Sermon, Sunday October 23, 2016, Confirmation Day.
Joel 2:28-29, Psalm 150, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Why we are here: New Beginnings
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’
Peace and forgiveness from God: this is why we are here as a church isn’t it?
We are here for days like today: Days of peace and forgiveness on shows; days of new beginnings.
This is a day of new beginnings in God’s Spirit. It is when 13 people will say something about what God has said to them for the encouragement and inspiration of us all.; a day when the resurrected Jesus is close enough to enable 13 young people to come out from any locked doors of peer disapproval or fear to speak words of life that the Spirit uses to change the rest of us.
We are here for days when faith is seen and heard and the hint of real change for real people in real time is real, palpable, exciting, encouraging, invigorating – full of the love of Jesus. All of this is Holy Spirit powered – as it was for those first fearful few.
Those first followers only came out of the locked room of fear by force of the Holy Spirit. Mary had come back from the tomb and the encounter with the raised Jesus who called her by her name. She said to the few, “I have seen the Lord”.
Still they stayed locked in. It was only by the force of the Spirit that they came up for air- up to start to believe that anything was possible again. Maybe today as we hear of these new beginnings in the Book of Acts and hear these young people and receive the body and blood again, we might be encouraged to believe again that all things are possible in Jesus?
The Book of Acts, written by Luke and addressed to the same person, Theophilus (lover of God), as his Gospel, describes the third phase of God’s big story and strategy. This is God finding his lost children through the church now. Acts 1:8 is the theme verse of Acts.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….”
The massive, diverse, multi-cultural crowd of 3000 believers becomes the unified community—the church (Acts 2:42-47).
God is finding his lost children and creating a thriving community; a movement; a close association on the move for more people to catch the new breeze of forgiveness, peace and love.
The diversity becomes astounding unity by the presence of the Spirit. There are no singular pronouns in Acts 2:42-47. Every “you” is a “you all”.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe…. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common….. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,….. And the Lord added to their number daily…..
Friends, if we believe that this church is a club – a collection of like minded individuals, we would be sorely misguided. At its core this church is a community of dead sinners resurrected and living in the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus who is still searching, seeking, knocking, expanding his kingdom rule through it.
So, at our core we are here for the words of real faith we will hear today.
We are not here to maintain a little human kingdom by whatever means we deem effective.
- At our core we are not here to maintain a building or a set of human expectations.
- We are not here to be a club in which we judge who can come in and who should go out.
- We are not here to make it all happen, “grow the church”, “save the church” or even “build the church”, making sure the right things are done or to ensure all the rules we have somehow set for ourselves are correctly kept, without fail.
We are here to be loved by this resurrected Jesus who saved us from never-ending separation from the gracious acceptance of our Creator.
- We are here to be drawn back to the garden of life and closeness to the God who gave us a life, a story, a new way to live this life he has given – the way of Jesus’ love and hope.
- We are here to be served, be caught up in the wonder of the resurrected Jesus who speaks a thousand languages for all to hear on this Pentecostal day – “Repent of yourself – take hold of me and my grandest plan driven by extraordinary love that you can barely believe”.
Young people, we value you, we love you and we want you to grow up into Jesus Christ and take your place in the mission of Jesus to bring true hope and love to hopeless and loveless lives where ever you encounter them on your journey.
The Spirit is calling you to do what he called these first resurrected sinners to do and every other resurrected sinner ever since through this long winding road of the church’s story these 2000+ years.
Four things are what we do as followers of Jesus.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The Spirit and we, your brothers and sisters in the mission of Jesus here in Nuri call you to these things, and commit to supporting you live in these four things for the time you are here.
Devote your mind, body and heart to the word these apostles were powered to put down for us – the holy Scriptures which are the only source of truth; a guiding light; a holy Spirit powered word that create what the words say.
Stick together like glue with each other, other people of faith, and especially your local community where old meet young, lots of good work is done and we grow in the love of Jesus together – always together.
