home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > September >  LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WORLD’S MOST WICKED CITY WHEN THESE GUYS TURNED UP

LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WORLD’S MOST WICKED CITY WHEN THESE GUYS TURNED UP

At our recent evangelism conference, Dr. Malcolm Gill, from the Sydney Anglican Cathedral, shared how the early Christians targeted the most vile, evil, cities in the world as places where the gospel needed to be taken. The three largest cities in the world during the time when the Church being birthed were: Rome, Alexandria (in Egypt), and Antioch. Of these three, Antioch was among the most vile, dangerous, evil, debauched cities at that time. It was a violent, promiscuous city where every imaginable form of sexual immorality was common. To make matters worse, Antioch was one of the world’s major slave trading centres. I wonder how many Christians today would choose to move to such a city in order to raise their families? Not many I suggest. But in the first century, several brave Christians moved to Antioch to share the gospel and what happened as a result literally changed the course of human history! And what they did should encourage us to see how God might use the gospel through us to transform our cities! 

¶ Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen
traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
Acts 11:19

Dr. Malcolm Gill being interviewed by Dr. Andrew Corbett

Dr. Gill explained in his conference session that in order to understand what happened to Antioch after the gospel arrived, it was necessary to understand what this ‘gospel’ was. To do this he unpacked Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord
Romans 1:1-4

From the opening four verses of Romans Dr. Gill highlighted that this epistle was an explanation of the gospel. At the heart of the gospel is Jesus Christ. The gospel is not merely a collection of ideas or just a wonderful story; it is a miraculous and supernatural message that has been invested with divine power. This, Dr. Gill stated, made God “the Prime Evangelist”. It is a message that invokes the power of the Holy Spirit to transform spiritually dead people into new-life-infused believers. The proof of its divine power and spiritually transformative outworking was evidenced by the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ who was revealed to be the Lord. Paul goes on to describe how all people wilfully stand alienated and estranged from God in their rebellion to God’s will (Rom. 3:10; 23). Despite this enmity with God, God initiated a rescue plan to redeem every sinner (Rom. 5:10). God now offers forgiveness, spiritual cleansing, reconciliation, and divine adoption to all those who accept His gracious offer (Rom. 6:23). But only those who confess their sinfulness, seek and accept God’s offer of salvation, and confess that Christ is their Lord will enter into the blessing of the gospel (Rom. 10:9-10).

THE REDEMPTIFICATION OF ANTIOCH

After Dr. Gill described the historical background of the city of Antioch, he drew on the account in Acts 11 where it describes how the persecution of Christians increased which led to many believers “being scattered”. What Dr. Gill highlighted was that it was ‘some men’ who went to Antioch and shared with Jews and ‘Hellenists’.

¶ Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.
Acts 11:19-20

Dr. Malcom Gill sharing at the Launceston Billy Graham Evangelism conference

Some of those who were scattered’ where just ordinary people. They were not apostles. They were not pastors. They were not Bible College trained. They were simply ordinary people who knew Jesus and obediently shared the gospel with others. As people accepted the gospel they turned to Christ and they too shared with their friends and family about Jesus. This was the result-

And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Acts 11:21

As these ordinary believers testified to the Antiochians, the Holy Spirit did what only the Holy Spirit can do and miraculously began to transform people. The Holy Spirit then oversaw the strengthening of the work in Antioch by sending one of the world’s most encouraging men – Barnabas – to establish these new believers into a church.

