The podcast of Calvary Chapel of Crook County contains the latest sermons from Pastor Rory Rodgers, and occasionally live recordings of the latest worship service.
On the heel of the miracles, exorcism and revival in Ephesus was an attempt by Satan to cause confusion and conflict, as he always does whenever God is moving. As people repented, confessed their sin, turned from sin and took drastic, costly steps to destroy all their connections to their past lives, the Word of the Lord grew and prevailed. However, this caused economic harm to some, especially those who made idols to the goddess Diana, and pandemonium broke out throughout Ephesus, particularly in the area of the theater. Paul considered this a ministry opportunity but was prevented from entering the melee by his friends. Finally a city official stood up and quelled the disturbance, concerned that the Romans would get involved. Luke recorded this to show that worldly powers have no power against God’s people. Ephesus is gone but the Gospel of Grace remains.
As Paul preached and taught in Ephesus for a couple of years, many people believed, and extraordinary miracles began to happen - such as people being healed by Paul's handkerchief. Some itinerant Jews, posing as exorcists, began to invoke the name of Jesus. Paul confronted the demon in one man who caused the man to attack the seven sons of Sceva, who left bleeding and naked. The populace decided that now was the time to turn from their evil ways and those who had practiced sorcery burned all their scrolls.
In a message we need to hear frequently, Pastor Chris brings us back to Acts 15, and the attempt by the Jews to require the new believers to submit to circumcision. To them, grace was too easy. Surely more must be required. Not so! This was a pivotal point in the early church and is an ongoing problem in the church today. Some may think we need baptism to be saved, or be part of a specific church, or dress a certain way, and on and on. Part of this is because we all have baggage from our past experiences and our heritage. This continues to be “truth” for us even though it’s not scriptural, and we put this load on others. There is no difference between people – we all have sinned and have the same Lord. It is His grace that saves us – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – and that’s all. Once we’ve been saved and live under grace, there are two complimentary principles for grace-filled living: 1) For those under grace we are not to impose non-biblical requirements on others, and 2) Because we’re under grace we gladly restrict our freedom for the sake of others.
In Antioch Paul ministers to a Jew name Apollos, an eloquent, learned man who was on fire for the Lord, although he only knew the baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and taught him more accurately, after which he went on his own mission trip to Corinth to encourage other believers and to refute the Jews. In Ephesus, Paul comes across some disciples who had followed John and believed but had not yet been baptized by the Holy Spirit. They didn’t even know about the Holy Spirit so Paul prayed for them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. But you can’t stuff the HS in a box – He will come upon people as He wills. It may be with signs; it may not. It may happen at salvation; it may be later. It may be with the laying on of hands; it may not. It’s never the same but it is God’s desire that we all function in the Holy Spirit’s power.
Paul continues his second missionary journey in Corinth. Normally he would preach the gospel to the Jews who would stir up trouble for him, he would be beaten and then thrown out of town. In Corinth the Lord told Paul not to be afraid. As a result, he preached in the synagogue, was hauled before the authorities, released by the proconsul, and the Jews turned on each other.
Invited to the Areopagus by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, Paul explains the "new doctrine" and how it relates to their "unknown god." He had five points: 1) God does not dwell in temples made by human hands; 2) He gives life to all; 3) He has determined the fate of every person and civilization so they might seek Him; 4) the world will be judged; and 5) He assured us of this by rising from the dead. The concept of resurrection was new to the Athenians. Some rejected Paul and some believed.
Paul arrives in Athens, where he finds that there are more idols than there are men. The Athenians, it seemed, were given over to every form of idolatry, yet they were open to new ideas. As the philosophers heard about the teachings of Paul - teachings they had never heard - they became interested (TBC next teaching). Each of us must question what idols we are serving. Have we made idols out of possessions, hobbies, jobs or people?
Paul and Silas journey to Berea, where they, as has been the norm, are persecuted by the Jews. However, while teaching in Berea they come across Jews who were open to the gospel, and not only listened to what Paul had to say but daily searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true. That is the message today: We need to be diligent, daily, searching the Scriptures to find out the mind and will of God for our lives.
Paul and Barnabas preach to both Jews and Gentiles in the region of Lycaonia, but the people are divided, and some persecute them. Some, after witnessing the healing of a crippled man, seek to worship the two as gods, but are sternly rebuffed by Paul. Then he is attacked, dragged out of the city and stoned by the Jews. Left for dead, he is revived and immediately goes back into the city.
