Tag: 2018

Today, we’re going to focus particularly on the person Cornelius. He is a man we are introduced to in verse 1. What happens with him is a key event in the book of Acts. These events are repeated three times in chapters 10 & 11 because of how important they are.

This issue is how could a man like Cornelius, who is not a Jewish person, be a part of the people of God? We might answer that question a number of ways: We might look at the description of him in Acts 10:2, and say, “Well, he was a good man. That’s why he was acceptable to God.” But the narrative that Luke records for us shows that that is not the whole story. In fact, that not the right answer at all.

We need to see both in the vision what Cornelius sees and the vision Peter sees, a different answer to how Cornelius can be one of God’s people, to how we can be a part of God’s people too.

We need to see three things about Cornelius, and ask one question about ourselves:

  1. What He Was: A Good Man
  2. What He Wasn’t: Saved
  3. What He Became: Believing
  4. Who Are You?

Sunday 9th December 2018

Review questions:

  • Cornelius was d__________, he ___________ God, he was g_________, & he ________ (v2)
  • Are we basically good (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:10)? Yes/No
  • Are people as bad as could be? Yes/No
  • Why aren’t our good actions good (Rom 14:23)?
  • What did Cornelius need (v43, 11:14)?
  • What did Peter see (v9-13)?
  • How did the animals become clean (v15)?
  • What did the vision mean (v28)?
  • Summarize what Peter told Cornelius (v38-43):
  • Am I a Peter or a Cornelius?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Transformed by the Resurrected Christ (Acts 9:20-43)

Last week, in Acts 9:1-20, we saw how now one is too bad for God to save. Today, we see the difference God’s salvation makes: it’s a complete transformation, a change of life, a coming to life. That’s why coming to faith is called “conversion”: it’s a change from one thing into another. It’s new life; it’s being born again.

Last week, we saw how, when God saves us, He makes us new people with a new purpose. But there is a wrong way of thinking we need to avoid here: We often confuse our identity with our purpose.

When you meet someone, about the first question we usually ask is ‘What do you do?’ How we spend our time (at work or study or home) can be so important that we define who we are by it: “I am a farmer”, “I am a mother”, “I am a student”. And then, when we can’t do what we used to or want to do, we wonder who we are.

But there’s a bigger issue here: if we think who we are is determined by what we do, we can think we can change who we are by changing what we do, that I can become a new person by changing my purpose in life. That’s putting it the wrong way around: God makes us new people by changing who we are; our new purpose comes with that. But we think that we can just do something different, and we’ll be different.

Why does that matter? Real change doesn’t begin with what I do or you do. There is something fundamentally wrong with us, all of us; it’s called sin. That’s why we don’t get along with others; it’s why we feel guilty, because we are.

To become a new person, the change cannot come from us. The change must come from God. Here in Acts 9:20-43, we see three accounts of change, real change. In each case, the person who are changed were powerless to change themselves. Everyone realizes that when the see the change: they’re amazed and mystified! And in each case, the only explanation for the change is that Jesus is the Christ who has risen from the dead. No amount of social pressure or inner determination could bring about this change. Only the Risen Christ could. If Jesus is only a good teacher or a good example, none of this change is possible.

So, what do we see Christ do here? And what does it mean for us?

  1. Christ Proclaimed Himself Through Saul (v20-31)
  2. Christ Healed Aeneas to Wholeness (v32-35)
  3. Christ Raised Dorcas to Life (v36-43)
  4. Christ is Transforming People, So We Must Be Faithful (v20, 31, 35, 42)

Sunday 2nd December 2018

Review questions:

  • Can change come from inside us? Yes/No
  • Why/why not?
  • What changed Saul (v4, 1 Cor 15:8)?
  • How did Barnabas know Saul was really different (v27-29)?
  • What did Saul have in common with his opponents in Jerusalem (v29)?
  • What might following Jesus cost us (Mtt 10:21-22)?
  • How does Jesus’ resurrection power change us (v34, Phil 3:10)?
  • What does God do for the Church (v31)?
  • What should we do (v20, 31)?

Application questions:

  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Saul Sees the Light (Acts 9:1-20)

The Damascus Road is iconic. If we ask what happens in the book of Acts, Pentecost and Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road are the two big events.

And the Damascus Road has become a term for a dramatic change of mind, of convictions. So, we think, “Great, sometimes people change.” But we don’t expect that to happen normally.

