When to Die, When to Try (Acts 25:1-27)

It is sometimes said that if we really have faith, then troubles of life won’t trouble us. That if we believe hard enough, then God will deliver us, God will give us whatever we ask help for, whether it is trouble with our health, trouble with our family or our businesses. That what we really need is to have more faith, and then God will give us the things that we really desire.

And people go so far as to say that there is really no need for Christians to suffer or to be sick. If they have enough faith, that won’t happen. Just declare that they will be well, and they will be well.

But that doesn’t stack up against what the New Testament teaches, does it?

Think of what Paul writes to the church in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”

A man of great faith, like Paul, can still write of the sufferings that he goes through in the name of the Lord Jesus.

We realise that that’s not the way that things should be, but it is very often the way that things are.

That’s not reflection on Paul’s faith or on the measure of our faith either, if we suffer, even sickness, even trouble.

As we come to Acts 25, we find a situation that should not be. Things are not fair. Life has not turned out the way that Paul would have expected it to.

We do the same. We expect the best of people. We don’t expect disaster around every corner. Yet, life doesn’t turn out the way we imagine that it would.

At the end of Acts 24, we left Paul in Caesarea. He has been declared innocent, yet he rots in jail for two years. How’s that fair? Yet, that’s what happens.

What should we think of that? Should we think that maybe his faith wasn’t as strong as it seemed?

No, it’s actually an opportunity to deepen our faith!

What should we learn as we come to this passage? What must we believe when life seems totally unfair?

  1. Thank God for Good Procedure (v1-5)
  2. Don’t Fear the Truth (v6-12)
  3. What’s Your Issue? (v13-27)

Sunday 8th December 2019

  • Paul was in prison ____________ years (24:27)
  • Why did the Jews want Paul sent to Jerusalem (v2-3)?
  • “God is not a God of _______________________ but of ______________________” (1 Corinthians 14:33)
  • What evidence and witnesses were there against Paul (v7)?
  • What should have happened?
  • What did Festus want (v9)?
  • Why did Paul appeal to Caesar (v11-12, 9:15, 23:11)?
  • Festus knew Paul was ________________________ (v25)
  • What did Paul and the Jews disagree about (v19)?
  • The issue I keep coming back to is _____________________
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I will change:

‘Shepherd the Flock’ (1 Peter 5:1-14)

Hypocrisy, grumbling, greed. They all reveal a heart that says, “I deserve better than God is giving me.” And that’s one of the oldest lies around. When Satan asked Eve, “Did God actually say ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the Garden’?” (Genesis 3:1), he wasn’t questioning whether God had actually said those words; He was asking, ‘How could God have said that to you if He wants what’s best for you? Surely you know better!’ And every time we agree with Satan, that’s pride.

That’s the sin at the root of all this. Jesus says, “You will recognize them by their fruits,” (Matthew 7:20). The fruit is the action: grumbling and hypocrisy. But the root of the plant is pride. And it goes deep down.

Here, God tells us one essential fact about Himself, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (v5b). So, if we’re reeling from all the focus on hypocrisy and grumbling: maybe we should be. Because God opposes the proud. But remember, He also gives grace to the humble.

So, what kind of fruit will that grace grow? What does God’s grace do in us? It will cause us to do four things:

  1. Care for the Flock of God (v1-4)
  2. Humble Yourselves Under God (v5-7)
  3. Keep Watch and Resist the Devil (v8-9)
  4. Be Strengthened by the God of All Grace (v10-14)

Sunday 24th November 2019

Review questions:

  • The root cause of grumbling and hypocrisy is ____________________ (v5)
  • Elders must _______ for the flock (v1)
  • Oversight requires having ___________ conversations that do us good (v2)
  • No one should be _______ to lead (v2)
  • Elders lead by __________________ (v3)
  • Who should elders please (v4)?
  • Learn _____________________ early (v5)
  • God gives ____________ to the humble (v5) and __________________ them (v6)
  • Anxiety is opposite of ________ (v6-7)
  • Sober means (v8)
  • How is the Devil unlike God (v8)?
  • The Devil would ____________ me (v8)
  • I can __________ the Devil (v9, James 4:7)
  • Jesus gives ___________ (John 10:28)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I will change:

“The Burden is Too Heavy” (Numbers 11:1-35)

The biggest problem facing the church is hypocrisy. We saw last week how our local gatherings can so easily be infected. People ‘profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works,’ (Titus 1:16). Yes, we may say that we love God and believe in Jesus. But our actions say the opposite. We can be “Christians” who are loose with the truth, whose lives are ungodly, and who are always out for what we can get.

