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Being and Making Disciples of Christ Jesus

Date: 16 July 2023

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan

Sermon Text: Acts 14:1-28



16Jul23 Herald
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TRANSCRIPT

Introduction

Blessed Sunday to all.


To all visitors to Hermon today, I pray that you will find our gathering a welcoming one and through the service, get a sense of who we are and whom we worship.

To all Hermonites, both current and former, it’s great that we can reunite and rejoice in God’s goodness and grace to Hermon.


May I encourage us all to read Ps David’s editorial in the Hermon Herald today.


As our advisory pastor, he has highlighted this significant milestone and at the same time posed a challenge for us to prayerfully consider.


One of characteristic we desire Hermon to be known for, is that we preach through books of the bible yearly.


For those who are unfamiliar, the bible has two main parts, we call them the Old Testament and the New Testament.


In total we have 66 books in both the Old and New Testament combined.


As a church, Hermon is currently going through the Book of Acts. This is part of a 2 volume series by the author Luke. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and Acts.


Luke wrote these 2 volumes to a particular person called Theophilus a wealthy Gentile.


The Gospel of Luke is about the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Then from Acts 1:6-8, Luke shares the summary focus of the book of Acts.


Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him (Jesus), “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Thus, the 28 chapters of the Book of Acts narrates how by the power of the Holy Spirit, the good news of Jesus Christ spreads from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.


Benefitting non-Jews like you and me even today in the 21st century.


Today, our text in Acts 14 is the 2nd part of Paul’s 1st missionary journey. We covered the first part – Acts 13, 3 Sundays ago.


I’ve titled the sermon this morning ‘Being and Making Disciples of Christ Jesus’. For Hermonites, this might sound familiar.


Yes, it comes from our mission statement. This is why we exist as a church. To be and to make disciples of Christ Jesus.


It’s an appropriate focus for our anniversary and I hope to share what we can learn from Acts 14 about being and making disciples of Christ Jesus.


Making Disciples

Proclaiming the Gospel is essential


When we want to emphasize something in our speech, what do we normally do? Well, we usually repeat it.


As we consider Acts 14, we see that the way Paul and Barnabas went about making disciples was through their preaching and teaching.


And this is emphasized as it is repeated throughout the chapter.


May I list them out for reference :

  • V1 ‘spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.’

  • V9 ‘He listened to Paul speaking’

  • V15 ‘we bring you good news that you should turn from these vain things to a living God’

  • V21 ‘when they had preached the gospel to that city’

  • V25 ‘when they have spoken the word in Perga’

Making disciples essentially is through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. This emphasis has not changed even today in the 21st Century.


How Christians continue to be God’s witnesses is to share the Gospel wherever we are.


The Gospel, or the Good News of salvation is found in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.


Dn Samuel shared a clear explanation of the Gospel last week.


We thank God that He has provided speakers for our pulpit ministry all these years. I don’t recall any time when there was no speaker to share with us from God’s Word.


And God has enabled our speakers to regularly share the Gospel as well as what it means to live a Gospel-centred life.


We are so glad to have some of our former pastors with us today and thank God for their ministry with us.


At Hermon our conviction of preaching through the bible comes thus from our understanding that Scripture is God’s inspired word.


Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


In today’s text, we see a spectacular miracle. The healing of a man who was crippled. This man was sitting in a very prominent place, v13 hints that it is near the temple of Zeus.


Truly a miracle happened, for this man is well known to everyone that from birth he could not walk.


Yet such a miracle did not result in belief by those who witnessed it. Instead, they thought the Greek god Zeus and Hermes had come to them.


And in v19, we read that even the Jews from Antioch and Iconium could persuade the crowd to turn around and stone Paul who had performed this miracle.


Church, only the preaching of the Gospel can truly turn hearts towards Jesus.


We believe thus that God enabled Paul to perform miracles so as to authenticate Paul as a true spokesperson for God.


For those of us who are familiar with Acts, in Acts 3 Peter performed a very similar miracle as well.


God is therefore showing that through Peter and Paul, these are His genuine spokesmen. And that God is powerful in both the Jewish and Gentile setting.


May I share an experience of the convicting power of God’s word in my life.


On Hermon’s 18th anniversary, Ps David was our speaker. As he shared from God’s Word, I sense the Lord speaking to me. It was in 2006 and I was wrestling with God’s call to enter full-time ministry.


Through the sermon text that day, God spoke very clearly.


So, in November that year, I joined the church staff. That Sunday, Hebrews 4 came alive:


Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hermonites, let’s always remember to share the living word of God as we witness for Him.


