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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.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

No Turning Back (Acts 21:1-16)

July 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 exhorts followers of Christ to faithfully endure until their Lord returns. Pastor Carter reminds the Christian of the importance of persevering in the faith. The focus of this sermon is on how the Spirit of God speaks through His servant Paul in the Promise of Persecution and the Power to Preserve.

The Promise of Persecution

20140311-184658.jpgAnd through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, Thus says the Holy Spirit, This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. ’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4b-12;ESV).

The Lord showed Paul’s friends what awaited him in Jerusalem and they sought to persuade him not to go. However, when the Holy Spirit makes a promise, He will keep His promise and He promised trouble to God’s people. Likewise, just as the Holy Spirit promises trials and tribulations, He also promises glory to those who faithful persevere to the end (cf. Matthew 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13; 2 Timothy 2:10, 12).

The Power to Persevere

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. ’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done (Acts 21:6-10; ESV).”

Despite the best intentions of his friends, Paul was determined to finish his course well for the Lord, even if that meant his death in Jerusalem. Pastor Carter describes perseverance as the means of going in the right direction despite the opposition. Therefore, just as Christ set His face toward Jerusalem, Paul was willing to actively obey the will of God rather than the persuasion of man.

Where does this courage come from?

The power to persevere comes from a person, who knows that God is real, and Jesus is not simply a historical figure in a storybook. Jesus Christ never lied or deceived His disciples. Instead, He prepared them for what they would face in this life by giving His Spirit to enable them to do what is naturally impossible for self-serving human beings.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

A Faithful Farewell (Acts 20:13-38)

July 15, 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 illustrates the emotional experience of saying farewell. Pastor Duncanson explains the significance of setting a godly example in speech and conduct. The focus of this sermon is on three key lessons from Paul’s farewell address to the elders at Ephesus: self-deprivation, self-control, and self-sacrifice.

Self-Deprivation: Counting Your Life as Nothing

20140311-184658.jpgNow from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:

You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:17-24;ESV).

Paul was not a distant missionary to the Ephesian believers, he walked with those he lead; wept with them; and set an example for them with his speech and conduct. Thus, when he told them to count their lives as nothing, they knew this charge came from a man who lived out what he preached to others (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27). Once he had an encounter with the living God on the road to Damascus, He never turned back, as he considered the message and mission he had received from His Lord.

Self-Control: Declaring the Whole Counsel of God

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:25-27; ESV).”

A messenger or envoy often has the temptation of changing the message to make it more agreeable to the recipient, in order to avoid persecution or death. However, Paul reminded the Ephesian believers of his determination to teach them the whole counsel of God, regardless of any resulting consequences. He could do so because he realize that the Gospel message belonged to God, therefore, he had no right to alter it in any way.

Self-Sacrifice: Shepherding the Flock of God

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:28-32; ESV).”

Paul charged the elders in Ephesus to pay close attention to their lives. He also charged them to care for the flock lovingly, for this was the ministry to which they had been called. Above all, they needed to pay attention to their lives and care for the flock in order to protect them from them ravenous wolves by entrusting themselves to the grace of God.

Why should we count our life as lost?

When you count your life as nothing, you are able to persevere in the trials. Although Paul faced real persecution and tribulation, he counted his life as nothing, because he realized it was better to suffer with Christ than having a life without Christ or trials. Do you see your life as better in the midst of trials because of Jesus Christ?

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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