Sunday, December 1, 2013

Todays Sermon

Persecution?               It´s a good thing! part 2
  Acts 4: 13- 37        First Advent            2013.12.01
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: 13- 37 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….
Jesus told us that we would also be hated…. 
This great passage teaches us how to handle persecution or any other difficult times when they happen to us…. And there are seven basic principles here in this text for handling persecution……
Last week, we looked at the first 2….. let's review the first 2 from last week……..
How to Handle persecution
1  Be submissive and wait on the Lord ….…. V1-7
They did not resist the Sanhedrin when they were arrested…. They were filled with the Spirit…. They were not afraid…. They trusted the Lord in the middle of this great trial…. they were submissive……. They said this in their minds…… God has allowed this….
 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…. And they didn't fight against it…… They...when persecution came, they willingly submitted to it……

Second principle we saw last week, not only be submissive to persecution, but secondly,
2… Be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Good News…… v8-13         
Verse 8, "Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit."
You get into a situation like that and you're going to have to lean on some power other than your own. And so he yielded to the Spirit of God, he and John. And that was victory in itself right there…… They didn't try to handle the situation in their own strength….  They yielded to the Holy Spirit……. He gave them the words to answer the Sanhedrin….
They got into this situation and they saw an open door to present the Lord Jesus Christ….. right in the middle of a persecution….. And it would have been so easy to say boy am I scared and we may never get out of this….. See? And they didn't really have any historical precedence as a church either…… This was brand new stuff…… And they could have panicked at that point and just kind of faded away and just clammed up, but they didn't….. They    could have watered down their message…… 
Instead they used it as an opportunity to present Christ…… Jesus said…. Go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature….. Even though it was very dangerous…. They proclaimed the Good News to the  Sanhedrin…..
In verses 8-13 Peter preaches Jesus…… And he even indicts them for crucifying Him…..And then in verse 12 he says….
Acts 4:12    NKJV   Schlachter 2000
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.”
12 Und es ist in keinem anderen das Heil1; denn es ist kein anderer Name unter dem Himmel den Menschen gegeben, in dem wir gerettet werden sollen!
He lays it on the line…… He says, guys the only hope is Jesus….. This man was saved and made whole by Jesus…..
And so they are bold….. They show unbelievable boldness in the face of persecution….. and in the presence of  the Sanhedrin the highest court in Israel…… These were the very people who killed Jesus….  That's how to handle persecution….
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
boldly use it as an opportunity to preach Jesus….  
Let´s pickup where we left off last week…. Acts 4:13…
Acts 4: 13   NKJV    Schlachter 2000
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.
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…. They did not know what would happen to them…… Peter could have been signing his own death sentence by rebuking these men….. They could kill these three men….. But Peter is now filled with the Holy Spirit…. These words are from the Lord through the Holy Spirit….. He speaks boldly because he knows the he belongs to the Lord Jesus….. He has been bought with a price…. This shows us the next point….
3… Be obedient to God at all costs….
Use those hard times…. as an opportunity to present the LORD JESUS Christ……  Verses 14-22….
Acts 4: 14- 22                        NKJV
14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
Acts 4: 14- 22                        Schlachter 2000
14 Da sie aber den Menschen bei ihnen stehen sahen, der geheilt worden war, konnten sie nichts dagegen sagen.
15 Da befahlen sie ihnen, aus dem Hohen Rat hinauszugehen, und beratschlagten miteinander und sprachen:
16 Was sollen wir mit diesen Menschen tun? Denn daß ein offenkundiges Zeichen durch sie geschehen ist, das ist allen Bewohnern von Jerusalem bekannt, und wir können es nicht leugnen.
17 Aber damit es sich nicht weiter unter dem Volk verbreitet, wollen wir ihnen ernstlich drohen, damit sie künftig zu keinem Menschen mehr in diesem Namen reden!
18 Und sie ließen sie rufen und geboten ihnen, überhaupt nicht mehr in dem Namen Jesus zu reden noch zu lehren.
19 Aber Petrus und Johannes antworteten ihnen und sprachen: Entscheidet ihr selbst, ob es vor Gott recht ist, euch mehr zu gehorchen als Gott!
20 Denn es ist uns unmöglich, nicht von dem zu reden, was wir gesehen und gehört haben!
21 Sie aber drohten ihnen noch weiter und ließen sie frei, weil sie wegen des Volkes keinen Weg fanden, sie zu bestrafen; denn alle priesen Gott über dem, was geschehen war.
