Sermon Notes

Acts: The Living Church

“The Living Church” series – Part 12 (3/29/20)

Acts 8:1-15 “God is in Control”

Intro: Story – Someone once said when you bring home a baby, you bring home a little dictator! Yes, it seems we come into the world wanting to control! We say the words sometimes “God is in Control”, but what does that mean in practical life? Here are a few thoughts regarding the early church in Jerusalem and how it relates to us and daily challenges:

Read 8:1-15,

II. There are Events Outside of our Control

Things were going great in the church at Jerusalem before ch.6v8 (probably felt like it would always be that way!)

A. For them: Political/Temple leadership arrangement was not of their choosing

B. For them: God had foreordained the reduction of Jerusalem’s influence

  • Its reduction meant the gospel to Samaria and others was providential (John 4)
  • Its reduction meant new leaders stepping up (like Philip) was also providential

C. Application for us: Very little in life will remain constant and static – life is dynamic (story of a “dynamo” making power – harness the power of the flow)

Remember: God is in control of events…

  • Abraham – God laid out the next 400 years to him
  • Joseph – His trials were outside his control but completely in God’s
  • Moses – God’s judgement on Egypt was the bigger picture
  • Jesus – He was in the boat all along with the disciples during the storm (but was always in control-spoke peace into the storm, Mark 4:35)

II. There are People Outside of our Control

A. For them: Peers such as the Synagogue of the Freedmen and Stephen (Ch.6)

B. For them: Authorities such as High Priest and Saul (his actions were a direct attempt to control the situation even though his mentor Gamaliel had advised against it)

C. Application for us: People make choices that can affect themselves (and us)

Remember: God is in control of people…

  • Abraham – could not control Lot’s choices
  • Joseph – Brothers, Potiphar’s wife, fellow prisoner forgetting him
  • Moses – The people rebelling and complaining, the 10 spies spreading doubt
  • Jesus – Lies, schemes, abandonment, (but He was always in control)

III. Time is Outside of our Control

A. For them: the timeline of the church was on God’s schedule

B. For them: more time for Stephen would have made strategic sense/been desired

C. Application for us: We often don’t understand God’s timing because we cannot see the bigger picture as He does

Remember: God is in Control of time…

  • Abraham – waiting period for Isaac (tried to facilitate the prophecy w/Hagar)
  • Joseph – perfect timing for famine preparation/provision
  • Moses – 40 years waiting in the desert before the bush encounter
  • Jesus – He waited, moved and ministered specifically by the Father’s timeline

Two take-aways:

  1. Attempting to maintain control of events and people can be very problematic (Abraham, Saul, Peter)
  2. Hope is built on the truth that God is in control
  • He is with you “in the storm”
  • He is aware of the people and even providentially uses them
  • He knows waiting is tough but asks us to trust in the meantime
  • Romans 8:28 really is true…”for those who love God and are called according to His purpose”

Question: What have you learned about trusting that God is truly in control?


“The Living Church” series – Part 11 (3/22/20)

Acts 6:8-15, 7:54-60 “Determined Purpose”

Intro: There is a local man who walks to McDonald’s every day at the same time whether it’s sunny, raining, hot, cold, or storming. It absolutely does no matter what the weather is, he leaves at the same time. We see him on our school commute each day (before the virus intermission). He has what I call “Determined Purpose”. Yes, it may be just a trip to get coffee, but the idea is that he has predetermined that he is going…period.

Read 6:8-15, (story/recap Stephen’s sermon), 7:54-60

In consideration of Stephen, 3 things about determined purpose for the follower of Christ:

I. Determine to be Faithful

A. Be led by the Spirit (6:3) (yielding to His lead)

B. Walk by faith (6:3) (forward movement, live action)

C. Demonstrate good character (6:3) (building a reputation over time)

D. Commit ahead of time (like the guy walking, conditions are irrelevant)

II. Determine to be Truthful

A. Seek wisdom of the Lord, not man (6:10)

B. Speak of what you know to be true (which is enough 7:1-53)

C. Be mindful ahead of time:

  • There will be dishonest people (6:11)
  • Your words can/will be twisted (6:13)
  • Conviction always produces something (7:54)

III. Determine to be Graceful

A. Seek a “settled peace” based on Christ in you (6:15)

B. Look to Jesus for reassuring power (7:55-56)

C. Be an agent of forgiveness (7:60)

Being faithful is determining to make the walk…every day.


