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Don't let your past define you! part 2

Walking through the Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Don’t let your past define you…part 2
“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
The last time we were together here in the Book of Acts, Saul, was being defined by his past, which caused confusion and compulsion. The Jews were confusion and amazed by his radial change of heart and behavior cause by his repentance and his accepted of Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The Jews were also confounded by the fact that he gain considerable strength and power and knowledge of the Gospel and continued to proclaim Christ as the Son of God. Now because of his past alliance with Judaism they were driven my compulsion to seek to kill him for his betrayal of the Jewish faith. This morning we are going to see the other side of the coin; the Jews saw Saul as a traitor but the disciples still view Saul from his past, and they saw him as a terror. They did not trust him, they did not understand how he could change so completely in a matter of just a few days. They did not fully understand or trust the cleansing power of the Gospel of Christ Jesus to wash our sins away!
Question: "What does it mean that our sins are washed away?" Answer: When the Bible speaks of our sins being washed away, it means we are forgiven. Our sins, which had defiled us and defined us are now gone. By the grace of God through Christ, we are no longer spiritually corrupt; we stand justified before God. The concept of having our sins washed away is first introduced in the Old Testament. When God gave instructions for consecrating the Levites, He said, “Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves.” (). commands the rebellious people to “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil.” God often used physical illustrations to help us understand spiritual truths. We understand that washing with water makes us physically clean, so the Bible takes that concept and applies it to our spiritual state. Throughout the Old Testament, God commanded people to purify themselves by following rigorous instructions about sacrifices, ritualistic bathing, and types of clothing to wear (; ; ). From ancient times, God’s people understood that sin makes us dirty, and dirty people are unworthy to enter into the presence of the Lord. Many of the laws in the Old Testament were given for the purpose of contrasting God’s holiness with man’s unholiness. David wrote of his need to have his sins washed away.
When Nathan the prophet exposes his sin with Bathsheba. (), David repented with great sorrow. In his prayer of repentance, he says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” ().
Jesus refers to Nicodemus’s need to have his sins washed away:
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (). Human beings have always needed some way to have our sins washed away. The New Testament continues the theme of washing sins away. Ananias told Paul to “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sin, calling on his name”
(). God had demonstrated through the Law that we cannot purify ourselves; only He can. So when Ananias instructed Paul to be baptized to wash away his sins, Paul understood that, despite his exalted status as a Pharisee, he was as sin-covered as the lowest tax collector. The Bible makes it clear that every human being is born into this world as a sinner, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (). That sin makes us ceremonially and catastrophically unclean and unfit to enter into the presence of God. The blood of Christ is what washes our sins away, “ But with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (). contrasts the old methods of cleansing with the new covenant that came through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to establish a new way of being made right with God. says, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
When we, through faith, apply the blood of Jesus to our unclean souls, God pronounces us ceremonially clean, because Christ gave us Himself to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. Christ saves us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. He washes our sins away, as it were; He places our sin debt upon His own Son and declares us righteous in His sight. God chooses to forget our sin and remove it far from Him, as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
We are still sinners in practice, but righteous in our position.
An adopted child becomes a son or daughter the moment the judge declares him so, even though he may not know the parents well, understand their house rules, or be deserving of their love in any way. Over time, he or she grows to know and love them, assimilating into their family life, and becoming in practice what he was already declared to be in position. So it is with us. Our sins are washed away the moment we place our faith and trust in the saving work of Jesus on our behalf.
Overtime, we grow to know and love our Father, overtime assimilate into our Christian family, and overtime become in practice what we have already been declared to be in position, overtime we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The joy of the Christian life is that, even though we are not perfect, we can live every moment with the confidence that the blood of Christ washes our sins away Jesus and we have been pronounced, “clean” by the final Judge. , “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
But unfortunately there will be Christians in the church and non Christian outside of the church who will not trust God enough to trust that He has changed us!
