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Chingola Church


Chingola Church

Kitwe Church began three and a half years ago as a Bible study outreach.  The burden was to reach into the lives of people living in our community who were not being reached by other gospel preaching churches.  The first year we took an “apologetics” approach to our study of the Bible, offering answers to questions about christianity, the gospel, and saving faith.

For the past year and a half, believers at Kitwe Church have been praying that God would allow us to reach out in a similar way to another needy area.  With families and visitors coming to Kitwe Church from Chingola, it became our prayer that God would one day allow us to plant a ministry in that city.

Well, God has answered prayer and the time has come!

On Sunday, August 6th Kitwe Church will hold the first Adult and Children’s Sunday Bible Study Fellowship. It is our prayer that over time God will call out a people for His name among those who are yet unreached in Chingola and another Gospel proclaiming church will come into existence… and there is already a name for that future church:  Chingola Church.

We know of several gospel-preaching churches in various areas of Chingola that are reaching out to their community.  We thank God for the opportunity to come alongside them in reaching the unreached across the city.

Please pray for this outreach! Pray for those who will lead the Bible study and teach the children.  If you are unchurched and living in the Chingola area, make plans to join us at 10:00 August 6th for the very first Sunday!

For more information call: +26 0976 153466 or email kitwechurch@gmail.com

Philip Hunt, Pastor

Kitwe Church

In Desperate Pursuit of a Transformed Life


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As you know we recently returned from a visit back to America to present updates to our supporting churches.  This time was extremely valuable because it was a time for reflection on my life.  I saw what I was doing well and saw areas where I was worn out:  Mental stress, physical Health, Spiritual Stamina, and marital harmony. I knew that for the sake of us being able to liv and minister here in Zambia long-term there had a to be a change.  The more I reflected the deeper I saw that the issues ran.  I realized it was beyond my capability to fix it myself.  The more I evaluated it the more desperate I became to find the solution – to transform what was an area of concern into an area of joy and peace.

You know, every week as I greet people at Kitwe Church I’m always impressed by the reason’s I hear that people have come to church.  It isn’t merely a tradition or a habit.  There is a genuine desire in people’s hearts to know more, to be more, to experience God more.  This is awesome.  However, even with good motives like that it is easy to stop short of experiencing a true spiritual breakthrough.  You see, it isn’t enough to want to be an improved you, a better you, an inspired you, a respectable you.  No, what we all need is a truly transformed life. We need to not stop at just being religious or moral and instead go all the way and be committed to becoming a transformed you. (caterpillar & butterfly)

As I look around this room I see people very much like me even though we may be from very different locations and cultures.  I see people who face the same stresses and struggles and want to experience peace and joy.  I see people who are doing their very best and yet probably often feel like they are coming up short and the harder you try the farther out of reach that goal may seem.

Today, we are going to look at a woman who demonstrates what it means to pursue transformation in her life  – with desperate determination.  Let’s read Mark 5:25-34 and as you are turning there, let me tell you some important things about the context of this passage because if you don’t see what leads up to this event and what results from it.

In verse 22 Jesus came across the sea and a very important ruler of the synagogue names Jairus comes to him and asks Jesus to heal his daughter.  Synagogues were like churches to the Jews.  There was a temple in Jerusalem, which was the center of their worship, but in other cities and towns there was a synagogue where people could go to study the Old Testament Law and worship Jehovah.  The ruler of the synagogue was in charge of organizing and teaching the services there.  Usually, the ruler was a Pharisee and most of the Pharisees hated Jesus and felt that He was a threat to their power and position.

Well, it is within this story of the synagogue official that this woman shows up and we can learn so much from her experience.  The main idea I hope you leave here with today is this…

BIG IDEA: The dilemmas of our lives create a desperate desire for total life transformation that only Jesus can produce but that we must pursue with passion.

Now, let’s read and see what happens  (Read Mark 5:25-34).

So, this woman had problems! Problems that are very similar to yours and mine.  Let’s see what we can learn from this woman’s life.

  1. 1. Our Problems Are Interconnected and Far-Reaching in Extent v. 25-26
  • ¥ Physical Issues – bleeding for 12 years (as long as Lorelei has been alive).  You get physically weak from losing blood. Anemic
  • ¥ Financial Issues – vs. 26 says she spent all she had for medical treatments.  So she is a very poor woman who is in poor health.
  • ¥ Social Issues – In this day, when you shed blood you were viewed as unclean.  You were cut off from family, friends, and society.  According to OT law (Leviticus 15: 19-23, 25-28) anyone you touch while bleeding becomes unclean with you.  No one wanted that, so she was an outcast of society… for 12 years.  She couldn’t go into the temple section reserved for women.  She couldn’t go into public without making people aware of her condition.  I can’t imagine being cut off from society for that long!
  • ¥ Mental Issues – All of these other issues will mess with your mind.  They produce stress!  Who lives with no money and isn’t depressed? Who has sickness for 12 years and doesn’t get discouraged? Who faces social problems of being an outcast and isn’t affected emotionally?
  • ¥ Spiritual Issues – All of those issues lead to a huge problem.  Where is God when day after day, month after month, year after year everything goes wrong?  You know, we expect to go through problems every once in a while, but it is bad when your whole life is a problem.

Have you ever met such a person?  You see them coming and you go the other way because you know wherever they go, problems follow?  Well, that was this woman!  Her entire life was a mess.

Is there anyone here with problems today?  Of course there are.

2.  Dealing with Problems Often leads to a Dilemma v. 27

A dilemma is a situation where someone has to choose between two or more possible actions, either of which will bring difficulties.  So let’s learn from this woman’s experience.  We have seen the extent of her problems, but now let’s examine her dilemma.  She has a choice to make.  Here are her options:

First, she can choose to just give up on ever overcoming her problems. She could decide to just live with all these issues until the day she dies.  Now that is hopeless.  Maybe some of you have settled for that option in your life.

Second, she could choose to keep trying to find her own solutions like she had done for the past 12 years, but now she has no money so that doesn’t seem to be a good option.   Perhaps that is where some of you are with your problems.  That seems to be the default setting for many of us.  Just work harder.  Make a way!

Third, she could risk the public ridicule and venture out into public to be healed by Jesus.  This is a big risk for her.  Jesus is always in public.  She will never be able to find him in private.  She has to go out to find him knowing that others will look her at in judgmental ways because she is an outcast.  Perhaps, some of you risked ridicule from your family or friends just to come here today.  You came hoping to find answers at church, but people may mock you at work this week if they hear that you went to church.

Well, those were the options for this woman. Can you imagine her fears?  What if people won’t let her get near Jesus?  What if they cast her out of their presence as an unclean person?  What if Jesus treats her that way?  What if Jesus refuses to heal her?  What if Jesus is unable to heal her? Surely, she faced all these fears because she was in a spiritual battle that Satan did not want her to win.  What a dilemma. So what did she do?  She chose option 3.  She went to JESUS!

3.Desperation leads to Determination to Surrender to Jesus so He can Overcome Our Problems v. 27-28

This woman was determined to overcome her problems.  She faced her fears and headed into public.  She was probably hoping that when she found Jesus in the crowd that perhaps she could at least come to him quietly when things were calm. Can you imagine how disappointed she was to find Jesus right in the middle of a major community event?

He is helping Jairus, the rich, influential, religious, popular leader of the synagogue.  The Bible said that the crowd pressed in on Jesus at this point because everyone wanted to see what was going to happen at the house of the Big Bwana.  They all wanted to see what Jesus would do for this important man.  That is the scene that this woman discovers when she comes to Jesus for help.

She could have given up right there.  She could have turned and gone home.  She could have thought, who am I to interfere with all this.

Notice the distinctions between this woman and this man.

We know the man’s name – He is Jairus, but this woman is a nobody.  Even up to this very day we do not know her name.

This man had money, the woman had none.  This man was popular, this woman was an outcast.

So, this nobody comes to Jesus while he is on His way to help a somebody and now this woman’s blessing gets in the way of another person’s blessing.

Wow!  She was brave!  She was determined.  But really, what did she have to lose?  When you’ve tried all the doctors in town, when you’ve spent all your money, and no one will talk to you because you are ceremonially unclean it is not a bad idea to try Jesus.  I mean, when you have tried everything else and nothing else has worked, perhaps that is a hint that it is time to turn to Jesus.  No, perhaps that is where you should have started to begin with.