  1. What do you consider the hardest of the “determines”?
  2. What helps you overcome the challenges?


“The Living Church” series – Part 10 (3/8/20)

Acts 6:1-7 “Three Values of the Jerusalem Church”

Intro: Political mailers and ads often tout “values”. Conservative, traditional, small town, etc. to convey an idea about the personal character of the candidate. When we consider the early church, what were some of its values? In other words, what did they value most in their practice of faith? Let’s consider that question with verses 1-7 of chapter 6.

Read Acts 5:1-7

I. They Valued People (v.1)

A. There was significance in the church taking care of widows

  • The ancient world was generally very cruel to widows (but the church cared for them)
  • There was a mix of both local Jews (traditional Hebrew culture) and Hellenized (Greek speaking and culturally different) widows

B. Division is a constant danger (subtle and slow at times)

C. There was healthy respect for the Hellenist’s concerns

  • The Apostles didn’t ignore their grievance
  • The Apostles didn’t overreact
  • The Apostles acknowledged the problem instead of denying or deflecting

II. They Valued Ministry

A. They recognized the practical part of ministry

  • Ministry happens where we actually live
  • Ministry involves routine things (like bread)

B. They recognized the spiritual part of ministry (v.24)

  • They didn’t lessen their commitment to the Word
  • They didn’t neglect spending time in prayer

C. They recognized the need to prioritize both which brought balance and synergy

III. They Valued Disciple-making

A. They sought leaders from among the people (v.3 & 5)

B. They established qualifications

  • Good reputation
  • Full of the Holy Spirit
  • Wise
  • Which is further built on in 1 Timothy 3:8-13

C. They recognized and commissioned them with the laying on of hands (v.6)

D. The delegated ministry to them

IV. Conclusion

The values of the church at Jerusalem spoke for them. With priests coming to join (v.7b), the atmosphere must have been welcoming and compelling.

Question: “What values are being communicated by your life?”


“The Living Church” series – Part 9 (3/1/20)

Acts 5:12-42 “This Life”

Intro: I recently saw the beginning of a George Washington biography and unfortunately is a victim of history “revisionism”. It was an example of “deconstructing” the facts and writings and putting them back together to form a modern interpretation with an agenda driven narrative. For example, it’s problematic for a commentator to make pointed statements starting with “He was thinking…” or “He thought…”, without a letter, journal entry, speech or other form of expression to substantiate it. The study and interpretation of historical figures cannot be separated from their context. With the events of the early church in Jerusalem, it’s important (as with all scripture) to be aware of both the scriptural and literal contexts. One such teaching was Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 (read) and with that parable in mind, let’s read the first portion of text for today:

Read Acts 5:12-32

In the middle of a jailbreak story, we get an insight into their approach to “this life” (v.20)

I. They Were Teaching Holistically (v.20)

A. They taught the big, complete picture

B. They scattered the same seed to everyone

C. “Greater Jerusalem” represents the first two groups (Matthew verses 19-20)

  • Seed on wayside soil
  • Seed on stony soil

II. They Were Focused on Obedience (v.29)

A. Temple leadership was like the thorn-filled soil

B. In the beginning, they engaged Jesus (at 12 years old an early ministry)

C. They even agreed with Gamaliel and took a wait and see attitude

D. Thorns grew and choked out any possibility of truly appreciating/receiving the gospel for what it is (and the messengers that carried it)

  • Jesus described it as “the cares of this world” and the “deceitfulness of riches”
  • They had heard the truth clearly from Jesus/disciples and witnessed miraculous power, but the “thorns” choked it out.

III. They Were Empowered by the Holy Spirit (v.32)

A. The good soil involves obedience

  • Peter connected obedience to themselves (v.29)
  • And to “this life” of following Christ (v.32)

B. We are surrounded by all four soils (that’s our context)

C. Obedience like v.29 is to be our approach

IV. Conclusion

Be consistent in sowing the seed. The soil is what makes the difference, so don’t get too distracted by what the crop is/isn’t.


