“Fly High” - Acts part 20
Marilyn Swanson’s thoughts on Communion.
Video Illustration about communion: Partake of Communion
Testimony by Mark Doiron
Thesis: There are two types of testimonies coming from the church today - they are either Self-centered or God-centered.
Scripture Text: Acts 22:1-30:
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM: Ac 22:1-30.
Ac 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”
Ac 22:2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:
Ac 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.
Ac 22:4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,
Ac 22:5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
Ac 22:6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
Ac 22:7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
Ac 22:8 “ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.
Ac 22:9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
Ac 22:10 “ ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’
Ac 22:11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
Ac 22:12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.
Ac 22:13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.
Ac 22:14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
Ac 22:15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
Ac 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
Ac 22:17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance
Ac 22:18 and saw the Lord speaking. ‘Quick!’ he said to me. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’
Ac 22:19 “ ‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you.
Ac 22:20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
Ac 22:21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Paul the Roman Citizen
Ac 22:22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
Ac 22:23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,
Ac 22:24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.
Ac 22:25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
Ac 22:26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
Ac 22:27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered.
Ac 22:28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
Ac 22:29 Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Before the Sanhedrin
Ac 22:30 The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
We are told in Ephesians 5:1 that we are imitate Jesus and I believe the best way to fly high in the Spirit for Jesus is to learn from the Acts New Testament Church. We need to learn about how to “Fly high” in the ways of the Spirit. We fly high by allowing the Holy Spirit to live in us and to direct us into the things of the Lord. The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to empower us for the work of the ministry, and to be a witness for Jesus Christ all over this world. His Holy Spirit is the powerful force that enters our weak and frail lives and then empowers them supernaturally to do things for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to enable us to do miraculous things for the cause of Jesus and to change our lives from failures to successes in the spiritual realm
The book of Acts is really not about what the Apostles did but what the Holy Spirit accomplished through the Apostles and the followers of Jesus Christ. The dominant focus of Acts is not the Acts of mankind but the working and empowering of the Holy Spirit to build the church of Jesus Christ. It’s a testimony to the miracle working power of the Holy Spirit.
Being a witness for the Kingdom of God has to do with letting others know what Jesus did personally for you in your life. This is what Paul does in Acts 22 again. He gives his testimony to the crowd that wants to kill him and reveals to them what Jesus did for him and for them.
This chapter points us back to Revelation 12:11 again, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
It also ties in with Jesus statement to the Apostles in Acts 1:8, “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.”
As I look at our verse in Revelation again I am reminded of this thought, “Do I love my life more than Jesus?” It is obvious from Paul’s example in the last few chapters that He loves Jesus more than he did his own life. He stated that he was willing to die if that was God’s will for his life. The question then races into our heads “Would I be willing to give my life for Jesus Christ and for the spread of the Gospel?”
The Scripture and the Holy Spirit have been beating this drum into our hearts and minds over the last few weeks.
Here are the current questions that I keep hearing from the Spirit of the Lord to us here at New Life:
“Do you love your life more than you love Jesus?”
“Do you love the truth so much that you will refuse to believe the lies?”
“Will you commit to Jesus because your love for Him compels you too?”
“Will you die to yourself and even give your life for Jesus?”
The answer to these questions and to the Lord will reveal what kind of testimony we are for Jesus in our lives. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes on us we will become His witnesses so I need to ask us to look at our hearts and lives and discover if we are today a faithful witnesses for Jesus.
There are two types of testimonies coming from the Christian church today: Here is an illustration of the first type:
Me Church – Video Clip from SermonSpice.com
I. The Me-first church mind set!
a. Paul has been modeling for us that an Acts New Testament church is not “Me First centered.”
i. Instead it is “God-centered”
ii. Me = I = myself = the whole focus is on self.
iii. It is ego-centered and ego-driven and our selves become the focus of worship and the ministry of the church.
1. This type of church and Christian is not interested in making disciples but instead is saying what’s in this for me!
2. They look at church as a spiritual supermarket to meet all of their selfish wants.
3. They have no desire to give of themselves but instead they have every intention to fleece the church and its flock for everything they can get.
4. They will take –take and take without ever being willing to give back – Why? Because their mindset is all about them!
b. Illustration “It’s all about me!”
i. This illustration is funny to us today but all to real in the church of Jesus Christ.
ii. As I watched this for the first time I had just read about the disastrous mission of Columbus to America.
iii. I could see Columbus singing this song to himself for a long time because he allowed – greed, pride and power to corrupt his heart and mind away from God and his mission.
c. The story of Christopher Columbus is a lesson of a Christian who found success and then let it change their heart and mind toward God and His way.
i. Columbus was a Christian man who felt that the Lord had given him a divine vision to go to the Indies to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathen nations.
