Devotions

Monthly Archives: June, 2015

Tuesday | June 30

Acts 13:5-12

In case you have not yet seen a continuous theme in Paul’s life of both conversion work and persecution, we find yet another example in Acts 13:5-12 of opposition to the gospel along with belief in the gospel. As Paul and Barnabas set sail from their church at Antioch on their first missionary journey, they sail to the island of Cyprus and reach the city of Salamis. As they begin to proclaim Jesus to the whole island of Cyprus they run into a man named Bar-Jesus who was a false prophet. Paul and Barnabas continue to preach Jesus to the Jews, and Bar-Jesus works against them. The Holy Spirit works through Paul and causes Bar-Jesus to go blind for the sake of the Jews believing in the Lord Jesus (Acts 13:12).

In this passage we should be struck by a couple of things. First, we need to realize that opposition to Christ should not stop us from living for Christ. All too often we shy away from the role of Jesus in our lives because of the opposition we may or will face. This is not how we see Paul and Barnabas reacting. Consider also that this is the first stop on the first journey they will take in being sent out by the church at Antioch. It must have been frustrating to see such opposition right out of the gate. Yet they are not swayed from the mission because of the pushback. Second, we need to recognize the work and protection of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need not fear man, or any opposition of this world because we possess within us the one who overcame the world (1 Corinthians 3:16). Paul and Barnabas recognize they are sent out by the Spirit, and they overcome their opposition through the Spirit. Third, when we fear God more than men, and we work at loving and proclaiming Him even in the face of opposition, God is honored through many coming to believe. We see the Jewish council in Cyprus believing in the Lord Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit through Paul.

We exist to glorify God by proclaiming His Excellencies to all of the world (1 Peter 2:9-10). In this we may face opposition. We must hold fast to the Holy Spirit within us which is capable of overcoming all opposition and convicting many to repentance and belief.

Nick McElrath | Growth Pastor

Discussion Question – Can you think of a time where you experienced the help of the Holy Spirit when you needed boldness to proclaim Jesus? If you cannot, why do you think that is the case?

Monday | June 29

Acts 13:1-4

What makes a good church? In our study of Paul’s life, we see many examples and criteria of a good church. We see that some of the early churches were knocking it out of the park (For example, the Acts 2-5 church in Jerusalem, and the Philippians’ congregation in Acts 16). We also see early churches just struggling to “get it” (e.g. the churches in Corinth and Galatia).

These churches are not successful, or failing either, due to their size. The early church in Jerusalem was an exploding mega-church. However, the church in Philippi began with just a couple families and a slave girl. The church at Corinth was seeing great numerical growth, yet they were quarrelling with one another constantly (1 Corinthians 1:11) and dealing with sin inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Many times we look to the church budget to see how successful the church has been. However, this is also shown not to be a good indicator. The first church in Jerusalem looked to be bringing in some serious bank. In fact, we hear about a guy named Barnabas (the same one from Acts 13 and the first missionary journey with Paul) who sells a piece of property and gives it to the church. However, their success is not because they bring in money. We know this because right after Barnabas, they end up losing two of their members to death because of their dishonest and idolatrous heart in giving money to the church. Moreover, the church in Corinth had a great deal of money, and just seemed to make a mess of it. Paul even has to instruct them on how to correctly take the Lord’s Supper, because the rich were using it as an opportunity to shame the poor (1 Corinthians 11:22).

If we can discern that the success of the church is not just about growing numerically nor having money, then what makes a church successful? We find the answer to this question in Acts 13:1-5. We see the description of the leadership in the Church at Antioch. Scripture gives us the names of Barnabas, Niger, Lucius, Manaen, and Paul as the teachers in the church. However, this is not who is leading the church. Verse two says The Holy Spirit calls Paul and Barnabas and sends them out on a missionary journey. In verses three and four we see the leadership of the church carrying out the will of The Holy Spirit. If we desire to be the church God wants us to be, it means we must maintain the correct leadership structure. The Holy Spirit needs to guide the church.

Nick McElrath | Growth Pastor

Discussion Question – What are some ways we can discern whether or not The Holy Spirit is leading the church?

Saturday | June 27

Acts 11:19-30

The story of the church in Antioch is truly an incredible one. We see a church born out of persecution spread like wildfire in one of the major cities in the ancient world. It’s in Antioch where the Gentiles embrace the truth of the Gospel, and we see a great number being added to that church. How does something like this happen? We’ve learned some great lessons from the church, but let’s take some time now to see what I believe is one of the main reasons this church was so impactful with the Gospel of Christ.

When persecution struck the chur-ch, they scattered throughout the world. While the church was centrally located, many people were able to sit under the teaching of the main apostles and church leaders. These leaders that we would think of as the “big hitters,” such as Paul, Luke, Peter, and others. They were able to impart the teachings of Jesus to many new believers. However, once the church was scattered, these major church leaders were separated from their disciples (many probably for the first time since becoming believers). It ends up being these believers that start the church in Antioch. It was because of the faithful teaching of the early church leaders, and the power of the Holy Spirit, that these ordinary believers were able to do extraordinary things in Antioch. These believers had been disciples of Jesus’ disciples. It was because of the importance put on making disciples that their faith was strong enough to start the Gentile church in Antioch.  These believers did not stop there; once the church began in Antioch they immediately started making disciples of their own. Verse 26 tells us that Saul and Barnabas come and spend a whole year teaching a “great number” of people. They took a whole year to study the word’s of Christ with one another, making more and more disciples. This was a church that understood the importance of discipleship, and it was evident in the way that God blessed the church in Antioch.

