Archive for July, 2008

The Acts Example

July 18, 2008

Title: The Acts Example

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Text: Acts 5:12-16

Time: July 20th, 2008

Anybody who reads and studies of the Book of Acts quickly realizes that supernatural and miraculous things are happening left and right. This is interesting and exciting to read about, but it also raises the question for us today: how much of this is supposed to be happening now, today? If we simply want to be entertained by tales of miracles and the supernatural, we don’t have to look just to the Bible, because we can read about such things in fairy tales, classical literature, and in contemporary books such as Harry Potter for example, and watch them in movies such as The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. There always seems to be some novel or some contemporary movie coming out that includes the supernatural. So if it’s just fascination we are seeking, we don’t need the Bible for that; we can find it in other books as well. But in the Bible we are reading history, reading accounts of what really happened, not made-up stories. But the question for us today is: ok, so now what are we to do with these historical accounts of miracles found in the Book of Acts? Are they there simply to give us an account of what happened so we can understand what took place way back when? Are they given to give us an appreciation for the special time period in which God worked mightily among his people? Or is the Book of Acts given to us in order to be an example for us of how real, authentic, supernatural Christianity is supposed to operate? We have to decide what the purpose of the Books of Acts really is, or else we won’t be able to read it correctly. If we are seeing it as purely history – something that gives an account of what happened in the past, period – and that’s all, then we can certainly be inspired by it, but we won’t use it as a guide for living the Christian life today. But if we see it’s purpose as something more than history, if we see it as given by God as an example for us today in order to teach us how to live out the Christian faith, we’ll read it carefully in order to copy its pattern as closely as possible because it describes how Christianity and the Christian church should be today. If we take this approach, we’ll realize that the Christian church today is hardly anything like what the Book of Acts describes, and so we’ll realize that we have a lot of work to do in restoring authentic Christianity to the world. In other words, if we see the Book of Acts as an example of Christianity for us today, then it sets the agenda for our faith and church in a way that straight history wouldn’t. Acts isn’t just a description of what did happen, it’s a prescription of what should happen today. We should be seeing the supernatural miracles of Acts happening today, just like they did back then. (more…)

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Paul’s Calling and the Gospel Message

July 10, 2008

Title: Paul’s Calling and the Gospel Message

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pJ3WC2lHmGEi2zoqxVjvksEeiinjKo_88-yKyVnotyTsdHrY_4_CfaMG8J_dE9SC1EMqnUYrQuoHfSoixAau-Pg/7-13-08paulscalingandthegospelmessage.mp3%5D

Text: Acts 26:17-18, 20

Time: July 13th, 2008

There is an old saying that goes, “Life happens on the way to something else,” meaning, that something comes about usually when we are pursuing something completely different. That’s what makes life so interesting. Well, it’s the same thing as we see in the Bible because the Bible is a realistic description of life and all of reality. Many of the things described in the Bible apparently come about on the way towards something else. Or, in other words, we find many surprising things described in the Bible. As we study the Book of Acts we’ll find many surprises. As a matter of fact, most of the Book of Acts is surprising, not in the sense that God works many supernatural miracles, but for the fact that he works them through the agency of fallible human beings like the Apostles and other early Christians. We all know that God is capable of performing awesome miracles, and that Jesus as the very incarnation of God worked miracles, but it is very surprising that God would use ordinary Christians in the Book of Acts to work miracles also. But this is exactly what God does. Well, today, I’ll be talking about the Apostle Paul’s calling to the ministry of the gospel, which involves the miracle of conversion, first of Paul’s own soul, and then, following his calling, the conversion of many other souls. In the course of describing Paul’s gospel ministry calling we learn some very important and essential aspects of the gospel message itself. That’s what we’ll be examining today – the description God gives to the process of preaching the gospel, what conversion actually means. It’s found in Acts 26:17-18, 20, which says, “I am sending you to them (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” And then Paul’s own description of his ministry: “And to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” So in this short passage we see two things: one, God’s description of Paul’s gospel ministry calling; and two, Paul’s own description of his gospel calling. Both of these descriptions can help us today because they describe some very important, even essential, aspects of what conversion to the gospel of salvation really means. Conversion means opening our eyes to God’s truth, it means coming from darkness into the light, it means escaping the rule of Satan for the rule of God, it means being forgiven of sins, and it means receiving eternal life. Finally, according to Paul’s own testimony, it means proving our repentance and faith through the evidences of a changed life that leads to producing good works. Let’s look at these things closer. (more…)

The Exclusivity of Christ

July 7, 2008

Title: The Exclusivity of Christ

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pFSLrRpEN7jS1_RXpVAJKx39Q9yleNEko2yA8-aL4a9A1Vin2apueB0P_IpSGEECx1276isVVZXTpfrQaeWQ-4w/7-6-08exclusivityofchrist.mp3%5D

Text: Acts 4:1-12

Time: June 23rd, 2008

We’re back in the Book of Acts after a brief Sunday dealing with the topic of death last week. In the Book of Acts we are learning about how Christians, how the early church, operated. Everything was brand new back then, there was no baggage accumulated after many, many years of religious faith and practice. Today, we operate under conditions in which the Christian church finds itself embedded in the modern world under customs, traditions, cultural practices and historical developments 2000 years old. We ask the question, “How much of what we believe and practice of Christianity is the truth from God and how much is mere human tradition?” As we read and study the Book of Acts we are in a better position to answer that question, because in the record of the early church we see a pure and simple Christianity – before all the historical baggage of human culture was added to it. Now not all tradition and historical additions are wrong; in fact, many of the things added on to the original message and practice of Christianity are not only helpful, but essential. For example, the New Testament itself isn’t a feature or fixture of the early church, yet through the historical process of recording the writings of the Apostles and their associates, we now have the Gospels, Paul’s Epistles, and the other writings which complete the canon of scripture for Christians. The New Testament is not only helpful but essential to our faith today, as it has been for the faithful for nearly 2000 years, even though it wasn’t a part of the church in the early years – at least, it wasn’t in its entirety, in its present form. So the New Testament is an example of a good, important, even essential traditional historical development. So not all tradition is bad. Also, again, another example is the doctrine of the Trinity. This teaching is not spelled out as a doctrine in the record of the early church, but it came about upon reflection on the New Testament teaching that God is One, yet Three Persons are called God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So if there is but One God, yet Three Persons are called God, then it must be that the Three Persons are the One God. This is another example of true, accurate, important historical, human tradition that is perfectly consistent with the truth of God. In fact, we would today call the doctrine of the Trinity a truth from God even though it came through human reflection upon the Word of God instead of direct revelation from God. So, not all human tradition is bad, some tradition is even part of God’s revelation, as in the case of the Trinity. But then again, there are other cases, many cases, where harmful human tradition and cultural baggage have crept into the church and corrupted it. That’s why reading and studying the Book of Acts can help us sift and sort between essential truth from God and hurtful human cultural baggage. Our aim should be to believe and practice the pure Word of God, not opinions and customs of men that have been mixed with God’s truth. The Book of Acts can help us tell the difference between the two. Today, I’d like to give attention to what is called the “exclusivity of Christ,” or the “exclusivity of the Christian faith.” That is, how salvation is found only in Jesus Christ, despite all the other religions in the world. Today, this idea that only Jesus saves is being challenged in our modern world. So let’s return to the original Christianity of the 1st Century and see what it taught. Acts 4:1-12 (read), focusing on verses 10-12, “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. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (more…)