Sunday, March 25, 2012

From Acts to Revelation Part 22 – Saul

From Acts to Revelation
Part 22 – Saul
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

Saul was introduced to us as a young man working with those who stoned Stephen at the end of Acts 7.

They laid their cloaks at his feet while they killed Stephen, and the scriptures tell us that Saul consented to his death.

Because of the persecution lead by people like Saul, the church in Jerusalem dispersed, traveling to Judea and Samaria.

This is where we learned of the Apostle Philip having to travel to Samaria to teach about Christ because of Simon the sorcerer, and where we also learned that, just because someone confesses Jesus and is baptized, it does not necessarily mean that their hearts are right with the Lord.

Peter made that clear to Simon when he told him that he had no part of the ministry because his heart was not right with the Lord. He was still in his sin and had not repented.

We then saw Philip speak to the gentile Ethiopian, whose heart was right with the Lord, but had not confessed Christ, nor been baptized. After speaking with Philip, he did so, and received salvation.

Today we are going to look at Saul, and how his hate for followers of Christ grew to the point it consumed him.

Sometimes, when a truth is presented to us, it has such a profound effect on us, that it becomes difficult to accept. The bigger the truth, or the bigger our “self”, the more difficult it is to allow God to do a work in us.

We will see how, God, judged Saul, not by his actions, but by his heart, and how Saul, through obedience, became a servant to the Lord.

Today we will ask ourselves the question, Is my heart like Simon's, unwilling to let go of my sin, or the Ethiopians, which was right with the Lord? Secondly, if my heart is right with the Lord, am I obeying Him so that I may serve Him?

Acts 9:1-7
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
   “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

1.      Saul continued his murderous threats and work towards the followers of Jesus
1.      He even went to the High Priest for a letter allowing him to bring followers who fled Jerusalem, back to Jerusalem as prisoners.

2.      His hatred for followers consumed him.

2.      Saul determined for himself what he was going to do with his life.
1.      We can make choices in life.

2.      We can “follow our dreams”

3.      Saul's dream was to lead the persecution against the followers of Christ.

3.      There was a problem with Saul's life, and plan
1.      His heart was right, although his life was not.

2.      Just like the Ethiopian, Saul's heart loved the Lord, but he had not confessed Christ, nor been baptized, and his life and actions were that of a lost soul.

3.      No matter how one tries, without Christ, your life, and your actions are all lead by your flesh because you do not have the Holy Spirit.

4.      Those who are lost, live according to their flesh, which is sinful.

5.      Galatians 5:19-21 tells us the fruits of the flesh are;
1.      Sexual Immorality - sex for anything other than what God intended – incl. porn
2.       Impurity
3.      Debauchery - excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures
4.      Idolatry - putting anything/anyone before God
5.      Witchcraft - not just magic, controlling/manipulating others to do your will
6.      Hatred
7.      Discord – disorder, disagreements (arguing to prove your point)
8.      Jealousy
9.      Fits of Rage
10. Selfish Ambition – selfish dreams, desires and wants
11. Dissensions – causing conflicts
12. Factions – creating cliques in the church (including some/ excluding others)
13. Envy – is resentment and bitterness (Simon's sin)
14. Drunkenness
15. Orgies
16. vs 21 “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

6.      Saul was living a life that followed his flesh.

4.      We NEED the Holy Spirit to live Godly lives
1.      When our hearts are right, and we confess Christ, like the Samaritans, we too can receive the Holy Spirit!

2.      THEN, we can live Goldy lives, serving the Lord, and our lives will bring forth FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT as in Galatians 5:22-23
1.      Love - (I Corinthians 13 - ACTION)
2.      Joy – in ALL circumstances as displayed by the Disciples
3.      Peace – regardless of the world around you
4.      Patience – lack of this is selfishness, and strong will
5.      Kindness – in how we treat others
6.      Goodness – in what we DO for others
7.      Faithfulness – trusting always in the Lord
8.      Gentleness
9.      Self-Control
10. vs 23-26 “Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. “

5.      The LAW (of Moses) is to judge the SIN (fruit of the flesh) of man.
1.      But those in Christ, will not be judged by the Law!