This is what Saul has to deal with in this passage, but the passage clearly teaches that we still should not let our past define us.
Don’t let your past define you... trust God to sent a consigner for you. Don’t let your past define you... trust God to fight your enemies who confront you. Don’t let your past define you... trust God to multiply His ministry and comforted you.
Let us pray...
Don’t let your past define you…trust God to sent a cosigner for you.
, “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.”
Saul has now left Damascus and returned to Jerusalem, being full of the Holy Spirit, being revived by the strengthening and the power given to him through that same Holy Spirit. Saul attempted to join the others brothers in the faith, the disciples; but they did not trust or believe that he was a disciple. They were still caught up in their understanding of who Saul once was instead of who Christ Jesus had not made him. This is a common problem among Christians who have been saved from a hideous past. Human forgiveness trails slowly behind the holy forgiveness that comes from Christ. People, even good people will continue to keep their guard up and their acceptance at bay; until there is some incontrovertible, indisputable, infallible, evidence, that a change has taken place. Though I’m sure Saul tried to convince them of genuineness of his conversion. Their attitude seems strange to us, for surely the Damascus saints had gotten the word to the church in Jerusalem that Saul had been converted and was now preaching the Word. Perhaps Saul’s “disappearance” for almost three years gave an air of suspicion to his testimony. Where had he been? What was he doing? Why had he waited so long to contact the Jerusalem elders? There were many unanswered questions that helped create an atmosphere of suspicion and fear around Saul.
Saul now Paul begins in verses 11 and 12 in by saying that the Gospel he preached was not devised by human wisdom, nor had he received it from the other apostles; rather, he was taught it directly by Jesus Christ Himself. He continues by reminding them that he had been trained in and was fanatically devoted to the erroneous traditions of Judaism. When God called Paul on the Damascus road, he was commissioned to preach the Gospel of Christ. Paul said that when Christ called him, he did not go to Jerusalem to receive instruction from the apostles. Rather, he retired into Arabia for a time and not until three years later did he go to Jerusalem. Even then, the only apostle he met was Peter, and the only other leader he met was James, the presiding elder of the Jerusalem church. It has often been remarked that Paul clearly implied that he spent three years being taught by Jesus Himself (1:12), either directly or (perhaps more likely) through the study of the Word. Thus, like the other apostles, Paul studied with Christ for three years before beginning his ministry (compare ).
Thus, Paul established for the Galatians that he received the Gospel by the same means as the other apostles —directly from Jesus. Fourteen years after his conversion, he had occasion to go to Jerusalem and there he met privately with the leaders, including the apostles Peter and John (2:1–10). He reports to the Galatians that they compared notes and found that there was absolutely no difference between what he had been teaching for eleven years in Antioch and what the apostles had been teaching in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. There never had been a problem, nor was there one currently, between Paul’s message and the teaching of the Jerusalem church.The point Paul is making to the Galatians is that there has never been any question about the content of the Gospel. The same Christ taught Peter and Paul, and both men were in complete agreement. Yet with all that being true, what Saul needs here is a consigner.
It was Barnabas who helped the Jerusalem church accept Saul. We met Joseph, the “son of encouragement,” in , and we will meet him again as we continue our studies in the book of Acts. Barnabas “took hold” of Saul., brought him to the church leaders, and convinced them that Saul was both a believer and chosen apostle. He had indeed seen the risen Christ. It is not necessary to invent some “hidden reason” why Barnabas befriended Saul. This was just the nature of the man: he was an encouragement to others. So he consign for his brother in the faith Saul. Though the Bible teaches against consigning for a believer in a financial way. It implicitly speaking always of encouraging others and standing up for those who are standing up for our God. Barnabas understood the hesitation from the believers in Jerusalem but he also understood the Holy Spirit’s radical change performed on Saul and the Holy Spirit relentless control upon his life now. There will be those in your life whom God trust and He will send to stand beside you when other believers distrust you because of your past. Learn to embrace both; those whom God sends to consign for you and those God sends to critique and confront you as you seek to do God’s will.
