Welcome to week 3 of To Be Continued. We’ve been continuing the story of what happened after Jesus came back from the dead.
If you’re just joining us, let me quickly catch you up…
We talked about how he hung out for 40 days and then ascended to heaven. Then ten days later the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost in dramatic fashion. Peter and the Apostles started speaking in different languages and the church grew to 3,000 in one day. A little while later, Peter and John heal a paralyzed guy and get in trouble for it, but they keep preaching anyway and finally get flogged for it but even that doesn’t stop them. And in the middle of that God also made it clear that hypocrisy would not be tolerated in his new church by the death of Ananias and Sapphire who picked the wrong time to lie to God.
Last week we ended with the prophetec words of Gamaliel when he said that if this movement was from God that there was nothing that could stop it. Turns out he was right, and we are witnesses of that now 2,000 years later.
But the story didn’t stop there.
Last week we ended with Acts 5. Today we will pick it up in Acts 6.
Some time has passed and the church is continuing to grow rapidly.
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The church got organized. If you remember from the previous chapters, the church was all about sharing and taking care of each other. So, the more people there were, the more intense became the logistics of things like food distribution for widows and such. The Apostles, who had been the clear leaders from the start – hence people who sold things would give them the money – were now becoming so busy with these administrative duties that it was hurting their true calling to prayer and the teaching of the word.
Remember they didn’t have the New Testament like we have. The Apostles were the only authorized teachers – having been in direct contact with Jesus and specifically sent by him to spread the good news. If THEY weren’t preaching the word, then people simply weren’t getting it. So, something needed to be done.
They designated 7 good men to take over these duties, and the church had it’s first set of deacons. (probably funnier if we were a traditional church). And because this freed up the Apostles to do what they were called to do, the church continued to grow and even a large number of priests became followers (not any of the chief priests, but there were many underlings).
So, things were good. Everyone’s loving God and loving each other. They get to hear the Apostles teach all the time and everyone’s needs are being met. It’s quite beautiful – and really something that we are striving to recreate here at Reality.
But things were about to change.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
Stephen was one of the seven just named, and clearly had quite an anointing from God. He was able to do signs and wonders – probably healing. And he was able to stand up and debate with Jews from several different areas – and win. Not because he was so awesome, but because the Holy Spirit was working through him. A continued theme throughout this story of the first days of the church. And again, this is the same Holy Spirit that lives inside of all who claim Jesus Christ as Lord.
Well, the Unbelieving Jews were not liking this and tempers were starting to rise…
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
So, just like they did for Jesus, they bring in false witnesses who try to stir up the people with false claims about what he said. What they claimed was not entirely untrue, but was definitely twisted.
Stephen was assuredly quoting Jesus quite a bit, and Jesus did say that he would destroy this temple and build it back up again – but he was talking about his own body. And it is true that Jesus came to fulfill the law and change the customs from Moses – which was a good thing, though the old guard didn’t think so.
So, they’re all yelling around him and trying to get him into trouble, when suddenly something catches their eye and likely silences them for a moment.
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
We don’t know exactly what that looked like, but clearly it must have been something impressive – probably a lot like what Moses looked like after he got the ten commandments. His face shined so brightly he needed a veil to hide it from the people. And here was Stephen about to be lynched and God is showing everyone that he, like Moses, was speaking for God.
1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
Then Stephen continues with a rather long recounting of their shared Jewish history, which I will summarize for you. He begins with Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob, who God changed his name to Israel, and his 12 sons, who became the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel.
He told about how Jacob’s son Joseph after being sold into slavery became powerful in Egypt just in time to save his family from the famine, and how Israel’s descendants became slaves in Egypt for 400 years. God responded by calling Moses to free them, and after some amazing displays of power they were free – but once they were free the people wouldn’t listen to Moses and kept doing things wrong and worshiping other gods, so God let them wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
Stephen points out that during that time, God gave Israel the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle, and how it was eventually Solomon who built the first Temple – the House of God – which was the precursor to the Temple they are currently standing in. To which, I’m sure they were all nodding their approval and feeling proud that they were the chosen people and that God himself lived among them in this fine piece of architecture.
Now he has them where he wants them and he drops the bomb…
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.
As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’
He’s using their own beloved scriptures against them. He’s showing them that they are fools to think that God really lives in this temple of wood and stone, thus insinuating that their pride is misplaced. Basically, he just called them a bunch of idiots. Then he goes for the throat!
