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Deep Into the Word (Acts 20:1-12)

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been looking forward to this passage in Acts. Maybe you’ve been thinking: ‘Oh great! Stephen has to preach about not preaching long sermons!’

And I’ve been thinking: ‘Oh great! I get to preach about not falling asleep in church!’

But that’s not the main reason this account is here: If I asked you to describe Paul in one word, what would it be? Probably “Missionary”? He went on all these missionary journeys, telling people the good news about Jesus.

But actually, telling unbelievers about Jesus is only one part of what Paul did. He was a missionary because he was a pastor. And we see that clearly here.

When his 2 and a bit years in Ephesus came to an end, he visited the churches he had already established in Turkey and Greece (v1).

We should do much more evangelism than we do. But Christian ministers and elders should also be guiding and teaching those who believe already.

So, what should that look like? What kind of ministry will strengthen our faith? What will equip us to love and serve God and each other?

What should we expect our elders and ministers to do? And how can we minister to each other?

  1. Give Gospel Encouragement (v1-2)
  2. Face Active Opposition (v3)
  3. Build a Team (v4-6)
  4. Show Personal Affection (v7-10, 12)
  5. Keep Teaching Relentlessly (v11)

Sunday 18th August 2019

  • Paul was a missionary because he was a ________________________ (v1-2)
  • Encouragement means (v1-2)
  • What encourages God’s people (2 Timothy 4:2)?
  • Is opposition normal (Acts 14:22, 1 Peter 4:12, John 15:18-20)? Yes/No
  • Where did Paul’s helpers come from (v4)?
  • Who is responsible to train Gospel workers?
  • When do Christians gather (v7)? Why (John 20:19, 26)?
  • Why did Eutychus live (v10, 12)?
  • What does God use to grow His Church (v11)?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

“But Who Are You?

Where does power come from? Who has power? And How can it be controlled?

We see a tussle going on, don’t we, between the powers of goodness and the powers of evil, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom Satan. We see this struggle going on throughout the book of Acts, in fact.

We’ve seen the power of God in bringing 3000 people to faith on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, as the Lord added day by day those who were being saved. We saw the power of God as the small embryonic church grows despite the opposition of the religious leaders. Peter and John were arrested in chapter 4, and the believers pray and are filled with the Holy Spirit and continue to speak the word of God with boldness. So we see God’s power there. We see it even in chapter 6 where the church has divisions within it, and we see that the Word of God continued to increase as they face their divisions. “And the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and even a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

So we see the power of God at work in many different ways, in growing the church, protesting the church, in empowering and enabling the church, and in each us of as members of it.

Where do we get this power? Where do we find it? Where can we look for the power that will make the church grow and be strong, and see the Gospel spread to our friends, our neighbours?

We see God’s power at work here in Ephesus, but it didn’t come from Paul. Notice that. It didn’t come from his ability to speak, or to convince people, even though that was what he aimed to do. As we look at verse 11, we see that the power came from God.

  1. God Works Powerfully Through Believers (v11-12)
  2. Imposters Have No Power (v13-17)
  3. God Transforms His People Through His Word (v18-20)

Sunday 4th August 2019

Review questions:

  • Miracles are __________ at work (v11)
  • Miracles are “the _____________ of a true __________________” (2 Cor 12:12)
  • The power is not in the ______________
  • You can’t know Jesus _______________ -________________ (v15)
  • Pretending to know Jesus is taking His name in __________ (v15, Ex 20:7)
  • What do believers do when they fear God (v18)?
  • Did anyone force the believers to burn their magic books (v19)? Yes/No
  • Is being sorry repentance? Yes/No
  • Repenting means:
  • When does God’s word spread (v20)?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Bold Reason (Acts 19:1-10)

Imagine that coming to church this morning, it was the first Sunday of the Christian Church in Benalla. We know that it’s not, and we’re very thankful for those who have come before us. But imagine that there was no history of Christianity here. Imagine that there were no forebears, there was no provision made for us of buildings and other resources. What would we do? And what would we aim to do in the weeks and months that followed?

What would set our direction if you can’t just look at the good things that have been done in the past? What would we look to to see what a biblical ministry should be? “What should we do as God’s people?” is the big question for us every week, every Sunday, every time the elders meet, every time we meet at a congregation or as a board? What should we do?

