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The Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60)

July 10, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon reveals how Christ faithfully gives His Spirit to believers who desire to be faithful to Him. Pastor Carter explains that the goal of the Christian life is to live and die faithfully for Christ. The focus of this sermon is on Stephen’s faith-filled life, faith-filled vision, and faith-filled death.

Stephens Faith-Filled Life

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Although, every believer in Christ has received the Holy Spirit as a sure guarantee of their eternal inheritance, there is a distinction between the seal of the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit (John 14:16; Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30, 5:1-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Pastor Carter described three qualities of Spirit-filled life. First, the believer who is filled with the Spirit serves, seeking to be more like Christ, considering Christ came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Second, the believer who is filled with the Spirit shares what they have; Stephen shared both his faith and his possessions (Acts 4:32-35). Lastly, the believer who is filled with the Spirit looks to Heaven, rather than seeking their own righteousness in the face of persecution and tribulation, he or she continues to entrust themselves to the who judges justly (Luke 6:35; 1 Peter 2:18-25).

Stephens Faith-Filled Vision

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56; ESV).”

Christ said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8)”. Stephen could see Jesus because his heart was purified (cf. Isaiah 6:1-5).  Pastor Carter calls to attention the fact that the writer of Hebrews describes Christ being seated at the right hand of God after sacrificing His life for His sheep (Hebrews 10:12). On this occasion, as Stephen confessed Christ before men, Christ was pleased to stand for Stephen before His Father.

Stephens Faith-Filled Death

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at himBut they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:54, 57-60; ESV).

Stephen was delighted to see Christ and the stones of these enraged men would simply serve as the vehicle to transport Stephen to Christ. Stephen died trusting, forgiving, and witnessing. Stephen trusted in the One who was faithful and he understood that his life was in His hands. He not only lived a life preaching forgiveness, he died seeking the forgiveness of his persecutors. Above all, his faithful witness for Christ struck these men to the heart so much so that they put him to death as they did Christ. Although, Stephen’s witness for Christ lived even in his death as the soon to be Apostle Paul saw what it meant to live and die for the sake of the Gospel.

Is Your Soul Anchored in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Sin is like cataracts. It blinds us to reality, because what we see is not reality. In fact, we need sanctified eyes, hearts and hands to behold the beauty of Jesus Christ, our Lord (Psalm 27:4).

Will you see Jesus in faith and comfort or fear and condemnation? There is nothing in this life or the next that compares to seeing Jesus Christ in all of His splendor, glory, majesty and power. If you desire to see Christ, it is a purifying vision, because He is Holy and impurity cannot behold Him or live in His presence. Repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

God Redeems, Man Rebels (Acts 7:1-53)

July 2, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon outlined God’s redemptive plan being accomplished despite man’s sin. Elder Woodard unveils the mystery of Christ’s fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarchs. The focus of this sermon is on Stephen’s overview of God’s redemption revealed to the patriarchs (Abraham, Joseph, and Moses), his response to and accusation against the council.

Gods Redemption Revealed to the Patriarchs

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And Stephen said: Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in MesopotamiaAnd God spoke to this effectthat his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. But I will judge the nation that they serve, said God, and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place

And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household

But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand (Acts 7:2, 6, 9, 17-20, 25; ESV).

First, Stephen reminds the council that God revealed Himself to Abraham. Notice that the revelation of God begins and ends with God not by the will or striving of man (John 1:12-13). Abraham was not seeking after God, yet God chose him from among his kindred to establish His covenant among the nations (Genesis 12:2-3).  The promise that God gave Abraham was the Gospel promise. Abraham’s name would be great, his offspring and the families of the nations would be blessed through Jesus Christ, who was and is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise.