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
I don’t think you and I can fully grasp just how extremely insulting that was to his audience. Their whole claim to importance and self-righteousness rested in all the sacred laws they had memorized. He was basically telling them that despite all of their learnedness and tradition, they are just as evil as their ancestors who killed every prophet that spoke for God – the same prophets that these people now read as their guides. And not only that, but he is telling them that they, themselves, have betrayed and murdered the Righteous One Himself – the Son of God – The Messiah they’d been waiting for centuries for!
And if that wasn’t bad enough – claiming Jesus to be the Son of God was blasphemy in their eyes – the unforgivable sin! It’s what got Jesus killed. And it’s about to get Stephen killed. But the real slap in the face was in the final verse:
53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.
He’s saying to them that they’ve had the truth in their laps the whole time but they’ve been to stubborn or too stupid to see it!
At this the crowd erupts!
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
The Greek here is interesting. The Greek translated as “furious” here is actually a phrase διεπρίοντο ταῖς καρδίαις which literally means to saw in two the heart. It’s a phrase describing the heart being torn in two and resulting in furious anger! It’s what happens when a guilty person is caught in their sin and as they are confronted with the truth as it slices through their heart and exposes them.
If you remember in Acts 2, the people listening to Peter were “cut to the heart” as well, but it led to repentance and salvation. The Greek is a little different between the two scenes, but this shows that God’s truth always has one of two effects on people. It either brings you to repentance, humility – or your pride causes rejection and an explosion of anger.
It’s just like what Jesus said when he called himself the stone the builders rejected.
Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.
You can’t be indifferent about Christ. You will either love Him or hate Him. If you do neither, it’s because you’ve never really met him.
These people that Stephen is talking to had mostly all met Jesus and hated him.
They conspired to get him killed, hoping to do away with him. But it didn’t work.
Then they threatened, imprisoned, and even beat Peter and John who would not stop talking about him.
Now there’s this guy Stephen who keeps winning all the debates with their chief priests, and now he has the audacity to point the finger at them! But they know they are guilty, and so they are furious and gnashing their teeth at him.
The water is boiling but at the moment it’s still in the pot.
Then Stephen says something that causes it to explode!
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
That’s the same thing Jesus had said to them on the night he was being framed. Jesus had predicted that very thing after the high priest asked him point blank if he was the Son of God:
Matthew 26:64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
To which the chief priest responded with tearing his clothes and shouting, “Blasphemy!” And dragging Jesus off to Pilate.
Well, the same thing happens here. Imagine the frustration and anger. They thought they were done with this Jesus, and now Stephen is claiming to see him standing at the right hand of God just like he said he would be.
And the pot boils over.
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
They become an enraged angry mob. They can’t even allow their ears to hear any more! The truth was just too painful for them! They grab Stephen and forcefully drag him out of the city walls (because you can’t kill someone inside the city) and they stone him in their rage!
Now, official stoning as commanded in Jewish law was not just a bunch of people throwing rocks at someone. They would first throw the person off of a cliff – probably 10 to 30 feet. Then the witnesses who accused the person would take turns throwing large stones down on him until dead.
But since this was more of a lynch mob, many commentators believe this one was more like you would imagine, where they throw stones in anger until they’ve shut him up for good! Either way, it’s not a pleasant way to die.
Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. (who later becomes the Apostle Paul)
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
What a testament to the Spirit of Christ being inside of Stephen that he would emulate Christ himself in asking God to forgive his killers.
Up until this point the chief priests and pharisees had been careful not to do anything drastic, but this was the last straw. They were sick and tired of this Jesus fellow still getting in their way, and this Stephen guy had gone too far and the pot of anger and hatred boiled over into murder…again.
And it didn’t stop there…
8:1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in 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 both men and women and put them in prison.
This was a turning point.
Before this, the new church had lived in relative peace and harmony and enjoyed all that fellowship and sharing and such. It was wonderful and totally what God wanted them to do. So, why did God allow the murder of Stephen and the persecution to scatter the church?
Well, the murder of Stephen, though tragic, only added to the testimony of the power of the Holy Spirit.
And God needed to scatter the church because otherwise it probably wouldn’t have obeyed his command to“go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) in the Great Commission or when he said “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
So far they had stayed only in Jerusalem. So, as is usually the case with us comfort seeking humans – God has to light a fire under us to get us to move. So, God allowed them to be persecuted so they would GO!
And we too must remember this. Here at Reality, we are getting really good at doing life together. We eat together all the time. We spend lots of time together outside of Sunday morning. It feels good, and it is good. God wants us to do that. But we cannot only do that. We cannot only stay huddled up together where it is comfortable. WE MUST ALSO SCATTER so that we can bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those who are not already among us.
