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The Christianity of 2000 years ago

Read Acts 16:9-40

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This is one of the central chapters of the Bible. Here we have wonderful ‘gospel’ texts. For example, 30-31.

Moreover, here is given us the record of the entrance of the gospel witness into Europe. It is, as it were, the ‘official’ launch of the message of Christ into our part of the world, Europe.
Paul is here on his second missionary journey. His original intention (15:36) was to revisit the places he had evangelised on his first journey which would be all in Asia. But God had another plan. Europe was in God’s mind. Today, there is little evidence of the gospel in those places where Paul first preached but in this part of Europe anyway, much remains of the message Paul delivered all those years ago.

Here we have a detailed account of the founding of a Christian congregation. In a day in which men are determined to impose their notions and views upon what the Church of Christ should believe, do and witness, it is important we take note of the faith and functions of apostolic Christianity! Please bear in mind that the purpose of Christ for His people has not and cannot change from what it was back then.

Please listen to these words. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” Heb 13:8. Christ is unchanging in His person, power and purpose. “For I am the LORD, I change not,” Malachi 3:6 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19.

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” Isaiah 46:10.
In the light of this truth we may learn just what the Church of Christ ought to be today!

I. THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI

1. The place where it was founded. “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made,” 13. No great edifice. It was marked by prayer. It was obviously a small gathering of women. Such humble beginnings are forgotten today!

2. The Word was preached. That is also a chief feature of God’s Work. No ornamentation, rituals – just prayer, praise and preaching!

3. Please note the role of women here. The first convert, Lydia, a business woman. She was not ashamed to be identified with such a reproached gathering. There were no men mentioned!
The second convert was a woman, 16-18. Paul would not tolerate this demon-possessed woman to speak as she did even though what she was true.

II. THE FASHION OF PAUL’S EVANGELISM

1. His tool was ‘words’! “She attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul,” verse 14. It is the “words” of the gospel that saves sinners. Acts 10:22, 32; 11:12-14. This blessed Book is the key to salvation.

2. Lydia was saved by “attending to” Paul’s words. The meaning of the word “attended” = Matt 6:1, “Take heed.” How many take heed to what God says?

3. Lydia took heed because the Lord ‘opened’ her heart. Meaning of the word ‘opened’. Mark 7:34-35, Luke 24:31, 45. This is that secret, heavenly action to which the Saviour refers in John 3:3. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He is “born from above.”

4. Lydia immediately manifested the change which had taken place within her heart. She openly professed her faith and she opened her home to Paul and his companions. All that she was and had was now  the Lord’s and would be used in His service.

III. I MUST POINT OUT THE TROUBLE THAT TARGETED THE NEW-FOUND CHURCH.
Consider briefly what we read in verse 19-40.

1 The gospel is at war with the devil’s kingdom. V 19. It cannot exist ‘peacefully’ alongside the devil’s activities. Gen 3:15. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” Romans 12:18.
It is not always possible. David said: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war,” Psalm 120:7. If Christians would keep quiet – ‘no trouble’! But that we cannot do. Acts 5:18-33.

2. The devil’s weapons has ever been persecution. Verses 19-24.
We have the record here.

3. Please note that God’s cause can still thrive amidst reproach and persecution. Verse 25. Paul and Silas sing, sustained by God’s grace. Isaiah 43:1-3. Souls are saved despite the persecution, 26-34. What devil-confounding scene we have here!

4. Please note that there is pictured here the final outcome of all things. What happened here foreshadows what will one day take place on a world-wide scale.
One day the enemies of the gospel will know just who it is they have been persecuting! “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2. They were humbled before Paul – verse 39.

Please follow Lydia’s example and ‘attend’ unto the gospel tonight.

Tribulation and Trouble : the lot of God’s people

Read Acts 15:36-16:10.

Stream or download Tribulation and Trouble-the lot of God’s people, Pt1


On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas exhorted their recent converts, issuing a timely warning, speaking to them of the certainty of difficulties and affliction. “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:22. The Saviour had said the same. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33.

I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS BESET BY TROUBLES WITHIN AND WITHOUT
It was not long until the wisdom of these words was demonstrated, Acts 15:5-7, 35-40.

1. False teaching must be opposed. Verse 6. Cannot be tolerated or ignored.

2. There is a proper way for this to take place. “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter,” verse 6. This is rule by Presbyters (presbuteros) or ‘Presbyterianism’.

3. The Word of God, confirmed by the actions of the Holy Ghost, should guide us. Verses 12-21, 24-29. This was how they settled the dispute. Even so must we use this method. “What saith the Lord?” Used to be the watchword of the FPC. Let be so still.

II. THE VERY BEST OF MEN CAN HAVE DISAGREEMENTS
Acts 15:36-40. I believe that Barnabas was wrong!

1. I believe that he was motivated by family loyalty. Mark was the nephew of Barnabas. Colossians 4:10. Nothing is easier than to be biased, to show undue favour to a relative. It has been a snare to many! Ahithophel became a bitter enemy of David.  “And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom,” 2 Samuel 15:31. He had been a close friend and advisor. “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me,” Psalm 41:9.
He was a picture of Judas. “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me,” John 13:18.

2. What turned Ahithophel from friend to foe? He was the grandfather of Bathsheba, 2 Sam 11:3, 23:34, and was greatly offended by David’s actions. God forgave David as did Bathsheba but her grandfather could not. It led to rebellion and finally suicide, 2 Sa 15:31, 17:23.

3. Beware of undue loyalty to family. Our loyalty must be to Christ. Remember the Saviour’s words. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” Matthew 10:37.

III. THE WAY GOD’S PEOPLE SHOULD GO IS NOT ALWAYS EASILY DISCERNED
At the beginning of chapter 16 there is a record of the circumstances Paul and his company found themselves in which I believe may be helpful to you all here. Verse 6-10.

