on the move of the church out of Jerusalem (sermon summaries 11.5.06)

Sunday was a day where we saw several unsaved visitors. I knew some of them were coming ahead of time and one of our messages involved a clear presentation of the gospel and what conversion means. I had written the message before the news of their plans to attend, so it seemed clear to me that the Lord was directing our paths once again. So far we have no more than ‘friendly’ comments from those who visited. In a way, I would rather have some tension, since that would indicate conviction of sin, but at least it is a step and an open door to further contacts.

The first message covered Ac 8-11 and four conversion scenarios. I entitled it “Unlikely Converts“. The proposition was: The living examples of life-change (and church-change) recorded for us in Acts are samples of the kind of change possible for anyone who is not a Christian. (Kind of an unwieldy sentence, I think! I need to work on that. The introduction to this message was too wordy also.) The message involved highlighting the dramatic changes that occured in the lives of various peopel, starting with the Samaritans (from demonism to Christ) with possibly a conterfeit convert in Simon the sorcerer. Next we covered the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, a high government official who gladly humbled himself to the rite of baptism as a testimony of his faith in Christ. Next was Saul, from persecutor to preacher. And last was Cornelius, opening the door of his heart to Christ from a background of paganism, and participating in the opening of the gospel to the rest of hte world. The theme of this message was change, the possibility of change, the variety of change, the need of change in the most desperate to the most high in society.

The second message centered on Ac 12, but reviewed aspects of the preceding chapters as well. It was called “To the Uttermost Parts” as I showed how the Lord was moving the church out of Jerusalem. First, we reviewed the foundational ministry of the apostles for the church. In Ac 8, Peter and John are sent to validate and confirm the work of Philip in Samaria. Peter uses the keys to the kingdom and through his prayers the Holy Spirit is sent to the Samaritans. Then when Saul is converted, Peter meets with him (see also Gal 1) and confirms the work of God in Saul’s heart. Later, Peter follows in the footsteps of Philip (trace the geography of Philip’s movements in Ac 8, compare with Peter’s in Ac 9-10), apparently again in a supervisory and confirming role. In this work, Peter again is employed in using the keys to the kingdom in opening the door to the Gentiles. I pointed out here that the apostles are seen as the foundations of the city of God, the bride of the Lamb (Rev 21) and that the Lord gave them this role in Mt 16.19 in announcing the keys to the kingdom, the binding and loosing, etc. All of this foundational ministry occurred while the apostles were centered in Jerusalem from Ac 1-12. After Ac 12, the apostles are mentioned as a group on only one more occasion, the Jerusalem council, Ac 15-16. They are never mentioned as a group again. It appears that they may have been called back to Jerusalem for the council. In Ac 12, events occur that appear to be driving at least some of the apostles out of Jerusalem. James the brother of John is killed. Peter is imprisoned and slated for execution. On his release, he realizes he has to leave town, sending a message to ‘James and the brethren’. Who are ‘the brethren’? It could be the other apostles, but perhaps it is not. Perhaps, like Peter, they are now on their way out of Jerusalem for their own safety and future ministry. At any rate, it does appear that they are eventually no longer needed in Jerusalem. In Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, he meets with James and the elders, no mention of apostles (Ac 21). This leaves James, the Lord’s brother, as the head of the church of Jerusalem, and it is in this context of persecution and trouble that he writes, probably in the next year, that most pastoral of epistles, the epistle of James. He is ministering to the needs of saints under pressure as they are being scattered all over the world.

The last message of the day, then, turned to the book of James. We covered just James 1-2 in a message entitled “Faith Under Trial“. Proposition: The Christian needs real, living, practiced faith in order to stand for God in times of trial. First, we covered The testing of your faith (1.1-18), then The living of your faith (1.19-2.13), and last The reality of your faith (2.14-26). The general thrust of the message was on genuine conversion. You can’t just talk, you must do, you can’t just say you believe Christ, you must live like you believe Christ. This message seemed the strongest of the three, yet there are hearts that still seem hard to it. May God’s Holy Spirit use the words to bring conviction.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

P.S. Here is the link to the notes from last Wednesday night’s message.

Comments

  1. Chris Anderson says:

    Good stuff, Don! I’m especially glad to hear of the guests. Were they there for the “unlikely converts” message?

    Will pray for the Lord to work. What a blessing it would be to your Body to see some come to Christ. I know that’s not the primary “good” of conversion, but it is indeed a “good.”

  2. Don Johnson says:

    Yes, they were there. I try to be careful about giving details about who shows up, lest they somehow see themselves “discussed” on line. But suffice to say that some in this group are folks we are regularly praying for. Another was sort of an ‘out of the blue’ sort of visitor with a church background of some sort, but quite liberal in views in my discussions with this one afterward. But a seed was sown.

    We are trying to get ourselves more active in the evangelizing score. The ground is hard here, but a few will listen. Maybe enough to break up some hard ground?

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3