After giving sight to a blind man, Jesus preached He was the Light of the world. Many of the religious leaders realized He was accusing them of rejecting Him. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd", and as the Good Shepherd He protects His sheep. One of Jesus most dramatic miracles occurred when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Those who believe in Jesus recognize Him as the Light of the world, the good Shepherd, and the Resurrection and the Life.
Jesus shared deep truths with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion, known as the Upper Room Discourse. Jesus, their Lord and teacher, washed His disciples feet and gave them a new commandment: to love each other. He compared Himself to a vine and His disciples to branchesbranches that bear fruit because of the life in the Vine. Jesus prayed for His church to live in unity with Him and with each other; to know and demonstrate His love.
The Book of Acts records the founding, beginning and work of the Church as it obeyed the Great Commission. The promised Comforter-the Holy Spirit- arrived to indwell believers, with signs that have never been duplicated. Luke shows the Purpose of the Church, the Promise and the Power given to the Church, and the Performance that resulted from the Preaching of Peter. Acts has no ending, so in a way every believer is part of the last chapter today!
The first century Church and our local church today, should have ten visible characteristics: Evangelism-sharing the Gospel all the time as a lifestyle, Teaching- spiritual growth as a result of studying the Scriptures, Fellowship-time with one another, Worship-celebrating worship of the Lord, Prayer-time with God, Unity-all things in common, Diversity-all are unique but those differences make them stronger, Plurality-more than one pastor to share the work, Empathy- truly care for each other, Equality-they are the same.
In Acts we see seven patterns of the Church unfolding. 1. Giving: Believers shared generously. 2. Civil Disobedience: God was the supreme authority. 3. Church Discipline: Those who lied to the Holy Spirit were removed dramatically, to keep the Church pure and holy. 4. Gifts: Spiritual gifts to serve the church. 5. Martyrdom: Stephen was the first to die for his faith. 6. Simony: Those who attempt to buy or influence leadership with money. 7. Healing: Miracles were common.
In Acts chapter six we read about Stephens arrest, his sermon summarizing the Old Testament to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, and his martyrs death. Two important events occurred after the death of Stephen: The Pharisee Saul, who later became Paul the apostle, was impacted and God used the persecution to scatter the Christians to take the Gospel to the regions beyond Jerusalem. The book of Acts records a perpetual Pentecost as a result of the early churchs obedience.
In Acts, Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of the Church, has a dramatic encounter with the Risen Christ, becomes Paul the apostle and immediately begins proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. Paul becomes a missionary, a writer, and one of the most influential Christians! His ministry is marked by preaching, trouble wherever he goes, beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, miracles and thousands led to Jesus. Paul lays the foundation for the Church while fulfilling the Great Commission to the Gentiles.
The conversion of Saul is an astounding display of the Holy Spirits power. God took Saul, an adamant opponent to the Gospel, and transformed him into the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary of the Gospel. As a result of his new faith, and his commitment to reach the world with the Gospel, Paul forfeited all of his worldly success and reputation as a Pharisee, counting all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus .
The Great Commission has four main parts (going, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching). We can see all of them in the Book of Acts as God clearly showed that the Gospel was for everyone: Philip preached in Samaria and then to the Ethiopian, and Peter shared the gospel with the Roman soldier Cornelius. Paul and Barnabas further show this as they proclaim the Gospel from Jerusalem and Judea and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Paul tried to relate the Gospel without being offensive in Athens, by quoting Greek poets and bringing a message about their unknown god, yet few believed. Later we see Paul preaching the Gospel more simply and letting God convict the hearer. Paul went to Jerusalem even though he would no doubt be in danger and suffer. Truly, Paul did all things for the sake of the Gospel, and, like Jesus, made loving the lost his primary priority.
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the key teachings of the Bible. Jesus preached this sermon on a mountaintop in Galilee when He challenged people who professed to be His disciples to be strategically placed between the love of God and the pain of the hurting people in the world. He challenged His disciples to partner with Him and be conduits of His love. He concluded His sermon with a call to commitment. It changed the lives of many who heard it.
Jesus begins by teaching His disciples eight attitudes called, the beatitudes, or blessed attitudes, because each one is introduced by the word blessed. Jesus is promising to bless the disciple who has each of these attitudes. This word blessed can actually mean happy, spiritually prosperous, or in a state of grace. Each attitude also includes a promise that describes the form in which this blessing will come into the life of that disciple.
The word mercy means unconditional love. When David writes in Psalm 23:6 that mercy will follow him all the days of his life, the word he uses for follow actually means pursue. Gods unconditional love will pursue David all of his life. This is the kind of love for others that we must have too, if we are to be like God.
Many people think Jesus was contradicting the Old Testament in these verses, but He was only confronting the teaching of the religious leaders. He was telling His disciples: Everything I am teaching you is found in the Word of God, but what I am teaching is in direct conflict with what your religious leaders have been teaching you.
Believers sometimes have the misguided opinion that their faith is weak if they show signs of mourning. This beatitude not only supports mourning it links it to a blessing. Mourning a loss is normal and there are things God wants us to learn from the loss. We must let God use our mourning to move us in three ways. First, mourning helps us ask the right questions about life. Second, it helps us to seek Gods answers. Third, it also helps us to accept the blessing God has provided including our salvation.