So here she is.  It is a turning point for her and she decides to go through with her plan, but notice how she does it.  She sees the crowd and thinks, maybe I can just blend in and no one will see me.  She came up behind Jesus.  Why?  Because she didn’t want to be seen.  She is unclean, she doesn’t want anyone to know she is there and cry out “Unclean, Unclean” as they point to her and the crowd disperses with judgment in their eyes and anger that she may have “infected” them with her uncleanness.  Perhaps this is one of her bleeding days and it could be an embarrassing moment if someone discovered her.  So, she is embarrassed, timid, and cautious.

So, she sneaks up behind him and the text tells us that she wants to touch his coat.  Why? Why would she touch his coat?  How it that going to help her?  You would think she would want to touch Jesus, not his coat. But the text tells us why.  She is thinking in her mind, “if I touch his garment I will be made clean.”  Why?  Well, actually there is some serious theological significance here.

You see, this story is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and each one gives us a slightly different perspective with details that the others might not give so as serious students of the Bible we need to compare them all – to harmonize the gospels.  When we do that we find an interesting detail.  In Luke 8: 44 we see that she didn’t want to just touch the coat, she wanted to touch the hem of this coat. You see, it was a full body length coat.  This garment went from his shoulders all the way to the ground.  There is theological significance here.

First, to touch the hem of anything, you have to get low.  She had to get on her knees.  She came in humility.  She had had to get low to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

Second, according to the Jewish law as seen in Numbers chapter 14, the men were supposed to wear 4 tassels on the hem of their garments.  There were 2 tassels in the front and 2 in the back.  They were little extensions on the four corners of the garment.  Why did God tell the man to have their clothes made with such tassels?  It was theological!  This is stuff that you and I would never know without some serious study, but every Jewish person knew this from the training they got in their temples and synagogues at age 13.  When a Jewish person saw these tassels it was to remind them that they were a part of the covenant community of God that lives under the commandments of God. The tassels were a visible reminder that you don’t belong to you – you belong to God!  In other words, the hem of the garment was a theological reminder that you are my covenant people who live by virtue of my commandments. This Jewish woman knew these details well

Now, let’s see how this connects to this woman’s situation.  The text tells us that when she had lost everything – health, money, friends, family, emotional stability – she still had one thing.  She still had God.  So she said, let me get to that hem!

She believed that since the hem is God’s Commandment based on God’s Covenant and since God said in His covenant that if you come to me based on my commandments I will heal your sickness. She would come to Him in faith.  She believed that if she came to God based on his covenant that He would take the curse and flip it around to turn it into a blessing. She thinks, my whole life is a mess, but I believe that if I can get that close to Jesus, He can turn my life around.

Now, there is something else we need to think about.  How many Jewish men were in the crowd?  Many!!! They all had those 4 tassels on their robes as well. Why didn’t she just touch one of them?  No, she wanted to touch Jesus’ garment.  Why?  She knew who Jesus was!  (Read John 1:1 –  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word Was God). One of the names for Jesus found in the Bible is the Word of God.  He is the Living Word.  Nowe, She understood that the tassel represented the written Word of God (The Bible) and she understood that Jesus was the Living Word of God (John 1:1).  So, she thought, “If I can ever get the written word of God and the Living Word of God together at the same time I have everything I need for a totally transformed life.  Wow!  She was right.  The tassels represented the Covenant = the Bible = written word of God and the coat was on Jesus, the living word.  That was the whole word live and able to transform the whole situation.

And you know what, that same principle applies to use today.  Whenever you get this word (the Bible) and that Word (Jesus) you will have every word you need to face any situation.

So, let’s look at what the woman does.  She touches Jesus, despite the fact that Leviticus 15 says that if you have an issue of blood you should not touch anyone or you will make them unclean.  She defied the Jewish law!  That would be like a Zambian disregarding a sacred tribal tradition during a serious event like the birth of a child or death of a loved one.  This is a big deal!

Can you imagine what Jairus and the others must have thought?  How dare this woman bring her unclean self to the pure Son of God! How dare she defile him and trample on the OT law?  What made her think she could do such a thing?

It’s quite simple really.  She understood that in Jesus Christ, grace is greater than law!  She understood that law came by Moses, but grace came by Jesus.  The law said don’t touch, but Jesus said, “Come to me all who are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  Jesus is greater than the law!

So, in an act of faith, the dirty, contaminated, poor, lonely, and anonymous woman touches Jesus.  She said, I believe He will heal me and as proof that I believe, I am going to get it.

4. God is Able to Deliver Us from Every Problem in this Sin-Cursed World v. 29 – 34

God does not always choose to remove all troubles in our lives, but He most certainly can and sometimes does.  If he leaves problems in our lives it is only because he still wants to teach us more through that problem.  The Apostle Paul would later discover this when he would pray for a problem that he called a “thorn in the flesh” to be removed.  God could have removed it, but said no.  My grace is sufficient for you, but that problem will remain.

However, In verse 29 we see that it was a different case for this women.  Here we are told “immediately the flow of her blood dried up.  What does that mean?  It means that it was actually flowing on this day! Talk about an embarrassing situation.  No wonder she went up behind him.

Now we see she immediately gets 2 blessings at once.

First, there was physical healing.  Her immediate problem was solved.  The bleeding stopped.

Second, her permanent problem was solved.  She felt in her body that her affliction – the cause of her bleeding – was healed.

How did she know she was healed?  There was this inner confirmation, an inner peace, that not only did Jesus dry you up, but he fixed you up.  This inner sense comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a peace that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will have in the times of your problems as well.

Now let’s notice as Jesus enters the picture.  He senses that something happened.  Someone stole something from Him.  Someone snatched some power from him.  So Jesus asks a question.

Now, I know you already know this, but let’s just remind ourselves that when Jesus asks a question in the Bible it is not because he is looking for answers that he is unaware of.  Jesus never asks a question to find out new information that he didn’t already know.  He would only ask questions to draw out a truth.  And he wants to teach an important lesson to this crowd right now.

He said, “Who touched me?”  Now, His disciples made themselves look foolish.  They should have known what Jesus was up to by this point in his ministry, but instead they say, “Look at this crowd around you.  How can you ask a question like who touched me?”  The better question might be “Who has not touched you?”

Now, here is an important life lesson.  Being part of the crowd, doesn’t mean that you are touching Jesus.  Just hanging on for the ride doesn’t mean you are touching Jesus.  You can be pressed near Jesus without touching him.  It says there was a multitude of people around him, but Jesus only felt one touch. These people thought numbers of people meant access to God, but just because you are in the vicinity of Jesus doesn’t mean you are getting the power from Jesus to deal with the issues of your life.  Too many churches are filled with a crowd, but no one is actually touching Jesus.  They might be talking about him, singing about him, but never experiencing a relationship with him that makes a difference in their life.

The question I have for you this morning is not, are you part of the crowd, bur are you the one at the hem of the garment because that is where the power is.  Are you kneeling humbly at the feet of Jesus today ready for him to change your life?

Well, the Bible says that Jesus looked to see the woman who touched him.  He knew who she was.  He didn’t have to search for her.  He knew where she was.

She was scared to death.  She came to him trembling!  Was her fear of humiliation about to happen?  She knew who Jesus was.  She recognized that she was in the presence of greatness.  Sadly, I’m afraid that we have many people coming to churches all over the world, week after week and they don’t know who they are dealing with.  I’m afraid that a lot of people who show up don’t know who they’re “worshipping.”  Jesus Christ is not some superman.  He is the eternal Son of God who is here to declare the purpose and the power of God to the people of God who are willing to stoop down and touch the hem of his garment.

So, this woman, scared to death comes trembling before Jesus and admits that she touched him.  She comes before him in spirit and in truth and she worships him.

Now we see why Jesus asked who touched him.  There are 4 clear reasons.

