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Acts Archives - Newlife Church

Acts Chapter 24

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Acts 24:14-16 NIV

[14] However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, [15] and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. [16] So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

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Throughout Paul’s defence he consistently presented his case as being in agreement (for the most part) with those who were accusing him. In effect, Paul was declaring that he believed Jesus was and is the Messiah, the one in who they still hope for. This is the primary difference between those of the Jewish faith and Christians – that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Jews are still waiting for the Messiah and so followers of The Way were considered a ‘sect.’

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I’m challenged by how well versed Paul was in engaging both the Jewish and a Roman leaders. It’s no surprise I guess as he was raised as a Pharisee, spoke Greek and Aramaic at the very least and was a Roman citizen. He knew and I understood his audience, and respected the cultures with which he engaged. I need to consider how well versed I am in the cultures I am offering commentary on lest I sprout my opinions in ignorance.

Pray//
Lord help me understand the culture with which I engage, and give me wisdom in how I speak, act and love in all circumstances, that your truth would be heard above everything else. Amen.

Acts Chapter 23

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Acts 23:6 & 9 NIV

[6] Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead… [9]There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man ,” they said.

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It’s fascinating to read this story and how reasoned Paul was even in the midst of being beaten and assaulted. He always seems to find common ground on which to make a considered argument and this is no exception. Whether it is here or Mars Hill, he looks for points of commonality. “ We can all agree on this, and in light of that – this is the conclusion I have come to, and as intelligent people, you have to at least respect my position.” In this case the Jewish elite were too wound up to reason, and would accept nothing less than death for Paul’s dissension.

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How many times have I been in dispute or argument with someone who holds a different conviction to myself and responded with attack rather than respect and reason? Do I look for a foundation of agreement upon which to dialogue around difference or do I blindly try and undermine the integrity of those who oppose my view?

Pray//
Lord may I be as respectful and reasoned as Paul is here even as he faced persecution and death. The stakes for me are nowhere near as high. Help me find common grace and reason well in all conversations. Amen.

Acts Chapter 22

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Acts 22:14-16 NIV

[14] “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. [15] You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. [16] And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

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I can’t imagine what this experience must have been like. But I can imagine someone raised so zealously in the Jewish faith would have needed exactly this type of encounter with Jesus to be convinced that Jesus was in fact the fulfilment of the law Paul had spent his whole life studying. Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience has become analogous with any drastic, life transforming moment that alters the trajectory of someone’s destiny. Paul sharing this experience on the Damascus Road with the Jewish elite seemed to be the only logical way of explaining such a massive shift in his understanding and actions. However reason makes little difference to a hardened heart.

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My testimony is not a Damascus Road experience. Rather it’s the opposite. More of an Emmaus Road experience ( Luke 24 ). Walking with Jesus for a long time, listening as He slowly revealed more of who is along the journey, and then a moment of revelation somewhere along the line where it all clicked into place. One testimony is not more powerful than the other, even if one is more sensational. Both testimonies require the saving Grace of Jesus through faith, and involve a soul once in darkness called to declare his praises in glorious light. My testimony is no less miraculous, and ultimately our commission is the same – “What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on his name!!”

Pray//
Lord, thank you that you meet me where I am. Thank you that you walk with me and beside me, revealing yourself in your Word, and calling me to declare your praises. May I do that all my days with humility and thankfulness. Amen.

Acts Chapter 21

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Acts 21:13 NIV

[13] Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

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Having been compelled by the Lord to return to Jerusalem, Paul is obedient, even in the knowledge that he will most certainly be arrested there. It’s interesting that the believers begged Paul by the Spirit not to go (verse 4) Yet the Spirit had prompted Paul to go. This seems contradictory and Luke does not seem to address this tension, other than to say they conceded “The Lord’s Will be done.”

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Paul’s answer challenges me. “I am ready to not only be bound but also to die… for the name of the Lord Jesus.” I really have no concept of what this means, being in such an apathetic western culture where persecution amounts to getting a nasty tweet, or an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Could I stand in the face of death and declare what Paul does here?

