The End of the Beginning

The book of Acts records the history of the first 30 years of the church. In Luke’s gospel, he wrote about “all Jesus began to do and teach before the day he was taken up.” Acts is the record of the continuation of the ministry of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the church to unleash the gospel into the world.

Acts ends with the Apostle Paul in Rome, waiting to be heard by Caesar. It’s like a cliffhanger. We’re left to wonder what’s next for Paul. But while the book of Acts comes to an end, the mission continues. We are the generation entrusted with taking the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

So as Luke concludes the book of Acts, he answers three questions we must consider for our lives now: Who is the audience for the gospel? What is the context for gospel ministry? What is the central point of the gospel message.

Scripture: Acts 28:16-31; Philemon 1, 4

Circumstances and Sovereignty

We’re all facing pressures and stresses unique to this crisis. It’s interfered with our ability to grieve the lost of a loved one the way we would expect. It’s interrupted our ability to visit a loved one in the hospital or nursing home. It’s disrupted our ability to work and brought financial stress. And for H.S. Seniors, it’s hijacked your graduation.

We all want this to end. We want people to be well and safe. We want life to get back to normal. But the truest test of your character isn’t how you live when it’s all good. It’s how you respond when circumstances turn your world upside down.

In this text we see the matchless resources we have from God in Jesus Christ to live in and live through the storms.

Scripture: Acts 27:1-28:16

Persuading Others to Believe

The Apostle Paul had a conviction – we should try to persuade everyone everywhere to believe in Jesus. Do you want everyone to become a Christian? Do you think we shouldn’t impose our beliefs on others? It’s not tolerant to try to persuade someone to convert.

But according to this text, there is much at stake. When Jesus calls Paul to share the message of salvation it’s clear that people need to be moved from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, from condemnation to forgiveness, from pointless, futile living, to a place of belonging through faith in Him.

No one is born a Christian. Every Christian is a convert. And God has called us to try to persuade others to believe.

Scripture: Acts 25-26

An Ordinary Church

Almost everyone, attenders and non-attenders, have ideas about what the church is and how it should function. Acts 20 gives us the elements of an “ordinary” church: Unshakable Convictions, Spirit-given Elders, Deep Spiritual Friendships.

We might want to say, “I don’t want to be part of an ordinary church, I want to be part of an extraordinary church!” But God means to use the ordinary church to do extraordinary things in making disciples both near and far, for the glory of Jesus!

Scripture: Acts 20-21

Three Responses to the Gospel

The gospel message is a singular message, but it provokes different responses from different people. For some in Ephesus, they responded with repentance – and it cost them a fortune. What is your response to the gospel and are you willing to lose to gain?

Scripture: Acts 19:11-41

Make Disciples – Teach Them

How do people come to faith in Christ? How do Christians grow in Christ? One thing is central to both – the scriptures. Apart from the scriptures, apart from teaching the Word, disciples cannot be made, and teaching them cannot happen.

This text shows us that Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla, and Apollos all rely on the scriptures to help non-believers come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, and to help believers grow in their faith in Christ.

The text begins at the end of the second missionary journey and takes us through to Paul’s first significant stope on the third missionary journey. Luke points us, triumphantly, in verse 10 to the results of all this work in the Word, “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

What would it take for all the residents of Ahwatukee to hear the Word of the Lord? How many people groups are here (Jews and Greeks), because unique peoples require unique approaches. Are we raising up gospel teachers who can spread the gospel and disciple others?

Foothills was planted over 30 years ago by a group of believers who had a vision for the gospel to fill the Ahwatukee Foothills! 30 years on, do we dare dream with them again? (Acts 5:28) Do we dare believe that God has planted us here, like gospel seed, among so many who need Jesus? (Acts 8:1-2; Acts 17:26) And if we believe God has done this in His sovereign purpose, then what should we do to see that “all the residents of Ahwatukee hear the Word of the Lord… and have an opportunity to be discipled to follow Jesus?” What does it look like to engage people to put Jesus first for the sake of others through the scriptures?

Scripture: Acts 18:18-19:10; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 5:28, 8:1-2, 17:6, 17:26

Don’t Give Up!

Rejection and failure affect all of us at some level. Who likes to share something of importance and deep personal value only to have it rejected, questioned, or mocked? When you’re being authentic and open, you’ve made yourself vulnerable. The least you hope for is a reasonable response.

Maybe you’ve faced rejection in the past when sharing your story of faith in Christ? Or perhaps you’ve been met with an antagonistic response to the gospel as you presented it and felt like you failed?

Those encounters can create a fear that keeps us quiet. The Apostle Paul wrestled with that fear as well. In this text we see how Jesus encouraged him, no matter what, to never give up!

Scripture: Acts 18:1-23

Making Known the Unknown God

Maybe your neighbor has this bumper sticker, “Coexist.” That was Athens when the Apostle Paul entered it on his second missionary journey. Athens was like a college town. Philosophy, art, politics, education, commerce, and religion were all part of the experience in the heart of the city, the marketplace.

As we look into this passage, we see Paul present Christ in the marketplace and learn what that might look like for us.

Scripture: Acts 17:16-34

Giving and Receiving the Scriptures

Once again in Acts we see the Apostles proclaiming the gospel. And we see people respond much the same way as we have, some are persuaded and some are jealous and create so much conflict that the Apostolic team has to pivot to another place.

But in the midst of these verses, we don’t just see Paul give out the Scriptures, we learn something of his method for proclaiming the gospel, and we don’t just see how people respond, we learn something about how and why we should engage with the Scriptures, and the gospel.

How do we read and engage with the Bible? Does this passage teach us anything about how we should read and engage with the Bible? There is a stark contrast in the way people engage with and receive the Scriptures in this text. Where do we fall? And why should we engage with the Bible? Why should we read it, study it, and seek by the power of the spirit to respond to it as it is – the authoritative word of God.

Scripture: Acts 17:1-15

The Disrupting Affects of the Gospel and the Power of Jesus

This text introduces us to a significant event in the history of the world. Today, people tour the great Cathedrals of Europe. But before there were Cathedrals, a small group of faithful followers of Jesus crossed the sea from Asia to Europe and shared the gospel on the banks of a river in Philippi.

When Paul and Barnabas introduce the gospel in Philippi a businesswoman is saved, a demon-possessed slave girl is delivered, and a jailer is also saved. At the same time, the gospel of Christ disrupts people’s lives, stirring up conflict and fights. But it also comforts hearts. Through it all, the Church of Christ is planted and God continues to unleash the gospel to the world.

Scripture: Acts 16:6-40