One way that our hypocrisy shows is when we grumble. But grumbling is one of those respectable sins. No one ever pulls us up on it. And anyway, when we grumble, it’s because we’re right!

Jesus says, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45). That’s God’s truth: You never say something you don’t mean! <PAUSE> So, what does grumbling say our hearts are full of?

Grumbling says, “I care more about my will than God’s will. My plans are better than His. My ways are better than His ways. We would all be better off if I was in charge, not God.” So, we need God’s Word and God’s grace to:

  1. Assess Our Grumbling (v1-15)
  2. Receive God’s Grace (v16-30)
  3. Fear God’s Judgement (v31-35)

Sunday 17th November 2019

Review questions:

  • What does grumbling say I believe (v1-6)?
  • Grumbling s__________________ like infection (v10)
  • We should look ___________________________ (v5)
  • Take your complaints to ________________ (v11)
  • ___________________ carries the church (v11, Exodus 19:4)
  • What does God promise (v18-20)?
  • God surrounds Moses with _______________-filled _________________________ (v16-17, 24-25)
  • The sin was ________________________ (v34)
  • My real religion is what I d_________________ with my heart (1 Corinthians 10:6, 14).
  • God tested Israel’s h_____________ & o__________________________ (Deuteronomy 8:2)
  • Jesus always ____________________________ the Father (Matthew 4:4, John 4:34; 6:38)
  • Jesus is the _____________of _________________ who gives ______________________ (John 6:35)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I will change:

 

“Put Things In Order” (Titus 1:1-16)

What is the biggest problem facing the Church?

It is unbelief? The rise of secularism and atheism? Creeping restrictions on religious freedom?

Maybe the problem is out style (of music, of presentation, of buildings)? Is it because our message is irrelevant? Or is it the issues exposed by the Royal Commission into abuse in religious institutions?

The Bible is clear: The biggest problem for the Church is hypocrisy. It is people who say they know God, but deny Him by their works (v16). So how can we face it?

  1. Believe the Promise: Truth Produces Godliness (v1-4)
  2. Acknowledge the Problem: Lies Produce Evil (v10-16)
  3. Implement the Solution: Place Elders in Every City (v5-9)

Sunday 10th November 2019

Review questions:

  • The church’s biggest problem is ______________________________________ (v16)
  • The only way to grow in godliness is to _____________________________ God’s word in _______________________ & obedience (v1, Mark 4:20)
  • What did God promise before time began (v2)?
  • If we don’t grow, we d______________ (Hebrews 2:1)
  • False teaching & false _____________________ing always go together (v16).
  • What are false Christians like (v12)?
  • Does “appoint” mean the minister chooses the elders (v5)? Yes/No
  • Blameless = _________________________________________ (v6-7)
  • Elders must ______________ their wives (Ephesians 5:28) & have ________________ful children (v6)
  • Maturity = managing __________________ (v7-8)
  • Teach __________________ doctrine, oppose ______________________________ (v9)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I will change:

Advent

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Now that the weather has warmed up, it’s like we’ve come out of hibernation. There are people everywhere. The pace of activity has gone up a notch or two. And Christmas is only a handful of weeks away! So, how should we approach Christmas?

Technically speaking, the Christmas season begins on 25th December and lasts for twelve days. The proper name of the four weeks from 1st to 24th December is “Advent”, which means “coming” in Latin. I don’t pay attention to the traditional church calendar, apart from the dates of Christmas Day and Easter. But for those who do, Advent is a time to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. There may be time to read and reflect on the promises of the coming Saviour, like Isaiah 7:10-14:

“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

That promise came when Israel was staring down oblivion. But it’s a promise of something much greater than military victory. When they doubted whether the Lord could save them from their enemies, He promised to come and be with them! Matthew tells us that the birth of Jesus was the fulfilment of this promise: God came to us (Matthew 1:23).

But it’s not enough to be amazed that Jesus, God’s eternal Son, came to live on earth. It’s not enough to be inspired by His example and go to those who are less fortunate than us (though that is a good thing to do). We must ask why Jesus came.

We must not only think of God as Immanuel, but know Him as Jesus: the One who would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). That’s why Jesus came.

