In our Journey through the book of Acts we have seen that the Disciples Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch for three years, encouraging, teaching and establishing the church. Their faith and commitment is a great encouragement to me and I am sure to every missionary that followed them.
One observation that I SHARED WITH YOU WAS: That it did not take long for difficulties to appear-
1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
The apostle Paul was not impressed, he had strived all his life, prior to his conversion to the Christian faith to fulfil all the requirement of the Law- God had shown him that he couldn’t, even though the OT Law was good, all it could do was to point to something greater and better, a new covenant one of Grace, love and freedom. This is seen in the wonderful Gospel of the Lord Jesus.
The author of Hebrews puts it this way.
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Paul’s argument in Romans 5 makes this clear.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is God’s work; this is GRACE for we are not saved by works but by Grace.
We are not saved by works; Grace is God’s unmerited favour: For God is not under any obligation t man. The very thing that separates man from God is dealt with through the Lord Jesus- this is God the Father’s grace in action.
YOU ARE LOVED
YOU ARE FORGIVEN
YOU ARE RECONCILED WITH GOD THE FATHER
1. God’s love is undeserved
2. We do not have to work for it
3. All Spiritual blessings are a gift from God
This is why Grace is so important; this is why the Apostle went to the church in Jerusalem. This is why we are here today.
Changed by the Spirit of God
Rev Con Despinidic 5th February 2017 Isaiah 49:1-7 Acts 11:1-19
When we look at the Bible it is easy to lose sight of the fact that many things that happened, happened over period of time.
Descent of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:1-13:- AD 30
Setting Up of the Church Acts 2:40-47:- AD 30
Conversion of Saul Acts 9:1-9:- AD 36 6 years after the Day of Pentecost
First Gentile Converted Acts 10:1-48:- AD 40 10 years have now passed by.
IF NOTHING ELSE THIS SHOULD ENCOURAGE US TO BE PATIENT.
2. I believe that sometimes we spend too much time trying to do the work of God, we sweat over it and we agonize and so on when we should rest in Him and trust God to do His sovereign work in our lives and in the life of His Church.
3. God the Father wants He wants each one of us to be.
a. Ready for service and
b. Obedient when we hear his call.
So far the church was growing; lives were being challenged and changed.
Peter is on a roll, God has spoken to him and he responds by being obedient.
This was not easy- as we saw in Acts chapter 10- for Peter’s perception of life and the Gospel had to change!
Over many generations Peter and his fellows Jews had been told by God that they had to follow certain rules, this impacted what they ate and activities in the world. God had good reasons for the many restrictions that He imposed on the Jewish nation.
They were to be a Holy people.
They were to Trust God for all things.
They were to be a light to the world- God’s representatives- untainted by the practices of the world.
Yet, they became proud and arrogant.
They saw that the only way to God was to embrace the faith of Israel- become a convert to Judaism, be circumcised and obey the law.
When we first looked at chapter 10 I said that this chapter was the beginning of something new, the church is about to change direction- This is the fulfillment of the Lord Jesus’s command to Mark 16:15-16 “Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world. 16 Anyone who believes me and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe me will be condemned.” Contemporary English Version
Peter had to be reprogrammed:- Peter’s words — “I now realize” (10:34) — registers his own surprise at the new understanding he has just received, the great thing about this new revelation is that he can share it with others!
He speaks and challenges his hearers and himself:-
“I believe that the best sermons are those that enlighten the preacher as well as the preached to.”
Ten years have passed by since the day of Pentecost- and news has reached the church in Jerusalem that the Gentiles have been saved, Peter had experienced a beautiful thing, and one might be tempted to say that he was on a high!
I’ve’ been there on a high, God has wonderfully blessed!
And then someone challenges you!
Just when you thought that it was safe to go out!
Acts 11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
You would have thought that the church in Jerusalem would have been happy to see the Gospel spread and Gentiles saved!
This was not the case-
There are always those who lose sight of the forest because of the tree!
In other words the small details that take so much time and effort become so important that the overall picture is missed!
What businesses are we in? THINK ABOUT THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION.
1. Worship- privately and cooperate
2. The proclamation of the Gospel.
Peter goes to Jerusalem to share the good news of the conversion of the Gentiles.
They did not rejoice in the Gentiles coming to faith!
Their concern was that Peter broke the law-2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
To this Peter’s reply was a simple one- This is my story.
This is how God dealt with my prejudices- This was my learning curve. Acts 11:4-10
“Having fellowship with the Gentiles was a new experience for these Jewish Christians who all their lives had looked on the Gentiles as pagans and outsiders. Tradition said that ‘a gentile had to become a Jew’ in order to be accepted.”
P 477 Wiersbe.
A couple of things come to mind here’
1. Why did Peter go up to Jerusalem?
2. Why did he explain himself?
This incident was a turning point.
a. Peter gave an account of himself because he knew that he was under authority-
We are all under authority. God is a God or order’ 1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace–as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”
b. Secondly this was the opportunity to share what God had done IN HIS LIFE- in RELATION TO HIS ATTITUDES. (Attitude adjustments are not always that easy!)
Peter wanted to show the church that they were to spread the Good news to all. Look said Peter, I will not defend myself, this is what God has Done!
