Daily Bible Study Notes

Saturday May 27, 2017

God Is Lord of Our Suffering

 

Read 2 Cor 6:4-10, 2 Cor 11:21-29

 

A phenomenon that we see throughout the book of Acts and the New Testament is that believers rejoice in hard times and in periods of suffering for the gospel.

The phenomenon is not easy to explain but it is easy to experience. Start telling people about Jesus and you’ll see this phenomenon come to light. Start calling people to repent and to believe in Jesus and through God’s Holy Spirit, you’ll experience the joy of suffering for the name.

As James says in chapter 1 of his epistle.

James 1:2–4 (NIV84)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Paul concurs in Romans 5

Romans 5:3–4 (NIV84)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

We see in Acts and in the entire New Testament that God is Lord, even of our suffering. God can and will use our suffering for good. We need not fear future suffering. We need not be anxious about it. If we are called to suffer, then the Holy Spirit of God will fill us and lead us to rejoice and praise God through it.

Prayer:

Adoration:

Adore God that He sustains us, grows us and even works for our good through tough times and through suffering for the sake of Jesus.

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

Thanks:

Thank God that He is sovereign, even over our suffering.

Supplication:

Ask the Lord to abundantly bless our gathered time tomorrow.

 

Friday May 26, 2017

A Feared Reputation.

 

Friday May 26, 2017

Read Acts 9:26-28

 

Saul, the up and coming Pharisee, had a feared reputation. It wasn’t like the reputation of our modern day atheists. When we think of the likes of Stephen Hawkins or Richard Dawkins, we might fear entering into a verbal stoush with them. But ultimately, we often forget about them and leave them in the ‘whoopee-do’ category. Their presence changes little in our lives.

The reputation of Saul was far different. The Christians feared Saul and avoided his presence. As we saw with Ananias earlier this week, a meeting with Saul was not something to be looked forward to. He was a violent young man, hellbent on destroying the followers of the Way.

Saul’s feared reputation is seen after his conversion. Saul seeks to join the disciples but they are afraid of him. They do not believe that he really is a disciple. They block his attempts to join the group and they continue to avoid him. His reputation is so feared that they believe that this could be a ruse to arrest and kill more believers. This could be another trick used against the Jesus followers.

It took the courage and friendship of Barnabas to convince the disciples in Jerusalem that Saul was genuinely a convert. Barnabas, who sold land and gave the money to Apostles for poor relief, shared with the disciples, Saul’s conversion story and the evidence of the Spirit’s filling. He shared how Saul had boldly and fearlessly preached the name of Jesus in Damascus.

It was through the intercession of Barnabas that Saul was able to stay with the disciples in Jerusalem. The doorway was opened by the friendship of Barnabas so that Saul could move about freely in Jerusalem and speak boldly in the name of the Lord.

God had melted the hard heart of Saul and brought him to Christ in repentance and faith. But there were other hard hearts that needed melting as well. Ananias’ heart was hardened by fear. The Lord had to peel away the fear before he could minister to Saul. Barnabas’ heart probably had to change before he could adopt Saul as a friend and stick his neck out for a potential traitor. The hearts of the believers in Jerusalem were hard as well. They refused to believe that Saul was a true convert and pushed him away. It took the ministry and encouragement of Barnabas to convince them.

I wonder if there are hard hearts in our own congregations that need melting. Perhaps those who refuse to accept the poor and needy into the church need warming in their heart. Perhaps those who want to keep all the man-made rules and regulations and who gossip and rant and rave when more than 4 hymns are sung need a heart of flesh restored in them. Perhaps those who look down on the others who are challenge with fashion need a softening of the heart. Perhaps those who react immediately with harsh and critical words, rather than with words of grace, need that hard casing peeled away from their heart.

Praise God that He is working to melt the hard hearts that are opposed to Jesus. Praise God that He is working to melt the hard hearts that love and serve Jesus as well.

Prayer:

Adoration:

Adore God that He is so loving that He joyfully melts hard hearts both outside and inside the church.

Adore God that He is so loving that He brings all converts into His church and accepts them fully, no matter how bad their life was before their conversion.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God for the work that He as done in your life and your heart.

Thank God for the grace that He has lavished upon you.

 

Supplication:

Pray for the conversion of the hard hearted people that you wrote down on Monday and Tuesday.

Ask the Lord to continue softening the hard hearts in your church that need softening and that grace would overwhelm people so that the genuine love of Jesus grows and flourishes.

Ask the Lord to prepare us for Sonday’s gathering in both the morning and evening services.

