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Salvation Amidst the Storm (Acts 27:1-26)

September 30, 2015

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 recognizes the severity and humiliation brought upon us in the midst of the storms of life. Pastor Duncanson encourages us to trust in God’s faithfulness in providing hope in the midst of the storms we face, while also using these storms to bring us to Himself by showing us we are hopeless without Him. The focus of this sermon is on the God faithfully providing a faithful witness, a fearsome storm, and a freeing Word.

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A Faithful Witness: Giving Sound, Wise, Reasonable Counsel

And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared forSince much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives. But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there (Acts 27:2-3, 9-12; ESV).

Pastor Duncanson reminds us that storms come because we fail to heed warnings. Paul warns the men about the storm brewing, as all Christians are called to do, which is to warn others in a volatile world of God’s goodness and severity. Unfortunately, the men choose to ignore the sound, wise, and reasonable counsel they received from Paul, a man with a great deal of experience on the seas, and instead, listened to their own counsel, unaware of their impending danger (cf. Matthew 7:13-14).

A Fearsome Storm: The Goodness and Severity of God

Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm- tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned (Acts 27:13-20; ESV).”

Often counsel seems to be judgment, yet true judgment comes after not heeding or listening to wise and godly counsel. The Northeaster was a severe storm, which affected both Paul and his companions along with the unbelieving Romans on the ship, and it not only wreaked havoc on the physical state of these men, but it also served as a means of showing them their need of salvation. Although those who believed in the sovereignty and mercy of God were tempted to fall into despair, Paul was comforted by the Word of God and comforted those on aboard with the Word he had received.

A Freeing Word: The Word of God Brings Comfort through Salvation

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island (Acts 27:21-26; ESV).”

Unlike before when Paul gave his assessment and counsel concerning the storm, the Word of God brought true comfort (Isaiah 40). Hope in the midst of the storm does not mean there will not be suffering or that salvation will come quickly (cf. Genesis 18:14; Habakkuk 2:3; Romans 5:6). However, the Word of God works two-fold in revealing the truth about sin and suffering, while also reminding the hearer of God’s faithfulness to bring redemption and reconciliation despite these present afflictions (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

Does your suffering or storms draw you nearer to the Savior?

God sovereignly ordains all things for His glory and the good of His people (Romans 8:18-30, 11:36). Since the Lord is kind even to the ungrateful and the evil, He always warns us before, in the midst of and at the end of each storm concerning who He is and the purpose of our storms (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:15; Jeremiah 7:25, 11:7-8, 25:3; Luke 6:35-36). Therefore, apart from the grace and mercy of God, we are hopeless, broken, and in need of salvation; and our storms are the means by which God shows us our need of Him (cf. Job 40:1-9, 42:1-6).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Suffering for Being a Christian (Acts 26:1-32)

September 23, 2015

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 testifies to the significance of understanding the Gospel. Pastor Carter walks us through why loving and living for Jesus Christ is worthwhile despite any false accusations, sufferings, and hardships. The focus of this sermon is on the how Paul, while suffering on trial for being a Christian, answers charges for the undeniably transformative, unmistakably transparent, and unavoidably confrontational life of the Christian.

20140311-184658.jpgBeing a Christian: The Undeniably Transformative Life

So Agrippa said to Paul, You have permission to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prisonI cast my vote against themI punished them often and tried to make them blasphemein raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign citiesIn this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with meTherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance (Acts 26:1-13, 19-20; ESV).

The first order of business for Paul in his defense was to give a faithful account to his life apart and in direct opposition to Jesus Christ. Paul wanted these men to rightly understand that he was very sincere, zealous, and religious before his devastating and dramatic encounter with the living Christ on the road to Damascus. Ironically, according to the world’s standards Saul seems to have everything the world so explicitly craves, such as education, money, reputation, and power, however, without a saving knowledge of Christ all these things were misappropriated and meaningless at best (cf. Matthew 16:25-28; Mark 8:36-38; Philippians 3).

