I'm going to go a little out of chronological order today and discuss a topic that was on my mind this morning.
Yesterday I explained that after reading through Acts I noticed many things different from the believers of the early church and us today. There were thought patterns, mindsets, and lifestyle differences that they had that we don't and I firmly believe that we need them. We need to change in order to see God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven in the power that the early church saw it.
Today I'm going to talk about persecution. I cannot speak for those of you reading, but I can speak for myself. I don't like persecution. Who does? There are many times that I am persecuted verbally for what I believe and I always leave those conversations a little discouraged and disheartened. I don't believe that the early church "enjoyed" persecution, but they certainly were not afraid of it. Persecution did not hinder them from continuing to be bold witnesses of the gospel. Let's go to the Word.
"Now as they observed the CONFIDENCE of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."
Peter and John had just been put in jail for preaching the gospel (you can see how early on the persecution started). When questioned and threatened without hesitation and full of the Holy Spirit, Peter just spoke the truth of Jesus. And I use verse 13 because I love the end of the verse... I hope that when people look at me they will recognize that I've been with Jesus :)
In Acts 5 we see ole' Peter once again in front of the council. Told not to preach the gospel, He boldly says to them, "We must obey God rather than men" (v.29) They were flogged (beaten) and told not to preach the gospel.
v. 41,42 "So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Not only were they persecuted and warned, but they left rejoicing!!! And they kept right on preaching Jesus.
We live in a country where the worst persecution (at this time) that will befall most of us is simple verbal abuse and yet we often allow this to keep us from opening our mouths.
Acts 8:35 Then Phillip OPENED HIS MOUTH, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
In Acts 8 Phillip opened his mouth and spoke the truth of Jesus Christ and an Ethiopian was converted. We have been called to be witnesses throughout the world, but especially in those we are daily around. We are suppose to open our mouths and speak the truth of who Jesus Christ is, but all to often fear of rejection, mistreatment, embarrassment, keeps us from fulfilling our purpose. I'm in awe of what the early church went through and yet continued to boldly witness.
We have been given the same Holy Spirit, the same truth, we know the same Jesus, what is stopping us?
Here's the last piece of scripture I'll use, but it's one that really hits home with me.
And Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him he got up and entered the city.
Paul was in Lystra ministering the gospel, Jews came and stoned him what they thought was to death, so obviously Paul was pretty badly beat up. However, he got up. Now check this out.
V.21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
Paul was stoned nearly to death, persecuted harshly, and yet he arose off the ground and returned to the exact places to the people who had tried to kill him.
Paul knew the heart of God. The heart of God was for people to be saved, so that He can spend eternity with His children.
I won't tell the whole story again because i've shared it so many times, but the story of the two young Moravians that sold themselves into slavery and as they're leaving for a lifetime of slavery so that some people will hear the gospel they cry out
"May the lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering"
These disciples, the moravians, are they radicals? Are they extremists? They simply understand the heart of their Father and are willing to give their lives away in order to see people come to know our God.
Oh Lord, help me to die to myself.