Pray that we would see conversion growth in both services and that these new converts would be discipled and trained up in the faith.

Pray that God would use each believer in your congregation to make at least one other disciple this week.

Discuss

 

1.What do you think motivated Barnabas to befriend Saul and to stand up for him among the believers in Jerusalem?

2.Why do you think the Lord used Barnabas and not Ananias to bring Saul to the disciples?

3.Describe Barnabas.

 

 

Thursday May 25, 2017

Receiving the Holy Spirit is Experiential

 

Read Acts 9:17-19

 

One wonders how Ananias felt as he approached the house of Judas who lived on Straight Street. Saul, the persecutor of the church, was there. Saul, the angry and violent young man who made it his mission to destroy the church by killing the believers, was there. Was Ananias scared? Was he doubting? Was he looking for excuses not to enter that house?

 

Ultimately, we don’t know Ananias’ heart but we do know that he greeted Saul as a brother in the Lord. Ananias refers to Saul as ‘Brother Saul’ in v17. While this could have been a standard Jewish greeting, it is more probable that Ananias accepted Saul as a brother in the faith because of the vision and words he had received from the Lord Himself.

 

Ananias laid his hands on Saul and his sight was restored. He reports that God had sent him so that Saul could be healed and filled with the Spirit. Interestingly, there is no mention of that filling. We are explicitly told that the scales fell from Saul’s eyes, hence he was healed. We are told that he was baptised and that he began to eat and drink again. But we are not told that the Spirit came upon him. Nor is there any mention of tongues speaking, even though we know from 1 Cor 14:18 that Paul did speak in tongues. We simply have to assume that the Spirit filled Saul at the time of his baptism.

 

Like the Ethiopian in chapter 8, Saul too shows evidence of the Spirit without having the filling of the Spirit specifically mentioned. The Ethiopian was baptised and was filled with joy. No mention of a Spirit filling is made. Saul was baptised and, as we see in the next part of the narrative, boldly witnessed about the risen Lord Jesus and argued convincingly that Jesus is the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah. He argued so convincingly that he was able to baffle the local Jews. Such a defence of Christ and such boldness would be impossible without being filled with the Holy Spirit

 

Having studied a rather large chunk of Acts to date, we can see clearly that the giving of the Holy Spirit to new believers should not be something to be believed only academically or implicitly. We should never assure new Christians that they are Spirit filled through solely an academic argument, even if it is from Scripture. Nor should we use the tautological and somewhat circular argument that the Bible assures us that all believers are given the Spirit and because you believe you must have the Spirit.

 

Regarding the giving of the Spirit in Acts, we note that there is always an ‘experience’ with the coming of the Spirit. Some people, as we have seen, speak in tongues. Some people, like the Ethiopian, are filled with joy. Some, like Saul, are given a boldness and an ability to share Christ in amazing ways. Some may see or do or be associated with miraculous signs. There is no single normative experience when the Spirit is given. But He is generally experienced when he comes upon people.

 

As John Piper notes, the Apostle Paul ’... expects that a person who has "received the Holy Spirit" knows it, not just because it's an inference from his faith in Christ, but because it is an experience with effects that we can point to. That is what runs all the way through this book of Acts. All the explicit descriptions of receiving the Holy Spirit are experiential (not inferential).’ See http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/what-does-it-mean-to-receive-the-holy-spirit

 

Prayer:

Adoration:

Adore God for being so loving and gracious that He sends the Holy Spirit to all who believe in Jesus.

Adore God that His Spirit tabernacles within us and seals us for the day of redemption.

Adore God that the Spirit teaches us, guides us and leads and equips us in ministry.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that you have the Spirit of God and that you can walk by the Spirit and by Him, put to death the misdeeds of the body.

Thank God that because the Spirit dwells within you, you are no longer a slave to sin or temptation, but rather, a slave to righteousness in Christ Jesus.

 

Supplication:

Pray for the conversion of the hard hearted people that you wrote down on Monday and Tuesday.

Ask the Lord to be powerfully among us as we gather on the Lord’s Day. Pray that we would focus on our God and worship Him in spirit and in truth. Pray that we would experience the presence of our God and grow deeper in Him.

Pray that God would renew and refresh the staff at ChristLife as they take the day off. Pray that the day would be spent relating to God and pushing into Him.

Discuss

 

1.What does it mean when we say that the receiving of the Holy Spirit is experiential not inferential?

2.What issues do we need to consider if someone confided in us that they believe in Christ but have no indication that they have the Holy Spirit in them?

3.What traps or false teachings do we need to be careful of as we talk about the experiential filling of the Holy Spirit?

