He Waited: A Short Story

He Waited

“He Waited” is A Thought-Provoking Short Story about how patient God truly is and how the choice lies with us.

A woman died and walked up to the pearly gates guarded by two, 12 ft. angels. The woman smiled and asked, “Could you let me in now?”

One of the angels was holding a huge book in his hand. He responded, “Please wait while I search for your name in the Book of Life. If it’s here, we will open the gates for you. ”

While waiting for the angel, the woman gazed around and couldn’t get over how beautiful the land was. She gushed, “This is gorgeous! The colors here are so beautiful and vibrant…nothing like anything I’d seen while on Earth!” She then lifted her nose and inhaled the air long and slow, “Mmmm, what’s that smell? It’s the most pleasant scent I have ever smelled!”

“It’s the scent of Heaven,” an angel flying by responded in joy, “It comes from our Lord Jesus!”

“Hmmm, Jesus?” the woman thought.

Getting more excited just thinking about everything else she would see, smell and explore in this wonderful place, the woman ran to the angels at the tall gates, glanced at them back and forth, and asked vigorously, “Find it yet?!”

The angel looked sad, “I’m sorry. Your name is not here” He replied.

“Look again”, the woman pleaded.

The angel looked a second time and confirmed, “I can officially say your name has not been recorded in the Book of Life. Again, I’m sorry.”

“What do you mean?!” the woman gasped in shock and disbelief! “This can’t be! What am I supposed to do now?! Where am I supposed to go?”

Realizing the woman’s frustration, the angel holding the Book of Life urged the other angel, “Call the King!”

At the speed of thought, Jesus appeared instantaneously before the woman, face to face. The woman blurted out, “So it is true! You really are God!”

“Yes, I am,” Jesus smiled.

The woman looked into His eyes which were full of love, a love she had never felt before, and with a genuine heart, she asked, “Jesus, why haven’t you written my name in the Book of Life? I want to be here.”

Then Jesus replied, “When I created you, I was so pleased! I made you special. You were My wonderful creation, but you never chose to become my child. This is My home, and when My children leave Earth, they always come home to Me. And here, I have prepared a place for each and every one of them. I have given them mansions, each customized to their personal taste. Every desire of their heart I have fulfilled here…for My children. But you never chose to become My child. You just chose to remain as My creation.”

Trying to take everything in, the woman could only slowly respond with an incomplete, “But…..?”

Jesus continued, “Your parents didn’t know me when you were a child and they never brought you to church, but when you got to high school, you heard fellow classmates speak of Me and My name, but you followed the crowd and mocked them. When you got to college, you experimented with things you should not have and lost control of your life. It hurt my heart and I cried. I waited for you to call My name so I could help you, but you never did. I waited.“

“When your parents passed away, that was the first time I heard you cry out to Me. I ran to comfort you because I loved you…as I still do. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I would hear you say my name again, but it was only to criticize your children for choosing to follow Me. When they brought you to church, your children prayed to Me to soften your heart in efforts that you would give your heart to Me…so I did, but you began to battle in your mind whether I really died for you or even if I existed. So you focused on their church and judged them for their many members, the beauty of the architecture, and how much the pastor profited. I waited.”

“You questioned, “How could a loving God send anyone to Hell, or allow someone to go there?” So, I had your friends explain to you that I don’t send anyone to Hell, they send themselves by rejecting Me, the One and Only True God. I am the Way. And as there are only two places for you to go when your Earthly body expires, your soul is either drawn to the home of sin or salvation.”

“You tried filling your life with traveling, activities, material things, and relationships. You remained an empty, thirsting cup waiting to be filled. I was willing to fill it, but you never called on Me. I waited.

“Eventually, you looked at the world and said you believed there was a god, but didn’t know Who He was. I would soon after send many people your way to tell you of My love for you, but you rejected Me. You must understand that I am a gentleman and will never force you to love Me.”

Two days ago, I whispered sweet love songs in your ear as you slept, and you heard. You thought in your heart you would possibly give your life to Me when you reached your death bed, but you never made it there. I waited for you to become My child so I could welcome you home to be with me forever and enjoy eternal life. I waited.”

The woman felt ashamed for being so foolish. “Well, Jesus, can I have another chance?”

“I love you, and will ALWAYS love you, but Salvation is only granted on Earth.”

A tear fell down Jesus’ cheek as He knew He would have to say goodbye to the woman, the beautiful creation that He loved so dearly. She felt His sorrow and realized that it wasn’t His choice. It was hers for 45 years…but she rejected Him.

Then, just as quickly as Jesus appeared, that’s how fast He vanished!

The woman looked down and cried to herself, “He waited.”

-by Jennifer Bagnaschi

‘Disinformation’ Is About Power, Not Truth

Americans should start associating the accusation of disinformation with the frauds and censors who use it.

By Andrew Cuff April 12, 2021

Every year, warnings from elected officials and corporate leaders about weaponized disinformation grow louder. The discovery that Russian operatives spent $160,000 on social media ads to influence the 2016 presidential election began a national conversation about disinformation, misinformation, and foreign propaganda. The heads of Facebook, Twitter, and Google have appeared in congressional hearings on the subject, most recently on March 25.

To the average 21st-century media consumer, these warnings of disinformation likely seem strange. If information is just facts, combatting disinformation should be as simple as identifying and ignoring falsehoods. “The truth will set you free,” right? Human rationality is supposed to be our foremost weapon against disinformation. This is the basis of democracy and every citizen’s right to vote.

But based on their reaction to disinformation, world leaders evidently find this view naïve—and a “disinformation industrial complex” has arisen to arm governments for the narrative war. It consists of new government offices like the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center, initiatives and task forces controlled by intelligence services, and special media projects undertaken by NGOs. These entities spend billions of private and public dollars on disinformation defense, sometimes against state actors, but often asymmetrically against ragtag groups of conspiracy theorists or pranksters. 

National elections are the most common battlegrounds in these fights over facts, and even straightforward data and documents can be labeled disinformation when carrying electoral import. 

For example, the 2017 email leaks that claimed to expose criminal activity by Emmanuel Macron were designated a disinformation attack because they were “taken out of context.” And most media outlets and social media platforms brazenly suppressed the leaked contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the November 2020 presidential election.

Although legacy media outlets and tech giants have largely privatized the disinformation defense industry, many elected officials have proposed limits on digital speech and prosecuting disinformation peddlers. In the United States, the First Amendment prevents speech bans like those in Europe, where a French presidential candidate can be convicted for tweeting about Islamic State terrorism. But governments need not resort to outright censorship: they already have many ways of silencing or deplatforming dissent.

