SESSION 29 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

A review of our sessions thus far can be found in my previous posts on my blog, fromdeathtolife.wordpress.com.

Acts 18

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “Knowing the Way of God More Accurately.” What a difference it makes!

Verses 1-3 — After Paul spoke at the Areopagus, he left Athens and went to Corinth. He was still ministering alone.

And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus in Turkey, and his wife, Priscilla. He had been living in Rome, but the Jews had just been forced to leave, by the Edict of Claudius. So Paul came to them.

They were tentmakers, and that was Paul’s trade, so he stayed and worked with them.

Verse 4 — As usual, Paul reasoned from the scriptures in the synagogue every Sabbath, persuading the Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. My NASB says, “trying to persuade,” but that is not in the original Greek. He was more successful than the NASB editors were willing to agree upon. Hmmm!

Verse 5 — Paul had to work for wages, in order to live. But now, here came Silas and Timothy, from Macedonia. And suddenly, Paul was able to devote himself completely to the word (the Gospel and its proclamation), testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Why was he suddenly able?

Silas and Timothy brought offerings! Look at what he writes later, to the church he planted at Corinth —

2Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by  taking wages from them to serve you; 9 and when I was present with you and was in need, I was  not a burden to anyone; for when  the brethren came from  Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from  being a burden to you,  and will continue to do so.

So, now Paul no longer needed to work at tent-making, and was able to devote himself full-time to spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Oh, beloved, that is why we need to give to missions, and properly supply our pastors financially —

1Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11  If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

Verse 6 — Some of the Jews to whom Paul testified resisted and blasphemed. So he shook out his garments (for their rejection of the Gospel) and said, Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.

What did Paul mean about blood on their own heads? This —

Ezekiel 33:7   “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a  message from My mouth and give them  warning from Me. 8 “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. 9 “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.

Verse 7 — Then he left and went to Titius Justus’ home, which was right next door to the synagogue. He was a worshiper of God (a Roman convert to Judaism). His personal name, given by his parents, was Gaius. You can read more about him in Romans 16:23.

Verse 8 — Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, along with his whole household. Because he was so well known, many of the Corinthians, were believing and being baptized, when they heard of Crispus’ had become a believer into Jesus Christ!

Beloved, believing into Christ creates such an immediate and visible change in us that simply converting to Christianity is enough to convince others that Jesus is the Christ, and they repent of their sins and believe! Have you experienced that immediate and visible change?

Verses 9-10 — And the Lord encouraged Paul! In a night vision, He said, Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.

How wonderful those words must have been to Paul! The synagogue leader was converted, as were many others. And THEN Jesus spoke these words to Paul, to encourage him to continue. There are no sweeter words to a missionary, whether our field is the Internet or we are sent out to another country. Jesus always has many people, wherever He sends you!

Verse 11 — Paul remained in Corinth for 1-1/2 years. It was a chief city of what was called the “Achaian League” of city/states. People from many nations traveled through nearby ports on the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Many smaller ships were moved by wooden rollers across the isthmus on which Corinth was situated. What a great place to preach the gospel!

Verses 12-13 — But trouble was brewing, during the time Gallio was proconsul of Achaia! The Jews, with one accord, rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat of the proconsul. They said, Paul persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.

[Not so, for Christ is the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17)!]

Verses 14-16 — When Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews that if Paul had done wrong or had done a vicious crime, he would have to bear with the Jews. But they were accusing Paul about words and names and their own law.

Therefore, he was unwilling to judge Paul, and said they needed to attend to the matter themselves. Then he drove them away from the judgment seat!

Verse 17 — So the Jews took hold of Sosthenes, who very likely co-led the synagogue with Crispus. They beat him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio paid no attention.

Verse 18 — Many days later, Paul took leave of the brethren in Corinth, and sailed to Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.

In Cenchrea he had his hair cut in order to keep a vow. This would refer to a Nazirite-like vow he had taken earlier, which was now complete. Nazirites did not take a razor to their hair until the Lord showed them their vow was completed (Numbers 6:2 and forward). At the end of that time, they would present their cut hair as a sacrifice to God.

Why would Paul have done this very Jewish act? He was Jewish! It was simply an outward sign of what he had vowed in his heart. What did he vow? Probably that he would not stop speaking of what he had seen and heard, regardless of persecution.

Verses 19-22— They came to Ephesus, and he parted from Priscilla and Aquila there. He entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews, as usual. But when they asked him to stay longer, he did not consent, but left, saying, I will return to you again if God wills.

Then he set sail from Ephesus to Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.

Verse 23 — After he spent time in Antioch, he went through the Galatian and Phyrgian regions, strengthening the disciples. As usual, they were fiercely persecuted, and Paul’s presence and words encouraged and strengthened them.

Verse 24 — These last few verses are especially good stuff! Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria. He was an eloquent man — a fluent orator. He came to Ephesus. Apollos was mighty (powerful, capable) in the scriptures.

Verse 25 — He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. He was a well-taught Christian. He was fervent (hot) in spirit. And he spoke and taught accurately (perfectly) about Jesus and the Gospel. But he was only acquainted (he only (comprehended, understood) the baptism of John. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, as Paul explained to the Ephesians he met on his travels, who had been baptized with John’s baptism —

Acts 19:3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “ Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “ John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people  to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were  baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and  prophesying. 7 There were in all about twelve men.

What did this powerful, fluent orator, well taught, on fire, and accurate teacher lack? The same as the men from Ephesus!

Verse 26 — He began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they knew what he needed! They took him aside, and “explained  (declared and expounded) to him the way of God more accurately (exactly, perfectly).”

Ah! They could tell by listening to him that he had not been filled with the Spirit. So, they told him about the baptism of the Holy Spirit — Jesus’ baptism! And though it is not stated in this passage, it becomes obvious in the next two verses that something wonderful happened in Apollos!

Verse 27 — When he wanted to go to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples in Achaia to welcome him. Prior to this change in Apollos, they had not encouraged him to set out on a missionary journey.

And when he arrived in Achaia, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace (the divine influence on the heart and the reflection in the life)!

How did he help? By powerfully (intensely and mightily) refuting the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Apollos had something he didn’t have before! Now he not only knew about Jesus, but Jesus and the Father were in him, and He was filled! The result? He was able to powerfully reason in the Scriptures, just as the Spirit-filled Paul and Peter and John and the rest had done. And he surely was shining with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son, who dwelled in Him!

