Summary: A sermon on Acts 4:23-37 on how a church can thrive in the most hostile of environments. (Thanks to Jay Hardison for the outline)
Sermon for 1/15/2006
A. Sing- Peter and John went to pray. They met a lame man on the way. He held up his palms and asked for alms; and this is what Peter did say: Silver and gold have I none, but as I have give unto thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. He went walking and leaping and praising God, Walking and leaping and praising God. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
B. This happened in the temple area when many people were present. A great crowd came to see what was going on and this gave Peter a great opportunity to preach Christ.
C. The authorities of the temple seized Peter and John and brought them before the ruling council of the Jews. After some threats about not preaching about Jesus Christ, they let Peter and John go. This is the first instance of persecution against the disciples of Jesus. The prophets of the Old Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ all experienced persecution and many of these were executed. It’s no different for the followers of Jesus.
D. We have freedom of religion and freedom of speech here and this will never happen in the USA. It doesn’t. Let look at the public schools. In too many cases, Christian children in public school classrooms are being forced to act like atheists. After all, that is effectively what is happening when they are told not to talk about Jesus, not to sing about Jesus, and not to write about Jesus. While many public schools are denying student’s rights to freely express their faith, the US Department of Education has issued guidelines that clearly list and explain those rights. For example, students have the legal right to express their faith in their assignments; they can witness to their classmates; they can read their Bibles at school; and they can pray. However, many Christian students do not express their faith at school because they are scared of persecution, either from classmates or from school officials.
E. A dose of persecution might do us all some good. It’s terrible today how we are getting away from the faith of our fathers. I agree, but it might be a blessing in disguise. Persecution gets rid of a lot of dead wood.
F. John MacArthur- Persecution is wonderful. It brings maturity, blessing, glory and joy. There is nothing negative about persecution. It is a positive thing. Persecution forces us to lean on Jesus. It we didn’t receive persecution, then we would not bother to depend on the Lord for strength. We should pray that God will bring us persecution and trails so that in our weakness His strength may be made perfect. Because persecution makes us lean on the Lord, it is good for us.
A. In the book of Acts we have seen a lot of persecution. It began with this story from Acts 3 and 4. IN Acts 5 all of the apostles are brought before the Jewish ruling council and then flogged. In Acts 7 Stephen is stoned to death.
B. Persecution can make us or break us. When persecution or hard times come because of our faith, either we become stronger in our faith or we leave our faith.
C. The voice of the martyrs gives details of persecution that is going on around the world for the name of Jesus Christ. I hate to say that in some cases the persecution causes many to leave the faith. Sometimes it causes whole churches to close their doors and never meet again, either underground or out in the open.
D. What causes some Christians and churches to thrive in the midst of persecution, and what causes other Christians and churches to cave in under the persecution?
E. Acts 4 gives us 5 characteristics of how to thrive in any environment for Jesus Christ whether we are having a lot of persecution or very little persecution.
Thesis: Let’s look at these 5 characteristics of thriving churches so that when the hard times come we can not only survive but thrive.
1. Place of prayer
A. Acts 4:31 they prayed and the place shook. This must have been a powerful time of prayer. This was without a doubt a church devoted to prayer.
B. At every significant point in its history, the early church was praying. One of the key ingredients to being a thriving church is one that is devoted to prayer. Both in prayer closets and together as a group.
C. A Church that plays at prayer A Church that is devoted to prayer
1. Prays about what it does 1. Does things by prayer
2. Fits prayer into busy schedule 2. Give prayer the highest priority