“The Living Church” series – Part 8 (2/23/20)

Acts 5:1-11 “The Ways of Pride”

Intro: Personal story of a symptom of pride

Today we’re looking at a shocking moment in the Jerusalem church that highlights the reality of pride:

Read Acts 5:1-11

I. Pride is a Schemer (v.4)

A. There was premeditation (under no obligation or command to sell the land and give the money)

B. They recognized an opportunity for recognition (Barnabas 3:35-37)

C. They envisioned an end result focused on themselves (honored as charitable, etc.)

II. Pride is a Liar (v.4)

A. There was dishonesty with the church and the leaders

More importantly,

B. There was dishonesty with God

III. Pride is a Resister

A. There was an opportunity to tell the truth or a lie (v.4)

B. There was a “doubling down” (v.8) (dug in the heels)

IV. Pride is a Betrayer

A. Ultimately the truth comes out (v.9)

B. The church was shocked back to reality and the real possibility that sin can be present within the fellowship (v.5 & 11)

C. The “Law of the Harvest” always proves true (Galatians 6:7-10)

D. “And let us not grow weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9)

V. Conclusion


  • Pride is a sneaky nasty thing
  • It can show up unexpected and in unexpected ways
  • Remember the Law of the Harvest…sow good seeds


“The Living Church” series – Part 7 (2/16/20)

Acts 4:23-37 “Strength under Control” (the concept of “praus”)

Intro: Personal story of motorcycles and power under control

Read Acts 4:23-37

Today we’re considering the reality that the early church leaders were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great signs and miracles, but they did not seek to wield it for personal glory or revenge:

I. They Acknowledged God

A. They acknowledged His supremacy (v.24 “You are God”)

B. They acknowledged His authority (v.24 “Maker of everything”)

C. They acknowledged His Sovereignty (v.28 “whatever Your hand”)

II. They Asked for God’s Help

A. They admitted vulnerability (v.29)

B. They affirmed service the Lord (v.25-27 – models of David and Jesus)

C. They demonstrated faith (v.30)

D. They prayed for boldness to speak the Name in the face of threats (v.29)

E. They gave witness to the Lord and directed attention to Him (v.33)

III. They Lived in Grace

A. Grace was upon them from the Lord (v.33)

B. Grace was shown to one another (v.32)

C. Grace was evident to others (v.34-37)

IV. Conclusion


  • Are feeling intimidated?
  • Are you struggling with fear?
  • Are you tempted to react in your own power?
  • Remember, strength under control is God’s way…seek the Holy Spirit’s empowering to act, speak, and respond in His power.


“The Living Church” series – Part 6 (2/9/20)

Acts 4:1-22 “Facing an Unfair Audience”


  • So far in the narrative of the church, things have been going fine (people responding to the gospel, lives changed, Holy Spirit working, miracles and signs)
  • Then out-of-nowhere trouble showed up
  • They were singled out and put at a disadvantage

Read Acts 3:1-26

Today we’re considering three encouraging points when facing an unfair audience:

I. We Can Have Confidence in the Truth

A. Peter communicated the real truth of the gospel (v.12)

B. Peter presented the present reality as it really was (v.10)

  • “You crucified Jesus and God raised Him from the dead”
  • “It is in His name this man was healed”
  • There was no softening of the facts in order to be more diplomatic

C. Peter pointed out the truth of prophecy (v.11)

D. Peter echoed Jesus about the exclusivity of the gospel (v.12, John 14:6)

II. We Can Have Boldness from our Relationship with Jesus

A. Peter simply connecting-the-dots speaking in the same way Jesus modeled it (v.13) not sophisticated philosophy

B. They were “found out” to be simple fishermen “who had been with Jesus”

C. They had moved beyond the fear of being looked down upon by the Temple leadership and were comfortable with who they were (no more talk of pride-filled glory in a new political kingdom)

III. We Can Rely on the Purity of the Message

A. We are to speak of “what we know” (like Peter)

B. There are many confirmations for one willing to look (such as people glorifying God and evidence of a beggar’s changed life v.21-22)

C. There will always be the ones who refuse to accept/submit (and winning a debate with them will not cause them to surrender and accept the message-speak the truth in love and let the results be what they are)

IV. Conclusion

Questions: “Are you confident in the truth? Bold in your relationship with Jesus? Relying on the purity of the message?”


