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Being in God’s Will Like Paul Was August 27, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Cross of Christ, Glory of Christ, Prayer, Will of God.
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BEING IN GOD’S WILL
Acts 28

As we come to the close of Paul’s career as recorded in the book of Acts, there are a couple of things that we need to recognize.

1. Paul still had several years of ministry ahead of him, yet he had already fulfilled God’s specific will in his life. God had said that Paul “is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul had already done all this. If he had never made it to Rome, Paul would have fulfilled God’s will in His life.

2. We also need to recognize that God’s will for Paul’s life and for your life is pretty much one and the same. God expects the same things from you that He expected from Paul. God expects all of us to be committed to the cross of Christ, to the body of Christ, to the glory of Christ in our life. So if you want to be in God’s will you have to commit yourself to telling others the gospel of Christ; you have to integrate yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, temporally, financially with some portion of the body of Christ, that is, the church. You also have to commit yourself to the glory of Christ. Why do we live righteous lives? So that He might be glorified through them. You may choose the wrong career, you may choose the wrong wife, you may choose to attend the wrong church but if you are invested in the cross of Christ, the body of Christ, and the glory of Christ, you are in God’s will.

A. Being in God’s will is a place of safety in the midst of danger; therefore, we can have peace (verses 1-10). I would refer you to today’s bulletin insert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He made a choice that put him in great danger because he was confident of God’s will. Yet he did not escape the wrath of the Nazis. Yet he died with peace that his death would be the beginning of life.

The story of Paul being bitten by a poisonous snake is a fascinating story. I have never been bitten by a snake but I can image the horror they all must have felt as Paul got bit. Once as a teenager I was entering the house we lived in. I opened the screen door and a little snake which had crawled up to the top of the door fell on to my wrist and began to wrap itself around my wrist. You have never heard such hollering or seen such dancing as I performed at that moment. I slung my arm so hard that the snake flew ten to twenty yards out in the air and landed in the grass. That snake never had a chance to bite me.

Notice, however, that the snake fastened his fangs onto Paul’s hand. I am sure Paul did not just calmly flick the snake into the fire. He felt the pain of the fangs entering into his hand. Whatever he did with his hand was certainly a reaction of pain, surprise, perhaps even fear. Paul, however, did not die. He did not even get sick. There were the marks in his hand but he did not die. I can imagine Paul wincing at the pain in his hand from the bite but the poison had no effect. Why? God was not through with Paul yet.

Later Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8, 13-14, 16, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant you…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…”

Are there dangers? Of all kinds! When, however, we are in Christ and we are committed to His cross, His church, and His glory, we can have peace.

B. Being in God’s will is a place of success in the midst of difficulties; therefore, we can take courage (verses 11-15). Bonhoeffer during his imprisonment at Tegel prison wrote about success, “We must be determined not to be outraged critics [of success] or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as visitors or vanquished…To talk about going down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I extricate myself heroically from the affair? but, How is the coming generation to live? …The rising generation will always instinctively discern [whether] we are acting upon [concrete responsibility] for it is their future which is at stake” (Prisoner For God, p. 17-18).

The brethren Paul met as he approached Rome were probably strangers to him. It is likely that Paul had no idea how he would be received. Yet a small group came, thrilled to see him and Paul took courage that God had paved the way for his arrival with brethren who cared for him. This small group was a confirmation of God answering Paul’s prayer recorded in Romans 15:30-33, “Now I beg you, brethren…that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me…that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you…” Paul had thought he would just be passing through on his way to Spain but God had other plans and God prepared Paul’s way before him. That is why Paul took courage when he arrived at Rome.

C. Being in God’s will is a place of significance in the midst of obscurity; therefore, we can bold to preach the gospel (verses 16-31). Do you want to be significant? Then your message better have eternal value both in this life and the life to come. Do you want to be significant among the men and women of history? Then you better stand with the family that will rule the universe, the church of the living God. Do you want to glorify God? Then you must glory in His cross and in His people and live accordingly.

As our missions conference comes closer, we need to understand that our significance is found in proclaiming the gospel to this world.

1. Some of our hearers will turn away. These people had interest in Paul’s message. They listened to Paul’s message. They even understood intellectually Paul’s message. They still walked away because they did not believe the message and were not transformed by it.

2. Some of our hearers will be healed and transformed (verse 20). These people had the same background. They had the same interest in Paul’s message. They listened to the same teaching that the rejecters listened to. They had the same intellectual understanding that the rejecters had. They, however, believed the message and were saved by it.