Cases like that of Douglass Mackey illustrate how many tools governments have in the war on disinformation—and how quickly these tools can become weapons of political power. Mackey posted pro-Trump jokes and memes on Twitter before the 2016 election, but—despite his anonymous identity being “doxxed”—his activity was never deemed criminal until four years later, when the Justice Department charged him with election interference just seven days into Biden’s administration. Jail time for Americans with the wrong political opinions has now become an official means of “fortifying” elections against disinformation.

Predicaments like those facing Mackey or Marine Le Pen’s supporters in the French election might intimidate would-be hooligans from creating anonymous Twitter accounts, and they certainly have a chilling effect on politicians’ speech. They also severely undermine the credibility of intelligence services, mainstream news and social media, and others with a responsibility to facts. The CIA’s home page proudly announces, “We are the nation’s first line of defense.” But Americans don’t feel defended by censorship or counterpropaganda. In an age when the average internet user can find alternative viewpoints online with little effort, the war on disinformation has only heightened suspicions.

That’s one reason the public has become more cynical and divided than ever—the vast majority of disinformation accusations are transparently manipulative and self-serving. Meanwhile, proven disinformation that serves establishment narratives—like the infamous Steele dossier—is given a free pass and amplified by corporate media.

Neither individual nations nor international stability can survive if competing interests handle differing viewpoints as “information wars.” Conversations are not armed conflicts, and treating them as such will ensure a self-fulfilling prophecy of violence. Unfortunately, the disinformation-industrial complex seems not to care if narratives labeled “disinformation” are true, false, or somewhere in between. It only matters whose narrative—whose power—it defies.

https://amgreatness.com/2021/04/12/disinformation-is-about-power-not-truth/


Christ and the Churches: Part 5 (Revelation 3:14-22)

Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr .

Today, we are looking at Christ’s seventh and final message to the churches. This message from our Lord is certainly relevant to the church today!

Laodicea, the Lukewarm Church (Rev. 3:14–22)

Jesus is the truth and speaks the truth. He is “the faithful and true Witness.” The Lord was about to tell this church the truth about its spiritual condition; unfortunately, they would not believe His diagnosis.

“Why is it that new Christians create problems in the church?” a member once asked me.

“They don’t create problems,” I replied. “They reveal them. The problems have always been there, but we’ve gotten used to them. New Christians are like children in the home: they tell the truth about things!”

The Laodicean church was blind to its own needs and unwilling to face the truth. Yet honesty is the beginning of true blessing as we admit what we are, confess our sins, and receive from God all we need. If we want God’s best for our lives and churches, we must be honest with God and let God be honest with us.

The church at Laodicea had become lukewarm. The believers did not stand for anything; indifference led to idleness. By neglecting to do anything for Christ the church had become hardened and self-satisfied, and it was destroying itself. Christ would discipline this lukewarm church unless it turned from its indifference toward Him. The Lord demonstrated four areas of need in the church at Laodicea:

1. They had lost their vigor (vv. 16–17)

Some believers falsely assume that numerous material possessions are a sign of God’s spiritual blessing. Laodicea was a wealthy city and the church was also wealthy. But what the Laodiceans could see and buy had become more valuable to them than what is unseen and eternal. Wealth, luxury, and comfort can make people feel confident, satisfied, and complacent. But no matter how much money you and I possess or how much money we make, we have nothing if we do not have a vital relationship with Christ.

In the Christian life, there are three “spiritual temperatures”: a burning heart, on fire for God (Luke 24:32); a cold heart (Matt. 24:12); and a lukewarm heart (Rev. 3:16). The lukewarm Christian is comfortable, complacent, and does not realize his need. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm, like many people today.

We enjoy a beverage that is either hot or cold, but one that is lukewarm is flat and stale. That’s why the waitress keeps adding hot coffee or fresh iced water to our cups and glasses. Unless something is added from the outside the system decays and dies. Without adding fuel the hot water in the boiler becomes cool; without electricity the cold air in the freezer becomes warm. According to the second law of thermodynamics, a “closed system” will moderate itself, so no more energy is being produced.

The church cannot be a “closed system.” Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The Laodicean church was independent, self-satisfied, and secure. “We have need of nothing!” But all the while, their spiritual power had been decaying; their material wealth and glowing statistics were nothing more than grave-clothes hiding a rotting corpse. Their Lord was outside the church, trying to get in (Rev. 3:20).

2. They had lost their values (vv. 17–18a)

In contrast to the church at Smyrna, who thought itself poor when it was really rich (Rev. 2:9), the Laodiceans boasted they were rich, when in fact they were poor. Perhaps we have here a hint of why this church declined spiritually: they had become proud of their ministry and had begun to measure things by human standards instead of by spiritual values. They were, in the eyes of the Lord, “wretched, miserable, and poor.”

Laodicea was a wealthy city and a banking center. Perhaps some of the spirit of the marketplace crept into the church, so their values became twisted. Why is it that so many church bulletins and letterheads show pictures of buildings? Are these the things that are most important to us? The board at the Laodicean church could proudly show you the latest annual report with its impressive statistics, yet Jesus said He was about to vomit them out of His mouth!

The solution? Pay the price to get true “gold refined in the fire.” This suggests the church needed some persecution; they were too comfortable (1 Peter 1:7). Nothing makes God’s people examine their priorities faster than suffering!

3. They had lost their vision (v. 18b)

The Laodiceans were “blind.” They could not see reality. They were living in a fool’s paradise, proud of a church that was about to be rejected. The Apostle Peter teaches when a believer is not growing in the Lord, his spiritual vision is affected (2 Peter 1:5–9). “Diet” has bearing on the condition of one’s eyes, in a spiritual sense as well as a physical one.

These people could not see themselves as they really were. Nor could they see their Lord as He stood outside the door of the church. Nor could they see the open doors of opportunity. They were so wrapped up in building their own kingdom that they had become lukewarm in their concern for a lost world.

What was the solution? Apply the “heavenly eye salve.” The city of Laodicea was noted for its eye salve, but the kind of medication the saints needed was not available in the pharmacy. The eye is one of the body’s most sensitive areas and only the Great Physician can “operate” on it, making it what it ought to be. As He did with the man whose account is told in John 9, He might even irritate before He illuminates! But we must submit to His treatment and then maintain good spiritual “health habits,” so our vision grows keener.

