Witnesses to the Truth

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Acts of the Church Witnesses to the Truth

Today I am going to step into Part 3 of our Acts series - “The Acts of the Church.”
Back in the beginning of 1983, when I surrendered by life to Christ, I never realised what God would do in my life. I had always attended church services and all that the church offered. I was at the youth meetings, Bible studies - we even had “sing songs” and we did just that - sang songs. I had always enjoyed the safeness of the Church community. It was fun. It was my life. But it wasn’t enough.
After a few years I knew that I wanted to do something more with my life, and Jenni and I had felt God’s call but it was without much clarity. So we decided Bible College was the next step for me. But, I had made up my mind that I wanted to enjoy the fullness of my Bible College experience and not get too involved in local Church.
To cut a long story short, God had other plans. He began to work on me and open my eyes to the importance of the Church, especially the local church. Over the years, there have been times I have wanted to give up on the church because of people, but I have never had that freedom, because of its Head – I’m talking about Jesus.
I got to realise this - one of the dynamic experiences that every person who is a follower of Christ gets to enjoy when you become a Christian, you not only gain a new identity, but you get to be joined to something bigger and more exciting than what you had ever previously experienced or imagined – the Church (Ephesians 2:19-22). You get a new family, a community, and you get to be on mission with Jesus who is building something eternal for Himself that you are part of, and it is called the church.
This is the story in Acts and reading Acts you can almost hear Jesus words to Peter pulsating through the background of Acts, “I will build my church...” At Pentecost (Acts 2), God moves, people are saved, a church is started. Samaria (Acts 8), Caesarea (Acts 10), Antioch (Acts 11), Philippi (Acts 16), Thessalinica (Acts 17) – all the way through, people are saved, joined together, and sent on mission together.
Yes the church is not perfect. The church we read about (and know!) is made up of weak people, but sinners who have been rescued by the grace and mercy of Jesus. Sometimes we need to repent of taking this for granted!
Yet the church is God’s chosen vessel to make His name famous.
Acts 1:8 kicks us off here as it reveals the plan and means by which He would accomplish His work.
Acts 1:8 CSB
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We seee God taking weak people, giving them a clear mission, empowered by the Great I AM, to be HIS witnesses.
A witness is someone who have first hand knowledge of something i.e. they know it’s true.
They weren’t merely witnesses to an idea - but to truth.
They weren’t witnesses to a philosphy - but the truth.
What are we witnesses to?
The truth of a person - Jesus and His work/life (Acts 10:39), His death (Acts 10:39), His Resurrection (Acts 1:22; 2 32; 3:15) and then His exaltation and promise of return (Acts 5:31)
The truth of God’s presence - God’s empowering presence in the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32)
The truth of God’s transforming power.
God has called us, the church, to be “Witnesses to the Truth!” To know it first hand and testify to what we know.
The Apostle Paul came to know this so well.
3 times in Acts we get the Apostle Paul’s coversion story. Acts 9, Acts 22, and then Acts 26. I am going to read his Acts 22 account.
Acts 22:1–21 CSB
“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.” When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter. He continued, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strictness of our ancestral law. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished. “As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. “I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’ “Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ “After I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him telling me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ “But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in you imprisoned and beaten. And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I stood there giving approval and guarding the clothes of those who killed him.’ “He said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
What do we see?

1. He is opposed to the truth

Not only that, but he is actively persecuting the people whose lifes have been changed by the truth he was opposing (ACts 22:4). He even says that Stephen was being a God’s witness (v20). He was religious yet blinded.
Our world is hostile to the truth. You see this all around us.
People say, “Truth is Relative”. Relative Truth – I am sure you have heard it said that what is true for you is true for you and what is true for me is true for me! Or they may say that there is no universal or absolute truth. Ever heard that? Did you see the problem with that? It is a faith statement. By making those assertions you are contradicting yourself because you are making an absolute statement i.e. you’re saying, “The truth is, that there is no truth”.
We see it in the emphasis of Religious tolerance – the premise for this is that each religion is a path to the top of the mountain and that we have to preserve that. Together with this comes an intolerance to a belief in absolutes even if that is someone’s belief. I believe in the freedom of religion, but I can’t believe in the truthfulness of all religion.
People believe in Moral relativism – People argue that it is their right to live their own way and that how they live their lives is of no consequence to anyone else.
At one stage I bailed a guy out of jail and brought him home. He was a car thief and he was living with us. We spoke about this and he said that he was happy to steal from a rich person because they had insurance.
Warning - When we embrace some of this thinking it results in Passive Christianity
Truth is an Objective Reality - Truth is truth whether you believe it to be true or not. You can say that the moon is made of cheese, but that doesn’t match up with reality! This means that it is always open to scrutiny for it’s truthfulness to be verified. Winston Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
All this has produced

2. He encounters the One who is the Truth

The person - Jesus says, “Why are you persecuting me?”He encountered the One who said, “I am the Truth.” The one who died and conquereed death.
The power - the God who has power to save/transform. The power to keep us.
God’s presence - He says that God told him that he needed to get out of Jerusalem.
God’s purpose - to take the Gospel to the gentiles.

3. He becomes a witness to the truth

Conviction– He knows the truth and that gives him a fresh injection of confidence for life. Experience of people through the centuries. He immediately starts to proclaim Christ (Acts 9:20).
Community– Immediately he was brought into a new family. Bill Clem, writes, “Gospel community does not settle for truth as informational, it devotes itself to truth as transformational.” We find the community embrace this as they commit to the family of God.
The purpose of both was know, grow and go. It was in community that others saw the power of God and the realiity of truth. Community was missional.
Commission– he feels compelled to let others know about the Saviour. In 2 Cor 11:10 he says, “As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced!”
Cost - Following the Truth is costly. A man like Stephen

There’s a challenge for Christians

Be a witness to THE truth. This is the book of Acts. So how do we do this well?
2.1. Live Deliberately
That we live in such a way that the life transforming power of Jesus can be seen in us daily.
This is adopting a missionary posture – even our homes become mission stations. Their gathering became mission events. So even when they church was scattered they continued to meet where people gathered and they began to speak about Jesus. When they were among Jews they went to the Synagogues. Wherever Paul went he engaged with people over the Truth.
2.2. Wrestle with the Truth
Work at understanding the Gospel. Work at knowing God – He’s given His Word and Holy Spirit so you can know Him. We should be saying, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” The Gospel’s impact in our lives and this world is essential.
2.3. Communicate the Gospel
We’re not always good missionaries in our culture because we expect people to think like us but we haven’t studied the culture that we are in nor wrestled with ways to communicate the Gospel.
Amazing grace words
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