Summary: When the Church lost sight of the full extent of the Great Commission God allowed persecution to drive them out
Sermon Don’t get too comfortable
Jose Rodriguez, a bank robber who lived in Mexico, but preferred to rob American banks.
In the wild days of the west before Donald Trump built his wall, Jose would slip across the border into Texas, rob a few banks and flee back into Mexico.
One day, a Texas Ranger caught up with him in a saloon. The Ranger pulled his gun and threatened to shoot Jose if he did not tell him immediately where he had hidden all the money he had stolen. The problem was Jose did not speak English. The Ranger did not speak Spanish, and he kept screaming
louder and louder, "I'm gonna blow your head off if you don't tell me where the money is."
Finally, a young man came over and offered to translate. "Okay," said the Ranger, "tell him I want to know where all of that money is or I am going to blow off his head."
The young fellow translated the Ranger's words, and Jose said in Spanish, "Tell him not to shoot. The money is in a dry well at the end of town. If he removes the bricks with moss growing on them, he will find a million dollars hidden in the well."
When Jose was finished, the Ranger said to the young man, "What did he say?"
"Oh," said the translator, "he dares you to shoot."
Unlike Jose Rodrigues’ translator we are called to faithfully proclaim the Jesus Word of God to those who know nothing about Jesus.
The Swiss missionary-theologian, Emil Brunner, likened the church’s involvement in missions to the relationship that exist between fire and burning:
“The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.”
In other words: No burning, no fire. No missions, no church.
The Mission that the Lord has for his Church is to preach the Gospel to all nations.
And I would like to base my comments on the reading we have just had from the Book of Acts.
When Jesus died on Good Friday almost two thousand years ago, conventional wisdom said that this was not a great way to start a world movement.
So how did an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, who
never wrote a book,
never held high office,
never led an army and
died an ignoble death on a Cross
become the man to have affected civilization more profoundly than any other?
The key reason for the spread of Christianity lies in the fact that Christian followed God’s calling in their lives to share the Gospel with others
The Book of Acts tells the story of how Christianity spread from Jerusalem - an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire to Rome - the very capital of the Empire itself ROME.
In the opening chapter of Acts Jesus recommissioned his church to preach the Gospel first in Jerusalem, then in Samaria and to the ends of the world.
You recall what Jesus said in Acts 1:8
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And once that power from on high came as recorded in Acts 2, we see the Church growing very quickly in Jerusalem
However after a while it seems to me that the Church was content to be in Jerusalem, respected in the Community.
And we read the Church was not only respected but was feared not least because of the judgement of God on Ananias and Sapphira.
You may recall the story where Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of land and brought the money to the apostles saying this is the full price but holding back SOME FOR THEMSELVES.
There was nothing wrong with keeping a bit back for themselves. Rather it is because they lied to the Holy Spirit that God entered judgement immediately upon them
However once the church in Jerusalem became comfortable and settled down - as the Church did in Jerusalem – infighting started
And they took their eyes of the rest of the Commission Jesus gave them - which was also to preach the Gospel to Samaria and all nations and not just to preach the Gospel to the dwellers in Jerusalem.
It was then that the Lord allowed persecution to stir the church up.
Jesus didn’t want the Church to simply be a comfortable sect of Judaism.
He had a greater plan.
The Church had to grow and the Gospel had to be proclaimed in all nations.
At the end of Chapter 7 of Acts we see the martyrdom of Stephen, the lead deacon of the seven deacons and the honeymoon period for the Church in Jerusalem is over.
Persecution begins in Jerusalem and the Church are forced out to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, starting with the Samaritans who were looked down on by the Jews as being half-caste and not being pure Jews.