Being a Christian: The Unmistakably Transparent Life

For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.

And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind. But Paul said, I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner (Acts 26:21-26; ESV).”

Next, Paul was able to speak boldly before these men because his life provided not only a proper defense to his case, but it also provided a powerful testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Essentially, he tells them to evaluate his life presently against his former one, and then continue to evaluate his life as God continues to make him more like Jesus. Jesus taught in synagogues, healed and feed multitudes, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and raised from the dead openly (John 18:19-21).

Being a Christian: The Unavoidably Confrontational Life

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe. And Agrippa said to Paul, In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian? And Paul said, Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I amexcept for these chains (Acts 26:27-29; ESV).”

Lastly, Paul leaves king Agrippa with only one of two options, either follow Christ or not. Pastor Carter emphatically declares that there is no almost in the Christian life, because an almost Christian is no Christian at all. Therefore, Paul confronts Fetus, those present, and especially king Agrippa with the Gospel that transforms, exposes and convicts sinners, considering this is the only means by which the dead could alive in Christ to live life pleasing unto God (cf. Romans 12:1-2, 14:18; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 1:10).

What does your life look like?

Before Christ, Paul was religious, zealous and sincere, but he was wrong! Once Paul realized Jesus was indeed raised as the Scriptures promised, his life could not remain the same. He began to understand more clearly the error and futility of trying to live apart from the grace and mercy found only in Jesus Christ; and this informed the way he lived and spoke in light of the Truth (cf. Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; John 1:17, 3:21, 4:23-24, 8:32, 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christ makes the difference!

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Paul Appeals to Caesar (Acts 25:1-27)

September 16, 2015

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 reminds the Christian to preserve in the midst of trouble by understanding that Christ will prove Himself victorious over all His enemies in the end. Pastor Duncanson provided a vivid portrait of God’s providential care for His people while they wait on Him to fulfill His precious promises. The focus of this sermon is on the active hand of God working, while Paul was waiting on Him to prepare the way for Rome.

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Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalembecause they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. So, said he, let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.

After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove (Acts 25:1-6;ESV).

The Jews had a new plan with a new tribunal, after their first attempt to ambush Paul about two years prior. However, what they failed to realize is the God whom Paul testified about was the One who was actively working to keep them from harming Paul (cf. Daniel 3; Acts 4:1-22). In other words, what these men failed to understand is when God makes a promise to His people, He protects and secures them from any danger or anything that would seek to stop His purposes and plans (cf. Exodus 13:17-22, 14:1-31).

God, the Promise Keeper: He Provides for His People

Paul argued in his defense, Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense. But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me? But Paul said, I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:8-11; ESV).”

Although the promises of God do not necessarily lessen the stresses, hardships, and difficulties faced in this life, they do strengthen those who trust in Him as they wait on God to continually show Himself faithful. In fact, Pastor Duncanson credits God’s promises to the reason Paul was able to give such a bold defense to Fetus and the new tribunal, considering Paul was more concerned with defending or guarding the Gospel entrusted to him by God than he was about self-preservation (cf. 1 Peter 3:13-17). Paul was able to give a faithful defense about Christ, because he was convinced about the faithfulness of God in Christ Jesus.

What does your self-defense look like?

In the midst of waiting, God protects His people from harm. More importantly, His protection is rooted in His promises towards His people, to never leave them nor forsake them despite any opposition, suffering or affliction caused by those who oppose God (cf. Psalm 121; Romans 8:31-39). The people of God can rest securely in the promises of God because they are the foundation by which we stand or fall, and no one or nothing can frustrate what the Lord has determined to do (cf. Genesis 3:15, 50:19-21; Psalm 135).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Paul’s Defense to Felix (Acts 24:1-27)

September 9, 2015

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 calls for a reevaluation of God’s promises opposed to the notions of the world or the good life apart from Jesus Christ. Pastor Carter admonishes and encourages both believers and unbelievers to carefully consider the dual nature of the Gospel, which is comprised of God’s grace to forgive sinners and grant them power to walk faithfully before Him. The focus of this sermon is on the irony of Paul’s defense to Felix, where he preached the righteousness of God, restraint in God, and retribution by God.