This is why one half of our mission is to Love Others in Community Involvement. This is why we feed the homeless and partner with the CPC. This is why we are doing the Walk for Life!
But it’s more than that, we must do more. We must keep pushing the envelope for what else can we do to reach beyond our walls and our homes. Because if we don’t do it on our own…God might make us. And it’s always better to cooperate with God early rather than late.
So, if you haven’t signed up for the Walk For Life or the JCOC breakfast or the Jail Ministry yet – what are you waiting for? Something unpleasant to happen to get you to move?
It’s kind of like how we see certain celebrities that become champions for curing some disease – after they’ve been personally effected by it.
Why not save yourself the trouble and just do it now?
And lest we forget that when we do things for the least of these – we are doing it for Jesus!
Family is good, togetherness is good – God blessed the Acts 2 church because of all that. But then he scattered them in chapter 8 so they would GO as he commanded them. And we must do the same.
The rest of this chapter in Acts covers a few stories that came from this scattering. I’m not going to read it in detail because I want to get to something else, but I’ll touch on some of the highlights. You can read the rest on your own.
Philip (not the Apostle, but one of the seven chosen like Stephen) went to Samaria and had great success there. Many were saved. So much so that Peter and John made there way up there and also had great success. They also ran into a sorcerer named Simon who thought he could buy the Holy Spirit, but Peter set him straight.
After this, Philip had an interesting experience. This I’ll read…
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Very cool. Philip listened to the Spirit and was in the right place at the right time to bring someone to Christ. The Spirit will do the same for you if you will listen and obey.
This also shows how Christ was indeed predicted in the Old Testament. It’s actually the only Bible the original evangelists had to spread the Gospel. They used the OT to preach the good news about Christ. So, in your reading, don’t just stay in the NT.
Then the Spirit whisks him away and plops him down many miles away to do more preaching. Amazing!
Now, because God allowed some discomfort, the gospel was spreading beyond the walls of Jerusalem.
Now comes a very personal turning point that literally changed the world…
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As we learn from Saul/Paul’s later writings, Saul was a very proud and zealous man. Here’s how he describes later himself in his letter to the Philippians…
4 If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Basically, in the eyes of the Jewish world, he was perfect. He had all the accolades. The right birthright, the right upbringing, the right religion, and he was perfect at it. Yet it was all self-righteousness, and thus he hated this new Way that threatened to destroy everything his life was built upon and the thousands of years of history he prided his people on. So, he was determined to wipe it out, and with the death of Stephen, the Jews showed they had the resolve to carry it out – so he stepped up and volunteered to lead the charge. He was going to put an end to this blasphemy once and for all, whatever it takes.
He had HIS plans to go up to Damascus and round up a bunch of these heretics, but it turned out God’s plans were different…
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
So, Jesus appears to Saul in all of his glory. A bright light blinds him. Then Jesus asks Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” Obviously Jesus knew why.
Saul knows that whoever is doing this must be God or from God, so he calls him Lord.
Then Jesus let’s him know who he is.
Can you imagine what Saul felt like in that moment? Everything he stood for and had been so proud about had just been dramatically destroyed. Now he was face to face with his worst fear. It turns out the Jesus he had wanted to destroy really was the Son of God, the Messiah, and he had just knocked Saul to the ground and blinded him. I tell you what, God knows how to get our attention when He wants to. Some of us require more drastic measures than others.
So, for three days he sat in silence thinking and praying.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
Isn’t it funny when viewing things in hindsight how silly it is to talk to God as if he didn’t already know something, as if he was going to say – “Oh, I’m sorry, I totally forgot all that stuff. Sorry for waking you up. False alarm”
But seriously, can you really blame him? He was genuinely terrified of Saul. Saul had come there to arrest him and his friends. Now the Lord was telling him to go talk to him, and give him is sight back?
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Jesus is saying, “I know what I’m doing. Trust me. It’s going to be harder for him than for you. But this is necessary.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
What faith on the part of Ananias. This is the last we hear about him in the story, but because of him – millions have come to know Christ. Sure, God could have fixed Saul up another way if Ananias had refused. But because he obeyed, millions will some day say thank you to him up in heaven. The lesson there is that you don’t have to be a Peter or a Paul to make an impact for the kingdom. Sometimes just one little act of faith that seems totally unimportant at the time, could have global and eternal ripples in the Kingdom of God. Be faithful in sharing the faith as the Spirit leads you. You never know, that co-worker might be the next Billy Graham.
So, Saul is healed of his blindness and immediately does the first act of obedience that every Christian is called to: he is baptized. Then he eats and regains his strength.
