problems in the jerusalem church

Yesterday was my last sermon in the brief series on the Jerusalem church – when I return to preaching at my home church in Siliguri in May I shall have moved on to Judea and Samaria – anyhow it has been a brief but enjoyable little sojourn which has once more left me delighting in the book of Acts and wanting to go deeper into the life of / in God that it so powerfully describes. Yesterday was all about challenge – Ananias and Sapphira are dishonest in their giving – dishonest to God that is – the temptation is there for all of us and so a strong challenge on turning from, and resisting, sin was delivered.

Incidentally Simon is working to enable me to put the html versions of the sermons online so you can see the presentations not just some outline notes – as soon as we get it fixed you will see it here.

Acts 4:32 – 5:11

32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.  3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

kept back – literally to embezzle [steal money placed in one’s trust or belonging to the organisation for which one works] or misappropriate [dishonestly or unfairly take something, esp. money, belonging to another for one’s own use]
Used also of Achans sin in Joshua 7:1 which was punished severely

‘The story of Ananias is to the book of Acts what the story of Achan is to the book of Joshua. In both narratives an act of deceit interrupts the victorious progress of the people of God’
FF Bruce

1. You are responsible
Ananias was responsible for his own actions
God allows your tests and trials
1 Corinthians 10:13, Rom 8:28, James 1:2-4
Life is war!
John Piper

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God

Satan targets believers
You choose how you respond to temptation:
Give in, don’t recognise it, resist!
Resist the devil and he will flee from you

2. How is your character?
The real issue was the lying, the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira
They could have used the money as they wanted to – what they did revealed their character
God allows our character to be tested

Tests, Trials and Temptations
Improve the quality and genuineness of our walk with God – Joseph
Throw us on the Lord, teach us to depend on Him – Abraham having a son
Refine or purify us spiritually – Samuel in a corrupt situation
Show us what is real and what is not – Peter happy to follow Jesus anywhere, then denial!
Show us what is of God and what is not – Elijah facing Ahab & Jezebel, discouragement brought unreality
Assess and examine our inner attitudes and motivation – Pr 29:25
Reveal to us our weaknesses and limitations so that we can depend on God more
Show us what we are really like
Establish the pattern of our future decisions

1 Corinthians 10:12-13
12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” 
      “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

3. What motivates you?
They were motivated by; Pride, ego, desire for esteem, need for recognition?
What makes you act as you do?
Are you giving to God or to be seen by others?

A very popular (but often) misquoted verse
1 Timothy 6:9-11
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
 11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

4. Do you deal with sin?
Their sin is dealt with speedily and strongly
Sin is sin, and has to be dealt with decisively
Ajith Fernando

4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

Action by the church leaders – regardless of how big the gift was!
Do you exercise church discipline?
Do you root out ungodliness?
Do you fear God?

“For Christians today this is a temptation: to so luxuriate in the love and grace of God that we do not take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning.”
William J Larking Jr

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows…9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.


This testimony from a pastor in Sweden came to me via email recently – I hope it will be an encouragement to those people who have used and respected the teaching which Bob and his team put together, Richard.

“We have been thoroughly blessed by the materials we have used so far in our discipleship class which are from the first of three parts of the “Disciples of Jesus” series by Bob Gordon…
We are using the materials in a 36-week discipleship class which I teach at a ministry center in Stockholm, Sweden. Most of our students attend our church, Centrumkyrkan, which is a Swedish church with an Arabic congregation.
I have been very impressed by the response by the attendees of the course. We have about 40 people who come to the weekly classes which are held on Monday evenings and Thursday mornings. I am not exaggerating to say that lives have been radically changed for the good. I am really amazed at the incredible level of participation and faithfulness of all the students who have come to the class.
People have been born again. Many come from the traditional Christian backgrounds and were raised in so-called Christian homes and yet didn’t know why Jesus died on the cross. They didn’t know Who the Holy Spirit is or what His role is in our salvation. These lessons have changed their lives.
We also have some students from Muslim backgrounds who have been totally immersed in the grace and power of God’s spirit and word through these lessons.
We have a video clip and several student testimonials about the class on our website: It is in Arabic.“

Jerusalem Church at Prayer

This Sunday we looked at possibly the subject that for men is one of the hardest in the Christian walk – prayer – and although i had no desire to go into the practicalities of “how to do prayer”, I did want to try to give some ideas of the foundational principles which were applied by the church in Acts – it is all very simple and very God focussed

The Jerusalem Church at Prayer
4 Foundations

  1. Founded on the Sovereignty of God
  2. Founded on the Word of God
  3. Founded on Obedience to God
  4. Founded on God
Acts 4:23-31
23On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.

Jesus on prayer… Matthew 6

5″And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
 6″Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.

