Connecting 7: Tested

This 6-week series shows us how the early church as it begins to move out, endures constant testing. How do these disciples respond? How will the Gospel prevail? And what can we learn and apply to our current climate? What will our response be to the testing we will endure?

Tested, part 6: Failure
Pastor Jeff Meyer

Focus:  We don’t always pass the test, and that hurts the most for people who care the most about passing, who are often the best of us. But the grace of Christ is always there, even when we fail the test. Perhaps the biggest test is whether we believe that.

Main Text: Acts 15:36-41


Tested, part 5: Strife
Pastor Jeff Meyer

Focus:  This is the biggest occasion of discord in the church so far, and it continued to reverberate through the church throughout the empire despite the resolution here. It was a huge test for the church, but I imagine it was also a big test for individuals in the church like Paul, Barnabas, and Peter. So here’s the big test amid the strife. On the one hand, they could resolve the strife by affirming their brotherhood with the rest of the Jewish in-crowd, meeting their concerns, and flexing to keep them satisfied. This would have been natural, easy, and probably the path of least resistance. Or they could stand their ground by insisting that the Gentile believers belonged in the church just as they were. In the short run this would ratchet up strife and even threaten total schism.

Main Text: Acts 15:1-12


Tested, part 4: Disrespect
Pastor Matt Wipperman

Focus:  So this is the test of faith, isn’t it? In Eden we lost the nonstop immediacy of hearing praise from God. And we’ve been desperately looking for approval from others ever since. We idolize people by desiring praise from them when only God’s will satisfy. Paul and Barnabas once again had to grapple with people saying false things about them that obstruct their message, just as they did in the previous two cities. But this time there’s a twist. In addition to defamation, which this time produces the most severe opposition yet (vv. 19–20), there is also false praise. The devil tries a new trick: when he sees he can’t get the apostles off their game by vicious shaming, he tries to divert them with lavish honor. Didn’t see that coming!

Main Text: Acts 14:8-20


Tested, part 3: Mistrust
Pastor Matt Wipperman

Focus:  Mistrust is a coping mechanism for a fallen, deceitful world. It’s understandable. But it’s painful when it’s directed toward us, especially by people who should know that we can be trusted. There are lots of times that we aren’t trusted as much as we deserve. Maybe there are also a fair number of times that we are trusted more than we deserve. Paul wrote of everyone, including himself, “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving” (Rom. 3:13). Only the righteousness of God offered in the blood of Christ atones for our untrustworthiness.

Main Text: Acts 13:44-52


Tested, part 2: Opposition
Pastor Jeff Meyer

Focus:  As Paul begins his first missionary journey, he and Barnabas meet stiff opposition. ….and deception. The Governor of Paphos on Cyprus wants to talk with Paul. But, opposition rears its deceptive head. A verbal sparring match ensues. An active intermediary (in this case, a magician named Elymas had attached himself as an influencer to the governor Sergius Paulus).  We, too, as messengers of the Gospel will meet our own opposition. Debating in these contexts has their limitations. When our ability to persuade someone to believe the truth or do good is tested, we overcome when God does what we cannot do: vault over the verbal crossfire and change the heart.

Main Text: Acts 13:4-12


Tested, part 1: Violence
Pastor Matt Wipperman

Focus:  Eden was safe.The animals weren’t food, but they also weren’t dangerous; they were submissive. The first homo sapiens’  environment wasn’t cold, and there wasn’t hunger. They probably experienced a continual sense of security that is impossible for us to imagine. They may well not have known what fear was. We are a long way away from Eden. Today we live highly domesticated lives, but violence isn’t gone. Racial violence is very real and present. Domestic violence is very real. And even in the safest spaces, our imagination and just-below-the-surface fear of violence is very real even if violence itself is not. Fear of violence is not something that we just grow out of. It is a fear that our ancient ancestors learned and passed on to all of us.

Main Text: Acts 12:1-11