 

 

Wednesday May 24, 2017

Reaching the World is a Team Mission

 

Wednesday May 24, 2017

Read Acts 9:10-16, Acts 22:12

 

It’s fascinating that no human agent was involved in the evangelism of Saul. God confronted him directly through the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, after Saul is in Damascus, it’s only through the intervention of a man called Ananias that Saul can be healed of the blindness and move forward in his new found faith.

Ananias had heard of Saul’s vicious reputation. He had heard how Saul had caused much harm to the saints in Jerusalem. He knew that Saul was headed into Damascus to arrest and kill the Christians there. Even so, the Lord calls to Ananias in v10-12. In the latter two verses we see the contents of the call to Ananias.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

Ananias humbly relays his doubts to the Lord.

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But God will not be swayed from His plans.

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Ananias is described in Acts 22:12 as ‘a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.’ Perhaps he was the mirror antithesis of Paul - where Paul was angry, violent and hating Christ Jesus, Ananias was godly, kind and devoutly in love with Jesus. It is this man whom God chose to report to Saul his mission and how much he must suffer for Jesus’ name.

Obediently, Ananias comes to Saul, places his hands over Saul’s eyes and heals him of the blindness. Ananias speaks to Saul the message he had received from the Lord.

Acts 22:14–16

Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

So what do we learn from Saul’s conversion? We should not think that the experience of Saul’s conversion is normative in the sense that evangelism is not needed. Even though God can, and often still does, call people without our involvement, we should always continue to reach out to the world with the gospel of new life. Secondly, we need to realise that the mission from Jerusalem to Samaria and to the ends of the earth is a team ministry. Saul was converted without the involvement of any human agent but soon became enmeshed within the church. He needed Ananias and soon came to depend on the entire church. Reaching the world is a team mission, not a solo effort.

Prayer:

Adoration:

Adore God that He works through the entire body of Christ, the church and not just through individuals.

Adore God that He calls us to be a vital part of the church and to be loving the church and loved by the church.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that every believer has a role to play in the church and in the mission to the world.

Thank God that He equips each believer with a gift of the Holy Spirit to build up the church and to reach the world for Christ Jesus.

 

Supplication:

Pray that God would reveal what role and spiritual gift He has given to each believer in your church.

Pray for the conversion of the non believers that you listed down on Monday and then again on Tuesday.

Discuss

 

1.Jesus could have called Paul to Himself and sent him on the mission without any human agents being used. Why did Jesus send Ananias to Saul?

2.How do you think Ananias might have felt as he went to heal Saul and to convey the Lord’s mission to him?

3.Ananias is described as a devout observer of the Law in Acts 22, yet is a Christian. How do we make sense of the description?

 

 

Tuesday May 23, 2107

 

When Christians Suffer, Christ Suffers

Read Acts 9:3-9

Saul’s conversion is as dramatic as his life. On his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and to deport them back to Jerusalem so that they can be gaoled and executed, a flashing light from heaven surrounds Saul. From Acts 22:6 and 13 we know that it was around midday. The light surrounding Saul must have been infinitely brighter than the full noon-day sun for it to have been as effective as it was - to knock him down and to blind him for 3 days.

As the light blinds Saul, he falls to the ground and hears a voice proclaim, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ We assume that he saw someone within the light because he calls the speaker, ‘Lord’. Confused and startled, Saul asks, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The voice responds, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’ Previously, Saul had not believed in the name of Jesus. He denied the deity of Christ, His claim to be Messiah and especially the notion that He was resurrected from the dead. The seven words that echoed out of the blinding brightness rocked the very foundation of Saul’s world. Here was Jesus standing in front of him. The certainty of the resurrection of Christ Jesus turned Saul from the hardest heart and most zealous persecutor of Christ to the most ardent witness.

Jesus’ words must have stung Saul to the depths of his very being. Saul had been persecuting the early church, the followers of Jesus. Now the brilliant figure in the light, Jesus Himself, reveals to Saul that persecuting Christians is tantamount to persecuting Jesus himself. Every breath breathed against the church, every arrest and every death was a personal attack against Jesus Himself. When Christians suffer, Christ Himself suffers.

From our perspective, it might be tempting to read the event of Saul’s conversion as an inner pang of his conscience. Perhaps Saul experienced the light and the words in his inner being. But the report regarding the men travelling with Saul stops such an interpretation. They heard the sounds but could not understand the words of Jesus. They saw the light but did not see Jesus himself. These men serve as eyewitnesses that the event was not some intangible inner experience but a real tangible occurrence.