Notice: It is only His people that Jesus came to save. The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, which tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is only those who trust in Jesus to save them that receive eternal life.

But that’s not the end of the passage,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:17-19).

The first advent, Jesus came to save. But He will have a second advent. As the Apostles’ Creed reminds us, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead,” (Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16 & 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:20).

When Jesus’ first advent ended, He sent His Church to be witnesses to the end of the earth in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Then He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). But two angel appeared to His disciples, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). Followers of Jesus are supposed to live every day from the end of His first advent motivated by His second advent.

That’s how we should approach Christmas (and every other time of the year): Not only by looking back to His first coming, but preparing ourselves for when He comes again. Are you ready? And are you being a witness to Him while we wait?

Yours in Christ’s service,

Stephen McDonald

Knowledge Without Faith (Acts 24:22-27)

Sometimes we expect change: At the end of the year, students get their university offers. Workers move to other jobs. People move or retire.

But not all changes are expected: The call back to see the doctor about those tests, today! The policeman’s knock at the door. The devastating letter from the accountant or the lawyer.

Can we be ready for unexpected change?

Paul’s life changed unexpectedly. He was no longer travelling to bring the Gospel to unreached people. He was locked in a Roman prison. In these unassuming verses at the end of Acts 24, there’s a message for us about unexpected change:

  1. Paul is Committed to Prison Indefinitely (v22-23, 27)
  2. Felix Heard About Jesus Regularly (v24-26)
  3. Don’t Delay Commitment Indefinitely (v22, 25-27)

Sunday 3rd November 2019

  • God promises to ______________ the good work in us on the day of ___________________________ (Philippians 1:6)
  • Calling Jesus “Christ” means He is the supreme, God-sent ________ (v24)
  • We talk about the things we ________, like ___________________________ (v24)
  • “Reasoning” means: (v25)
  • How can I be right with God (v24, Romans 4:1-8, 5:17)?
  • What will happen when Jesus returns (v25, 2 Peter 3:10)?
  • We must share the ____________ news to share the _____________ news (v25)
  • Hearing about Jesus must lead to ___________________________ (Romans 10:14)
  • Felix thought he had __________ (v25)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I will change:

A Good Reason to Stand Trial (Acts 23:12-24:21)

What we believe about the future changes how we live today:

If you believe the stock market will crash, where will you keep your money? Under your mattress, not in the bank.

If you believe that this life is all there is, you’ll work to enjoy it all you can. You’ll work and enjoy the reputation you earn. You’ll travel and enjoy the experiences you have. You’ll care for your health so you can keep living life for as long as possible.

But what if you believe that there is more than just this life? 1 Corinthians 15:53 says, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” What if you believe that we will live again, either as forgiven sinners, clothed in perfect bodies, enjoying the holy presence of God forever, or as condemned sinners, suffering eternal punishment?

Yes, you’ll care about your life here. But you’ll live it differently because there is another life to come. You’ll invest in people and projects here, but they won’t be your treasure.

No, you’ll listen to Jesus, who said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew 6:19-21).

What does it look like to live with your heart in heaven? We see an example of that here in Acts 23-24. Paul’s life is threatened and his is put on trial. But he says all this isn’t about him, but about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

If you face friction because you’re a believer, it should be because you live like someone who is going to live again, with God, forever. So, if believing in the resurrection was a crime, would you be found guilty? Where is your treasure?

The friction Paul faced is captured by three declarations:

  1. ‘We Promise to Kill Paul!’ (23:12-22)
  2. ‘There is No Reason to Kill Paul!’ (23:23-35), and
  3. ‘Jesus’ Resurrection is God’s Guarantee of Your Resurrection!’ (24:1-21)

Sunday 27th October 2019

Review questions:

  • Jesus said, “Lay up treasure in ____________________” (Matthew 6:20)
  • “This perishable body must put on ______________________” (1 Corinthians 15:53)
  • What was the plot against Paul (23:12-15)?
  • If I promise to break God’s law, must I keep the promise (Leviticus 5:4)? Yes/No
  • God uses ____________ people (23:16)
  • Christians not be considered a ______ to a society (23:29).
  • Paul: ‘I am a good _________ (24:11-13, 19), a loyal _________’ (24:14-18)
  • Who is Jesus (3:15, 4:12)?
  • Jesus’ resurrection proves God’s promise to give _________ an eternal ______________ existence with _______
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I will change: