Your Faith Journey 140

Sunday (8/1)
During the month of August we are embarking upon a journey through our sixth annual all church sermon and small group series. The series is entitled, “Discipleship: Virtuous Life in Christ.” Throughout August we are uniting together as a congregation to focus on four of the many virtues of Jesus. Our hope is that these virtues of Christ will guide us throughout the next few years as the Holy Spirit forms us more and more into the likeness of our Savior as individuals and as a church family.

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Your Faith Journey 139

This week we are concluding our journey through part of the book of Acts. You’re encouraged to read verses from Acts each day, while also using parts of Psalm 119 and other verses from scripture as part of your daily devotional time.

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Your Faith Journey 138

As the apostle Paul began his second missionary journey, he was accompanied by a believer named Silas. Eventually the two of them were “stripped and beaten with rods,” and then “thrown into prison” (Acts 16:22-23 NIV). Yet God used the horrible situation as an opportunity to transform a family. That night Paul shared his faith and the gospel message with the jailer (Acts 16:31-32). In response to Paul’s message, the jailer and his family believed and were baptized (Acts 16:33-34). God can use what others intend for harm to accomplish the good things he wants done within the world.
What would happen if we trusted in the Lord even when life doesn’t go as we hoped or planned? What would happen if we saw the setbacks of life as “set ups” for sharing our faith and the gospel message about Jesus? For Paul and Silas a family was transformed because the two of them were imprisoned. God can use you to transform the lives of others as well!

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Your Faith Journey 137

The Your Faith Journey daily devotional for this week includes verses describing Paul’s ministry and the work of the Holy Spirit within the lives of the earliest believers that are recorded in the book of Acts from the New Testament. Within the stories there are clashes of cultures including the Jews clashing with the Christians, the message of Christ clashing with other beliefs, as well as the clash between the two cultures of the Jews and Gentiles who had converted to Christianity and were seeking to live together as God’s people within the Church.

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Your Faith Journey 136

The Your Faith Journey daily devotional for this week includes scripture from the Gospel of Matthew. You are encouraged to read part of Psalm 22 to begin your devotional time each day to prepare your heart and mind to be centered in Christ.

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Your Faith Journey 135

One sabbath day while the apostle Paul was at a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch he shared a message about Jesus, the Savior of the world (Acts 13). “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:44 NIV). Paul and Barnabas explained that since some of the Jews in the city rejected their message, they were now turning “to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46 NIV). They reminded the Jews of the message shared by the prophet Isaiah about the people of Israel, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6 ESV). The Good News about Christ was received joyfully by the gentiles in the city, but some of “the Jews…stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas,” and influenced the local leaders to have them “expelled…from their region” (Acts 13:49-50 NIV).
 
The Good News about Jesus is for everyone, but not everyone receives it with joy. We cannot control how others receive or react to the message of Christ, but we are called, equipped, and commissioned as believers to be lights shining for all to see. Jesus said, “you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14 ESV). As believers, we are supposed to let our “light shine before others, so that they may see” our “good works and give glory to” God (Matthew 5:16 ESV). Our good works include sharing the message of salvation about Jesus with all the people of the world, while continuing Christ’s work here on earth until he returns. Someone needs to see the light of Christ shining through your deeds this week. Someone needs to hear the message of salvation about Jesus this week. We cannot control how others receive what God offers them. But we are accountable for our obedience and behavior. Go! Be a light! Go! Share the Good News!

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Your Faith Journey 134

Within the book of Acts in the New Testament we find the movement of the Holy Spirit working in and through Jesus’ followers as “the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…grew in numbers” as God continued adding those who were saved through faith in Christ (Acts 9:31 NIV). Until the time recorded in Acts 9, the movement was limited to Jews, Jewish converts, and Samaritans but things quickly changed in Acts 10. There was a commander within the Roman army named Cornelius who believed in the God of the Jews. One day he was visited by an angel that told him to “send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter” (Acts 10:5 NIV). As Cornelius sent men to find Simon Peter, the Lord spoke to Peter in a somewhat confusing way as he was praying, which ultimately revealed that God was going to grant “the Gentiles repentance unto life” through Jesus the Christ (Acts 11:18 NIV). “Gentiles” are people who are not Jewish. Within the events of Acts 10, the Lord revealed to Simon Peter that the church of Jesus is meant to include “disciples of all nations,” including Jews and Gentiles, men, women, and children (Matthew 28:20 NIV). This may not seem like a big deal for Christians in the twenty-first century, but it was hugely significant in regards to the Jesus movement being fueled and guided by the Holy Spirit. God’s kingdom, and Jesus’ church, is open to anyone and everyone who turns to the Lord for the forgiveness of their sins through faith in Christ. All are welcome!

