Summary: The church under persecution
Jeff Hughes – April 6, 2003
Calvary Chapel Aggieland
a. The church at Jerusalem was going through many changes. Thousands of people had accepted Jesus as their Savior and become a part of the fellowship. These people were one big community of believers, loving one another, sharing with one another, and fellowshipping with one another.
b. We also see that they were being taught God’s Word by the apostles, and they were fervent in prayer. They were a vibrant and flourishing fellowship because of this. God’s grace was simply abounding in Jerusalem. But as we saw in our last study, all was not perfect in this fellowship, we saw that in the example of Ananias and Sapphira.
c. In the church today though, people tend to forget that Jesus promised us more than just blessings. In John 16:33 he also promised, "In the world you will have tribulation." Anyone who sees the Christian life as one unbroken victory is being naive. They will also end up being shallow.
d. According to William Barclay, the Arabs have a proverb that says, "All sunshine makes a desert."
e. Everyone enjoys the sun, but if the sun always shines everything will dry up and die. There are certain things which only the rains will produce, and there are certain experiences which only sorrow can bring about. These times will come into your life, and if you’re going to grow, they have to come.
f. I’ve entitled today’s study Growing pains, because we’re going look at some tribulation in the early church, as we continue our study today, but first, let’s have a word of prayer.
a. As I was studying these scriptures, I came across the following article that gives us some insight into the early church, with a modern example. It was written about the church in China.
b. There are three basic reasons why the Church is growing so rapidly in China. First, there is an ideological vacuum in China. People no longer claim loyalty to any kind of faith, not even to communism. Because of the more open policy of the Chinese government, there is more contact with the Western world, and people are fascinated by different ways of thinking, including other religions. Religious fervor has been high the past ten years, and Christianity has benefited most.
c. Second, Christianity provides people with an intimate social experience: love, caring, concern, and fellowship. After a long, repressive era in which you didn’t dare reveal what you really felt and thought, this is an exciting option.
d. Third, there are the miracles. Missionaries that travel to the interior of China report that the Christian communities all claim they’ve experienced miracles. Here is one typical example: A Christian woman decided, after her eightieth birthday, to start preaching the gospel. She went to her daughter’s village and began preaching. Some villagers with incurable diseases, like cancer, came to her. When she prayed for them, many were suddenly healed. Then two more people came and were healed. Then three more families. After the woman left, the villagers decided her God was very good. So they abandoned their idols and decided to believe in this Jesus.