4. They had lost their garments (vv. 17–22)

These Christians thought they were clothed in splendor when they were really naked! To be naked means to be defeated and humiliated (2 Sam. 10:4; Isa. 20:1–4). The Laodiceans could go to the marketplace and purchase fine woolen garments, but that would not meet their real need. They needed the white garments of God’s righteousness and grace. According to Revelation 19:8, we should be clothed in “fine linen, clean and white,” and this symbolizes “the righteous acts of the saints.” Salvation means Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, put to our account; but sanctification means His righteousness is imparted to us, made a part of our character and conduct.

There is no divine commendation given to this church. Of course, the Laodiceans were busy commending themselves! They thought they were glorifying God, when in reality they were disgracing His name just as though they had been walking around naked. The Lord closed this letter with three special statements:

a) Explanation: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev. 3:19a). He still loved these lukewarm saints, even though their love for Him had grown cold. He planned to chasten them as proof of His love (Prov. 3:11–12; Heb. 12:5–6). God permits churches to go through times of trial so they might become what He wants them to become.

b) Exhortation: “Be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19b). The church at Laodicea had to repent of their pride and humble themselves before the Lord. They had to “stir up that inner fire” (2 Tim. 1:6) and cultivate a burning heart.

c) Invitation: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with My Father on His throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:20–22). We often use these verses to lead lost people to Christ, but the basic application is to the believer. The Lord was outside the Laodicean church! He spoke to the individual—“if any man”—and not to the whole congregation. He appealed to a small remnant in Sardis (Rev. 3:4–5) and now He appeals to the individual. God can do great things in a church, even through one dedicated individual.

Christ was not impatient. He “knocks” through circumstances and He calls through His Word. What is He appealing? For fellowship and communion. He is appealing for the people’s desire to abide in Him. The Laodiceans were an independent church that had need of nothing, but they were not abiding in Christ and drawing their power from Him. They had a “successful program,” but it was not fruit that comes from abiding in Christ (John 15:1–8). It is only through communion with Christ that we find true victory and become overcomers.

As we have seen in this 5-part message the letters to the seven churches are God’s X rays, given to us so we might examine our own lives and ministries. Judgment is going to come to this world, but it first begins at God’s house (1 Peter 4:17). In these letters, we find encouragement as well as rebuke.

May the Lord help us to hear what the Spirit is saying today to the church and to the individuals in the churches!

https://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/christ-and-the-churches-part-5-revelation-314-22/

VIDEO Worrying About The Future …. Can You Help The Outcome?

By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

2 October 2012

A look at today’s hot election season and the world events could have you ready to hide under the sheets until it is over. Fear of what could be the future could have you headed to the psychiatrist’s couch.

Its dark out and you’re home alone. The house is quiet other than the sound of the show you’re watching on TV. You see it and hear it at the same time: The front door is suddenly thrown against the door frame.

Your breathing speeds up, your our heart races, and your our muscles tighten.

A split second later, you know it’s the wind. No one is trying to get into your home.

For a split second, you were so afraid that you reacted as if your life were in danger, your body initiating the fight-or-flight response that is critical to any animal’s survival. But really, there was no danger at all. What happened to cause such an intense reaction? What exactly is fear? In this article, we’ll examine the psychological and physical properties of fear, find out what causes a fear response and look at some ways you can defeat it

Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing and energized muscles, among other things, also known as the fight-or-flight response. The stimulus could be a spider, a knife at your throat, an auditorium full of people waiting for you to speak or the sudden thud of your front door against the door frame.

­The brain is a profoundly complex organ. More than 100 billion nerve cells comprise an intricate network of communications that is the starting point of everything we sense, think and do. Some of these communications lead to conscious thought and action, while others produce autonomic responses. The fear response is almost entirely autonomic: We don’t consciously trigger it or even know what’s going on until it has run its course.

Because cells in the brain are constantly transferring information and triggering responses, there are dozens of areas of the brain at least peripherally involved in fear.

Fear often manifests itself by the impulse to escape or run away. Various nuances of fear include dismay, anxiety, worry, shyness, fright, alarm, horror, terror, or panic-all forms of fear to one degree or another.

There are some basic causes of fear. Depending on our emotions and psychological makeup, we will react accordingly. These categories are broad, and many different situations may fit under each. A very helpful book for understanding the cause of fear is entitled, Discovering Ourselves, by Edward Strecker and John Appel, published by the Macmillan Company, New York, 1963.

What causes fear? Why do people often react differently when frightful situations arise? The answer has to do with human emotions. The better we understand our emotions, the more equipped we are to handle various circumstances that may arise. Many programs to the problem of handling fear have been suggested. Some people have been able to employ these programs successfully. Others have not. For many, these strategies seem to work temporarily, but eventually the problem of fear returns. All these programs overlook the most important thing of all-relying on God for His help. For the Christian there is a permanent solution to the problem of fear, a problem that may have to be faced many times during our lives.

There are three basic causes of fear. These are: the possibility of harm, the possibility of frustration (the failure to achieve), and the possibility of not surviving. Any of these fears may be caused by real or imagined threats.

Fear brings bondage. There is no getting around that fact. When a spirit of fear takes root in your life, you become a slave to that fear. Faith brings freedom, which is why the devil works so hard to keep Christians in fear and out of faith. If he cannot take a person to hell, he will at least try to keep that person bound up, paralyzed, and ineffective as a Christian witness. If any Christian ever gets hold of faith and the liberty faith brings, the devil knows he is in trouble!

Is there anything wrong with fear? The answer: It depends on the way one responds to fear. Fear is an integral part of man’s nature which serves as a protective device. It is a part of life. In many ways it can prevent us from suffering harm, but the reaction to fear varies greatly with individuals. Emotions were placed within the nature of man to add interest to our lives. Emotions give excitement, make life enjoyable, and produce a great deal of variety. They add zest and color. The right kind of fear enables us to handle the various problems in life and to insure our safety and mental comfort. Wrongly controlled they can be debilitating, harmful, paralyzing, and destructive. It has been said that many who have a medical condition of a mental illness suffer from uncontrolled emotions. Emotions, therefore, can either be good or bad.