Next, Stephen continues his overview of God’s redemptive plan with Joseph in Egypt. Elder Woodard highlighted the fact that oftentimes not only does demonic forces seek to oppose God’s plan, but men (even godly men) are the greatest threat to the promise (cf. Abraham, Isaac, Israelites, Peter). However, Woodard fervently reminded us that God’s redemption trumps man’s rebellion. This was true in Joseph’s case. Even though his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt God was with him every step of the way, from his time in prison to his time of promotion. Above all, God was with Joseph not because Joseph was good, rather He preserved Joseph to show that He was quite capable of keeping His promise to Abraham even in the face of man’s rebellion (Genesis 50:15-21).

Lastly, Stephen ends his discourse of God’s redemptive plan with Moses. God works according to His time frame, not the whims and wishes of men (cf. Exodus 2:23-25).  Woodard illustrated how Moses was a type – a model – of Jesus Christ. For example, Moses was saved from Pharaoh’s abortive plan; Jesus Christ was saved from Herod’s abortive plan. God made a spectacle of the Egyptians in the Red Sea at the hand of Moses; God made a spectacle of sin and death through the blood of Jesus Christ at Calvary (cf. Colossians 2:14-17).

Stephens Response to the Council

Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wildernessOur fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands (Acts 7:44-51; ESV).”

The council charged Stephen with blaspheming against the temple and the Law of Moses (Acts 6:13). However, Stephen’s response to the council showed that he gave greater honor to the greater temple, namely, Jesus Christ. The council was giving honor to the wrong temple. In fact, Jesus Christ corrected the woman at the well, who too thought that the temple in Jerusalem had greater significance than the One who was right before her. Christ informed her that the true worshippers worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:1-26).

Stephens Accusation against the Council

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it (Acts 7:51-53; ESV).

The council, just as their fathers, had presumed upon the promise God made to Abraham. They kept the law of God externally, but their hearts were far from Him (cf. Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6). The prophets experienced persecution from men who had made idols in their heart, going about to establish their own righteousness, so much so they refused to submit unto the righteousness of God (cf. Romans 1). Jesus, the Apostles, and Stephen experienced it, as do all who desire to live a godly life. But just as the council stood before God, so shall those who persecute His people.

How will you stand before God?

Stephen shows these men that the God of Israel (Yahweh) is Jesus Christ. Israel was called to be a kingdom of priest and a holy nation, not because of any inherent greatness that it possessed, but simply because God chose Israel to display His steadfast love toward them (Deuteronomy 4:37, 7:6-8, 10:14-15, 14:2). Likewise, Jesus Christ is calling men and women from among every nation to display His steadfast love toward them, that the world may look to them and see the image of God (Matthew 5).

Are you worshipping God in the manner that He has prescribed? God rescued the Israelites from Egypt (grace), and then He gave them the Law (obedience), so that the Israelites would know how to faithfully live out their relationship with Him. The Israelites failed, yet Christ (fully God and fully man) stepped in at the appointed time to faithfully keep God’s covenant. Now God has bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2). Repent and believe in Jesus Christ, for only He can save.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Here, There, and Beyond (Acts 1:8)

June 25, 2014

Reflecting on East Point Churchs 1st Global Mission Conference:

Recently, here at East Point Church, we had the privilege of hosting our first global missions conference entitled “Here, There, and Beyond”. During this three-day conference, we examined missions from a biblical perspective, and we were reminded that the local church is at the heart of God’s redemptive plan for establishing His kingdom on earth.

We heard from three men – David Meade, Jim Whittle, and Byron Johnson – who have served on the mission field and sent others to do the same. Meade kicked off the first session of the conference by asking the question, “What do we mean by Missions?” The second session of the conference featured Whittle expounding on the “3 Motivations for Missions”. Lastly, Johnson challenged both the senders and goers of missions to understand their “Stewardship of Grace” in mission, whether here, there and/or beyond.

What Do We Mean By Missions?