22 Der Mensch, an dem dieses Zeichen der Heilung geschehen war, war nämlich über 40 Jahre alt.
verse 14… the man they healed is there and everyone knew him….
What are you going to say? What could they do…?
They couldn't argue about it….. and they couldn't deny it….. But they wouldn't accept it as from God either….. This is the blindness of sin….. Here they were face to face with truth…..with The Miraculous Instant Power of God Working through these who had been with Jesus….   and they blindly closed their eyes…. Why have they blinded themselves to the truth? Because they don't want to come to the light….. because if they come to the light their deeds will be shown to be evil…. So they know the truth, but they avoid the truth….. John 3
That's the character of unbelief….. In the face of absolute evidence, they reject it all….. 
They brought them in and threatened them….
 v18…. Do not speak and do not teach in the name of Jesus…... They command them never to mention Jesus again….. And I'm sure they put all their authority behind it……
Notice this please…  The early church had to be commanded to be quiet….. and today church has to be begged to open their mouths…..  So they desperately wanted to be rid of the name of Jesus…… You know, it's such a strange thing, but they had thought they might get rid of Him when they killed Him….. but they didn't…..
Now today….. they still can't get rid of the name of Jesus…… Now there are  thousands of people running all over Jerusalem proclaiming Him…... And it just got worse…..
And here they hope that they had gotten rid of Jesus when they killed Him….. and now they hope they can get rid of Him by shutting up Peter and John……
Peter and John recognized the higher authority….. Jesus…. Jesus said "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
So, you know, if they had been like me and like most of us, they'd have probably said now, look let's not say anything….. I think they will let us go…. 
But no…. Because they are filled with the Holy Spirit they are very bold….. Verse 19…
Acts 4:19      NKJV    Schlachter 2000
19"Peter and John answered and said unto them, whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."
19 Aber Petrus und Johannes antworteten ihnen und sprachen: Entscheidet ihr selbst, ob es vor Gott recht ist, euch mehr zu gehorchen als Gott!
He says, you're the supreme court of Israel…... You judge this question…..
Is it right to listen to you…… or God? WOW!
They are filled with a Holy Boldness…… They stand their ground…..  they don't sneak away….
You see there comes a point when you must be obedient to God….. No matter what the consequences….
Acts 4:20    NKJV   Schlachter 2000
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
20 Denn es ist uns unmöglich, nicht von dem zu reden, was wir gesehen und gehört haben!
They're putting their life on the line….. They know it, but they want to be obedient….. They cannot shut up….
You see, whenever conflict arises between the command of God and the command of men….   We obey God….. 
When persecution comes….. And It will…. We can't be silent…..
Verse 20…
Acts 4:20-22                    NKJV 
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
Acts 4:20-22                   Schlachter 2000
20 Wir können's ja nicht lassen, von dem zu reden, was wir gesehen und gehört haben.
21 Da drohten sie ihnen und ließen sie gehen um des Volkes willen, weil sie nichts fanden, was Strafe verdient hätte; denn alle lobten Gott für das, was geschehen war.
22 Denn der Mensch war über vierzig Jahre alt, an dem dieses Zeichen der Heilung geschehen war.
They were stuck…. They could not punish them….  Everyone praised God for what had happened…… The rulers were afraid of the people and so they just had to let them go… 
They obeyed the Lord and this time…. They were delivered out of the hands of the enemies of Jesus….. Because the Lord had more work for them to do….
And so we are also called to be obedient to our Lord and Master…. The Lord Jesus…. No matter what the cost……. How do you handle persecution?
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
4… Keep the unity of the Holy Spirit.….. v23
look at verse 23. "And being let go, they went to their own company." Hang in there together….. They knew that they needed each other….. 

Acts 4:23     NKJV   Schlachter 2000
23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
 23 Als sie aber freigelassen waren, kamen sie zu den Ihren und verkündeten alles, was die obersten Priester und die Ältesten zu ihnen gesagt hatten.
And being let go, they went to their own companions…. Hang in there together….. They knew that they needed each other…..  It´s much easier to face the hard times when we know that someone´s got our back…… They had each other for comfort and support….
This is deep Koininia…. Deep genuine fellowship…. They were untied by their commitment to the Lord Jesus……. They helped each other ….
We often talk about the unity of the body…… The unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace….  but persecution and hard times…. Disasters…. These are all important things in bringing unity to the Body of Christ……   We all have to live in a hostile world….. and When the world begins to seriously persecute us….  It will drive us together….
