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 Satan’s 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).
Slave Girl: Saved from Satan’s 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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
‘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!
My Times Are In Thy Hands
Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795) was a well known and widely respected Baptist preacher throughout England. He began his preaching ministry at a church in Bourton-on-the-Water, England in 1740, and though he received invitations from churches elsewhere, he continued to preach at Bourton until his death. In 1749, he married Elizabeth Boswell who bore him three sons, but before pursuing Elizabeth, Beddome was one of the several bachelors whose marriage proposal was declined by Anne Steele. You can read his rather impressive Letter of Proposal here.
Like other preacher/hymn-writers, Beddome began writing hymns for the purpose of supplementing his sermons. His hymns were usually composed to be sung after he delivered his sermon. One of these hymns was, My Times Are In Thy Hands:
My times of sorrow and of joy,
Great God, are in thy hand;
My choicest comforts come from thee,
And go at thy command.
If thou should’st take them all away,
Yet would I not repine;
Before they were possessed by me,
They were entirely thine.
Now would I drop a murmuring word,
Though the whole world were gone,
But seek enduring happiness
In thee, and thee alone.
What is the world with all its store?
‘Tis a deceitful cheat;
When I attempt to pluck the rose,
A piercing thorn I meet.
Here perfect bliss can ne’er be found,
The honey’s mixed with gall;
Midst changing scenes and dying friends,
Be thou my all in all.
Beddome composed this hymn for his sermon on Psalm 11, a Psalm that expresses the confidence David had, even in times of crisis. In his hymn, he models for us a spirit of resignation, that whatever our fortune we would be pushed toward deeper contentment in God’s design. Though most of us aren’t threatened to be attacked by our enemies as we see David was, our faith nonetheless gets discouraged by the wicked. Matthew Henry advises that when we do have such thoughts, we can consider these six things:
- That there is a God in heaven.
- That this God governs the world.
- That this God perfectly knows every man’s true character.
- That, if he afflict good people, it is for their trial and therefore their good.
- That, however persecutors and oppressors may prosper and prevail awhile, they now lie under, and will forever perish under the wrath of God.
- That though honest good people may be run down, yet God does and will own them, and favor them, and that is the reason why God will severely reckon with persecutors and oppressors, because those whom they oppress and persecute are dear to him.
It has been said that the shaking of a tree makes it take deeper and faster root. As Charles Spurgeon said it, “The saints are chastened and the sinners are enriched: this is no small trial of faith.” It was in God’s providence that Beddome had prepared that Sunday’s message and composed this hymn, for he learned later that day that one of his sons, Benjamin, had just died of a fever.
Lester Ruth is currently the Research Professor of Christian Worship at Duke Divinity School. In doing a survey and comparison of the theological content between contemporary songs and hymns he makes the observation that hymns refer to the Christian life as being a journey; however, more modern songs create a sense of immediate fulfillment (i.e. we don’t sojourn, we arrive). One speculation he makes for this is, “Pilgrim’s Progress has been lost as the defining narrative for Christian experience” thus, without this narrative of pilgrimage in modern songs, a key element of discipleship is being missed.
I bring this up because I want us to see that many hymns exemplify a fuller range of a theological diet compared to many modern songs that are so popular today. I am not making a “hymns only” case. I more so desire to see the content of modern songs for the church meet and even exceed the depth and breadth of hymns because God is worthy and his people are hungry.
In meditating on Psalm 11 and singing this hymn, perhaps Beddome and his congregation were better prepared to face suffering and loss. Teaching and singing about these today may not grow your church number-wise, but it will grow your church.
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 expands on the declaration of the Jerusalem council. Pastor Carter contends for the declaration of integration, which states Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The focus of this sermon is on the three instructive elements (a Pronouncement of Unity, a Denouncement of Error, and an Encouragement to All) of the letter the Jerusalem council wrote to the Gentile believers.
Pronouncement of Unity
“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings (Acts 15:22-24;ESV).”
Ethical and racial lines should not divide the Church. Pastor Carter explains the significance of the Council addressing Gentile believers as brothers and sisters rather than strangers (cf. Leviticus 19:34). God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham to bring forth a Seed who would inherit the earth, who would be a blessing to the nations, namely, Jesus Christ (cf. Genesis 15; Galatians 3). Perhaps, the Council at this moment contemplated the faithfulness of God in sending His Eternal Son to conquer not with sword or spear, but by doing the unthinkable and unexpected, laying down His life to unite His people, a treacherous people, unto Himself (John 12:23-32; Ephesians 2:1-9). In other words, the Council realized that their brothers and sisters were not those who looked to Abraham, but looked through Abraham to see the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus and place their faith in Him alone (Matthew 12:46-50; John 5:39-47).