  1. Embrace Biblical Ministry (v8)
  2. Expect Unbelieving Opposition (v9)
  3. Develop Deep Ministry (v1-7, 9-10)

Sunday 28th July 2019

Review questions:

  • Ephesus is in modern ___________ (v1)
  • Biblical ministry goes where there is an ___________ door and speaks of the _________________________ of God (v8).
  • Faithful evangelism is ______________, _______________ & _______________ (v8)
  • Why is the Gospel opposed (v9, 2 Corinthians 2:16)?
  • Beware a _________ heart (Hebrews 3:6-7)
  • Faithful, Biblical ministry focuses on _______________ not ____________ (v10)
  • Did the disciples trust in Jesus before hearing Paul (v1-4)? Yes/No
  • Do all believers have the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 12:7): Yes/No
  • Disciples need to be taught to _______ everything _______ taught (Matthew 28:20) & to _____________ like Jesus (Colossians 2:6)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

A More Excellent Way (Acts 18:12-28)

What is God’s will? Is that something you wonder about?

Some things God reveals, like His promises to Paul in Corinth: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (v9-10).

Other things, we don’t know. ‘Should I do this good thing, or that good thing?’ ‘Will God save that person?’

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

We must not pry into the things that God hasn’t revealed. We should get on with doing what God has told us to do.

So, as we wait to see what God’s will is, there are three truths we need to remember:

  1. God Keeps His Promises (v12-17)
  2. God Receives Our Vows (v18-23)
  3. God Teaches A Teacher (v14-28)

If we remember that, we’ll be able to do our part in God’s will, because He is faithful, He expects us to be faithful, and He calls us to teach each other and to be humble enough to be taught.

Sunday 21st July 2019

Review questions:

  • “The __________________ things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut 29:29).
  • Jesus promised that no one would _____________ Paul (v10).
  • Paul was accused of promoting ______________________ worship (v13).
  • Gallio: Christianity is/not legal (v15).
  • A vow is a _________________ to God to deny ourselves something __________ to be _____________ to God for a time.
  • What vows does Jesus forbid (Matt 5:33-37)?
  • Why could Paul leave Ephesus (v21)?
  • What didn’t Apollos know (v25)?
  • False teaching should be ____________
  • Incomplete teaching should be _______________________________ (v26)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Sovereign Fuel for Faithfulness (Acts 18:1-11)

In Athens, Paul had engaged with the great thinkers in the Areopagus. He had understood their culture and connected with their understanding. He quoted their poets to show that their religion would only condemn them. He showed that God is the Creator of the world, the Sustainer of life, the Ruler of all nations, the Father of human beings, and that one day He will judge the world through the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (v16-34).

What did he have to show for it? Many believed, including members of the Areopagus. So, did he stay to lead the church in the most influential city of the world?

No, he moved on to a much worse city. He sacrificed the opportunity to be the pastor of an influential church in an important city. For Paul, success was not building a large congregation. His task was to lay the foundation of Jesus Christ on which others would build (1 Corinthians 3:10-11, Ephesians 2:20).

But what does that have to do with us? None of us is Paul, the apostle. But we are all “ambassadors for Christ”, representing Jesus and His kingdom in a foreign land (2 Corinthians 5:20).

What does God expect of you and me? If we believe in Jesus, what are we supposed to do?

  1. Work Hard and Sacrifice (v1-5)
  2. Say What Needs To Be Said (v5-6)
  3. Depend on God’s Promises (v7-11)

God requires faithfulness not success (Matthew 25:21 & 1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

Sunday 14th July 2019

Review questions:

  • God requires ____________________ not success (Mathewt 25:21, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5)
  • Paul’s task: lay a _________________ which is ____________ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)
  • Who welcomed Jesus (Matthew 9:10-11)?
  • Why did Paul choose to make tents (v3-5, 1 Corinthians 9:4-9)?
  • What am I sacrificing (Romans 12:1-2)?
  • People are responsible for rejecting Jesus (v6): True/False
  • I can summarise the Gospel (v5):
  • Jesus promises His ________________, ____________ & ________________ (v10)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Accommodation and Confrontation (Acts 17:16-34)

If you travel, what do you look for? When you’re a tourist in another place, do you look for beauty? For skill? For ideas? Do you look to see what you can learn about people’s beliefs?