Beloved, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit and you go to a meeting, and hear a preacher, you can tell if that one has been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Though they may be silver-tongued, powerful in speech, on fire for Jesus and extremely accurate, it is impossible to teach the things of God in the power of God and with authenticity, unless God has filled you with His Holy Spirit!

When you are filled, the Spirit teaches you all things (John 16:13-15), and you preach it as one who has experienced what you’re preaching. It is authentic and unmistakable.

And that is what is needed in today’s church. If we are to be the church, we must have men and women in the pulpit who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they will be able to greatly help in the harvest.

The fields are white, the hour is late! So if you are filled with the Spirit, speak kindly to your pastor of this more accurate way of God. If they are like Apollos, they will jump at the opportunity to obtain God’s power!

And so will you! Beloved, you yourself need this power! Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)!

You may not be called to the pulpit, but you are called to speak the Gospel wherever you go. By your words and by His divine nature in you and by the authenticity of your words, they will know you have been with Jesus! And they will be drawn to Him! That’s what it is to be the church!

Advertisements

THE TESTIMONY OF THE OVERCOMER

[SW305] 11/17/2017 message notes by

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2017

The Testimony of the Overcomer

What is the testimony of the overcomer, the one who prevails, who conquers, who is victorious? John and I will show you! But know we do not boast in ourselves, but in God’s work in us (Galatians 6:14).

Text: 1Jn 5, etc.

Again in this chapter, the word “love” is always agape, the same love God the Father has for God the Son (Jesus’ definition of agape, per John 17:26).

Verses 1-2 — The first testimony of us who are overcomers is that the one who believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God. We testify that we are born from above, we cry, “Abba! Father!” And we love the Father with His love, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we love His children with His love!

And here is how we know we love the children of God — we are a testimony to them, that Jesus Christ will make every believer an overcomer, if they will believe His promise! As overcomers, we do His commandments!

Verse 3 — This is the love of God in action — we who are overcomers fulfill His commandments. To us, they are not burdensome (heavy or grievous, bad or severe). We testify that it is easy to obey Him, because His testimony is in us!

Verses 4-5 — Who overcomes the world? Those who are born of God (in this case, John means “filled with His Spirit”). What causes us to be victorious over the world, which is under the power of the evil one (see v. 19)?

Our faith! We believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Therefore, we are saved from God’s wrath and go on to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we overcome the world. His testimony is in us, so we are empowered to overcome!

Verses 6-8 — We know that Jesus came by water (preaching repentance) and blood (His, shed for us). And the Spirit is the Testifier, the One in us who testifies to His truth, and teaches us all of the truth (John 16:13)!

Verse 9 — We testify that the testimony of God, who is in us, is greater than the testimony of men.

What is God’s testimony about? His testimony is about His Son whom He sent,  just as He promised He would, even from the very beginning, in Genesis 3:15, and onward through the Old Testament.

Verse 10 — Because we believe Jesus is the Son of God, we have the testimony in ourselves. The testimony is the Holy Spirit, first in a measure (John 20:22), and then filling our hearts, the Father and the Son dwelling in us permanently!

Those who do not believe God (the Gnostics and many others today) and twist His words for their own selfish purposes, have made (they call) God a liar. They say that God’s testimony regarding His Son is not true.

Verse 11 — We testify that God gives testimony of  His promise by giving eternal life to us who are overcomers. And we testify that this life is here and now, in us. And this life is in His Son. We testify that He is in us, and we are in Him!

Verse 12 — We testify that if you are in the Son, you have His eternal life in you. But if you do not have the Son of God in you, then you do not have His life in you.

Verse 13 — John’s letter is to those who believe. He wants you to come to a place of completely knowing that you have Christ in you, by personal experience, by being filled with His Holy Spirit.

Verse 14 — We who are overcomers testify that we have confidence before Him, that whatever we ask according to His will, He will hear us. And knowing that He hears us, we know that He will answer. We will have what we have requested from Him.

We testify that we only ask according to His will.

Verses 16-17 — And we who are overcomers pray for believers who are still committing sin, the ones who are infants in Christ, not yet overcomers because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit. We ask, and God will give life to the one who sins. God will forgive that one, when we ask Him.

But there is a sin leading to death, for which we do not ask forgiveness, even for the infant in Christ. And that sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. We do not ask forgiveness for that.

What is it to blaspheme the Spirit?

The Jews said Jesus was doing the works He worked by the power of Satan. And Jesus replied —

Matthew 12:31   “ Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever  speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever  speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in  this age or in the age to come.”

We who are overcomers testify that all unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death, and we pray for God to forgive the one who sins in that way.

Verse 18 — We who are overcomers testify that we do not sin because we are filled with His Spirit. It is because Jesus Christ keeps us — He guards us and keeps His eyes on us, so the evil one does not touch us (he does not fasten himself to us, and light us on fire).

Verse 19 — We who are overcomers testify that we are of God and not of the world, and that the world lies in the power of the evil one, Satan.

Verse 20 — And we who are overcomers know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding (His mind), so that we may intimately know and experience Him who is true, in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We testify that Jesus really IS, and we know because He dwells in us!

We who are overcomers testify that this is the true God, and eternal life. What is eternal life? Jesus tells us  —

John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You,  the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Verse 21 — And to the infants in Christ, we who are overcomers say, keep yourself from idolatry of yourselves. That is the teaching of the false teachers. I testify that false teachers are in today’s church, and that their “Me Gospel” is completely contrary to God’s nature and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We who overcome testify that we have intimate, 24/7 fellowship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We testify that before we were cleansed, we sinned, but that Christ has cleansed us (purified our hearts) from all unrighteousness (1:9).

We testify that the love of God has been perfected (completed, fulfilled) in us, because we are filled full of God (2:5).

We testify that we walk as He walked (2:6).

We testify that we intimately know Him who has been from the beginning (2:14).

We testify that the Spirit who has filled us teaches us all things (2:27).

We testify that we have purified ourselves as Jesus Christ is pure (3:3), by asking our Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit.

We testify that we are righteous, just as Jesus Christ is righteous (3:7).

We testify that He abides in us, and us in Him, so we do not sin, and that it is impossible for us to sin, because He is in us (3:6, 9). We are partakers of His divine nature (2Peter 1:4), and our sin nature has been crucified (Galatians 5:24).

