Challenges of Going Deep
Pressed In – Pushed Down – Spread Out – Grown Up
Acts 8 (NIV)
1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
- Saul was a man of great passion and knowledge. We will talk more about that next week. But I just want to share a side note for a moment. There are many passionate, and knowledgeable people in this world that are living very miss guided lives. They think there pursuits are noble and just – but they are destructive and rebellious towards God. Saul was very religious and devote – but His God was not Christ it was the Law of Moses. It this passage he appears very powerful – but it’s an empty power because it is not supplied by God – but by ego and pride. Now I say this because the disciples running away might seem weak and wimpy, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. The disciples were not running away from what God called them to – but they were running to the very purpose that God had directed of them. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria , and to the ends of the earth.”
- PERSECUTION PROPELS THE CHURCH INTO A PLACE OF GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
- A challenge that all of us will have to face if we want to go deep is the fact that at some point we will have to face persecution. Now often times when we think of persecution, we think of people in other countries dieing for their faith and that is certainly true.
- Over 150,000 Christians were martyred last year, mostly outside of the United States. The most persecuted areas are located within what we call the 10/40 window. Within the 10/40 Window one of the hottest spots of persecution is Saudi Arabia.
- Guess where the church is growing the most…
The statistics are overwhelming. Missions statistician, David Barrett, records that in the 20th century, the Christian population in Africa exploded from an estimated eight or nine million in 1900 (8 to 9%) to some 335 million in 2000 (45%). In Asia the proportion of Christians grew from 2.3% in 1900, to 8.3% in 2000. The Atlas of World Christianity estimates that the number of Pentecostal Christians across South America grew 500% between 1960 and 1980.
The evangelical church in Argentina grew from 1m in 1980 to 3m in just 20 years, in Venezuela from 1 – 2.5m between 1990-2000. In Bogota, Columbia, Cesar Castellanos at MCI church has witnessed incredible church growth from 70 small groups to 20,000 cells in only eight years.
In Asia, the growth of the church in South Korea, China and Indonesia, means there are now more evangelical Christians in Asia than in North America. Singapore's churches are now the most evangelistically active in the world, with one missionary sent out per 1,000 Christians
- There is not nearly as much persecution of Christians in the United States as there is in the rest of the world. Why is that?
- We have allowed ourselves to look so much like the world, we bow to political correctness, we don’t speak up for fear of offending someone, and the reasons go on and on.
- The amount of people that are standing against Christianity is on the rise and we need to make some hard decision about how we ar going to face the challenges of a political system, and judicial system, a family system, and an economic system that is becoming more apposed to conservative Christianity.
- This next week is the National Day of Prayer – 49 of the 50 Governors in the United States signed a proclamation in the respective states to honor a national day of prayer, except for one governor – who also declare to sign a bill that would not support the traditional view of marriage of a man and a woman.
- For the last few years in our Judiciary and political systems we have seen people taking things into their own hands. Or persecution may not be as direct as in some other countries – but it’s covertness has made us complacent
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
- Those that had been scattered took that message of Christ love and forgiveness of sin to the various places that they went to. The gospel is beginning to spread. Persecution does to the Church what wind does to seed. It sets it to flight. It scatters the seed and produces an even greater harvest*
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
- MIRACLES AMAZE AND THE MESSAGE TRANSFORMS
- Simon a sorcerer had amazed people with his parlor tricks for a long time. Now when I say parlor tricks I don’t want to trivialize what he did at all. He probably performed some miracles – but we know from Scripture that the devil is into counterfeiting the genuine power of God – especially in the area of miracles, because people are amazed by it – people are drawn to the supernatural. In our culture today there are more and more people that are drawn to witchcraft, new age, yoga anything that can bring them to a “higher” state of consciousness.
- When Philip cam on the scene and he was doing miracles his miracles were only a reinforcement of the life changing message of Jesus Christ the son of God.
- 11 They followed him [Simon] because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
- WE MUST BUILD BRIDGES AND BREAK DOWN WALLS.
- These conversions were amazing knowing the history of the Jews and Samaritans. They worship the same God and kept the same mosaic law but Jews considered the Samaritans as racially impure. By God’s Spirit Jew and Samaritan are being united
- Matthew 10:5-6 (NIV)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel
- Luke 9:52-54 (NIV)
52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”
- John 4:9 (NIV)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
- Insolate – but don’t isolate yourselves from others that are not like you.
- Yes! God has called you to be Holy People
- Yes! God has called you to be a people set apart
- Yes! God has called you to guard your hearts against all kinds of wickedness
- Yes! God does tell us to use wisdom in regard to who we hang out with
- But God did not say – go shut yourself up in a closet and hide from the world or only let people in that are the same as you are. No we still have a lot of bridges to build and walls to tear down.
- It was a very significant event that Peter and John came to lay hands on these people. We have seen that God’s power did not just work through the disciples, but it was a symbolic act of God’s plan to graft others in.
- That is good news for us today – because God wants you to be his people. His message is a bridge of hope for each of us. Anyone that feels lost, or afraid, or lonely, or hurt, God is building a bridge and saying won’t you come and be my child. Let me take care of you!
- God might be asking you to move past some difference you have had with another person.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
- I want to bounce back for just a moment to the fact that miracles amaze and the message transforms.
- Simon offered to pay money to the apostles so that he would have the ability to lay hands on others so that they might receive the Holy Spirit
- Nothing indicates that he was filled with the spirit.
- Peter rebuked Simon for even thinking he could purchase what was a gift of God
- Simon has no part in the ministry of the apostles because of his heart condition
- Listen he had many of the outward sign that we ask for today
- He believed
- He was baptized in water
- There was not repentance
- There was not a heart change
- It takes more then believing the message it takes an acceptance of that truth and an application of it in our lives on a daily basis.
- It is not just an intellectual ascent – but I life transformation
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
- Simon was worried about the Lords wrath but he was not concerned with having a repentant heart. How many times do people ask for prayer – but want to continue in their sin. It’s almost as if they want God to say, “yea, I forgive you even though you want to keep living in your sin.” Jesus doesn’t do that.
I think I will continue with verse 25 next week.
This morning may you have felt a bit complacent in your walk with Christ. You are here saying, “God put that fire – that passion for being a witness back into my heart, if it takes a little persecution to burn off that dross then would you do that Lord – Help me to be a man or a woman that is on fire for you.
Maybe your witness has been diminished because there have been some large trenches dug in your relationships that need some bridges built back to them. I bridge of grace and mercy and some walls of hate, bitterness, jealousy have grown up and prevented the message from coming through loud and clear.
Maybe you have spent your life “believing” the right things – but that transformation hasn’t happened. Maybe you are here today and say, I don’t even know if I have been filled with the Holy Spirit – today can be the day that the power of God comes upon you and transforms your thinking, your living, your emotions – everything about your life. We serve a transforming God!