IF your fear relates to what may or may not happen on November 6, 2012 then I suggest that you earnestly work to advancing your cause by actively working for your candidate and actually vote.  I suggest you do the research to know your candidates past the sound bytes that are presented on the three old standby networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC.  I would suggest the following link as a way of starting the discussion, you may agree or disagree with the content, however it should have you thinking about the content.  http://reclaimourrepublic.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/the-movie-obamas-america-2016-a-must-see-at-this-link/  (dead link)

Vote November 6, 2012.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/worrying-about-the-future-can-you-help-the-outcome/


VIDEO Persecuted for Truth’s Sake, Part 2

By John MacArthur Sep 14, 2014

Let’s open to the Word of God, the fourth chapter of Acts, and we’re looking at a chapter that essentially is built around one single theme, the predominant part of this chapter running down through verse 31 looks at the persecution that came against the early church, the persecution that came against the early church.

The Book of Acts, as you know, is the history of the first church.  It gives us something about the inception of that church, its birth on the Day of Pentecost, born in a miraculous display of Holy Spirit power.  We then looked at the very early weeks and months of the church when thousands of people were being converted.  By the time we get into chapter 4, the number may well have exceeded 20,000 people who, in a flurry of Holy Spirit regeneration, were added to the newly born church. 

But soon into chapter 4, in fact, at the very outset of chapter 4 where we begin to get an idea of how many believers there are, we also find the first persecution.  If I can take you back to the beginning of the fourth chapter, let me read the opening verse.  They were speaking to the people: “As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening.  And many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about 5, 000.”  Men, there, meaning males.  Add females, add to the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost, and those being saved daily, the Lord adding to the church as we learned at the end of chapter 2, and it’s pretty easy to get to a number like 20,000 believers. 

They don’t have an organization.  They don’t have structure.  They don’t have a building.  So they’re still collecting in the temple.  They pose an imminent threat to the system of Judaism, which has already been assaulted by the Lord Jesus Himself whose name they all proclaim.  It was that Jesus that the system and the establishment rejected and had the Romans execute.  They had been preaching that He is alive from the dead, and it is by His power that the church has come to life and continue to grow, and it is by His power and in His name as one who is alive that they healed the man at the beginning of chapter 3.  This healing of a man that everybody knew was a beggar, a beggar who had sat for a long time.  Later in this chapter, it tells us that he was in his 40s, and much of that time, no doubt, had been a beggar and a very familiar site by the gate called Beautiful, sitting there every day, begging.  This was a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb, so no doubt started early as a beggar.

The miracle, literally, was known by everyone in Jerusalem, added to the credibility that Jesus was alive, because when Jesus was alive, He was a healer.  He was a miracle worker.  Now, He was still alive, and He was transmitting His power through the apostles.  The threat, then, to Judaism and the threat to the leaders of Israel was very, very serious.  They saw it as a religious threat.  They also saw it as a political threat.  They saw that the impact of this movement exploding in their city, contrary to what they expected; they expected we kill the leader, cut off its head, and the rest dies. 

Well, that didn’t happen.  He did rise from the dead.  The leaders knew that.  They bribed the soldiers to lie about it, and now they’re threatened by the reality that not only is He alive, but He’s continued to unleash His power to draw followers, and even to do miracles.

So in chapter 4, we have the beginning of the persecution of the church, which is still going on today.  I told you last time that current figures would indicate that there are about 100 million Christians in the world, right now, in this year, that are under persecution.  And I’m not talking about those that are socially abused, or alienated.  I’m talking about those that are actually under the threat of bodily harm and death.  As many as 100 million.  Well, all of that persecution which will continue to go on until our Lord comes, and even after the rapture of the church, there will continue to be an antichrist world in which Christians will be slaughtered far and wide.  This persecution, all is launched here, and it is launched initially because it is a threat.  The growth of the church is a threat to apostate Judaism. 

Now, we’ve all known, I think, those of us who are believers who’ve lived in the world at all, we’ve all known a measure of alienation, being ostracized.  We’ve all understood that to one degree or another.  We know what it is to have to forfeit friends, family.  We know what it is to be under pressure not to speak for Christ, or it might threaten our position in the world in some social structure, be it a job, or a school, or whatever.  We all understand that.  That’s part of the persecution.  But the kind of persecution we’re going to see here threatened life and limb. 

Now, to start with, I want to just kind of back up from this, as I often like to do to maybe give you a larger perspective on persecution.  And by the way, those of you who are under persecution, I trust that the Lord will encourage you by the things that we’re saying in this series.  Now, we have to understand that persecution is a trial, all right?  Persecution is a trial, and trials are for our benefit.  I know that is perhaps not the way we think of persecution.  There are people, well-intentioned I assume, who are busy lobbying to get our government and other governments around the world to bring a halt to persecution, to stop the persecution.  And while it’s certainly noble to call nations that are killing people to stop killing them, and nations that are threatening people to stop threatening them, imprisoning them, harming them; at the same time, it must be noted that none of this happens outside the purposes of God.  This does not lessen the culpability of those who do it.  But we need to be reminded that persecution is a trial, and trials have a positive impact.  They’re designed by God to that end.

Listen to James 1.  James 1 verse 2.  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  There is unmistakable revelation that trials produce a tested faith that yields endurance and causes a believer to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 

In verse 12, James then adds, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, having stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  So there is a promise that trials produce a perfected faith, and an eternal reward.  They have benefit in this life, and they have benefit in the life to come. 

Peter understood that.  Listen to 1 Peter chapter 4.  First Peter chapter 4.  “Beloved,” verse 12, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.  But to the degree that you shared the sufferings of Christ, that would be unjust persecution and suffering.  Keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation, for if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”  There again, a fiery ordeal.  What is this fiery ordeal?  Well, Peter is writing a letter to persecuted believers, aliens, chapter 1 verse 1, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who were chosen.  These aliens to the world system are under persecution.  Verse 5 says they’re being protected by the power of God through faith.  They are to rejoice, because now, for a little while, you have been distressed by various trials so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found or result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  There’s nothing more precious in this life than a tested faith.  Nothing worth than wondering if you’re saved.  Worrying if you might not be a true believer. 

How can you be sure?  You can be sure if you’ve gone through a fiery ordeal.  You can be sure if you’ve gone through an extreme trial, you’ve gone through a great test.  You can certainly be sure if you’ve gone through dire circumstances of persecution and your faith is rock solid, and it survives, and it endures, and it grows, and it is perfected.  And then, you rest secure in the confidence of that assured faith. 

