Summary: Our Enemies, Difficult Ministries, Loving Our Enemies
THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING – Uncomfortable Joy
Acts 8:1-8(pg. 764) July 19, 2015
Are lost people your enemy? If someone disagrees with you do you go on the attack? When you walk through the airport and you see the guy in Middle Eastern garb do you instantly form an unfavorable opinion of his character?
One of the most difficult issues every one of us deal with is our prejudices and preconceptions. It’s impossible for us not to be shaped in some way or another by our backgrounds and experiences.
If you were a black man growing up in Birmingham Alabama in 1968 your experiences and interactions with people would be radically different than a white kid born in Lexington Kentucky in 1960 with affluent parents with county roots. All of us have roots...Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American...different cultural experiences...different advantages and disadvantages...different moms and dads or lack thereof.
We don’t have much knowledge of the Apostle Paul’s background...other than this. Hebrew Heritage...Something that shaped him with a fervent pursuit of the Mosaic law...from the tribe of Benjamin...He became a Pharisee, a pursuer and leader in the implementation and practice of this law. Zealous about it...passionate...we know he had advantages...He studied under the great teacher Gameliel. He became a Hebrew of Hebrews.
He had roots...they shaped him and they caused him to pursue and attack those who disagreed with him religiously. It became a life or death issue.
As Stephen, one of the churches earliest servants is being stoned to death...He prayed “Lord Jesus rescue my spirit...Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” (sounds familiar doesn’t it?) When he had said this he fell asleep.”
But it’s the next verse that jumps out: “And Saul approved of their killing him.”
“Inwardly Saul thought, “Good! I’m glad this is happening...It’s what’s best.”
He though Jesus and anyone associated with “this way” needed to die...or at least go to prison. He firmly believed that this was a truth that needed his leadership...It became the catalyst for a “great persecution” that broke out against the church in Jerusalem...This persecution scattered every believer...except the 12 apostles... throughout Judea and Samaria.
I. PERSECUTION ALWAYS REVEALS PRIORITIES
Why would God let this happen to the church in its infancy? Why as Godly men bury Stephen with deep, deep grief does God allow Saul to begin to destroy the church...going from house to house, like S.S. soldiers, dragging men and women to prison?
Well, I’m not God...but Jesus is! And He’d told them...and He’d told us “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it’s own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, that is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)