10th December 2023

Handling Persecution

Passage: Acts 5:41-42
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Well, this morning we have been in church life here, going through Sunday morning by Sunday morning, Jesus' statements, his really giving the summary of what it is to be a Christian, called the Beatitudes, all those little ones that says, blessed is this and blessed is that. And it's in Matthew's Gospel, but also in Luke's. And if you come along tonight, if you've got the time at five o'clock, I'm actually going to bring to you something from the Beatitudes that's from Mark. You know, there's Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Well, it's not only Matthew and Luke, but there's something in Mark that tonight relates to the Beatitudes that we'll be on. Now, about today, what we've been doing in these mornings is bringing out the facts that the righteousness that those statements, those Beatitudes are about, are really of a standard that none of us can make it in our own. And it is God's intention. It is God's intention for us to understand that the righteousness needed to be in his kingdom is something that we have failed to achieve as a human race. We're a fallen race. And we all are sinners. It's not one of us who's not. The Bible speaks about the heart really being quite desperately wicked, and that's all of us. And even though we have good training and schools, and we have families that help us in church, and we can be somewhat educated to try a little bit better, we can't do that. None of that ever gets to a standard of righteousness that God wants. And the more we try, the more we fail. That's common Christian experience. And we've been learning about the lack of righteousness that God wants to give us, not as something earned, but as something as a gift. And that's where the gospel comes in, the Christian message that calls people to come back to God and be at peace with him, is on the basis that he will give you a righteousness. And so we use the language that we're dressed in Christ's righteousness, because he's the one that's earned it, and it comes to us as a gift. And we also then were learning from the Beatitudes that when you have a righteousness of God, it has a few consequences. And the one that we've been concentrating on recently is that if you live a righteous life, you're going to attract persecution. And the truth of the matter is that people who, the Bible says, who seek to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution one way or another. And you've probably heard some of my stories at high school where it was difficult being a Christian, raising the flag for Christ. They were little trivial matters compared to what happens to people in other countries. But nonetheless, the truth is a general one, that the righteousness that Jesus gives us by leading us to become a Christian, that righteousness will draw persecution. And the interesting thing about it is that Jesus, in his Beatitudes, says, Blessed are those who are persecuted, and talks about how to handle it. And one of the things that we've been just discussing in recent weeks is that we're to rejoice when we're persecuted for righteousness' sake, for to you belongs the kingdom of heaven. And it's interesting, this idea of rejoicing in persecution, and what I mean by that is, what I've discovered in my life from the different experiences is that it's very hard to do as a Christian to really like getting persecuted. Put your hand up if you like being persecuted. I can't see any hand. You might have spoiled by putting your hand up. No, no. But it's true, we have within ourselves a bit of reserve at volunteering to put yourself somewhere where other people are going to have a go at you. Isn't that the case? Isn't that normal human nature not to necessarily... want to be persecuted? And yet the Bible depicts the opposite picture. And if we look on our scriptures in Acts passage in chapter 5 and verses 42 and 43, I think it is, 41 and 42, this is just the moment when our apostles have been in desperate trouble and the council have called them in and they've given them a lot of maltreatment. And they've been told all sorts of terrible things. And then they left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name, that's the name of Jesus. And the actual example that you find in the book of Acts which gives us original Christianity, the original setting up of what it is to belong to Christ, is that the Christians actually rejoiced at suffering and they were told, they were told, they were told, they were told, they were told, Now I've worked out that's not usual behaviour. I remember as a young man starting to get around preaching with one of my teammates, we went to a church on the other side of town, Baptist Church, and there was there one of the deacons who was known to be a very strong Christian leader. And we gave a message of seeking to be victorious in your Christian life and calling on the young people who are present, not just to be people who go along, but people actually who have some demonstration of God working in you. And we used the word victory. And we talked about how to be a victorious Christian. But as we all left, this deacon man, he was known in Baptist circles, he was a successful businessman, but he shouted out and said, There is no victory! It rather gave me a bit of a surprise because he was just knocking my sermon over, you know, rejecting the whole idea. There is no victory. But it turned out, he was speaking from his personal experience that things kept going wrong and he wasn't really feeling that he'd made the Christian life tick. Now that was a very difficult thing for me to handle, but I realised that there are people whose very understanding of Christianity is more the sad sack variety, or more the one where we have to suffer and grin and bear it. But that's not the picture that this presents us. They left the presence of the council and they've been whipped and scared. They've been purged and all the rest. They've been thrown into jail. That happens several times in this narrative if you read