We testify that we know we keep His commandments (to love — agapeo — the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor with that love) because He dwells in us fully, by the Spirit whom He has given us (3:24).

We testify that because He is in us, we have overcome the world which is under the power of Satan. We overcome the world because greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (4:4).

We testify that as He is, so are we in this world (4:17), so we have confidence in the day of judgment that is coming.

Beloved, we testify that none of this is by our own might, nor by our own power, but by the Holy Spirit who is in us (Zechariah 4:6).

We testify that He has made us overcomers, so we have become the testimony of Jesus Christ, and we are His witnesses, even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)!

Are you able to testify with us? Then I praise God with you!

If you cannot, God has not come to condemn you, unless you refuse His truth. Ask your Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and you, too, will become an overcomer, the one who prevails, who conquers and who is victorious over the world and Satan!

SESSION 28 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

A review of our sessions thus far can be found in my previous posts on my blog, fromdeathtolife.wordpress.com.

Acts 17

If I was going to preach this, I’d give it this title — Salvation is for EVERYONE, including those who have worshiped many false gods!

To briefly review from Acts 16, Paul and Silas had just been set free from prison in Philippi, and so was EVERYONE else. We have an EVERYONE kind of gospel! Who else will be set free? Let’s see!

Verse 1 — Paul and Silas left Philippi and went on to Amphypolis and Apollonia, finally arriving at Thessalonica. They were making their way around the north and west coast of the Aegean Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean Sea.

Verses 2-3 — Paul always spoke first to the Jew, then to the Gentile, as I have taught already. So, he want to the synagogue of the Jews in Thessalonica. For three Sabbaths, he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving (placing before them) evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and said Jesus who he was proclaiming is the Christ.

Verse 4 — Some of the Jews were persuaded (convinced and believed), and joined Paul and Silas, and a large number of God-fearing Greeks and a number (literally, not a few) of the leading women. Again, God-fearing means they were proselytes, converted to Judaism.

Verse 5 — But along came some jealous Jews (jealous because many were converting from Judaism to faith in Jesus Christ). They gathered some wicked (bad, lewd, evil) men from the market place, formed a mob, and set the city in an uproar.

The Jews and evil men attacked the house of Jason, a new believer, and sought to bring Paul and Silas out to the people. You can be sure it was to falsely accuse and beat or scourge them. Satan always tries to silence those who boldly speak the gospel, and he uses even those who say they know God (i.e., the persecuting Jews), in order to do it!

Verses 6-7 — The Jews and evil men couldn’t find them, so they dragged Jason and some of the other believers before the city authorities, shouting, These men who have upset the inhabited earth (literally, turned the world upside down) have come here also! (See Acts 16:20 for a similar accusation.)

What’s worse, they cried out, was that Jason welcomed them and they all acted contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king — Jesus!

There is another King, but His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)! He is King over all kings and Lord over all lords (1Timothy 6:15, Revelation 19:16)!

Verses 8-9 — They stirred up (agitated) the crowd and the city authorities who heard these accusations. After Jason and the others posted a bond, which probably included a promise that Paul and Silas would not come back, they were released.

Verses 10-12 — The believers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived there, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded (generous, and in this context, willing to hear) than those in Thessalonica. They received the gospel with great (all) eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Their hearts were open! Verse 11 is the one I exhort you about. Examine the Scriptures to see if what I say is true. I am glad for you to do it!

Therefore, many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greeks (Gentiles), both men and women.

Verses 13-15 — But the Jews of Thessalonica heard of it, and came after them! Once again, they agitated and stirred up the crowds.

And the brethren at Berea sent Paul out to go as far as the sea, to Athens. Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. Paul commanded these brethren to send Timothy and Silas as soon as possible.

Verse 16 — Paul, alone in Athens, saw that the city was full of idols to false gods! And so, His spirit was provoked within him (he was exasperated, irritated intensely and infuriated with holy anger).

I tell you, today, this nation is full of idols. Are you infuriated by them, or do you not see them? They are in Hollywood, on television, on youtube — everywhere! They are in stadiums and are displayed on the peaks of this nation’s government buildings, both state and federal, and in our harbors! Do you see them?

I pray the Lord would give the church eyes to see these idols. Why? Keep reading!

Verse 17 — So, Paul reasoned (exhorted, disputed, and preached) in the synagogue, to the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. He preached also in the market place every day, to whoever happened to be present.
When the church is being the church, we see these idols and speak the gospel to idol worshipers!

Verse 18 — Some of the Greek philosophers (Epicureans and Stoics) were meeting with Paul, conversing with and disputing him. Some called him an idle babbler (literally, a loafer, sponger, gossip).

Others said he was proclaiming strange deities (gods), because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Verses 19-21 — So they brought him to the Areopagus, a prominent rock outcropping outside Athens. They wanted to know what this new teaching was, that Paul was proclaiming. Paul was bringing strange things to their ears, so they asked him to explain.

Those who regularly met there, and all their visitors, used to spend their time simply telling and hearing something new.

Verses 22-23 — So Paul preached! He said he observed that these men of Athens were very religious in all respects. He told them that as he passed through and examined their objects of worship, he found an altar inscribed, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Therefore, Paul said, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

I did the same at a “head shop” in Maine. This shop sold all kinds of satanic and drug-related paraphernalia. These things were familiar to me because from ages 17-20, I was a drug addict and frequenter of head shops.

But as I looked around at gargoyles and bongs and incense and idols, there stood a cross! So I did as Paul did, and told them about the unknown god — the One of which they were ignorant —  that their cross represented!

Verses 24-25 — Paul continued that there is a God who made the world and all things in it. This God is Lord of heaven and earth and does not dwell in temples made with hands (like the gods of Athens), nor is He served by human hands! He needs nothing, but He Himself gives life to all — life and breath and all things. Again, this God is not like the gods of Athens.

Verse 26 — And this God made from one man, Adam, every nation of mankind. Why? To live on the face of the earth. He determines their appointed times (times of death) and where they live, unlike the gods worshiped in Athens, which mostly derive from a story of chaos, which the gods bring into their subjection, but they constantly battle each other.

Verse 27 — Why did this God make everyone from this one man, and place them on the earth? So they seek God, that perhaps they might grope for (feel after) Him and find Him (verify by contact), although He is not far from each one of us. Again, the gods of Athens are far-off.

