Sunday, November 24, 2013

Today´s Sermon

2013.11.24                                    Acts 4: 1- 13
                Persecution?  It´s a Good thing!
In our continuing study of the early church, we have come to the first persecution of the church…….
The book of Acts records for us the life and times of the early church……  Acts Chapter 4: 1- 13 will be our passage for this  morning…... We are dealing with the subject of persecution….. We should remind ourselves that the people hated Jesus….. Jesus showed them their sin and rebellion……. He shined the light of truth into their dark hearts…….. Some repented…… some hardened their hearts….. Those who refused to repent……. Hated Jesus…. They cried out for his crucifixion…..
Jesus told us that we would also be hated….  
Jesus warned that there would be hatred of the church and His followers….. It is inevitable….. And so it begins in the very early days of the church…… We have already studied the first 2 great sermons of Peter…..
The Holy Spirit filled his mouth with the Words of Life…. Many of those who heard the Good News…. Repented and were born again….. The church grew rapidly…  And by the time we come to Chapter 4: 4…. There were now many people in the early church…..
5,000 men…... Plus women and children…. By now the threat to the Jewish establishment is very serious….. They tried to get rid of Jesus Christ by killing Him…. Now His followers are going all over everywhere… proclaiming that He rose from the dead….. And it isn't a handful anymore…. There are by now thousands of them that are doing this in Jerusalem….. The Jewish rulers don´t know what to do….They're scared…… The begin to persecute the followers of Jesus….
The event that started the persecution is recorded in Chapter 3……. You remember that Peter and John went to the temple for prayer….. and entering through the gate called Beautiful…. They came across a man who  had been lame from birth…. He was probably carried there every day….   He was instantly and miraculously healed by the Power of God… He went into the Temple jumping and leaping and  praising God…… This wonderful miracle was used by the Holy Spirit to draw a huge crowd into the courtyard…..
Peter preached another great sermon on the Lord Jesus Christ……. Peter proclaimed that their Messiah truly was Jesus of Nazareth….. He reminded them that they had rejected their own Messiah and killed Him….. And he condemned them for that…... And then offered them salvation through the grace of God…… He pleaded with them to flee to the Lord Jesus for refuge…. Because the killed Jesus in ignorance…. Peter told them to repent and believe the Gospel…. As we pick up the text…. the leaders arrested them…. And the persecution of the church begins… They wanted to stop them…. They planned to beat and punish them…… They were violently angry at them…. Physical abuse and death is often what we think of when we think of the word Persecution…. But sometimes the kind of persecution that gets to your heart and mind…. may be more severe than that which gets to your body….. The kind that hits you in the area of acceptance or attacks your pride…… or makes you afraid of destroying your reputation…… may be the most subtle and devastating of all…..
Sometimes we Christians are afraid talk about Jesus as we ought to….. because of the fear that somebody might not like us……. Or the fear of being fired from a job…….
And if I'm honest in examining my own heart….. I think fear of man is what sometimes gets me to keep my mouth shut….Listen to what Paul wrote to Timothy…
2 Timothy 3:12              NKJV   Schlachter 2000
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
12 Und alle, die gottesfürchtig leben wollen in Christus Jesus, werden Verfolgung erleiden.
It's just a fact…. If you live for Christ in the face of the world….. you're going to have people react angrily to you….. maybe even hate you….…… The apostle Paul recognizes this and in Philippians 1:29 he says this….
Philippians 1: 29,30   NKJV    Schlachter 2000
29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
29 Denn euch wurde, was Christus betrifft, die Gnade verliehen, nicht nur an ihn zu glauben, sondern auch um seinetwillen zu leiden, 30 so daß ihr denselben Kampf habt, den ihr an mir gesehen habt und jetzt von mir hört.
Well this is interesting….. Paul says that it has been granted to us…… 2 things….. to believe and to suffer…. That's part of being a Christian…… That's the world´s natural response to the Christian who really lives for his Lord…...