it through the early chapters of Acts. But they go out from the presence of the council and they're rejoicing. Now why is that? How can they do it and we find it so hard? That's the question I'm asking you this morning. How is it we find it so hard? What do they understand that we don't? That this morning we can learn from the Bible. They left rejoicing. Well, it tells us that they counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. There's something about the name of Jesus. There's something very empowering about the person of Jesus. Now, the explanation comes actually through the next verse. And every day in the temple and from house to house did they not cease teaching and preaching that Jesus, that Christ is Jesus. They've been persecuted. They've been threatened. But they don't give in. And the secret to being someone who can rejoice is when you accept that it's maybe inevitable that persecution will come but you're not going to give in. And the word that you often run over and don't realise it's there says they did not cease. They didn't stop just because it got rugged. They did not cease teaching and preaching that Christ is Jesus. Now, I need to amplify something here because we're used to talking about the Lord as Jesus Christ. In fact, in younger days I sort of thought Jesus was his first name and Christ was his surname. But that's not the case. Christ is actually a title. He's actually a descriptor of an expectation. That the Jewish nation had that one day there would come into their world someone who would be anointed of the Spirit because the word Christos actually means anointed one. And the person that was in mind that the Jewish people had would be a human person representative of the race. In fact, he was going to be definitely a Jew from the tribe of Judah. So if a Jewish family had a new child and it was a boy and if they're in the right lineage the father would go to the father and go out in the street and say, Judah, Judah! And all the people down the street understood what he was saying that maybe this will be the Christ because he's from the right tribe and there was an expectation all the Old Testament scriptures had built this up in their minds that one day there would come one of their number. He'd be a human person of the tribe of Judah and he'd be anointed of the Holy Spirit to become the king and the leader the military leader they mean by king by the way and that he'd be the person who'd deliver Israel from all the havoc and the hassles that they'd be regularly having and from the present one in Jesus' day the Romans who'd conquered them and had them in a terrible position and somehow this idea that there would come some person on whose shoulders on whose person would be the Holy Spirit from heaven and by that anointing and the Christoph means anointed one he would lead the way for them to have the victory. Now when it says here they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus it was identifying Jesus the human Jesus as the Christ. Later on the Christian church discovers that the prophecies of that Old Testament were for a lot more than him just being anointed of the Spirit they were also that he would be from heaven and Jesus himself as he got around speaking to people he would say that he'd come from heaven. He gave illustrations of how he was the one to bless them from heaven and just as he was the one in the Old Testament stories Moses had the times with the children of Israel and they were hungry in the desert and God sent them manna and those little pieces of manna were bread unexplicable they didn't know what it was the word manna just means what is it and this was what fed them and it was a miracle that saved them from starving in the wilderness as they travelled through and Jesus said he says I am the true bread of life he said I am the bread from heaven he was trying to explain that he had come from glory that he was a person that was more than just a man expected he was a man that's the beauty of the gospel because the gospel is that God's eternal son the second person of the trinity became human and took on being a man he's the God man equally human and divine that's why when we do Christmas carols and we sing we talk about it being God with us and that little word Emmanuel it often turns up in the Christmas carols means God with us and how did God engineer that he'd be with us by the second person of the trinity God's eternal son taking on humanity and him being with us in the deepest possible way there could be why did he come to be with us because the name Jesus has a meaning to it I'm sure many of you know what the name Jesus means some of you may not yet have of of tucked it away the name Jesus it means saviour and when the angel spoke to Mary about the coming birth and to Joseph they both had visitations of angels glad that that happened to both of them it would be a difficult argument to have if the other one didn't believe what was going to occur that Joseph and Mary were told you shall call me call his name Jesus and they knew that it meant saviour so the angel explained what type of saviour you shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins and the deepest need of the human race is the fact that we have been shut off from God that we have been found fallen the whole human race and as good as we try to be and as good as we try to be and as good as we may be educated to be that's not the answer we needed a saviour someone who'd do something about that which separated us from God because of our sin and the only way that could happen was that someone before a just God could pay for that sin and Jesus Christ came into the world taking on humanity that he might qualify to be a substitute for us sinners the whole of the Old Testament religion which was about there being a temple and there being sacrifice was to teach the people that sin has a penalty and you can't just overlook it but the penalty is paid by a substitute and so animals were killed and all the rest because it was teaching them some very important thing that sin needs a substitute but it wasn't a