Paul and his companions attend synagogue in Antioch of Persidia, where, as according to tradition, they are asked to speak. He did and gave the Jews a history lesson that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. Gentiles heard about this, and the gospel was presented to them as well. As a result, many believed.
Paul and Barnabas sail to Cyprus on their first missionary journey and preach the gospel in both the Jewish synagogues and to the gentiles. Along the way they came across a false prophet who was actually a sorcerer, and who tried to influence a local official from believing what was preached. Paul intervened and God struck the man with blindness.
Note: The first part of this message wasn't recorded. We need to present ourselves to the Lord as an act of worship – a living sacrifice. People struggle with grace, considering it a license to sin, but grace makes us not want to sin. Our submission to the Lord is willing slavery – it’s our choice. But it’s difficult as sin and obedience are violent competitors. If we decide to be a slave to sin, the result is death. If a slave to obedience, we have life. It’s like having two volumes of your life. Volume 1, before Christ – you were a slave to sin. Volume 2, after Christ – you have obedience that leads to righteousness. There should be a radical change from before to after.
The Church began to grow, and the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to Antioch, to see what was going on. He encouraged the church and ministered to them, but then decided to find Saul to have him help. The church was encouraged that although they were saved, they needed to continue on with purpose, making Jesus not only Savior but also Lord.
Peter returns to Jerusalem and the news of him eating in a gentile’s house was already known. So Peter explains that how, through a vision, God called him to share the Gospel with the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Peter related that at first refused but the Lord rebuked him, and Peter obeyed. As a result, he shared with the Gentile Cornelius and his whole household, and a “Gentile Pentecost” happened. Then Peter challenged the Jewish Christians: If God gave the Gentiles the same gift as He gave us, how can we say no? When they heard these things they became silent and then glorified God that the Gentiles were given repentance to life also.
In Caesarea a centurion named Cornelius, a devout and God-fearing man, was told in a vision to send for Peter, in Joppa. At the same time, Peter had a vision of all kinds of animals in a sheet, and God told him to eat. Peter protested since most were unclean to the Jews, but God said He had made everything clean. While still thinking about the vision, Cornelius' friends came for Peter, and God told him to go with them. Arriving in Caesarea, Peter understood that God had torn the walls down between Jew and Gentile, and that's what the vision was about. He explained Jesus to Cornelius and his household - all believed, were filled with the Holy Spirit and were baptized.
Peter leaves Jerusalem to minister to the young churches hungry to hear from someone who walked with Jesus. Arriving at Lydda he came upon Aeneas, a man who had been bedridden for eight years. Even as Peter stood by him he sensed the Lord’s healing, and he was healed, which caused all those who saw Aeneas afterward to believe in Jesus. Then he heals a woman named Tabitha, who had been dead for several hours. This was Peter’s first healing. Once again, many believed. They heard the Word, saw the signs and believed. Peter made himself available, put Jesus on display and God did the rest. He lived a “deliberate” life.
After his conversion, Saul changes from opposing the gospel to preaching it. So much so that he became a gossiper of the gospel, teaching in all the synagogues. Eventually he left Damascus for Jerusalem, prompted in great part by the Jews who were trying to kill him. In Jerusalem he intended to meet the apostles, but they were wary of him, given his history of persecuting the followers of Jesus. Finally, Barnabas convinced them that Saul was the "real deal," and that they needed to embrace him. Saul continued teaching and the church flourished.
After Stephen is martyred, Saul is like a wild beast, set to destroy the Church. Already having created havoc in Jerusalem, he travels to Damascus to do the same. On the way, the Lord knocks him to the ground, speaks to him, and blinds him. He is directed to go to Damascus where he was lead by his friends. A man in Damascus, Ananias, was directed by the Lord to seek out Saul, pray with him, and baptize him. Saul believed and was filled with the Holy Spirit. God effectively turned the wolf into a shepherd, showing that if God can save Saul, He can save anyone.
Philip obeys the Lord and goes out to the desert. There he meets an Ethiopian eunuch - a treasurer for Queen Candace of Ethiopia - who is studying the book of Isaiah. He doesn't understand what he's reading and so asks Philip for help. Philip lays out the gospel for him, the Ethiopian believes and is baptized.
