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Summary: The church needs to stand up and be counted on in this dark world.

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A STEADFAST CHURCH

ACTS 7:54ACTS 8:4

AS I WAS PREPARING FOR TODAYS MESSAGE I CAME ACROSS AN ILLUSTRATION THAT I FOUND TO BE QUITE INTERESTING, AND APPROPRIATE FOR TODAY’S WORLD.

A MAN WHO WAS TAKING A TOUR OF MILITARY CHAPELS, SAID THAT ONE PROBLEM THEY WERE FACING WAS HAVING A CHAPEL THAT COULD ACCOMMODATE ALL FAITHS.

ONE CHAPEL THOUGHT THEY HAD THE ANSWER, BY HAVING A MECHANICAL ARRANGEMENT BY WHICH A CROSS COULD BE TURNED AROUND TO SERVE AS A CRUCIFIX, THE ALTAR COULD BE MOVED FORWARD OR BACKWARD, AND THE WHOLE WORSHIP SENTER COULD BE REPLACED WITH ANOTHER CENTERING ON THE STAR OF DAVID. HIS GUIDE WAS VERY EXCITED ABOUT HIS CHAPEL AND STATED, “NOW WE HAVE AN ADJUSTABLE CROSS AND A MOVABLE ALTAR.”

THE ROUTE OF MANY CHURCHES TODAY IS THAT OF THE ADJUSTABLE CROSS AND THE MOVABLE ALTAR. IT IS TOTALLY UNBIBLICAL BUT THAT IS THE DIRECTION THEY ARE TAKING. IN LUKE 9:23 JESUS MAKES IT CLEAR THAT THERE CAN BE NO ADJUSTABLE CROSS.

LUKE 9:23: 23THEN HE SAID TO ALL OF THEM, “IF ANYONE WANTS TO FOLLOW ME, HE MUST SAY NO TO HIMSELF. HE MUST PICK UP HIS CROSS EVERY DAY AND FOLLOW ME.

OTHER CHAPELS, IN AN EFFORT TO GAIN UNIVERSAL ACCEPTANCE, HAVE GONE THE ROUTE OF REMOVING ANYTHING OF RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE, SO THAT PEOPLE OF ANY FAITH MAY USE THE ROOM WITHOUT DISTRACTION. THE IDEA IS THAT IT WOULD BE BETTER TO HAVE A CHURCH WITH NO RELIGION, RATHER THAN ONE WITH TOO MUCH OF ONE BELIEF AND NOT ENOUGH OF THE OTHER.

THE CHURCH HAS FACED OPPOSITION AND PERSECUTION RIGHT FROM IT’S BEGINNING IN THE BOOK OF ACTS AND WE SHOULD NOT EXPECT TO BE EXEMPT FROM IT IN THE 21ST CENTURY. PERSECUTION CAME FROM THE SAME SOURCES THEN AS IT DID NOW, SOME FROM OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, MUCH MORE FROM THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF THE TIME.

HISTORY HAS SHOWN THAT THE CHURCH HAS BEEN BUILT ON THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS. THOSE MEN AND WOMEN WHO WERE SO COMMITTED TO THE LORD AND SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS, THAT TO THEM , DEATH WAS NOT TOO HIGH A PRICE TO PAY. STEPHEN WOULD BE AT THE HEAD OF THIS LIST OF PEOPLE.

OUR WORD “MARTYR” IS A TRANSLITERATION OF THE GREEK WORD FOR “WITNESS.” BY THEIR LIVES AND BY THEIR DEATHS, THE MARTYRS HAVE BORNE WITNESS FOR JESUS CHRIST. STEPHEN’S DEATH IS THE ONLY DEATH SCENE AND MARTYRDOM DESCRIBED IN DETAIL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, EXCEPT FOR THAT OF JESUS CHRIST.

THE MARTYR’S TEACH US THAT THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR AN ADJUSTABLE CROSS OR A MOVABLE ALTAR. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST BE STEADFAST ON MATTERS OF FAITH. IT MUST STAND ON THE WORLD OF GOD.

EPHESIANS 4:14-15:

14WE WILL NO LONGER BE BABIES IN THE FAITH. WE WON’T BE LIKE SHIPS TOSSED AROUND BY THE WAVES. WE WON’T BE BLOWN HERE AND THERE BY EVERY NEW TEACHING. WE WON’T BE BLOWN AROUND BY THE CLEVERNESS AND TRICKS OF PEOPLE WHO TRY TO HIDE THEIR EVIL PLANS. 15INSTEAD, WE WILL SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE. WE WILL GROW UP INTO CHRIST IN EVERY WAY.

CONSIDER THESE GREAT MEN OF THE FAITH.

JUSTIN MARTYR, ONE OF THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS, BEHEADED IN 165 A.D. SAID:

“THE MORE WE ARE PERSECUTED, THE MORE DO OTHERS IN INCREASING NUMBERS EMBRACE THE FAITH AND BECOME WORSHIPPERS OF GOD THROUGH THE NAME OF JESUS.”

IN THE LATE 1970’S MISSIOLOGISTS ESTIMATED A POPULATION OF 1,000,000 CHRISTIANS INSIDE CHINA. FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, AFTER SEVERE PERSECUTION BY THE COMMUNISTS, EXPERTS REPORT BETWEEN 30,000,000 AND 40,000,000 BELIEVERS.

THE GOSPEL HAS BEEN PRESENT IN KOREA FOR A LITTLE OVER 100 YEARS, YET THE CHRISTIAN POPULATION EXCEEDS 20% OF THE COUNTRY’S POPULATION. IT WAS STARTED BY A MISSIONARY NAMED ROBERT J THOMAS.

THOMAS WAS A WELSH MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND LEARNED THAT THE KOREAN LANGUAGE WAS MUCH LIKE CHINESE, AND SO HE DECIDED TO TAKE SOME OF HIS LITERATURE TO KOREA.

AS THE SHIP HE WAS ON DREW NEAR SHORE A FIGHT BROKE OUT ON BOARD. ALL PASSENGERS WERE KILLED AND THE BOAT WAS BURNED. THOMAS STRUGGLED TO SHORE AND STAGGERED OUT OF THE WATER, HIS ARMS FILLED WITH BIBLES. HE WAS CLUBBED TO DEATH AS HE THRUST THEM INTO THE KOREAN’S HANDS.

THE DEATH OF STEPHEN AND THE PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH UNDER SAUL SPEAKS OF THE COURAGE THAT A STEADFAST CHURCH CAN HAVE WHILE IN THE MIDST OF TRIAL. IT IS HERE THAT WE LEARN NOT ONLY HOW TO LIVE, BUT ALSO HOW TO DIE FOR CHRIST.

CONTEXT:

THE CONTEXT FOR THIS PASSAGE IS ACTUALLY THE LAST FEW VERSES OF ACTS CHAPTER SIX AND ALL OF CHAPTER SEVEN. HERE WE READ OF THE PROGRESS OF STEPHEN’S MINISTRY, HIS ARREST AND TRIAL. STEPHEN’S TRAIL WILL TURN THE SANHEDRIN WHO IGNORE THE LAW OF THE LAND AND MURDER STEPHEN.

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