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Open Minds, Hearts, Ears (Acts 17:10-15)

March 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 brings to light the redemptive plan of God. Pastor Carter attests to the goodness of God in accomplishing His plans for His glory and the good of His people. The focus of this sermon is on the Goodness of God to send His Word and the faithfulness of God to save some in Berea.

The Goodness of God: The Son Sent

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:10-11;ESV).

No sooner than Paul and Silas had ministered in Thessalonica, they had to prepare to leave this city abruptly due to the opposition developing (cf. Acts 17:1-9). God had other plans for Paul and Silas in a small city called Berea, despite the opposition. Truly, Berea did not have the notoriety of the larger cities such as Corinth, Thessalonica or Philippi, yet God sent these men to proclaim the necessity and sufficiency of Jesus the Messiah. Surprisingly, the believers in Berea received the Word sent to them concerning Christ by these missionaries with gladness while considering whether what they heard and saw corresponds with the Scriptures.

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The Faithfulness of God: The Son Received

Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed (Acts 17:12-15; ESV).”

Those, to whom God opened ears and minds, received opened hearts. Pastor Carter explains the folly of receiving a lot of information in your mind, but the information received does not change your heart (cf. Luke 24:25-32; John 13:17; James 1:22-25). In other words, the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings life to those who hear (John 5:24-25). In the Kingdom of God, there is no distinction (Galatians 3:27-29). Whether you find yourself in high standing or low standing economically, socially, cognitively, or emotionally, all need to hear the Gospel of Christ and receive Him as their only hope for salvation.

Have you received Jesus Christ?

Through the Word of God, the Spirit of God reveals to the people of God the glories of the Son of God (John 15:24-27). You can search the Scriptures for many things, but if that searching does not point to your need of Jesus the Christ, your searching is in vain (John 5:36-47). When Jesus comes into you life, you can never be the same (Acts 9:1-30, 22:1-22, 26:1-20; 1 Corinthians 15; Galatians 1).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

The Priority of Preaching Christ (Acts 17:1-9)

February 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 unveils the mystery of the Gospel. Pastor Carter makes the clear the priority of preaching Christ. The focus of this sermon is on Paul’s preaching Christ in the synagogue to the result of some being persuaded while others were perturbed.

Pauls Preaching: The Necessity & Sufficiency of Christ

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ. (Acts 17:1-3;ESV).

Pastor Carter explains the two main reasons for preaching Christ. The first reason is the necessity of Christ to suffer on the behalf of sinners and rise from the dead for their reconciliation (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 5). If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then preaching His death is meaningless (1 Corinthians 15). The second reason for preaching Christ is the sufficiency of Jesus to satisfy. Since Jesus is the promised suffering and risen King, believers can suffer well for Christ, knowing that He is able to restore whatever they lose for His sake (Mark 10:17-31; John 6:60-71).

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The Result: Some Persuaded, Others Perturbed

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus. And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go (Acts 17:4-9; ESV).”

The goal of preaching Christ from all of Scripture is persuade men and women that Jesus is the Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:11). Paul and Silas were willing to speak up for Jesus. In doing so, while some were persuaded, others were perturbed seeking to silence Paul and Silas. Jesus turned the world upside through His life, teaching, death and resurrection (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6:20-49; Colossians 2:15). Similarly, those who follow Jesus will also upset the world by following His life, teaching, death and resurrection (John 15).

Do you see your need of Jesus?

Every human heart is looking for Jesus, whether we know it or not. People offer many alternatives to the Gospel, but these alternatives do not satisfy. We must settle in our hearts the necessity and sufficiency of Jesus, there is no substitute (John 6:39-47).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Suffering Well for Christ (Acts 16:19-40)

February 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 reflects on the steadfastness of God to save sinners. Pastor Duncanson explains why suffering is a means of grace for the Christian. The focus of this sermon is on how Paul and Silas suffer well in their imprisonment while Christ prepares the way to save the lost Philippian jailer.

Paul and Silas Suffer Well

But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice. The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks (Acts 16:19-24;ESV).

Pastor Duncanson begins with the question, “Does persecution in this world surprise you as a follower of Jesus Christ?” Perhaps. Paul and Silas had come to the city of Philippi ready to make Christ known with their lives or in their deaths. They understood, as follower of the Way, eventually the world would soon spurn the Gospel regardless of the fact that a slave girl was delivered from the fires of Hell (cf. John 15:20). However, Paul and Silas endured their hardship as good soldiers entrusting themselves in the wisdom of God to reveal His purposes in His timing (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; 2 Timothy 2:3-10).

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Christ Saves the Philippian Jailer

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here. And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God (Acts 16:16-18; ESV).”