Saul, as we saw, was blinded by the light. We have to understand that this was not a punitive measure. Saul is broken and helpless. His whole world has been shattered by the engagement with Jesus. His travelling companions have to lead him by the hand into Damascus and for 3 days Paul fasted - he ate and drank nothing. It’s hard to know exactly what happened within Saul in those three days but we can suggest that he analysed and thought through the events of that fateful day. Saul would probably have been rethinking his whole life, his approach to life and how the appearance of the resurrected Jesus changed, literally, everything.

Saul came to understand that persecuting Christians amounts to persecuting Christ Himself. Saul had to grapple with his past anger, his hatred and his blasphemy against Jesus. He had to come to grips with the future that Christ was calling him to. No wonder he needed three days of blindness!

Prayer:

 

Adoration:

Adore God that He is able to bring even the hardest of hearts to Jesus through repentance and faith.

Adore God that no one is outside of his sovereignty and control.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness

 

Thanks:

Thank God that we have this account of Saul’s conversion.

Thank God that He has protected the Scriptures down through the ages and that we can trust what is written as being true and authentic.

 

Supplication:

List the people in your life who are hard hearted towards God. Pray for each one by name, asking God to bring them to repentance and faith in Jesus.

 

__________________________________

 

__________________________________

 

__________________________________

 

__________________________________

 

__________________________________

 

Pray that our Small Groups will be havens of growth in the members but also havens of growth numerically as they pray for others and as they share the gospel with them.

Discuss

 

1.Why do you think Luke reports Saul’s conversion three times throughout the book of Acts?

2. Why was Jesus able to say to Saul that persecuting Christians was the same as persecuting Him?

3.Nobody witnessed to Saul, but he still became a Christian. In what way does this speak to our evangelism today?

 

 

Small Groups
Read Acts 9:1-19
Spend time in adoration and praise as you sing to the LORD.
Having read Acts 9:1-19, consider the following;
How would you describe Saul before he met Jesus?
When Saul met Jesus, he was told that he had been persecuting Jesus, v5. How can this be true given that Saul was persecuting the church? No glib or trite answers, please.
What was the reaction of the men travelling with Saul to the appearance of the Jesus?
What was Ananias’ reaction to the call to minister to Saul?
What role did God have for Saul?
Having read Acts 9:1-19, consider the following;
What role does the conversion of Saul play in the narrative of Acts?
There was no human agent in involved in the conversion of Saul. Why do you think that this is so?
What does this imply for our evangelism? eWhy was Ananias afraid to go to Saul? r
Why was a human agent involved after Saul’s conversion?
Why are we not told about the coming of the Holy Spirit onto Saul?
Luke includes Paul’s conversion 3 times throughout the book of Acts. Why is this?
Many churches look for people with a dramatic conversion story to share in their church. While this may be edifying, what issues or problems might arise from only hearing dramatic conversion stories?
What makes for a good conversion story or testimony?
Why should every Christian be ready to share their testimony at a moment's notice?
GoingDeeper
Margo was born into a Christian household and ever since she can remember, she has loved and served the Lord. She does not remember a definitive moment when she came to the Lord in repentance and faith. She has been asked by her pastor to share her testimony at church in a couple of weekends time.
As you consider the testimony of Saul, who later changed his name to Paul, what structure can you use for a non Christian to Christian conversion story?
What structure could you use for a testimony of a person who has grown up in a Christian household?
How can you encourage Margo from Saul’s conversion story?
What is the main point of a testimony?
What should be the main focus of a testimony?
What makes for a good testimony?
Think about times when you could have, or did, share your testimony. Share what happened and how it all turned out.
Sharing your testimony is a great way to share the gospel with people. While sceptics and non believers can argue with the facts of the Bible and the events therein, they simply cannot argue with your experiences and your life.
But sharing a good testimony is harder than it appears. It requires planning and fore thought. A good testimony is ultimately about Jesus and the work He has done. It is not primarily about you and how you searched and how you found Jesus.
The focus of your testimony will determine if it’s good or bad. A good testimony will focus on Jesus and talk lots about Him. A bad testimony will focus on me and talk lots about me. The word ‘I’ appears lots and is on centre stage throughout the entire speech.
To help you write or plan your testimony think about your life in 3 parts. Consider what your life was like without Christ. What were your dreams, your goals or aspirations? What kind of person were you? Next, focus on what Jesus did to bring you to Himself. Finally, talk about what difference Christ has made in your life. Again, the focus throughout the entire talk, needs to be Christ and not you.
If you have always been a Christian you can talk about the struggles you have had and how Christ has walked with you all the years of your life. These kinds of testimonies are very encouraging to other believers and will speak great encouragement into their lives. Testimonies are for both believers and unbelievers!
When you are satisfied that you can speak of your testimony you can create opportunities to share it. As a young minister, I was invited to go door knocking with an elder in the church. I was the student and he was the master. I watched him knock on doors and engage the householder by using his testimony. He would look for a point of contact and by using a simple phrase, was able to share how the Lord had worked in his life. Phrases such as ‘I understand because I used to struggle with that’ or ‘I know from experience what you mean’. These phrases, which were never lies or exaggerations, allowed this elder to make a heartfelt connection. The door to sharing was opened.
But please heed this warning. No one is saved by believing in you or by standing in awe of how great you are. People are saved by believing in Jesus! Our testimony should always point people to Jesus.