Paul says look…. If you're doing what I'm doing….. Proclaiming the Good News….  then suffering is a part of it….. Paul says…. Don't avoid the persecution…… It´s part of the Christian life…. Tribulations teach patience…
As we live out our faith in the Lord Jesus, there will be seasons of trial and difficulty….. It can almost seem that somehow God has forgotten to help us….. Of course that is not true….. But our feelings can often seem more real than our faith…...But our faith must be tested.... not to destroy it, but to prove its character……. For faith to grow, it must be put to the test…. These tests are like weights we use when seeking to strengthen our muscles…...All of the hard times in our lives are used by our loving Heavenly Father…. for our good and His Glory…. Look at what Paul wrote in Romans 5…v3…
Romans 5: 3-5                   NKJV
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5: 3-5                   Schlachter 2000
3 Aber nicht nur das, sondern wir rühmen uns auch in den Bedrängnissen, weil wir wissen, daß die Bedrängnis standhaftes Ausharren2 bewirkt,4 das standhafte Ausharren aber Bewährung, die Bewährung aber Hoffnung;
5 die Hoffnung aber läßt nicht zuschanden werden; denn die Liebe Gottes ist ausgegossen in unsere Herzen durch den Heiligen Geist, der uns gegeben worden ist.
This is excellent….. v2 we rejoice in Hope in the Glory of God and v3… we Glory in tribulations… The greek word for (tribulations) can also be translated trials and sufferings…. Hard times are used by God to produce good things in us…. Because ultimately they produce perseverance, character and hope in us….. Sickness, heart ache, persecution, and even death….. can be used by God to make us more mature…..
If handled right… persecution is a blessed experience….. turn to James 1…. v2…
James 1:2-4                             NKJV  
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4                           Schlachter 2000
2 Meine Brüder, achtet es für lauter Freude, wenn ihr in mancherlei Anfechtungen geratet,
3 da ihr ja wißt, daß die Bewährung eures Glaubens standhaftes Ausharren bewirkt.
4 Das standhafte Ausharren aber soll ein vollkommenes Werk haben, damit ihr vollkommen und vollständig seid und es euch an nichts mangelt.
When you have problems… whether persecution or any other sort of difficulty…..  consider it a great joy…... Why? Knowing this at the trying or the testing of your faith works patience……
God has a plan….. He wants to make you patient…... Patient in persecution…… and patient in all other forms of trials and difficulties too…
James says…. Don´t escape from the difficult times….. God's going to bring you to maturity through the hard times………
Let it have it's perfecting work in you….. God has a plan…. His desire is to bring you to maturity…..
There are really two things that bring you to maturity. Number one is the Word of God…… 1Peter 2:2….. this is what makes you grow……. But number two…. God uses trials…..  and under the area of trials, persecution, suffering, problems, whatever, these two things are to bring you to maturity…... And so you must allow for persecution it's part of the process of spiritual growth…... If you're going to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus….. You need to study his word…. And you need to suffer through hard times and difficult circumstances….. As a believer…. you're going to be persecuted for your trust in the Lord Jesus……
That's part of growing…… You don't run away from it…. you accept it as from the hand of the Lord…. Because we´re still in James 1… look at v12….
James 1: 12         NKJV   Schlachter 2000
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
12 Glückselig ist der Mann, der die Anfechtung erduldet; denn nachdem er sich bewährt hat, wird er die Krone des Lebens empfangen, welche der Herr denen verheißen hat, die ihn lieben.
So what do we learn from James? We learn that persecution….. or any other form of suffering and hard times….. Persecution…. 
1 Persecution brings maturity…...
2 Persecution brings reward…..
Maturity and reward……  
We were called to suffer for our own Good….. and God´s Glory….. Here in our text today we see the first Persecution….

Peter and John and this man who was healed….. become the first Christians to be persecuted for the cause of Christ…..
look at Peter´s attitude about suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ….1 Peter 4: verse 12, 13
1 Peter 4: 12-14                 NKJV
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.[ On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
1 Peter 4: 12-14                 Schlachter 2000
12 Ihr Lieben, lasst euch durch die Hitze nicht befremden, die euch widerfährt zu eurer Versuchung, als widerführe euch etwas Seltsames,
13 sondern freut euch, dass ihr mit Christus leidet, damit ihr auch zur Zeit der Offenbarung seiner Herrlichkeit Freude und Wonne haben mögt.
14 Selig seid ihr, wenn ihr geschmäht werdet um des Namens Christi willen, denn der Geist, der ein Geist der Herrlichkeit und Gottes ist, ruht auf euch.
Isn't that wonderful…. When you are persecuted…..  The Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of God rests on you…… Glory is connected with persecution…... You want to really experience glory, persecution brings it…..
And so he simply says if you suffer….. Be happy because You have a reason to Glorify God….
Peter goes on to say in verse 16….
1 Peter 4: 16               NKJV   Schlachter 2000
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
16 wenn er aber als Christ leidet, so soll er sich nicht schämen, sondern er soll Gott verherrlichen in dieser Sache!