“A TV news camera crew was on assignment in southern Florida filming the widespread destruction of Hurricane Andrew. In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached him. ‘Sir, why is your house the only one still standing? …’ ‘I built this house myself,’ the man replied. ‘I also built it according to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2×6 roof trusses, I used 2×6 roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I suppose no one else around here followed the code’” (David R. Culver, Leadership, Winter 1993).

Are you in God’s will? If you are you will be saved. Are you inviting others into God’s will? That is the only way to guarantee they will be saved.

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The Value of Faith August 20, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Faith.
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FAITH AND FOOLISHNESS
Acts 27

In Decision Making by the Book Haddon Robinson tells about a time when in Colorado he was speaking to a young lady at Denver Seminary about her seeking God’s as to whether she should go skiing. He writes, “I asked her how she expected to determine God’s will on the matter…she said, ‘Well, I put out a fleece. If my daddy sends me some money, then I’ll know that skiing is something God wants me to do…I haven’t asked him for any money lately, and I figure if he sends me money I’ll know God wants me to go skiing.’ … ‘Look,’ I asked her, ‘if you’re really going to put out a fleece, why not a good one? …Why don’t you pray that the president will send you a letter, and in that letter there will be a check that will give you enough to go skiing? And if you’re really going to follow Gideon’s example to the limit, pray that you get a second letter and a check from Britain’s prime minister the next day…That’s the type of miraculous sign that Gideon wanted from God…he was asking for two miracles, and he got them both!’”

We want to live by faith but sometimes in our attempts to live by faith we fall into foolishness. In this chapter we see clearly the difference between Paul, a man who lived by faith and a group of men who lived by foolishness.

A. We all have faith in something (verses 2, 4, 7). The sailors and soldiers in these verses put their faith in the natural protection that staying close to the shore provided. It is not that they are risk adverse but at that time prudence outweighed risk in their decisions. They were confident that they were safer staying close to shore.

Christians should not be risk adverse. In fact, to be a true Christian by definition is a risk. To believe in someone who we have never seen but not just to believe in that person but to love that person and to rejoice in the belief that what he has promised we will receive is seen as a great risk in this day. We would rather depend on money than God’s promises. We would rather depend on our political philosophy than God’s providence. We would rather depend on our educational systems than on taking up our cross and following Christ. Why? Because our faith is in something or someone besides Christ.

B. Faith, no matter where or in whom it is placed, does not guarantee us an easy life (verse 8). This verse is talking about the coasts but it applies even to our faith in Christ. Faith, whatever it is in, does not guarantee an easy life. In fact, it is the difficult times that prove whether your faith is real or not. Real faith does not falter. It is when you experience pain that your faith is tested. It is when you are offended that the reality of your faith reveals itself. It is tested like gold in the fire.

C. We all make mistakes in our decisions no matter where our faith is placed (verses 9-20). Leith Anderson in Leadership that Works tells how that his father was a successful pastor for over three decades outside of New York City in New Jersey. He later served briefly in Florida where he was not able to duplicate his success. “What was different? Frankly, it’s hard to say…No leader may ever assume that what works will in one place will work well in another. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. had traded places in history, we probably never would have heard of either of them.” Even if your faith is in the right place, even if your confidence is in Christ, you may make a mistake.

1. Sometimes our desires override our faith (verses 13-14). These men left the safety of the coast because they desired strongly to get to Rome and suddenly the wind seemed to cooperate. They are thinking, yes, ride the wave. The circumstances changed to fit their desires and so they set off. Unfortunately, for them the circumstances drastically changed again.

2. Sometimes our decisions result in hopelessness (verses 14-20). These men made a decision. It seemed like a reasonable decision at the time but it quickly became a disastrous decision. There is no hope. They will die because they made the wrong decision.

D. When our faith is in God we can have confidence even in the face of hopelessness (verses 21-26). Edwin “Bull” Sumner, called “the Bull of the Wood” because of the loudness of his voice “assembled his corps on the north bank [of a river], near the two bridges he had built [for an emergency crossing into battle], Foaming water had buckled them; torn from their pilings, awash knee-deep in the center, they seemed about to go with the flood. When the order to support…arrived and the tall white-haired old man started his soldiers across, an engineer officer protested that the condition of the bridges made a crossing not only unsafe, but impossible. ‘Impossible?’ Sumner roared. ‘Sir, I tell you I can cross! I am ordered!’”

This was the attitude Paul had. For over two years God had allowed him to remain imprisoned for this purpose, to preach the gospel in Rome. Paul had been ordered. God would deliver him to fulfill that order.