Denouncement of Error
“Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell (Acts 15:24-29; ESV).”
The greatest temptation to gospel proclamation is to complicate the Gospel with the philosophy and tradition of men (Colossians 2:6-23). Ironically, Jesus faced this same error in His ministry, when the religious men of His day elevated the tradition of men higher than the Word of God, to which these men laid heavy burdens on those who followed after them (cf. Matthew 15:1-14. 23:4, 13). Now, the Council had to address this same anti-Christ spirit in their letter to the Gentiles by warning these believers not to take heed to these false teachings, considering those who taught these things did not have any authority. Interestingly, in this letter the Council’s main concern was to not only rebuke these men who sought to sow discord among the body of Christ, but to make sure these Gentile believers were on one accord. In fact, to assure these believers of their unity in Christ, the Holy Spirit led them to send Paul and Barnabas, men who risked their lives to guard the good news of Jesus Christ, to deliver this letter personally.
Encouragement to All
“So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also (Acts 15:30-35; ESV).”
The Law of God is good, and if used lawfully it should humble sinners before the sheer holiness and righteousness of God (1 Timothy 1:7-17). Apart from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, humanity is left in a most miserable state, without hope, and under the wrath of God (John 3:36; 1 Corinthians 15). However, God being rich in mercy, sent Christ to die for sinners, raised Him from the dead, and gave all authority unto Him, so that all who place their trust in Him would inherit eternal life. This is amazing news for the Jews and Gentiles because Jesus has made a Way for them both to partake in His benefits. Therefore, these Gentile believers need not be dismayed or discouraged by those who are troubling them, but remember they too received the same Spirit, when they heard and believed His Word (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Do you have Jesus Christ?
The great deception is to equate our preferences, opinions, and traditions to the Word of God. By doing so, we not only deceive ourselves, we offer men and women the bread of deceit, a gospel without the power to save, instead of the Bread of Life (Proverbs 20:17). If the Gospel we preach is not one that declares humanity’s need of a risen Christ who continues to unite His followers through the proclamation of His Word and the power of His Spirit, we are blind to the Truth and lead others to fall in the ditch of hell fire (cf. Matthew 15:12-14; Galatians 1:3-12).
Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.
Reflecting on the Passage:
This week’s sermon brings in the New Year pointing resolutely to Christ. Pastor Duncanson encourages believers to strive to be better Christians this year. The aim of this sermon is to help the Christian become better Christian by understanding their Source of Strength, the Subtly of Sin, and the Supremacy of Love.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4;ESV).”
The tendency and temptation for the follower of Christ is to place too much focus on earthly matters, such as current circumstances rather than continually fixing their eyes upon their glorious Savior. Christ used Paul mightily throughout his epistles to remind believers of their baptism in Christ (Romans 6:4). Christ took their sin, nailed it to the cross, so that all who believe in Him can now experience new life in Him and all of the benefits that accompany this heavenly union (Colossians 2:13-15). However, familiarity often breeds neglect. In most cases, it results in believers falsely believing they no longer have to wrestle with sin.
Subtly of Sin: Put to Death Sin
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:5-11;ESV).”
Pastor Duncanson passionately contends, if a Christian wants to be a better Christian, they cannot allow sin to run rampant in his or her life. He gave two prescriptions from Scripture as to how to put sin to death. First, the Christian must fight against sin (both hidden and blatant), honestly, immediately, ruthlessly and consistently (cf. Matthew 5:29-30; Romans 13:14; Hebrews 12:1). Secondly, the Christian must put on the Lord Jesus Christ by trusting in His Word. Christ says He has set them free (John 8). More importantly, because of He has laid His life down for His people, they need not fear His displeasure when they fall, His mercy awaits them because they are His (cf. John 17).
Supremacy of Love: Put on Love
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:12-17;ESV).”
The great mystery of the Gospel is the love of God to an undeserving and unlovely people (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Luke 6:35). Similarly, as the Christian understands their union with Christ and their sinfulness apart from Him, they began to see this love is the reason why the peace of Christ rules in their hearts. Christ is a faithful, loving, generous, King, who does not abandon His people, instead He allows them to partake in His royal provision (Colossians 2:2-3). He gives them a new name and a new life. The life they now live is one they have by an increasing love for God and a love for others, especially those who bear His Name (John 13:12-17, 14:1-4, 15:7-27; Revelation 3:12).
Does your life testify that you are a Christian?
If you are a follower of Christ, in 2015, you ought to resolve to be a better Christian. Fix your eyes upon Christ this year to walk worthy of His calling by renewing your affections for Him, ruthlessly dealing with sin, and resolving to display His love toward others, especially those who are fellow-heirs of Christ.
Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.