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Danger! Glory (Acts 12:20-25)

In the middle of the Albury CBD is Volt Lane. It runs along the back of Dean Street, giving access to many shops and arcades along the main street.

Volt Lane gets its name from the electricity substation at its eastern end. In 2010, a 21-year-old man was seriously burned after falling into the substation from the high brick wall around it, despite the signs warning of the high voltages inside. The area has since been redeveloped, and the substation incorporated into a parking building, but the danger remains. Electricity in the right place is a good thing, but out of place it is dangerous.

In Acts 12, we find the same thing about glory: When glory is in the right place, when it is given to God, it is good; but when glory is given to us, it is dangerous. So, we must ask:

  1. How Do You Respond to Praise that Belongs to God? (v20-23)
  2. Which God-Man Do You Imitate? (v20-23)
  3. Be Sure, God Will Have His Glory (v24-25)

Sunday 17th February 2019

  • Where does glory belong?
  • Satan’s temptation to Eve was “You will be _________________” (Gen 3:4-5)
  • What was Herod like (v1-3, 19-22)?
  • God doesn’t strike us down as soon as we sin, so we can ___________ (Rom 2:4).
  • How did Jesus treat glory (Philippians 2:5-11)?
  • What did Jesus do for His enemies (1 Peter 3:18, Romans 5:10)?
  • Was Jesus rich (Luke 9:58)?
  • How was Jesus’ end different to Herod’s (v23, Hebrews 10:13)?
  • How can I become like Jesus (Ezekiel 36:26, John 3:3)?
  • How can I glorify Jesus (v24-25, Philippians 3:8)?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

When Prayer Works (Acts 12:1-19)

Last week we saw what God expects of us as His Church. We are not what He calls us to be unless we are faithful: faithful to engage and evangelise (11:19-21), faithful to embrace (v22-24), faithful to edify (v25-26), and faithful to impart (v27-30).

There, the emphasis is on us, and what we must be.

But can we really be held accountable for the state of the Church? We live in such a hostile world that it’s no wonder the Church is a mess.

The answer to that question is prayer. What do we believe about prayer? And what do we believe about the God we pray to?

It’s easy to say we believe in prayer (whether or not we do it). But whether we (individually or as a church) pray depends not so much about what we think of prayer, but what we think of God:

Is the God we pray to really able to change things? We see here in Acts 12 that Yes, God is sovereign over nations and individuals. So, He really can change things, big or small.

And that matters because we are in a war. The Church does face opposition:

  • We are under pressure to be unfaithful, to keep quiet about the good news of salvation in Jesus (engage & evangelise).
  • We are under pressure to be suspicious of people who are different, to only embrace people like us (embrace).
  • We are under pressure seek our satisfaction in this world, rather than desiring to be transformed to be like Jesus (edify).
  • We are under pressure to put our needs and comforts first, rather than imparting what we have to others (impart).

Even if we aren’t threatened with physical danger, we are in spiritual danger, danger to be unfaithful to God. There is a battle going on. And if we are going to be faithful, we must fight the battle with prayer:

  1. There is a Battle Raging (v1-5)
  2. What Prayer Does (v6-12)
  3. What Kind of Prayer is This? (v12-19)

Sunday 10th February 2019

Review questions:

  • God expects His Church to en______e & ev___________________e (11:19-20), em__________e (v22-24), ed_________y (v25-26), & im____________t (v27-30).
  • How does spiritual war appear in my life?
  • How do we fight (v5, Eph 6:18)?
  • What is Peter doing (v6)?
  • Sleep says:
  • How effective is prayer (Eph 3:20?)
  • I can pray with ______________________
  • Prayer should be c_____________ (v12) not always p_______________ (v13-15) but e_________________ (v5).
  • Why don’t we get what we pray for (James 4:3, John 14:13)?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

What’s a Faithful Church? (Acts 11:19-30)

In the opening chapters of the Book of Acts, we’re confronted by Luke’s descriptions of the first followers of Jesus. It isn’t notable for its influence in society. Its strength isn’t its property. And even though its mission isn’t to get ‘more bums on seats’, it keeps growing and spreading.

The Church is misunderstood at best, and more often despised and persecuted (much like today). But it is strong. It is strong, because the Holy Spirit gives it strength and power (supernatural power) to testify about Jesus.

So this is a great place to start if we aren’t really sure what place the Church has in the world we live in (or if we’re wondering if the Church should have a place in our lives).

As we pick up at Acts 11:19-30, God tell us (through Luke) more of the story of how His Church spread and grew.

That’s what the Church has always been about:

  • It’s not a group of like-minded people who enjoy doing good things together. The Church is not a social club.
  • It’s not about providing social support to everyone who had needs. It’s not a social service.
  • It’s not about changing society for the better. It’s not a social movement.

The Church will do some things that those sorts of groups do, but none of them are the reason the Church exists.

So, if you expect this Church to provide you with a group of high-calibre, good moral people to spend your time with, you’ll be disappointed to learn that we’re all sinners. And if you haven’t been sinned against in a Church, it won’t take long for that to happen here. That doesn’t make it okay, but we need to be honest about it, repent, and forgive, then keep working together on the Church’s mission (rather than pack up and go home).