Get to the altar meal a lot. Receive the body and blood of your resurrected Saviour for forgiveness, new life and freedom to live in his grace over and over again as your journey and ours continues.
Learn and live in the art of the gift of prayer – both being in your heavenly Fathers holy presence and seeking his help for everything you face from day to day.
What’s the benefit of staying in these four things?
We believe he will give your more confidence – not in yourself so much but in your identity of as always loved and accepted person of God with a story worth sharing, a voice worth hearing, a vocation worth living, a meaning worth living out in this world.
So, we don’t want to entertain you, manipulate you, dismiss you, or ignore you. We want to you to grow into Jesus and grow into who he knows you to be and calls you to be.
You are called with us to live in the means of the Spirit for forgiveness and peace for all;
- Devote you heart and head to his Word
- Be among us in the Sprit’s love more often than you are not.
- Sharing the holy meal with us by which we are again and again made holy, set apart for God’s purposes in this community
- Pray – both enjoying our Father’s presence and seeking his help all the time – alone and together.
Why are we here? To be in the movement of the Resurrected Jesus who has put us here and called us to live in the four streams of the Spirit for the life of our community.
That same telling word of the Spirit for the first church is still it for the now church;
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….”
The Holy Spirit come upon you young people, and all of us in this place and move us into his Word, each other, the body and blood and being in our Father’s presence.
Chapter 28, new beginings
Timeless Truth: He is risen—spread the news!
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
What could turn a group of gutless deserters into courageous, outspoken evangelists willing to be imprisoned and even die for their cause? They had witnessed the resurrected Christ. He had proved Himself alive for forty days to various people in a variety of circumstances and places. Just before His ascension, Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promised power of the Holy Spirit so that they could be witnesses to His resurrection in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Ten days later on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit stormed in like tongues of fire. He empowered each disciple to declare the gospel. Peter became the first mega-church preacher and that day three thousand new believers were baptized. This new community of believers embraced teaching and fellowship and enjoyed the favor of nearly all the people. All but the powerful Jewish rulers, that is.
The new church continued to grow rapidly. The apostles were even able to perform miracles similar to those Jesus had done! As the apostles spread the word of the resurrection in Jerusalem, they incited outrage and opposition from the Jewish rulers. Peter refused to be silenced and continued to speak in spite of orders to stop. Even a severe flogging could not curb his zealous proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah. Stephen’s scathing sermon before the Sanhedrin showed how the Jews had repeatedly rejected God’s prophets and resisted God’s Spirit. The Sanhedrin dragged him outside of Jerusalem to stone him. He saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God and entrusted himself to the Lord.
Sparked by the martyring of Stephen, persecution drove Christians like Philip out of Jerusalem and into outlying areas like Samaria. While the opposition grew, so did the spread of the gospel message. A Pharisee named Saul made it his personal mission to defeat this movement once and for all, but his blinding come-to-Jesus moment on the road to Damascus really “opened his eyes.” Meanwhile, God prepared Ananias to deliver God’s marching orders to Saul: he had a mission to be God’s witness to the Gentiles. As Ananias laid his hands upon him, Saul’s sight was restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Within a few short days, this persecutor of Christ became a preacher of Christ. Needless to say, his turnaround was met with suspicion and doubt, but trusted Barnabas vouched for him to the apostles in Jerusalem. Saul soon found himself on the receiving end of death threats, so he too was sent away from Jerusalem. The church spread throughout Judea and Samaria as God used even persecution to achieve His Upper Story purpose of spreading the news that Jesus is the risen Messiah.