After Stephen's martyrdom the church is persecuted, scattered, and it grows! Philip, led by the Holy Spirit, travels to Samaria, an area detested by the Jews in Jerusalem, and performs many signs and wonders as people believed in Jesus. Peter and John came up to Samaria to see what was going on and after realizing the new converts hadn't receive the Holy Spirit, they laid hands on them so they could. Simon, a local sorcerer, was impressed by Philip and apparently believed and was baptized. When he saw the apostles laying on hands and the people becoming full of the Holy Spirit, he asked Philp if he could give him money so he could do that as well. That did not go over well.
Paul writes to the Roman church to make sure they have a firm foundation in their faith. It’s likely they had no pastor and had simply come into existence through those Romans who had believed in Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection and then returned home. In this first chapter, Paul makes the case that people are without excuse, that God has revealed Himself to them in many ways. Even so, the world has chosen to go its own way.
Stephen, one of the first deacons and full of the Holy Spirit, preached Jesus and performed signs and wonders. This caused great opposition by the authorities, and they brought false charges against him. Beginning with Abraham, Stephen reminded the Jewish people of their heritage, how they were chosen by God but were always rebellious and how they had killed the prophets. He told them this is exactly what they had done to Jesus, and for that he became the first Christian martyr.
The apostles struggled to meet their responsibilities to teach, pray and pastor and also to administer the day-to-day affairs of the growing church. With godly wisdom they decided to appoint seven men of good reputation and full of the Holy Spirit, to minister to the practical needs of the believers.
The Lord purified the church through the taking of Ananias and Sapphira, which brought power and unity. Subsequently, there were many signs and wonders, and people came from all over to be healed. Once again, the authorities arrested the Apostles - all of them. While in prison, an angel of the Lord set them free and told them to continue preaching, which they did. Called before the authorities once again, the apostles said they needed to obey God rather than men. Finally, Gamaliel convinced them to let them go. If it was of men it would come to nothing; if of God, they couldn’t be stopped. They were beaten and released – praising God that they were counted worthy.
After Barnabas sold land and donated the proceeds (Chapter 4), husband and wife Ananias and Sapphira thought they'd do the same. The only problem was they kept part of the proceeds and gave the rest to Peter, making people believe that what they gave was all they received. Peter told Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit, at which time he collapsed dead on the floor. A few hours later his wife came in, and when confronted with what they'd done, she died as well.
God is after our worship out of joyful hearts. Psalm 100 has four main points. First, we are commanded to practice public praise and worship, which calls for a need to be together. We are also called to worship in song, no matter our ability. Second, we are called to serve the Lord gladly. Whatever you do, do it heartily for the Lord. We have purpose for Him and His glory, not just in the church but in our community. Third, we are created in His image, and He delights when we get to know Him, especially be being in the Word and meditating on it. Finally, we need to be continuously thanking God for His mercy as well as everything he provides.
The story of the prodigal son teaches the entire message of the Bible and is especially applicable for Resurrection Sunday. The son wanted to live life his way, as do all of us. The result is a natural leaving of God and ending up in the “big emptiness” without Him. When he came to his senses, the son returned to a loving, accepting father, who covered him in a robe of “righteousness.” The older brother, like the Pharisees, wanted judgment for his brother’s actions, exhibiting a spirit of pride and self-righteousness. He missed his father’s heart. Being a Christian is not about being “religious,” rather, it’s about being forgiven.
Finishing with Acts 4, a picture is painted of the generous spirit in the early church. Although people had their own possessions, they didn't regard them as such, and shared willingly with those who were in need. This was a large number of people as a majority of the new believers in Jerusalem were "out-of-towners," having come from other areas to celebrate the Passover. People shared out of love and not compulsion. An example given was that of Joseph, later called Barnabas, who sold a field and presented all the proceeds to the apostles for use as needed.
Peter and John come before the Jewish authorities, who tell them not to speak the name of Jesus again. In reply, they say they will obey God rather than man. Once released, they return to their companions and together pray for boldness to share Jesus. Rory emphasizes that this boldness is borne from the Holy Spirit, coupled with a close relationship with Jesus through reading the Word and prayer.
Peter and John are arrested by the Jewish authorities and Peter gives them the gospel message, concluding with the statement that Jesus is the only name in heaven by which men can be saved. This is the beginning of the Church's persecution by the world.