God tells us that we are foreigners in our own culture too. In Hebrews 11:13-16, we are told about the OT believers: They “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” We should think of ourselves as exiles living in a foreign culture. We are strangers even in our own city. Because we are waiting for a better, heavenly one.

So, what do we find when we look at our culture with the eyes of outsiders? What matters to our neighbours? What does it tell you about their beliefs?

Well, one thing we’ll see is the growing distance between Christianity and the culture. Once we could assume that our message would be welcomed, or at least tolerated. Or that people had some Biblical knowledge, but not we can’t.

But we see in Acts 17, that God has a universal message for all people, everywhere: He commands all people everywhere to repent, because there is a universal judgement coming for all people everywhere (v30-31). So, how should we engage with our neighbours in a culture where Christian ideas are so foreign?

  1. Anticipate Collisions (v16-21)
  2. Look for Connections (v22-23, 26-28)
  3. Engage in Discussions (v23-32)
  4. Expect Divisions (v32-34)

Sunday 7th July 2019

Review questions:

  • Christians are __________ (Hebrews 11:13)
  • How did Paul feel (v16)?
  • Why did Paul speak (v17)?
  • Everyone has a story about where the world _________ from, what’s ________ with the world, how we can _______ it, and what our ultimate ___________ is.
  • How will they believe in Him whom they have not _________? (Romans 10:14)
  • Start with God the ____________ (v24) God is ____________ forever (Romans 9:5)
  • God doesn’t ___________ you (v24-25)
  • God rules _________________ (v26-27)
  • The judgement will be _____________, _____________ & _______________ (v31)
  • “Repent” means turning from _______ to God for ________________ness (v30)
  • Is resurrection true? (1 Corinthians 15:13)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

My Soul Refuses to Be Comforted (Psalm 77)

Psalm 77 speaks to us about an experience that is common, that many of us know all too well. It speaks of suffering. It speaks of how we face suffering, and where we can turn for God’s help.

Hear this account of a suffering man:

“I tried to sleep but couldn’t. Part of it was that I was scared to wake up with a feeling of panic in the pit of my stomach. Anxiety was always present, and for no good reason it just got worse. I wanted to be out of the house, but I was scared to be alone. No matter what I did, I couldn’t concentrate except on questions such as “Am I going insane? What have I done to deserve this? What sort of punishment is this?””

– Bruce Springsteen

“I am now a man of despair, rejected, abandoned, shut up in this iron cage from which there is no escape.”

– Hopeless in The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

“The iron bolt… mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison.”

– Charles Spurgeon

These accounts reveal something of the despair of depression. And they all come from Christian people. How can that be?

In the introduction to his book of sermons entitled “Spiritual Depression” doctor-turned-preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes,

“Believing as I do that the greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church the subject dealt with in these sermons is to me of the greatest possible importance. Unhappy Christians are, to say the least, a poor recommendation for the Christian Faith; and there can be little doubt but that the exuberant joy of the early Christians was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity.”

So, it is not a diversion from our consideration of the spread of the Gospel in Acts for us to turn to Psalm 77. Here, we see:

  1. The Symptoms: My Soul Refuses To Be Comforted (v1-4)
  2. The Cause: “Has God Forgotten Grace?” (v5-9)
  3. God’s Remedy: “Remember My Redemption” (v10-20)

Now, of course, this is not medical advice. We can receive much help from medicine and counseling in these areas. But there is more to suffering than what medicine can help with. So, we turn to God’s Word to hear what He says about the spiritual aspects and effects of suffering.

Sunday 30th June 2019

Review questions:

  • Is it okay to cry to God (v1)? Yes/No
  • The fact we go through suffering proves God is ________________ (v7-9)
  • What shall separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:31-39)?
  • A Christian may be depressed if we believe that God has ________________ to be gracious (v9)
  • For God to forget His grace to us, He would have to forget ___________ (v9)
  • God ____________ His people because of His covenant promises (v15)
  • Jesus’ death and resurrection were His _____________________ (Luke 9:31)
  • Most unhappiness comes from __________________ to yourself instead of ________________ to it. Lloyd-Jones
  • What should I tell myself?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live: