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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

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

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

Missions – The Work of the Spirit, Part 2

Today, “missions” has become any work a local church does outside of its community to improve the lives of people living in other places. But in Acts 13-14, the clear work of missions is the proclamation of the gospel. In these two chapters we see Paul and Barnabas proclaim the gospel and persevere by the Spirit, in trouble and for the church.

But is missions necessary? Why go? Why disrupt the lives of people who otherwise seem happy or satisfied with their faith or lack of faith by sharing Christ with them? Because eternal life for everyone is at stake, and because doing the work of missions is an expression of our identity as followers of Jesus.

Scripture: Acts 13-14

Grace Enough for Everyone

This text is about how the gospel penetrates a new people – the Gentiles. It shows us the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion and his household. But it also shows us the conversion of Peter, the Apostle, and the Church.

First, God converts Peter through a vision that His grace is enough for everyone. And when the Spirit falls on the Gentiles and Peter gives an account of how it happened to the antagonistic Jewish believers in Jerusalem, God converts them as well. So that they all begin to understand and grasp that the gospel is for everyone!

There are many points of application for us, but primarily it’s an issue of our hearts. It’s sinful human nature to discriminate against others for all sorts of reasons. This text challenges us to identify and repent of our prejudices and calls us to not only be grateful recipients of God’s grace, but gracious sharers of His grace is enough for everyone!

Scripture: Acts 9:31-11:18; Galatians 3:28

God Can Save Anyone

Most commentators say that Peter and Paul are the two most pivotal people in the book. This passage, Acts 9:1-31, is the story of Saul’s (soon to be known as Paul) conversion. His lust for stamping out Christianity has him pursuing the Christians outside of Jerusalem. But on his way to Damascus, he’s confronted by the risen Christ, converted and commissioned to go to the Gentiles with the gospel.

This text encourages us in a couple ways. It reminds us of the sovereign authority of Jesus to build His church and spread the gospel, no matter how strong the opposition might be.

It also shows us that no one anywhere, under any circumstances is beyond the reach of the gospel!

Scripture: Acts 9:1-31

Philip and the Ethiopian

God is working in your life, in the foreground and background, to bring about His will for you.

Scripture: Acts 8:26-40

Scattered with the Gospel for the Joy of the City

At this point in Acts, the church has experienced significant growth. Thousands of people have come to faith. At the same time, the Apostles have faced significant trouble: arrests, imprisonment, questioned before the authorities, threatened, and beaten.

Chapters 6-8 begin a transition of people and places. The ministry of the gospel begins to spread through the lives of everyday disciples of Jesus, not only the Apostles. And the gospel spills out of the city of Jerusalem and into the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria, in fulfillment of what Jesus said in 1:8.

In this text we see four “people,” two who went out preaching the gospel and two who respond to the gospel. Philip is an everyday disciple; Simon is a would-be disciple. The Samaritans are joyful receivers of the gospel, and Peter and John extend the mission of the gospel.

The big idea? God uses everyday disciples sharing the word of Christ and showing the love of Christ in their community to bring great joy to all people, for God’s glory!

Scripture: Acts 8:4-25; John 4:1-42

Spirit-Empowered Witnesses

Acts is the story of the Gospel unleashed by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the people of God to the world. And Jesus teaches us that He means for that story to be continued through us. But many Christians find witnessing awkward at best, and unthinkable at worst. Perhaps that’s because we’re “giving it our best shot,” or feeling “forced” into it? But what we learn here is that Holy Spirit power is essential if the mission of Jesus is going to continue through us. In other words, this calling is bigger than anything we can do on our own, and the good news is that we don’t have to. His power is available to us now!

Scripture: Acts 1:1-11