Summary: In Acts 4 we see a church alive and on fire. But it is also a church under attack. How did the first believers cope with opposition?
Once upon a time, an atheist lived in a small town.
The atheist wasn’t a bad man, he just didn’t believe.
He wasn’t interested in church…
and there was only one in the area.
It was cold and dead.
More of a social club for the deceased.
One day the church building caught on fire.
The whole town ran towards it to help put out the flames… including the atheist!
Someone shouted: “Ha! This is the first time I’ve ever seen you running to church!”
And he shouted back, “Well this is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire!”
In the book of Acts we see a church that was on fire.
Passion, devotion, sacrifice, commitment, love, conversions, and boldness!
Why does God give us this picture?
Why is it in His book?
Is God showing us a picture of a church on fire so he can say to us, ‘It’ll never be like that again.’
Or is God saying, This is Church... This is what can be... This is what I want to do with you!
I know what I think God is saying!
So what do we learn from these Acts 4 Christians?
Well, as we look at what happened, we find...
This is actually a story about opposition.
And this is a story about how they responded to opposition.
You see, Peter and John had healed a crippled man.
People were amazed and a crowd formed to see what was going on.
Peter and John preached to the crowd about the power of Jesus’ name.
The religious leaders saw it and were angry.
Because Jesus was a threat to their power and control.
So they threw Peter and John in prison and then made them appear in court.
The religious leaders demanded that they stop teaching about Jesus.
And after serious threats they let them go.
The threats would be something along the lines of:
If you don’t shut up about Jesus you’re dead.
In today’s newssheet you’ll see we’re asking for prayer for Christians who live in persecuted countries. You’ll see a list of the top 10 worst countries for persecuting Christians. _______is number ___on that list. Most of you know that ______ used to work in _________. And we had the privilege of seeing first hand what it’s like for the persecuted church as we lived and worked with them.
I’ve told you before about Clive, who was told by the secret police, Shut up about Jesus or we’ll burn your house down.
I’ve told you before about Lorraine who was thrown out of her family and harassed by local police. She faced a choice: Jesus or her family.
I’ve told you about Bill, a teacher, who was threatened at work every day for about 6 months, that he would lose his job and much, much more.
One theme emerges: ‘Shut up about Jesus’.
Maybe some of us here today come from a different country and know what such opposition is all about. But what do we know about opposition here in England?
More recently, several university Christian Unions were closed down.
Constantly Christians and Christianity is mocked on TV.
Richard Dawkins continues his crusade promoting militant atheism.
And you’ve seen the buses with the poster:
‘There’s probably no God’.
I believe we’re only decades away from a nastier outbreak of persecution in this country.
But what about now? And what about you?
With your non-Christian friends, or family, colleagues and neighbours?
Don’t you often find that there is a subtle pressure for you to shut up about Jesus?
That it so often seems a huge thing to mention Christ to others?
Why is that?
That’s because of a quiet resistance to the name of Jesus. An opposition to him.
Many Brits are today outraged that Christians claim the uniqueness of Jesus, that he is the only way, truth and life.
Yes, even in this country we are told to shut up about Jesus.
And the sad thing is, many Christians have shut up about Jesus.
Well, how did the first believers respond to the pressure? How did they cope with opposition, this first outbreak of persecution?
I want us to notice their decision, their impulse, their actions and the result.
First, notice their decision...
v19, When they were told to shut up about Jesus, they replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”
This is Peter and John, arrested and standing accused.
When they were told to stop proclaiming Jesus, they said, No way! We do what God says not what you say!
But I want you to understand something.
This was not a decision they came to when they were standing there.
This was obviously a decision they had made at an earlier date.