1. Learn that sometimes God hides from us the way forward. This is meant to intensify our seeking of God.

2. In such circumstances, we should seek to be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not,” verses 6-7. It is His will we desire to know and obey. Notice that they continued to explore openings. They did not just sit on their hands, as it were!

3. As it was, direction was given in the place of prayer. “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night,” verse 9.
I am inclined to believe that Paul was in prayer when he was given this direction. Peter’s vision was given to him as he prayed, Acts 10:9. “I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision,” Acts 11:5.

4. I do not doubt that, if we wait upon God and look to Him, the Spirit will make clear to us what He wishes us to do. It is important that we keep in memory the word of God, in order that it may be a guard against all our own imaginations.
Is there not direction here for this congregation as its seeks God’s direction regarding a minister?

5. Such direction is to be followed by prompt obedience. “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them,” Acts 16:10.
What blessing followed this leading by the Holy Spirit and the obedience of the disciples.

May it be the experience of the church here in Kilskeery.
Amen.

The Parables #62

The Parable of the two sons – Part 12  

Matthew 21:28-32

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The Saviour’s application of the parable

“Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” verses 31 & 32.

We are coming to the end of our study of this wonderful parable, which is providential since I go over to England next week to fulfil some preaching engagements. I would not have liked to have had to leave you with our study unfinished.

Let us look at the two verses we read.

1. How quickly the Jewish leaders gave the right answer. (See V 23) Men have a knowledge of what is right and wrong. These men had heard God’s Word. “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not,” verse 32. However, they don’t act according to what they know!
The Saviour was here talking to “the chief priests and the elders of the people,” Matt 21:23.

2. This they did because these men knew the truth. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not,” Matthew 23:1-3.

3. Furthermore, they had the example of others obeying the gospel. “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him,” Matthew 21:32. They had the further encouragement of seeing others coming forward in faith but they rejected the Word of God and refused the example of those around who repented.

Boys and girls give heed to God’s Word and to the good example of those around you who receive the Lord Jesus.

The Parables #61

The Parable of the two sons – Part 11  

Scripture: Matthew 21:28-32

Stream or download The Parables #61


THE RESPONSE OF THE SONS.

We will consider a little further the decisions made by these sons.

The second son. He was like the seed in stony ground: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended,” Matthew 13:20-21.

The decision he made was a not a fixed, settled decision. There was no root to the decision. It did not run down deep into his heart! He was not like David. “O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory,” Psalm 108:1.

I wonder what made him change his mind – the voice of friends calling him away? Note, “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word.” ‘Tribulation’, ‘Persecution’. The Word of God brings such troubles as these. “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles,” Acts 8:1. Only those truly rooted in Christ can withstand such. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” Ephesians 3:17.
The first son. He realised the sinfulness of his decision. Lack of gratitude, offensive and shameful, vexing to God.  Doubtless, as an Israelite he would have been familiar with Deut 21:18-21.  “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” He turned in repentance.
Refusing to obey your earthly father is most serious. How much more your Creator!
Defying of the voice of God can only end in death. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” James 1:15. That is the penalty of sin

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” Revelation 21:8. The second son was a LIAR!
Please take heed to this matter today, boys and girls.

Special Season of Prayer for our Independent Christian school

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“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. . . . Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved, . . . Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. . . . Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved,” Psalm 80:1, 3, 7, 19.

The opening verse brings us to the days of Israel marching to the promised land. The placement of the tribes was ordained of God. The three tribes mentioned here followed after the Kohathites who carried the Ark of the Covenant, the very symbol of God’s presence amongst His people.

“And the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sanctuary: and the other did set up the tabernacle against they came. And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set forward according to their armies,” Num 10:21-22.

When the people of God are going forward as God intends them to proceed then their eyes will ever be on the blood-sprinkled Ark. It is there that God meets with us. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel,” Exodus 25:22.

If we are in communion with God this is where we will be.

Of course this is a symbol of the very place we seek to enter today.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,” Hebrews 10:19-22.

The Psalmist repeatedly asks for a “shining forth.” In Psalm 94:1 the word is translated “shew thyself.” That is what we look for today.We come to “see the Lord”. Not with the physical eye but with the eyes of faith. Hebs 1:1, 27.

I want us to consider the repeated request today.

I. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS IN THE PLACE OF PRAYER THAT WE WILL SEE OUR NEED AND OWN IT.
“Turn us.” We need turning from backsliding. Word means: ‘recover’!
1. Do we see the evidence of our backsliding? Verses 4-6,12-13, 16.
2. Are we willing to humbly and brokenly acknowledge it.
3. Will we pray for restoration? There is a price to pay!

II. UNDERSTANDING OUR NEED, WE SEE THE MERCY OF GOD MORE CLEARLY.
1. At best our view of God’s mercy is limited. At best, we “see through a glass darkly,” 1 Cor 13:12.
2. In the place of prayer the blessings we have lost sight of come before us again. Verses 8-11. How we have forgotten (occupied with other things) what the Lord has done for us! Jer 2:32, 3:21.
3. Here is where God reveals Himself. Ps 94:1.

III. THE SHOWING OF GOD’S FACE IN THE PRAYER MEETING IS OUR SALVATION
1. In the face of the Lord we see ALL His mercy toward us. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Corinthians 4:6.
There is a clarity spoken of here.
2. Seeing it clearly we do not hesitate to claim in faith the blessings. Vague understandings of God’s mercy breeds unbelief!
3. Thus in the prayer meeting the victory is gained. “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad,” 1 Samuel 1:18.
That is what Jehoshaphat learned. “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you. And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD,” 2 Chronicles 20:17-8.
Seeing God’s mercy and power let us claim the victory today.