peter to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to crowds of people in Jerusalem, as well as to the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest religious and civil court in Judaism. God used Stephen to preach in Greek-speaking synagogues, which led to his arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin. Instead of defending himself, Stephen indicted his accusers, showing their charges to be inconsistent with Old Testament teaching, and their resistance to God’s Spirit to be entirely consistent with Israel’s rebellion against God and His appointed servants.

I find examples of the sovereignty of God. I see this in the way God employs all things to promote His glory. God used the opposition of the Sanhedrin, the stoning of Stephen, and the opposition of Saul to scatter the Jerusalem saints, and thus to set in motion the fulfillment of the Great Commission. God used Simon the magician to testify to the true and greater power of God through Philip and the apostles (Peter and John). Because of Simon’s fascination with the signs and wonders performed by these men, many Samaritans gave a listening ear to the preaching of the gospel, and many came to faith. God used those who obeyed Him, those who sought Him, and those who opposed Him to accomplish salvation, and glorify Himself.

God’s grace and God’s gifts are a matter of His sovereign pleasure, but what a comfort it is to know that God acts independently of men, without being manipulated. What a comfort to know that God’s independence assures us that He will not only act independently of men, but in the best interest of His own. He is not manipulated by His children; He manipulates us, but in a way that is for His glory and for our best interest. His sovereignty will be evident in our next lesson, in the salvation of Saul, the rebel. May we gratefully bow the knee in worship and obedience to the Sovereign God, who works all things together for our good, and in such a way as to achieve His purposes and plans.

Sunday – February 23, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 6: 8-16 “Stephen the Man”

Sunday – February 23, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 23, 2020

Acts 6:8
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”

Stephen was described as a man who was both “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3) and as one who was “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5). His ministry to Hellenistic widows seems to have put him in contact with a great many Hellenistic Jews. Through Stephen, among the Hellenistic Jews, God accomplished many “great wonders and signs” (6:8). Feeding the widows gave Stephen a much greater exposure and the opportunity to function in a way that was similar to the twelve apostles. The mention of Stephen’s ability to perform “signs and wonders” is very significant. Up to this point, only the apostles were said to have worked signs and wonders. Since the twelve apostles would remain in Jerusalem after the church was scattered (Acts 8:1), it would seem that Stephen (here) and Philip (Acts 8) would serve as apostles to a more diverse group.

We are not told how the power to perform signs and wonders came upon Stephen. Had we been told, we would probably find this viewed as a formula by which saints are to manipulate or persuade God into acting as we would desire. Every indication is that both Stephen and the apostles were surprised by his ability to perform such miracles. It was not because Stephen “prayed through” the right formula nor because of the apostles, of their training, of discipleship, or ordination that these signs and wonders were performed. The simplest explanation for the mighty power which Stephen possessed was that the sovereign God had purposed to make him an apostle, in His own time, and in His own way.

In previous sermons in Acts, many have been saved. Here (and for the first time), the preacher is put to death. God prospers some sermons in the salvation of many, but He also uses sermons for other purposes, as here. We also see that there is an evangelistic thrust, resulting from this sermon. This is an evidence of God’s sovereign control. Those who are saved are not the audience of Stephen, but the Samaritans and Gentiles who will be saved because of the persecution resulting from Stephen’s death. Without knowing it, these Jews are propelling the gospel beyond Jerusalem to the very places from which they have come. Many will be saved because of the sermon and the death of Stephen. And the one who was a part of Stephen’s death—Saul—will be God’s chosen instrument to reach the Gentiles.

No wonder Stephen, a man who was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” did not fear death and did not revere the physical temple in Jerusalem. He was a man who “saw” a better temple and whose hope was not earthly. He was free to die, as were the saints of old, because of His faith in God and the promises which were sure to come. May we be more like this great man of old whose life and ministry were short but significant.

Sunday – February 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 5:12-42 “The Great Escape”

Sunday – February 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 9, 2020

Acts 5:19-20
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

The early church in the Book of Acts experienced the Lord’s power through the many miracles performed by the apostles, and through powerful witness and the resulting powerful conversions of the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Jesus had told the apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be His witnesses and Peter testified to the Sanhedrin that it was the Holy Spirit in them that was the source of their power (5:32).

Many say that if the church would only repent of her sins and have faith in God, then we would again see miracles on a par with these recorded in the Book of Acts. But I believe such thinking not to be in line with biblical teaching. It was not every church member who was performing these miracles, but rather the apostles and a few other leading men in the church. The purpose for God granting these miracles was to confirm the gospel message and to authenticate these men as God’s messengers in these early days of the church.