He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:7-8; ESV).page49_picture0_1400265705

As the first speaker, David Meade set the tone for the global missions conference by helping us understand missions from a biblical perspective. Meade defined missions as the process of specially called, equipped, and sent-out people (called “missionaries”) crossing culture and language barriers to proclaim the gospel with the aim of growing indigenous Gospel & Christ-centered, reproducing churches in those contexts. Likewise, he went through the seven common fallacies that people believe about the Great Commission, such as the Great Commission is a New Testament phenomenon. However, Meade dispelled these fallacies with examples of how God’s redemptive plan included the nations, considering all are descendants of Adam (cf. Psalm 67).

Three Motivations for Missions

Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name…‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouthfor I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witnessdelivering you from your people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 9:15, 22:14, 26:16; ESV).”

In the second session of the conference, Jim Whittle explains the driving force of missions is the Glory of Christ, Gospel Partnership, and the Needs of the People. Whittle demonstrated how the first motivation of missions, namely God’s glory, comes from the promise God gave to Abraham of making his name great and blessing him, so that he would in turn be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2-3). Also inherent in the promise God gave to Abraham was that He would use or partner with Abraham, a weak vessel, to promote God’s glory, which makes the preaching of the Gospel and prayer all the more necessary for the Christian in missions. Last of all, Whittle called us to pay attention to God’s heart and vision to send His people to all the nations to preach the Gospel and persuade some, considering everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (cf. Christ Sending Out His Disciples, Matthew 10).

The Stewardship of Gods Grace

“…assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelationThis mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:2, 3, 6; ESV).

Byron Johnson concluded East Point Church’s first global conference with a challenge “What kind of steward of God’s grace am I? Will I be found faithful?” Johnson reminded the Christian that the Gospel has been given to him or her for the lost and from the Lord. In other words, God delights in using those He redeems to accomplish His plan by equipping with the same Power that raised Jesus from the dead. Likewise, as the Christian understands the grace that they have received in Christ, this should compel him or her to proclaim Christ in spite of their circumstances (cf. Acts 5:40-42; Ephesians 3:7-13). Above all, Johnson’s underlining principle of the Christian life was that God does not need us to accomplish His plans, yet because He is kind, loving and merciful, He desires to use His children to advance His kingdom on earth. Do you see your trials and tribulations as ways of opportunity for advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Colossians 4:3-6)?

A Message from the Missions Team of East Point Church

The Missions Team of East Point Church (EPC) would like to say thank you to everyone who helped pull this conference together. We are thrilled that the Lord chose to bless EPC with it’s first global missions conference, and we pray that there will be many to follow.

Thank you to the leadership of Southwest Christian Church for allowing us to use your facilities.

Thank you to David Meade, Jim Whittle, and Byron Johnson for your preparation in teaching. For more information about David Meade, please visit www.propempo.com. For more information about Jim Whittle, please visit www.equippingleadersinternational.org. For more information about Byron Johnson, please visit www.vision938.org.

Thank you to all of the EPC men and women who gave up their time to prepare food, serve in the nursery, edit video, set up and much more. Thank you for your faithful service.

It is our prayer that this would give a fresh perspective concerning the Lord’s heart for all nations. Furthermore, we pray that the church would more so be characterized by obedience to the call of Christ to be His witnesses “here, there, and beyond!”

East Point Church Supported Missionaries

  • Mwamba and Nyema Johnson (Zuriel, Zoey, Zion, Zach, and Zuri)
  • Pascual and Sharon Thedford
  • Timothy and Niai Byrd (Thandi and Naledi)
  • Strong Tower Church

We will continue to support these missionaries and others through prayer and the giving of ourselves to meet their needs as they seek to advance the Gospel for Jesus Christ.

Listen to this full conference for free.

Stephen, Full of Grace and Power (Acts 6:8-15)

June 18, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon rests upon the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in times of trial. Elder Duncanson illustrates how God delights in using His people to accomplish His plans. The focus of this sermon is on the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to provide His Spirit when His disciples needed Him, namely, among their persecutors.

Provision: Full of Grace and Power

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And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8).”