When I read this verse, I can’t help but think of the homosexuals of Sodom who wanted to have sexual relations with the angels who had come to warn and rescue Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. The angels in Lot’s house smote the homosexuals with blindness, so they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway. Some versions of the Bible say they groped for the doorway.

Oh, that they had groped for God, instead! Oh, my! He would have made them “formerlies” —

Ephesians 2:2 . . . (the trespasses and sins) in which you formerly walked according to the  course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in  the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in  the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the  mind, and were by nature  children of wrath, even as the rest.

AND . . .

1Corinthians 6:9   Or  do you not know that the unrighteous will not  inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived;  neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor  effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  Such were some of you; but you were  washed, but you were  sanctified, but you were  justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Formerly! Such were! He will make EVERYONE who believes in Jesus Christ a “formerly!” Glory to God!

Verse 28 — Why should the Greeks seek God, so as to verify by contact that He is real, and to find Him? Because in Him we live and move and exist (literally, are). Paul quotes some Greek poets, who write, “for we are also His children (offspring).”

NOTE: Paul and I and you know that all humans are His offspring (He is their Creator), but we only become His children (sons and daughters) when we believe into Jesus Christ (John 1:11).

Verse 29 — Paul reasons with the Athenians, because if they are God’s offspring, they ought (they are obligated to) not think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an idol formed by man. He formed all of us! Again, this is contrary to the gods they worshiped.

Verse 30 — God is not an idol made by man, but He is the Creator of man. And He has overlooked (in this context, “looked beyond”) the times of ignorance. What does Paul mean by that?

God chose to make the Jews His people. When their righteous ones died, they went to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:23), a “holding area” until Christ came and opened heaven so they could dwell there forever.

Those ignorant of God had no Savior and no true God, so they perished. Why? God made Himself evident in His creation, but they chose to worship idols (Romans 1:18-23).

But now, He has now offered His Son to ALL of mankind — both Jew and Gentile! So now, at great cost to God, there is salvation for EVERYONE who comes to Christ, whoever will believe into Him. Hallelujah!

And His Son, Jesus Christ, will judge all men (John 5:28-29). We’ll see the coming judgment in Verse 31, too.

Now (literally,“truly, then”) God declares (strictly charges) all people (all of mankind in view) everywhere to repent.

Verse 31 — Why does God strictly charge all people everywhere to repent? Because a day of judgment is coming, when He will righteously judge the world (literally, habitable world), through a Man (Jesus Christ) whom He has appointed.

How do they know He has been appointed? God raised Him from the dead.

I tell you, the coming judgment is not a part of most of the sermons preached in today’s church. And because of it, there are few who understand that they are saved from that judgment, saved from being under the wrath of God, through belief in Jesus Christ.

And so they continue sinning, without no concept of judgment. But Jesus says —

John 5:27 and He gave Him authority to  execute judgment, because He is  the Son of Man. 28 “Do not marvel at this; for  an hour is coming, in which  all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth;  those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

And He says —

Matthew 7:21   “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on  that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many  miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;  depart from Me, You who practice lawlessness.’’’

Verse 32 — The mention of resurrection from the dead caused some of the Athenians to sneer (ridicule), but others wanted to hear Paul again concerning this.

Verse 33 — So Paul went out of their midst, but some from the Areopagus joined him and believed, including Dionysius and a woman named Damaris and others who were with them.

Paul did not spare any of the truth of the gospel, and so many came to faith, men and women who had prided themselves on their own wisdom and who had worshiped false gods.

That’s what happens when we speak the gospel in all of its truth and don’t leave out any “uncomfortable” truths! Amen!

WHAT IS PERFECT LOVE?

[SW304] 11/10/2017 message notes by

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2017

What is Perfect Love?

In 1John 4:7-21, the Spirit-inspired John uses agape/agapeo 27 times, and teleioo (perfect) three times (and in the New Testament, 183 times)! It is so we may know the answer to the question, “What is perfect love?”

I will speak from the whole passage, but focus on Verses 16-18.

John says, in Verse 16, that we have come to know (have absolute knowledge, experienced) and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.

It is a wonderful truth that God is love! It is part of His very nature, His character. His love is not like human love, which is fickle and capricious and centered on yourself.

His love is self-giving, selfless, and He sent His only begotten Son to sinners and those who were enemies of Him —

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, for people who willfully disobeyed Him, and for His enemies! And by His coming, and freely giving His life and rising from the grave on the third day, we have eternal life!

Jesus emptied Himself of the glory He had with His Father, in order to go to a cross for sinners and enemies of God! He gave Himself, for us (Philippians 2:7 and forward), so that whosoever will repent and believe will be saved. Do you see that  He had no regard for Himself, but was entirely focused on saving you and me, which is the will of His Father!

When you love with God’s actual love, you have no regard for yourself, but are focused on God’s will, which is the salvation and sanctification (baptism with the Holy Spirit) of others so they, too, are filled with God’s love!

How is it with you? Have you given up your glory (regard for yourself), your focus on yourself, and asked God to fill you with His love?

I tell you, the Lord’s ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8) . He will forgive the most wicked, if they will repent and believe into His Son.

You might think of writing someone off as incapable of being saved, but look at me! I was hostile toward God, I was a sinner, and yet when I repented and believed into Jesus Christ, He saved me! And later, when I asked Him to do it, He filled me with His Spirit and His love! Oh, the kindness of God, the love of God, is expressed in these things!

PRAISE BREAK!

Now, back to 1Jn. 4! Do you want to know what perfect love looks like? God sent His only Son so we might live through Him (Verse 9). He gave Himself entirely, for us, with no regard for Himself. That is selfless love!

Mankind did not love God (no human is born with God’s agape in them). But He loved us and sent His Son to pay for our sin (Verse 10).

God sent His Son! This is perfect love — selfless love, self-giving love! That is God’s nature.

But if you reject His Son, know that God is also just and righteous, and that a day is coming when you will stand before Him and be judged, just as Jesus says —

John 5:28 “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth;  those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Oh, but His love is here, right now, to save all who will come to Jesus Christ!

How do you know that you abide in God and He in you? By His Spirit (Verse 13) whom He gives. John speaks of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, because it is then that God fully abides in you, and you in Him (Jn 14:23)!

And you know the love of God by personal experience, because His love abides in you. You love with His love because His love is literally in you!