Sometimes we think, “God can’t save them” or “If they were going to become a Christian, they would be by now.” I wonder who that person is in your life: a neighbour, a friend, someone in your family?

We think, ‘They’ll never change’, ‘They have so many problems, they’ll never listen’, ‘He never will; he’s just so angry’, ‘We’ve done everything we can’.

Then we need to hear what God says to us in Acts 9:1-20:

  1. No One is Too Bad for God to Save (v1-2)
  2. By Confronting Them with Jesus (v4-9)
  3. Making Them a New Person with a New Purpose (v10-20)
  4. Saints, Be Ready & Sinners, Come to the Light (v10-14, 17)

Sunday 25th November 2018

Review questions:

  • What did Saul think about executing Stephen (7:58, 8:1)?
  • R.C. Sproul: Saul was “like a wild beast that snorts before it _______________.” (v1)
  • How far did Saul walk to arrest Christians (v2)?
  • Is God in control when we suffer? Yes/No
  • A Theophany is _____________________ (v3)
  • Hurting Christians = hurting ________ (v5)
  • Belonging to Jesus means belonging to His ____________________ (Ephesians 4:16)
  • Eternal life is ____________ Jesus (John 17:3)
  • Who spoke to Ananias (v11, 17)?
  • What difference did meeting Jesus make to Saul (v15)?
  • An apostle had to be a ____________ of the ___________________ (1:22, 1 Cor 15:7-11)
  • Why was Saul “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v17, 4:8, 6:10)?

Application questions:

  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • How I should live:
  • Something to pray about:

The Good News About Jesus (Acts 8:26-40)

When parents name their children, the choice often means something. Perhaps it’s a popular name, a family name, or the name of a treasured friend.

Pip, today we hear the story about your name. You are named Pip after the main character in Great Expectations and we’ll read that together when you’re bigger. It’s a story of unlikely circumstances and surprising twists.

But your real name is Philippa, and you’re also named after Philip the evangelist. And it’s because of this passage, Acts 8:26-40.

It’s also part of a story of unlikely circumstances and surprising twists. It’s the story of the Word of God spreading and God adding to the number of those who believed. That’s despite Jesus’ followers being threatened and arrested (Acts 3 & 4), despite false followers being judged (like Ananias and Sapphira in 5, and Simon the Magician in 8:5-26), and despite Stephen the Deacon being stoned to death (Acts 7) and the persecution which followed driving the believers out of Jerusalem. In all these unlikely circumstances, God is still bringing people in.

In Great Expectations, Pip teaches us that changing where you are doesn’t change who you are. In Acts 8:26-40, Philip teaches us that God’s Word goes out, and God brings people in.

If we learn, like Dicken’s Pip that love and loyalty are more important than anything else, we will do well. But if we learn to be alert to the part God wants us to play in His Word going out and His people being brought in, then we will do the best. We need to ask ourselves three questions:

  1. What Might God Be Organizing on Your Behalf? (v26-29)
  2. Do You Understand What the Scriptures Say About Jesus? (v30-35)
  3. What Prevents You From Receiving the Good News? (v36-38)
  4. Keep Rejoicing and Evangelizing (v39-40)

Sunday 28th October 2018

Review questions:

  • God’s Word goes __________, and ________ brings people in. (2:47; 4:4; 6:7; 8:4).
  • How ‘successful’ was Philip’s ministry in Samaria (v5-6)?
  • Why does God send him to the Gaza road (v28-31)?
  • I could read the Bible with:
  • Ask: ‘What does it say about ___________?’ ‘What does it say about ___________?’ and ‘What about how I should _______ ?’ (v30)
  • The official needs _________________ (v31)
  • What is he reading (v32-33)?
  • Isaiah wrote about ______________________ (v34-35, 1 Peter 3:11 & Romans 5:1-21).
  • What couldn’t stop the eunuch (v36, Isaiah 11:11 & 56:1-8)?
  • Ethiopia was the ___________________ (1:8)
  • Faith is u____________ing & a__________ing with the Gospel, and ________ing in Jesus.

Application questions:

  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

What Money Can’t Buy (Acts 8:9-25)

I wonder if you ever think about why people don’t believe in Jesus and what it would take to convince them. Do we need a well-reasoned argument? Do we need an amazing testimony? Do we need good evidence that will convince people to believe?

Sometimes we think, “People would believe if only, we had something. If we had more young families at church. If we had a more attractive building. If we had better advertising. If we had a young minister. Then people would listen.”