Pray//
Thank you Lord for the freedom I currently have to worship you without the threat of persecution or death. May I live each day boldly for you in recognition of that freedom. Amen.

Acts Chapter 20

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Acts 20:24 NIV

[24] However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

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There is a lot of Gold in this chapter, but one of the things which jumped out at me was this exhortation from Paul to the Ephesian Church. He goes on to warn them that people will come and try to teach a false gospel and draw them away from the foundations of the truth that Paul preached. His encouragement is to persevere as he has done. Knowing they would never see him again, they wept. Some time later, in the book of Revelation, Jesus himself gives the church a report card, in the letter dictated to the Apostle John. “Revelation 2:2-3 NIV

[2] I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. [3] You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”

It seems they have indeed persevered, but in their striving, they have forgotten the one for whom they are striving. ‘Remember you first love!’ it goes on to say. Did they heed this warning? History may suggest not??

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Paul’s only focus was to finish the race and complete the task the Lord had given him. His life was of no consequence. This idea of persevering in the face of opposition, dissension, hardship and trials is both a word of encouragement for me but also a warning. A quick search on the word Persevere highlights its connection with future glory. For example:

James 1:12 NIV

[12] Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Pray//

Lord, grant me a spirit of perseverance. May I truly believe that to live is a Christ and to die is gain. Help me always remember my First Love, and in the words of David, lead me in the way everlasting.

Acts Chapter 19

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Acts 19:18-20 NIV

Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. [19] A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. [20] In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

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This whole scene reminds me of those moments in the 80’s and 90’s where people publicly burned their AC/DC and Iron Maiden albums in repentance – a declaration and symbol of turing away from their old life and and turning to Christ. I even remember footage of a steam roller being hired to roll over a pile of about a thousand CDs and Cassettes ( Though I think they might have been Milli Vanilli albums, and that was a different story – but I digress ). What seems to be evident in the story here though is that their repentance was public, it cost something significant, and the Lord was glorified by their testimony – resulting in the spreading of the Gospel with power.

Apply //
What areas of my life do I practice things that directly oppose the Kingdom of God? I recall the words of David – “I will not bring before the Lord that which has cost me nothing.” Turning away from these things costs us, but the beauty is that God is glorified, and our testimony bares witness to the Truth of Christ and the transforming power of His Spirit in us.

Pray//
Lord if there are any practices in my life which oppose your Kingdom of righteousness, please shine your light on those areas and give me the conviction and boldness to turn from these things for your Glory. Amen.

Acts Chapter 18

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Acts 18:9
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent…”

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In the midst of opposition and much frustration, Paul in many ways spits the dummy. “Whatevs, I’m sick of this! It’s not my fault if you don’t listen. You’re on your own…” He was trying desperately to convince the Jewish people of the revelation he had received that Jesus was the promised Messiah. His letter to the Romans in Chapters 9-11 shares some of Paul’s heart to see Jews come to belief in Jesus as the Christ and here his passions seem to get the better of him and it boils over in a mini-tantrum. But God himself grabs Paul’s attention in a dream and encourages him. God had not finished with Paul in Corinth just yet.

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I’m not sure about you, but there’s been a lot of times in my ministry and Christian walk in general where I have, or certainly wanted to throw my hands in the air and say, “this is hopeless. I’m done.” I wish in those cases I’d get a similar vision to what Paul did. But in my case my encouragement from God comes through Godly people in my life reasoning with me and gently showing me Jesus in the midst of my frustration. Asking me the tough questions and speaking words of encouragement and life into my situation, God speaks to me through them – not necessarily through visions and dreams. God speaks mostly to me through reading scripture, meditating on his truth and through Godly counsel and wisdom. God is not done with me yet!

Pray//
Lord, continue to give me the strength and conviction to share your love with my life, even when I feel like I’m hopeless, they’re hopeless, or the situation is hopeless. Amen.