Trials produce that, as well as we see in all of those, an eternal reward.  So here are the writers of the New Testament telling us that we should, in the midst of trials, rejoice, that we should, in the midst of trials, welcome their product, their fruit their result, and that we should look forward to our heavenly reward.  The apostle Paul talks about a terrible trial he was experiencing in 2 Corinthians 12.  He says, “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” Paul’s response, “If power is perfected in weakness, if faith is perfected in trials, then I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  Then he says this: “Therefore I am well-content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with difficulties, and with persecutions for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

He knew that persecutions brought about spiritual strength.  Persecutions brought about a tested faith.  Persecutions brought a tested faith.  Persecutions produced a greater eternal reward.  He also knew that persecution was inevitable in preaching the gospel.  Philippians 2:17.  “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.”  If I lose my life getting the gospel to you, I rejoice. 

Similarly in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.  What sufferings is he talking about?  It was all persecution.  Beaten with rods, whipped by the Jews, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from robbers, rivers, everywhere he went.  Natural disasters, natural and supernatural enemies, demons.  He found joy in all of that, in all of it, because in his weakness, he became strong.  And as he became strong, his faith was perfected, and his joy came out of the confidence of a perfected or assured faith.  He also had great hope for his eternal reward.

Listen, the world hated Jesus.  He said that.  They hated Him, really, with an insatiable hate that could only be satisfied when they had Him dead, and then He rose from the dead and continued to live through the apostles and through His church.  And so, as Paul said, believers who follow after Christ receive in their bodies the wounds intended for Christ.  We take the blows meant for Him.  It isn’t that they hate us; it’s that they hate Him, and He’s not here, so they attack us.  But it is in this sense that all believers who suffer persecution must view their persecution.  It is designed by God to produce a perfected faith.  It is designed by God to produce maturity, assurance, joy, and eternal reward.

In Mark 13:13, we read, “You shall be hated of all men for my sake.”  In 2 Corinthians 1:5, the afflictions of Christ overflowed toward us.  To the Corinthians, Paul says he was always bearing in his body the dying of Jesus Christ.  He says to the Galatians, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.”  He even prayed for more, that I may know Him, and fellowship of His sufferings.  Philippians 3:10.  For the Christian then, persecution is a noble expectation.  It produces growth and glory, and maturity, and assurance, and blessing, and encouragement, and reward, and is part of who we are.  It is one of the privileges of our union with Christ. 

Some of you may be saying, I never thought of persecution that way, but that is the Bible’s way to think about it.  That is how the church learned to think about it, through the very revelations of Scripture that I’ve just recited for you. 

Now, as we come to chapter 4 of the Book of Acts, the church is going to learn this.  The church is going to learn the blessing and benefit of persecution.  Those who were persecuted in the past have all entered into the eternal reward, and if they were here, they could give testimony of the glory of that reward.  The sufferings of this world,  they have learned, are not worthy to be compared with the joy that will be ours in the presence of the Lord.  We have a far greater weight of glory awaiting us.

Well, the early church is beginning to learn this.  And as chapter 4 unfolds, there are some principles that arise as we watch how they handle persecution.  I’ve identified seven of them, and I gave you three last time.  We’ll work on giving you the rest this time.  One could simply ask the question: how did the early apostles and the early church handle persecution?  By what means?  The answer is here.  First of all, we started in verse 5 to look at the response, and the first thing I told you last time was, this is the first principle of facing persecution: be submissive to it.  Be submissive to it.  That is precisely how they responded.  When everybody gathered together against them and confronted them, they saw it as an opportunity to preach the gospel to the Sanhedrin.  They wound up sitting in the middle of the gathered rules and elders and scribes of Jerusalem, with Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, two other of the elite blue bloods related to the high priestly family.  All of them from that descent.  They took Peter and John, placed them in the middle of the encircled Sanhedrin, and began to ask them questions.  This is the first necessary response that the Lord providentially has brought me to this place and this is going to give an opportunity that probably couldn’t be gained any other way. 

There was no resistance.  That’s what we see here.  It’s really an argument from silence.  There’s no struggle here.  They knew that even as new believers, that God had allowed this.  They were content with that.  They waited for God’s purpose to be unfolded.  This is God plan.  Everything they’ve seen has been God’s plan.  From the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and then it was all explained that this is the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies, and they understood all of that for the first time.  We see them pour out references to the Old Testament.  For the first time, the apostles do that in the Book of Acts because they understand it. 

So it’s all coming clear to them, the whole unfolding plan of God, and they submit to it.  The second thing we saw last time, the second principle that rises out of this persecution is they were filled with the Spirit, verse 8.  Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them.  They were beyond their own strength, like Paul.  They were in the midst of weakness.  They had no human resources.  They had no one who would get them out of this situation.  They didn’t know what they were to say, but they remembered the words of Jesus who said, “Take no thought in what you’ll say.  I’ll put the words in your mouth.”  That, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  So there, we find Peter yielding up fully control to the Holy Spirit. 

Now, that’s not just some kind of nebulous expression.  What it means is peter didn’t try to operate in his own strength, in his own wisdom.  In fact, it parallels James 1.  You remember in the next verse, after we read that trials have a perfecting work, producing endurance in a completed faith, we read immediately after that, these very familiar words from James.  Remember them?  “If any of you lacks,” what?  Wisdom.  Let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it’ll be given to him, but he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, for that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

In other words, throw yourself completely, trustingly on the power of God, which means: yield to the Holy Spirit, in the midst of the trial, in the midst of the struggle.  So, we saw that last time, the necessity of calling on God, and crying out to the Holy Spirit to take over and fill your life, and give you the words and the understanding and the wisdom to deal with it.  This is triumphant. 

The third thing and last point that we looked at last time was, in the midst of persecution, boldly use it as an opportunity to present the gospel.  Boldly use it as an opportunity to present the gospel.  Verse 8, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them.  And this is bold: “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man is has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all of the people of Israel that buy the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health.  He, that is, Jesus Christ, is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  This is really so powerful. 

How emboldened are these disciples?  You say they’re essentially just in the church for weeks.  The church is newly born.  They’ve just been literally given the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  They received the indwelling Spirit.  They’re filled with the Spirit.  How in the world could they have such assurance and confidence and boldness?  The answer?  They knew all that the Old Testament had said but didn’t understand its meaning.  They knew all that Christ had said but were shaky and foggy about its meaning.  But when Christ rose from the dead, met them in the upper room, and for 40 days explained the meaning of everything, all of it came together in completion.  Now, their theology is full, and rich, and historic. 