1. His mission was to be the bearer of light to the new world he was to bring the message of Jesus to the lost tribes of the new world.
a. He erected a huge cross to the Lord upon his arrival to the new world and thanked the Lord for the fulfillment of the vision.
b. He named the first colony La Navidad – which means the nativity or the birth of Christ in the new world.
2. Columbus started strong for the Lord but after his success he allowed three unholy attitudes to take root in his heart and mind.
a. These attitudes were totally self-centered and they caused him to backslide from the Revelation that the Lord gave him. These attitudes and obsessions did not bring the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead they created the devastation and destruction of the natives in the new world:
b. Quotes from the book The Light and The Glory.
i. Marshall states, “Before the voyage had begun, Columbus had been a beggar before God, all his hopes hanging on Ferdinand and Isabella’s approval…BUT…Columbus chose the three things the world prizes most (after his successful journey) money (his percentages and greed for gold), position (the titles of Viceroy and Admiral of the Ocean sea (Pride), and power (the governorship of all discovered) – the very things God would have least likely have rewarded him with (The Light and The Glory pg. 53).
ii. The result was a disaster – Marshall and Manuel stated, “Columbus was totally unsuited to govern anybody. Vain, impractical, and emotionally immature, he was quick to judge others, yet incapable of accepting correction himself. He demanded absolute submission from his subordinates, yet refused to come under any authority save the Sovereigns themselves (and not even then in his heart). When things went wrong, he would go into anger and self-pity, or unreality, rather than assume any responsibility himself” (53).
iii. The end result says Marshall was this, “But Columbus in control meant there was really no leaning on God at all” (53).
1. His heart toward God had changed and it now only focused on self!
2. Greed drove his need for gold and more gold at the price of his Christianity.
a. He ripped people off especially the natives and never even thought twice about it.
b. He justified his stealing from the natives through his own warped sinful self-centered mindset.
c. Because God was no longer guiding his life then sin took over and raised havoc on the very people he was called to bring the Gospel too.
3. Columbus success actually destroyed his integrity and Christian character and according to Marshall and Manuel: 3 self-centered evil motives invaded his life and the result was God’s way was driven out of his life for a long time and his own self-centered and ego driven way took control.
a. The three self-centered evil traits were:
i. Greed – his pursuit changed from God to gold and he would stop at nothing to get it from this new world and its people.
ii. Power – His obsessive drive for more and more power and control led him to be responsible for destroying thousands of lives for the sake of himself.
iii. Pride – His arrogant demands for titles, honor and praise set him up to become so arrogant and repugnant that at one time he was so rude and conceited with the King of Portugal that one of the guards of the King wanted to strike him dead on the spot.
4. The end result of Columbus’ discovery – According to Marshall and Manuel was a horrible nightmare for the people of America:
a. “In two years (under Columbus rule), 100 thousand of the approximate native population of 300 thousand on Espanola had died or been killed. According to a count made eight years later, that figure had more than doubled, and four years after that there were only twenty thousand left alive. The nightmare holocaust went on; there was no waking up from it (59).
b. Under Columbus – Native women were rapped –kidnapped –enslaved and he did very little to stop it.
c. The natives were forced to pay exurbanite amounts of taxes by Columbus with Gold so that he could get richer while they and their families starved to death.
d. He eventually was removed from being the governor of his new world by Ferdinand and Isabella because of his failure to protect the natives from exploitation and murder. The king and Queen of Spain saw that this man had no love for these people who were loved by God. But they did and they eventually did something about it but far to late!
e. Columbus after being removed from leadership pillaged and plundered the whole region all the way down into Central and South America.
i. He was responsible for the death of many natives all for the sake of gold!
ii. He definitely got possessed with gold fever and it drove him to become an evil task masker not the Bearer of the Light of Jesus Christ.
5. On his death bed Marshall writes this about the scenario: The old man brushed away the tears at the corners of his eyes, and perhaps he spoke to God again then, for the first time in a long while. “Father, it is over now, isn’t it?” Yes, son, he might have heard in his heart. “Father, I’m afraid I have not done well in carrying the Light of Your Son to the West. I’m sorry. I pray that others will carry the light further.” They will. You are forgiven. “It’s time now, isn’t it?” Yes. On Ascension Day, 1506 after receiving the Sacraments of the church, Christopher Columbus said these words: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” …. (66).
