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Acts: The Gospel in Motion  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Upsetting the Equilibrium
Prominent Christian man on instagram who believed in God and changed His mind said this:
“Suffice it to say that when I began to believe that the Bible was simply a book written by people as flawed and imperfect as I am - that was when my belief in God truly began to unravel. Once I found that I didn't believe the Bible was the Perfect Word of God - it didn't take long to realize that I was no longer sure he was there at all.”
This is coming to be a regular occurence. We will see this happen more often. When hard times come, when persecution come, when life just doesn’t make sense, it is easy to forget God and stop believing that He exists. Our faith crumbles.
That’s certainly one way to go about it. Our text today sees the Early church tackle persecution and problems a little differently. Turn to:
Acts 4:23–31 NRSV
23 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25 it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ 27 For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
The Word of God for the people of God: thanks be to God!
Analyzing the Discrepancy
A. After Healing
People were convicted to change
Peter addressed the crowds wonderment
5000 people were added that day because of this healing
Peter and John Arrested
Taken to the chief priests and elders
Were told to stop proclaiming Jesus
Returned to “friends”
Immediately go and seek out brothers and sisters in Christ
Raised voices together praying to God
B. Prayer to God
Amidst their suffering and persecution, they still recognize God as sovereign
God is sovereign, but that doesn’t mean all things that happen are his choice
Free will and choice
Reciting Scripture
Where does the Bible come from?
God - written by humans inspired by the Holy Spirit
David was a mouthpiece of God
They quote Psalm 2 to explain their situation
Rulers took matters into their own hands
Herod and Pontius Pilate, chief priest and elders, people of Israel
Against Jesus and His teaching
Now again they are still against Jesus
They don’t ask to be rid of persecution (not around the valley of darkness)
They ask for boldness (through the valley of darkness)
Boldness to continue speaking
Serving is good, but speaking is the problem
Recognize that God is doing the healing and wonders and signs in Jesus name
God grants their request
Earthquake when they finished praying and they were filled with the Holy Spirit
They went and spoke the word of God with boldness
Disclosing the Clue to Resolution
C. Early Christians beset on all sides
Jewish leaders didn’t want them to speak about Jesus
Afraid of losing their power and influence
Saw it as a rebellion against Jewish customs and culture
Roman leaders didn’t want them to speak about Jesus
Saw it as an uprising against the government (loud moving people)
Wanted to keep the establishment and didn’t want war between Jews and Christians
For this the church was persecuted
Threats of imprisonment
Promise of death or severe punishment
Experiencing the Gospel
D. Instead, they prayed for boldness
Peter and John weren’t dismayed, but prayed to God
They gathered with other believers, their friends, to pray with them
They believed and had faith God would give them what they needed
Not a way out, not away from persecution
A way to face it head on
Prayed for boldness and it was given to them
Ask and you will receive
Knock and the door will be answered
By the power of the Holy Spirit, they were then able to continue preaching the gospel
Anticipating the Conseqences
E. America is Rome
Rome look familiar
Biggest, most prominent, powerful, prominent nation in the world
Citizens lived lavish lifestyles
Multiple religions, multiple spiritualities, multiple gods, multiple goddesses.
Their values included tolerance and diversity.
They had widespread sexual sin. Homosexuality was very popular. Bisexuality was very popular. Cohabitation before marriage was frequent. Adultery within marriage was common.
They also had child sacrifice where if they didn’t like the baby, they would kill it.
Rome is America
This should give us HOPE
If the Holy Spirit could work through people in that day for this kind of great mission, he could do the same through us in our day.
F. We are going to have to suffer
More people meet Jesus, more critics rise up. More good things happen, more critics rise up. More people are saved, more critics rise up.
The church moves forward in Acts, the opposition escalates and it only gets worse the more you read
We don’t like to think about that
We don’t tell people that when we tell them the Gospel
We weren’t told that some people will hate you. They will say horrible things about you. It may cost you a job. Your parents may turn their back on you. It’s going to be very difficult
2 Timothy 3:12 NRSV 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
If this were written in American Christianity it would say “all…will be blessed”
You’re sick? Come to Jesus. You’re poor? Come to Jesus. You’re single? Come to Jesus. You’re married? Come to Jesus.
Whatever you want, come to Jesus. He’ll bless you. He’ll give you a job. He’ll give you health. He’ll give you prosperity. He’ll give you a spouse. He’ll give you children. He’ll give you joy. Whatever you want, come to Jesus.
Jesus is the big piñata in the sky. Bring your stick and make your ask, right?
When people face persecution and suffering, they say it isn’t what they signed up
Sure you will be blessed in some seasons, but you will also face persecution
They want prosperity in this life
G. Two types of suffering
Persecution when you’re thrown to lions and beheaded and beaten and imprisoned
Physical harm, drastic change of life and limb
They want to silence you by killing you or beating it out of you
Persecution when you’re thrown to critics
Relational harm, status downgrade, job removal, familial breaking
They want to silence you by shaming you
The goal of both kinds of persecution is, “Don’t talk about Jesus. We’ll kill you or shame you. We just want to silence you. Stop talking about him.”
We don’t get a lot of the first type of persecution: we aren’t often fearful of our lives
We do have media outlets who make living for Christ seem taboo
We see people wanting things of the world and are outspoken against Jesus
Political lines
H. Reason for this persecution in America
Not about serving
No one is going to reject us serving them
No one is against healing
The hands and feet aspect of Jesus no one is going to reject (they might wonder)
It’s about the truth and about speaking the gospel of Jesus
The reason why Christian artists and popular “Christians” are declaring there is no God is because they stopped believing in the truth of the Bible
Talk about recent news
They had faith, then wanted to edit the Bible
They want to edit it, cut out the parts that doesn’t fit with the culture or doesn’t fit their idea of God
When that doesn’t work out for them, they reject God
Thomas Jefferson sat down with a pair of scissors and the Bible to cut out the parts that he didn’t like or agree with. He ended up with a shorter version of the NT he called the “Philosophy of Jesus”
This is where the wall crumbles for many people
If you don’t believe that the Bible in the Holy Word of God in-errantly revealing everything we need for our salvation, then:
You can’t see persecution and come to the sovereign God for prayer and help. To reject God’s Word is to reject God and His sovereignty.
You can’t believe that God is going to do wonders and signs and healing
You can’t ask have faith in Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God
It’s seemingly much easier to live this life without God or a god
No persecution, no problems, no having to defend your faith
I. Response
Instead of turning away from God when we see this persecution or when we face it ourselves, we must do as the early church did
Go to God in prayer
Not just by yourself
Come humbly and willing to hear from God
Have the Holy Word written on your heart
Ask for boldness from God to speak and to say what He wants
Anticipate the working of the Holy Spirit in your life
If you’re new, we aren’t trying to scare you away
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