  1. 1. God never gives a blessing for which He does not want the glory.  He wanted an expression of gratitude.
  1. 2. He is not done blessing her yet.  She started this day as a nobody.  Now she is called “Daughter”.  When God touchs you, you know that you aren’t a nobody anymore.  He didn’t call Jairus, “Son,” but her calls her “daughter.”  Jesus doesn’t just know her by name, but also by relationship.   He calls her up in public and in doing so he changed her reputation in an instant.  She is no longer an outcast!
  1. 3. Now he wants to confirm a spiritual blessing.  He tells her to go in peace.  The Jewish word for peace is “Shalom.” It means to have a well-ordered life.  She started this day with her life being  a mess, now Jesus told her to go live a well ordered life.  He was going to fix her whole life, not just her health.  How?  Through spiritual salvation – the greek word in vs. 34 for “made you well” can mean both “heal” and “save.”  This day was not just the day of physical healing for her.  This was her day of being spiritually born again.  Jesus didn’t come just to heal the sick.  He came to seek and to save the lost.  Today, she had been found!

You see, Jesus asked who touched him so he could get all this out in the open so he could do the other things he also wanted to do for her and for others.

But Jesus isn’t done yet.  He still wants to reveal Himself more to the crowd. Remember how this all started.  Jesus is on the way to the house of Jairus to heal his daughter.  That brings us to our last point.

4.  When God is praised for blessing one of us it strengthens the faith of others who are desperate for transformation v. 35-43 (read)

Now, while Jesus is still speaking, the servants come and say to Jairus, your daughter has died.

Can you imagine the emotions that Jairus must have been feeling?  Most people would have responded with anger!  They would say, “Wait a minute Jesus.  I came to you first and now this outcast came up and you had to stop and talk to her.  If you would have just come with me, my daughter would be healed. But, instead you gave her a blessing and it caused me to miss out on mine.  While you helped her, my daughter died.”

You know, there are many of us who act that way.  God, why are you giving that person the job I wanted?  Why does that woman get a husband while I am still single?  Why can that woman get pregnant while I am still barren? Why does everyone else get the blessing while you leave me to suffer and things just seem to be getting worse?

Many of us struggle with thoughts like that, but not Jairus.  When he saw what Jesus did for the other woman his faith increased.  The same God that took care of that woman is capable of healing my daughter or even raising her from that dead! Do you see the power of a testimony?  This woman’s testimony increased the faith of a religious leader.

That is why it is so important to share a testimony. Others need to hear what God did for you so that their faith will be increased to know that God can meet their needs too.

Even when things seem worse, God is able – so keep believing.  Jesus may delay your blessing to help another person but he hasn’t forgotten you.  No, in this story, Jesus took his time so he could do the greater miracle.  After all, It is a greater miracle to raise a dead daughter than to heal a sick daughter.  God will do miracles in the lives of others, not to leave you out of it, but to prepare you for even greater things.

Some of you wonder why God is blessing everyone else but he hasn’t gotten to your house yet.  Don’t give up on Jesus Christ just because he hasn’t arrived yet.  He has something greater in store for you.  You just make sure you are where the woman was – at the hem of his garment.

You make sure that you are hanging on to the written word and the living Word because he is able to exceedingly, abundantly above all that you ask or imagine.

So, today we have seen that the dilemmas of our lives create a desperate desire for total life transformation that only Jesus can produce but that we must pursue with passion.

We are all here because we want to grow – to improve.  What if we begin to want the Healer more than the healing, the Deliverer more than the delivering, the Giver more than the giving?  What if we want God more than they wanted anything?  That is when transformation can really happen.

Are you ready to be transformed?  You can’t be satisfied with being a better “caterpillar you”.  You must submit to the process of God to make you the new “butterfly” you.

Download this message HERE

Would you like to discuss this?  Contact Pastor Jamie Smith at  zambiasmith@gmail.com

Following in the Footsteps of Faith: The Presence of the Church


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“Christianity is responsible for the way our society is organized and for the way we currently live. So extensive is the Christian contribution to our laws, our economics, our politics, our arts, our calendar, our holidays, and our moral and cultural priorities that historian J. M. Robers writes in The Triumph of the West, ‘We could none of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, dead, and buried, and then rise again.’ ” (From the book What’s So Great about Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza.)

Big Idea:  When the church is present in a community it points everyone to Christ with both actions and words.

Read Acts 3:1-10

1. Christians of sincere faith recognize opportunities to minister in everyday life v.1-4

Explanation:

This was no special religious day.  It was just an ordinary day.Everyday the Christians worshipped and prayed. It was the 9th hour of the day.  Now, the people of this day kept time differently than us.  The day started at 6:00am our time.  That would have been the first hour.  The ninth hour was 3:00pm  (15:00hours). Peter and John, two of the leading were true followers of Jesus Christ, but the church had no place set aside for worship and since Jesus was the Jewish Messiah it made perfect sense for them to continue going to the Jewish temple to worship God.  Almost everyone else there was still loyal to the Jewish faith.  They were religious, but not forgiven.  They were spiritual, but not saved.  Although the Temple is a place of worship, it is a mission field for the disciples of Jesus to share the gospel.

It was just a typical day for the Jewish people as well.  Everything that happened everyday was happening again this day. The sick and poor were gathering to seek pity from religious people in hopes of getting some money to scratch out a basic living. Some would be moved to help these beggars for various reasons.  Some out of genuine compassion.  Some were motivated by self-righteousness as they tried to earn God’s favor.  Some were motivated by pride and wanted to be seen for their good works. Most people passed right by the beggars without even acknowledging their existence.

This man is being carried out to his place of begging just in time for people to come for their evening prayers. He is coming to the gate called Beautiful and he feels anything but beautiful. As he is being carried he spots Peter and John and he asks them for alms – food or money. What was Peter’s reaction?  He doesn’t divert his eyes.  He doesn’t refuse.  But he doesn’t just toss over a few coins either.  He wants to do something special that will change this man’s life.  He wants to do something so special that it demands total attention and so he says, “Look at us.” There are hundreds of people passing by.  By focusing his attention on Peter and John he is missing opportunities to ask alms from others.

Application:

1) Is your chief concern every day about living for Christ or living for self?

2) Is Christianity a Sunday thing for you or an everyday thing for you?

3) As an ambassador for Christ are you looking for the opportunities to serve others and be a witness that are around you everyday?  They are there for all of us.  However, we must train ourselves to look for them.  God will provide the opportunities, but we must recognize them and that takes a conscious effort to look for them.

2. Christians care about the meeting the needs of others v.5-8

Explanation:

a. Recognize the immediate, but temporal problems.

b. Recognize the personal limitations.

You can feel this man’s anticipation.  He is expecting to receive something good.  Maybe he will get enough money so that he won’t have to beg for a few days – maybe an entire week?

c. Rely on the unlimited resources of God to meet the needs

d. Offer an on-going long-term solution.

Don’t treat the symptoms.  Treat the cause.  It is better to help people get a job than give them money. Invest in a few who can then invest in others.

 Illustration: James 2: 15-17, 1 John 3:17-18

Application:

1) It is easy to get callous to all the needs around us.  No we can’t help everyone with their physical needs, but we can help some.

2) Yes, some people are deceptive con-artists who take advantage of out generosity, but not all who ask for help are con-artists.  Should we help everyone? No, we must be wise and discerning.  Should we help those in genuine need when we have the ability to help them?  Absolutely!

3) So how do we know when to help?

a. Remain sensitive to the needs of others.

b. Recognize your personal limitations.

c. Rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

3. Acts of Christian compassion grab the attention of the community v. 9-10

Explanation: verse 10.  They saw, they recognized, they were filled with wonder and amazement.

We may not have the supernatural spiritual gift of healing today, but we are able to minister with compassion to meet people’s financial needs, medical needs, emotional needs today.  Our methods might be different today, but we can and should actively minister in such a way that it inspires wonder and amazement.

When we help provide education, when we help with orphan ministries, helping with the malnutrition ward at the hospital, caring for the sick, helping train others so that they can make a living rather than rely on handouts…these are things that the world will see and stand in awe and wonder. Why do we do this?  Because The Bible tells us to.  Just read 1 Peter 2:9, John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:43-44, Romans 12:19-21.

Within Christianity there is a powerful emphasis on compassion, on helping the needy, and on alleviating distress even in distant places. If there is a huge famine or reports of genocide in another part of the world, most people in other cultures are unconcerned. As the Chinese proverb has it, ‘the tears of strangers are only water.’ But we rush to help….Part of the reason why we do this is because of our Christian assumptions….The ancient Greeks and Romans did not believe this. They held a view quite commonly held in other cultures today: yes, that is a problem, but it is not our problem….However paradoxical it seems, people who believed most strongly in the next world did the most to improve the situation of people living in this one.”

