Kingdom Advance to New Frontiers
NOTE: SUNDAY POSTS ARE INTENDED TO BE USED ALONG WITH THE SERMON. IF YOU MISSED THE SERVICE, YOU CAN FOLLOW THE NOTES AS YOU LISTEN ALONG JUST LIKE YOU WERE THERE. http://www.threeriversc.org/#/sermon-audio
Remember, the testimonies of the Lord are a treasure to us. They teach us what to expect and how to proceed.
Acts is loaded with the testimonies of the Lord’s work to advance his kingdom.
As we are engaged in the work of the kingdom, let’s keep looking to the text to inform our work and expectations!
Acts 1:8 is our framework for Acts as a narrative but also for Jesus’ plan for his church in these early years.
Jesus will be worshiped among all nations. The framework of Acts is based on the Lord’s words about the “how to” of the mission Jesus gave them.
“You will be my witnesses…”
Jesus didn’t tell them exactly, with minute details in Acts 1:8, how the “how to” would come about, but he did tell them what to expect before his death, burial and resurrection.
So, the methods of the kingdom were no surprise.
The Spirit was going to use difficulty and challenges to advance the kingdom to new frontiers, use normal Spirit empowered folks, confront spiritual strongholds and break fallen cultural barriers that cannot exist in the kingdom (outline of the sermon!).
In order to lead us into our first observation, listen to what Bob Roberts says about persecution / opposition:
“When we experience persecution (or at least opposition), God accomplishes three important goals in our lives: 1. The difficulty clarifies our beliefs, passions, and loyalties. We can stop and ask ourselves, ‘What do I really believe about God, about my purpose in life, and about the people who are harassing me? Do I really believe Jesus died on the cross for Muslims, gays, inner-city black men, immigrants, and any others who might easily be written off? Do I believe Jesus loves them as much as he loves me? Do I believe it enough to die for Jesus, to suffer for him, or at least to be inconvenienced for him? 2. Opposition purifies our hearts by burning off the impurities of selfishness, pride, and irrational fear. Heartache has a way of cutting through the surface layers of our lives to expose our true desires. Do we really want God and his kingdom more than anything in the world…?” 3. Struggles can propel multiplication in a congregation, as hearts are opened for people who were formerly outside their comfort zones…”
So, what do we see in our text today?
Observations: What do we see/What does it mean?
1. Persecution is a mobilizing instrument in God’s providential hands to export the kingdom rule of Jesus to new frontiers 8:1-4
Persecution is nothing more and nothing less than God’s kingdom and God’s people clashing with Satan’s people and Satan’s petty kingdom.
The hard thing is that due to the fall we are having to invade enemy held territory.
What do we do with this?
1. Believe that the course of history is in the hands of King Jesus.
Revelation 1:4-5 “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”
2. Believe that Jesus delights in saving the hardest of the hard, like Saul, who he will transform into Paul. This will lead to you loving and serving those who are enemies and praying for your enemies just like Jesus said to do.
3. Believe that God can use hardship to mobilize his people to multiply and make disciples.
4. Don’t wait for difficulty to preach he gospel wherever you are.
5. Embrace hardship as a grace filled opportunity to know and grow in the Lord not as an anomaly that is to be gotten through to greater blessing. The hardship is a blessing.
Philippians 1:10 “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
6. Know that the church may be entering a time of difficulty in the west.
We may be facing times when to uphold what we believe are biblical standards will cost us something.
7. We have to learn how to operate in the public square without compromising the Scriptures.
– This will require backbone, courage, resolve, conviction, winsomeness, kindness, gentleness, love of enemies.
2. Philip, a normal guy, goes to the outcasts (Samaritans) and the power of the kingdom is put on display in his ministry as evidence of Jesus’ kingdom rule 8:5-8, 12
1. Philip is a normal guy not a ministry professional.
2. The persecution made opportunity for Philip to engage Samaritans.
3. Philip preached, people saw powerful signs, they listened, they believed and followed Jesus in baptism.
What do we do with this?
1. Believe the kingdom does not need superheroes. The gospel of the kingdom is powerful.
2. Know all of us have access to the powerful gospel of the kingdom and filling of the powerful Holy Spirit.
3. Realize that signs and wonders are not the point. Rather, signs and wonders are by-products of the kingdom taking enemy held territory.
4. All of us are vehicles for supernatural kingdom work. Don’t look for the flashy, just engage your domain, make disciples and have eyes that see and ears that hear to see the miraculous.
