Saturday, August 6, 2016

6 August 2016

“And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” Acts 2:6 (NRSV)

“…but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them-in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” Acts 5:39 (NRSV)

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 (NLT)

            Yesterday we made a brief case for the existence of a force that stands in opposition to God and everything He purposes to do. Today we will look at how the church fared in the face of this opposition; Monday we return to Matthew. The same forces that opposed Jesus while He was alive continued to oppose persecute His followers. Peter and John are brought before the council for healing a cripple. They are arrested, jailed, and flogged for preaching in Jesus’ name. Stephen is stoned; Saul is sent to Damascus to persecute Christians there.
            After Stephen the Church begins its outward movement. Philip goes to Samaria. Paul is converted on the way to Damascus. The Jews there try to kill him; he flees in a basket. Peter goes to Cornelius and preaches to the Gentiles. They receive the Holy Spirit; God shows His salvation plan is for everyone, Jew and Gentile. The persecution that resulted from Stephen’s stoning drives Christians farther outward, to Phoenicia, to Cyprus, to Antioch. Herod has James brother of John put to death and Peter arrested. The church prays; God miraculously intervenes; Peter escapes. Do you sense what is happening here? Then forces of opposition intended to silence these Christians once and for all only serve to further the cause.
            Around this time Paul begins the first of three missionary journeys; he will plant churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Along the way he will be stoned and left for dead, beaten, whipped, jailed. Everywhere Paul goes he is followed and harassed by a group of trouble-making Jews. These Jews incite the people; they incite the civil authorities; they challenge Paul’s apostolic authority and accused him of all manner of false teaching. Throughout it all the church thrives. Persecution is so fierce John, in his old age, is compelled by God to write a book of assurance; a book that presents the definitive end to all opposition and clearly establishes God’s authority and final victory.
            Now, I realize I have left a whole lot out here, but the points remain. Opposition to God has existed since the beginning. Persecution will come. God will deliver His people through this persecution and we will come out the other side victorious. Some of us will suffer for the faith; some of us may die for the faith. Jesus never promised we would have it easy. He did promise we will be blessed in our persecution, if we persevere.
  May The Lord bless you and keep you this day. Don’t forget to spend time in worship with your brothers and sisters tomorrow. Lord willing, I will see you all Monday. JRG

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