Summary: God has a way of getting His message out, even if it is uncomfortable for us.
Feeling Persecuted? Your Not Alone
Ballard Assembly Pastor Bob Briggs Acts 8:1-8 Lesson 19
I. Persecution is to be expected.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered. Acts 8:1b
God has a way of moving His purpose forward. It is a sad day when people reject the Gospel of Christ since it is the desire of God that all will except the redemption offered through Jesus Christ.
The church was experiencing persecution here for the first time as a total body. Prior, it had been isolated to the apostles and Stephen, but now they all were experiencing the wrath of a godless society.
It is always good, when possible, to get the bog picture. Jesus told the disciples at His ascension in Acts 1:8 And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. How effective had they been outside of Jerusalem? From what we gather from the early writings, up until this point they were total ineffective. Instead of taking the message outside the walls of Jerusalem, people were coming in, hearing the Good News, accepting Christ and staying on. That is why they had this major problem with the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews. The more people that came, the greater the need became and more steps were required to meet everyone’s needs.
A. Sometimes we need help to change our direction.
Why would Jesus allow His people to be persecuted and driven out of the city? It is the same as asking why do bad things happen to seemingly good people? Because sometimes we need help to change our direction, to get us into the big picture.
In Mark 5, Jesus had healed the demon possessed man and we pick up the conversation at verse 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
How many people would have been touched by the knowledge of Jesus if this man had got in the boat and continued to travel with Jesus? Well, as many as would have been touched by Jesus Himself. But with this man going to his hometown, more people were amazed, more than would have been if he had not.
We have an obligation to share the faith wherever we go. If the only Christianity you have is when you come to church, you are missing your purpose. You can go places I cannot go. You can talk to people I would not have the opportunity to talk with. And when you venture outside of the walls of this church and begin to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, people will be amazed and many will come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.
To help you with this, sometimes God has to change the direction of your life so you can catch the attention of others.
What caused the spread of Christianity? It can be followed back to this dispersing caused by the persecution brought about from the martyrdom of Stephen. Jesus said they would first take the message to Jerusalem, and situations provide them with the starter seeds for Judea and Samaria. If they had remained in Jerusalem they would have become ingrown, by dispersing they became the seed for all generations.
In this process, they learned a tough lesson. They had been comfortable in the Temple sharing Jesus with fellow Jews, but now that safety net had been taken away. They were no longer welcomed and with that they were not welcomed as Christian missionaries to Israel.
Things haven’t changed much since then. Christianity is tolerated in Israel but not embraced. Rabbi’s continually try to prevent organizations such as Jews for Jesus to grow and prosper among the Jewish community. A theme park recently opened back east where they show the Old and New Testament. The Jewish community is up in arms because they are so accurate in the presentation of the Old Testament, Jewish people are coming to the park and becoming exposed to Jesus Christ.
B. Sometimes it takes a health problem to change our direction.
Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Vs. 2
Funerals oftentimes are places where people are more open to hearing about Jesus. They have a concern for the one they lost and now are realizing life is not permanent on earth. Death and serious illness open the door to people’s hearts in many cases, but not all. It is at those times Christians can come alongside and weep with those who weep.