 

Monday May 22, 2017

Coming Up this Sonday May 28. Acts 9:1-19 Melting Hard Hearts

 

 

 

 

This week’s memory verse Acts 9:15–16 (NIV84) But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

 

 

 

Hard Hearted Atheists

 

Read Acts 9:1-2, 1 Tim 1:13, Acts 8:3, 22:4

 

As you think about the hard hearted atheists of today, people like Stephen Hawkins, Richard Dawkins and the like, do you pray for these people? More specifically, do you pray for their conversion? Our hearts tend to shy away from such praying because we tend to think that such people are not going to be saved. We all probably have similar people in our lives, people whom we believe will never be saved. As such, we refuse to share the good news with them and we rarely, if ever, pray for their conversion.

 

Paul the Apostle, once known as Saul the Pharisee, probably had the hardest heart towards Jesus in the world. Saul was a violent and angry young man. We don’t know why he was angry, but he himself tells us as much. His anger and violence found outlet in attacking the early church. His goal was to completely destroy the church and to remove all mention of the name of Jesus.

 

After the stoning of Stephen, Saul was lathered into a frenzy. He began to systematically destroy and decimate the church. He went from house to house and arrested any man or woman who accepted the name of Jesus. He threw them mercilessly into gaol and many were presumably put to death. In Acts 22, as Paul recounts his testimony in Jerusalem, he again tells us that he persecuted the followers of the Way ‘to their death.’ Saul hated the name of Jesus so much that his life goal was to kill as many Jesus followers as possible.

 

Saul used his contacts to their full potential. He obtained letters from the high priest and all the council to their brothers in Damascus so that he could wreak havoc and chaos among the Christians there as well. He was not content to arrest and kill Christians in Jerusalem only. He wanted Christians everywhere to suffer the same fate– a painful death if they refused to recant the name of Jesus.

 

Even so, God melted the hard heart of Saul. As we’ll see this week, Saul became a Jesus-lover. If God can melt a heart as hard as Saul’s, can He not also melt the hearts of those in our life whom seem so far from Jesus and so antagonistic towards Him? If God can melt the hardest of hearts, won’t you pray with the utmost confidence that God can melt the heart of your hard hearted friends and relatives?

 

Prayer:

Adoration:

Adore God that He alone can melt hard hearts and draw people to Himself in repentance and faith.

Adore God that He is a God of love who wants all people to come to a saving knowledge of the truth and thus to be saved.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that He can melt the hard heart of ______________.

Thank God that the hard hearted people in your life are not stronger than God.

 

Supplication:

List the people in your life who are hard hearted towards God. Pray for each one by name, asking God to bring them to repentance and faith in Jesus.

 

Discuss

 

1.Why was Saul so hard hearted towards Jesus?

2.How would you describe the intensity of the persecution that Saul waged against the church?

3.What lessons do we learn from Saul’s conversion?

 


 

Saturday May 20, 2017

Radical Love Necessitates Radical Discipleship

 

Read Acts 8:26-40

 

The Ethiopian was in a dire predicament. He was a God fearer who had gone to Jerusalem to worship God. As a God fearer, he could enter the synagogues and could discuss religious matters with the Pharisees. But because of his physical status as a eunuch, he could not become proselyte Jew. The Law forbade him from entering the Temple and from participating in Jewish rituals and ceremonies.

From a Jewish perspective, even from a Hellenistic Jewish perspective (ie, the Jews who were not from a Hebrew background but from a Greek background) it was radical to approach a Gentile. It was even more radical to approach a gentile eunuch. The Jews traditionally hated Gentiles and eunuch gentiles were so much more down the ladder.