4. Christians of contagious faith take the opportunities to share the Gospel that are created by their acts of Christian love (Read v. 11-26)

Explanation:

a. Give the praise for the good works to God v. 12

b. Point people to Jesus v. 13a

c. Confront their sinful disbelief v. 13b-15 (John 3:18-19)

d. Proclaim that salvation is only achieved through faith in Christ v. 16 (John 3:36)

e. Sympathize with the guilty sinner v. 17

f. Point people to the plan of God v. 18

g. Call fellow sinners to repentance and faith v. 19-26

Application:

1) Doing good things without explain the reason for doing the good things limits the effect significantly.

2) We have only helped in the temporal world and left the person in better condition while still traveling to the final destination of hell.

3) Let us maximize the effect of each good deed we do by explaining the gospel to the one we’ve helped and to the watching world.

4) Our deeds earn us the right to be heard in the court of public opinion.  Let’s take those opportunities to be witnesses of the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

5) With out deeds we can change people’s physical conditions, but only the Gospel can change their spiritual condition and their eternal destination.

Conclusion:

As we leave the comfort of each other’s presence we go back into a world that opposes God.  We have neighbors and co-workers who are in need, but try to act as if they need nothing.  We are tempted to just go with the flow, but we are called by God to be salt and light.  We are called to change the world by being witnesses of the life changing power of God as He changes us. The presence of the church has always been a purifying agent for community as long as the light was not hidden.  This week let us each determine to let our light shine before men so that they will see our Good works and glorify God.  Let’s share with them the gospel message that changed us and present them with the choice to accept it as well so it can change them to.

Following in the Footsteps of Faith:The Power of the Church


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Acts 1:12-2:47

I remember when my wife was nearing the end of her pregnancy with our second child.  The closer the time came to deliver the busier and more active she got.  She was busy cleaning the floors, dusting the housing, scrubbing the bathroom.  She had this urge to clean the house.  They call this the nesting stage.  Rather than taking it easy while waiting for the baby to come, my wife was working while waiting.  Sure enough, within a few days the baby had arrived.

As we continue studying the books of Acts we see that the birth of the church was almost upon the believers.  They were waiting for the promised Holy Spirit, but while waiting they got the urge to “clean house.”  They wanted to make sure they were ready for the birth of the church, which would require pure leadership.  Within days, the Holy Spirit came and the church was born.

Big Idea:  A powerful church works for the Lord while waiting for Him to fulfill His promises.

Read Acts 1: 12-26

As we are in the early stages of Kitwe Church’s development I am torn between how to present this material.  Although I love preaching, I think what we need most at this stage in Kitwe Church is clear teaching because there is so much confusion about how the church should conduct itself.

As I have mentioned before, the book of Acts presents us with the church in a transitional phase.  Although we can learn a lot from the principles of the early church, many of the things described in Acts are not prescribed as normal for us today.  It is my goal to help us sort through what was described in Acts and help us determine what was unique to the early church prior to the completion of the Bible and what is supposed to be normal even in how we operate today.

1. A Powerful Church Chooses Godly Leaders to Continue the Advance v. 12-26

a. What leaders were being chosen?

Note:  These were the original Apostles.  There are no “Apostles” today, but the principles of choosing leaders can still be applied.

• Definition of Apostles 

  •  Greek Word “apostolos” meaning “one sent forth.”Apostolos was a common Greek word used in non-religious settings; ambassadors, envoys, messengers.
  • This word is used 79 times in the New Testament (10 in the Gospels, 28 in Acts, 38 in the Epistles, and 3 in Revelation).This term is not used exclusively of the 12 chosen by Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  It also is used as a title for Timothy and Titus.
  • Therefore, linguistically this term “apostle” is equivalent to Missionary (from Latin motto). In this sense, Christ was an apostle as He was sent by the Father.  The 70 disciples were apostles sent out by Jesus to preach in Judean villages before He passed through. Paul and Barnabas were apostles sent out from the local church in Antioch.
  • However, in this particular passage there is more than just a linguistic meaning, but also a theological meaning that must be considered.  When the 11 remaining “apostles” chosen by Jesus were looking for a replacement for Judas they weren’t meaning just a “sent one.”  The term had taken on a new more powerful religious meaning of authority.  It was describing an office of leadership within the Church Universal.

• Office of Apostle

1) Had been specifically appointed by Jesus (the original 12 or the Apostle Paul)

                                         OR

2) Had to have been a disciple of Jesus from the point of John’s Baptism to Jesus’ ascension.

3) Had to be a witness of the resurrected Jesus.

b. How did the early church go about choosing?

Selecting a Godly Leader Started with Logic

i. Someone from within the group vs 21

ii. Someone who had been with the resurrected Christ vs. 21

iii. Someone with godly character v. 23

iv. They didn’t know whom to choose, but these criteria certainly helped know who was not even eligible to be chosen.

c. Selecting a Godly Leader Ended with Prayer

i. We can’t trust our human wisdom, we need God’s wisdom.

ii. We see the personality and the ability of people, but God knows the heart.

iii. Never make any decision about Kitwe Church without first bathing it in prayer!

2. A Powerful Church is Indwelt by the Holy Spirit:  The Wait Comes to and End – the Promised Power Arrives

Timing is a very important aspect of missions and church planting.  God made precision plans to introduce the church to the community on a day of significance so that there would be powerfully symbolic images to go with the identity and message of the church.

One important thing must be noted.  God chose the day.  It did not depend on any activities of the Christians.  He did not come when he came because they prayed Him in to coming.  As God, He is sovereign.  He chooses everything.  Men can’t manipulate His plan or timing.

A. The Holiday – Pentecost

The term “Pentecost” comes from the Greek pentekostos,which literally means 50th because this day was exactly 50 days after Passover.  Pentecost is the New Testament name for the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22-23), or Harvest (Exodus 23:16), which was celebrated fifty days after Passover.

• So, let’s put this into terms that we can all understand.  Jesus was arrested on the night of the Passover and illegally tried in court.  He was killed by crucifixion the next day and then rose again three days later (Sunday).

• If we put that into our current day, the Passover would have been on March 24, Holy Thursday.

• Jesus would have been killed on March 25, Good Friday.

• Easter was Sunday, March 27.

• Pentecost would be May 13.  Imagine waiting that long in Jerusalem before the promised Holy Spirit would come.

• But, there was great significance behind the waiting for this day.

This particular holiday took on even more significant meaning after the Jewish people returned from their years of exile in Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.  At this time Judaism began celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses at Pentecost also.

There is great redemptive significance in all of the Jewish Feasts.

God’s redemptive New Testament timetable is pictured in the feasts of Leviticus 23.  The first great feast mentioned in that chapter is Passover.  

The killing of the Passover lamb pictures the death of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7).  

– A second feast was the feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrated on the day after Passover.  During that feast, an offering of the first fruits of the grain harvest was made. 

– Fifty days after the first Sunday following Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was celebrated (Lev. 23:15ff) At Pentecost, another offering of first fruits was made (Lev. 23:20).  

– Completing the cycle of the typical fulfillment of the feasts, the Spirit came on Pentecost as the first fruits of the believers’ inheritance (Cf. 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14).  Further, those gathered into the church on that day were the first fruits of the full harvest of believers to come. 

– God sent the Spirit on Pentecost, then, following the pattern of Leviticus 23, not in response to any activity of men.  

– John MacArthur (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Acts 1-12, pg. 39-40)

So, timing is important.  We prayed and asked God to reveal the timing for the start of Kitwe church also.  Did you notice the careful timing chosen for starting of Kitwe Church – Easter?

B. The Holy Spirit

1. He came suddenly

Although they knew that the Spirit’s coming was imminent (cf 1:5), they were still caught by surprise when He came.

2. There was a sound like a violent rushing wind.

3. Spirit’s presence filled only the whole house where the believers were sitting.

Although the sound of the heavenly wind may have attracted the crowd that soon gathered, the Spirit’s presence filled only the believers inside the house.

