In Acts chapter 19, the Apostle Paul comes to Ephesus, and encounters two groups of people who are trying to life some pale imitation of the Christian faith, for they each only possess and practice half of the gospel, to their frustration and indeed to their destruction. One group has heard the word of repentance, but knows nothing of the Spirit-empowered life. The other group tries to imitate the power of the Spirit, but has not first submitted to the word of repentance. the word of repentance which we proclaim, and the power of the Spirit in which we proclaim it are inseparable - two sides of the same coin.
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Luke records the interesting note that “He became hungry and wanted something to eat” and then he has a vision about food. The entire ethnic makeup of the early church hinged on a hungry person’s daydream about food. How do we know this “vision” is from the Lord? And so a big part of Luke’s purpose in these chapters - and he takes at least three chapters to tell this one story - is to show, step by step, how the Holy Spirit led the church into the conclusion, confirming Peter’s vision.
What marks a genuine believer? Sometimes its hard to tell. I see you are at church but I don’t know your homes, your thoughts, your heart. Luke doesn’t record everything about the Jerusalem church for us, so what he does record is significant for us. Luke highlights the two things in the passage were looking at today, the generosity and the integrity of the Jerusalem church.
AGM Sunday. What kind of church are we to be? What is uniquely characterizes a thriving, expanding church? The Jerusalem church was a bold church. Remember that in Acts 2:42-47 we stated the Luke intends for us to see this Jerusalem church as foundational, as they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship and to prayers and to the breaking of the bread, those are the activities that the church in every generation would participate in. Nows in chapters 3-4 we have this story of Peter and John in the temple, healing a man and its aftermath, and we get another characteristic of the Jerusalem church - its a church of bold proclamation. If the church of Jesus Christ fails to be bold in its proclamation, then we might as well give up - we will not make disciples if we’re not bod enough to proclaim the gospel. In Acts 4:1-22 we saw last week the boldness of the apostles, in Act 4:23-32 we see a portrait of a bold church.
Nearly every Christmas movie has the same theme: a cantankerous cynic who has lost faith in humanity experiences the spirit of Christmas and has his faith in humanity restored. Yet Jesus did not come to merely restore our faith in humanity - He came to restore humanity itself. In Philippians 2 Christians are called to have the mind of Christ, who confidently set aside the rights and entitlements that He possessed by virtue of His divine nature to take to Himself our human nature. Through His incarnation, life, death and resurrection Jesus upheld God's word of condemnation against humanity, while lovingly standing in our place to redeem any who will find their life in Him. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit truly begins to transform us in ways that last beyond the Christmas season.