Don’t let your past define you... trust God to fight your enemies who confront you.
, “ So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.”
So Saul went in and out around Jerusalem witnessing to the Greek-speaking Jews, the Hellenists that had engineered the trial and death of Stephen. At the time Saul was one of them, having been born and raised in Tarsus; and no doubt he felt an obligation to take up the mantel left by Stephen. Think about this for a moment, God is having Saul pick up the ministry and witness of Stephen whom he consented to his stoning and killing for doing the same thing. The Hellenists Jews were not about to permit this kind of witness, so they plotted to kill him. At this point, we must look at , “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him. And he said to me, Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”
God spoke directly to Saul in the temple and reminded him of his commission to take the message to the Gentiles they will listen! Look, at the sense of urgency of God’s command, “Make haste”, Hurry up, or leave quickly, because these people will not receive your testimony about me. God does not ask Saul to change his testimony, dumb down his testimony, rephrase his testimony so that is might become more palpable for the people. When preaching the Gospel, you must serve it straight with no chaser. It’s good medicine but you cannot take it with a spoon full of sugar also. Saul shared his message with the church leaders, and they assisted him in returning to his native city, Tarsus. The fact that they believed Saul’s testimony about the vision is proof that he had been fully accepted by the church. God is the one whom will fight our battles if we just stand still.
, “ The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent”
That God will fight our battles means we do not have to anguish, be anxious, or be discouraged when bad things happen in our lives. It means that you are not defined by your past as your enemies confront you. When it seems a situation is hopeless or the matter at hand is too overwhelming, we should never be tempted to doubt God. But Christians must remember that no problem is beyond the scope of God’s sovereign care for His children. He has promised to take care of us,
, “ And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Our God says, “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (). We serve a God who has promised us this, “ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”(). In Moses tells the children of Israel, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” At that moment, they were standing at the edge of the Red Sea, hemmed in by the sea before them and the Egyptian army behind. The Israelites are in a seemingly impossible situation, but it was a situation brought on by the Lord Himself. It was God who had hardened Pharaoh’s heart to pursue the fleeing slaves. Why would God do such a thing? The Bible gives some of the reasons: because God wanted to make it crystal clear to Egypt that He is LORD so that He got the glory over Pharaoh. And because God wanted to teach Israel that He is their Deliverer () and their Salvation.
The battle that appeared to be between the Egyptians and the Israelites was in reality between the Egyptians and the Lord.
You are not defined by your past as your enemies confront you.
The Lord is my life and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of this tent; he will life me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to men and answer me! You have said, “ Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “ Your face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not our face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O’ God of my salvation! For, my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let you heart take courage; wait for the Lord! ()
They were incapable of escaping the situation on their own—they needed only to wait for God to move on their behalf. The lessons believers can learn from the Exodus account can be powerful and life changing. When Christians trust God to fight their battles, it enables them to circumvent what often accompanies conflict, i.e., panic, fear, and hopelessness. There are times when we can see absolutely no way around a problem, just like Israel when they were cornered. It’s quite probable not one of the Israelites ever imagined that the massive sea was going to split down the middle, providing their way of escape. When Christians believe God’s Word (), they learn that no battle is too formidable or monumental for God to handle.
You are not defined by your past as your enemies confront you, just trust God to define and defend you.
Don’t let your past define you... trust God to multiply His ministry and comforted you.
, “And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off the Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it multiplied.”
We will not meet Saul again until , when once more it is Barnabas who finds him and brings him to the church in Antioch where they ministered together. That took place about seven years after Saul left Jerusalem, about ten years after his conversion.