God is love! So when you abide in God’s love, you can’t help but love with God’s love, because God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit literally dwell within you, so His nature, His divine nature, has replaced your selfish sin nature.

When you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, the most remarkable thing happens — your heart is purified, your sin nature that drives your selfishness is crucified, and you are transformed from selfish to selfless, from always seeking to receive, to always seeking to be used by God, without regard to yourself, a self-giving love that only wants what the Father wants, without regard to yourself, just as with Jesus Christ!

This is perfect love — His love in you, causing this transformation that empowers and enables you to proclaim His kingdom and His salvation, so many are saved and reconciled to God, and then His baptism with the Holy Spirit, so they die to their selfishness.

I have said that a day of judgment is coming, and it surely is. In that day, what happens to you if God has perfected His love in you, completely filling you with it?

You have confidence in that day (verse 17), because as Jesus Christ is, so are you in this world —

1John 2:5 but whoever  keeps His word, in him the  love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he  abides in Him  ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

1John 3:3 And everyone who has this  hope fixed on Him  purifies himself, just as He is pure.

1John 3:7  Little children, make sure no one  deceives you;  the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;

You walk as He walked, you are pure as He is pure, you are righteous as He is righteous. It is for the praise and honor of God that He does this!

Oh, beloved, this is nothing you can do. This love is FROM GOD (Verse 7)! No amount of good works can do it. No one can try hard enough. But your Father in heaven will do it, when His love is perfected in you!

There is no fear, when you love with God’s perfect love because He has filled your heart with it! His perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment.

When you walk as Jesus walked and are pure as He is pure and are righteous as He is righteous, you know you will not face judgment. Your conscience is clear, as Paul writes to the Corinthians —

2Corinthians 1:12   For our proud (rejoicing, boasting in God’s work) confidence is this: the testimony of  our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.

Tertullian, an early Christian writer, wrote of those who persecuted Christians, and their response to this love they could not understand. “Look how they love one another” (for they themselves hate one another); “’and how they are ready to die for each other,” (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).”

Ready to die for each other, in more ways than one! The only Christians who will go to literal death on behalf of their brethren are those in whom God’s love has been perfected. They have no regard for themselves. They have already been crucified with Christ while they are yet alive, so that Christ lives in them (Galatians 2:20)! Death has no victory, it has no sting (1Corinthians 15:55)!

Oh, beloved, how is it with you? Is this word new to you? But it is the Word of God, and I pray you would believe it and not dispute it.

God cannot use you as long as you have regard for yourself, as long as your sin nature still dwells in you.

Ask Him to put His nature and His perfect love in you! He will fill you with His Holy Spirit, and you will know that His love has been perfected in you! You will experience it!

And you will suddenly see the world’s great need for a Savior, and a Heart-Changer! You will exclaim, with Peter and the rest, “We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard!”

SESSION 27 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

A review of our sessions thus far can be found in my previous posts on my blog, fromdeathtolife.wordpress.com.

Acts 16:14-40

If I was going to preach this, I’d give it this title — Everyone Gets Set Free!

Remember that Paul and Silas had met some Jewish women who were praying at the river in Philippi. They began to speak to the women.

Verse 14 — At the river in Philippi, Paul and Silas met Lydia. That she sold purple fabric indicates that she was wealthy. But she was a worshiper of God.

And the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul — that is, the gospel. I find that is always the case when I am speaking with someone. The Lord reveals to me the ones whose hearts He has opened. It is just as the Lord showed Pastor Doc that I was open, by the way I “lit up” when he said, “I have had a vision, and in it, Sue and Debbie are healed.”

This is what it is to be the church, beloved! It is to know the Lord so well that He can show you whose heart is ready to hear His gospel!

Verse 15 — And she and her household were baptized. They believed, and they were baptized. Was it in the river, or was this the baptism of the Holy Spirit? It is not clear, but I believe it was in water because of the difference between Lydia’s response and that of the jailer and his household, who we will soon meet.

She said, If you have judged me to be faithful (true and trustworthy) to the Lord . . . and of course, Paul and Silas and the others had judged her to be faithful, and the Lord was faithful to her! So according to their judgment, she prevailed upon (compelled and constrained) them to come into her house and stay.

Verse 16 — Later, as Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy were going with Lydia and the rest of the women to the place of prayer by the river, they were met by a slave girl. This girl had a spirit of divination — not the Holy Spirit — and by this spirit, she was making a lot of money for her masters by fortune-telling.

Verse 17 — Satan will always provide distractions, in an attempt to keep people from hearing the gospel. And sure enough, this girl with an evil spirit followed them, and kept crying out, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God (truth), and they are proclaiming to you A way of salvation (lie). Paul and Silas did not proclaim A way (and that is the original Greek-to-English). They proclaimed Jesus Christ, who is THE Way (and the Truth and the Life)!

Verse 18 — She continued doing this for many days. A way! A way! Finally, Paul was so greatly annoyed (grieved) by her continual distraction that he turned and said to the evil spirit in this girl, “I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her!” And IT came out that very moment. That spirit recognized Jesus, and knew Paul (Acts 19:25)! It had no choice but to go!

Verses 19-21 — But her masters were upset. Their money-making machine was no longer fortune-telling. So they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place, before the authorities.

They brought Paul and Silas before the chief magistrates and lied. They said, These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews. And they are proclaiming customs which are unlawful for us to accept or observe, because we are Romans.

Verses 22-23 — So the crowd rose up together against them. Sound familiar? Know that if you proclaim Jesus and cast out demons, there will be those who rise up against you, too!

The chief magistrates tore off the robes of Paul and Silas, and beat them with rods (large, heavy sticks). They struck them with many blows (wounds that would cause gashes on their bodies), and threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely.

Verse 24 — So having received that order, the jailer put them in the inner prison (a cavern-like cell below the ground), and just to be sure, he put their feet in stocks. He would have used chains to lock the stocks.

Verse 25 —  So what did Paul and Silas then do? Did they weep and mourn? Did they give up? No!

At midnight, their bodies broken and bleeding, their feet in stocks, in that dark cavern, they began to pray and sing hymns of praise. That cave would have been like an amphitheater. All the prisoners heard them. They were listening to them!

Even in their dire straits, they simply prayed and praised! Oh, the power of these things! Oh, the effect if we do so — not only in the safe confines of our churches, but on the street, and under all circumstances!

