We asked a question this week: What is Your Idea of Church? This is a two-part series and this week we see that a church, a body of believers need to be solid & systematic. Now, those two words usually don't make a person jump up and down with excitement, but they are the fabric of the early church. The example given to us in Acts 20 gives us structure in purpose and creativity in methodology.
What does it take to turn a city upside down? What does it take to turn a culture upside down? What does it take to turn an entire economic system upside down? It takes the gospel. It takes the gospel that confronts the idols and destroys them. Paul was a stellar example to us on how to impact those around us with the life-transforming power of Jesus.
Who doesn't love an epic story with stories inside the story?! We get that in this passage about a man by he name of Apollos. Luke turns the page for a period of time to move away from Paul's third missionary journey to focus on what was happening in a synagogue in Ephesus. Apologetics and discipleship are at the core of this story. Tune into the new scene.
The Sophomoric Philosophy goes like this: "The more you study, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why study?" Ah, philosophy. Even the Apostle Paul encountered the deep thinkers of the day with the gospel. Athens was teeming with religious philosophies and intelligent thinkers, but they were ignorant on the truth of God. Paul, knowing his audience, described God to them & ended with repentance.
We are often challenged to "get out of our comfort zone" when it comes to sharing the gospel. But have we ever been challenged to share the gospel in our comfort zone? The Apostle Paul, on several occasions, entered a synagogue to teach on the Sabbath. Luke even says it was Paul's "custom" to enter the synagogue. Paul plugged in to a section of culture where he could easily share the gospel & talk of Jesus as the Christ. Where has God placed you to share the gospel? Where is your comfort zone? Get in the zone.
What happens when you follow God's will for your life & things go south? You can still trust God even when things don't turn out the way you thought they should. You can still trust God that he will provide justice in his time. The stories of Acts 16 should bring hope to all of us that we can rejoice in our sufferings when doing what God has called us to do.
Very few of us like being told "no." But what happens when God says, "No." How do we react? How we react is a pretty clear picture of our spiritual maturity. In today's study in Acts, we see the Holy Spirit stopping the Pauline entourage from entering Asia and Bithynia. In the Christian vernacular, we often say that "God closed a door." To many, when that happens, it can be very devastating. Closed door are one of the most effective tools that the Holy Spirit uses to guide us.
Have you ever messed up in a big way? You failed, let down a friend, broke trust, hurt someone you love, shattered a relationship... Maybe you feel like damaged goods, useless and ruined. Take heart! Mark made that kind of life-changing mistake, but God picked up the pieces of his broken life, put them back together, and used Mark to do incredible things for the Church (including writing a book of the Bible)! This is Mark's story...
Conflict. Dissension. Debate. Just as The Church is seeing "all the things God has done", a council is called to settle the dispute. The process of resolution is uncanny for the sake of the gospel and the expanse of the Kingdom which was meant to create unity. What was the dispute? They must answer, "What does a person have to do to be saved?"