Or maybe people would believe if only we did something. “Maybe if we did it the way that we used to, we’d have the same results and church would be bursting at the seams every week.” Or maybe we look at the churches that are bursting at the seams, and we think, “Well, if we did what they’re doing, then people would believe.”

Notice that when we think in these ways, it makes it all about us, and how people would believe if we did something or if we were something, rather than making it about what God does, how God gives faith to people, and how we are called to take part in what He is doing.

There are two warnings in the passage (Acts 8:9-25):

  1. Beware thinking of yourself as somebody (v9-13)
  2. Beware thinking that you can control God (v14-24)

They might not seem like dangers to us, but I hope to convince you of that.

Sunday 21st October 2018

Review Questions

  • Why was Simon called “Great” (v9-11)?
  • Simon’s power _____________ people (v11)
  • Philip’s message ____________ people (v7)
  • Simon’s message was about ________ (v9)
  • What was Philip’s message about (v5, 12)?
  • What was Simon’s ‘faith’ missing?
  • Why didn’t the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit at first (v14-17)?
  • What did Simon want (v18-19)?
  • How might I try to control God?
  • What attitude motivated Simon (v23)?
  • Whose glory do I desire?

Application questions:

  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Persecution Leads to Joy (Acts 8:1-8)

Imagine with me for a minute: how does this story finish? (You’ve probably heard it before):

“Muuum! I was playing with that toy and Billy took it!”

Does the story end with: “But I forgave him and it’s all okay”?

What about this story?

“There are more people who ticked “No religion” in the 2016 Census than who identified as Catholic and 49% of Australians have a religion other than “Christian”.

How does that story end?

What about this one? “There arose on that day a great persecution against the church… and they were all scattered…”? (v1)

There are only so many sorts of stories out there. Sure, the details change (that’s why we still buy books, and watch TV). But the basic storyline is always the same:

  • Things look bad, but the hero wins in the end.
  • Or, the bully seems to win, but the little guy finds a way to carry on anyway.

We know how the story goes. Or do we?

Notice the pattern in the story here:

  • In 4:18, when Peter and John were on trial for healing a man, they were threatened not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name.
  • In 5:40, when all the Apostles were arrested because of the High Priest’s jealousy, they were beaten.
  • Then, in 7:60, when Stephen the Deacon declared that Jesus was the Son of Man ruling at the right hand of God, he was stoned to death (the first Christian martyr).
  • Now, in 8:3, Saul is devouring the church, bursting into people’s homes and dragging both men and women off to prison because they trust in Jesus.

It’s a story of persecution, growing opposition to the followers of Jesus.

Sure, there’s a glimmer of hope as some devout Jewish men bury Stephen and weep over him, breaking the custom against mourning a convicted criminal (v2). But is that the most we can hope for, that some people will be sad we’re dead?

So how does this story start with the church being scattered, and end with “great joy” (v8)?

This is today’s main message: God works in great reversals.

  • He made a world which was formless and void, and filled it and organised it so that it was beautiful and productive (Genesis 1-2).
  • He took an old man with no children, and made Abraham the Father of many nations.
  • He took the youngest son of an unknown sheep farmer, and made David the greatest King of Israel.
  • He choose an unimportant, unmarried young woman, and made her the mother of His eternal Son, so that Jesus would grow up in obscurity, leading 12 ordinary men, dying a shameful death, being buried in a borrowed tomb, to show that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Saviour in any place or time, to whom every knee will bow and tongue confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord” to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

God works in great reversals. That’s how Jesus established the Church, as weak and despised as it is.

We see how God works with His Church in great reversals in three ways here in Acts 8:1-8:

  • First, God’s people keep speaking (v4),
  • Second, God Provides People to Hear (v5-6), and
  • Third, God Gives Signs That are Hard to Ignore (v7-8)

Sunday 7th October 2018

Review questions:

  • Where did Jesus plan for the Church to go (Acts 1:8)?
  • “Christians are like ______________” (Chan)
  • Who spreads the Word (v4)?
  • Where can I take the Word?
  • We need to proclaim ________________ (v5)
  • God gives miraculous ‘signs’ to prove that His ________________ has come (v6-7)
  • What signs does God use today (John 13:35?
  • “Love is willing for the good of ____________ that does not require _______________ or that the person being loved is ______________” (Paul Tripp)
  • How is Christian love shown in a church?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live: