In this message, we conclude our study of the book of Acts. We will hit the rewind button, taking us on a journey through where we have been and the lessons we learned.
The Bible promises, in multiple places, that every believer will experience suffering and sorrow at some point in life. In Acts 16, we see that even the very place that the Lord led Paul and his missionary team, for the purpose of ministry, came with troubles and suffering. When thinking about situations like this in your life, how do you respond? Do you resort to fear? Do you worry? Do you question God? These are normal responses to suffering for human beings. But, as we continue in the book of Acts, we will see that Paul and Silas respond to significant suffering in a much different way through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What do Christians mean when they say, "God spoke to me"? When Vice President Mike Pence said that Jesus has spoken to him, Joy Behar of ABC’s The View said this: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.” If Behar had a problem with our vice president, I am afraid she would share an equal concern about Peter, Paul, and the other heroes profiled in the book of Acts. The author Luke repeatedly states, “The Spirit said” when referencing how early Christians experienced personal guidance. What did that look like? How did the Spirit speak? Can God speak to us today in the same way? Can we hear Him when we are discouraged, lonely, or at a fork in the road?
We live in a world of broken relationships--in families, in communities, and in other institutions. Praise God that He has raised up the church to be a place where peace and harmony reign. But what happens when disagreements do arise in the church? And what about church conflicts that are centered on theological questions? How does the church navigate the difficult waters of theological disputes? This is the very situation facing the early church in Acts 15.
Much of the success of the early church can be attributed to hearing God’s voice and following His guidance. Our failure to follow this example--listening carefully and boldly obeying--is the most underutilized resource in the world today. Of course, hearing God’s voice is easier said than done, but God still speaks today, calls people to specific tasks, and blesses them as they step out in obedience.
Even though Western culture can be very materialistic, we remain a very spiritual people. All over the world, people are enslaved or held in fear by dark spiritual powers. Jesus proclaimed victory over the spiritual world, and the church has the authority to continue this victory through Jesus.
Are there any forces powerful enough to stop the advance of the gospel and Christ’s kingdom? Undoubtedly, there were powerful external forces aligning against the early Christians in the first century. Namely, the might of the Roman government and its ego-driven Caesars. But could it be that the greatest threat to the growth of the church was not the government, but the heart condition of its own members? Acts 10 and 11 represent a massive turning point in our story. A dream, a vision, a reluctant apostle, and a spiritually eager Roman make up the operating room for God’s open heart surgery.
In this message, we return to the book of Acts and its central character, the Apostle Paul. In chapter 9, Luke tells the story of Paul's amazing conversion. It is a story Paul will retell over and over again. Paul was turned from a violent persecutor of the church to its most passionate missionary. His story reminds us we also have a story. But are you aware of your story and how God has changed you? Can you share your story with genuineness and clarity? The book of Acts makes talking about Jesus the normal activity of Christians, and sharing our stories is one of our most underutilized tools.
If we are honest, most of us find problems to be really annoying. However, sometimes problems can lead to opportunities. As we move on in the book of Acts, we are going to see the early church facing a pretty major problem. There is a segment of the church that is being marginalized and neglected. Through this problem, the early church learns a vital lesson on serving. Not only that, this problem also opens up an opportunity for new leaders to emerge in the early church.
Have you ever been afraid to take a stand for Christ? At one time or another, most of us have. Well, there's good news! Boldness (courage) is one of the first characteristics the Holy Spirit imparted to the early church. The disciples, who had been hiding in fear of the Jewish authorities, became fearless preachers. Those who had been hiding in fear became as bold as lions!
The early believers were awestruck with the grace of God--an extravagant grace freely poured into their lives. But the gospel did not stop with a new spiritual understanding. It dislodged the control wealth and possessions held over them; it erased traditional economic divides since rich and poor all shared in the same grace. This edition of the Empowered Life shows how the Holy Spirit can help us experience this extravagant grace and be freed from the clutches of greed.
In the previous message of this series, we looked at Acts 3 and saw Peter and John perform the first healing miracle in the book of Acts. In Acts 4, we see that as a result of that miracle, the religious authorities begin to take notice and the early church experiences its first interaction with persecution. However, in response, they don’t run. They don’t stop sharing the good news of Jesus. Instead, they come together and they pray. In fact, when you survey the book of Acts, you see that prayer was to the early church what oxygen is to life--it was essential.
So far in the book of Acts, we have witnessed the Kingdom coming in power, the appearance of the promised Holy Spirit, and the birth of the church, when many signs and wonders occurred. Healing was one of the signs of that power. The idea of God healing opens us up to many questions. How does God heal? Does God still heal today? Why doesn’t God heal everyone? In this message, we will explore some of these questions as we continue to learn what it means to live a Spirit-filled empowered life.
All of us long for community and a sense of togetherness. At the same time, the values our culture prizes most teach, reinforce, celebrate, and undermine the very thing we want. Most people are lonely and relationally unfulfilled. This is not how God intended life to be. In the last message, we learned that the birth of the church launched a new community in which individuals shared their life together at every level--spiritually, relationally, and economically.
In Week One of our new series The Empowered Life, Pastor Chris gave us an introduction into the book of Acts and into the role of the Holy Spirit. This week we want to look a little closer at this idea of receiving power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, as it says in Acts 1:8. What is this power? Why do we need it? Who is it for, and how do we receive it?
Christians have believed for centuries in the Trinity--that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet many Christians give only a nod to the Holy Spirit. He has been forgotten, neglected, and misunderstood. When we fail to grasp His Presence, we default to what we know: self-reliance. Our lives lack power and are marked more by defeat than victory.