Paul’s experience in Ephesus must have been amazing. To see the fruit of discipleship displayed so demonstratively with the burning of all their magic books would have been moving.
My first experience was with a drug user who had come to Christ. He took me back to his place where he showed me all of his cocaine and then told me that for Christ he was going to flush them down the sink. He did so. Wow!
I also think of Judas – I know, a little weird – he probably would have wanted to sell all the magic books to redeem their value and give more to the poor. But as usual, he would have missed the point of repentance that was taking place and the turning of ones back to the things that held them prisoner for so long. But also, why put someone else into bondage?
Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins. Acts 19:18-19
Hard to imagine the apostle Paul being afraid, but one night God took the time to come to him, through a vision, and encourage him not to be afraid. He had just had an altercation with the Jewish people and had declared that he was leaving them and going to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. There must have been something there that we are kept from because God had to take the time to build up Paul and ensure that he stayed right where he was and continue to do the mission he was called to do. Fear is not a stranger to any of us. Our encouragement has to be that we all fear, even Paul, and let’s continue to reach out to those who have never heard of God’s message of hope and redemption, confident that we walk with God as we do.
It does not mean we have to go on a conversion quest – but it does matter that we firm up our understanding of what our mission is and that we are doing it at the best of our ability, trusting God to move through us as we do. It is scary to tell a co-worker about Jesus, we will face persecution of all kinds, people will not like us or accept us — but all that is OK when we are reminded that God knows what we are facing. He also happens to know the heart of the person we are sharing the gospel with. Regardless of their motives – God will come to us and encourage us through it all. We can hope in Him as we give knowing full well that we will be re-energized and refreshed.
One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.” – Acts 18:9-10
Tenth Avenue North – Afraid
Distress is not a bad thing when it happens because you are confronted by people without hope. For those of us moving in the area of missions and Christian witness this is a common expression – distressed for those who do not know Jesus for reality is not without hope.
As followers of Christ we are fully aware that life is held by God – it is also a life where we find ourselves finding our life and our being in Him and by Him. Life is about the fruit of the Spirit in full display as we live out our faith as devoted disciples of Jesus and not in things that do not matter. Since Jesus is the source of our being that enables to be agents of peace and hope to a hurting world, and since we have experienced the love of God and the good news of eternal life, grace and forgiveness, we have much to offer our world of hurt.
When Paul was so deeply distressed when he met a people group who had no idea who God was, maybe Paul was giving us an attitude that modelled somewhat how we need to approach our culture today. Maybe hidden in this is a biblical perspective of culture that we can use to navigate ourselves through it and what our objective should be as we approach our world. Confronting culture starts by engaging culture. Their is neither a blending in because with that we cannot challenge it and we cannot run away and hide for with that we lose hope of changing culture.
Paul did not normally use this approach – sharing his hope in Jesus. Normally he would use an apologetic approach. I like this approach much better – it is definitely a more engaging approach and as a result there were invitations to speak more and to more people.
When we ask the world about their experience of looking for God’s presence and how others have looked for it, we know that we all are looking for that hope that will enable us to face the realities of this world. Imagine what that conversation looks and sounds like at a funeral and then a wedding or a birth of a child. What does God look like – His love, mercy, or truth in the lives of those who sit next to us, talk to us, join us in worship – by listening we find the language to speak of Jesus – crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. – Acts 17:16
Where does your hope come from?
The beginning of the story of Gideon only happens because the people of Israel knew there was only one place to go, one place to put their hope – God – and they began to call on Him and ask Him for help. In the midst of our own trying circumstances, may we not wait seven years to do this as Israel did.
Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. – Judges 6:6
Third Day – Cry Out To Jesus
Are you willing to turn from what you have been trusting and transfer all your hope of heaven upon Christ?
What hope then do we have? God has made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him by providing a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. God sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life so that He could die, not for His own sins, but for ours.