Opposition to the Gospel is to be expected


Now as we witness for Him, Acts 14 tells us that as we attempt to make disciples of Christ Jesus, we will do so in the face of opposition.


V3 tells us that God enabled Paul and Barnabas do signs and wonders. Yet there were people who decided to mistreat and stone them (v5). Paul was eventually stoned as v19 records.


Earlier on in v1, we see that though a great number believed based on their testimony, yet v2 says, there were unbelieving Jews who stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.


Opposition we see can also came in the form of wrongly understanding their message. The crowd wanted to idolise them, to deify them as Zeus and Hermes. They wanted to offer sacrifices to them.


We thank God that Paul and Barnabas reacted so unlike Herod in Acts 12. They acknowledge that they were men like the Lycaonians and pointed instead to God who is the creator of all things and the provider of the harvest.


From Acts 14, we thus get a glimpse of the range of opposition to the witness of the Gospel.


Last month, there was the Getty’s concert. Some of us here today were there that night. In the programme book given out, there is a page on the voice of the martyrs. 4 women who will share the persecution they have faced.


Some have lost spouses, others have been jailed. Opposition in the first century continues to happen today.


Even our missionaries in neighbouring countries also have shared such challenges.


We received an email on 27 Aug 2022 from one of our mission partners. He shared how a fellow pastor had been shot dead and who was ministering in the same area as him.


He asked for prayers support even as he continued with the ministry.


Church, when we expect opposition to the Gospel, it will not discourage us as we experience it.


We can say like our mission partner, God is good and God is God.


God is the enabler of Missions


This leads to my 3rd and final point about making disciples. It is not us who converts someone into a disciple of Christ Jesus. It is God Himself.


Missions, is His idea. Remember Acts 13 & 14 are part of Paul’s first missionary journey.


So, the verses that bookend the missionary journey tells us that it is God the Holy Spirit who initiated the mission. He has set aside Barnabas and Saul. Saul is the Hebrew name for Paul.


Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”… 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.


At the end of the missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas affirmed that it is God also who has opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.


God is the one who has enabled the Gospel to be preached to the Gentiles.


And God is the one who has enabled them to put their faith, to believe, in Jesus. That Jesus is the Messiah and in Him there is salvation and the forgiveness of sin.


Today for all of us who are Gentiles, we must thank God that we too can be His child. The door has been opened for us to know Jesus and to put our trust in Him.


If God is the enabler of Missions then when we go about making disciples, we have to be sensitive to His leading, we have to be dependent on His enabling.


And that means we devote ourselves to prayer. We seek His face and we plead for His strength.


And as we have noticed in Acts 13 & 14, the worship of God through prayer and fasting was part and parcel of the faith community.


Hermonites, as we make disciples, Acts tells us, do so in the spirit of prayer because God is the enabler.


Being a Disciple

Trusting in Jesus


Let’s turn now to understanding from Acts 14, what it means to be a disciple.

I submit firstly that it is to trust in Jesus.

Remember repetition is significant emphasis and so the following verses speaks about belief or trust or putting your faith in Jesus.

  • V1 ‘a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.’

  • V9 ‘he had faith to be made well’

  • V15 ‘turn from these vain things (idols) to a living God’

  • V22 ‘encouraging them to continue in the faith

  • V27 ‘how he opened the door of faith to the Gentiles’

So, this means, a disciple is one who puts his trust, her faith in Jesus Christ. A disciple thus believes that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.


There is no skin colour nor social status that will disqualify you. There is also nothing we can do to qualify ourselves.


When Apostle Peter preached at Pentecost in Acts 2, those who heard him the bible says were cut in the heart and they asked him, what must we do.


To that Peter replied, do nothing but repent and be baptised every one of you for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.


We have just witnessed this very truth, in the confirmation of faith and infant baptism. An outward proclamation of the internal grace experienced.


But so that we are not delusional, Scripture tells us, a disciple does not live a life of ease. It’s not going to be sunshine every day. It’s not healthy and wealthy from this day forward.


As surely as we will face opposition to our witness, there will be tribulations till the Lord takes us home.


Acts 13:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.


Scripture says, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated at the first coming of Jesus. Acts 13:22 refers to the 2nd coming of Jesus when His kingdom will be fully consummated.


We now live in the in-between time. Between Jesus’ first and second coming. In this period, we must bear many tribulations.


Church, this is God’s divine plan for us to experience.


But believers, fret not, Jesus has promised to be with us. He says Mt 28:20 And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


Church, being a disciple means trusting in Jesus through life’s storms. He is the anchor of our souls, in this present life and into eternity.