But we must not assume that Philip was the radical. God is the radical element in this narrative. In Acts 1:8, God told the disciples that disciples will be made in the half-caste region of Samaria and throughout the world, namely, gentile territory. In verse 26 God, through an angel, commands Philip to go.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

Then, as Philip met an Ethiopian official, it was the Holy Spirit that urged Philip. In v29 the Spirit says to Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’

Throughout this narrative, and throughout the entire book of Acts, it is God’s love that is radical. But radical love necessitates radical discipleship. The radical love of God demanded that Philip introduce a social and ethnic outcast to the gospel. Radical love necessitate advancing the gospel in radical directions.

We need to grasp this reality in our churches today. Radical love necessitates radical discipleship. We can no longer simply seek to maintain the status quo and to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them.

What does that mean? Most churches seem to be homogenous in their demographic and cultural make up. They are filled with people who are similar to each other. People who do not fit the demographic or cultural milieu feel uncomfortable and quickly leave. But God’s love is not bound by demographics, culture, ethnicity, education levels, societal standing, financial status or any other worldly characteristic. God’s love crosses all boundaries. God’s love reaches out to people from every nation, tribe and tongue. God’s love reaches out to people from all levels of education, all levels of society and from all income levels.

God’s love is radical. It knows no bounds. Our discipleship, which flows out of God’s love, must also be radical. God may call us to reach out to the most unlikely candidates. God may call us to disciple people with whom we think we have nothing in common. God may call us to preach to a people that we have traditionally feared or avoided. God’s love may call us to wash the feet of those we previously hated.

God’s love is radical. Radical love necessitates radical discipleship if the world is going to see that radical love and respond to it.

Prayer:

 

Adoration:

Adore God for His radical love that reaches people from every nation, tribe and tongue.

Adore God that His love is not hampered by our boundaries and our desires and our limitations.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that He calls us to make disciples in all nations.

Thank God that as a church we can fellowship with all believers because Christ is the unifying factor.

 

Supplication:

Pray that God would grow a radical discipleship in your church and in you personally.

Pray that this radical love would reach many of the unreached in your church’s area.

Pray that the Word of God would be boldly preached tomorrow and that God would work powerfully among your church as you sit joyfully under the authority of the Word of God.

Discuss

 

1.What is radical about God’s love?

2.Can you think of other places in Scripture where this radical love is seen?

3.What was radical about Philip’s discipleship?

4.What do you think happened to the Ethiopian after he left Philip?

 

 

 

 

Friday May 19, 2017

We Can Only Surmise

 

Read Acts 8:36-40

 

Unfortunately, we are not told of the conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian as they travelled along the Desert Road. Had we been given a copy of the conversation, we would not have to read between the lines and infer much of what was said.

The official’s response to the gospel, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptised?’ leads to many inferences. First and foremost, we have to infer that he became a believer in Jesus after or during the conversation. The text doesn’t actually tell us about the conversion. It doesn’t even mention that he became a follower of Jesus. We are simply told that he wanted to be baptised. We have to infer that he gave his heart to the Lord while on the chariot.

We can only surmise that Philip proclaimed something along the lines of Acts 2:38 where Peter called the crowd to ‘repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

Also, we have to assume that the Eunuch received the Holy Spirit. Unlike the passages to date regarding conversion, there is no mention of the Spirit coming upon the newly converted official. The Spirit is mentioned, but not in connection with the Ethiopian. The Spirit comes and takes Philip away in rather miraculous fashion to Azotus, or Ashdod, as it’s called in the Old Testament - a distance of about 100km. Regarding the eunuch, we are simply told that he continued on his way rejoicing.

There seems to have arisen in some churches today, a practice regarding newly converts. Some churches wait, even up to three years, before they baptise converts to make sure that they are genuine in their faith. Unfortunately, the Scriptures do not know of such a practice. Like the eunuch here in chapter 8, believers are generally baptised as soon as practical after their conversion.

The other practice that is negated here is the practice of declaring that every convert must speak in tongues. The eunuch comes out of the water after being baptised and simply goes on his way rejoicing, presumably because he was filled with the Spirit and had received the salvation of Christ Jesus. While some passages in Acts seem to be made the normative standard for Christians, passages such as this one seem to be conveniently overlooked or forgotten about.

 

Prayer:

 

Adoration:

Adore God that His Spirit works as He wills. Adore God that His Spirit is not subject to our demands and our understandings. He goes where He wills and does what He wants, without needing to ask our permission or approval.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that the Holy Spirit brings new life even to those who we might have already written off.

Thank God that He calls us to share the good news with people, even with people that we think are not worthy of the calling or whom we think do not belong in the church.

Thank God that He does not have such biases.