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And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:

Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day (Acts 24:10-21;ESV).

Tertullus spoke with flattery and falsely accused Paul, but Paul responded with a good conscious before both God and man. Pastor Carter describes the righteousness of God as doing and being right. In other words, one must understand that there is a standard way of living, thinking and speaking in a right way, particularly, according to the Word of God and God’s way.

The Restraint in God

After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you. At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him (Acts 24:24-26; ESV).”

Not only was the righteousness of God foreign to Felix and his wife Drusilla, but they were also ignorant of God’s restraint in patiently enduring their sin and the spiritual fruit of self-control or Spirit-filled-restraint. Paul rightly understood the great danger in lacking self-control as a follower of Christ (cf. Exodus 20:10-13; Judges 16:18-22; 2 Samuel 12:7-15; 1 Kings 11:1-23; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). In fact, Paul often in his letters reproves and exhorts believers to remember the grace of God saves sinners and teaches them to live godly, self-controlled lives unlike the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 5:16-26; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; 1 Timothy 2:8-15, 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:6-7, 3:1-9; Titus 2:1-14).

The Retribution by God

And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against PaulBut Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case. Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs (Acts 24:1,23; ESV).”

Ironically, although Felix was in a position to adjudicate Paul’s case, Paul reminds Felix that he too would stand before the Christ to whom Paul was testifying of in his trial (cf. Pilate and Jesus, John 18:33-39). Felix trembled, even feared what he heard, but unfortunately that is all he did. He knew all about Jesus Christ, His teachings, disciples, and so forth, but he never knew Christ; he heard without truly hearing (cf. Isaiah 6:8-10, 29:13-14; Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7).

Why do you come hear the Word of Christ today?

When you stand before God, He will not be concerned with hearing about your righteousness, because you have none. The only righteousness He requires you can’t and don’t, but must have. The righteousness of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, who actively entrusted Himself to God the Father to the point of death, in order to not only save His people from His eternal retribution, but also to shape them into His likeness by freeing the from power of sin to live faithfully and righteously before their God (cf. Exodus 20:1-21; Romans 6, 12:1-2; Philippians 2:1-17).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

A Great Deliverance (Acts 23:23-35)

September 2, 2015

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 serves as a reminder to the providential care of God towards His people. Pastor Carter encourages believers to carefully consider the promises of God and His powerful hand in rescuing and securing them despite great opposition. The focus of this sermon is on observing the key elements of a great deliverance as seen in this account with Paul being transported to Caesarea, namely, a great distress, Deliverer, and design.

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Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him (Acts 23:26-30;ESV).

The greatness of the danger provides an opportunity for a glorious deliverance. Pastor Carter highlights how strategic the Jews were in their planning, in the place they prepared for the Apostle Paul, and in the power they had to carry out their evil desires, but they failed to realize they were not simply contending with man, they were blatantly seeking to thwart the will of God (cf. Numbers 23; Psalm 2; Acts 5:33-39). God loves to deliver when the odds are stacked against His people, because in those times He is more than able to show Himself as the Great Deliverer.

A Great Deliverer

Then he called two of the centurions and said, Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor (Acts 23:23, 24; ESV).”

Claudius Lysias, the Roman Tribune, called a total of 470 soldiers (i.e. 200 foot soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen) to escort 1 man to Caesarea. Lysias thought he was delivering Paul from the hands of his accusers with his great army. In fact, he delighted in taking credit for the things God had done, but it was God who providentially arranged Paul’s escape, from sending his nephew to hear about the plot against his life at the appointed time to providing more than enough protection to get Paul to Rome for the sake of the Gospel (cf. Joshua 2; Daniel 3:8-30; Acts 12:6-19, 16:16-34; Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:3-5).