Paul and Silas gave a faithful example for the Christian facing hardships. Christ does not only provide an example, He provides the means for salvation. First, He prepares the heart of the Philippian jailer through an earthquake, bringing him to the end of himself. Then, He sends His messengers to comfort this jailer with good news, namely, while they saved him from physical death, Jesus has the power to save him and his household from spiritual death. How quickly the circumstances changed for Paul and Silas, who as ambassadors for Christ, went into the prison to free a lost jailer and his household from the slavery of sin (cf. John 8)?

Why do things change so quickly?

The faith-filled life of the Christian in this sin-filled world will be one of tribulation (Matthew 10:16-25). The goal of the Christian life is for the Christian to become more like Jesus Christ through the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering and being conformed into His death (Philippians 3:10). The death of Christians often brings life to others as the death of Christ brings life to all who trust in Him (John 3:15-21; 2 Corinthians 4). With this in mind, Christ will judge those who have persecuted and oppressed His people unjustly in this world (Jude 5).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Two Salvations, One Savior (Acts 16:11-18)

February 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 considers the unity in the midst of diversity. Pastor Carter makes evident the inescapable truth, namely, Jesus Christ is the only Way to Salvation (John 14:6). The focus of this sermon is on the mercy of Christ to save a woman from self-confidence and a slave girl from Satans control.

Lydia: Saved from Self-Confidence

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. And she prevailed upon us (Acts 16:11-15;ESV).

By all outward signs, Lydia seemed as though she was doing quite well for herself. She had wealth and prestige, especially having such within a male dominated culture, which would naturally make her self-confident. Likewise, she was spiritual, even religiously attended prayer meetings with the woman who came together. But when she heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ she learned she was lost despite her outward appearances. Pastor Carter places emphasis on the grace of God to give Lydia ears to hear Jesus, not merely Paul and the missionaries. She recognized that having great possessions plus being spiritual means absolutely nothing apart from the salvation of Christ (cf. Matthew 19:16-30).

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Slave Girl: Saved from Satans Control

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation. And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour (Acts 16:16-18; ESV).”

Unlike Lydia who owned property, Paul and his fellow missionaries, meet a slave girl who was property. She had no name, she was not her own, but most distressing of all, she was possessed by Satan. Nonetheless, God did not leave her in the power of Satan (Colossians 1:13). Nor does God leave her nameless. When He rescues from the kingdom of darkness, He gives those who receive Christ a new name and place among those who are sanctified by faith in Him (John 1:12, 14:2-3; Acts 26:15-18; Revelation 3:12).

Do you know Jesus the Christ?

The road to Hell does not discriminate (Psalm 9:17-20). Accordingly, the Grace of God has no respecter of person either. Jesus Christ can come anytime, anywhere, and to anyone according to His Will, for He is the only One who can open eyes and ears, and soften hard hearts (Matthew 11:25-30).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

God’s Helping and God’s Hindering (Acts 16:1-10)

January 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 unveils the will of God for His chosen people. Pastor Carter testifies of God’s sovereignty and goodness even when His Will seems obscure. The focus of this sermon is on goodness of God to send Paul a helper to provide comfort and the Helper to provide counsel.

Comfort: God sends Timothy

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily (Acts 16:1-5;ESV).

Perhaps the loss of John Mark was a little more distressing than Paul anticipated. Thankfully, God is good in that He looks past our faults to see our needs. In doing so, God sends Paul another young man to assist in the ministry named, Timothy, who had good name among the believers in Lystra for his zeal in the Lord. Pastor Carter explains that in this moment, Paul must have been overjoyed to have another young companion who willfully submitted unto and accompanied him in the work of Lord. However, Paul could have easily become lofty due to the success he received from the Lord, until the Lord humbled him and his companions with loving counsel (cf. Romans 12:3).

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Counsel: God Sends the Holy Spirit

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us. And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:6-10; ESV).”

Paul and his companions sought to take the Gospel to Asia and Bithynia, but God the Holy Spirit said no. The Lord was more concern with helping these men understand their need of Him rather than His need of them (Psalm 50:7-15). Nonetheless, after receiving a hard no, Paul received a hearty yes through a vision from God the Holy Spirit to take the Gospel to the Macedonians with a grateful heart. God, being a loving Father, even when He says no, is preparing them for a glorious yes. If God had not said no to Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, we would not have heard the angels say, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said…go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead” (cf. Matthew 26:36-46, 27:37-44, 28:1-10).

What do you have that you have not received?

The goal of God is not so much to fulfill our will, but to bend us and mold us into His will (Ephesians 1:11). He is always setting the agenda and He delights in providing for His children, for He is not an absentee Father (Psalm 84:11-12).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

The Power of God and Human Weakness (Acts 15:36-41)

January 22, 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 why division and dissension is of the flesh. Pastor Carter poignantly testifies of God’s Sovereignty even the midst of sinful humanity. The focus of this sermon is on the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, on whose account we were able to see the weakness of humanity and the power of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Weakness of Humanity: The Human Heart

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are. Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other (Acts 15:36-39;ESV).