The story continues…
19 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Can you imagine if Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris (both widely spoken Atheists and God haters) showed up tomorrow preaching the gospel? Preaching the exact opposite of what they’ve been preaching for years? Astonished would be putting it mildly. But that’s effectively the equivalent of what happened here.
Everyone in town knew that Saul was headed their way to drag them to jail, but when he get’s there, instead of arresting anyone, he starts preaching that Jesus is the Son of God!
And isn’t it fascinating that with all of his learning before, he was not able to see the truth – and yet now he was able to adeptly prove Jesus was the Messiah in the same scriptures he likely used to deny the Christ before? Again, the power of the Holy Spirit to change everything about a person.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
The “many days” referred to here was actually three years. Paul later describes in his letter to the Galatians that right after his conversion, he went to Arabia for three years – where Jesus himself taught him the Gospel – and then he returned to Damascus where he began preaching.
Apparently he wasn’t welcomed by all…
So they plotted to kill him. Not just arrest him, but kill him. Again we see that Jesus was right when he said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword.
Jesus doesn’t bring the world together in peace and harmony where we can all ignore our differences and get along. No, he makes it so every person must decide whether they are with him or against him. You can’t sit on the edge of the blade. It will cut you in half like it did the Pharisees that killed Stephen. The truth of Jesus demands that you either accept it and love him, or reject it and hate him.
And that’s what these people had chosen. They would not accept the truth, so they had to kill it. They’d killed Stephen, and now they’re going to kill Saul. But in this case, Saul escapes with the help of some friends. God wasn’t done using him.
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
Again, you can’t really blame them. I’d be skeptical if Richard Dawkins or Bill Nye wanted to join our church. But fortunately for Saul, he had made a friend that would vouch for him.
27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
So, Saul gets accepted into the church he had earlier tried to destroy. And again the Jews are trying to kill him, so he moves on. This wouldn’t be the last time that happens.
31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Apparently the conversion of the ring leader put a halt to the persecution movement, and the church grew in peace for awhile now that they were doing what they were supposed to do – going into all nations. And we will see in the coming chapters that with Saul, soon to be called Paul, on their side – the church was about to see an expansion that no one could have predicted.
The once Christian Killer was now a Christian himself. One minute he is breathing out murderous threats on His Followers, the next he is proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as his own Lord with boldness to all who would listen.
What a change!
But as impressive as the Apostle Paul would become, he is really just one story of many. Many, many, many lives that have been changed, transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. I am one of those stories. And so are many of you.
And just like for Saul/Paul – God didn’t change me for me. And he didn’t change you for you. Yes, in some sense he did. He saved you and redeemed you so that you can spend eternity in heaven with him. But that’s not the only reason. He also changed me and he changed you so that he can USE me and USE you, like he USED Paul, and he USED Peter, and all the others. He changes us, so he can use us to expand his kingdom. To bring others into the family. To share the good news that you don’t have to die in your sins. You don’t have to try to be good enough. There is a God who loves you so much he sent his own son to die for you, and his name was and is Jesus Christ. He died for you but he rose again, and because of that we will live if we put our trust, our faith in him instead of ourselves or the world.
And when others hear about this, and they choose to say yes – then their lives are charged as well. But God doesn’t give everyone a blinding light experience like he did for Saul.
For most He just sends people like you and me into their life to show them who Jesus is in the way we live and love.
Let us not waste the miracle God has granted to us by keeping it to ourselves. One, because we shouldn’t, and two, because if we do, God might do what he did to the early church to get us off of our butts.
I’d rather just learn the lesson from them rather than having to touch the stove to see if it’s hot.
So, today, I challenge you, us, Reality Church to make today a turning point for us.
For almost a year now, we’ve been building the family here at Reality. We’ve been spending lots of time together. I would even say that we are resembling the Acts 2 church. Devoted to God’s Word, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. And that is great and wonderful and we should keep doing that and even do it more.
But Acts has more than two chapters. It actually has 28, and right here in Acts 8 the church of Acts 2 didn’t get to stay like that entirely. They still remained devoted to God’s Word, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. But they did so all over the place rather than just Jerusalem. Because God had them scattered.
And so, we too must scatter. I’m not saying you need to go to another church. I’m saying that we need to scatter throughout our city – our work places and schools, our leisure and fun activities, we need to scatter like we already do throughout the week – but with a purpose.
We need to share the good news with them. We need to talk with them. Invite them to church or one of our events.
Tell them there’s free food! Which is pretty much true most of the time because we like to eat together.
Tell them about the family you are a part of here, and invite them to be a part of it.
Because just like your life needed changing by the transforming, restoring power of Jesus Christ- so does their’s.