A Great Design

So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive. And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium (Acts 23:6-10; ESV).”

The greatness in God’s deliverance of His people is found in the fact He has a purpose and plan. God delivered Paul from the hands of his accusers in order to accomplish His plan to send Paul to Rome with the Gospel in his head, heart, and hands. The Lord Jesus said the time was coming and now is when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him (John 4:21-26).

Do realize how gracious the Lord has been to you?

God does not just save and deliver for our sake. He saves and delivers His chosen people from being bound by the dominating power of sin to restore their worship to the true God and revive their spirits to witness of His great deliverance throughout the nations (cf. Exodus 7:16, 8:1, 20, 9:1, 13, 10:3, 13:17; Acts 26:12-18). Therefore, the Lord choses to deliver greatly with two purposes in mind, the salvation of His chosen people and the surpassing glory due Him for His wondrous deeds done throughout creation (cf. Romans 8:18-30, 11:36).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Keep Calm, God is in Control (Acts 23:10-22)

August 26, 2015

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 explores the significance of knowing God in Christ. Pastor Carter demonstrates the faithfulness of Christ in preserving His saints. The focus of this sermon is on understanding where God is in the midst of trouble by focusing on His Presence, Promises, and Providence.

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The Presence of God

And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

The following night the Lord stood by him(Acts 23:10-11;ESV).

Pastor Carter reminds us from this text that God is present in the midst of the storm. The Lord encouraged Paul in a time where discouragement and depression could have overwhelmed. The Lord stood beside Paul even when it seem as though he had to endure these afflictions (cf. Psalm 34:19).

The Promises of God

“…and said, Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome. (Acts 23:11; ESV).”

Not only does the Lord show up stand alongside Paul, but He also comes with His promise to deliver Paul and send him on another assignment. Pastor Carter argues that there is no greater encouragement than the promises of God, especially in times of great distress, frustration, headache, and heartache. The Word Paul received was backed by the power of God and presence of God.

The Providence of God

When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.

Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul (Acts 23:12-16; ESV).”

What God promises, He provides. He doesn’t need Paul or anyone else to keep His promises for Him. Unbeknownst to Paul and the Jews, the Lord had provided a way for Paul to escape to fulfill the mission He planned and purposed beforehand.

Do you know where the peace of God comes from?

The storms of life are brought about by our own sin, the sins of others, and seeking to be faithful to Christ in a sinful world. Although these were distressing days for Paul, he realized in the midst of the storm, God had never left him alone. For the peace of God comes when we know nothing happens unless God ordains it to be so and nothing will frustrate His plans (cf. Psalm 2; Proverbs 21:30).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Between Two Worlds (Acts 22:22-23:11)

August 19, 2015

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 the struggle of navigating between the world and the Kingdom of God. Pastor Carter exhorts the Christian to be faithful citizens of their country, while also realizing that citizenship is subservient to and to be used for the furtherance of their citizenship in Heaven. The focus of this sermon is on examining how the conflicting citizenships, attitudes and doctrines Paul encounters in this account.

Conflicting Citizenships

Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live. And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned? When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen. So the tribune came and said to him, Tell me, are you a Roman citizen? And he said, Yes. The tribune answered, I bought this citizenship for a large sum. Paul said, But I am a citizen by birth. So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him (Acts 22:22-29;ESV).

Before when Paul was talking to the Jews, he asserts he was a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Now, he asserts, to save himself, that he is a citizen of the kingdom of Rome. Paul was not afraid to beaten, considering he had received violent physical encounters before, but he had never experienced the agonizing whipping of the Roman tribune (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

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Conflicting Attitudes

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck? Those who stood by said, Would you revile God’s high priest? And Paul said, I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people (Acts 23:1-5; ESV).”