“The Living Church” series – Part 5 (2/2/20)

Acts 3:1-26 “Giving of What We Have”

Intro: Last week we considered some of the take-aways from the Jerusalem church. Next is the story of a generous act, but not in the sense of what was expected. Let’s take a look:

Read Acts 3:1-26

I. There was a Need

A. An obvious physical need

B. A less obvious spiritual need

C. Along with a social need

D. There are a variety of needs all around us

II. There was an Opportunity

A. It was a routine day – “a typical Tuesday”

B. It was familiar surroundings (including the beggar who was a daily presence)

C. It was a divine appointment (God takes routine moments and makes them extraordinary!)

III. There was a Willingness

A. A willingness to notice him

B. A willingness to identify the source of power

C. A willingness to act without knowing the full outcome ahead of time

IV. There was a Change

A. Physical healing (like the beggar sometimes)

B. Spiritual healing (the primary need)

C. Change in others as a ripple effect

V. Conclusion

Questions: “What do you have to give? And how can you give it?”


“The Living Church” series – Part 4 (1/26/20)

Acts 2:40-47 “7 Timeless Take-aways from the Jerusalem Church”

Intro: “The difference between descriptive texts and prescriptive texts”

Read Acts 2:40-47

I. There was Preaching of a Complete Gospel (v.40)

  • Testified to the real story (v.14-39)
  • Exhorted, challenged and offered a chance to respond
  • Challenged them to separate to a new way of life

II. There was Public Testimony (v.41)

  • They were publicly immersed as a display of their commitment
  • There were 3,000 at once which means it was not a quiet event in the shadows

III. There was a Healthy Spiritual Balance (v.42)

  • Steadfast commitment
  • Teaching
  • Fellowship
  • Worship (through communion meal)
  • Prayer

IV. There was Validation (v.43)

  • With a confirmation of soul level resonance
  • With a deep sense of spiritual affinity

V. There was Authentication (v.43)

  • Authenticated the Apostles specifically as the leaders
  • Authenticated the message spoken by the Apostles
  • Was the beginning of a pattern to authenticate message and messengers

VI. There was Spirit of Generosity (v.41-45)

  • Context of previous chapters is important (who the people were and that many were sojourners)
  • Temporary situation, not a prescriptive text in the strict sense, but very revealing of their selfless attitudes after conversion

VII. There was Spiritual Harmony (v.46-47)

Harmony was produced by:

  • People that were full of gladness
  • People with an attitude of simplicity (humility)
  • People eager to give God praise

VIII. Conclusion

My Prayer for us this week is to reflect all 7:

  • Preaching of a complete gospel message with our life and words
  • Living a public testimony of Christ in us
  • Having spiritual balance
  • To be validated by the Holy Spirit
  • To be authenticated by the Holy Spirit to others
  • To have generosity
  • To live in harmony because of lives that are full of gladness, simplicity and praise


“The Living Church” series – Part 3 (1/19/20)

Acts 2:14-39 “The True Gospel”

Intro: Pick a major person or event from history. The facts of their life or the event are what they are, whether known or not. In other words, there is only one set of facts, regardless of whether the correct information is told, or even known. What actually happened, is what really happened. Telling the story of the gospel and the early church is the same way. The true gospel of Jesus; which are the facts of His life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, establishment of the church, and sending of the Holy Spirit happened as they did, and communicating a true version is relating a biblically accurate one (not a loose or edited one).

Read Acts 2:14-39

I. The True Gospel is Doctrinal

A. Built on the foundation of the old Testament (v.16-21, v. 25-28, v.34-35)

B. Facilitated by the scripture:

“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” – Romans 10:17 NKJV

II. The True Gospel is Historical

A. Jesus’ life on Earth divided time (even if modern historians try to change the reference to a non-Jesus acronym like B.C.E. etc.)

B. Jesus’ accomplished mission launched the church

III. The True Gospel is Transformational

A. The example of Peter

B. The new beginning (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

C. The on-going transformation (sanctification) (Ephesians 5:8-21)

IV. The True Gospel is Available

A. It’s an open call (for now) (v.21, v.39, John 3:16)

B. It’s a personal call (Romans 10:9-10)

V. Conclusion

Questions: “What is the Gospel to you? How do you describe it to others?”