Along with serving tables, Stephen participated in more tasks than those assigned to him, although, the emphasis was not on Stephen (Acts 6:1-7). The doing of these great wonders and signs were in response to the grace given him. Christ had told His disciples to give freely as they had received (Matthew 10:5-8). Thus, Stephen made himself readily available to the working of the Holy Spirit, in his doing so, others experienced the Spirit’s power.

Provision: Full of Wisdom and Spirit

Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:9-10).”

Against whom were these men rising up and disputing? This was the same situation, the council faced when they brought accusations against Peter and John or even Jesus Christ, namely, in whose authority are they doing these things (Luke 20:1-8). The council was opposing Christ when they opposed the ones He sends. Stephen was not the message, nor did he come in his own authority, instead he was merely a representative; an ambassador to the Lord Jesus, and as such, he received help in his time of trouble (Psalm 31).

Among His Persecutors

Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us (Acts 6:11-14; ESV).”

Therefore, in response to Stephen, they chose to secretly instigate. When they could not find any charge against him, they bear false witness. Rather than investigate Stephen’s claims, they devise a scheme against him in hopes of silencing him. Nevertheless, Stephen served the Risen Lord, who though He experienced this same conspiracy at the hand of men, overcame them and even death in His resurrection (Matthew 28:11-15; Colossians 1:14-15). Christ upheld His promise by providing His Spirit’s power and presence as Stephen witnessed for Him (v. 15).

Am I faithfully representing Christ?

Faithful service in a sinful world will bring opposition (cf. Hebrews 11). The miracles were not the issue. The world has no problem with the Church meeting needs. The problem is when the Church speaks for Christ.

Do you know what keeps us silent when opposition comes? Fear of incompetency. We do not believe that we know enough to give an answer, which really translates into not trusting Christ to keep His promise. Let us not shrink back, but open up our mouths for Christ.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

More People, More Problems (Acts 6:1-7)

June 11, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon unfolds with an issue among the early believers. Pastor Carter proposes the solution to the diversity issue that the Gospel creates is the Gospel. The focus of this sermon is on how the Apostles identified and acknowledged the issue, established the Churchs priorities, and selected seven select men.

Identifying and Acknowledging the Problem

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Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:1).

Pastor Carter identifies three elements of this issue that are helpful to note. First, the nature of this issue was people. Secondly, the source of the issue was the diversity within the church. Lastly, the solution to this issue is the same Gospel that made these disciples followers of Christ (more people) and brought them together along with their different backgrounds and perspectives (diversity). In other words, the Lord was delighted to increase the believers of Christ, uniting them together as one Body despite their differences, so that these believers would become less like themselves and more like Christ (John 3:30; Ephesians 2:15; 1 Peter 1:10).

Establishing the Churchs Priorities

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tablesBut we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2, 4).”

The Apostles knew Christ intimately. They saw Him give great attention to preaching and prayer, so much so that He sent them out to preach and taught them to pray (Matthew 6, 10). They were not going to let the Church get off the mark by neglecting the two inseparable gifts that Christ has given, namely, preaching the Gospel and praying for the hearers. Christ built His Church upon them. He preached from the moment He was inaugurated at His baptism until His Resurrection. He also prayed many times before crowds, before His disciples, and even for His disciples. They would soon follow His example. Hence, the Apostles planned to keep preaching and prayer at the forefront of the Church’s vision, despite any issues that arose in the process.

Selecting Seven, Select Men

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty (Acts 6:3; ESV).

The Apostles set three criteria for selecting seven men to meet the needs of the widows: 1) these men must be found among those believers, 2) must have faithful testimonies, and 3) be full of the Holy Spirit. First, these seven men must be chosen from the context of that community. This was essential considering they would be familiar with the needs of their fellow believers (cf. Judas’ Replacement, Acts 1:21-22).  Then, these men must have a good reputation within and outside of the community of faith, blameless – not meaning perfect or sinless – instead free from accusation (1 Timothy 3; Titus 2). Above all, these men must be full of the Holy Spirit, which meant they had to be bold for Christ, His love must inform their deeds and words, and their life must be self-controlled (tactful). Leading the church in serving the widows was as important as the priorities of the Church; therefore, the Apostles pick the best men to care for the temporal and everyday needs of the Church.