So what do we learn? Persecution is wonderful…… It brings growth, it brings glory, it brings joy and it brings reward….. Terrific…..  
 Peter says in 1 Peter 5:10…
1 Peter 5: 10                  NKJV   Schlachter 2000
10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
10 Der Gott aller Gnade aber, der uns berufen hat zu seiner ewigen Herrlichkeit in Christus Jesus, er selbst möge euch, nachdem ihr eine kurze Zeit gelitten habt, völlig zubereiten, festigen, stärken, gründen!
Here  glory is again connected with suffering…… All through Peter´s writings….. He connects glory with suffering…….. First comes the suffering then the glory…….
You see that's part of maturity…..
To go through persecution can be a wonderful experience…... It's growth, it's glory…... It's joy….. It's reward….  
Paul also had lots to say about suffering….. He suffered very much for the Gospel….. We won´t look at the list of trials and hard times this morning but the list is long…. 2 Cor 11…. Is a great place for you own quiet times…. Let´s look at Philippians 2….. Listen to the reason!
Philippians 2: 17,18       NKJV   Schlachter 2000
17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
17 Wenn ich aber auch wie ein Trankopfer ausgegossen werden sollte über dem Opfer und dem priesterlichen Dienst eures Glaubens, so bin ich doch froh und freue mich mit euch allen; 18 gleicherweise sollt auch ihr froh sein und euch mit mir freuen!
That is fantastic….   Paul didn't suffer for his own sake…. He said…. If my life is a sacrifice, if I have to die to reach you with the Gospel…. It´s a great thing….. I rejoice…. And I want you to rejoice with me…
Paul considered persecution a blessing…… because he was getting persecuted in order that others might hear about Jesus…… He'd go into town and he'd preach Jesus…… People get saved and they'd throw him in jail….. And he'd say, you know something, I got thrown in jail for preaching Jesus and people got saved….. Boy I ought to do more of this…..
It is not because we get joy in the suffering… is because we know that we´re suffering  so somebody else can know Jesus….. That's a blessing…..
There is a second reason that Paul suffered and this is beautiful….. Colossians 1:24….
Colossians 1: 24               NKJV    Schlachter 2000
24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
24 Jetzt freue ich mich in meinen Leiden, [die ich] um euretwillen [erleide], und ich erfülle meinerseits in meinem Fleisch, was noch an Bedrängnissen des Christus aussteht, um seines Leibes willen, welcher die Gemeinde ist.
Paul says this, "I rejoice in my sufferings for you." And as I suffer for you…. I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church…..
Paul says……
1      I suffer for you….. I suffer for your sake…….
2      I fill up in my flesh the afflictions that are meant for Christ…..
Since the world began to persecute Jesus they haven't stopped…... Today the world is still hating Jesus…... And you know what it is about you and me that the world hates? It is not us, it is Jesus…...   So that when we are persecuted,   they are really persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ……
 So persecution is a good thing….. We are allowed the wonderful privilege of taking in the arrows that  Satan meant for Jesus….. Paul said this Philippians 3:10…
Philippians 3: 10             NKJV   Schlachter 2000
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
10 Ihn möchte ich erkennen und die Kraft seiner Auferstehung und die Gemeinschaft seiner Leiden und so seinem Tode gleich gestaltet werden,
Listen my friends….. Part of knowing Jesus….. Part of true fellowship (kioninia)…. Is experiencing the fellowship of His sufferings….. The believer who is totally committed to the Lord Jesus…. can experience great joy and true fellowship when we suffer for His sake…. Just like He suffered for our sake…. So for the Christian persecution is a wonderful thing….. It produces growth….. It produces glory….. It produces reward….. It produces joy….. It produces blessing…... It produces salvation and encouragement to those hear and repent….. And it produces the privilege of identification with the Lord Jesus Christ…..  As we fill up the sufferings that are meant for Him…... Now maybe you don't love Jesus enough to want to do that…… but Peter and John did…. and so did Paul….. And so here as we look at Acts Chapter 4, we see this kind of spirit…… Peter shows us how to handle persecution when it comes…. Here´s an outline for this morning…
How to Handle persecution
1  Be submissive and wait on the Lord ….…. V1-7
2… Be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Good News…… v8-13         
3… Be obedient to God at all costs…. V 14-22
Let´s look at the  first section and the first point…
1  Be submissive and wait on the Lord ….…. Acts 4….. v1-7
Acts 4:1- 7                     NKJV
1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Acts 4: 1- 7                        Schlachter 2000