E. We should allow through the open expression of our faith to inspire hope in others (verses 27-44). Kent Hughes in Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome tells of going through a period of hopelessness in which he expressed his desperation to his wife. He asked her, “‘What am I to do?’” She said, “‘I don’t know what you’re going to do. But for right now, for tonight, hang on to my faith. Because I believe. I believe that God is good. I believe that He loves us and is going to work through this experience. So hang on to my faith. I have enough for both of us.’”

Many today are looking at hopeless situations. Maybe you blame the decisions of others. Maybe you blame your own decision. Maybe you blame the change in circumstances. Maybe you blame a combination of factors. Maybe you even blame God for your hopeless situation. If, however, you are following Christ then the situation may look hopeless but God will bring you exactly where you need to be. Hang on to your faith. Hang on to your faith.

Next week: Being in God’s Will (Acts 28)

Knowing Jesus August 14, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Christ, Deity of Christ, Humanity of Christ, Jesus.
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KNOWING JESUS
Acts 26

This week we will be teaching on the theme “Knowing Jesus” in our Five Day Club program. We will be telling the children who Jesus is and how they can know him.

There are, however, many today who say we cannot know much about Jesus. There is almost no one of reputation who claims that Jesus never existed but there are many who feel that we cannot know much about him. PBS, the History Channel, the major television networks and other major media outlets hold to this position. When you watch their specials on Jesus and early Christianity they hold to the position that a small sect developed a life of Christ based on what they already believed and through clever propagandizing and eliminating evidence of opposition they were able to establish themselves as the true followers of Jesus Christ.

Now this is theory but that doesn’t disturb the major media outlets. For them the Bible holds no real historical value and one speculation is as good as another when you feel there are no facts.

What I want to do this morning, however, is show, based on Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, who Jesus is. Paul’s testimony is important because he is considered by non-conservatives to be the most reliable witness we have of Jesus Christ. Luke records for us his defense before Agrippa and in that defense we see three important aspects of Jesus’ life that are corroborated in his earliest writings and which are foundational for what we believe and what we will be teaching the children during this next week.

A. As Jesus of Nazareth he was raised from the dead for our hope (verses 6-9). In this statement we see that Jesus was human, was humiliated, and was exalted and that in His exaltation we have hope of exaltation also in eternity. Paul saw this as being the fulfillment of the promises of God in the Old Testament.

Now why should we believe Paul? The reason is this. Paul at one time persecuted the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This time of persecution, however, was brief because Paul became a believer in Christ anywhere from a year to four years after Jesus rose from the dead. Paul had plenty of time to confront eyewitnesses of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. This did not happen decades later but just a few years. He not only had the opportunity to confront Jesus’ followers but he worked for those who had caused the Romans to crucify Jesus. So it is clear that Paul’s testimony of Jesus of Nazareth as really a man who lived, was really crucified, was really buried, and who was exalted in that He really was raised from the dead; should be serious considered because of the nearness in time and proximity by Paul to the participants in the event.

Paul describes this resurrection as his hope but not just his hope but the hope of his nation and the hope of all men. If Jesus be not raised, then there is no hope for you and there is no hope for this world.

B. As the Lord, Jesus demands that we turn to him by faith (verses 14-18). Now we need to determine what Paul was talking about here. When he heard the voice from heaven, he replied, who are you, Lord? The word “Lord” had three uses in those days. One was in reference to a governing authority. On the road to Damascus there were no ruling authorities present. The word was also a common word of respect, much like our word “Sir.” That is perhaps possible but after being knocked off your horse to the ground by a blinding light the third possibility is more likely. Paul was not saying, “Who are you, Sir?” but rather “Who are you, God?” Paul, no doubt, already had a suspicion who he was talking to. The voice had said, “You are persecuting me, why?” The reason was very clear. Beginning from Pentecost the disciples had been preaching that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus is God, and that apart from Him there is no salvation. Paul knew the message but now he was confronted with a choice: believe or not believe that Jesus is the one and only true God.

C. As our Christ, Jesus fulfills for us all that God intends with us (verses 19-23). Paul reminded Agrippa again of the promises of the Old Testament. The promised Messiah has come. Will you, King Agrippa, bow before Him as your Messiah, the one who will bring you to God, the one who will save you from your sin? You know what God has said through His prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus of Nazareth has fulfilled those promises. I know you believe the prophets. Will you become a Christian? Agrippa answered, “You’ve almost convinced me, I’m almost persuaded.”

