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Presentation 26. Introduction ‘What is the church’s task?’ It is important that we get the answer right if we are to function as God intends! Some might.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 26. Introduction ‘What is the church’s task?’ It is important that we get the answer right if we are to function as God intends! Some might."— Presentation transcript:

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3 Introduction ‘What is the church’s task?’ It is important that we get the answer right if we are to function as God intends! Some might answer, ‘To worship God’, others might say, ‘To do good works’, some may answer, ‘To encourage one another in their Christian faith’. Indeed, I suspect that many believe that these are safe and comfortable answers. But important as these replies may be, they are not the answers that would be given by the NT church, and may I suggest that they are not the answers that God is primarily looking for. Presentation 26

4 Introduction The primary task of the church is making Christ known. Indeed, one writer has put it like this, ‘The church exists by mission as a fire does by burning’. That begs the question, “is the church today a flaming fire or mere ashes smouldering in the grate?” Where does mission figure in our church life? We dare not say, ‘It is the work of others who are better equipped for it’. If we profess to be part of the church then mission is our task! Presentation 26

5 The Obedient Church How do these verses introduce us to this great subject of missionary outreach? They point to the part the church plays. Paul didn't say, "God Has called me to be a missionary I'm off." He didn't do his own thing as many young Christians do today, so that the first thing the church hears about it is when they get a letter from a Bible College which reads, “Hi, I'm preparing for Christian service,” or from overseas which reads, “Hi, I'm here to do missionary work.” One of the real dangers facing the church is that of Christian service undertaken by self-appointed men. It is as though they have laid hands on themselves! Presentation 26

6 The Obedient Church Paul was certainly called of God but it was the church leaders who commissioned both Paul and Barnabas to their missionary task v3. It is the church's task to appoint men for ministry and in particular it is the role of the eldership to say if they believe that God has gifted someone for ministry. It is the church’s responsibility to send, support and above all to pray for those who from their number will stand on the front-line of mission. I'm grateful to God for the way in which my home church has prayed for me throughout my ministry, that is the N.T. pattern. The individuals inward conviction of the call of God must meet with the church’s acknowledgement of the call. Presentation 26

7 The Obedient Church This places a great responsibility on those who are elders to be spiritually in tune that they might recognise gifted individuals whom God intends to use. How can we best use the resources, including the human resources, that God has placed at our disposal and discover his way forward for our congregation? The leadership in Antioch grasped God’s plan for mission after a time of fasting and prayer. An action that indicated their genuine and passionate concern to know what direction God wanted them to take. So important was this issue that they gave up other legitimate while they waited on God. Presentation 26

8 The Obedient Church Further they took seriously God’s reply. God said, ‘I want two of your best and most gifted men, to go elsewhere’. They did not complain saying, “We need them here”. There were willing to diminish their manpower in order to advance the wider work of the church. As individuals or even as a church we can pray for guidance while treating God's reply like a heavenly lucky dip. If we don't like what we pull out the first time we dip our hand in again until we get what suits us. However, to ask for guidance is to say to God, ‘We acknowledge your right to lead us, tell us what suits you?’ Presentation 26

9 The Obedient Church What was the work to which Paul and Barnabas were called. Paul was told at his conversion he was to be an ‘apostle to the Gentiles’. The risen Christ's commission to his disciples was to go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria uttermost parts of the earth. The Jerusalem was slow to be involved in mission to the Gentiles against whom many were still prejudiced. They did not want their happy fellowship contaminated with outsiders. And so Jerusalem fades into background and it is the church at Antioch that forms the focus of the rest of this book. They had a zeal for outreach and responded to God’s guidance. Presentation 26 Jerusalem Antioch Syria Israel Galatia Egypt

10 Conflict With The Occult Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey took them first to Cyprus. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus and here they had an opportunity to win Sergius Paulus, the proconsul and an influential leader. But Sergius was under the power of the occult. By a means not described, he had been drawn into the snare and influence of a Jew called Elymas, also known as ‘Son of Jesus’. Did he adopt that name in order to cash in on some of the stories which may have been circulating about Jesus’ miracles? We don't know. Presentation 26