Founded on the Sovereignty of God

Martin Luther and the Sovereignty of God
An envoy from the Pope met Martin Luther and threatened him that if he persisted all his supporters would desert him,
“Where will you be then?” the envoy asked,
“Then, as now, in the hands of God” replied Luther

Exodus 15:11
“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? 
       Who is like you—
       majestic in holiness,
       awesome in glory,
       working wonders?

1 Chronicles 29:10-13
David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel from everlasting to everlasting.
 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13
       Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; 
       you are exalted as head over all.
 12 Wealth and honor come from you;

       you are the ruler of all things. 
       In your hands are strength and power 
       to exalt and give strength to all.
 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,

       and praise your glorious name.

Sovereignty Application
What do you think about God in times of crisis?
How do you act in times of crisis?
How do you pray in times of crisis?

Acts 4:23-31

25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
   ” ‘Why do the nations rage
      and the peoples plot in vain?
 26The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.

Founded on the Word of God

Spurgeon and the Bible
“It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until at last you come to talk in scriptural language, and your spirit is flavoured by the words of the Lord, so that your blood is bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows through you”

Word of God Application
How is your Bible reading?
Do you memorise scripture?
Do you meditate?

Acts 4:23-31

27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30[While you] Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Founded on Obedience to God

Ajith Fernando and Obedience
“…in any time of crisis, the supreme battle we have is for obedience. No evil power can thwart God’s marvellous plan. The only way this can happen is by our disobedience”

DL Moody and Obedience
DL Moody is reputed to have said that he had more trouble with DL Moody than with any other person he met.

Isaiah 40:27-31
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, 
       and complain, O Israel, 
       “My way is hidden from the LORD; 
       my cause is disregarded by my God”?
 28 Do you not know?

       Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
 29 He gives strength to the weary

       and increases the power of the weak.
 30 Even youths grow tired and weary,

       and young men stumble and fall;
 31 but those who hope in the LORD

       will renew their strength. 
       They will soar on wings like eagles; 
       they will run and not grow weary, 
       they will walk and not be faint.

Obedience to God Application
Do you allow God to reassure you in times of crisis?
Do you listen to God?

Acts 4:23-31

 31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Founded on God
The wise man built his house upon…

In the Name of Jesus…
Jesus’ Name signifies:
His Person
His Power
His Presence
…by faith Jesus is involved in what is happening

In the Name of Jesus…
Sick are Healed (3:6)
Signs and Wonders are performed (4:30)
Demons are cast out (19:13)
Salvation comes (4:13)
Teaching and Preaching are done (5:28, 8:12)
People Call on his Name (2:21)

Founded on God Application
What is the basis for your life?
Who is most glorified by what you do?
Is loving God first shown in your daily life?

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

Finneys Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“In the evening of the same day I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost, that went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals were the means of their immediate conversion. My words seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men. They cut like a sword. They broke the heart like a hammer. Multitudes can attest to this. Oftentimes a word dropped without my remembering it would fasten conviction, and often result in almost immediate conversion. Sometimes I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go and visit, and find that I made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray, with the same result. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer, fearing that this power had departed from me, and would inquire anxiously after the reason of this apparent emptiness. After humbling myself, and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been the experience of my life.” “This power is a great marvel. I have many times seen people unable to endure the Word. The most simple and ordinary statements would cut men off their seats like a sword, would take away their strength, and render them almost helpless as dead men. Several times it has been true in my experience that I could not raise my voice, or say anything in prayer or exhortation, except in the mildest manner, without overcoming them. This power seems sometimes to pervade the atmosphere of the one who is highly charged with it. Many times great numbers of persons in a community will be clothed with this power when the very atmosphere of the whole place seems to be charged with the life of God. Strangers coming into it, and passing through the place will be instantly smitten with conviction of sin and in many instances converted to Christ. When Christians humble themselves and consecrate their all afresh to Christ, and ask for this power, they will often receive such a baptism that they will be instrumental in converting more souls in one day than in all their lifetime before. While Christians remain humble enough to retain this power, the work of conversion will go on, till whole communities and regions of country are converted to Christ. The same is true of the ministry.”

Aspects of being filled with Holy Spirit

Today I spoke on the subject of Church Life in Jerusalem. Well I was meant to – in fact I talked about it being a church full of people filled with Holy Spirit, so it is more a very very simply study on the ways the book of Acts describes disciples and their relationship with him

Acts 2
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The Holy Spirit and the believers in Acts – receiving him
Four preliminary points:
They were already believers
It was a definite experience
It is a gift of God – promise of the Father
A response is required

Is your experience of the Holy Spirit intellectual?