Jewish people who are converted to Christ are the only converts who can drag their former religion into the new one.  If you’re a converted Buddhist, you can’t bring anything with you.  If you’re a converted Hindu, you can’t bring anything.  But if you’re a converted Jew, you bring everything and you understand it, and that’s what was happening to them.  They were new in the sense of New Covenant converts, but they had such a vast education that now all had become clear.  They understood the plan, the purpose.  There is Peter there in verse 11, rattling off Psalm 118 verse 22 to show again this experience of now for the first time understanding even isolated portions of the Old Testament.  They preached the exclusivity of the gospel. 

What did they do in persecution?  Soften the message?  No.  Broaden the message to be inclusive, so no one is offended?  No.  They preached the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ and in no one else.  Now listen, they start throwing around Old Testament verses, and they do this with confidence, and this shakes the rulers in the Sanhedrin.  Verse 13.  Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 

Now understand, they, like the rest of the Jews, had been raised on the Old Testament.  They knew the content without knowing the meaning.  But now, all of a sudden, with their teacher after His resurrection explaining it all to them for 40 days, with the Holy Spirit becoming an internal resident truth teacher, they are profoundly educated in an understanding of Scripture.  And so, they speak with confidence about salvation in Christ and Christ alone.  And this shocks the Jewish Ph.D.’s who are supposed to be the only ones who can speak with certainty.  They’re astounded that these uneducated Galilean fishermen say what they say with such boldness, such confidence, and who talk like they knew what they were talking about.  They’re really stunned by this.  They obviously know that this is beyond what they should expect, and they began, end of verse 13, to recognize them as having been with Jesus.  They were like Jesus.  Confident, assured, authoritative. 

Remember in the Sermon on the Mount, what shocked the crowd as He spoke as one having what?  Authority.  They saw the same boldness in the apostles they had seen in Jesus.  They saw the same forthright fearlessness they had seen with Jesus.  And neither Jesus nor these men had ever set their foot in any rabbinical, authorized school.  And yet, they taught as if they had authority.  Certainly, none of them, not Peter or John, or any other apostles, in one sense, could handle the Old Testament the way Jesus did, but this is what they were used to from Jesus.  None of them could be as assured and as bold and confident as the omniscient Son of God, but it was very much the same.

That leads to a fourth principle.  Be obedient to God no matter the cost.  Be obedient to God no matter the cost.  The leaders have a problem on their hands.  They are looking at the man who had been healed standing with Peter and John.  He’s still there.  Remember?  That’s how the scene started, right?  Well, when Peter and John came to the Sanhedrin, they brought the man, the living illustration.  They didn’t know what to say in reply.  They were in no position to deny the miracle.  There’s the man.  Can’t deny that.  They’re not in any position to question the disciples’ understanding of the Old Testament.  They could’ve repented.  They could’ve  said, “We were wrong.  Obviously, Christ is alive because His power is at work.”  They didn’t.  They have to figure out a way to deal with this. 

So, in verse 15, they ordered them to leave the council, and then they began to confer with one another.  They take them out of the room.  They don’t set them free.  They just get them out of there so they don’t hear the deliberations.  And they say, “What shall we do with these men?  For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”  Does that tell you about unbelief?  How stubborn is unbelief? 

All right.  The miracle happened.  It’s a notable miracle.  The whole city knows it’s a miracle.  We can’t attempt to deny the miracle.  What are we going to do with these men.  This is a tough problem.  Oh, by the way, there’s no law against healing people.  There didn’t need to be a law against it ‘cause nobody could do it.  There’s no rule against a good deed.  And furthermore, Peter and John were popular with the people.  How popular were they?  20,000 people by now or about that make up the church which, as far as they’re concerned, doesn’t appear as a church, but a mass movement against them by the populous.  They can’t kill these men or they’re going to have a revolution on their hands.  That’s not good.  They can’t let them go, and at least they can’t let them go doing this, teaching and healing.  They’ve got to come up with something, and this is the brain trust now of Judaism.  So, they come up with a solution, verse 17, “‘But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.’ And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” 

That is the inevitable moment in persecution.  Is it not?  Every martyr came to that moment in the past.  Every martyr comes to that moment in the present.  We read it in the papers all the time.  ISIS finds Christians, they bring them in, they say “denounce Christianity, embrace Islam or we’ll chop your head off.”  That moment comes in persecution.  Will you deny Christ?  Will you deny Christ?  You read the history of the persecution of the church, and that moment comes back again and again and again.  They brought them in, commanded them never to mention the name of Jesus again. 

Kind of an interesting little turn.  The early believers had to be commanded to be quiet about Jesus; modern believers have to be commanded to say something about Him.  We’ve come a long way from the fire of the early church, I fear.  They still despise His name.  They still hate Him, and they can’t get rid of His name, they can’t get rid of Him.  So, they warn them.  The warning implies some kind of threat, some kind of response if they fail to obey, to speak no longer to any man that name.  What they mean there of course is public speaking.  The verb is used to refer to actual public speech.  No more preaching.  So they put a ban on preaching.  There are bans on preaching all over the world today.  There always have been in the life of the church.  So they threatened them with some unnamed retribution if they don’t stop preaching.  A ban on preaching.  I wonder how far away that is, even in our own country. 

So how do they respond?  Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.”  Boy, that is well-crafted, isn’t it?  They might’ve been fishermen, but they were pretty shrewd.  You need to make another judgment, gentlemen.  Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you or to God.  That’s it.  You say, well, wait a minute.  The Bible says that we are to be subject to the powers that be for they are ordained of God.  Romans 13.  The Bible says that we are to be subject to the king and all rulers, and to submit to them and be good citizens.  First Peter chapter 2.  We are to come under authority.  God is ordained government.  They don’t bear the sword for nothing, and we’re to be model citizens and not revolutionaries.  And so, this would’ve been the time for them to say okay, we will submit because the Bible tells us to submit.  We are to honor the king, and the governor, and those that are in authority over us.  God has ordained all authorities for the preservation of life. 

But that has limits, folks, when what men tell you to do is contrary to what God tells you to do.  Then, who do you obey?  You be the judge.  Whether it’s right in the sight of God to give heed to you, rather than to God, you judge that.  How did Daniel face that?  Daniel was told: do not pray.  Daniel answered that question, “I have a higher authority.”  Daniel, by nature, was a submissive young man.  He had demonstrated that in his training in Babylon.  He was a well-rounded noble, accommodating man, and rose to a prime ministership in an alien country.  But when it came to being told not to do what God commanded him to do, that’s where he had to obey the higher authority. 