“In 1871 Reverend Brundage expounded upon this sad story in Acts, and then ended his Sunday Morning sermon with the words “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost” (Accessed at http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/almost-persuaded,-the-song-and-the-story.html on August 9, 2012).

P. P. Bliss heard that sermon and was so impressed he wrote the following verses for a song, “‘Almost persuaded,” Now to believe; ‘Almost persuaded,” Christ to receive; Seems now some soul to say, ‘Go, Spirit, go Thy way, some more convenient day On Thee I’ll call’”
‘Almost persuaded,” Harvest is past; ‘Almost persuaded,” Doom comes at last; ‘Almost’ cannot avail; ‘Almost’ is but to fail, Sad, sad that bitter wail, ‘Almost, but lost.’”

D. When we recognize Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Christ, we become a true Christian (verse 28). Agrippa recognized what it means to be a true Christian. It is not enough to believe in the man Jesus of Nazareth. He must be recognized as Lord and Christ, that is, as God and Savior. The only who we should worship and the only one who can meet our deepest need, salvation from sin, death, Satan, and hell.

1. The result is that we turn from serving darkness to serving light. No man can serve two masters. You can live in both darkness and light. This week as we minister to these children, as we tell them the story of Jesus, we will be showing them the light. On Thursday the theme will be Jesus is the Light of the World. Do you believe that? Have you been praying for children to turn from darkness to light?

“Members of a Russian sect found living in an underground bunker with some 20 children, many of whom have never seen the sun, have been charged with child abuse. Authorities said the Islamist cult had existed for nearly a decade without natural light or heating in their subterranean dwelling. The expansive man-made cave was discovered underneath a brick building on the outskirts of the central city of Kazan…Deputy prosecutor Irina Petrova told journalists the bunker’s rooms were like ‘cells,’ lacking sunlight and ventilation. ‘According to the agency for control of public facilities, there are eight levels of rooms, where not only children but adults live as well,” she said…Many of the cult’s children, aged between 18 months and 17 years old, were born underground and had never seen daylight until officials sent them for health checks.”
I understand that this is an extreme example of a spiritual truth but that is exactly what we are trying to do. Jesus has left us here as the light of the world. It is our task this week to help bring boys and girls and their families from darkness into the light of life, Jesus Christ.
2. The result is that we have confidence before God and man. Paul is bold here. Why? He need not fear death because His master, Jesus Christ, has cheated death. He need not fear the authorities for he serves the God of the universe. He need not fear disaster for he serves the Christ who came to save the world from the greatest disaster, the disaster of sin and death and darkness.

If you have been persuaded to follow Christ, are you doing all you can to get others to the light, Jesus Christ? If not, then pray tell me, with what are you as a Christian wasting your time. Introduce people to Jesus.

Next week: Faith or Foolishness (Acts 27)

Guilty of Hope August 7, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Hope, Paul's Life.
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GUILTY OF HOPE
Acts 24

When I was a kid we had two girls in our church, who used to sing a country gospel song. The song was called “Guilty of Love in the First-Degree.” It speaks of the condemnation of Jesus Christ to the cross and that the real reason for His crucifixion was his love for us.

Today I want to talk about what we are guilty of. I trust you are guilty of love in the first-degree. Our Lord desires us to be guilty. There is, however, another crime that I trust you are guilty of, the crime which Paul here claims to be guilty of, guilty of hope.

A. We, who hope in the resurrection, strive to live differently (Acts 24:14-16; compare 23:6). Christians do not need a bucket list. I was asked last week if I had played in the band the same way that my son does now. I replied that I had not but that sometimes I thought that would have been nice (I did not have the opportunity), but then I added but it really doesn’t matter. I have all I need. Christians can be content because the best is yet to come. Christians can rejoice in suffering because of the hope of resurrection. The greatest adventure in our life is still to come.

1. We strive to have a conscience without offense before God. There are steps in which it is possible to have a conscience without offense before God. The first is in that we have put our faith and trust in the crucified and resurrected Christ for salvation from sin.

The second step is that we continually cleanse ourselves as believers before God. This is evidence which shows we have taken the first step according to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Often people apply this to the unsaved but the question being answered is “How do you know that you have fellowship with God?” Through agreeing with God’s evaluation of your sin and depending on His Son for salvation from sin, you show that you are a righteous son or daughter of God, cleansed from every stain of sin. Why do we do this? We do this because we hope in Jesus. First John 3:1 reminds us that everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself.