bull or a goat or a ram that would do as the book of Hebrews teaches but the substitute needed to be sinless and needed to be human and needed to be voluntarily coming and taking our place and that's what Jesus was here to do Christ is Jesus his name is Saviour and the angel had said to his human parents to be had said to them you shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins have you ever taken that on board? have you ever realised just who is Jesus? you know the fascinating thing is the first Christian church and they're the ones who set things up for Christianity and you know because we are a fallen race and we're always liable to put our ideas in the head of gods and we're liable to run away and do wrong things and we're liable to even when we try our best to make a mess because of our humanity one of the things that have happened since the beginning of Christianity that Christianity is always breaking away from what it's meant to be and we humans demonstrate that we always seem to think of other things to be as Christians and so all around the world you can get groups who'll have worship and there's all sorts of funny things that they'll put into it but the simplicity of the first church as it was founded on the day of Pentecost and it was represented by these apostles being persecuted by the Jewish leaders the simple thing is that they had a straightforward message the straightforward message was about a person Christianity is not about this lifestyle exactly it's not about this set of ethics you have to follow it's not about being puffed up and think you're better Christianity is not about a whole lot of ceremonies you've got to do and if you put your foot wrong or you wear the wrong shoes ooh if you don't do the right thing then the people will say I remember being brought up in a church where all the little things that people had to do were so so many of them thankfully my parents didn't think much of all the rules like that they didn't bother with them with us I was glad of their example that Christianity was about a person it's about Christ and so my dad always although he was a theological teacher always involved in evangelism he always wanted to have evangelism when he was a pastor he used to pray to God to make the spirit of the church rise so that outsiders would come and it actually happened in one of his churches where people kept coming and knocking on the door that God had struck the church and struck them that they needed to become Christians and they were looking for someone to tell them how to do it and he'd lead them in prayer to come to Christ I was glad for a father who taught me that Christianity is not about a religion it's not about a worship it's not about all the things that church has taken we Baptists we have our set of things that we think have to be the right thing done it's about one simple thing it's the simple thing that these apostles wouldn't let the others bluff them out of it says in the temple and from house to house they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus the person of Jesus as saviour of the world he's the one on whom the spirit would come and he would lead his people out of all their problems coming to Jesus as your saviour is the essence of being a Christian I was so glad my family though they were very staunch dabbers and ordained Baptist ministers as a principal of a Bible college but he still loved evangelism and got himself in charge of the counselling for a set of meetings in West Australia and two of the people who responded to the call to come to Christ was me and my brother and the greatest thing in Christianity is that when you discover that it's all about Jesus and your personal connection to him which connection none of us we do have a sense because we're his creatures we're all sons and daughters of God by being human but in that special sense of having made a connection with Jesus we're in a need to hear the gospel because the gospel tells you how to come and when someone tells you that Jesus is the saviour you're in a need and that you can receive him as your personal saviour and let him be ruler of your life the idea of Christos by the way is anointed to be king and when you come to Jesus you just don't come for the goodies he might give you and a free ticket into heaven but you come to say Jesus is Lord you come to let him be the ruler of your hearts you come to save you from being a sinner and as a little boy of nine I got in the door and I said with a person I've never left Jesus and our original leaders of the Christian church which are the first apostles they did not cease though they were persecuted that's the key if you want to learn to be a victorious person the devil and his whatever is the opposition that the demon will have will find ways to oppose you I've spent time in teaching in theological college I've got lots of people now my age who are pastors many of them are retired and they tell me how difficult it was to be a pastor that when you took a step to serve Jesus you got persecuted one way or another whether it was the people in your street whether it was the politics of the time whether it was people out of touch with God who were in the church whether it was people who were in the church there's all sorts of places that the devil can find opportunity to have a go at you but the key is you don't give in and so our original leaders of the Christian church the apostles they left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name what name is it? the name of Jesus and then every day in the temple and from house to house it didn't matter where it wasn't an official thing you had to have a ceremony to make it happen in the temple where people were used to going back then or from house to house they did not cease teaching and preaching teaching is when you clarify and explain preaching is when you herald and give a challenge preaching that Christ is Jesus notice the way around it is the Christ the expected one is the person the person of Jesus it's a very personal thing can I ask you the question has there been a moment when you