Summary: Paul Harvey said: "Too many Christians no longer are fishermen but keepers of the acquarim." God used the death of Stephen, and persecution to move the church beyond the walls of Jerusalem in order to complete his "mission" stated in Acts 1:8

In Jesus Holy Name August 15, 2006

Text: Acts 8:1,4-5 Series Redeemer

“The Spreading Flame”

I want to share a story with you so If you choose I’m going to give you permission to close your eyes and visualize the scene I’m about to describe.

The first rays of a new morning sun peek over the eastern sunburned hills. Stretching out for miles below lies a quiet, mirror like blue lake. A few hundred yards off shore a solitary boat appears fastened to the still surface. Periodically one of the two figures in the twenty foot wooden boat stands and stretches. The motionless air carries the occasional morning wake up call of a rooster across the water.

Finally, the men begin to pull in their nets, causing ripples of disturbed water to ring their way from the boat toward the shore. The water from wet nets, being pulled to the surface breaks the morning silence as the fishermen eagerly search their nets for the product of their labors from the long night.

But as the last of the empty nets pile into the boat bottom, they discouragingly reach for the oars. Another wasted night.

“How’s the fishing?” a man calls from shore.

After a pause, a frustrated voice replies: “Nothing” “

“Absolutely nothing.”

“Throw your nets on the other side of the boat.” Orders the man from the shore.

“But we fished all night.” Then after a long pause, and sensing authority in the voice, the fisherman responds. “All right, but only once more….”

A short time later, after again letting out their nets into the same water, shouts of excitement ring out… calls for help sound from the boat. The nets are so full they are beginning to break.#

You know the story. What a moment that must have been! Peter and Andrew trying desperately to bring in the catch with nets breaking. How did the stranger know where the fish were? Was it a miracle? Suddenly Peter remembered the words of Jesus. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (from The Master’s Plan Win Arn)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world would be saved through him.”

Jesus lived a perfect life. He never broke one commandment. He refused to give into Satan’s temptations. He succeeded where Adam and Eve and you and I have failed. He healed the lame, the blind. He set people free from the bondage of demonic possession. He raised people from the dead. He forgave people their sins. He was betrayed, arrested, falsely accused and crucified on a Roman Cross. He died. The Roman soldiers made sure.

When Jesus was nailed to the cross darkness covered the land. Why? Because God the Father turned his back on Jesus. He was covered with every broken commandment by every person who had ever lived in the past or who would ever live in the future. God the Father accepted his sacrificial death on behalf of all who accept Jesus as their lord and Savior. In the moment of his death, a great earthquake shook the land and the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. It was a symbol that we now have access to the throne of God. Jesus did not stay in the grave. Jesus did not stay dead. He rose from the dead. (pause) This friends is the mystery, the good news we possess. We can not keep it to ourselves; it is a word that needs to be shared.

On that post Easter morning on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, as Jesus and the disciples shared a breakfast of bread and fish... a new wind was blowing. As the Father had sent Jesus into the world so now he was sending them into the world. “Go, make disciples in all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all I have commanded.” His message has not changed.

Paul Harvey once said: “Too many Christians are no longer fishermen but keepers of the aquarium.”

Was the church in Jerusalem becoming a fish aquarium? I don’t know. But I do know that was not God’s plan. Jesus had been very specific. “Go, make disciples…” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem… they were… but what about Judea? What about Samaria? (Acts 1:8)

The martyrdom of Stephen constituted a watershed in the life of the Christian community in Jerusalem. It was the spark that ignited “a great persecution… which instead of crushing the church spread the gospel message beyond the walls of Jerusalem. (read Acts 8:1)

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