4. Tongues of Fire rested upon each one of them.

“It was a uniform, sovereign work of God on all collectively, not something sought individually.  At this point, the baptism with the spirit, they were all made into one spiritual body – the body of Christ.”

5. One external evidence of being baptized with the spirit was the ability to speak in languages that they had never studied, understood, or spoken before.

C. The Servant

The Apostle Peter who …..

Rebuked Jesus when Jesus revealed to the disciples that he would be crucified.  Peter said, “Far be it from you Lord.  This shall never happen to you.”  Jesus responded, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me, For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16: 21-24

Jesus is the disciple who refused to let Jesus wash his feet until Jesus said, then you have no part with me.  Then Peter said, then don’t stop with just my feet.  Wash my entire body because I want to be one of your followers.

John 13: 1-11

The same Peter who said that  he would die before he ever denied beinga follower of Christ and then denied Christ 3 times before the rooster crowed.  Peter felt such shame that he rushed out and wept bitterly.

John 18: 15-18, 25-27

The same Peter felt like such a failure that even after seeing the resurrected Jesus decided to go back to his old life of being a fishermen.  He was not going to be a preacher or an apostle.  He wanted to close that chapter of his life.  The only thing that made him reconsider was a personal visit from Jesus where Jesus asked him three times, “Peter, do you love me.”  When Peter said yes, the Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”  Jesus was saying, “I have called you and equipped you to be an apostle and a preacher.  Don’t go back to fishing.  Stay dedicated to me and your calling.  John 21:3, 15-19

Peter experienced humiliating failures and was tempted to quit forever, but now God reveals that he delights to use the weak and foolish to do His work (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

D. The Message

Part 1:  The Introduction – Explaining Pentecost (2:14-21)

Part 2:  The Theme – Proclaiming the Risen Lord (2:22-36)

      1. 1. The Life of Christ v. 22
      2. 2. The Death of Christ v. 23
      3. 3. The Resurrection of Christ v. 24-32
      4. 4. The Exaltation of Christ v. 33-36

Part 3: The Appeal & Results (2:37-41)

E. The Results

• 120 Christians witnessed with boldness

• 3000 people put their faith in Christ and were saved from their sin

• They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching (they had church services like this one where they were getting their understanding clear and correcting misunderstandings from previous religious traditions.

• They worshipped God.

• Loved each other sacrificially.

• They continued sharing the gospel so that every day people were getting saved.

Conclusion:

Today we have once again looked at the early church from 33 AD to learn truths for us to apply in 2016 AD.  We have seen that a powerful church works for the Lord while waiting for Him to fulfill His promises.

Well, the Lord has promised that He will return to take His church home.  What should Kitwe Church do while waiting for the Lord to return?

1. Choose Godly leaders.

2. Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

3. Flee false teaching no matter how popular the teaching may be in modern culture.

4. Be witnesses and serve God, like Peter, no matter how you may have failed in the past.

5. Let God use you to impact others however He sees fit.

Following in the Footsteps of Faith: Re-orienting for the Future


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Nearly 360 years before Christ was born there was a great Greek King by the name of Philip.  364 BC he became the King of a city-state known as Macedon.  His military skills and expansionist vision of Macedonian greatness brought him early success. He conquered many other city-states and consolidated power.  By 336 he was invading the Persian Empire, the dominant Empire of the entire world.  It was at that point in 336 BC that He was attending a wedding in the capital of his own Kingdom in Macedon that he was betrayed and murdered by one of his 7 personal bodyguards.  This assassin tried to escape, but was killed by three of the loyal bodyguards.

For 28 years Macedon had grown in power and expanded.  The Macedonians loved their leader and followed him with passion.  But what would happen to this movement now?  Would it die out?  Would it be overpowered by another Kingdom and fade off the scene of history.  That was quite likely, and surely something that the people feared.  However, this was not the end.  In fact, it was really just the beginning.  In 336 Philip’s son, Alexander, would take the thrown and rally not only the Macedonians, but all of the Greeks.  He was the most successful military leader the world has ever known.  He not only turned Greece into the super power empire of the day, but he led a cultural revolution known as Hellenization.  In every land that he conquered he would build sports arenas, museums, and theatres.  He required that Greek become the common language.  People that once were his enemies soon became lovers of the Greek culture and the Greek Empire.  He conquered with military might but won them over with diplomacy.  The world would never be the same because of this man.  No wonder he is known to this day as Alexander the Great.

Well, let’s fast forward into the future.  The year is 33 AD.  Jesus Christ, God the Son, had lived for 33 years.  He was building his Kingdom, but it was not an earthly Kingdom.  No, it was far greater than that.  It was a spiritual kingdom.  He would not conquer with military power, but he was changing the world in far greater ways than Alexander the Great could ever imagine.  He conquered death and hell and sin through the sacrifice of Himself.  He didn’t use war or diplomacy.  He used love!

Yet, when one of his 12 disciples, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him the followers of Christ found themselves trying to figure out what to do next.  Was this the end of “Christianity”?  For 3 ½ years they had swept through Judea and even at times Samaria  and the movement had only gained momentum.  Crowds would come out to hear Jesus.  His disciples would minister to them.  Lives were being changed as the Kingdom of God was growing.  Was the movement over now? No, it was just the beginning!  The followers of Christ would carry on without him, but first they had to get re-oriented.  First they had to re-focus.  Then, through these followers, God would continue to change the world.

Let’s return to Acts chapter 1 to see how these followers re-oriented for the future.  There are lessons from the lives of these Christians that we at Kitwe Church need to learn so that we too can get re-oriented for our future as we go forward to serve the Lord.

Read Acts 1: 6-11

Big Idea:  God determines the people and the plan to build his kingdom!

1. Traits of the Early Christians that Should be True of Us

a. They knew Christ personally v. 3

They didn’t just know about Jesus, they knew him. Yes, everyone here knows about Jesus, but do you know Jesus?  Of course you have not seen him, but you can still experience him.  Jesus anticipated this when he spoke to Thomas. In John 20:28-29 “Thomas answered, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

b.  They obediently waited on the Lord’s Timing v. 4-5

Too often we rush into actions that we think are wise and needed and get ourselves into a big mess. We do this as individuals when it comes to our relationships such as dating or marriage.  We often rush into things with our money decisions.

As we develop Kitwe Church and attempt to mature in ministry we will encounter choices about what to do and how to do it. We will no doubt be tempted to do things we have seen or experienced in other churches.  However, the danger that we could get into is to place our trust in traditions rather than the Lord. There will be great ideas that might be intended to meet legitimate needs, but the timing might just not be right.  We must be people who obediently wait on the Lord’s Timing.

c. They were inquisitive about the Lord’s Plan v. 6

They knew part of God’s plan and wanted to rush to the good part.  You see they mentioned the Kingdom of God.  This is the spiritual reign of God in the lives of the hearts of those who make Jesus their Lord.  As this Kingdom grows it transforms lives and cultures through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Well, these early Christians did want God’s Kingdom to grow and transform the world, although they misunderstood both the timing and the method.  They were expecting Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to now be the conquering King.  He will be that.  That day is coming and is clearly outlined in the book of Revelation, but the timing was not yet right.

In 2 Peter 3:9 we are told that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The timing for Christ’s return isn’t yet because the Lord is being patient and he expects us to be working while we are waiting.

d. They were teachable v. 7-8

When Jesus bluntly told them that the timing was not any of their business, they didn’t get offended and stop following him.  They were teachable. They asked one question, but were not given an answer.  Instead, they were given an answer to a question they had not asked.  They wanted to know what Jesus was about to do.  Jesus, instead, told them what they were about to do.

Acts 1:8 is a repeat of the same command in Matthew 28, but this time Jesus gives them some different details about how to fulfill this command. From this verse we get the key word of this letter/book – “Witness.”  From this verse we get the outline for this letter/book.

What we see throughout this book is that the Christians responded with obedient, humble, teachable attitudes and went out to be witnesses first in Jerusalem, then in Judea & Samaria, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.

e. They were hopeful as they focused on the future v.9-11

Jesus promised to return.  Approximately 2000 years have gone by and it is still not for us to know the times or the seasons v. 7, but we can rest assured that he will keep his promise.  He will return in the clouds just as he ascended into them.