 

Supplication:

Pray that our youth group members would grow strong in grace and in love for the Lord.

Ask the Lord to make these youth outward focused and ready and willing to share their faith with anyone who will listen.

Pray that the youth group would grow as the youth share the gospel with their peers, family and friends.

Ask the Lord to prepare us for our Sonday gathering. Pray that He would work powerfully in us to bring us to the point of valuing our corporate gatherings and of loving each other more than ourselves.

Pray that as the Word is preached this weekend, that God would work powerfully among us and through us.

Pray that God would put in on the heart of each church attender to be sharing the gospel with people in their respective worlds and that we would all step out in faith to speak of the gospel, to call people to repent and believe in Jesus and to invite people to church.

Pray that the church would grow through conversions as we proclaim the Word of Life to people.

Pray that God would raise up such a spirit of generosity among us that we would be able to meet our budget without the assistance of external funding. Pray that we would be so generous that we would give more than our budget requirements and that we would have more than enough to be able to minister to the poor and needy.

Discuss

 

1.Luke does not record the activity of the Spirit in the Eunuch’s life. Why is this?

2.What evidence is there that the eunuch received the Spirit and was converted?

3.What is the role given to the Spirit in this section of the text?

 

 

Thursday May 18, 2017

Do Not Squash the Work of the Spirit

 

Read Acts 8:34-35

 

It’s hard to know what the Ethiopian found in the religion of the day in Jerusalem. Since this man was a eunuch, he would not have been allowed, by Law, into the Temple. Since he was a God fearer and not a proselyte (a Gentile covert to Judaism who has been circumcised), he would not have been able to participate in ceremonies and rituals of the Jews. His time in Jerusalem would have been spent in synagogues and in discussing religion with Pharisees. But given that the nation, and especially the leadership, had become overly traditional and more legalistic than spiritual, it’s hard to know for certain what attracted this man to Jerusalem as a God fearer. Jesus and the Apostles, as we see throughout the gospels, were constantly disappointed in the way the people and the leaders had elevated the tradition and the Law over and above the intent of the Law. See Matthew 15:1-9 as a clear example.

 

But, we have to understand that not all traditions are necessarily bad or wrong. The tradition that arose from the Reformation of actually preaching the Word of God during church is a good tradition worth fighting and dying for, if necessary. But tradition for the sake of tradition, especially when it becomes more important than relationships or gospel sharing, is deadly and dangerous. You only have to picture the church that stands vehemently on the practice of singing 4 hymns and having a three fold Amen at the end of the service, simply because they’ve always done it that way. While there is nothing inherently sinful about four hymns and a 3-fold amen, their obstinate refusal to discuss the possibility of widening the choice of music and perhaps to close the service with a prayer of sending or a Bible verse, will simply scare people away. People will vote with their feet and find another church to attend.

 

In a similar vein, we all know that rules and regulations are helpful and necessary. But if our churches are filled with legalism and a die hard desire to do everything according to the man-made book, then these churches will probably engage very quickly in the slow and painful dance of death. A simple example will suffice. I visited a church once and saw a bin in the kitchen area that read ‘Only paper towels to be put into this bin.’ While I could see no rational reason for such a sign, I could envisage the situation. A new family come along to the church one Sonday. After morning tea, they clean up the table they are sitting at and take the plastic plates, cups and the wiped-up crumbs to this bin. They inadvertently ignore the small sign about paper towels and place all their rubbish in the bin. Oh, my goodness!! Mrs Duckwaddle immediately scurries over to the family and quietly but sharply rebukes them for not reading the sign and for creating havoc in the church. That family will almost certainly go elsewhere to church the following weekend.

 

While one has to wonder at what kind of legalism the Ethiopian official faced in Jerusalem, we do know that the Spirit of God was at work in his life. As he rode in his chariot, he was reading aloud from the Prophet Isaiah. The fact that he was reading the Scriptures at all, is an indication that the Spirit of God was at work. If he were in the city solely for business reasons or to simply go through the religious motions that he was entitled to go through, it’s highly doubtful that he would have been reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah as travelled home. In fact, we are told that he had gone there to ‘worship’, a word that suggests the Spirit of God was at work in his heart and mind.

 

Even though we need rules and regulations and even though we have traditions, let us make sure that our man-made rules and regulations and our traditions do not squash the work of the Spirit or the effectiveness of the gospel. Let us make sure that our foremost desire is to build gospel based relationships that encourage growth and maturity in believers and that lead non believers to worship Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour.

 

Prayer:

Adoration:

Adore God for being a God of relationship.

