Friday, October 3, 2014

The Book of Acts

                Last night our women’s study finished the book of Acts. We closed the time of study with a recap and review of all that we had learned from this book. Today, I wanted to share with you some of what the Book of Acts has taught me, and what God has shown me, personally, about myself, the Church and what it means to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Throughout the book of Acts we see men and women sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. From Acts 1:8 where we see Jesus telling His disciples to go out and preach to the world, all the way to chapter 9 where we see a man named Saul become Paul. Then on to persecutions, trials, struggles, and even the death of those who believed on the name of Jesus Christ, one main theme runs through it all. It’s all about Jesus.

                One of the things that the Lord has shown me through the book of Acts is that God is a God of divine appointments. From the lame man in Chapter 3, who Peter and John heal, to the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus, (Acts 9) the eunuch and Phillip (Acts 8), Lydia (Acts 16), the Bereans (Acts 17), all of these people that encountered Paul and the other apostles were not coincidence, they were divine appointments orchestrated by God for the purpose of His gospel and His glory. The Lord has brought this reality home to me in many ways through this study in the book of Acts. Just last week God orchestrated a divine appointment, one that only He could have accomplished. I was called to the side of a dog owner who was making that tough decision to let her baby go. God opened a door for me that day, a door that allowed me to share the gospel with her. One that would not have been opened to me had the events of that day not taken place. God orchestrated the whole thing; all I had to do was walk through the door He was opening for His gospel.
                “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven ;”( Ecclesiastes 3:1). There are no coincidences in this life. It was not a coincidence that Saul (who we know as Paul) was on that road to Damascus that day.(Acts 9)  It was not a coincidence that Saul was the one standing holding the garments of those who were stoning Phillip (Acts 7). It is not a coincidence that we are where we are right now at this moment in our lives. However, one of the things that God has shown me is that even though He is our orchestrator, composing events to happen in our lives, (Ephesians 2:10) it is up to us to take part in these events. If we allow these divine appointments to pass us by, then we have not fulfilled the full measure of His will for our lives. So many times through the book of Acts do we see men and women being at a specific place at a specific time, and had they been anywhere else, the church might not be where it is today. The church might not have grown the way that it did. Had Paul not been arrested and taken to Rome, we would not have 2/3 of the New Testament today- for he wrote many of his epistles during his imprisonment. (Acts 22-28)
                One of the other things that the Lord has shown me is that we, as His children, must be bold, and we must be confident in Him. The book of Acts is filled with men and women who were sold out for Jesus. They were bold in their witness and bold in their speech. They didn’t just talk about the gospel; they lived the gospel, day after day. They fellowshipped with one another, they broke bread and gave thanks to one another, they prayed for one another. They were sincere in their relationships with one another. If Paul said he was going to pray for you, you were confident that he was praying. Unfortunately, I think today in our fellowships we have grown insincere. We tell
someone on Sunday how much we love them, but forget about them on Monday when they are in need of our friendship the most.
                In Chapter 27 Paul is placed on a ship headed for Rome. Alongside Paul is his two friends Luke and Aristarchus. Luke, being a physician most likely would not have had any issues coming with Paul, because the ship would happily take on a doctor. But some commentators think that Aristarchus would have had to willingly become a prisoner just so that he could travel on the same ship with his friend. (Acts 27) How many of us are willing to become prisoners for our friends? Jesus says in John 15:13 that “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” How many of us are really willing to lay down our lives for those we call our friends? We say we will pray for them- do we? We say we will be there for them- are we? This knowledge of what it means to be a sincere friend is also seen throughout the book of Acts. These men and women were dedicated to Jesus, and because of their dedication to Jesus, they were dedicated to one another.
                One of the other things that I have learned through the book of Acts is that we have a responsibility, a calling to preach the gospel to every man, woman and child on the face of this earth. We are not called to keep the gospel to ourselves; we are called to share the love and grace we have found with others. We all have the same calling. We have all been given the same commission. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20) We have all been given the same purpose and the same calling- we are to go and share the gospel with the World as God, through His Holy Spirit leads us.
                God will open doors, if we are sincere and diligent to walk through them. God will orchestrate those divine appointments for His gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit. All we have to be is willing vessels, sincere to share the grace and the mercy we have found in Him with those He brings our way. I will say that had it not been for this study in the book of Acts, I do not think I would be who I am today in the Lord Jesus. Through the book of Acts I have learned that to be bold means that we must be willing to walk when He says walk. I have learned that to go to church does not make me a Christian, what makes me a Christian is the Holy Spirit living inside me, and that I am the Church. The Church is not a building- the church is a body of believers who have come together in the Spirit to worship, praise and fellowship in the name of Jesus Christ, and we can do that anywhere- we don’t need a name on the door and a denomination to follow. We just need Jesus.  

              I have learned so much from this book and it is my prayer that you will take some time over the next few days, weeks, months, to go through this book for yourself.  Be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life as God your Father orchestrates those divine appointments for you. Be willing to share the gospel, be ready to give your testimony and the reason of the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15) Be sincere in your fellowship and friendships, it is through one another that we see and experience Jesus Christ personally and intimately. Without one another, we are nothing, without Jesus Christ, we are no one. Without Jesus we are dead. I pray today that you would be encouraged to go and dive into the book of Acts for yourself. Be a Berean and search the scriptures (Acts 17). Open your eyes to the wonder of His Holy Spirit as you read and experience this amazing book for yourself. It is in Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen and Amen.