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Your Faith Journey 133

In his book, The Call: The Life and Message of The Apostle Paul, Adam Hamilton writes, “It could reasonably be argued that no other human, apart form Jesus himself, has had a greater impact on the world than Paul of Tarsus.” Paul, also known as Saul, described himself in this way, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus…Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law” of the Jews (Acts 22:3 NIV). “I persecuted the followers of the Way (Christians) to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison” (Acts 22:4 NIV). On one occasion, Saul obtained letters from the Jewish High Council to arrest Jesus’ followers in Damascus so that the movement of Christianity did not spread further into the Roman Empire (Acts 22:5). While on the road traveling to Damascus, Saul was overwhelmed when “a bright light from heaven flashed around” him, so he “fell to the ground and” heard “a voice” (Acts 22:6-7 NIV). It was the voice of Jesus. During their conversation, Jesus told Saul to “go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do” (Acts 22:10 NIV).
 
Saul became temporarily blinded by the light of Christ on the road to Damascus. His traveling companions had to take him by the hand to continue their journey to the city. After three days of being unable to see while in Damascus, a devoted man of faith named Ananias was sent by God to Saul to restore his sight and share this message, “Brother Saul, receive your sight…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. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard…Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away…” (Acts 22:13-16 NIV).
 
As Ananias’ message to Saul revealed that he had been chosen by God. The Lord has chosen us as well. Through his Son and the Holy Spirit, our heavenly Father reveals his will. Saul was blinded by the light of Christ on the road to Damascus. Where do you see the light of Christ shining in the world today? Saul was sent into the Roman Empire as a witness of what he saw and heard. Jesus sends us into the world each day to be his witnesses here and now. Christ said, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a NIV).

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Your Faith Journey 132

If you wanted to plant and grow corn, you would need to prepare the soil.
Good soil, rain water, and sunshine would enable the corn you planted to grow, thrive, and eventually become mature and fruitful. For children, teens, and adults to grow, mature, and become fruitful disciples of Jesus, we need hearts that are prepared to receive the seeds of truth about the Kingdom of God and the king of creation, Jesus. We need to “get rid of all evil behavior” much like we would remove stones within the soil to prepare it for planting (1 Peter 2:1 NLT). We need to grow in the “knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 NIV). We need to long for the Lord and remain in him and his love, because we cannot “bear fruit unless” we remain in Jesus (1 Peter 2:2 & John 15:4 NIV). We need to follow Jesus’ example and continue the work he did (John 14:12). We’ll know we are growing as our knowledge of our Savior deepens, our longing for the Lord increases, and our lives are becoming more and more like Jesus’ through our thoughts, words, and deeds.
 
The apostle Paul teaches us that we are to grow “in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Together, we grow “as each part” of the church “does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16b NLT). Imagine if ALL the people of Avon UMC were each doing their special work as the Holy Spirit enables us, as well as each believer was seeking to grow in their knowledge of Christ, there was an increasing longing for the Lord within us all, and the entire congregation was full of the love of God. It may seem impossible, but Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works” (John 14:12 NLT). The “works” of Christ, and the “even greater works,” are the fruit of a people remaining in Jesus and together growing more like him in every way.

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Your Faith Journey 131

Within his incredible God-given vision and encounter with the Lord, Isaiah shared that the Holy One was seated on a throne as the King of creation. While in the presence of the holy and Almighty Lord, Isaiah knew that he was a sinner, “a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV). Like Isaiah, have you experienced that the closer you get to the Lord, the more aware you are of your sins? During Isaiah’s time with God, the Lord took away his guilt and his sins “were atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7 NIV). Through Jesus Christ our guilt has been taken away as well, and our sins were atoned for upon the cross. Praise the Lord!
 
During Isaiah’s experience described in Chapter 6, he heard the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV)? The prophet replied to God by being willing to go and speak his message to the Lord’s people. Are you willing to go and share the message about Jesus Christ with others today? Just as God sent Isaiah, Jesus sent his disciples when he said, “go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV). If you trust in Jesus as your Savior and submit to him as your Lord, he is sending you as a disciple here and now. Go to everyone God sends you to and say whatever He commands you (Jeremiah 1:7)!

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