“The Living Church” series – Part 2 (1/12/20)

Acts 1:15-2:13 “4 Ways the Church is Empowered”

Intro: “Wireless”

  • Wireless listening devices (personal story)
  • They are enabled to do their work (playing music, voice by the base unit)
  • Holy Spirit enables us in the same way to produce something as ones “connected” and empowered

Before reading the text, there are a couple of points of interest:

  • Story of choosing Matthias
  • Description and context of Passover, crucifixion, resurrection, Offering of First Fruits in the Law of Moses, 40 days, ascension, Feast of Weeks in the Law of Moses (Pentecost-Hellenistic “50 days”)
  • Pentecost Feast was on a Sunday-The Lord’s Day

Read Acts 2:1-13

4 ways the church is empowered:

I. There is Empowerment Beyond Natural Limitations (v.4)

A. Holy Spirit’s filling included all disciples (not just the 11 or most likely) (v.3)

B. Other languages – unique and specifically the listeners heard in their own first language, not a common one like Greek, Latin or Aramaic

II. There is Empowerment of Unlikely People (v.7)

A. Their heritage: Galileans were known as uneducated, less sophisticated, at times rough and rebellious

B. Completely without position or official recognition

III. There is Empowerment for God’s Glory (v.11)

A. True empowering from the Holy Spirit directs glory to God (not the messenger)

B. True empowering identifies God’s involvement and goodness

IV. There is Empowerment that Prompts Reactions

A. Many reacted by seeking answers (v.12) (as many will do today when presented truth)

B. Some reacted by mocking what they didn’t understand (v.13) (as many still do today)

V. Conclusion

Questions: “Are we empowered?” Constrained by our natural limits? Feel unlikely? Remember, it for His glory and expect various reactions


“The Living Church” series – Part 1 (1/5/20)

Acts 1:1-14 “3 Ways the Church was Established in Power”

Intro: 40 days with someone is long enough for the opportunity to have many good conversations. 40 days ago, it was the day the before Thanksgiving. Imagine having an important quest with you since then and every day was committed to having meals together and engaging in conversation. That was the case for the disciples and the time spent with Jesus between the resurrection and the ascension was powerful, encouraging, enlightening, affirming and necessary. Jesus didn’t leave the disciples to simply figure it out to preach a half-baked gospel. He spent weeks with them to answer questions, share new information, ease fears, correct misunderstandings, forgive sin, restore confidence and give guidance.

When we read Luke’s account of the origin of the Church, it’s the story of a unified fellowship moving forward (without all the future details) with a confidence in the Savior.

Read Acts 1:1-14

3 ways the church was established in power:

I. The Power of Jesus’ Resurrection

A. Proof of life (v.3)

  • 40 days of physical presence and seen by many (including 500 at one time-I Cor. 15:6)
  • Debunked false story of body theft being spread by Jewish leadership
  • Coupled with the fact that Romans proved He was dead by a spear to the lungs/heart, resurrection was undeniable

B. Proof of payment (Luke 24:44-49) His death fit all the specifications to meet the Law’s requirements (Paid in full)

C. Proof of a new body (I Cor. 15:50-58 – Last Adam, firstborn of the grave)

Power over sin and death achieved!

II. The Power of the Holy Spirit (v.7-8)

A. The Holy Spirit changes us

  • Initially in salvation transformation
  • On-going in sanctification

B. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:5-15)

  • The Lost to be saved
  • Th Saved to be obedient

C. The Holy Spirit guides (John 16:5-15)

  • In truth
  • Only according the Father
  • Points glory to the Son (according the Father’s plan)

Power of the Holy Spirit’s presence and ministry!

III. The Power of the Message

(The job of a witness is to tell the truth of what they observed, did, etc., not to be creative and try to fill in the blanks)

Based on the early church’s example and the scriptural mandate:

A. We are to be witnesses of the scripture record

  • Not getting creative by “reading between the lines”
  • Not attempting to “fill in the blanks”
  • Not adjusting the text to be more palatable to a sinful culture
  • Not pulling verses from context to support non-connected points
  • Witnesses to the Biblical record!

B. We are to be witnesses to a changed life/active faith

  • Your personal story of faith and what Jesus has done in your life
  • Your personal story of on-going life as a believer (not glossed over, but an honest one)

C. We are to be witnesses to a future hope (Colossians 1:24-29) “Christ in us the hope of glory!”)

D. We are to be witnesses wherever we go as God expands the kingdom through us

  • Like He did with the early church (He orchestrated the process)
  • He does the same with us (guiding out steps)

Power of a message that changes lives!

IV. Conclusion

Question: “Is there power in your life?” If you have been transformed by Christ, then:

  • Prayerfully consider the power that lives in you (Holy Spirit)
  • Prayerfully consider the power of the message that changed you and can change others


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