Do you know that if you do the same as Paul and Silas, there will be those who are listening? And watch what happens next!

Verse 26 — And there came a great earthquake, so the foundations of the prison were shaken. And ALL the prison doors were open and EVERYONE’S chains were unfastened! They were loosed! Hallelujah! They prayed and praised the Lord, and EVERYONE was set free!

Oh, if you pray and praise the Lord, people will hear, even though they are in the chains of sin and are locked in inner prison vaults! EVERYONE will be set free!

This is what it is to be the church!

Verse 27 — The jailer awoke and saw all the prison doors open! To have even one prisoner escape was death to him, per Roman law! He figured ALL of them had escaped, because ALL the prison doors were open! So he was about to run himself through with a sword when . . .

Verse 28 — Paul cried out! With a loud voice! Do not harm yourself for we are ALL here! What? ALL the prisoners stayed? No one ran away? None. They were ALL there. Why? Oh, they had heard Paul and Silas. They knew that they had been set free through their prayers and praise, and they wanted to know this Christ! Oh, this is the glorious effect when the church is being the church!

Verse 29 — Well, the jailer called for lights! I tell you, he received light! Watch! He rushed in, trembling with fear, and fell down before Paul and Silas! He prostrated himself at their feet!

Oh, there are many jailers in this world, beloved. And if the church is being the church, they will rush in, tremble with fear, and fall down. And . . .

Verse 30-31 — Like this jailer, they will cry, What must I do to be saved? And you will say, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household!

Hallelujah! Believe in the Lord Jesus! You WILL BE saved! The hearts of you and your whole household are made ready. How? By seeing the power of God!

Verse 32-33 — And Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him and his household. They spoke the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. And they were saved!

And the jailer, in the middle of this momentous night, took them and washed their wounds, and he and his household were immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit!

Verse 34 — And the jailer took them into his house, set food before them, and rejoiced greatly! Literally in the Greek, they jumped for joy! Oh, you will rejoice greatly when you are saved and then filled with the Holy Spirit! You will jump for joy — it will be joy unspeakable, and full of glory, beloved!

Verses 35-36 — When morning broke, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, Release these men. And the jailer told Paul. Therefore, the jailer said, Come out now and go in peace.

Verse 37 — But Paul said to them, They have beaten us in public without trial. We are Romans! And they threw us into prison, and now they are sending us away secretly? No, but they must come and bring us out.

Was Paul prideful or resentful? No. But He did not want the name of the Lord sullied, AND he knew a crowd would gather when the magistrates came. More would hear of the miracle and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Verses 38-39 — Well, the policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they learned Paul and Silas were Romans. Why? A Roman citizen is entitled to a trial, and Paul and Silas had not been given one! So the magistrates came and continually begged them to leave the city.

Verse 40 — Afterwards, Paul and Silas went out of the prison and returned to Lydia’s house. When they saw the brethren there, Paul and Silas encouraged them and departed. They encouraged them — they called them near, implored them, exhorted them, beseeched them, and comforted them!

So, is it any wonder that the Philippians believed Paul in his letter to them, when he wrote —

Philippians 4:19 And  my God will supply  all your needs according to His  riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Hallelujah!

They had seen the truth of it, before their very eyes, in the capture and miraculous release of Paul and Silas, and the salvation and baptism in the Spirit of the jailer and his whole household, just as with Cornelius!

May the whole household of Your church, Lord Jesus, be baptized in your Spirit, so they may be Your church! Set them free, Lord! Amen!

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PURIFIED

[SW303] 11/03/2017 message notes by

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2017

What It Means To Be Purified

God’s love for us is very great, but by your deeds, you reveal whether your heart has been purified. If you are pure, you do not sin any longer!

Text: 1John 3:1-16

Oh, beloved, the great love of the Father, that He has made us His children! He has bestowed it on us, He has given it to us! It is worthy of a —

PRAISE BREAK!

And NOW we are children of God. We do not know what we will be when we see Him, but we know this —

1Corinthians 2:9  but just as it is written,

“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,

And which have not entered the heart of man,

All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Time for another —

PRAISE BREAK!

What we DO know is that we will be like Jesus because we will see Him just as He is. We will have an incorruptible, spiritual body, as He does (see 1Corinthians 15:42-44). When He prays for His Father to give us the same nature as the Father, and fill us with the same love the Father has for Him, he says —

John 17:24 “Father, I desire that  they also, whom You have given Me,  be with Me where I am, so that they may see My  glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before  the foundation of the world.”

And He continues to transform you from one degree of Christlikeness to the next,  if the Holy Spirit has filled you (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

PRAISE BREAK!

Therefore, far be it from any Christian, that they would walk differently than Jesus, or that they would blend in with the world!

When you are filled with His Spirit, you become His witness here, But many are not filled, and as a result, many Christians blend in with the world.

Do you know that the world does not know (understand, comprehend) you, if you belong to Jesus Christ? Why? Because it does not know Him.

AND because you know Him, you do not do what the world does. You have entered into life as God has it, through Jesus Christ!

You have purified your heart! What does that mean?

In Verse 3, John speaks of you purifying your heart! You have gone to your Father and asked Him to do it. You have purified your heart because of all the hope that Verses 1 and 2 give you! Your heart is pure, just as Jesus Christ’s heart is pure!!! That’s how you are able to walk as He walked, and do as He does, and not sin!

What? You may exclaim, “That’s not what I see my fellow Christian doing!” Or, “That’s not what my preacher preaches!” Or you may say to me, “I sin, but thanks be to God for the blood that covers me!” But what does the Word of God say? Hmmm —

Hebrews 10:26   For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of  judgment and  the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

Oh, today is a great day to repent, if you are relying on something someone else said or did, instead of relying on and believing the Word of God!

In Verse 4, John is very blunt. If you DO (that is, commit) sin, then you also DO (commit) lawlessness (wickedness), and sin is lawlessness. You willfully disobey God. That is wickedness!

Jesus Christ appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. SO, if you abide in Him and Him in you, then you do not sin.

AND what if you sin? What if you willfully disobey God, O Christian? No one who sins has seen (experienced) Him or knows Him!

Oh, little children, infants in Christ, make sure no one deceives you! There are many deceivers, even in pulpits! And make sure that you are not deceiving yourself1

Here is the truth — the one who does righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus Christ is righteous. That is because Jesus Christ and the Father and the Spirit, and therefore their righteousness, has filled that one!