1.      Because Saul's heart was right the Lord continued to try and reach him
1.      God had obviously reached Saul before, which made Saul serve God as he was.

2.      The scriptures tell us, “Draw close to me, and I will draw close to you...” - James 4:8

3.      Saul's heart was right, but he was living by his flesh, he had not submitted to the Lord.

2.      So the Lord, judging Saul's heart, looking past his actions, reached out
1.      On Saul's Journey, a light from heaven flashed around HIM.
2.      HE fell to the ground.
3.      HE heard a voice say to him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?”
4.      This happened to SAUL, directly...personally, between he and the Lord.

3.      Saul cried out, “Who are you, Lord?”
1.      And the Lord answered, using the name that Saul hated...
2.      “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

4.      Now that Jesus has presented Himself to Saul, Saul has to make a choice
1.      Saul's heart was right with God, though he had not yet confessed Christ
2.      He now had to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord God!

5.      To be a servant of God, we must;
1.      Confess Christ
2.      Repent of our sins
3.      Allow God's Holy Spirit to do a work in us
4.      Live by the fruits of His Holy Spirit (not to be led by our flesh)
5.      and OBEY

6.      The Lord now gives Saul a command to obey
1.      “Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
2.      The Lord appeared to Saul and invited him to follow.

1.      As it was with Saul, many of us can relate
1.      Those around Saul saw and heard nothing
2.      Many times in our lives, when we hear the Lord calling us, our friends are confounded.

2.      Saul SAW and HEARD the risen Lord!
1.      He accepted the Lord Christ was Jesus
2.      He obeyed His command
3.      He would soon be serving the very one he set out to destroy

3.      Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess!
1.      Either in this life, or eternity.
2.      I chose NOW!

Today we will ask ourselves the question, Is my heart like Simon's, unwilling to let go of my sin, or like Saul's, willing to confess and repent so that I may have Salvation?

Secondly, if my heart is right with the Lord, am I obeying Him so that I may serve Him?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

From Acts to Revelation Part 21 – Philip and the Ethiopian

From Acts to Revelation
Part 21 – Philip and the Ethiopian
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

In today's news, we read that Pope Shenouda III, who was the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Pope, died today. There are currently 10 Million Coptic Christians in the world.

Ethiopia is approximately 1,000 miles south of Egypt, where we will see Philip begin traveling towards.

Today's scripture will show us how obedience will allow God's leading in our life, and how a person who is truly seeking the Lord, will find Him.  We also see the Apostles continue with water baptism as an outward expression of a spiritual truth, this coming before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as well as how the Teleportation we watched for years on Star Trek is not only probable, but is actually possible, fitting into the physical laws God has placed on this universe.

Acts 8:26-40
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
   “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Up to this point, we have seen;

ñ Philip already traveled from Jerusalem to Samaria to help the Disciples there preach about Christ.

ñ An Apostle was needed, probably because of Simon the Sorcerer, who had tricked the people into thinking he was a powerful wizard.

ñ After Philip arrived, the miracles, signs, wonders and healing that always follow an Apostle, proved that his teaching was of God, and the Samaritans believed, and were baptized.

ñ The scriptures tell us that even Simon believed and was baptized.

ñ After this, the Apostles Peter and john came to teach and baptize them in the Holy Spirit.

ñ Simon offered to buy the Holy Spirit, and Peter told him, although you confessed Christ, and were baptized, you are not part of this ministry (saved), because your heart is not right with God. Repent of your sin, you are full of bitterness.

ñ The Apostles continued back to Jerusalem, preaching Christ all through Samaria.

1.      Philip was obedient to Christ, going to Samaria.
1.      We cannot expect God to give us another Word until we “do” the one He has already given us.

2.      Our obedience to God's instruction is the road to His leading.

3.      Obedience is the “narrow path”

2.      An angel of the Lord now leads Philip to Gaza.
1.      vs 27 shows that Philip immediately obeyed.

3.      Philip meets an Ethiopian along the way.
1.      He was probably celebrating the “Feast of the Tabernacles”, or feast of tents as it is called, which is celebrated around October.