If we're really out there proclaiming the Good News to the world….. We will be driven together by our  common love for each other…
The early church was severely persecuted and they bound themselves together….. in Acts 4: 32-35 We read  that they had one heart and one soul….. and if anybody needed anything somebody else provided it to them……
The next thing, these disciples did as they gathered together…. This is our 5th point…. They blessed the Lord….
5… bless the Lord…. In all circumstances… At all times…V24…
Acts 4:24               NKJV   Schlachter 2000
24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
24 Und als sie es hörten, erhoben sie einmütig ihre Stimme zu Gott und sprachen: Herr, du bist der Gott, der den Himmel und die Erde und das Meer gemacht hat und alles, was darinnen ist.
This is their next reaction to the persecution….. Peter and John did not say….. The Sanhedrin has commanded us not to preach anymore the name of Jesus…. We´re finished if we do…….  No, they blessed the Lord for the privilege of sufferings these threats for the Lord Jesus….
In verse 24 it says that they with one accord…. Perfect unity….. They raised their voices and said…… Lord You are God…… They blessed the Sovereign Lord in the middle of these very difficult circumstances…… They said…… You allowed this….. You made everything….. You are Great!
They didn't come back in a state of depression…… They were not angry or disappointed with the Lord either….. They came back rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus…… I mean, they had just been filled with the Spirit….. They had just preached to the Sanhedrin….. What greater thing could have happened?  They were a whole congregation of  of Joshuas and Calebs…... They were ready to Go into all the World and proclaim the Good News….. They knew that the Lord was with them in their very own fiery Furnace…… They no longer felt empty and abandoned……
I want us to notice that in the text here…. When they address the Lord as Lord….. the Greek word is a very unusual word for Lord…… It´s not κύριος kyrios…. It´s δεσπότης despotēs….  it's a word that translates into English, despot…… It's the most severe kind of dictatorship…… It´s absolute sovereignty…… Absolute Authority in matters of life and death….
They praised God for His sovereign creative power…..  And then they quote the Old Testament, Psalm 2….. verse 25….
Acts 4: 25,26                  NKJV   
25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.
Acts 4: 25,26         Schlachter 2000
25 Du hast durch den Mund deines Knechtes David gesagt: »Warum toben die Heiden und ersinnen die Völker Nichtiges?
26 Die Könige der Erde lehnen sich auf, und die Fürsten versammeln sich miteinander gegen den Herrn und gegen seinen Gesalbten.«
This is an important text here….. They are saying we know that David was a great prophet who said these things about the Lord Jesus the Messiah…… Lord you are great…. You know all things….. They are saying we understand…… These things are not taking you by surprise….. It was all prophesied…… You said the world would persecute Jesus….. Clear back in Psalm 2, You said the world would kill Jesus….. You said all the nations are going to get together against Him…. We know that……
Acts 4…v27…
Acts 4: 27,28          NKJV   Schlachter 2000
27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
27 Ja, wahrhaftig, gegen deinen heiligen Knecht Jesus, den du gesalbt hast, haben sich Herodes und Pontius Pilatus versammelt zusammen mit den Heiden und dem Volk Israel,
28 um zu tun, was deine Hand und dein Ratschluß zuvor bestimmt hatte, daß es geschehen sollte.
They are showing a deep spiritual understanding in this prayer…… They know that even these wicked men were appointed to accomplish the Gracious and Sovereign Will of God……

Herod, Pilate, the gentile nations and Israel´s …… they all  gathered together to persecute and kill the Lord Jesus….  It was all exactly according to God´s plan…. In our lives too…… Nothing escapes the plan of God for us….. Even the disasters and tragedies….. Everything that happens is used by God…. For our Good and His Glory….
Isn't that something? The world gave did it´s best to destroy Jesus…. They did not succeed…. They were tools in the hand of God to accomplish redemption through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus…. Psalm 76:10 in the NLT says….
Psalm 76 : 9,10                          NLT  
9 You stand up to judge those who do evil, O God, and to rescue the oppressed of the earth.
10 Human defiance only enhances your glory, for you use it as a weapon.
Psalm 76 : 10,11               Neues Leben
10 Gott, du erhobst dich, um Gericht zu halten, und um den Unterdrückten in der ganzen Welt zu helfen.
11 Der Trotz der Menschen vergrößert deinen Ruhm, selbst ihn machst du dir noch zunutze.
And you see, they're comforted in the fact that Jesus got persecuted and crucified…..  but when His persecution was over….. salvation was made possible…….