We have every reason to believe that Saul used Tarsus as his headquarters for taking the Gospel to the Gentiles in that part of the Roman Empire. He ministered in the regions of Syria and Cilicia and established churches elsewhere. Caesarea. Paul would be based in Tarsus and minister in Syria-Cilicia for the next eight years (c. A.D. 37–45). We are reminded once again of , “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.” Is not what we see happen as the gospel spreads from Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth, to Africa by way of the Ethiopian eunuch.
We see here in the text that peace came to the church after the conversion of its prime persecutor, , “And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us in now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me”
, “And walking in the fear of the Lord...”
Fear of the Lord does not mean fear of final judgment but is a common theme in Acts referring either to fear as godly awe, reverence, and devotion or fear of God’s displeasure and fatherly discipline.
, “And in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
What is the “it”that the text is referring to here? The “it” is the church, what would soon be called the ekklesia, the called out body of believers in Christ Jesus for worship.
But pastor, what does it mean that in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it multiplied? Well I believe that a church can not grow numeric until it has grown spiritually so that it might be faithful. It a church grows numeric before it grows spiritually all you have is a fan club.
Spiritual grows always precedes numeric growth!
What is spiritual growth?
Answer: Spiritual growth is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. When we place our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins the process of making us more like Him, conforming us to His image. Spiritual growth is perhaps best described in
, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge, with self-control, and self -control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection with love.
Notice that what we need comes “through our knowledge of Him,” which is the key to obtaining everything we need. Our knowledge of Him comes from the Word, given to us for our edification and growth.There are two lists in . Verses 19-21 list the “acts of the flesh.” These are the things that identified our lives before we came to Christ for salvation. The acts of the flesh are the activities we are to confess, repent of, and, with God’s help, overcome. As we experience spiritual growth, fewer and fewer of the “acts of the flesh” will be evident in our lives. The second list is the “fruit of the Spirit” (verses 22-23). These are what should characterize our lives now that we have experienced salvation in Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth is identified by the fruit of the Spirit becoming increasingly evident in a believer’s life.
When the transformation of salvation takes place, spiritual growth begins. The Holy Spirit indwells us (). We are new creatures in Christ (). The old, sinful nature begins to give way to the new, Christlike nature (). Spiritual growth is a lifelong process that depends on our study and application of God's Word () and our walk in the Spirit (). As we seek spiritual growth, we should pray to God and ask for wisdom concerning the areas He desires us to grow in. We can ask God to increase our faith and knowledge of Him. God desires for us to grow spiritually, and He has given us all we need to experience spiritual growth. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can overcome sin and steadily become more like our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although the Bible does not specifically address church growth, the principle of church growth is the understanding that Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (). Paul confirmed that the church has its foundation in Jesus Christ (). Jesus Christ is also the head of the church () and the church’s life (). Having said that, it should be remembered that “growth” can be a relative term. There are different kinds of growth, some of which have nothing to do with numbers.
A church can be alive and growing even though the number of members/attendees is not changing. If those in the church are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, submitting to His will for their lives, both individually and corporately, that is a church that is experiencing true growth. At the same time, a church can be adding to its rolls weekly, have huge numbers, and still be spiritually stagnant.
Growth of any kind follows a typical pattern. As with a growing organism, the local church has those who plant the seed (evangelists), those who water the seed (pastor/teachers), and others who use their spiritual gifts for the growth of those in the local church. But note that it is God who gives the increase (). Those who plant and those who water will each receive their own reward according to their labor ().
There has to be a balance between planting and watering for a local church to grow, which means that in a healthy church each person must know what his/her spiritual gift is so that he/she can best function within the body of Christ. If the planting and watering get out of balance, the church will not prosper as God intended. Of course, there has to be daily dependence upon and obedience to the Holy Spirit so His power can be released in those who plant and water in order for God's increase to come.
Finally, the description of a living and growing church is found in where the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They were serving one another and reaching out to those who needed to know the Lord, for the Lord “added to their number daily those who were being saved.” When these things are present, the church will experience spiritual growth, as well as numerical increase.
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