Summary: We gather to grow, and we scatter to sow.

Last weekend we focused on the beatitude of Jesus found in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We were encouraged to lament our losses, to be sorrowful about our sins, to cry over the condition of Christians and non-Christians, and to weep for our world.

While weeping is the right attitude to have, we’re also called to action as witnesses. This week I’ve been convicted by this quote from John Stott: “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’”

If salt is going to do its work of preventing decay, it must get out of the saltshaker and if light is going to be effective it must go out into the darkness. Incidentally, our Mainspring Ministry, which is for college and 20s, is studying the Sermon on the Mount right now. If you’re looking to connect, they meet on Sunday nights out at the volleyball court. BTW, their outreach film called “The Magic Hour” just won Best Director and Best Editing at the Great Lakes Christian Film Festival.

In our passage, we’re going to see how God used persecution to propel His people into a decaying and dark world. The first Christians had become comfortable gathering to grow. Now it was time for them to scatter and sow.

LifeWay Research just released a study that found Christians are being shaped more by social media than Scripture. While 66% of evangelicals used Facebook at least once a day, only 32% say they read the Bible every day. To say it another way, Christians are twice as likely to open Facebook than to put their face in God’s Book. The authors of the study conclude, “Is it any wonder then, that churches are unhealthy and divided, with Christians gorging on social media fast food and skipping feasts of the Bible?”

I’m glad you’ve joined us today because we’re going to enjoy a feast from the Bible. If you’ve gotten out of the practice of daily Bible engagement, I pray this sermon whets your appetite to return to gorging on God’s Word on a regular basis. If you’re unsure where to read, check out the monthly Bible reading plan on our app or website.

We could summarize the call of the Old Testament like this: “Come and see.” People were invited to come to the city of Jerusalem for feasts and to the Temple for worship. In the New Testament we see a different call: “Go and tell.” As we pick up our verse-by-verse exposition of the Book of Acts, we’ll see God’s people needed a push to take the gospel from Jerusalem to the world. Jerusalem was still the central location, but now it serves as a missionary sending center. Here’s our main idea: We gather to grow, and we scatter to sow.

So, here’s a provocative statement: what if God is using this pandemic to get us to scatter so we sow the seed of the gospel like never before? While it’s not easy to gather right now, we’re all doing a pretty good job of being scattered. What if we were to take advantage of this time for proclaiming of the gospel?

This isn’t easy, is it? Especially with all the challenges we’re facing individually and as a church. Here’s a thought: instead of being worried about what’s happening in the world around us, what if we worked harder to take the Word to the world around us?

I like how Ray Majoran puts it in a post called, “The Great Distraction.”

We are inundated with news, ideas, emotions, ideologies and data…each day we become more polarized in our viewpoints about what is true and what is false…God has put you here and now for a purpose. He has presented us with a massive opportunity for the love of Christ to be shared. Now is not the time to get caught up in the cares and controversies of the world; now is the time to be wise and use the time that God gives us.

Let’s look at the first phrase of Acts 8:1: “And Saul approved of his execution.” This statement really belongs with chapter 7 where we read about Stephen’s martyrdom. Check out Acts 7:58: “And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.” Saul is the Hebrew name for Paul. The unsaved Saul was the chief persecutor of Christians who gave hearty approval of Stephen’s death.

Follow along as I read up through verse 8: “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.”

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