While God obviously still does mighty miracles in our day if He so chooses, to argue that it is His will to do them as a common occurrence is to ignore the overall teaching of God’s Word. Many fail to note that while the apostles performed many great miracles, and the angel miraculously delivered them from prison, the angel did not spare them from being flogged. (There is a bit of humor here: since the Sadducees did not believe in angels, the Lord sent one to deliver the apostles!) God did not deliver James (12:2) or Paul from prison (Acts 24:27) or spare them and most of the other apostles from martyrdom. Paul did not heal Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20) or tell Timothy to claim healing by faith for his frequent stomach problems (1 Tim. 5:23).

On the one hand, we should never limit God’s power by our unbelief or by our rationalistic theology. We should pray in faith, knowing that all things are possible with God. Yet on the other hand, we should submit to the fact that it is not always His will to deliver us from illness, persecution, or death. Above all, we should be people who are “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:11-12). I would point out that you don’t need steadfastness and patience if God miraculously delivers you! We see God’s mighty power in our text, not only in the miracles of healing, but also in the disciples rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Sunday – December 1, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 1 “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament”

Sunday – December 1, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 1, 2019

Acts 2:2-3
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.

When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the other believers on the Day of Pentecost, those who heard them speaking in tongues were perplexed and asked, “What does this mean?” (2:12). The question persists in our day. Many claim that the meaning of Pentecost is that we should have the same experience as the disciples, namely, to speak in tongues. You have probably had other Christians ask you, as I have, “Have you spoken in tongues?” If you have not, they are eager to help you have this experience for yourself. We all need to answer biblically, in light of the context: What is the meaning of Pentecost?

Acts 2 must be interpreted in light of Acts 1:4-8, where the risen Lord Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. Jesus explained that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (1:5) and they would receive power to be Christ’s “witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8). Just as the ministry of Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit descending on Him at His baptism, so the ministry of the disciples depended on them receiving the Holy Spirit and relying on His power. While they had experienced a measure of the Spirit’s power before (John 20:22), now He would come to dwell in them permanently.

We need to be careful to distinguish several terms that are often confused. In Acts 1:5, Jesus said that the apostles would be baptized by the Holy Spirit, which occurred on the Day of Pentecost. Baptism refers to being totally identified with the Spirit and to the initial reception of the Spirit. Paul tells the Corinthians, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). If the baptism of the Spirit were a special experience for the spiritually elite, Paul would not have said such a thing to the Corinthians. Nowhere does the Bible command believers to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, since it is not an experience we are to seek, but God’s action performed on the believer at the moment of salvation.

God’s purpose at Pentecost was to equip His church with the mighty power of the Holy Spirit so that we would be His witnesses to all the nations, resulting in His eternal glory. We need to ask ourselves is my daily desire to bear witness of Christ to those who are lost and perishing? The power of the Spirit isn’t given just to make me happy. It is given to make me holy so that my life and my words bring glory to God as I bear witness to His saving grace. That should be the meaning of Pentecost for you and me.

Sunday – October 11, 2015 “Maintaining Your Faith in Difficult Persecution”

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Scripture tells us that in the last days godlessness will have control in the world. We see this now in the world and the frequency and intensity of godlessness is growing daily. Actions and policies may be called right or moral or even what God wants by those in power. These actions and policies are usually “dressed up” as being for best of reasons or for the benefit of many. But the real purpose behind today’s ungodliness is presented in scripture.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Holding a form of godliness means that those at all levels of power try to portray themselves and their actions as “good”, as the thing or things God wants. They project their own desires and cloak them with ”spiritual” words and promises. Their actions however tell the truth, that they do not know the living God or have relationship with Him. Because they do not have a real relationship with God in Christ they are not sealed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, they do not have the power of real godliness in their lives.

The only way to truly know what God wants, what is right and moral, is to know God. We can only truly know God by first having our sins forgiven by Christ and beginning a new life with Christ in charge. This new relationship equips us to understand what God has provided for us and how He wants us to respond. That response is having the right thoughts, purposes and actions that please and serve Him. He supplies the power for that response. To find those right responses we must look to His word, the Bible. It is through the Bible that we get to know Him. The more completely and intimately we know Him, the better we can see, trust and follow Him in all circumstances.

The scriptures reveal His love, His power, and His Promise.

God’s love is expressed in his sending his Son to die, not for the Son’s own sins for he lived the only life without sin, but to die to pay the penalty for the sins of all who will trust in the Son: The sins of you and me.

God’s power is seen in the six-day creation of the world. All things created in the six days were spoken into existence except for man, whom God made “by hand”. His power is further revealed on a human experience level by His bringing to life people who were dead.

God’s promise is for eternal life for all who trust the Son and what He has done on the cross and in the resurrection.