11 Conflict With The Occult A Scottish minister described the way in which a group of Spiritualists gained access to local school by calling themselves Christian. They set up séances and introduced the children to the use of the Ouija board. A headmaster in England extended the school lunch hour in order to give his pupils more time to play with Ouija boards! Leading psychiatrists have stated that involvement with Ouija boards, tarot cards, séances and the like can lead to depression, personality change, deviant behaviour and a confused mental state. One suggested that to allow our children to be involved in these things is like letting them build sand castles on a beach peppered with land mines. Presentation 26

12 Conflict With The Occult We sometimes dismiss these things as only influencing the weak-minded and gullible. But Paulus was an intelligent man v7, the word implies that he was shrewd perceptive, not easily fooled. Yet he was under the hindering influence of the occult, which is often promoted as harmless but is in fact extremely dangerous. A book advertised in a local magazine promised information on; ‘how to leave your physical body and travel invisibly, command things to happen through powerful spells and invocations and the ultimate witchcraft ritual’. A second-hand book shop in Paisley claimed that the books in greatest demand were those on the occult! Presentation 26

13 Conflict With The Occult Paul did not view Elymas as an harmless charlatan. Nor did he view his practices as an innocent pastime. He saw him rather as a ‘wolf in sheep's clothing’. Note the irony in Paul's description in v10 not a ‘son of Jesus’ but a ‘child of the devil’. Why? Because he was doing the devil's work. He was opposing the gospel. He was clearly determined that the seed of God's word should not take root in Sergius's heart. Presentation 26

14 Conflict With The Occult The occult has a very negative influence on the minds of men and women who have tampered with it no matter how trivially. It makes the exercise of faith extremely difficult. It creates a real bondage of the will and a blindness to spiritual reality. This is apparent in pastoral situations when people describe their failure to benefit from the gospel - after a bit of probing it becomes clear that they have dabbled in things they considered harmless, be it the Ouija board, a spiritualist séance or more sinister things. As a result they are bound by things that are opposed to the gospel. Presentation 26

15 Triumph Of The Gospel Now this is neither meant to be alarmist nor titillating but a sober warning to, and exposure of, a very real dangers. Our aim is also to show the triumph of Christ over such influence. We needn't be fearful, nor persuaded, that because of past involvement, there is no help for us. The power of the gospel broke the blinding influence, which Elymas held over Sergius Paulus. And it is Christ’s triumph over evil which the gospel affirms. Christ is victor over all evil. Presentation 26

16 Triumph Of The Gospel Elymas is exposed as one who sought to pervert the way of God. He may have presented himself as a plausible and kindly individual. But he is identified as hindering the gospel’s advance. Surely the judgement on Elymas, temporary blindness v11, had real symbolic significance. The one who considered himself enlightened and who tried to blind others to the truth is himself forced to live in the realm of darkness. His blindness was temporary and designed to have a chastening effect. The door is left open for Elymas to respond Christ’s claims. Presentation 26

17 Triumph Of The Gospel Immediately after the influence and hold of Elymas is broken the gospel is able to do its work in the heart of the proconsul, who came to faith. But what was chiefly instrumental in his conversion? Was it the display of the miraculous in the blinding of Elymas? No! It was the content of the gospel that brought him to faith. Some today argue that we need more overt miraculous activity in our churches for then more people will respond. But it was the content of the gospel that won over Sergius Paulus! Presentation 26

18 Conclusion There is a further dimension to the successful commencement of Paul’s missionary journey and that is what was happening back in Antioch. Surely the church in Antioch were praying for their missionaries. Battles for men’s souls were being won as they prayed. The gospel was being advanced as they prayed. Lives were being transformed as they prayed. Are we benefitting from the prayers of a previous generation? What then will we hand on to the next generation? The answer to that question is influenced by our commitment to and payer for mission. Will we be a flaming fire or ashes smouldering in the grate? The answer lies in our hands. Presentation 26


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