How can we can receive forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life? The Bible’s answer is that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace which we receive through Jesus by responding to Him in faith.
But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. – Acts 16:28-34
When in doubt or when confronted with our own desires as opposed to God’s direction, a vision becomes a clear presentation of what needs to be done. In this case of the vision of a Macedonian man begging for Paul to come, we know the vision came about because of the hope of the gospel but specifically this is not mentioned. As the story unravels, this becomes more clear.
In fact, maybe the man was not really a man – maybe it was Lydia – as she is their first and powerful encounter, maybe he was the spirit possessed slave girl, or maybe the Roman jailer and his family – you get the point – “come.” Come to share the gospel – to hear how my life can be transformed by God who raised Jesus from the dead and then raised Him and subsequently us, to new life. With my rental car this week I receive satellite radio and am enjoying The Message. They are advertising a special called – Chains Broken. The call for help was for people to be set free from being all that God has purposed us to be and to learn how they could be a blessing to others.
Take the first encounter – Lydia. She is already a follower of God, practiced going to the synagogue, praying with the women and discussing what they had heard and hoping that the next visiting preacher expound on something more. She wanted to worship and did not understand how.
This vision was an introduction to two new themes in the book of Acts – needs and openness – two awesome mission initiatives that motive ministries like Partners International.
When people are open and when people are hurting – the gospel moves forward. Are we ourselves not finding ourselves in a spirit of hope when we sit during the presentation of the gospel – are we not asking ourselves – will my suffering be alleviated and what does God want me to do?
During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. – Acts 16:9-10
I HAVE A HOPE
When I look at the national leaders who are going into regions of the world who have never heard the name of Jesus before, I see their passion for Christ as being the soul of this bold calling for their life, an interior thrust to serve without reservations, and always the fresh source of an indestructible hope.
Today, we can celebrate our Church because of those who have shown an example of heroic witness to the faith, who have known persecution, which in turn unites all Christians in their places of suffering and making our shared sacrifice a sign of hope for times still to come.
“The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” – Acts 15:23-29
… through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved. Peter compares these two contrary points – to have hope in the grace of Christ and to be under the yoke of the law. So if we cannot receive salvation until the yoke of the law is removed then it follows that salvation is not in keeping the law at all and it also follows that those who have accepted the grace of Jesus are not subject to the curse of the law. So it is that we hope for salvation by the grace of Christ.
To speak of salvation it is assumed that one would need salvation from something. Jesus said He had come to seek and to save the lost. What does it mean to be lost?
- To be without hope and without God in this world.
- To not know what it is to live now, and have no hope for life to come.
- Those who were dead while they were still alive.
- It means to spend eternity in hell.
We believe…our church is doing a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed – here is a bit of a taste of why such a statement of faith was necessary for the early Church. Peter here is declaring his first statement of faith – “we believe through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.”
“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” – Acts 15:6-11
We Believe – Kenneth Cope.wmv
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. – Titus 2:11-14
Grace, charis, is a basic Christian concept and is of central importance to Christianity. Grace is what the New Testament is all about, describing and revealing our God as the God of all grace, and the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of grace and in Jesus all of our hopes that are set on eternity rest on Him.
So our message is one of hope. The gospel is good news for every person – whoever we are, and whatever condition we are in.
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. – Acts 14:1-3
Redeemed – Lyric Video – Benji Cowart (Big Daddy Weave)
Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. – 1 Peter 1:21
In these simple words, “God raised Him from the dead”, repeated again and again on all possible occasions, was the great truth of Easter first preached to the world. The Resurrection was ‘an eminent act of God’s omnipotency,’ worked before the eyes of all in heaven and earth, and it has been the glory, the comfort, and the hope of the Christian world ever since.
“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’ As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy promises made to David.’ Therefore he has also said in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you: “Look, you scoffers! Be amazed and perish, for in your days I am doing a work, a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’ ” – Acts 13:26-41
Jeremy Camp – Same Power