Summary: God’s purpose for the church will be accomplished. But will we be part of it? That depends.
I love this illustration from Sermon Central: A teacher was asking children in his Sunday school class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would I get to heaven?” “NO”! The children answered. “If I cleaned the church everyday, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into heaven?” Again, the answer was “NO”! “Well,” I continued, “then how can I get into heaven?” In the back of the room, a 5-year-old boy shouted out, “You gotta be dead!”
Last week in Acts 7 we saw how Steven gave his life for the cause of Christ and went to be with the Lord. “To live is Christ, to die is gain!” And does the scripture not say, “It is better to be away from this body and at home with the Lord?” His death sparked a persecution against Christians that was lead by another young man named Saul.
Both Steven and Saul demonstrate commitment and dedication to a cause: Steven, as a willing sacrifice for Christ, and Saul as one willing to make sacrifices out of Christians.
But look at the results: Acts 8:4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Saul’s efforts to stamp out the faith only served to spread it abroad! Saul, even before he was a Christian or missionary, was a root cause of the early evangelization of the world outside Jerusalem. Later he became a missionary who freely spread the faith in foreign missions. Isn’t it ironic? Purposely or not, God used this man to accomplish his purposes through him. By the way, God still does this.
It was bound to happen. God had planned for the church to spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. But it was so nice in Jerusalem! So comfortable in Zion! Pentecost had pulled them together, persecution would scatter them all over the place. God had nudged them with a warning. He had hinted with a beating. This time he forced the issue. Persecution broke out like the plague! Now they will spread! Scattered all over the place these Christians scattered the seed of the gospel as they went. It was infectious!
I remember seeing a science fiction movie about a biological weapon that was accidentally allowed to leave the decontamination zone. Within days whole towns were dying from the infection. Before the end of the movie, entire countries were devastated and populations destroyed. Finally, someone somehow figured out an antidote and saved the world from total annihilation.
But just imagine the opposite of that. Imagine a good germ, (a seed, if you will), that has the potential to give eternal life to anyone in the world. Imagine a redeeming seed that when planted in the human heart has power to remove sin and guilt and reverse the process that leads to death and bring eternal life. Instead of being spread by germ of virus, it is spread by word of mouth. How would the world respond to such a thing?
We need not just imagine this, God has made it happen! The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power of God for eternal life for all who receive, believe and obey it. This is what the Apostles all taught. This is what they lived and died believing and teaching. This is what we as a church believe and stand on. Now, either this is true, or your presence here is a waste of your time and your offerings are a waste of your money!