Discipleship is something that many of us overlook in our walk with Christ. We focus on the importance of praying alone, reading the Bible alone, and never think about being a disciple or making disciples. I in no way am discounting the importance of personal prayer and Bible reading, both of those things need to be a major part in your life. However, the Bible tells us to go and make disciples! To do this we actually have to be willing to invest in someone’s life. There is someone out there who is less mature in their faith than you are and could greatly benefit from being your disciple! We should not only be looking to make disciples, but be actively looking for someone to disciple us. It is amazing the Godly wisdom that we can learn from someone who is willing to invest in our life.  No matter how far along we are in our faith, we can always benefit from the Godliness of more mature Christian. I want our church to be a church of disciples making disciples just like the church of Antioch was. Disciples making disciples is a sign of a healthy and strong church. When we are firmly rooted in the Gospel of Christ, we should find ourselves making disciples of all people. When a church holds onto this truth, God can respond in incredible ways.

Philip Piasecki | Director of Music & Media – Grand Blanc & Downtown Flint

Discussion Question – Why is discipleship such an important aspect of the spiritual growth of a church? How do you succeed or fail in this area?

Friday | June 26

Acts 11:19-21

In the Garden of Eden God said that it was not good for man to be alone, so He made him a helper. This need for fellowship is not only applicable to martial relationships, but also our friendships. We desire to have friends who know us and care about us. Normally, we make friends with those who have things in common with us. Maybe they have children the same age as ours, like the same activities, or live in the same neighborhood. While all these similarities are important, there is one thing that surpasses all of those earthly similarities. It is the need for the saving grace of Jesus. That need is the common thread that binds every single one of us together. This important truth is something that the church in Antioch understood, and it is this truth that the church was founded upon.

The early church was scattered throughout the globe due to the beginning of the church persecution. These believers continued to preach the gospel as they were scattered about the Roman Empire and beyond . We see in verse 20 that the men of Cyprus and Cyrene showed up in Antioch and decided to start preaching the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. This was something that was unprecedented. The Gentiles had nothing in common with these men of Cyprus and Cyrene, but the men knew that they needed to hear the Gospel as much as anyone else did. In verse 21, we see that the hand of the Lord was with these men, and they started to see a large number of people turn to the Lord. The church in Antioch exploded because these men understood that even though the Gentiles were different than them, they still needed the love of Christ. Antioch was one of the major cities in the Roman Empire, and would most likely have been a melting pot of many different kinds of people. This would not be the last time the church in Antioch would need to share the gospel with people who were different than themselves. They knew the gospel of Christ transcends all of the different barriers that exist between people.

The example of the Antioch Church needs to be applied to our own lives. We encounter people who are different than us every single day, but they need Jesus just as much as the person we have everything in common with. Our church needs to be filled with people who are different than us, and we need to love them the way that Christ loves them. God gave his Son to save every nation, tribe, and tongue, and our behavior needs to reflect that. The Church in Antioch may have never seen the incredible things that they did if those men never shared the Gospel with the Gentiles. When we truly begin to share the Gospel with the world, we will begin to see an incredible and God-honoring diversity among our church. People from every economic, social, and ethnic group have one thing that binds them together: the need for the saving grace of a risen Savior.

Philip Piasecki | Director of Music & Media – Grand Blanc & Downtown Flint

Discussion Question – Why do you think it is difficult for us to share the Gospel with those who are different than us? What can we do to work on improving at that?

Thursday | June 25

Acts 13:1-4

Before Jesus Christ’s ascension, He leaves the disciples with one final instruction. He tells them in Acts 1:8 to go be His witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. This command instructed the disciples to take all the teachings of Christ and go share it with the world. Jesus makes the point to use those different geographical locations to stress the importance of sharing the gospel at home as well as to the entire world. We see throughout Acts that the church in Antioch took this charge very seriously from Christ. They became the home church for the missionary journeys of Paul, sending Him out with his various partners to the ends of the earth.

The church in Antioch demonstrates that they put importance on not only making disciples in their own city, but making disciples of the nations by sending people out. They were able to play an important part in the work that God did through the missionary journeys of Paul by supporting him and sending him out. Too often, the church tends to look inward at themselves instead of looking outward to the rest of the world. It is important for a church to have stability — people who are committed to staying and sharing the gospel with that local city. However, it is mutually as important that a church body is identifying people within their community to send out to other parts of the world. These “other parts” of the world are not always third world countries, but can even be other states or other cities. There are people everywhere who need to hear the Gospel, and we need to not only be willing to send people there, but also be willing to be sent. The Great Commission was a command to all believers. The thought of the billions of people who need to hear the gospel should break our hearts and cause us to act.  Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” People need to hear the gospel, and we need to be a church that is willing to send and be sent to every corner of the earth to deliver that message. The church in Antioch gives us a picture of what a sending church needs to look like. We need to be making disciples so that we can send people out to make more disciples. Like we see in Isaiah 6:8, let’s be a church that is willing to say, “Here I am! Send me.”

Philip Piasecki | Director of Music & Media – Grand Blanc & Downtown Flint

Discussion Question – Discuss the importance of being a sending church. What could you do better to support those who have been sent?



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