1 Während sie aber zum Volk redeten, kamen die Priester und der Hauptmann des Tempels und die Sadduzäer auf sie zu.
2 Sie waren aufgebracht darüber, daß sie das Volk lehrten und in Jesus die Auferstehung aus den Toten verkündigten.
3 Und sie legten Hand an sie und brachten sie ins Gefängnis bis zum folgenden Morgen, denn es war schon Abend.
4 Aber viele von denen, die das Wort gehört hatten, wurden gläubig, und die Zahl der Männer stieg auf etwa 5 000.
5 Es geschah aber am folgenden Morgen, daß sich ihre Obersten und Ältesten und Schriftgelehrten in Jerusalem versammelten,
6 auch Hannas, der Hohepriester, und Kajaphas und Johannes und Alexander und alle, die aus hohepriesterlichem Geschlecht waren.
7 Und sie stellten sie in ihre Mitte und fragten sie: Durch welche Kraft oder in welchem Namen habt ihr das getan?
They were arrested….  They were not afraid…. They were full of the Holy Spirit….. They were willing to trust that God knew what he was doing with the situation….
They were there because they were obeying the Lord Jesus´ call to proclaim the Good News….. They were certain that He would help them now…. As we continue to study the Book of Acts we will see that none of the Early Church resisted with physical means the persecutions… When the earth quake destroyed the Philippian jail…. Paul didn´t take off…. He knew that God had a plan…. Paul waited until he understood what the Lord wanted him to do…. That´s the first principle…. 1 Be submissive and wait on the Lord…. They got persecuted….. They got thrown in jail….. They were having a great time singing songs in there….. The place got destroyed by the quake….. Everybody   panicked…… The man was going to fall on his sword…… Paul introduced the and his whole family to Jesus…… and it all came about because of persecution…...
Paul´s patient trust in the middle of this very hard time resulted in the salvation of the jailer and his family….
2… Be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Good News…… v8-13         
Acts 4: 8-13                            NKJV    
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4: 8-13                    Schlachter 2000
8 Da sprach Petrus, vom Heiligen Geist erfüllt, zu ihnen: Ihr Obersten des Volkes und ihr Ältesten von Israel,
9 wenn wir heute wegen der Wohltat an einem kranken Menschen verhört werden, durch wen er geheilt worden ist,
10 so sei euch allen und dem ganzen Volk Israel bekanntgemacht, daß durch den Namen Jesu Christi, des Nazareners, den ihr gekreuzigt habt, den Gott auferweckt hat aus den Toten, daß dieser durch Ihn gesund vor euch steht.
11 Das ist der Stein, der von euch, den Bauleuten, verworfen wurde, der zum Eckstein geworden ist.
12 Und es ist in keinem anderen das Heil; denn es ist kein anderer Name unter dem Himmel den Menschen gegeben, in dem wir gerettet werden sollen!
13 Als sie aber die Freimütigkeit von Petrus und Johannes sahen und erfuhren, daß sie ungelehrte Leute und Laien seien, verwunderten sie sich; und sie erkannten, daß sie mit Jesus gewesen waren.
The leaders were amazed at Peter and John…. For sure they had been with Jesus… Peter let the Holy Spirit fill his mouth with the words of life…. He boldly proclaimed Jesus to the leaders of Israel…. Think of this….  Peter and John could have never arraigned a personal audience with the high Priest and the Sanhedrin….. That's how to handle persecution…. 1 be submissive….. 2 be Spirit filled and boldly use it as an opportunity to proclaim the GOOD NEWS…
The persecution was used by God to give these who killed Jesus another chance to repent and believe the Gospel…… Our job is only to be filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaim the Good News….. God does the real work of causing the New Birth and convicting the heart…… He alone brings genuine repentance….. Well they were shocked at their words and the boldness of these men….
in verse 13, I love this, "They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus."
Beginning with this event Persecution breaks out…... They remained obedient no matter what the costs…. Many of our brothers and sisters have paid for the Gospel with their lives….. Of the Apostles only John died a natural death….
No threats whether mental or physical…… no punishment….  Should ever make us disobey or betray our Lord Jesus Christ…... And if we really live Godly lives in this world…. We´re going to have the opportunity of getting persecuted…. When it happens… It will not be easy….. But the Lord Jesus will see us through those hard times…… We will be blessed…. We will make a difference in this lost and dying world….

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