Are you beginning to look more like Christ?

The Church is more than just soul winning, evangelism, and preaching. It is not only winning souls to Christ, but also caring for the souls won (cf. Paul, Acts 14:21-28, 15:36; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-8).  The blessing of more people creates the issue of serving more people. Diversity is both a blessing and a challenge, because we all have preferences, but they are not all driven by Biblical data.

In addition, Satan desires to disqualify men for leadership in the Church (1 Peter 1:13-25). Above all, do not allow the Church to give more importance to anything other than preaching the Gospel and praying that God would use it according to His will. The Church is the only entity in the world given the charge to be the salt and light for Christ (Matthew 5:13-16).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Suffering and the Goodness of God (Acts 5:33-42)

June 4, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon demonstrates how the Holy Spirit produces unspeakable and inexplicable joy in the midst of suffering by consistently pointing the Christian to Christ. Pastor Carter describes both the reality of the suffering and the goodness of God in an ungodly world. The focus of this sermon is on four biblical reasons of suffering, which is the result of: 1) the human experience in a fallen world, 2) our own sinful and foolish living, 3) the attacks of the enemy and 4) standing up for Jesus.

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Suffering: The Result of the Human Experience in a Fallen World

“…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:17-19; ESV).”

Why do we suffer? Living in a world marked by sin is living in a world marked by suffering. After the Fall, suffering became part of life, whether physically, spiritually, emotionally or socially. Nonetheless, God in His goodness and mercy toward humanity provided the ultimate end to suffering through the suffering of His son, Jesus Christ. Christ suffered pain from beatings, dehydration, and alienation from the Father for the sin of all humanity, that the Christian might understand that present suffering is only a means to a greater end.

Suffering: The Result of Our Own Sinful and Foolish Living

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).”

Meanwhile, not only did the results of the Fall cause suffering in our lives, but we also suffer due to our own sinful and foolish living. Sin causes scars that often have lasting and lingering effects. Not only does it hurt us when we sin, but it also causes pain to those around us. For example, the foolishness of a father is often the burden of their children (cf. Adam, Abraham, David). When this happens, if this individual is in Christ, they often experience the loving and gracious disciplining hand of God (Proverbs 3:11, 13:24, 19:18). God loves His children too much that He will not spare the rod. If they go wayward, He is going to bring them home (Heb. 12:6).

Suffering: The Result of the Attacks of the Enemy

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10; ESV).”

Another reason for suffering is the attacks of the enemy, namely, Satan. When stealing, killing and destroying comes, there comes suffering (cf. Job). Satan desires to shake the Christian’s faith and confidence in Christ, by the same means he used on Eve, mainly, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 John 2:15-17). God may allow Satan for a time to try you, to show the world and the devil that His people are different and hold out under trials and tribulations. Although these afflictions are real in this world, those who are in Christ have overcome the world (1 John 5:4-5).

Suffering: The Result of the Standing up for Jesus

And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:21-22; ESV).”

Above all else, the Christian suffers in this ungodly world because of their faith in Christ. The apostles and other believers felt the shame and dishonor for being beaten and mocked publically, yet they rejoiced not because the pain was not real, instead they were convinced that Christ would be glorified through their suffering. Suffering is a means, not an end. Christ is the glorious end to all suffering. Christ said, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his master, and the servant as his lord”, thus, for the disciples to take on the name of Christ meant taking on his labors, even to the point of shedding their blood for His sake (Matthew 10:25). Along with the many benefits of following Christ (i.e. peace with God, unspeakable joy, etc.), also came constant trouble, tribulations, and afflictions. This is the cost factor for being a child of God in an ungodly world (Luke 14:26-33; John 17:13-18).