If you expect this Church to solve your money problems or your family problems or your marriage problems, then you’ll be disappointed too. Don’t get me wrong: We want to know what your problems are. We will pray for you, and we will pray with you, and we will help you, but we can’t fix every problem. So, we’ll keep pointing you to Jesus, who can fix anything and who can help you live through every sort of trouble.

And if you expect this Church to solve the world’s problems, you’ll be disappointed too. Yes, we care about unemployment, homelessness, broken families, self-harm, abortion, and refugees. And we should be ashamed for not speaking about that and for not doing more about that. But even if were possible to create a world without war and poverty and pain, our biggest problem would remain: Sin. And that’s why we’re here, because Jesus is the only one who can take our guilt at what we’re done and our shame at who we really are inside. That’s our message.

In Acts 1:8, He tells us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” That’s our mission: to be faithful to Jesus’ plan.

This Church will disappoint you. We might not be doing what you think we should. Our style might not be your cup of tea. We might not be able to run the programs you think are important, or to preserve the assets that matter to you.

But this Church will let you down for a reason: We aren’t here to be popular, or successful, but to be faithful:

  1. Faithful to Engage & Evangelise (v19-21)
  2. Faithful to Embrace (v22-24)
  3. Faithful to Edify (v25-26)
  4. Faithful to Impart (v27-30)

That’s the challenge for us: Congregation, elders, are we willing to let everything else go to be faithful in these ways?

Sunday 3rd February 2019

  • The Church exists to: ___________________ (Acts 1:8)
  • Our message is: __________________
  • God used trouble to ______________________________________(v19)
  • Who needs Jesus?
  • Everyone has a ‘Gospel’ about why we are __________, what’s __________ with the world, how it can be _______, and what our ____________________ is.
  • Why is Barnabas glad (v23)?
  • ‘Edify’ means ___________________
  • How are Christians built up (v26)?
  • What can we share (v29)?
  • Can we be faithful?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Equipped Together (Ephesians 4:1-16)

What does victory look like?

There are iconic images of Winston Churchill making the “V for Victory” sign throughout WWII or the dancing in the streets on VE Day. More recently, there was the now-infamous footage of George W. Bush standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, to declare “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

The difference is that today, it isn’t easy to tell when a war has begun or when it is finished, unlike in Churchill’s day. Then, you knew the war was over because the armies returned home with parades to celebrate their victory.

The Bible tells us that Jesus won a victory: He defeated sin, and death, and the Devil. But how can we know that He won? We can say that Jesus got rid of death and guilt, but can we know for sure?

As Ephesians 4 shows us, Jesus triumphed. He went up, taking His prisoners with Him, and distributed the prizes of war to His army.

And we can see that in the Church He established. It may not look victorious, but we have the treasures He won. Here in Ephesians 4, Paul is particularly concerned with Christian unity. As one of those Jesus captured to serve Him, Paul urges us also to walk in that unity. He tells us how we can show it, what it is based on, where we get help, and what the result will look like:

  1. Shown in Our Love (v1-2)
  2. Based on God’s Unity (v3-6)
  3. Equipped by Christ’s Gifts (v7-12)
  4. Demands Growth in Maturity (v13-16)

If we experience this unity in Jesus Christ, not only will the Church be what it should be as a whole, but we as individuals members of it will be growing to be what God made us to be, and those who do not know Jesus will realize that He should be honoured by their obedience too.

Sunday 6th January 2019

  • How do we know Jesus was victorious (v8-11)?
  • Christian unity depends on _____________________ than on structure or organization (v1-3).
  • Because the persons of the Trinity are united, Christians are one _________ (v6), with one __________, ________ & __________ (v5), built into one __________ (v4).
  • How can I maintain Christian unity (v3)?
  • How do people help us to grow in a way that supernatural power wouldn’t (v11-12)?
  • Who does ministry (v12)?
  • How do pastors and teachers equip God’s people (v12)?
  • What is the Church for (v13-14)?
  • Maturity looks like ______________________, expressed in ___________ & _________ (v15)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Magnify the LORD with Me (Psalm 34)

2018 is virtually over. 2019 will be upon us before we realize it. And we’re already thinking about what we’ll do differently, maybe make some New Year’s resolutions.

But they don’t last. 80% of New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by February. Another 12% are forgotten by the end of the year. So, only 8% of New Year’s resolutions work.

Why do we fail when we know we need to change?

The experts say that we make too many, too general, too costly, and unmeasurable. We try to do too much, without counting the cost, or really knowing how to do it, and we don’t even know if we’ve achieved it.

So, how can we change? There is a guaranteed way to change, and it’s not a 30-day, money-back guarantee. It always works. The way to change is to ask God help you be what He promises to make you.

God tells us His will for us in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” So, if we ask God to sanctify us, to make us holy, He will.