When Paul was wrongful attack for his speech, he responds to the violence of the high priest with violent words, which seem odd that he would do so after what he wrote to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:13). However, Pastor Carter highlights the difference of Paul’s attitude once he realized that he did not belong to this world, he belonged to Christ. In other words, Paul regrets what he said, when he realized what he said?

Conflicting Doctrines

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial. And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees ‘party stood up and contended sharply, We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him? And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks (Acts 23:6-10; ESV).”

The Pharisees and Sadducees did not agree on many things, but the one thing they had in common is their disdain for Jesus and His disciples. With this in mind, Paul used the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the platform to cause these two parties to really wrestle with the real issue, namely, did Christ rise from the dead? For this reason, Paul and all Christ followers have to faithful navigate between the two worlds with the hope and contentment that God gives in the resurrection of Christ.

Does your life reflecting the resurrecting power of the Gospel?

You never really understand how much a citizen of this world you are until the world pushes you. The resurrection of Jesus Christ governs every decision we make everyday; and is the foundation and motivation of everything in life (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). Our citizenship of this world is to be used for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

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The Testimony of Paul (Acts 21:37-22:17)

August 12, 2015

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 details the impact of a Christ-exalting conversion account. Pastor Duncanson labors the point that an individual must experience a personal encounter with Christ in order to be saved and actively follow the Savior. The focus of this sermon is on four instructive aspects of the Apostle Paul’s testimony, which were Pre-Conversion, Pronunciation, Permutation, and Permeation.

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Pre-Conversion: Before Conversion

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:3-5;ESV).

Pastor Duncanson described a testimony as the public retelling or recounting of a conversion experience. Although Paul does not spend a great of time speaking of his life before Christ, he does establish common ground as a good way to share the Gospel. Notice Paul’s calm and peaceful demeanor in sharing the Gospel with his accusers, despite their violence, false accusations, and imprisonment, because he knew these experiences would provided him with opportunity to proclaim the goodness of God in Christ.

Pronunciation: The Call of Christ

As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And I answered, Who are you, Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting. Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me, Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do. And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus (Acts 22:6-11; ESV).”

The converting call of God is a personal and individual call (cf. John 10:2-3). This is illustrated by those who were with Paul on the road to Damascus, who both heard the voice and saw the light from heaven, but they did not understand nor receive a personal call to salvation. God the Father calls sinners by name, God the Son saves sinners by His death and resurrection, and God the Holy Spirit secures sinners by making God known to them personally (cf. Romans 8:29-30).

Permutation: The Conversion

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, Brother Saul, receive your sight. And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him (Acts 22:12-13; ESV).”

Pastor Duncanson explains the change in the why of Paul’s teaching and living as the work of the Holy Spirit opening his eyes and ears to hear Christ and follow Him (cf. John 16:4-15). Paul demonstrated that a conversion must take place in order to see, hear, and believe in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, like the men who accompanied him on the road, Paul would have continued to persecute Christians thinking he was doing the right thing (cf. Galatians 1:11-24; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).

Permeation: Saved & Sent to Share the Gospel

And he said, The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name (Acts 22:14-16; ESV).”

By being baptized, Paul showed that he wanted to be obedient to the Word of God and to be identified with a different community than he affiliated with previously (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Likewise, after Paul received the call and conversion of Christ, he was given a mission not to be simply saved sit around waiting for Jesus to return, but to live faithfully for Jesus by giving his entire life to make Him known. In other words, he was saved to speak of Jesus and the Gospel and tell of what God in Christ had done and continued to do for him.

When sharing your testimony, do people leave the encounter making much of you or of Christ?

If your testimony is much to do about you, it is not much of a Christian testimony. To have a testimony of conversion is to have a clear understanding of who you were before Christ and seeing your need of a Savior. The only way you can come to this these conclusions is being drawn by the Father by the Son and converted by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:1-21).