God turned the persecution of Jesus to salvation……. He can certainly turn their persecution into something wonderful too…….. And that's exactly what we need to recognize when we´re getting persecuted…... Like these believers…. Our response to the hard times should be in hope and in faith….. Lord I don´t understand what´s happening to me…. It´s really hard……. But this did not take you by surprise…. Thank you that even now you are with me……. You are the one who said….. I will never leave you…. I will never forsake you! We will not be afraid… we will trust in you…. It´s certain that they knew their scriptures well and were applying them to their own lives…. They knew that those who love and serve the Lord do not need to be afraid….  May be they were remembering this Psalm as they prayed…. Turn with me to Psalm 112….. The whole Psalm is highly recommended….. But I´ll just read a few verses…. V7…
Psalm 112: 7-10                       NLT
7 They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
8 They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.
9 They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.
10 The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.
 Psalm 112: 7-10                       Neues Leben
7 Er fürchtet sich nicht vor schlechter Nachricht, sondern vertraut fest darauf, dass der Herr für ihn sorgt.
8 Zuversichtlich ist er und furchtlos, denn er wird über seine Gegner triumphieren.
9 Großzügig gibt er dem, der in Not ist. Seine gerechten Taten bleiben unvergessen.2 Er wird zu großem Ansehen kommen.
10 Der Gottlose wird es sehen und sich ärgern, knirschen wird er mit seinen Zähnen vor Zorn. Denn was die Gottlosen hoffen, das vergeht.

I'm reminded of the story in Genesis  of Joseph…… You remember Joseph had very hard times….. At first and the hands of his own brothers….. They planned to kill him and lie to their father…. That´s hard….  But Judah stepped in and They only sold him into slavery in Egypt…. Then when he got to Egypt….. he went to work for Potiphar the chief steward of Pharoah….. For a while things were better and then…. Potiphar´s wife tries to seduce him…… He refuses to sin again the Lord God or against Potiphar….. And Joseph got persecuted by Potiphar……   He gets thrown into prison…..
You remember the butler and the baker ? He got persecuted by them….. He got nothing but persecuted….. and when it was all over with he got exalted didn't he? The highest place next to the Pharoah in Egypt and he was able to take care of  everybody in Egypt….. even those who persecuted him…... Later he is used as the instrument of God to rescue his own family too….
19 Genesis 50: 19-21                        NKJV    
Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Genesis 50: 19-21   Schlachter 2000
19 Aber Joseph sprach zu ihnen: Fürchtet euch nicht! Bin ich denn an Gottes Stelle?
20 Ihr gedachtet mir zwar Böses zu tun; aber Gott gedachte es gut zu machen,1 um es so hinauszuführen, wie es jetzt zutage liegt, um ein zahlreiches Volk am Leben zu erhalten.
21 So fürchtet euch nun nicht; ich will euch und eure Kinder versorgen! Und er tröstete sie und redete freundlich mit ihnen.2
You meant it for evil…… God meant it for good….. And this is the principle of these verses…... They're praising God and saying bless the Lord…… because look at this evil coming that God can turn into good…... That's the only way to look at persecution…….
6 Ask God for greater boldness….v29…
You say are you kidding? You mean, they want to go back into the thick of it again? Sure…..verse 29……
Acts 4: 29,30        NKJV   Schlachter 2000
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
29 Und jetzt, Herr, sieh ihre Drohungen an und verleihe deinen Knechten, dein Wort mit aller Freimütigkeit zu reden,
30 indem du deine Hand ausstreckst zur Heilung, und daß Zeichen und Wunder geschehen durch den Namen deines heiligen Knechtes Jesus!
Lord give us boldness…..  Show them that we are your servants…. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and power….
They didn't pray for the Lord to smash their enemies……. They were looking for not a way out… But for boldness and the  power to endure the hard times….. Remember Only John the Apostle lived to be old and die a natural death….  So they said God give us power….. You think God will answer prayer like that?
Yes! Look at  verse 31…..
Acts 4: 31     NKJV    Schlachter 2000
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
31 Und als sie gebetet hatten, erbebte die Stätte, wo sie versammelt waren, und sie wurden alle mit Heiligem Geist erfüllt und redeten das Wort Gottes mit Freimütigkeit.