They accepted the gentiles. 11:1-18
The truth always prevails!
May our eyes always be open to the wonderful truths of God.
Sermon 1 1st January 2017 ‘A new Beginning’ Psalm 118, Acts 9:1-19
Hebrews 10:20 20 ” by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,”
There is a chorus that goes something like this:
“It’s a new and living way walk ye in it It’s a new and living way God has planned
It’s a new and living way I am walking day by day
I am guided and led by His right hand. ”
It is this though that is in my mind as we come together on the first day of the week, on the first day of a new year.
Yesteryear has passed and we are in a new year, a new era in our lives, as individuals, families and a church community.
For some last year was a terrible year and for other it was a great year, it all depends on your circumstances and how you perceive things. The glass is either half full or half empty.
For some it was an exciting year and others a year of grief and unsurmountable obstacles.
For the Child of God last year was the year we were supposed to have with its ups and downs, the good bad and the ugly!
It was the year of the Lord, as we walked forward in faith- for some our faith has been stretched and challenged and for others nothing much has happened in relation to what we believe and how we walk in faith, much of the same ….
Never the less we cannot take 2016 back- we can learn from its challenges and we can grow from our faith crises.
There is a verse of scripture that I go back to every January as I begin a new year, a timely reminder of priorities in life:- The Lord Jesus spoke of living one day at a time:
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Psalm 118:24.“This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
A new year, a new beginnings, with its new challenges and situations: How are we to approach this year?
We can do so with a sense of fatalism, ‘what will be will be’, ‘tis kismet!’
Or we can see the New Year as a doorway to new opportunities, stepping stones towards a life of faith as we seek to be the people God wants us to be in a world that He has placed us in.
I am not saying that everything will be the way we want it to. Nor am I saying that politically economically things will be well. There is so much that we just do not know.
But what I would like to say is that we can be encourage by the fact that every day is a new day a day of faith opportunities, a day that we can grow closer in faith to our God, desiring to be open to His perfect will for our lives.
Imagine for a moment that you are a dedicated person of faith- you have your life mapped out for you- you are going to achieve a lot, you have the intelligence, and the opportunity the education and the breeding in the eyes of the world to achieve whatever you want- the world is your oyster, You are a person of high ideals and you cannot tolerate the stupidity of others- and from your perspective you are on the right track.
This is how Saul felt, he had a prosperous future in his religious world, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a meticulous and dedicated man of God- yet he couldn’t see clearly enough to know the truth.
Have you heard of the phrase: “can’t see the forest for the trees” (Also, can’t see the wood for the trees. Focus only on small details and fail to understand larger plans or principles) The free dictionary Web page.
Saul was like that.
It wasn’t that there were no markers, signs and prophecies that pointed to the truth- he just wasn’t looking for them in the right paces- there were so many good truths out there in the world, his world- I believe that it is similar today, so many truths, so many messages, some of them really good and worthy- put forward by people of integrity and care- and like Saul they might not be looking in the right direction.
There is only one truth that counts and that is the Way the Truth and the Life- the Lord Jesus , this separates the Christian faith from all others.
Today’s Bible reading is the conversion story of the Apostle Paul, formally known as the Pharisee Saul- we were first introduces to Saul at the murder of Stephen. Stephen was the first person in the Church to be martyred for the faith- and Saul stood by holding the coats of those who brutally murdered him- all in the name of pure religion. He may not have got his hands dirty but he approved of Stephen’s assault.
The one who stands by and approves is just as guilty as the one who does the deed!
Why this reading for the first Sunday in January- well for Saul life was going to be turned upside down, there will be a new beginning- A broom will come and sweep all the mess on the floor of his life away and start with a clean slate.
• Was this transition easy?
• Was it simple?
• Was it painless? NO, NO, NO!
We can learn from his experience. There was not only a new life in the offering; there was also a lot of unlearning to do a new approach, a new allegiance and fences to mend.
• Many of us on the faith journey come to a place where we just stop and think, question and reason, rarely is a person stopped in their tracks-
What was Saul doing when God spoke to him? Vs 1: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples
I believe that God often intervenes in situations and with people- this is not always seen for what it is- we are so busy focusing on ourselves or even others that we do not see or hear the Lord.
For Saul his moment of light and clarity was filled with awe and confusion as he was stropped dead in his tracks!
He was arrested by the one whom he was persecuting. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The Lord Jesus got his attention!
This was not the end but the beginning of a new and exciting life- a full life, a hard life for God had singled this man out for service.
For this persecutor of the faith, the one who hated the church of the Lord Jesus, the one who approved of murder and torture and the destruction of all we hold dear in the Christian life.
If this man can come to faith and experience salvation- then anyone can be saved.
For the Grace of God is far reaching. I believe that there is no such thing as a person who cannot be redeemed.
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come The old has gone, the new is here!”
What a blessing! On the 23rd October 2016 we celebrated 161 years of witness and ministry in Wollongong.
The Congregation was officially constituted in 1855, and the Chapel was completed in 1857.
hear what our guest speakers shared with us on that day.
Rev Ray Green, Rev David Bartlett, Pastor Richard Donnelly and Pastor Dr Peter Atkins.