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The Arrest of Paul (Acts 21:27-36)

August 5, 2015

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 the transformative power of the Gospel. Pastor Duncanson illustrates the significance of suffering for Christ’s sake by comparing Paul’s abiding trust in the Lord to Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane. The focus of this sermon is on how the Gospel transforms, tests, and teaches sinners to trust in the Living God despite difficult, yet temporary afflictions.

20140311-184658.jpgThe Gospel Transforms Sinners into Saints

When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place. For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple (Acts 21:27-29;ESV).

Pastor Duncanson emphasizes how the transformative power of the Gospel was demonstrated in Paul’s conversion from persecuting Christians to becoming a faithful follower of Christ. In fact, apart from the grace and mercy of Christ, Paul would have been a part of this angry mob, which sought to kill him (cf. Acts 6:8-15, 8:1). Much like Jesus, Paul was falsely accused and persecuted by the religious leaders in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 23).

The Gospel Tests Sinners with Tribulation

Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done (Acts 21:30-33; ESV).”

The Jews were not able to capture Paul in Ephesus, which was primarily comprised of Gentiles, whereas in Jerusalem they seized this opportunity by bringing false charges against him collectively. Pastor Duncanson extinguished any false ideas that Paul was suffering because of his past life as a persecutor. Instead, Paul was willing to suffer because he desired to follow in the footsteps of his Savior, while also fulfilling the prophecy he received before coming to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 20:22-23, 21:10-14).

The Gospel Teaches Sinners to Trust in God

Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, Away with him (Acts 21:34-36; ESV).”

Not only does the Gospel transform sinners into saints and test them with tribulation, but the Gospel also teaches sinners to trust in the purposes and plans of God. How could Paul on the brink of death and in the midst of a hostile experience such as this, experience such peace and calmness (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6)? In the Gospel, Paul could face death without reserve knowing he was saved from the eternal wrath of God, since Christ bore his sins on the cross.

Do you see your suffering in light of the Gospel?

Paul was never more like Jesus, than when he suffered like Jesus (cf. 2 Timothy 2:11-13). It is in suffering for righteousness sake that Paul demonstrates for us that he had been transformed by the Gospel and was being conformed to the image of Christ. When we endure persecutions, tribulations, and even death for Christ’s sake, we demonstrate that we have been transformed by the power of the Gospel (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

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Glad to be Home (Acts 21:17-26)

July 29, 2015

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 the grace of God in the community of believers. Pastor Carter encourages us to be most thankful for the mutual fellowship in the Lord. The focus of this sermon is on the expressions of gratitude, evidences of Gods grace, and examples of love amongst the believers in Jerusalem.

The Expressions of Gratitude & Evidences of Gods Grace

20140311-184658.jpgWhen we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. (Acts 21:17-25;ESV).

The believers in Jerusalem were thankful to see their brothers, because the fellowship of believers would be one of thanksgiving. For this reason, Pastor Carter emphasized the importance and necessity of actively participating in the fellowship of the Spirit among the saints. Moreover, rather than focusing on the things Paul suffered prior to his coming to Jerusalem, he spent his time talking about the goodness of God and rehearsing the evidences of God’s grace, one by one.

The Examples of Love

And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them (Acts 26:16; ESV).”

Jerusalem was a church primarily comprised of Jewish converts. There was great potential for division based on rumors of Paul’s teaching among the Gentiles, so James asks a big request, namely, to live publically as a Jew in Jerusalem. Although Paul had every right to decline, he understood that love does not have to be right, right now by willing to oblige to this request and patiently give the believers in Jerusalem time to have a better understanding of the Gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).

Are you able to see evidences of Gods grace in your life?

Everyday you should be looking for evidences of God’s grace in your live, because the Lord is actively working in and through it. There are always problems, but we ought to focus on what God has done. The love of the God the Father was displayed in the self-sacrificing ministry of Jesus Christ, and this love for us should compel us to endure well, because those who are in Christ are going to home He has prepared from them.

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