T.S. – Paul was never like this instead he was a giver, he was humble and he was a servant leader. Paul’s testimony was not about him but it was about Jesus. His testimony to the world and the church was always God-centered and Jesus-centered.
II. The God–centered church and mind set!
a. This type of church or person loves God so much that they are willing to give up their lives for Him.
i. They are like Paul and they have a God-centered enthusiasm!
1. Life is focused on pleasing God not self.
2. Life is rooted in the teachings of God not the teachings of self.
3. Life is about fulfilling my God given destiny not fulfilling my ego centered mind.
ii. Why are people like Paul – God-centered? Because they have not forgotten their divine encounter with the Lord –Paul never forgot what Jesus did for him on the road to Damascus.
1. People lose their God-centeredness when they forget what the Lord has done for them.
2. We all must remember the experience of receiving mercy and grace from the Lord.
iii. Paul remained God-centered because he still heard the Lord’s voice each and every day.
1. People will lose their focus on God if they don’t hear and listen to His voice on a daily basis.
iv. Paul remained God-focused because he would always recall the miracle that the Lord did for him.
1. Appearing to Him and correcting him.
2. Calling him to preach his word.
3. Healing him of blindness.
4. Using him to plant 100’s of churches.
v. Paul stayed God-centered because he stayed in love with Jesus.
1. Love for the Lord was the driving force in Paul’s life.
2. It motivated him to surrender his life to the Lord everyday and in every way.
3. His heart filled with love enabled him to stay committed to him no matter what happened in his life – even if it meant physical death.
vi. Paul was dramatically changed on the Damascus road. This experience with Christ changed his mind set and his direction in life.
1. Paul’s testimony is filled with Jesus did it.
a. Nowhere do you see him taking any credit for the spread of the Gospel and for all that the Holy Spirit did through his ministry.
b. He always pointed to Jesus!
2. Paul stayed God-centered because he stayed focused on where he came from. Listen to his statement, “I am the chief of sinners!” see 1 Timothy 1:15, 16:
a. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
b. Another real life story about a God-centered man named Vanya a soldier drafter into the Red Army in the 70’s but who was a devote Christian.
i. A Literary Analysis of Myrna Grant’s Vanya by: Matt Mason
1. …Myrna Grant weaves a tapestry of faith, courage, and violence. She chronicles the life of a young man who is forced to join the Red Army. He is Vanya, a Christian who lives in an atheist country. In the remarkable introductory chapter, the author remarkably describes Vanya as a vivacious and prayerful young man. Vanya says, "Thank You for the young people, for the farewell meeting, for the fresh grape juice. Praise to You Lord for Your Word." Grant has captured Vanya’s very essence and put it into words. At the end, he is tired and worn, but still is faithful as he speaks his last words, "Christ loves all sinners." Throughout his time in the Army, Vanya’s officers put him through tremendous torture to try and get him to renounce his faith. Vanya describes one such torture, "[I was put in a] torture chamber. They put me in a rubber suit and compressed my entire body by swelling it with air, gradually increasing the air pressure, and every time [telling me], ‘Well, then, you better change your mind or else you will be here for seven years." Grant’s great use of description enables the reader to visualize every torture that Vanya is enduring…Grant conveys such emotion that readers may find themselves constantly having to put down the book and reach for a tissue. Readers receive a sense of the extreme pain and suffering Vanya experiences as he attempts to assert his faith. The theme of this book, Vanya’s perseverance in proclaiming his faith, is well developed. The author makes it obvious that a person should stand up for what they believe in, no matter what the cost. While Vanya is being tortured he says, "If it is God’s will, I will be here for seven years, but if not, tomorrow the torture will stop." Grant’s use of dialogue enables the reader to be placed in Vanya’s shoes. It also adds to the story by peaking the reader’s interest. Every time Vanya is interrogated by his officers about why he is a Christian, he always relies on God to give him strength to supply honest answers. As the plot develops, Grant shows the effect that Vanya has on the atheists surrounding him. One of the interrogating officers becomes extremely agitated because Vanya causes him to question his own beliefs. …One way in particular that Grant keeps the interest level up is by including Vanya’s experiences with angels. When the reader thinks things can not get any worse for him, angels are right there beside him. An angel speaks to Vanya, "Vanya, arise…do not be afraid you are with me. [I] have traveled a long way and know you are tired. I wish to show you the heavenly city." The unexpected arrival of angels added another dimension to the story of Vanya…Grant begins the story at Vanya’s funeral before even telling how he died. This technique grabs the reader’s attention by starting out in the present and then dramatically shifting to Vanya’s past. By doing this, the surprise in the story is not at all lessoned. In fact, it is somewhat heightened because the reader is eager to find out the events which lead up to Vanya’s death…. Grant wrote this novel to display the courage that one needs to be able to carry on in the midst of defeat. She included all of Vanya’s struggles and trials to show that never giving up is possible. I have read a few other books like Vanya, but no other book encouraged and uplifted me as much as this one. Since it is a true story, I feel connected to the book, but on a much smaller scale. As a Christian, even though I am not tortured like Vanya, I sometimes go through periods where I feel that God is not always by my side. Vanya is the only book that has given me the courage to know that God is always with me. Even though the other stories may also be true, I related to Vanya on a more personal level. Myrna Grant has written a story about a young man in Russia in such a way that the reader has no choice but to be moved to tears and rejoice at the same time. She has taken a true story of a young man and made it so his story will live on forever to touch people for generations to come.