Have I been counted worthy to suffer for Him?

Despite popular opinion, Christians suffer loss in this ungodly world just as non-Christians. However, the Christian does not grieve as the world does, because we have a hope in Christ, which gives us a different perspective. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

How do you discover joy in the midst of suffering? How can you rejoice and be glad when the world troubles you? It is only when you look beyond your circumstances to a Sovereign God, who is in and over your circumstances. Then and only then, can you rejoice in the midst of suffering (Hebrews 12).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Rejoicing to Suffer in His Name (Acts 5:33-42)

May 28, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon demonstrates why the Gospel is an offense to an ungodly world. Pastor Carter cautions against the misconception that enduring persecution is contrary to the Christian life. The focus of this sermon is on three important things to understand about following Christ: 1) the displeasure of the Council, 2) rejoicing after persecution, and 3) the fellowship of His sufferings.

The Displeasure of the Council

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When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them (Acts 5:33; ESV).”

While they marveled at the miracles performed, eventually, the council became angry with these early believers. In fact, the council was enraged so much so that they desired to kill and silence these believers. Why were they so displeased? The council had warned the disciples not to preach in Jesus’ Name, because they understood that Jesus’ teaching was in direct opposition to theirs.  Therefore, just as they plotted to kill Christ, seeking to silence Him and cover up His Resurrection, the early believers faced this same satanic spirit from the council when presented again with this Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 28:11-15; John 8:31-59).

Rejoicing after Persecution

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the peopleAnd he said to them, Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose upHe was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose upHe too perished, and all who followed him were scatteredSo in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God! So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing(Acts 5:34-40; ESV).

Oftentimes, the Lord uses even the rulers of this world to prophesy or speak prudently according to His plans, unbeknownst to them as to the weight of what they were saying (Proverbs 21:30).  Gamaliel, who was the mentor to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3), sought to patiently abate the rage of these councilmen by reminding of them of the failures of Theudas and Judas the Galilean.  However, just as Caiaphas before him, Gamaliel’s words gave credence to Christ. Like Theudas and Judas the Galilean, Christ died.

However, unlike Theudas and Judas, Christ rose from the dead, reassuring His followers that He has all authority (John 11:47-52, 18:14; Matthew 28:18-20).  For this reason, when the council decided to beat the apostles, and send them on their way, the apostles did not become sadden or despair. They rejoiced. They rejoiced in that they knew Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, with the hope that they might also be made conformable unto His death (Philippians 3:10).

The Fellowship of His Sufferings

“…that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus (Acts 5:41-42; ESV).

The early believers endured much persecution for the sake of Christ, yet they rejoiced in the midst of their sufferings, because Christ called them blessed (Matthew 5:10). Their suffering had an expected end, fellowship of Jesus Christ, to which they continued to preach that Jesus is the Christ. Christ came to suffer and rise from the dead the third day that those whom God had chosen would have eternal life in Him (Luke 24:46-47). With this mind, the early believers understood that if Christ had paid their debt and reconciled them to God the Father, their reasonable service was to live a life pleasing to God rather than man. When that meant being beaten, bloodied, exhausted, or even killed, they counted these things as a necessary loss for obtaining the joy of knowing the grace of God through Jesus Christ, Amen (so be it).

Have I been counted worthy to suffer for Him?

The problem with the world is not that they have investigated Christianity and found it lacking, but that they have not investigated it all (G.K. Chesterton). Instead, they would rather silence the voices of Christ’s disciples, than investigate our claims, because the world knows that if Christ is right, then they are deadly wrong. To stand up for Jesus in an ungodly world will cost you (e.g. maybe a relationship, finances, family, death, etc.).

Has your faith ever cost you anything? Persecution and suffering for Christ is practically foreign to American Christianity. However, suffering is a sure reality for the faithful Christian, along with courage in the One who saves and absurd joy in knowing He is faithfully working out His good in us according to His unfailing love for us, despite our present circumstances (Romans 8:36-39).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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