“The Spirit of God acts with considerable disturbing effect. It is part of his nature to do so.”
Donald Guthrie, NT Theology

“The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church”
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

A number of words are used in describing the action of the Holy Spirit in entering into and then affecting the life of the disciples:

Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Acts 2:33

…was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.                Acts 2:16-18

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Acts 10:45-46

Falling on
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
Acts 10:44 NKJV

Acts 8:12 – they were born again
For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:16-17

Coming on
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:5
Fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4

It is not properly being baptized by – after all Jesus is the one who baptizes us
We are baptized into
Thus we are enveloped, plunged under, drenched, saturated, soaked or immersed into the reality of the Holy Spirit

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:4
Note that the house was filled first – 2:2 – so they were surrounded!

In other cases it is a filling of people who had been filled earlier
Peter – Acts 4:8, Disciples – Acts 4:31
Paul – Acts 13:9
Stephen – Acts 7:55
Barnabas – Acts 11:24
Jesus – Luke 4:1

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18
be continuously filled – go on being filled

One of my concerns across the board in modern churches is that we do not respect the Holy Spirit – the following are simply injunctions to help us avoid complacency and irreverence in this.

Dangers in our fellowship with the Holy Spirit

Eph 4:30…And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption
How can we can grieve him?
Eph 4:31…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice

Lied to
Acts 5:3,4…Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
…Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

1Thess 5:19
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire

1Thess 5:20
…do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good

Acts 7:51
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

Heb 10:29…Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot…who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The 7 Fold Work of the Holy Spirit

1. JAMES 4:5 – “The Spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely”

* Jealous Spirit
Galatians 5:16-18 – “the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature”

2. EPHESIANS 1:18 – “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”

*Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation
1 Corinthians 2:12 / Psalm 36:9 – “In your light we see light”

3. ROMANS 8:16 – “Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit”

* It is well with my soul
* Inward security is the firm foundation for action
1 John 3:24 – “This is how we know that He lives in us, we know it by the Spirit he gave us”

4. EPHESIANS 5:18 – “Be filled with the Spirit”

5. 2 TIMOTHY 1:7 – “not a spirit of fear”
* Power, love and self-discipline

6. JEREMIAH 24:7 – “I will give them a heart to know me”
* Romans 8:5,6 – set/controlled
flesh        - domination
Spirit        - affection

7. 2 KINGS 2:19-22 – salt/sweet water – Elisha
* 2 Corinthians 2:14 – “spreads the fragrance everywhere”
* John 12:3 – alabaster box – “the fragrance filled the whole house”

“It’s all about…”

Todays sermon was the first in my series on churches in Acts – I will be covering Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (I know I am cheating a bit there) and finally Antioch.

Today we started with a little ditty entitled, “It’s all about…” The need for translation made me avoid any comments to the irony in having a sermon with four points all preceded by it’s all about – maybe it is not ironic more moronic? Anyhow here is the outline:

Where we are going:
Three Churches in Acts
January – Jerusalem Church
Why read Acts, Pentecost, Church Life, Church Prayer, Church Power
May – Samaria and Judea Church
Samaritan Pentecost, Ethiopian Eunuch, Healings, Peter and Cornelius
September – Antioch Church
Foundations, Missionary Impetus, Addition and Subtraction, Discernment

Acts 1:1-8 The Basis of the Book
Four simple foundational principles which are shown throughout the book

It’s All About…Jesus
Continual declaration of Jesus in Acts
Mark 9:15
Mark 1:32-34
Luke 4:18-19

Some names of Jesus:
Wonderful Counsellor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace
King of kings and Lord of lords

It’s All About…The Kingdom of God
Matthew 13:31-32, 45-46
Luke 17:21

It’s All About…Holy Spirit
[This is the ‘controversial’ bit as the church is essentially Baptist in flavour – traditions, theology etc. – they are a great bunch of people who I am happy to be with. Most are cessationist in their theology though it is popular to call themselves Bapti-costal. Interesting – and challenging.]

Jesus and the Holy Spirit – examples in Luke’s Gospel
Luke shows that the Spirit equipped Jesus for ministry
In his conception (1:35)
At his baptism (3:22)
In the wilderness and temptation (4:1)
To perform miracles (4:14)
Anoints him to proclaim (4:18)
Jesus is the model of Spirit inspired living.The Spirit guides and empowers Jesus all the way.

The Holy Spirit and Us
Acts describes our initial relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Baptised 1:5
Come on 1:8
Filled 2:4
Poured out 2:33
Fall on 10:44

What is your experience of the power and presence (reality) of the Holy Spirit?
What are you going to do to improve and develop it?

It’s All About…You

What the Church needs today is…men whom the Holy Spirit can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.
EM Bounds

Who are you witnessing to at present?
Are you praying for other people, ministries, evangelists in different parts of West Bengal and India?
How do you support mission outside of India?