So what does someone do in persecution?  First, you boldly proclaim the message that brought about the persecution, and secondly, with holy courage and boldness, you take your stand.  You have, really, no choice.  When the culture tells you you cannot proclaim the gospel, when the culture tells you you cannot read the Scripture, when society forbids you to name the name of Jesus Christ, or when society demands that you do something God forbids like allow homosexual marriage.  That is an oxymoron.  You have a higher authority. 

Listen, they knew that they had a responsibility to government.  It was Peter who wrote those words: submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.  He wrote that.  He understood that.  But when obeying that government makes you a violator of Christ’s command, you cannot be obedient.  You must not be obedient.  You will not be obedient.  Chapter 5 verse 29, it comes up again.  Further persecution.  Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”  We must obey God rather than men.  I say this not only to you, but to persecuted Christians around the world who may hear this message.  When they command you to stop speaking the name of Christ, you cannot obey them.  When they command you to stop preaching the gospel, you cannot obey them.  When they command you to accept something immoral, something unjust, or something unrighteous, you cannot obey them. 

Here we are in America, and some professing Christians have so little courage that the voice of their neighbors sound louder in their ears than the voice of God.  The real secret here is the tribute once paid to John Knox.  He feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man.  Well, that was Peter and John.  They obeyed in faith, leading the results to God.  That’s boldness. 

A couple of other things come out of this.  Little dialogue here.  It shows how opposite Judaism was from God, because they were put in a dilemma where doing what the leaders of Judaism told them to do would be absolutely contrary to God.  Again, another way to demonstrate how ungodly Judaism was.  It also let them know that their superficial self-designed authority was meaningless in God’s kingdom. 

So, verse 20, they say it as clearly as you can say it: “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  That’s how John described his experience with Christ.  First John 1:1.  You remember how he begins that epistle?  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”  Christ.  We saw Him.  We heard Him.  We touched Him.  We handled Him.  The Word of Life.  We cannot speaking about Him.  This, of course, is where persecuted people have to take their stand.  And if it means off with the head, burned at the stake, whatever it means, there’s no choice.  Paul put it this way, 1 Corinthians 9:16: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.”  I bring judgment down on my own head.  I’d rather be judged by man than by God.  I’d rather have the condemnation of an earthly tribunal than to have the condemnation of the heavenly one.

We can’t.  We can’t stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.  We can’t.  When they had then, verse 21, “threatened them further, they let them go.”  Why did they let them go?  Finding no basis on which to punish them, “on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened.”  There is a mass movement going on.  There are the people who have become true believers and are now making up the church, but the whole city, the whole area is electrified by this incredible miracle, and they’re all glorifying God for what happened.  Doesn’t mean they were all believers, but they all knew it was a work of God because they knew the man, verse 22, the man was more than 40 years old on whom the miracle of healing had been performed.  That means for decades, they had seen this beggar in his lame condition.  So they threatened him, but we don’t know what the teeth in the threat might be, but they didn’t put any.  They didn’t say we’re going to do this, or we’re going to do that, because they were afraid of this mass movement, this populace. 

So, they just released them.  If you look over at 40, it’s a similar situation.  Only this time, they put some teeth in their demands.  They called the apostles in, and they flogged them.  They whipped them, and then ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.  So, the first time, they think the warning might scare them.  The warning doesn’t scare them.  The next time, they whip them and give them the same command. 

That doesn’t stop anything.  Then, as you know, eventually they began to kill them.  But at this point, they do nothing.  Verse 23.  When they had been released, they went to their own, their own friends and family, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  They just gave a report.  They had stood their ground.  They had been bold.  No threats could’ve deterred them.  This is an appropriate response to being brought to the brink in persecution when your life is threatened. 

Wonderful story of John Chrysostom, summoned before the Roman emperor Arcadius, threatened with banishment if he didn’t stop preaching Christ.  He is said to have said this: “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.”  The emperor said, “Then I will slay you.”  “Nay.  You cannot slay me, for my life is hid with Christ in God.”  “Then, your treasures will be confiscated.”  “That can’t be.  My treasures are all in heaven, where no one can break  in and steal.”  “Then I will drive you from men, and you will have no friends.”  “You cannot do that either.  I have a friend in heaven who said I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Ultimately, Chrysostom was banished to a remote place on the edge of Armenia.  And all he did when he got there was preach.  All the time.  So they determined they had to banish him further into a terribly obscure place, and he died on the journey.  No threat could break his spirit, and no threat could take him away from obedience.  Boldly obey Christ in the face of persecution.  Boldly obey Christ in the face of persecution.

So what did we learn?  Be submissive, be Spirit filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, and be boldly obedient, no matter what the cost. 

There’s a fifth principle, a fifth principle.  Bind closer to other believers, verse 23.  “When they had been released, they went to their own companions,” friends, “and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.”  You know, persecution produces unity.  Go over to verse 32.  As this persecution accelerates, the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.  Not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own.  All things were common property to them.  With great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and abundant grace was on them.  There was not a needy person among them.  All who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.  This is an incredible coming together.  Persecution does that.  It produces unity.  They clung tightly to one another, dependent.  The persecuted church is the united church because it draws its strengths in that corporate fellowship.  Persecution inevitably produces unity.  It forces believers to circle the wagons, to cling to each other, to hold on tightly. 

Persecuted church, then, because expressive of its love.  It becomes stronger in its union.  Persecution then makes the church collectively strong.  So, the fifth principle, just in that one little verse: “Bind yourselves closely together with other believers.” 

Two more.  Number 6, thank the Lord.  Thank the Lord.  When the message was given and they heard it, verse 24, they lifted up their voices to God with one accord.  There’s the unity.  And they said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David your servant said,” Psalm 2, “‘Why did the nations rage and the peoples devise futile things?  The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”

What was their response?  Just immediate praise to God.  Immediate praise.  They pour out true worship.  They address God as Lord, not the usual Kurios, Lord, but despot.  It becomes the English word, “despot,” referring to one who is the absolute ruler of slaves, the absolute master of all.  They see themselves as slaves, and they praise their master.  They praise their God with one accord, who is the creator of the entire universe, the God who has all of the rulers of the world and nations of the earth in the palm of His hand, the God who allowed them to gather against His Christ.  And in their gathering, they accomplished His purpose, which was predestined.  This is where theologians get the invisible hand to describe the providence of God, verse 28, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to accomplish.

This is praise.  This is blessing God.  Their response to the report then, is to praise the Lord, to lift up their praise.  They recognize the guilt of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, the people of Israel.  But behind it all is the invisible hand of God, affecting His predestined purpose. 