And what of the one who willfully disobeys God? That one is of the devil, says the Spirit-inspired John! If you willfully sin against God, you do as Satan now does, and as he has done from the beginning.

You will say, “What do you mean? Can’t I just sin and just repent and sin and repent and sin and repent?”

Beloved, I am just repeating what the Word of God says! Do you want to dispute His Word?

But here is the great thing — the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to DESTROY the works of the devil (SIN)!!! That calls for a —

PRAISE BREAK!

John is bold again — NO ONE who is born of God, begotten of Him, DOES sin, because God’s seed abides in that one. God’s seed is God’s Son, and He abides (permanently dwells) in you when you purify yourself!

But how can you purify yourself? Can you work at it and finally get there?

No! I can no more purify myself than I can save myself. But if you ask your Father in heaven to fill you with the Holy Spirit, He will purify your heart (Acts 15:9).

Those who are filled with God’s Holy Spirit do not sin, and CANNOT sin because they are born of God. This is beyond salvation, beloved. It is entire sanctification, a completely purging of and death to the sin nature, when He comes in and purifies your heart. Then you do not willfully disobey God any more.

So, how does John determine the children of God and the children of the devil?

— If you DO NOT DO righteousness, you are not of God, and

— if you DO NOT love with His actual love, you are not of Him.

“Love of God that does not result in obedience to the Word of God cannot be the love that is God’s gift in Jesus Christ (Source: Expositor’s Bible Commentary).”

God’s gift! His divine love with which He fills us, not human love!

As in 1John 2:7-8, the message is this — you must love one another with God’s actual love! It is a selfless, self-giving, outwardly focused love that humans are not born with. It is God who gives you the gift of His divine nature and His love, by the Holy Spirit, when you are filled with Him!

John says, do not be like Cain, who hated Abel and murdered him because Abel was righteous and Cain was not righteous — His heart was full of hate.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Hate is the same as murder in God’s eyes. And hate is not confined to hate groups — it is in every human heart, before God purifies your heart.

The world will hate you. It will want to murder you. That’s because you are like Christ (John 15:18-19).

But here is how you know you have passed out of death and into life — you love the brethren (our fellow Christians) with God’s actual love! But if you hate rather than love, you remain dead.

How often have I seen extreme fighting in the church? It should never be!

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and no murderer has Christ’s life in them. just as Jesus says —

Matthew 5:20   “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (It must be HIS righteousness, in you!!!)

Matthew 5:21   “You have heard that  the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be  liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before  the court (of murder); and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before  the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

And how do you know what God’s actual love looks like?

You lay down your life for the brethren.

It is more than taking a bullet for your buddy, though that is noble. It is to die to your sin nature so His divine nature lives in you. It is to do Romans 12:1, because you have realized what God has done for you —

Romans 12:1   Therefore  I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice,  acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo, a complete transformation) by the  renewing (renovation) of your mind (the root of this word is ginosko, intimate knowledge and experience of God’s work in your heart), so that you may prove (be the proof of) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Then you are fully empowered to walk as Jesus walked, with your fellow Christians, and to shine out into the darkness of this world, so peoples and nations and kings come to the Light that is in you!

If you see one of your brethren in need and do not help him, you reveal that God’s love has not filled your heart. Those with God’s actual love in their hearts do not just say they love our brothers and sisters — they show it by compassion toward their brothers and sisters!

Such actions reveal that you are of the truth — you live the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Verse 19, John says you will know by this that you are of the truth, and will assure your heart before Him. Why will you need to assure our heart?

When your heart condemns you, not because of sin (you do not do that any more) but because of the unrelenting attacks of those who come against the truth.

I have this in my own walk, many times  — someone comes against me because of my teaching, and I go to the Lord, asking, “Is what they are saying true? Is there something you need to change in me?”

God is greater than my heart and knows all things. He knows what is in my heart.

And God assures me that regardless of someone’s objections, I am right before Him and His love has filled my heart. I have assurance because even when I am attacked, I love with His love, and my motive for what I do is love. I have assurance when I am compassionate toward brethren who are in need.

And best of all, beloved, if His love has filled your heart and you have his assurance, whatever you ask from Him, you receive from Him, because you obey Him and do the things that are pleasing in His sight! Glory to God, for it is His gift, not anything you or I can work!

PRAISE BREAK!

John reminds you again God’s commandments that you believe in Jesus Christ, and that you love each other with His love — that is, you love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).

How do you know you abide in God the Father and God the Father abides in you? You keep His commandments, because the Holy Spirit has purified your heart. You know that He abides in you by the Holy Spirit whom He has given you.

So, how is it with you? Do you have hate in your heart toward someone?

Do you love the world and its things? Are you friends with the world? Or do they wonder why you don’t join in their “fun?”

1Peter 4:4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of  dissipation (unsavedness), and they malign you;

Does the world not know you because you are fully Christ’s and are filled with His Holy Spirit?

Do you sin? Then you do not intimately know Jesus Christ, and you are doing what Satan does and has done from the beginning.

While it is still Today, do not harden your heart (Hebrews 3:14-15)! Pray to truly receive Jesus as Lord! It is much more than repeating some words at an altar, or raising your hand while you sit in your seat, after all eyes are closed so no one can see you. Oh, my — heavens no! You will know by a sudden cry in your heart, “Abba! Father!”

Then, ask your Father in heaven to change your heart and fill it with His love! If you are listening to me today, He has called you. And He who called you is faithful, and He will do it, just as Paul prays for the church at Thessalonica —

1Thessalonians 5:23   Now  may the God of peace  Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your  spirit and soul and body be preserved complete,  without blame at  the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24  Faithful is He who  calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

SESSION 26 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

A review of our sessions thus far can be found in my previous posts on my blog, fromdeathtolife.wordpress.com.

NOTE: I didn’t mention this before, but many believe that John Mark is the Mark who wrote that gospel account around 60-70 A.D. which is quite a bit later than the likely date of the Book of Acts.

Now, let’s look at Acts 15:36-16:15 —

Verse 36 — Now we will find out why Silas stayed in Antioch. It was a God thing! After some days in Antioch, Paul said to Barnabas, We should go back and see how the brethren are doing, in all the places we went on our first missionary journey.