Are we ready?  We’ve been given work to do.  Have we been faithful in doing it?  If he came back now would we be ashamed of our laziness or indulgence?  Would we wish for more time to get it right? I hope not.  As Kitwe Church grows we will encourage and equip one another to live for the Lord just like these early Christians so we can rejoice at his second coming because we know we are about to be rewarded for faithful service.

Brothers and Sisters, as we endeavor to be a radically changed community of people that can not be ignored, let me ask you, are these traits true of us?

1. Do we know Jesus Personally?

2. Are we waiting obediently on the Lord’s timing?

3. Are we inquisitive about the Lord’s plan for us?

4. Are we teachable?

5. Are we people who look forward to the Lord’s return with great hope of reward?

If not, I challenge you do something about that today!  Get alone with God and commit yourself to him.  Ask him to develop these traits in you.

Conclusion:  God determines the people and the plan to build his kingdom! Here we are as Kitwe Church, two weeks into our official begging as a church. There as so many directions we could go in.  If we do things according to our own wisdom we will just be yet another church that burns bright at first and then dwindles away failing to really change the world around us.  However, if we are men and women of character who have the traits of these disciples in Acts 1, if we will follow the plan of God for expanding his kingdom, if we will use God’s wisdom in selecting leaders than we too can have a great impact on the world in 2016 and beyond.

Following in the Footsteps of Faith: Learning from the Past


Acts

“Learning from the Past:  How the Church Changed the World”

 

On May 25, 1977 a man named George Lucas released his first hit movie that would become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon.  That movie was called, “Star Wars.” In 1981 they added the strange subtitle of “Episode IV: A New Hope.”  It seemed strange to subtitle the first movie episode IV, but this revealed the creative genius of George Lucas.  He was first going to captivate the world with a story that would take 3 movies to complete.  Then, 22 years after the first movie was released Lucas presented the first of three prequel movies to give the back story to a young boy named Anakim Skywalker who would later be known as the dreaded villain, Darth Vader in the original three Star Wars movies.

Now, just this past December Lucas presented a new Star Wars Movie that goes into the future years after the death of Darth Vader.  This movie franchise is known all over the world and has shaped culture in amazing ways for the last 39 years.  It is a story that captures the imaginations of millions perhaps billions of people.

However, at the end of the day, it doesn’t change your life.  It adds a bit of entertainment, but you leave the same as before you watched it.

Back in the year 62 AD, a man named Luke, a physician by trade, released a letter to a friend names Theophilus which has also been a worldwide phenomenon even before pop culture existed.  The letter was called, “The Gospel According to Luke.”

In Luke’s account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ he presented the truth that the gospel is for all, Jews & Gentiles.  The account of the life, ministry, and teaching of Christ that Luke gave was so powerful and skillfully told that one year later, in 63 AD he wrote a sequel letter entitled, “The Acts of the Apostles.”  This letter had an even more profound impact on the world because it provides a detailed and accurate history of the spread of Christianity as the early church obeyed the command of Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  In this letter Luke recorded for Theophilus, and for us, a clear picture of the early church – its successes, its struggles, and its failures so that we can learn from them as we continue to carry out the command of Christ that was left for every person who would embrace the title, “Christian.”

Last week Phil preached a message from chapter 2 of the book of Acts as he challenged us to follow in the footsteps of this first church in Jerusalem – a church best described as “A Radically Changed Community of People that Could not be Ignored.”  The early followers of Christ certainly lived up to that description.  In Acts 17: 6 we see the reputation of the church when it reached the city of Thessalonica (4,500 Kilometers from Jerusalem).  The men of the City said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”

Last Sunday as we experienced and celebrated the birth of Kitwe Church we studied Acts 2 we saw the birth of the Church in Jerusalem because we also want to be a radically changed community of people that cannot be ignored in our world.  We must be the next generation to continue telling the original story of Jesus Christ coming to redeem a sinful world from the power and penalty of sin.  We must continue looking to the original church as an example of how to conduct ourselves in this world, and with our lives we must write the next chapter of the story as we obey the command of Christ in Matthew 28: 18-20.

“All Authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

With that goal in mind, as we now seek to honor Christ by organizing Kitwe Church to be obedient to the Lord and influential in this world, I would like us to spend the next several weeks learning from the church in Acts. The goal for today’s message is to set the stage for all that will be coming in the future weeks.  Today we want to get a good understanding of the background of this letter that provides so much of what we know to be the history of the early church.

Acts 1:1-11

1. Background of this Letter

Author –  Luke

Both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are dedicated to the same individual, Theophilus. In the preface, the author also refers to a “former treatise,” which is assumed to be a reference to the gospel of Luke.The similarity of the book of Acts in language and style to the gospel of Luke is very obvious. So, who is the author?

Well, the use of specific medical terms in both the book of Acts and the gospel of Luke.  This leaves the very strong impression that the writer was familiar with medicine.  Paul’s reference to Luke as the “beloved physician” seems to indicate that Luke is the most likely author.  This is further strengthened by the “we” sections of the book of Acts because that points to one of the companions of Paul as the author.

There has been a universal acceptance that Luke is the author of the book of Acts since the second century.  So, let’s learn more about Luke, the Author of Acts.

A. Character of the Author – Scripture and tradition provide some insight into his character.

There is much we know about Luke from the scriptural evidence.  His ethnic background appears to be that of a Gentile (Col. 4:14).  As such he is the only Gentile author of scripture. His profession was a physician (Col. 4:14).  Yet, even if Paul had not stated this we might have deduced it from Luke’s writings.His service:  He was a fellow-laborer with Paul (Philemon 1:24)His strength: The outstanding attribute of his life is that he was faithful! (2 Tim 4:11)

When it comes to traditional evidence there is not as much we know for sure. Perhaps because of the lack of direct Scriptural material on the life of Luke, many traditions have sprung up concerning his life. However, these speculations are never as strong as scripture.  Perhaps some, or even all, of these are true.

a. He has been associated as one of the seventy sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1, 17)

b. He has been identified as one of the Greeks who came seeking the Lord. (John 12:20).

c. He has been declared to be the unnamed companion of Cleopas (Luke 24:13).

d. Some have thought that he had served as a ship’s doctor because of his use of nautical terminology on the voyage to Rome.

e. Others have claimed he was “the brother” of Titus (2 Cor. 8:18). “Family modesty” explains why Titus is never named in the book of Acts.

f. Some scholars have suggested that the “an” ending on his name (Lukan) indicates that he was a freed man.  He had once been a slave.

Recipient

1) The book is addressed to “Theophilus,” however there are two views as to who Theophilus is.

a. The first view is that “Theophilus” is a generic word or title.  The name literally means “god lover.” This view sees the book as addressed to anyone who loves God.

b. The second view is that Theophilus is an actual person This is supported by Luke’s use of the term “most excellent Theophilus” in Luke 1:3.  Every other time this address is only used in Scripture it has reference to actual men ( Felix – Acts 23:26, 24:3, Festus – Acts 26:25).  This is what I personally believe.  Let me explain why.

2) Theophilus appears to be a high ranking official of the Roman Government as indicated by the title “most excellent.”  In the New Testament this term is only used of Roman rulers (Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25).

3) Theophilus was probably Luke’s patron, who underwrote the expenses of production and secured a “reading circle” for the first reading of the book.

4) Obviously, however, the book was intended for a broader audience than Theophilus alone.

2.  Purpose of this Letter

1. The stated purpose for the writing of the book of Acts was for the continued instruction of Theoplilus in the Christian life.

2. Two other suggestions have been given for the composition of the book of Acts.

a. It was written to evangelize the lost.  The books of Luke and Acts are a unit and while the evangelistic emphasis is strong in the book of Acts, we do not find that the same emphasis in the gospel of Luke.

b. It was written as a defense to the Roman Empire to demonstrate that Christianity was not a threat to Rome.  In support of this view is the fact that one-fourth of the book deals with the trials of the apostle Paul.  Every time Christianity faces the Roman government, a Roman official declares the Christians have done nothing illegal.