The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
Acts 11:22

Barnabas may not have been an evangelist. We know from Acts 4:36 that Barnabas was actually his nickname. His name was Joseph. He was a Levite from Cyprus. He was the perfect choice to go to Antioch to encourage his unnamed fellow countrymen who had found success in their evangelism. Barnabas’s role in the transformation of Antioch was critical. God may not have equipped you to preach or minister as an evangelist, Dr. Gill pointed out, but He may have enabled you to strengthen those who do. Barnabas my not have felt like he was anyone special or that he was doing anything particular special, but as he encouraged the believers to continue in their outreach, he also encouraged those who had recently to the Lord. Note what happened as a result –

When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Acts 11:23-24

We see from Barnabas’s observation of what was happening in Antioch that it wasn’t because these unnamed believers were anything special or particularly gifted individuals. The reason these few ordinary believers had been able to lead so many Antiochians to Christ was “the grace of God” (Acts 11:23). It’s a fair assumption that when these believers arrived in Antioch and saw how dark and hard this city was that they turned their faces to the Lord in prayer and beseeched Him to turn the heart of the Antiochians to Christ. The fact that God did answer their prayers was an act of His grace. Based on James 4:2 (“You do not have, because you do not ask”) one biblical scholar has noted, “You have a far greater chance of having your prayers answered if you actually pray!”

 

THE TRANSFORMATION OF ANTIOCH BEGAN WITH EVANGELISM

Evangelism begins with prayer. Evangelism leads to discipleship – helping someone committed to learning about God and His Word and living it, Dr. Gill said. But Barnabas couldn’t do it all by himself. He needed help so he took a calculated risk –

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.
Acts 11:25-26a

Despite the darkness, despite the spiritual hardness, despite the lack of fellow believers – the few Cyprian Christians who dared to tell someone about Jesus experienced the grace of God and saw hundreds of people, who were previously seemingly a million miles away from God, surrender to Christ and be utterly transformed. The result was that Antioch itself was transformed. So profound was the change in the spiritual climate of Antioch that it was in Antioch that followers of Christ first became known as Christians

For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Acts 11:26b

Dr. Malcolm Gill sharingDr. Gill concluded his session at our Evangelism Conference by reminding us of two important truths drawn from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and the account of the church at Antioch being planted. Firstly, it is God who saves people! He is the “Prime Evangelist”. We can therefore trust God whenever we share with someone about Jesus. Secondly, God uses ordinary people – you don’t have to know all the words — you just have to know the Saviour!

As we read through Acts we realise just how special the church at Antioch must have been. It became the Apostle Paul’s home church. It became the first church to send out missionaries and, as a result, all of the churches addressed in the New Testament were planted! And it all start because some unnamed ordinary guys prayed and shared and saw God do what only God can do. Perhaps we can too! 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Ps Andrew. This was very helpful! As the birds were waking up I decided to listen to a YouTube clip by Dr Daniel Shayesteh which he made 10 years ago. I was prompted to listen, because not that many weeks prior to this I discovered that there were a number of mosques in Tasmania and the mainland. Quite a number, over 340. Even though I have met a Muslim or two in the past it made me sit up and listen to this amazing speaker even more so. That speech touched me incredibly as he explained his former life, the way the Koran expresses itself by way of fear and anger, to who Jesus was and is and what He did for him personally. By reading the New Testament Jesus transformed his entire conscious world, his life and that of his family. Now almost three months ago he had another short clip, where in gentleness and reasoning and love for the Saviour of mankind he made it just so simple, as simple as we can make it too. This Jesus who walked this earth for some 33 years transformed lives, and is still transforming lives, mine included. There will come a time, which could be today, when we will need to know what to say and when to say it and prayerfully speak the truth of the Scriptures in love to those around us. The Will Graham Celebration is but a foretaste of things to come. I appreciate this Andrew where you quoted one of the speakers at the Evangelism Conference the other week: Quote: “Dr. Gill concluded his session at our Evangelism Conference by reminding us of two important truths drawn from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and the account of the church at Antioch being planted. Firstly, it is God who saves people! He is the “Prime Evangelist”. We can therefore trust God whenever we share with someone about Jesus. Secondly, God uses ordinary people – you don’t have to know all the words — you just have to know the Saviour!” end of quote. So, there we are then…

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

WHO BUILDS A CITY ON A HILL?

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5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

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