2.      He seems to be a gentile proselyte, or gentile who converted to Judaism.

3.      He was reading the Book of Isaiah.

4.      This is would be the very first Gentile to convert to Christ!

1.      The scriptures show us a couple of things here
1.      First, it was possible for a Gentile to convert to Judaism and worship God in the Old Testament.
1.      Even then, God was trying to reach people and have a relationship with them

2.      Secondly, a Jew, whether by birth or conversion, who is TRULY seeking the Lord, will find Him!
1.      We see God bring Philip to this man who was the treasurer to the country of Ethiopia.

2.      Philip invites, the Ethiopian accepts
1.      True witnessing, an invitation is given, then accepted
2.      Philip teaches of Christ and the New Covenant
3.      What naturally follows is baptism

1.      Why is this story right here in scripture?
1.      I believe it is because we just saw Simon, who confessed Christ and get baptized, yet was not saved because his heart was not right with the Lord.

2.      Here, we have a man who in contrast, his heart IS right with the Lord, but he has not confessed Christ or been baptized.

3.      Neither of these to men, Simon nor the Ethiopian, having part of the salvation formula, were saved, but only having a form of religion.

2.      Philip gives the Ethiopian what he gave Simon, the truth
1.      Simon's heart, unchanged, he was not saved.

2.      The Ethiopians heart was already right with the Lord, hearing the truth, he confessed Christ, and immediately wanted baptism to show the world outwardly what had taken place spiritually.

1.      Science fiction in the Bible?
1.      vs. 39 we see when the Ethiopian was baptized and came up out of the water, Philip had been suddenly taken away by the Spirit of the Lord.

2.      Philip was instantly teleported nearly 20 miles away!

3.      Is this real? Can this be?
1.      YES.

2.      I believe the Bible is;
1.      the inerrant Word of God

2.      the Truth

3.      God does not lie, if the Word says it, it is true!

3.      Hard to believe?
1.      Fans of science fiction like Star Trek with teleporters, Quantum leap with time traveling devices, or classic books like H.G. Well's The Time Machine,  have readily accepted bending space and time to travel through time and over far distances instantly.

2.      I believe that this is possible, because the Bible says it is.
1.      Whether or not we ever master it as humans is debatable, but the fact remains, the Holy Scriptures says that it is possible.

3.      God, when creating our universe, and everything in it, implanted certain physical and quantum laws.  Some are bendable, some are unmovable, and some are immeasurable.

4.      The Conundrum of Quantum Physics
1.      I do not believe that science should ever be used to prove the Bible, but the Bible should be used to prove science.

2.      Hundreds of scriptures, which at one time dismissed by science, have later been proven true as we advance in our understanding.
1.      You may be surprised to learn that the Bible revealed that the earth is round. Job 26:10, Prov 8:27, Isaiah 40:22, Amos 9:6. Today, we chuckle at the people of the fifteenth century who feared sailing because they thought they would fall over the edge of the flat earth. Yet the Bible revealed the truth in 1000 B.C. 2500 years before man discovered it for himself!

2.      In various verses, the Bible says the earth is round and hangs in space. It took a long time for science to catch up and reach the same conclusions. Copernicus made the discovery in 1475. But the Bible always knew. Here are two related Bible verses that were written more than 2500 years ago, and more than 1000 years before Copernicus:
3.      "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth..." (Isaiah 40:22,NIV). (By the way, the Hebrew language at that time did not have a word for "sphere," only for "circle.")

4.      "He spreads out the northern [skies] over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing" (Job 26:7, NIV).

3.      So, the Bible will always prove science, not the other way around.

5.      God wrote the code we are living in
1.      He designed and built everything we call this dimension, or universe, and everything in it.
2.      He also designed it in a way that some laws which appear to be set in stone, can be manipulated.
3.      Light is actually particles, and can be bent.
4.      Water, which seems to be liquid, can be manipulated into a gas or solid form by altering other laws around it, such as temperatures.

6.      Teleportation is real, and Philip experienced it first-hand

If you wish to be lead by God's Holy Spirit, you must first OBEY what He commands.

When you do, He will lead and guide you.

Outward confession and expression is part of the Christian faith, and we should continue in the practices.
If one is truly seeking the Lord, God will make a way for them.

Finally, teleportation is a fact, although we have not mastered it, God says so.