2. Another editor notes: As a whole, this book had a rather serious message. This was the story of a Russian soldier tortured and eventually martyred for his faith. Through compelling examples, the author made the reader feel sadness and anger, over the pain and torture the main character had to undergo. Although the author imparted strong messages in the book, she also had a few paragraphs and stories that made the reader chuckle or even laugh. Overall, the author portrayed an accurate story, and also made it applicable to the lives of people around the world. Vanya, as you most likely knew, was the main character, or hero, in this book. He displayed all of the characteristics that one would expect of a main character. Our main character displayed bravery, love towards his enemies, and he obeyed his commanding officers even when they treated him cruelly. Another character that added to the book’s worth was a sergeant named Prokhorov. Prokhorov and Vanya had a great friendship, and he continually encouraged and cheered Vanya. Lieutenant Malsin, though corrupt, also added to the book’s persuasiveness and power. Had it not been for lieutenant Malsin, very few of the trials, questionings, and tortures that Vanya underwent would have taken place. This man aided in the book by capturing the reader’s interest. Myrna Grant stereotyped many of the commanding officers in the Red Army. She would introduce them then elaborate on their cruelty to their soldiers and their lack of self-control. Grant would continue on this path until she had pointed out nearly all of the officer’s flaws.
3. Highlight the book Vanya especially the back section with all the documentation.
ii. Vanya role-molded as did Paul 3 divine character traits of a God-centered individual:
1. He was a giver – he sacrificed his life for the Lord Jesus Christ and he also gave his life away for others.
2. He showed what humility looks like – throughout his torturous ordeal he remained humble as did Christ and he even prayed for the salvation of his tormentors.
a. Epilogue page 151: Twelve days after the funeral, the Moiseyevs began telling their story to the world. In a formal protest to Moscow (see the following documents), they called for a prompt investigation and an autopsy by a team to include two local Christian doctors. There was no immediate response. Meanwhile, Ivan’s Unit 61968T Kerch was broken up. The men were reassigned to all parts of the Soviet Union. No two soldiers were left together. Colonel Malsin’s young son fell off a wagon and died as the result of injuries. Galin Malsin was committed to a psychiatric institution. Malsin himself was dismissed from his post. He is reportedly distraught and obsessed with the idea that God is punishing him.
b. Ivan died July 16, 1972 and since his death the Wall has come down and now the former Soviet Union is experiencing one of the greatest revivals in its history.
i. In Ukraine alone our Fellowship has helped to plant over 100 new churches.
ii. The Gospel is sweeping with power over the whole former Soviet Union today.
c. The Word says he that humbles himself will be lifted up! Vanya is a testimony to this truth! God has allowed this man’s sacrifice to go all over the world!
3. Vanya was a servant - committed to Jesus even if it meant his death and he has received his great reward in heaven for being a martyr for the Kingdom of God.
Acts chapter 22 has reminded us once gain that an Acts New Testament church must not be self-centered but God-centered.
1. A church or mindset that is self-centered falls into 3 evil self-centered sins:
* Greed – the love of money
* Pride – the love of self and wanting to be worshipped by others
* Power – the desire to control all those around us for our pleasure and for self serving interests.
2. A church and mindset that is God centered will have the following 3 character traits:
* Givers – they will give of themselves to God and they will be willing sacrifices for the Kingdom.
* Humility – they will have the same attitude that Jesus had and put others above themselves and always seek to give Him the glory.
* Servants – they will not seek to control and manipulate others but serve with a spirit of love those who even misuse and abuse them. They will genuinely love those who even mistreat them and their reward will come in Heaven.
Revelation 12:11 again, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
Questions for the altar call:
a. Do you love your life more than you love Jesus?
b. Are you willing to die to yourself so that you can serve the Lord wholeheartedly?