Today, we’re going to think about just one way God makes us holy: in our thoughts and in our words. In Psalm 34, David tells us the resolution he made, a resolution that changes our hearts, our thoughts and our words:

  1. Make A (New?) Resolution: Continual Praise (v1-3)
  2. Feel An Eternal Motivation: Fear (v4-14)
  3. Depend Upon God’s Action: Keeping (v15-22)

Notice that the change doesn’t depend on our will-power. It depends on what God has done and keeps doing. That’s how we know we can change, and that’s why this change will last: it depends on God. So, what change is God calling us to as the New Year begins?

Sunday 30th December 2018

Review questions:

  • What change does God guarantee (1 Thessalonians 4:3)?
  • What is worship?
  • Our words reveal our __________ (Luke 6:45)
  • How do we worship God (v1, Colossians 3:16, Romans 12:1-2)?
  • Why should we praise God (v4-10)?
  • ‘The fear of the LORD’ means ___________ that leads to ____________ (v7)
  • We learn to fear God by ________________________________ (v11-14)
  • What should we do in trouble (v15, Romans 8:14-17)?
  • Where is God when I suffer (v18)?
  • God kept __________, so He can __________ us, if we trust Him (v20, John 6:38-40).
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Born That Man No More May Die (Hebrews 2:14-18)

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the past and to think about the future. When everything finally stops at Christmas, sometime after 3 o’clock this afternoon, what will you think about?

Maybe you’ve had a good year. Maybe it’s been hard. Perhaps you’re excited about what 2019 will bring. Maybe you’re afraid of the future.

What is your destiny? What will the future bring?

See, Christmas isn’t just about the events that happened more than 2000 years ago. Christmas is about the future.

We saw on Sunday that Christmas is a rescue: The Son of God came into the world He created to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). That changes how we think about the past, what we do in the present, and what will happen to us in the future.

So, how does the birth of Jesus change our destiny?

To answer that question, we need to ask why He came in the first place. Hebrews 2 helps us to answer that. It may not be a typical Christmas passage with shepherds and wise men, but it does explain to us why Christmas happened in the first place and how that can change our futures all these years later. It tells us:

  1. Why Jesus Came (v14-15)
  2. How Jesus Gives Freedom (v16-18)

Christmas Day, Tuesday 25th December 2018

Review questions:

  • Why did Jesus have to be a human (v14)?
  • What is our destiny?
  • Jesus came to free us from _____________, the _________ of _________, & the _________.
  • In what ways can we fear death?
  • What difference does Jesus make to death?
  • How does the Devil use the fear of death (v15)?
  • How did Jesus break Satan’s power (Romans 8:34)?
  • Who are Abraham’s children (v16, Romans 4)?
  • Jesus is __________ful & _________ful (v17)
  • Atonement means ___________________________________ (v17)
  • Jesus _________ed so He can ______ (v18)

 

Glory to God and Peace to Men (Luke 2:1-21)

Have you ever had to call 000?

From before I started school, I knew that dialling 000 on our rotary dial telephone was the way to get help in an emergency. And one day I had to do it.

You tell the operator what sort of help you need, and give them your address. But the wailing sirens don’t arrive straight away; it’s not like the movies. The average wait time for an ambulance in Victoria is 10 minutes and 44 seconds. So, you wait, and listen, and try not to panic, and you wait.

Our world has been in an emergency since almost the very beginning. And way back then, when only Adam and Eve were here, God promised them that He would send someone to save them and us from this emergency.

The emergency is sin, defying the God who made us and gave us everything, and who deserves our loyalty and obedience.

Back then, in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, God promised that Eve’s offspring would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). Even though we deserve God’s wrath and punishment, He promised to send a Saviour.

But what would the rescue look like? How would the rescuer come? Those are the questions the Christmas stories answer for us. And here in Luke 2, we are reminded that God’s rescue doesn’t come how we would have done it. God’s rescuer isn’t who we would have expected.

Luke tells us in Luke 1:1-4 that he is writing us “an orderly account”, a carefully researched description of real events, so that “you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

This isn’t just a story of ‘back then’; the birth of Jesus changes how we think about our past, how we live today, and what will happen in our future. So, there are three lessons for us today:

  1. Receive the Saviour: Christ the Lord (v10-11)
  2. See the Proof: A Baby in a Trough (v12)
  3. Have Faith: Peace from God (v13-14)

Christmas is so much more than a story about a cute little baby. It’s God’s rescue plan in action.

Sunday 23rd December 2018

Review questions:

  • What is your emergency (v11, 21, Rom 5:12-21)?
  • Luke carefully _________________ his account so we can have _______________ (Lk 1:1-4)
  • “Saviour” means __________________________________
  • “Messiah” means __________________________________
  • “Lord” means __________________________________
  • Did God the Son exist before Jesus was born (John 1:1-4)? Yes/No
  • Does God expect us to believe without proof (v12)? Yes/No
  • What proof does He give (v16-20)?
  • Why does God deserve glory (v14)?
  • Jesus gives peace for our guilt by _________________
  • Jesus gives peace for our hurt by Jesus means _________________ (Mtt 1:21)