Paul knew that these new believers would be persecuted by their countrymen, and pressured to return to pagan gods. A return trip was needed, to exhort and encourage them to continue in their faith in Jesus Christ.

Verse 37-38 — Barnabas wanted to take young John Mark, Barnabas’ nephew, along with them.

But Paul kept insisting that they shouldn’t take him, because John Mark had abandoned them (he fell away, revolted) in Pamphylia and had returned to Jerusalem during their first missionary journey.

Verse 39 — There was a sharp disagreement between Barnabas and Paul. The meaning of “sharp disagreement” is “feeling, contention, provocation.” It is the effect of a provocation.

Was this disagreement angry in nature? I do not believe it was angry in the way we think of anger. It was a righteous contention on Paul’s part, though certainly intense. It was a disagreement in principle.

Paul writes this —

Ephesians 4:26  be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

So it must be OK to be angry, right? No. To be angry is to give the devil a chance to stir you to remember a wrong done to you, to hold a grudge, and to hate.

In Ephesians 4:26, Paul quotes from the Book of Leviticus —

Leviticus 19:17   ‘You  shall not hate your  fellow countryman in your heart; you  may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance,  nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but  you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Do you see that you may reprove your neighbor? That is a righteous kind of “anger.” And in that case, you do not sin against the Lord. You love him, you reprove him, and that’s that.

The meaning of “do not let the sun go down,” is that you do not hold anything against him. Instead, you love him, with God’s actual love which has filled your heart. Has God’s love filled your heart yet, beloved? Ask Him, and He will do it!

Finally, if you retain a grudge, remember that your Father, O believer, will not forgive you if you do not forgive (Matthew 6:15).

And as for anger that is not a disagreement in principle? Here is what Jesus says about that —

Matthew 5:22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says,‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

Anger is the same as murder, and murder is surely sin, in God’s eyes. But when you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, as Paul and Barnabas had been, you find that you have no anger in you anymore. You have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).

So, back to Paul and Barnabas’ sharp disagreement — Paul would likely have said, Why take someone proven to be an unreliable assistant, as we follow our call to the important work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ? But very possibly, Barnabas wanted to give his nephew, John Mark, another chance to prove himself.

They could not agree on John Mark, so Barnabas left for Cyprus with John Mark. It was a parting of the ways for these brothers in Christ, but God would use it all!

Verse 40 — Now Silas would learn why he had been led to stay in Antioch! Paul chose him to accompany him on his second missionary journey, and they left to spread the gospel, having been committed (entrusted) by the church at Antioch to the grace of God (His work in their hearts, and the reflection in their lives).

So, God’s will continued to be worked out, sending Barnabas and John Mark out as a team — though there was no mention of that team being commissioned — and Paul and Silas as a team commissioned by the church at Antioch.

It’s also good to note that years later, Paul approved of John Mark as an assistant in the work of the gospel (see 2Timothy 4:11 and Colossians 4:10).

Verse 41 — And Paul, with Silas, traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening (supporting and confirming) the churches Barnabas and he had previously established there. As I have said before, these believers were surely experiencing pressure to return to their pagan beliefs, and were persecuted for standing firm in their faith. So strengthening was gladly received by them.

Now, Acts 16:1-13 —

Verses 1-2 — Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, which were part of Cilicia. There, he met a disciple named Timothy, whose mother a Jewish believer in Christ, and whose father was a Gentile. He was well spoken of by those in Lystra and Iconium. They gave witness that he was good and honest. Timothy’s mother and grandmother, women of sincere faith in Christ, had taught Timothy about Jesus, and he came to faith through them (2Timothy 1:5).

Verse 3 — Paul wanted (determined and chose) this man to go with him, and he took him and circumcised him. What? Why, when Paul says circumcision is nothing (1Corinthians 7:19), and the church has just ruled that circumcision was not necessary for salvation?

He tells us. It was because of the Jews, who knew his mother was Jewish. So Paul determined that he should observe this Jewish custom in order to avoid contention and accusation from the local Jews who knew who Timothy’s parents were.

By circumcising Timothy, Paul preemptively silenced the critics and avoided causing a distraction from their mission to spread the gospel. Paul’s circumcision of Timothy had nothing to do with Timothy’s salvation — he had already come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Verse 4 — As Paul, Silas and Timothy passed through the cities, they delivered the decrees (rules) that had been decided upon by the Council at Jerusalem, instructing the churches to observe them.

Verse 5 — And the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily! Hallelujah! God was at work through these men!

Verse 6 — They went through Phyrgia and Galatia. They intended to go on to Asia (this would be Asia Minor’s western coast, which included Ephesus and Miletus and the regions of Mysia and Bithynia), but the Holy Spirit forbade them from speaking the gospel there.

Do you see that the Spirit is able to “put a check in your spirit,” or to make it difficult to go to new places to speak about Jesus? It wasn’t that they were NEVER to preach in these regions, but there was other work to be completed first.

Verses 7-8 — And they came to Mysia, and tried to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit) did not permit them. Again, it wasn’t time yet! So they passed by Mysia and came down to Troas, on the upper northwest corner of Asia Minor.

Verse 9 — It was at Troas that Paul learned where they were to go next. He had a vision of a man from Macedonia, a Greek region located to the north and west of them. In the vision, a man from Macedonia stood and appealed to (implored beseeched) Paul, Come to Macedonia and help us.

Verse 10 — Paul’s response was to immediately prepare to go into Macedonia to preach the gospel to them, concluding (inferring)  that God was calling them there, though the man in the vision did not identify himself as being a messenger of God. Note that Luke says, “We sought.” Luke had joined with Paul, Silas, and Timothy, probably at Troas.

Verse 11 — So they went by way of the Aegean Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea), from Troas to Samothrace, a Greek island  in the Aegean Sea, and then to Neapolis, then to Philippi, a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony. They stayed in that city for some days.

Verse 13 — On the Sabbath, they went outside the gate to a riverside. There were no synagogues in Philippi because there were not enough Jews to make up the quorom of 10 men that was required to establish one. So Jews would have gathered by a river to pray and worship God. Sure enough, Luke, Paul, Silas and Timothy found some Jewish women gathered at the river, so they sat down and began speaking the gospel to the women who had assembled.

Now they were where the Spirit wanted them to go, and we will see in Session 27 that there was amazing and powerful work just ahead!