He answered their prayer….. They merely prayed that the Lord would do what he said…. Acts 1:8… You will receive power and you will be witnesses to me…
Now we will see what persecution did? V32…
Acts 4: 32- 37                          NKJV     
32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts 4: 32- 37                 Schlachter 2000
32 Und die Menge der Gläubigen war ein Herz und eine Seele; und auch nicht einer sagte, daß etwas von seinen Gütern sein eigen sei, sondern alle Dinge waren ihnen gemeinsam.
33 Und mit großer Kraft legten die Apostel Zeugnis ab von der Auferstehung des Herrn Jesus, und große Gnade war auf ihnen allen.
34 Es litt auch niemand unter ihnen Mangel; denn die, welche Besitzer von Äckern oder Häusern waren, verkauften sie und brachten den Erlös des Verkauften
35 und legten ihn den Aposteln zu Füßen; und man teilte jedem aus, so wie jemand bedürftig war.
36 Joses aber, der von den Aposteln den Beinamen Barnabas erhalten hatte (das heißt übersetzt: »Sohn des Trostes«), ein Levit, aus Zypern gebürtig,
37 besaß einen Acker und verkaufte ihn, brachte das Geld und legte es den Aposteln zu Füßen.
V32…. We now are witness to a multitude of believers…… And look at the way they are described…
The Early Church
1… They had one heart and one mind…… They were one in the Lord….v32…
2… They had great grace and God´s power with them….v33…
3… They were unselfish and generous…..v33-35…
United in Christ Filled with faith and generousity
They went out of there and Boldly proclaimed the Good News…. people got saved everywhere they went...…… the text doesn't even tell us how many got saved….. . So many they didn't even try count them….. They asked for more boldness and power and God gave it to them…… This can be our experience too……. If we live in godly in Christ Jesus……  These dear brothers and sisters went out in obedience to the Lord…  They were united by the Holy Spirit…. They let go of their stuff….. They laid aside their sin…. The sought the Lord with their whole heart….. No matter what the cost… They followed Jesus….
As we said last week….  Beginning with this event Persecution breaks out…... It continues to this very day….. Sometimes it is worse than others….. In many places in the world….. Persecution is worse than ever…..  I want to look quickly at Acts 1…v8…   
Acts 1: 8               NKJV   Schlachter 2000
 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
8 sondern ihr werdet Kraft empfangen, wenn der Heilige Geist auf euch gekommen ist, und ihr werdet meine Zeugen sein in Jerusalem und in ganz Judäa und Samaria und bis an das Ende der Erde!
You shall be witnesses….. This is a common word today…. We talk about being an eyewitness to an event….. We talk about testifying in court….  as being called to be a witness…. Peter said he and the others were eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus…
The greek word here is very interesting….. It´s μάρτυς martys….   It has come into the English language as Martyrs…. These brothers and sisters were witnesses to the Good News of the Gospel….. And they testified to the truth with their lives….    
Tertullian wrote that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church…..  He said  that the martyrs' willing sacrifice of their lives leads to the conversion of others…...
More believers have suffered for the sake of the Gospel in the last 100 years than in the almost 2000 years since the birth of the church….
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…. Hebrews 11 is called the Hall of faith….. We are following in the footsteps of a multitude of faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus…. Paul exhorts us in Heb 12…
Hebrews 12: 1,2 ;11                            NKJV
12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12: 1,2 und 11                   Schlachter 2000
1 Da wir nun eine solche Wolke von Zeugen um uns haben, so laßt uns jede Last ablegen und die Sünde, die uns so leicht umstrickt, und laßt uns mit Ausdauer1 laufen in dem Kampf, der vor uns liegt,
2 indem wir hinschauen auf Jesus,2 den Anfänger und Vollender des Glaubens, der um der vor ihm liegenden Freude willen das Kreuz erduldete und dabei die Schande für nichts achtete, und der sich zur Rechten des Thrones Gottes gesetzt hat.
11 Alle Züchtigung aber scheint uns für den Augenblick nicht zur Freude, sondern zur Traurigkeit zu dienen; danach aber gibt sie eine friedsame Frucht der Gerechtigkeit denen, die durch sie geübt sind.
In these verses of  Hebrews 11 and 12….. Paul reminds us of the suffering and hard times of our brothers and sisters who went before us…. They trusted the Lord even in very hard times…. They rusted the Lord even when they were being persecuted for the sake of the cross….They are our examples….
No form of chastening or hard times….
No persecution…. 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 are also 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…. Let´s pray….

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