3. Fake conversions really happen and must be dealt with prophetically as Satan fights against Jesus’ kingdom rule 8:9-13, 18-24
The kingdom is taking enemy held territory and that comes with spiritual battles.
Bob tells a story about a pastor in India in “Lessons from the East”:
“Very often, when we hold a gospel meeting, a demon possessed person comes to the front of our meeting and dances. This is a direct challenge to God’s authority in front of all people. We have to drive off the evil spirit immediately. Unless people realize the power of the Holy Spirit, they will not understand that our God is more powerful than the evil spirits.”
As we make disciples we can expect some that are not real and some that challenge the authority of God, bible, the church and simply refuse to obey God.
The section on Simon is introduced with a “But”. This indicates a departure from the other joyous converts in the city.
Simon practiced magic.
Simon said that he was someone who was great.
Simon had a following.
Simon was thought of as powerful and even thought of as the power of God that was great.
Simon not only had a following but he had power over people. The people paid attention to him.
People hear about the rule of Jesus (Philip preached about the good news of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ powerful name v. 12) and they believed and were baptized.
Simon sees that his crowd and power are gone.
He has a competitor in Philip. He better try and keep up with the new act in town.
So, Simon “believes” and is “baptized” along with everyone else.
Jesus was used as a vehicle for keeping power, so why not follow this majority trend and hold on to as much power as one possibly can?
(Simon is presented here as a magician. And he is. I’m convinced that much of our “magic” in the post-Christian south is the lie that we and our ends are more vital than God and his kingdom and we use the gospel to sooth our consciences and give us a fake assurance we won’t go to hell so that we can feel good about doing what we want and then running to the church to make it all better when all falls apart.)
Simon then tries to buy the ability to manipulate the Holy Spirit.
Simon misunderstands, because he is not a follower of Jesus.
He thinks the power to “summon” the Spirit lies within the apostles.
He doesn’t know that the Spirit moves as he wills (John 3) and that the Spirit is giving evidence to the apostles of his inclusion of the Samaritans into the kingdom and their equal status with Jews.
Simon just wants the power.
The apostles have to rebuke him quite harshly. Simon was in bitterness, probably for losing his magic business and crowd and he was bound up in sin (v. 23).
Simon gives his motives away when he requests they pray that nothing terrible happen to him rather than repenting (v. 24).
What do we do with this?
1. We are going to have to deal with people who are into Jesus for what they can get out of Jesus rather than the surrender of themselves, their agenda and everything to Jesus.
2. We are going to have to discern the difference between people who use Jesus for power and those who truly follow Jesus and be careful to keep ourselves in a position to speak prophetically to them.
This situation sounds much like our political landscape. Being a Christian is a good instrument in the hands of people wanting to gain, maintain or expand power.
The apostles saw through Simon’s antics and rebuked his sin.
Many today practice “Simony” (playing for power and influence for selfish gain) and “Christian” leaders follow “Simon” rather than prophetically rebuking the “Simony” practices of “Simons”.
4. The gospel of the kingdom makes peace between former enemies and is witnessed to by Jews laying hands on Samaritans and the Spirit being given to display the equality of Samaritans and Jews in the kingdom 8:14-17, 25
The Spirit is not channeled by the apostles laying on of hands. The Spirit is given through the laying on of hands.
The apostles learn that the Samaritans had not received the Spirit. So, they lay hand on them, as is custom to do when praying for someone, and through human touch (which no good Jew would do to a Samaritan) the Spirit is given.
This is key!
It’s not a prescription for a second work of the Spirit, this Samaritan Pentecost. It is evidence given to the apostles that the Kingdom makes two formerly separate people into one new people.
The gospel of the kingdom makes peace between former enemies…
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Acts 10:44-48 Makes it clear
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”
What do we do with this?
1. The gospel of the kingdom is to go to all nations not just our own and we must expect this and make provision for this.
2. Recognize that distinctions within the kingdom are sin and we must not make them.
3. Anticipate and prepare for integration of those God brings into his kingdom who are not like us on the outside.
Acts 8:8 “So there was much joy in that city.”
The gospel of the kingdom saves. Saved people are people liberated from death. That comes with much joy.
Worship, whether from the depths of despair or the mountain tops of elation, is produced form a joy that we have been rescued from the domain of darkness and death and transferred to the kingdom of the Son.
So, worship is the only joyous and fitting response for citizens of the kingdom.