John 6:40
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Sunday – August 23, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 1

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Revelation 2:12-14
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

The Bible displays a sense of proportion concerning Satan which we should seek to gain and then maintain. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Satan, and no more. Given Satan’s key role in the plan of God, his great power, and his cunning ways, we might expect to find more about Satan in the Bible than we do. God neither wishes to flatter Satan with too much publicity nor desires that we become preoccupied with him. Satan fell because of his insatiable desire for prominence, desiring the glory which belongs only to God. Satan should receive only the attention he deserves. God’s Word supplies the facts and perspective we need.

I sometimes hear Christians referring to adversity or difficulty, assuming that it has come from Satan. Perhaps it has or perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.

Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. But behind him is the God of the universe who is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with the God who uses him to achieve His plan. The Bible has been written to increase our depth perception – our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see God, the ultimate source.

To this point in time, God has purposed Satan’s existence and opposition to fulfill God’s plan. But for Satan the perfect plan of God includes a future day of doom. God’s perfect rule over creation requires the elimination and removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete. The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. My friend, whom will you choose? If you do not choose Christ, you are already Satan’s slave, doomed to share in his eternal torment. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.

Sunday June 7, 2015 “The Man Who Cried for God to Come Down” Isaiah 63

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Isaiah 63:17
“Why, O Lord, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage.”

Through God’s Spirit, the prophet Isaiah saw a desperate future time in Israel’s history. Because Isaiah predicted conditions that would take place about 100 years after he wrote (after the Babylonians conquered Judah), liberal critics have said that Isaiah couldn’t have written this. But I believe that God revealed the future to the prophet and led him to pray this prayer as a gracious way of teaching us how to lay hold of Him and His power in times of great spiritual need.

Isaiah pictures God as shut up in heaven, removed from His people who are suffering because of their sin. In an emotional outburst, the prophet calls upon God to rend the heavens and come down in great power, even as He did at Sinai, to restore His people and to make His name known among the nations. His point is that complacency with the existing low spiritual condition among God’s people is the enemy of revival. Remember the lukewarm church at Laodicea? They were content: “We’re rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” But God’s evaluation was that they were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

I know of two ways to keep from lapsing into lukewarmness and thinking that it is normal. First, steep yourself in the Bible so much that when you hear of the worldliness of the modern church, you are appalled. God’s Word must shape our worldview.Second, read church history and read some of the great men of God from the past. You will learn how God has worked in history, and you will read men who were not tainted by our modern worldview. But the fact that they wrote in a different time and culture will often jar you to see how far we have drifted. That is the start of revival praying – when some of God’s people begin to feel the lack of His working in our day.

Never before has the church had so many methods available to us, but at the same time, so little experience of the power of God. Christians need to know the living God in a deeper way. Also, we need to entreat God to pour out His Spirit through a revived church, so that His power in salvation would turn millions in repentance and faith to Him.

Sunday April 5, 2015 Jude 24 & 25 “The Guarantee of the Resurrection”

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Jude 24-25
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

When we buy something, we ask, “What’s the guarantee?” And somebody says, “There’s no guarantee, it might not work tomorrow.” Will we make the commitment to buy? Or when we enter into a contract of significance, like leasing a dwelling place or a vehicle, we want to see the contract so we know just what kind of deal we are getting ourselves into. But if you heard, “Oh, there’s no guarantee. I might come back and take this house in three days but you have no guarantee.” Only a fool would engage in that kind of commitment.

You have now been told that to follow Christ is a one-way trip, requiring you to pick up your cross daily, to die to yourself in the hope of spending an eternity with Him. You have to give up all to be forgiven, give up all to receive the promise of heaven, only to be told that this deal comes without a guarantee? You’re asking a lot out of me, God. You mean to tell me that I give myself up totally to You to be my Lord and Master that You might not keep me? You might not hold on to me? There isn’t any guarantee? That really makes it even more difficult if not almost impossible to make this level of commitment.

What seals the deal is the guarantee, and that’s true in salvation. Yet it is so sad and tragic and misleading that vast numbers of professing Christians live with the notion they can and may forfeit their salvation and end up in hell if they don’t hang on. So the question is simply this: can one who has been forgiven, justified, regenerated, converted, redeemed, and ransomed yet lose the blessing that came through that saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross? May it never be!

How does God do it then? It is accomplished through the gracious gift of God with a permanent faith, a new heart and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28) Jesus won’t let go. The Father won’t let go. Who has the power to force Him to release anyone? That’s why in Philippians 1:6 Paul tell us, “He that began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Our God who started it will finish it. God did not resurrect His Son to allow anyone to fall through the cracks. Our Lord has the will and He has the power to preserve us.