1) Gallio (Acts 18:14-17)

2) Ephesian Town Clerk (Acts 19:37)

3) Claudius Lycias (Acts 23:19)

4) Felix (Acts 24:25)

5) Festus (Acts 25:19)

6) Agrippa (Acts 26:32)

 

3.  Outline of this Letter (Acts 1:8)

Part 1: The Witness in Jerusalem (1:1-8:4)

    1. 1. The Power of the Church 1:1-2:47
    2. 2. The Progress of the Church 3:1-8:4

Part 2: The Witness in Judea & Samaria (8:5-12:25)

    1. 1. The Witness of Philip 8:5-40
    2. 2. The Conversion of Saul 9:1-31
    3. 3. The Witness of Peter 9:32-11:18
    4. 4. The Witness of the Early Church 11:19-12:25

Part 3: The Witness to the End of the Earth (13:1-28:31)

    1. 1. The First Missionary Journey 13:1-14:28
    2. 2. The Jerusalem Council 15:1-35
    3. 3. The Second Missionary Journey 15:36-18:22
    4. 4. The Third Missionary Journey 18:23-21:16
    5. 5. The Trip to Rome 21:17-28:31

The Price of True Devotion


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Genesis 22:1-19

Today I want to take a few moments to look at the price tag of true devotion. I want us to see what it costs us to be the kind of Christian that inspires others to be a better Christian.

Let’s examine the familiar passage of Genesis 22 where we will extract some principles from this account of how God asked Abraham to offer Isaac.  As we do, I want to give credit to Tony Evans who preached on this passage many years ago and drew out these principles that greatly affected my own life.

1. God will test our hunger for Him by seeing what we are willing to sacrifice (1-2).

  • You see, we all want to be the kind of Christian whose presence causes others to want to be better Christians, but how badly do we want that.  How hungry are we for God truly?
  • It’s one thing to say you are hungry for God and it is another thing to be willing to sacrifice because you are that hungry.
  • There is only one way that I know to validate whether or not you are as hungry for God as you say you are.  The Bible calls it a test.
  • You see the passion of our lives must be for God and not merely His gifts.  God does not mind giving out His hand as long as what you are interested in is His heart.
  • He is not interested in being your Genie in a bottle.  He is not interested in being your Santa Clause.  He is not interested in being your cosmic Bell Hop, which is what most people use Him for.  He does not serve you, you serve Him.
  • He is interested in people who are in pursuit of Him.

Verse 1 says, now it came about after these things…

After what things?  Well, Abraham is coming out of a time of blessing.

There had been tension in his house for years because of Hagar and Ishmael. But in chapter 21 they are gone and God provided for them.  There was resolution to a big problem.  Then later in chapter 21 Abraham was able to sign a peace treaty with King Abihimlech, so there is peace in the neighborhood. He is having a wonderful time at the end of chapter 21.  After years of trouble there is peace and Abraham hopes this will stick around for a while.  Yet, then God introduces this test!

Isn’t it amazing how God always seems to give a test at the wrong time. You’re almost scared to have a good day because God might decide to give a pop quiz.

After this period of blessing God prepared a test. God calls to Abraham.  Abraham says, “Here I am.”God says, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.  Go to the mountains in the land of Moriah and offer your Son there as a burnt offering.”

Whoa!  This isn’t a pop quiz.  This is a major test!

God says, I want you to go to Moriah and worship.  And remember, when you worship you’ve got to bring a sacrifice, only this time I want that sacrifice to be your son.  Your only son.  Let me go a little farther – the son whom you love.

Many of us wouldn’t mind God testing us along as the test didn’t include a one of a kind test – your only son – and as long as it wasn’t something we love.  God test me on something that I hate and that I don’t mind giving up. In other words test me over my left-overs.  Test me over stuff I don’t use anyway.  Test me over stop that doesn’t matter to me. But that is not what you see in scripture.  When God commanded tithing he said give it off the top, not once you see how much you have left over. God asked Abraham to give him the most precious thing in his life.  Why?  Very simple. Because only when you are tested in an area of affection do you know who you really love.  The question for you todays is,  do you love God or do you love His gifts more.  For Isaac had been a gift from God.  God wants you to validate his love for Him.

What do I mean by validated?  Back in 2008 my Father was having a major surgery I had to park in the hospital parking garage and of course that costs money.  If you got your parking ticket stamped by the hospital they would validate that you were using the garage for medical reasons and you would receive a rate reduction.  There was also a clergy validation.  If I showed pastoral credentials they would validate my parking ticket and I would pay nothing.  When we pass God’s test we are stamped with His approval, validating that our hearts are in the right place – that we love Him more than His gifts.

Now you might be saying, wait a minute.  God knows everything already.  Why test me.  True, academically God already knows what you are going to do, but you don’t know what you are going to do.  God asked Abraham for what was most valuable to allow Abraham to see what was truly in himself.  Jesus made it clear that nothing should come before Him when he told the disciples to leave father, mother, children, and even your own life.  He instructed people to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

So, what will you do when you encounter this kind of test. I’m not talking about a head ache, a sore throat, the kids misbehaving . I’m talking about when God asks you to give back something precious, something that tugs at your affections… the son that you love. Perhaps it is a relationship that is clearly not what God would have.  Perhaps it’s a situation that God would not have you in.  Perhaps it’s a thing that you have that God wants you to let go of.  I don’t know what the “son that you love” is for you, but I can guarantee that you will be tested.

Now some of you are getting a little nervous so let me share with you some good news.  When God seeks to validate your devotion to Him by bringing you to this kind of final examination it is because he is ready to bring you to the next level. Whenever God gives you this kind of test that is going to take every bit of your spiritual reserve that you’ve got just to be able to pass it is because He is ready to take you to the next level. It will always involve what you are willing to sacrifice and it will always be one of the most precious things in your life.

In the church that I grew up in back in Cincinnati there is a special man named Lloyd Wile.  He is the last remaining charter member of that church who actually put his house up as collateral to get the loan to build that church building years ago.  If he had not been willing to sign his own house as collateral the bank would not have been willing to give that church a loan.  Why?  Because they wanted to know what he was willing to sacrifice.  They wanted to know if building that church was worth that risk to Lloyd.  Well it was and years later hundreds of souls have been saved and influenced for the Lord through that ministry.  Lloyd passed away just this last Wednesday.  But, his sacrifice impacted many.  I am one of those souls saved as a result of that church ministry!

God will test our hunger for Him by seeing what we are willing to sacrifice and it will be something that you feel. .. the son whom you love.

There is a second principle that comes out of this.

2.  In testing our hunger He is trying our faith. (2-3)

Listen again to that request of verse 2. The problem with that request is that it doesn’t make sense. It is not something you can figure out.  God told Abraham, I am giving you a son Isaac and you will be the father of many nations through Isaac.  This request poses a bit of a contradiction.  How can Isaac be the father of many nations when I’m supposed to kill him and he has no children yet.  He is not married.  He is probably just a mid to upper level teenager.  God your telling me to kill him when the promise is going to come through him.  It just doesn’t make sense.

When you get your test it may not make sense.  Why would you give me this house and now it seems like it is going to be foreclosed?  Why would God give me this job and now everything’s falling apart.  Why is God doing this or that?  It doesn’t make sense.  That is the test and the question is always the same:  Do you love me more than that thing?

God calls Isaac his only son.  Technically it is not his only son.  He has another son.  His name is Ishmael.  Why does God call Isaac his only son?  Because Ishmael is the son after the flesh and Isaac is the son after the spirit.  In other words, Ishmael is here because they tried to do it man’s way.  Sarah said why don’t you go sleep with Hagar?  Let’s help God out.  God does not seem to understand I’m 90, your 100.  She actually laughed.  It just didn’t make sense.

You will often not be able to figure out when you are in the midst of a test what God is trying to do and He may not explain it to you even if you ask him because what he is testing is your faith.  In Abraham’s case God didn’t even give him full information.  He says in verse 2 to go offer Isaac as a burnt offering one of the mountains which I will tell you. In other words, I am not going to give you all the information up front. Most of us would be willing to take the test if we got all the information up front to see where it was going to wind up because then we could decide whether or not we wanted to take it.  God is not offering that as an option.

Verse 3 says, so Abraham rose up early.  Most of us would have slept in that day.  We would have needed a lot of caffeine of some sort to get us moving, but Abraham rose early.  He was quick to respond to God. We would have been laying in bed saying woe is me.  How can God ask this?  How can God demand this?  I am depressed.  Abraham does not understand God’s word, but he doesn’t argue with it either.  There is an immediate response.