Church elders are shepherds who need to follow the perfect model – Jesus. One of the heavy parts that goes with this is church discipline, which is more than just excommunication. It includes all the steps taken to get someone to repent and be reconciled to the Lord and to their brothers and sisters. It’s important that those disciplined not only say “sorry” but that they turn and go the other direction. It’s the difference of just having Jesus as Savior vs. having Him as both Savior and Lord. It’s a “cheap” gospel vs. a gospel with both belief and action. None of us are above discipline and we are chastened because we are loved. Left to our own devices we will do what we want, and we need to be protected from this. Discipline is unpleasant but, in the end, produces a holy people different from the world.
As Peter and John went to the temple to pray, they came across a paralyzed man begging at the entrance. Peter said they had no money but instead, healed him so he could walk. The people were amazed but he deflected all the glory to God. Anyone could have given him money but Peter gave him Jesus. We are called to pray for healing as well with the knowledge that healing might not be God’s will for this person, but that there is to be a different outcome. Jesus is the God who heals, but whatever the outcome people need to be pointed to Jesus. All glory to God to who all glory is due!
The early church was composed of believers who were steadfast, diligent and faithful. As such they exhibited several characteristics of a healthy church that we should strive for today. They were a learning church, studying the apostles’ doctrine and the Word of God. They gave themselves to fellowship (some assembly required). They broke bread together. This included regular “love feasts” as well as the communion celebration. They continued steadfastly in prayer. The early church was a praying church. They were a generous church. They had all things in common and voluntarily shared their possessions as the need arose. It was a church of gladness, joy and simplicity. Finally, it was a witnessing, evangelical church. Being a part of a local fellowship is not essential to be saved, but it is to be a true Christian.
Peter, newly filled with the Holy Spirit and with power, stands before the confused multitude to explain what is going on, that they are not drunk with wine. He explains that they are in a time as prophesied by Joel, that Jesus died to fulfil this prophesy, that the Jews, in line with God's plan, were responsible for putting Jesus to death, that he was resurrected, and that they needed to repent.
Continuing with his teaching on the gift of tongues, Rory explains that while Calvary Chapel teaches that the gifts of the Spirit continue to this day, unfortunately we often act that they don't. This is especially true for tongues, although this is an "open-handed" issue in the church as a whole. Seventeen points about the gift are made, notably that it is used most often privately to edify the believer, but when it is used publicly, there needs to be an interpreter. Also, it is not prophetic (speaking what God says to the church) but instead declares the marvelous works of God.
As the 120 or so disciples gathered in prayer, a mighty rushing wind filled the room, they had tongues of fire above their heads, and they spoke in strange languages. This marked the gift of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the “last days.” The result was they began to preach the gospel in foreign languages, matching the tongues of the various nationalities represented at the Passover/Pentecost celebration. The gift of tongues is “a” manifestation of being filled with the Holy Spirit, not “the” manifestation, and there is no evidence this gift ceased for the churches. This is the first of two teaching by Rory on the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues.
Some critics don’t believe the Ascension occurred, but five times it is referenced that the disciples were eyewitness of this. In fact, as they were “eyewitnessing” and staring blankly into the sky, they were chided by two angels who told them to get to Jerusalem. There, they got to work and prayed for the Holy Spirit. During this time of waiting, they also replaced Judas with Matthias, another disciple who’d been with Jesus from the beginning and witnessed the resurrection. Where the Ascension was somewhat a “private” affair with only a few witnesses, not so Christ’s return.
Acts was written by Luke, the physician, who was an eyewitness of what Jesus had done, and follows the Great Commission. In the beginning of Acts, Jesus promises the baptism with the Holy Spirit which would give the disciples the power to be His witnesses.
We need to be thankful for everything in our lives, even the smallest, seemingly insignificant things. In this New Year we need to resolve to renew our soul, renew our thankfulness and renew our relationship with God. We need to remember all God has done for us. In Joshua 24, Joshua, for the first time speaks as a prophet and reminds the elders of Israel of all that God had done for them. He challenged them with a line in the sand: who will you serve? We all have to serve someone. The question for you today is, “Who will you serve?” Will you serve God with all your heart and be an example to your children? This is the ultimate resolution.
In concluding the time with his disciples on the beach, Jesus gives Peter a glimpse of how Peter will die. Then Peter asked Jesus what was going to happen to John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” a question that could have been borne out of jealousy. As it turned out, John was the only disciple who didn’t die a martyr’s death. We need not worry about what the Lord is doing with other people, the “what about him/her” syndrome, but instead just follow Jesus. He has his specific plans and spheres of ministry for each of us. John closes out his book by saying that what he writes is true, he saw it, and that there were many other things Jesus did than what he recorded.