Let me illustrate what it means to be without offense before God. “Dr. Roy Gustavson, working with the Billy Graham Association [is credited with a story about] a man in England who had purchased a Rolls Royce. The man decided to take a holiday in Europe and he wanted to take his Rolls Royce with him to tour through the French countryside. So he put the Rolls Royce on the ferry and went across the English Channel. He was going through Europe, looking at the sights, when suddenly his Rolls Royce broke down and there was nobody there who could fix it. He sent a cable back to the company in England and they flew a man over who did the repairs. He got the car running again, then left and went back to England. The man thought to himself, “This is going to cost me a ton of money.” They never sent a bill. When he finally got back to England, never having received a bill, he sent a letter to the company telling what had happened, how the mechanic had come over, and wondering what the charge would be. He got a letter back from the Rolls Royce Company, saying as follows, ‘Dear Sir, Thank you so much for your letter. You need to know that we have no record in our files that any Rolls Royce has ever broken down at any place, at any time, for any reason’” (Taken from Ray Pritchard’s “Keep Believing” website, http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1995-02-26-Justification-Not-Guilty!/).

2. We strive to have a conscience without offense before men. Part of the point that Paul is making here is that he is not guilty of any crime. There are, however, other places where Paul maintains that he has sinned against no one. First Thessalonians 1-2 seem to indicate that this is one of the reasons their ministry in Thessalonika was so effective.

There’s a cemetery outside Florence, Alabama, near the remains of an ante-bellum mansion called Forks of Cypress. The mansion was built in the 1820s by James Jackson, an early settler of northwest Alabama. A quarter-mile away is the Jackson family cemetery. There is no sign marking the spot, only a five-foot high stone wall surrounding about 50 graves. Inside is a tall marker over James Jackson’s grave with a long inscription extolling his virtues, which were many. There is, however, another marker for one of his sons, William Moore Jackson. There was his name, the dates 1824-1891, and this simple five-word epitaph: “A man of unquestioned integrity.” Five words to sum up an entire life. Sixty-plus years distilled into five words. But, oh, what truth they tell (adapted from Ray Pritchard at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1996-08-18-Five-Words-on-a-Tombstone/).

B. We, who hope in this life, strive to get what we can out of this life (verses 24-27).

1. When we live for this life, we have little interest in righteousness (compare Philippians 3:8b-10). Paul writing here notes that there are those who are interested in righteousness but are looking in the wrong place, that is, they are keeping the law in order to become righteous. Paul, however, makes it clear that righteousness is only possible through the resurrected Christ.

What good, however, is righteousness to Felix. Righteousness cannot buy fine clothing. It can’t build a villa in the country. Righteousness does not buy very much down here. I wonder if Paul was thinking about Felix when he wrote these words in Philippians 3:18. “For many walk…. [as] enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.”

2. When we live for this life, we have little interest in self-control (compare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul writing here notes that what we do in this life matters in the life to come. We practice self-control in order to win an eternal gold medal. That is the type of crown spoken of here. We win.

What good, however, is self-control to Felix. Self-control can accomplish much in this world but self-control apart from the hope of the resurrection gains nothing imperishable. Ariston of Ephesus wrote about his Olympic experience competing in and winning the pankration (wrestling) at an ancient Olympiad, “As soon as we arrived the Hellanokikai divided us according to our age and told us: ‘If you have worked to such an extent that your are worthy to go to Olympia, and if you haven’t done anything despicable or proven idle, take heart and move on. Those of you that didn’t work go wherever you want’…. On the day of the inauguration of the Games we all assembled in front of the statue of Zeus Orkios, to take an oath that we have rigidly followed the training for ten consecutive months. …I faced the winners of the other matches and defeated them all. The crowd cheered and applauded, as the judge crowned me with the kotinos, the wreath from a wild olive tree branch. I accepted modestly the crowd’s applause, proud that I bestowed glory and everlasting fame on my city” (accessed at http://www.fhw.gr/olympics/ancient/en/ariston.html on July 30 2012). Ephesus is still known but not because of Ariston. In fact Ephesus is best known by men like Paul, Timothy, John the Revelator, and Polycarp: men who disciplined themselves for an eternal crown, bestowing glory and everlasting fame on an eternal city.

3. When we live for this life, we have little interest in the judgment to come. Paul told Felix in Acts 24:15 “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust”. Paul implies that the just, the righteous, those whose self-control was to gain a heavenly crown will be judged and rewarded but those whose God is their belly, whose self-control was to gain an earthly reward will be judged because they have no righteousness with which they can stand before God at that final day.

Remember those who attempt to gain righteousness by keeping the law. They will suffer the same fate as those who do not seek righteousness at all because they did not seek their righteousness in the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Next Week: Meeting Jesus (Acts 26)