Acts 4:32-5:11 “Utopia’s Disease”

Ananias had a plan which on the surface looked reasonably innocent – he wanted to give money for the poor, so he sold a piece of land and gave most of the proceeds to the Apostles to give to the needy. As we begin to look under the surface though, we see that Ananias had anything but an innocent plan. Under the influence of Satan himself, he planned to – with the help and affirmation of his wife Sapphira – lie in order to deceive the community, pretend to be more righteous than he was and ultimately seek to deceive God himself about the nature of his gift. The Lord however, isn’t deceived, he quickly exposes the plan and responds to it by demonstrating to all the people – church and community alike – that he is a God who not only sees sin but who is determined to expose it and judge those who commit it. This leads us all to a greater appreciation of the gospel when we see that this punishment of death is the punishment Jesus experienced on our behalf so that we could come before God innocent.

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Acts 4:32-5:11

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
5 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you[f] sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 “The suffering servant will be highly exalted”

Whenever we make plans there is always uncertainty, there is always risk. The reason for that is we are unable to guarantee that those plans will be fulfilled. Our plans, though made with hope, are always laced with uncertainty and risk. This sets a perfect contrast for us when we think about God’s plans. His plans are guaranteed.
In Isaiah 52 and 53, through Isaiah the Prophet, 700 years before Jesus set foot on soil, before he wore clothes, bruised his skin and experienced humanity, we see God stating what his future plans are. The plan is this – His servant – the suffering servant – the one who we see would be afflicted, despised, pierced and crushed – shall vs 13 of chapter 52 ‘act wisely, he shall be high and lifted up and shall be exalted’. God plans to exalt the Servant after his suffering.
This we see fulfilled in Jesus Christ who comes as the Suffering Servant.
As we celebrate Easter today – celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as we do we remember the plan of God for both the suffering and exaltation of Jesus Christ.

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;[b]
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle[c] many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[d]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[e] by men,
a man of sorrows[f] and acquainted with[g] grief;[h]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[i]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;[j]
when his soul makes[k] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[l] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[m]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[n]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Acts 4:1-31 “Encountering Opposition”

We will encounter opposition as we seek to share the good news about Jesus Christ. The real challenge for us is in the way we respond. Do we respond with fear and paralysis or do we respond with boldness inspired by the Holy Spirit? The Apostles show us how they responded to being opposed. They responded with boldness, defending their calling to preach Christ, with great awareness of God and their calling to primarily listen to him and with prayer as a community. Though they encountered opposition, they committed to continue and God was pleased to bless them and fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit who continued to manifest himself with boldness.

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Acts 4:1-31

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[d] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’[e]—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 2:42-47 “You will be my witnesses”

As Luke describes the church in Jerusalem – we see that the church is on fire. The Holy Spirit is working through them in powerful ways and they are seeing people saved day by day. It would be easy to take a passage like this, be inspired by what we see and say to ourselves – ‘Ok from now on we’ll follow the pattern: we’ll do devotion, we’ll do fellowship, we’ll sell our possessions and share the proceeds with the needy and we’ll see results. Follow the pattern – See the outcome.
However, it’s just as easy to neglect the fact that this church was on fire because they were all filled with the Holy Spirit in a powerful way. What we must remember is that – We can’t hope for the Acts 2 Pattern without the Acts 2 Power.
If we have genuine God honouring desire for our church to become more and more like the Acts 2 Church, we must seek the Holy Spirit and submit to him both individually and corporately.

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Acts :42-47

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 1:12-2:13 “The wait is over”

Waiting can be hard but its always good when the wait is over. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit had been promised centuries ago to the people of God – It had been promised days ago for the Apostles but now he is finally here. The wait is over. The disciples, now filled with the Holy Spirit begin to witness with power. They miraculously and powerfully speak in various languages so that everyone can understand – it truly is a work of God. Though this is an amazing, miraculous event there are two opposite reactions to the work of the Holy Spirit – Some people are amazed and look to investigate whilst others become sceptical and deny that it is real. Even a demonstration of the Spirit isn’t enough without the work of the Holy Spirit changing people’s hearts.

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Acts 1:12-2:13

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
and

“‘Let another take his office.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[e] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Acts 1:1-11 “Witnessing with Power”

The Book of Acts begins with Jesus calling the Apostles to be his witnesses. Though he will soon ascend, he doesn’t leave them alone: They are to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the power of the Holy Spirit. God is about to do a radical work through the Apostles, using them as witnesses to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We too, as we join in the great commission of Christ, are called to witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Neither proclamation nor humble dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit can be missing from our efforts to speak about what Christ did and said.

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

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Nehemiah 1:11 “Give Me Success”

Today we are asking ourselves the question – What do you really want? Nehemiah asked for God to give him success. Cs Lewis said “ It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” As we consider what it means to be successful we can be challenged not because our desires are too strong but too weak. We are satisfied with selfish desires when we have the freedom in Christ to pursue a God shaped desire for success.

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Nehemiah 1:11

11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 “Remove the Thorn”

Today we are asking ourselves the question, “What do you really want?” What the Apostle Paul wanted was to have the thorn removed from his flesh. The Lord Jesus replied to him by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, my grace is made perfect in weakness.” We all carry thorns in the flesh to certain degrees. Your thorn may well be physical or emotional pain, or even spiritual torment. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are ready – if that is the Lord’s will – to hear him say, “No.” The encouragement we see in the life of Paul is that, though he did not have the thorn removed, Christ drew him into his grace in a more powerful way and demonstrated his power through him despite his weaknesses. So much so, that Paul eventually found both contentment and reason to boast in his weaknesses.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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1King 3:3-15 “What do you really want? Wisdom.”

Solomon made a radical request of God – Give me wisdom. Solomon knew how much he needed wisdom when he encountered a situation well beyond his own ability yet God still expected Solomon to ask for Wisdom. Solomon did and was richly blessed with Wisdom. In James 1 5 it says ‘If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given to them’. God regularly provides overwhelming situations in our lives where we realise we aren’t wise enough to get through. In these situations he tells us to come to him and seek wisdom and he promises to be generous to you if you do. Do you really want wisdom? – Ask God for it. What would you rather have if you don’t want wisdom?

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1 Kings 3:3-15

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Genesis 32:22-32 “What do you really want?”

Today’s sermon looks at Jacob’s desperate desire to be blessed. He tries everything he can to bring himself blessing and fulfilment, but eventually realises that true blessing can only come from relationship with God.

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Genesis 32:22-32

22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,[e] and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[f] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,[g] saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.

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    Starting December 25, 2016, Sunday Morning Worship takes place at 10am in the Piano, located on 156 Armagh Street. Free parking for GPC attendees is available off Oxford Terrace.