Paul and Barnabas had enjoyed the joys and pains of ministry together. However, the sin of John Mark provoked these ministry mates to sharply disagree with one another, resulting regrettably in a split between them (cf. Genesis 3). On other hand, Mark was not alone in his immaturity, the weakness of both the young Apostle Paul and Barnabas whose hard-heartedness caused them to divorce from one another (cf. Matthew 19:6-8).

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The Power of God: The Gospel of Jesus Christ

“…Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:39-41; ESV).”

The amazing thing is Paul and Barnabas were the ones who took the letter of unity to the Gentiles to encourage them in the Lord, and yet they were seemingly unable to find in the Gospel the power they preached to others (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Perhaps, Paul felt strongly about Mark being disciplined for his immaturity, while Barnabas saw an opportunity for discipleship. In contrast, Paul was unforgiving with Mark and Barnabas was blinded by his giftedness to the point where he was unwilling to discipline Mark when necessary. Fortunately, God’s mission was sovereign over the sinfulness of men, even the best of men (Psalm 39:5; Jeremiah 17:5-11). The Word of the Lord not only strengthened the churches through these new relationships, but also the power of God commended Paul, Barnabas and Mark to reconcile their differences and work together again for the gospel’s sake (cf. Luke 18:26-30, 21:31-32; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24).

Do we believe in the power of the Gospel?

Our sin and weakness is no match for the power of God. He is able to bring beauty from ashes, give life to dead men and women, and save the ungodly. When you are at your worse God is still at His best. He sent His Word into the world and overcame the world despite the sinfulness of the world, because sinners do not frustrate His plan.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

Hymn Writers and Their Hymns: John Newton – ‘Tis A Point

January 20, 2015

‘Tis A Point I Long to Know

In Kent and Barbara Hughes’ Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, chapter five is a reflection on John 21 to show how success in ministry requires loving Jesus. In this chapter, they refresh the scene of the Risen Christ asking Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”. Can you imagine what must have been going on inside Peter? Just two weeks earlier, on the eve of the crucifixion, he had three times denied any knowledge of Jesus and after realizing what he had done, wept bitterly. And now Jesus, greeting him in peace, asks Peter if he loves him and Peter is grieved.

So it is when we confess our noble beliefs but careful examination of our lives proves otherwise. It brings grief. It happens to all of us. Without spoiling Joshua’s sermon summery, last Sunday Pastor Carter expounded on Acts 15:36-41 and we observed that though Paul and Barnabas preached a message of reconciliation founded on Christ’s love for sinners, they here have a “sharp disagreement” and go separate ways. “The best of men are men at best”.

Kent Hughes shares a spiritual exercise he developed to help him stay committed to loving Jesus as he confesses. He imagines himself being in Peters shoes with the disciples in John 21 when Jesus looks at him in the eyes and asks, “Kent, do you love me?”

John Newton did a similar exercise when writing a hymn for his sermon on this passage:

‘Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?

If I love, why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard his name!

Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove,
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Savior’s love?

When I turn my eyes within,
All is dark and, vain and wild,
Filled with unbelief and sin,
Can I deem myself a child?

If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do;
You who love the Lord indeed,
Tell me, is it thus with you?

Yet I mourn my stubborn will,
Find my sin a grief and thrall;
Should I grieve at what I feel,
If I did not love at all?

Could I joy his saints to meet,
Choose the ways I once abhorred,
Find at times the promise sweet,
If I did not love the Lord?

Lord, decide this doubtful case!
Thou who art the people’s sun,
Since upon thy work of grace,
If indeed it be begun.

Let me love thee more and more,
If I love at all, I’ll pray,
If I have not loved before,
Help me to begin today.

Newton did not write his hymns detached from personal familiarity. He referred to his hymns as, “the fruit and expression of his own experience.” A common understanding of meditation today is that it is an exercise of emptying your mind; however, Tim Keller says that meditation is the act of thinking a truth in [into your heart] and then thinking it out [thinking out the implications of this truth for your life]. That is what hymns help us do as they take their theme and turn it over and let us gaze upon it, often suggesting ways in which this truth should change our lives.

Another example of this is Newton’s How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds. There are notes from Newton’s sermon the day he introduced this hymn to his congregation and it reveals that his sermon text was from Song of Solomon 1:3, “Thy Name is as ointment poured forth.” As he meditated on that text all week he saw its fulfillment in Jesus and the implication for the hardships of the Christian’s life. When was the last time you got that much out of meditating on Song of Solomon 1:3?!

What amazing grace we have when we don’t have to love Jesus perfectly for Jesus to love us back!

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