When God puts you in a test that you can’t understand it may also be a situation where you can even explain it to anybody else.  Have you even been in a situation like that where you didn’t understand it so you didn’t even know how to explain it to someone in order to ask them for help in it?  Trying to explain it would have made you look like more of a fool. So, Abraham doesn’t even try to explain it to his servants.  He just tells them to stay at the base of the mountain.  “The boy and I will go up to worship, and we will come back to you.”

Interesting how he phrased that.  He is going up to do what God told him to do… kill Isaac, and yet he says we will go to worship and we will return. Now that is a statement of faith.  God told me that he is going to make of my son a great nation.  God told me to kill my son.  Although that is a contradiction because you can’t make a nation out of a dead man, I am going to obey.  I don’t know what is going to happen up there.  All I know is that I am going to worship like he told me and we will be back.

The story takes a little twist here.  Isaac has a question.  He says, Father I see the fire and the wood.  Where is the lamb?

Abraham answered him honestly “My son, God will provide for himself the lamb.”Now, he could have said, “your it boy.”  But sometimes you have to keep what God is doing close to the vest – keep it to yourself – especially when you aren’t certain yourself about what God is doing.  His answer was that I am putting this one on God because it is beyond me.  I’m going to let God worry about what I can’t control but that God already knows the answer to.That is all he could say.  That is all the information he could give.  When you are caught in such a test throw it back on God.

Isaiah 11:3 says that the fear of God goes beyond what you can see, hear, or understand. Some of the things you will encounter will go beyond counseling.  Some of it will go beyond advice and support from your friends.  Some of it goes beyond reading books or trying to figure it out.  Some of it goes beyond seminars and conferences.  Some of this is what God is doing uniquely with you!  And God is going to have to provide it himself.  Its going to have to come direct from Him.

Now Hebrews 11:17-19 sheds a little more light on this story because it tells us what Abraham was thinking.  It tells us that Abraham fully expected to have a resurrection that day.  Oh, I’m sure he was hoping that God would not have him go through with this odd request, but if He did he was convinced that a resurrected son would be accompanying him down the mountain.  He believed in the power of God. Now, if God asked you something odd and you knew it was from God but it didn’t make sense I can assure you that there is an answer to that test somewhere.  God never gives a test for which there is no answer, but He does give tests in which you don’t have the answer in advance and you simply have to believe that God is able.

Abraham didn’t know exactly how it would work.  He just knew God expected Him to obey and He knew God would keep His covenant.When it comes to these tests there are sometimes that we just need to leave it up to God.

There is third principle that you need to get out of this story and it is the most important one of day.

3.  God will address our hunger for Him in the context of sacrificial worship (4-10).

Notice what he sends at the end of verse 5… we will worship and return.  Now look at verse 9.  They came to the place God had told them and they built an altar.  What was the altar?  A place of sacrificial worship.  He put Isaac on it.

Is there something that God wants you to put on the altar?  Anybody who didn’t bring a lamb to the altar was not worshipping even if they were standing in front of the altar.  You aren’t worshipping just because you show up, not when there’s supposed to be something on the altar. When you go through tests that you don’t understand there is one place you should always be found – at worship.  It is within the context of sacrificial worship that God will address our hunger for him and you have to be willing to go all the way.

In verse 10, Abraham took the knife to slay his son.  Now I’m sure he is walking up the mountain thinking, Okay God.  I obeyed you.  I woke up to come worship – I even got up early.  I have prepared an altar.  Surely you don’t want me to really kill my son.  You’re supposed to come through for me by now…. But heaven is silent.

The command was not to wake up nor walk up the hill.  The command was to slay.  You may be saying I’m waiting for God to come through.  He hasn’t come through yet.  You haven’t finished the test.  The test was to slay him.  Go all the way.  It was in the context of worship and it was in this context that Abraham hurts.  Remember, he loved his son.

Worship when it hurts.  Some people won’t even worship when it rains.  Hey, some people won’t worship because the weather is too nice to sacrifice their free time, their hobbies, their interests. If you are hurting today because God has you in a test that is the time to come to the altar.  You ought not be happy every time you come to church.  You ought not be happy every time you pray.  You ought not be happy every time because sometimes you have to worship in pain.  Sometimes you have to drag yourself to the altar because of the test that your facing.  That’s okay. Abraham wasn’t winning friends and influencing people when he picked up the knife.  It was a bad day.

But praise the Lord here comes verse 11. Now, how is it that God says, now I know that you fear God? God, you know everything actual and potential.  He knows what was, what is, and all the what ifs.  He knows what could have been.  Since you are omniscient – why do we have to go through all this?

We’ve all been there.  We have been upset with God.  We may never say it, but we have been.  You can probably think of a time in your life when you said God you already know what I’m going to do.  Why did you take me through all of this? Now I know that you fear God?  How can the omniscient God say something like that as if he just gained new knowledge?  Is he really not omniscient?

God puts us through these types of tests for 2 reasons.

  1. A. Because those tests reveal to us where we stand.  They show us whether or not we love Him as much as we way we love Him in public.  These pop quizzes help us see ourselves for where we really are and reveal where we still need to grow.
  2. B. God wants to know things experientially.  God knows all things factually.  He knows what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.  You can give Him no new information.  Yet, He does not know all things experientially until he experiences it.  That is why Jesus became a man.  God is a spirit, but when he took on flesh he experienced hunger, fatigue, thirst or death.  But when he became a man he can experience what men experience.  God knows all things actually and factually, but he loves to know things experientially.  God already knows what we are going to do, but he loves the experience of it.  He wants to enter into the experience with us.  The only way He can do that is within history – at a point in time.

Now to explain this further:  God loves the praises of his people scripture tells us, but does He need it.  No!  He was doing fine long before we came here. He doesn’t need our praise.  If we don’t praise Him he  would praise himself, only His praise would be perfect praise that puts ours to shame.  No, He does not need our praise, but he loves the experience of our praise.  God loves the experience of being first so much that he creates scenarios for you to make him first so he can get that feeling and it validates in us that he indeed is first.

Serioulsy, think about why he even created this world.  Why create light.  He is omniscient.  He already knew what it was like but he enjoyed the experience of it.  He wasn’t trying to impress anyone, there was no one else.  So he spoke and said let their be light and BAM – there it was and God said Wow, you’re good. God created sun, stars, man … you name it.  He made it and then reflected on the experience of it and declared it is good.

You see, it isn’t the knowing of it that gets God excited.  He already knows it all.  It is the doing of it that he enjoys.  He loves experience.  God wants to experience you.  He doesn’t want facts only.  He wants the experience of those facts.  The Holy Spirit loves experience.  His job is to take the facts of the Bible and turn them into the experience of your life.  It was never supposed to be facts alone.

The final principle for today is…

4.  God will reward your passion for Him in a way that is greater than your sacrifice (11-19).

I know it is hard, but the reward is worth it. Look at the text.  The knife is raised and the angel of the Lord says, now I know that you fear the Lord.  Wow, what an experience!  That feels so good. Now stop!  Don’t harm your son.

Remember Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham expected God to raise Isaac from the dead.  He was expecting a resurrection, but got an intervention. He was looking over here, but God came from over there. Once again, I don’t know how your breakthrough in your test is going to come, but I do know that if you have sacrificial worship and come into his presence to give him the experience of your passion and your love, what He will do will be greater than what you gave up.

Verse 13 – when Abraham raised his eyes he saw a ram caught in a thicket.  How long had that ram been in that thicket?  I don’t know but it was sure quiet.  He didn’t see it until right then.

To put it another way, when God works in your life you will often find that your answer was there all along, but real quiet waiting until you had passed the test.

Abraham took that Ram and put it on the altar in place of Isaac and then the angel of the Lord appeared and confirmed his covenant with Abraham again. Now Abraham acknowledges the lesson he has learned through this test by renaming the place – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord will provide.

How is God going to provide?  I have no idea. When is God going to provide?  I haven’t a clue.

But I can tell you that if you are in a test and in need of a genuine spiritual breakthrough you better do what Abraham did and make your way to the altar for sacrificial worship.

When you pass that test you better remember what God has done for you! Do what Abraham did.  Reflect on the character of God and rename that test – acknowledge that you serve Jehovah Jireh.