let him be your personal saviour I discovered in my father's college an African student he'd come to study forestry in Adelaide this is now and he was a student but he'd been an alcoholic drunk in the streets of an African town and in that town his life was a wreck and the Christian people found him passed out in the streets and they took him they carried him back to their place and they sobered him up and then they told him about Jesus he was such a wreck all he could do is accept Jesus he had nothing to offer no education no expectation of what would happen no knowledge but he let them teach him eventually he did some study and he got a scholarship of some sort to come to Australia and he came and he found a room at our college and he used to go to the University of South Australia my older sister went and was at the same university and she came home excuse me she came home with stories of this fellow and it didn't matter who the other person was just another student he would do the same thing he'd ask them do you know Jesus and he came to the college where a college of people most of them were students training to be ministers there was my dad and mum and just me and my brother were kids but he went around to everybody and he asked them the same question and you know what the question was do you love the Lord Jesus as your personal saviour and he asked a lot of different people I got scared of him asking me which he never did he used to take me out to talk to people in the streets so he assumes that I knew Christ he never asked but I was scared that he would because of the little word loved do you love the Lord Jesus as your own personal saviour because in his case so enormous was the rescue from the gutter and the rehabilitation by the Christians and the providing for him for a future that he just loved Jesus and so he wanted to know of every person do you love Jesus do you know at the university my sister used to tell me all the stories because I was younger and she'd say the students come but Jason he doesn't get with us because we were at a certain part in the cafeteria where we all meet as Christians do you know why they were meeting there they were keeping away from the non-Christians that teased them they had Christian fellowship because they saw the reason for Christian fellowship somehow for them to be happy and you know be a bit more relaxed and Jason used to deliberately the cafeteria had a tea corner in it and he'd deliberately take a spot to eat his lunch where the other Christians were not because then he'd get a fresh bunch of unconverted people non-Christians come and sit near him and then he'd let them start their lunch and then he'd reach out his big African head do you love the Lord Jesus as your personal saviour of course they didn't understand exactly what that meant but then he told them do you love the Lord Jesus about him and Jesus and them needing Jesus and there were so many of those students who became Christians so many people I later met in whom God had shot an arrow with that question I sort of determined from then on I was going to ask people that question if I got an opportunity and I'm doing it this morning some of you have heard me do this before but do you love the Lord Jesus as your own personal saviour because if you knew him if you knew him you'd be like these apostles rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name the name of Jesus and when you are a Christian that name Jesus you learn by experience has got a power and power in it I've discovered it where people who come to me with counselling with counselling needs and they ask for help but when we pray in the name of Jesus there are lots of things that God answers in prayer when you pray in the name of Jesus because somehow he is more than just the man Jesus he's the Christ the anointed one he's from heaven and he's gone back to heaven and when you pray in the name Jesus things happen not always what you would try and tell heaven that they've got to do but there's power in the name Jesus and if there's someone here this morning and you've never really sealed the deal with God you've never handled this whole religious question and somehow it's just made you reactionary and you it's something you've got to resolve I can tell you how to do it this morning to find some place on your own or to come and get some friend to help you doesn't matter but you pray in Jesus name and tell him you want to have him as your personal saviour and you'll discover what these apostles learned that there is power in the name of Jesus so much so that they would be counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus the name Jesus it means saviour saviour from sins not just saviour from politics not just saviour from health problems not saviour in a hundred and other ways that the word could be taken to mean but as the angel said he shall save his people from their sins I'm leaving that challenge with you let's have a word of prayer Heavenly Father we thank you for the scriptures I'm so grateful every week I have the task two sermons some of my other friend pastors find that a big burden wow it is a burden but it's a joy to seek your face and to find some truths in the scriptures that have the power of the name of Jesus and Father I pray that you will use that which we've seen this morning in these two verses I pray for whoever it may be whoever might need to come and find him a saviour that you will keep on pressing the case that you will give them the courage to find their voice and to tell you that they want you as their saviour thank you for the story of Jason that fellow that he was a saviour that he was a saviour that he was a saviour a man from Africa a recovered alcoholic saved off the streets coming to Australia and what he did in that little college that I saw Lord it really has changed things for me and I thank you for how you can use just one person coming from overseas and doing something for Christ we thank you for today and we pray your blessing upon us all now in Jesus name Amen.

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