Being part of a sending church


The call of Christ is to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Now not all of us will have the privilege to be sent.


But as Acts 13 & 14 have shown us, we can be part of a sending church.


Acts 13:3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off…. 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Acts shows us, that it was the whole church that sent Paul and Barnabas out and it was the whole church that gathered together to hear of their report when they arrived back.


Church, the Lord has impressed upon us that ASEAN is our focus.


In Hermon’s history, we have supported some of our members - Simon Toh at Campus Crusade Singapore, Perry and Aileen who spent many years ministering in Thailand.


We have Lilian Tan whom we supported in Navigators Singapore and abroad. And Zebedee and Kok Eng in Malaysia.


Currently we support missions work in Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia.


Locally, we do our outreach at St Luke’s Eldercare, we are involved in the BB & GB at Kent Ridge Secondary. Some of us give tuition at Beyond Social Services at Redhill, we play basketball and football with children at Telok Blangah.


What does it mean to be a sending church, I submit, the first thing is to be aware of what God has privileged Hermon to do.


And the next follow up step is for all of us to seek the Lord for the area of our contributions.


When each Hermonite plays their part, the whole body of Christ will be built up.


Church, Ps David and Jenny are heading to a part of Asia tonight. Under the organization Ambassadors for Christ, Ps David will be conducting training for pastors there.


To strengthen them for the Gospel work they do.


Many of those attending are pastors from BP churches planted in the past by our fellow BPCIS churches.


Because of our contributions to BPCIS, Hermon is indirectly also supporting these pastors for their training.


Much prayer is needed for Ps David and Jenny and these pastors. May they be able to strengthen the flock to live out the Gospel in their villages.


Church, as disciples may we contribute by prayer and participation, so that Hermon is enabled to be a sending church.


Persevering in discipleship


Finally, I submit from Acts 14, we can see that being a disciple is to have the characteristic of perseverance.


Discipleship as Ps Eugene Peterson has said, is the long obedience in the same direction.


So we notice in v3 and in v28, Paul and Barnabas when possible, would stay in a place for an extended period of time so that they could nurture the young disciples in the faith.


Acts 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord,… 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

To become Christ-like takes a lifetime. Sin has to die and bad habits have to be redeemed by the Holy Spirit.


That takes time and sometimes it can feel like 2 steps forward and 1 step back.


But we will keep at it because as Hermonites, we encourage one another right?


We pray for each other, that our hearts affections for Jesus become stronger and stronger each day.


And how did the early Christians encourage a discipleship lifestyle? Well Luke says at the beginning of Acts:


Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Even today, in Hermon, our communal activities can still be traced back to these 4 elements.


In Acts 14, Luke provides us, further clues as to what can strengthen the church. We see that in v22 & 23.


Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

4 actions are mentioned. Strengthening, Encouraging, Saying (warning) and Appointing.


We know that Elders are God’s under-shepherds. The word Pastor is the Latin equivalent of Shepherd.


And so, using Psalm 23, with Jesus as our example, Pastors and leaders of Hermon should strengthen and encourage members like Jesus our Chief Shepherd.


They do so as they provide by pointing to green pastures and quiet waters. They do so as they protect with the rod and the staff.


And as all shepherds realize, when you provide and when you protect, sheep will produce. They will produce wool and offspring.


In Hermon, we thank God for all our Pastors, Elders and Lay Leaders. This is a picture taken in 2013. And the Lord has continued to raise leaders in Hermon.


This anniversary, as leaders, to enable Hermon to persevere in discipleship, we are reminded, we need to strengthen, encourage, and warn.


This anniversary, as members, to enable Hermon to persevere in discipleship, I submit, it means committing to grow as a faithful member of the local church.


Notice with me that the last city they visited was Derbe. Now going overland would have been faster.


Yet, they knew in spite of persecution and a longer journey home, it was more important for them to re-trace their steps back to strengthen the disciples.


May this attitude be found in all of us. We do whatever it takes, for the love of our fellow Hermonite, that they be built up in the faith.


Conclusion

Hermonites and friends of Hermon, we are into our 4th lap. God willing, it will be our longest yet.


As various leaders have shared, it is God’s leading that we are back here in Henderson.


Telok Blangah was a new estate when we were first planted. When we went to CCK, it was a new estate too.


Today we know that in the next few years, we will have new HDB estates on either ends of Henderson Road.


There are 10 ASEAN countries, and we are in 4 of them. Many of our ASEAN neighbours are arriving to our shores as well.


Hermonites, the vision of our pioneers continues to be relevant today. We are still facing a task that is unfinished.

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