Adore God for being a God of love and compassion.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that He has initiated the relationship that you have with Him. Praise Him that He has called you and granted you repentance and faith.

Thank God that through the Spirit, the Word and through other believers that we can grow and deepen in our relationship with the Lord.

 

Supplication:

Pray that the ministry team at ChristLife would grow and mature in their respective relationships with God. Pray that there would be a deepening of knowledge of God, a growing realisation of His majesty and splendour and a growing desire or determination to walk in obedience.

Pray that God would be preparing all of us to meet with Him this coming Sonday and that the meeting or service would be edifying to all who are present.

Pray that the non believers who are present will meet with God and bow the knee at the Lordship of God’s son, Christ Jesus.

Discuss

 

1.We are told that Philip shared the good news with the Ethiopian. What do we mean by the good news?

2.Put yourself in Philip’s sandals as he ran beside the chariot. How would you share the good news with the Ethiopian?

 

 

Wednesday May 17, 2017

Wanting Genuine Spirituality

 

Read Acts 8:30-33

 

There are many people in Australia who are not Christian but who have some belief in God. The number of people is dramatically increased if we widen the group to the number of people who have some form of spirituality. One website reported that a majority of Australians (69% in 2009) believe in God or a higher power, (http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/december/how-religious-are-australians.html). The Huffington Post reports statistics that are far more grim and disconcerting. They reported that in Australia, 15% of the population said they had no religion in 2001. It is, they report, up to at least 22% today.
In New Zealand, 30% of the population claimed no religion in 2001. It had risen to 42% in 2013.

But the increasing number of ‘no religion’ does not necessarily equate to an increase in atheism. Bruce Wilson in a recent book notes, “In an internal sense people are very spiritual. It does not necessarily mean they believe in God in the way that traditional Christianity expresses that belief. What people are saying is, “I do not belong to any institutional form of religion.” They are not saying they are not spiritual.”

The Ethiopian whom Philip met on the Desert Rd was similarly a spiritual man. He is called a “God fearer” which shows that he had not become a Jew by circumcision and could not therefore participate in the ceremonies and rituals of the Jews. Such God fearers could worship at the synagogues and could discuss religion with the Pharisees.

As Philip ran beside the chariot of this official, he heard him reading from Isaiah the prophet. What ensued was a gospel conversation that led to the official’s belief in Jesus and baptism.

The narrative encourages us to think more carefully about our own situation some 2,000 years later. Rather than lamenting and crying about the figures we read in surveys and statistical reports, we need to realise that people who are spiritual are easier to evangelise than hard hearted atheists. They are easier to reach than we might imagine! The move away from religious institutions also works in our favour.

People in our society today are wanting genuine spirituality that is not tied to an organisation. Biblically speaking, what they are wanting is a real and personal relationship with the living Christ Jesus. You and I have an opportunity, not only to model our organic and growing relationship to Christ Jesus, but also to introduce them to genuine Christianity based on a personal walk with Christ Jesus, as opposed to institutionalised religiosity - something that these people want nothing to do with!

If we are going to make the most of this opportunity, then you and I have to make sure that our relationship with Jesus is organic and growing. We have to make sure that we are not just going through the motions and that we are not letting the institution negatively bind or direct our relationship with God. We have to make sure that we are taking our relationship with Christ Jesus to work or school, to our family gatherings and to our friendships. We have to make sure that our relationship with Christ Jesus is bearing fruit in all areas of our life.

As the world sees genuine Christians living out their genuine and organic faith in a genuine way, many people will come to Christ in repentance and faith. Many people will find the true spirituality they have been searching for.

Prayer:

 

Adoration:

Adore God for being a God of genuine love and compassion.

Adore God that He wants us to live Him with a genuine love and a genuine heart that is not based on institutionalised religion or particular forms of worship.

 

Confession:

Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

 

Thanks:

Thank God that we can worship God at work, at school or university, at home with our family, at wider family gatherings and so on.

Thank God that Christ wants to be at the centre of our entire life, not just the centre of Sonday mornings.

 

Supplication:

Ask the Lord to continue to bless the Wednesday night Kitchen Ministry. Pray that God would bring people along who need support and who need to hear the gospel.

Pray that the gospel would be clearly presented and that table discussions would be able to build on this gospel foundation.

Pray that many of the guests who come along would find the love of Christ and that we would be able to help them transition into church.

Discuss

 

1.Why was the Ethiopian in Jerusalem?

2.How do you think he would have been treated in Jerusalem by the various groups of people?

3.In what way can genuine Christianity minister to or speak to the world today?

 

 

{tag_blogposttitle_nolink}