God’s next move was so radical that He had to prepare both Peter and Cornelius for this new revelation. While an angel told Roman centurion Cornelius to send for Peter, Peter was given a vision of unclean animals on a sheet. A heavenly voice instructed him to eat this meat that was definitely not kosher. What Peter called impure, God now called clean. As Peter was trying to interpret the meaning of this vision, Cornelius’ servants arrived and summoned him to their master’s home. When he explained the gospel to a full house, the Holy Spirit was poured out on these Gentiles too! The Holy Spirit was now available to all who believed! Peter now knew his vision was not about food but about God’s plan to declare all people “kosher” who would believe in Christ. Peter’s ministry continued in Jerusalem where Herod Agrippa’s persecution grew deadly. Peter was imprisoned but even prison bars could not stop God’s plan. As his friends earnestly prayed for him, an angel miraculously freed him. Kings, rulers, and prison guards all found themselves fighting against God and helpless to stop His plan. While the Lower Story of persecution drove believers away from Jerusalem, the Upper Story of resurrection drove many to God. He alone can redeem even the worst of circumstances. After all, He alone is the God who raised the dead!
Icebreaker Question: Share about a time when you had to begin a new job or project.
- Look up Ex. 3:2, 3:21, and 19:18. Why do you suppose the Holy Spirit was portrayed as tongues of fire that came to rest on each believer at Pentecost and how does His relationship to believers change after this event?
- According to Peter’s Pentecost sermon (p. 391-392 or Acts 2:22-24, 36), who was responsible for Jesus death? As a group, discuss the tension we experience between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.
- What marked the community life of the believers (p. 392, 395)? Discuss ways your church and small group help foster a similar community. Share what is most meaningful to you personally.
- The church grew rapidly from the beginning even in spite of growing opposition and persecution. What factors might account for such growth then?
- God the Father was the most visible person of the Trinity in the Old Testament. Jesus, God the Son, was most visible in the gospels and now God the Holy Spirit becomes prominent in Acts. For most Christians, the Holy Spirit is the least understood person of the Trinity. List all you learned about the Holy Spirit from this chapter. What did you learn about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for your own life?
- How did Stephen’s martyrdom help fulfill God’s mandate of Acts 1:8 (p. 389) beginning with Philip? If you are comfortable, share an example from your own life of God fulfilling an Upper Story work out of a Lower Story tragedy.
- What accounts for the dramatic change in Saul of Tarsus from persecutor to preacher? Do you know anyone personally who has gone from being a Christ-hater to a Christ-follower? (Please be sensitive to privacy by refraining from mentioning names.)
- God intended to teach Peter something even more profound than a lesson about foods through the vision of unclean animals (p. 402-403). What was it and why was Cornelius’ conversion such a big turning point in the life of the early church? (See Acts 11:1-3, 15-18, Romans 10:12-13 and Ephesians 2:11-13 for further insight.)
- What did you learn about suffering from Peter’s flogging (p. 397) and imprisonment (p. 403-404), and Stephen’s martyrdom (p. 397-399) that you could apply personally?
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.
Chapter 29, paul’s mission
Journal your answers to these questions as you read through the chapter this week. You may wish to read one day and journal the next, or spread the questions over the whole week.
- What method did Paul consistently use to prove that Jesus is the Messiah?
- Paul took three missionary journeys throughout Asia and Greece to help fulfill the mandate to be witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Locate some of the cities and territories that Paul visited using the map in the back of The Story. If you could go on a short-term mission trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- What did you learn about the relationship between faith and suffering from Paul’s life and the church at Thessalonica (p. 414-415, 416-419)? How might this help you cope as you endure your own trials and suffering?
- Describe Apollos (p. 420). What can you learn about Christian discipleship from his relationship with Priscilla and Aquila?
- First Corinthians 13 is often called the “love chapter” (p. 427, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7). This kind of love is sacrificial and benevolent, not self-serving but doing what is best for another—John 3:16 love. Notice the list of things that love is and is not. Choose one or two to practice this week. How could your family relationships be affected if you practiced this kind of love this week? Your friendships? Your church family relationships?
- Review Paul’s teaching on the gospel (p. 427-428, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). List the key points of the gospel that Paul said were of “first importance.” How many people saw the resurrected Christ and what makes His resurrection such a crucial piece of the gospel?
- Look through this chapter at the many times the Holy Spirit directed Paul and the apostles. What did He influence? How does this constant direction compare with His control of your life?