This is so critical in persecution, to see that this is part of a scheme, a plan, a purpose unfolding, that God ordained before the world began.  Listen.  This is where your comfort comes from.  This is not outside the plan.  This is inside the plan.  This is not outside the power of God.  This is inside the power of God.  This is His purpose, it is His plan, it is by His power and His will.  The Old Testaments prophesied that the world would gather against the Messiah, that the kings of the earth would take their stand and the rulers would gather together, and they did, and who are those rulers who gathered against Jesus?  Herod, the Idumean; Pilate, the Roman; the Romans and the Jews.  The world gathered against Him, just what is prophesied in Psalm 2, and raged, the Gentiles raged, the Jews raged.  But all they did in their rage was what God had predestined to occur.  This is where the one in persecution finds final, ultimate comfort.  This is in the plan of God.  That’s how the Book of Genesis ends, in the story of Joseph.  They meant it for evil, but God meant it for God.  Psalm 76:10 puts it this way: He causes the wrath of men to praise Him. 

So, how do you handle persecution?  Be submissive, be Spirit filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, be obedient at all costs, bind yourselves together with other believers, and praise the Lord for His purpose and providence in it all.

And then, the final note.  Amazing.  Pray for greater boldness.  Pray for greater boldness.  Verse 29.  “And now, Lord, take note of their threats,” after all the praise and affirmation, then comes the request.  What’s your request?  Get us out of this. 

No.  Here’s their request: “Grant that Your slaves,” your douloi, “may speak Your word with all confidence.  Give us greater boldness.”  That’s the prayer of a persecuted believer.  Give us greater boldness, greater boldness.  Amazing.  You are despots.  You are the absolute ruler.  We are douloi.  We are slaves.  We are committed to whatever Your Word says.  We will speak Your Word with all boldness and confidence.  And Lord, undergird that speaking.  Extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant, Jesus.  Undergird our preaching with more miracles, more wonders.  Keep it up.  And you know that that is what was happening.

If you go back to the end of chapter 2, we know that there were wonders going on.  Verse 43.  “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.”  Scripture wasn’t written yet.  They needed to be validated.  They were validated by the miracles, and so they cry out to God: do more miracles to undergird our preaching.  Give us greater boldness, and do more miracles.

Their prayer was answered fast.  Verse 31.  This is heaven’s response.  “When they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God with boldness.”  Verse 32.  “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.”  Powerful.  Too many to number, now.  Bold, fearless, undaunted, confident, courageous, trusting in the purpose of God.  They are triumphant. 

This is how to face persecution.  The church, throughout its history, has demonstrated a similar triumphant character.  We rejoice in the faithfulness of the saints because we’re here today because of that faithfulness.  Faithful saints preserve the Scripture.  Faithful saints preserve the credibility of our Christian faith.  Faithful saints wrote the books illuminated by the Holy Spirit that explain the Scripture so that it could come to life through the centuries and be brought down to us.  We look backwards and see many faithful persecuted believers, but we need to realize that there are many today living.  There will continue to be many more in the future.  Maybe some of you, who knows. 

I was glancing through a book that just came out in the last couple of days called “The Upper Room,” which gives an account that I wrote of John 13 to 16.  I was reminded of a little story I put in there about a young man in our church here who used to like to go down to Los Angeles and tell people the gospel.  He was in the middle of Los Angeles, and he was at 7th and Broadway, and he was giving the gospel and passing out gospel tracts and sharing the gospel.  And somebody came along and bashed him in the back of the head, fractured his skull, and killed him.  Tried to save him by drilling holes in his skull, but they couldn’t.  That’s a few years back.  That’s how it is for some people right now in our world, and it could be our legacy in the not too distant future.  But we can rest on the truth of the testimony of the early church in the fourth chapter of Acts, can’t we?  What a great gift this is.

Father, thank You again for Your Word.  We always say that, and we always mean that from the bottom of our hearts.  Thank You for its glorious insights, revelation, truth.  Be with persecuted believers.  Use this message wherever it can be a help and encouragement to bring glory and honor to You through the faithfulness of Your persecuted saints, and give us courage and strength when we face the hostility that comes against Your glorious name.  We ask these things for the sake of Christ.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/44-18

VIDEO Persecuted for Truth’s Sake, Part 1

John MacArthur  Sep 7, 2014

Historians tell us that just looking early on the life of the church in the first decade of the church’s life, there are at least five outbreaks of persecution, just in one decade.  It all starts in the Jerusalem church, and you can open your Bible to Acts 4 because that’s where it begins.  Here in Acts 4 is the first persecution of the church.  The church, at best, is weeks, weeks old, brand new believers. 

If we think a little beyond that, and let’s take a look at the first three centuries, let’s say, of church history.  Historians like to point out ten separate eras of severe persecution of major proportions coming from the dominant power in the world.  We know what happened in those early years in the book of Acts, and we’re going to live it together.  We know about what begins here in chapter 4 and escalates in chapter 8, and again passes through the death of James and the death of Stephen.  We have all of that record, but it didn’t slow down after that.  The first official Roman persecution; now we’re getting beyond the Jews. 

It’s Jewish persecution that you see in the first part of the book of Acts, but in the latter part of the book of Acts, it’s Roman persecution.  It’s in the gentile and Roman world.  The first great persecutor was Nero, and that commences about A.D. 67, and punishments for Christians are bizarre.  They were sewed in the skins of animals, and then fed to hungry dogs.  They were drenched in wax and then lit as torches to light parties.

The next persecution following Nero came from Domitian, and Domitian used the rack to literally separate their body parts.  They were seared.  They were burned.  They were boiled.  They were scourged.  They were stoned.  They were hanged.  They were lacerated with hot irons.  They were literally impaled on the horns of bulls. 

The fourth persecution if we jump ahead a little bit around 162 A.D., beheadings start to appear.  The eighth persecution out of, let’s say, the ten, the first 300 years, we see 300 Christians in one group thrown alive into a burning lime kiln to be incinerated. 

Persecution went on after that, and it’s always around because Satan, who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of the spiritual powers that reign in the darkness of this fallen culture is always after those who confess Christ genuinely.  But as we come to Acts 4, let’s back up from all of that.  We come to the first persecution commencing the long pattern of satanically-inspired hatred of Christ, hatred of the Bible, hatred of the gospel, hatred of Christians, hatred of the church that has reached a point today where as many as 100 million, at least professing Christians, are under persecution.

Now, admittedly, there are seasons when it is less and seasons when it is more; seasons when it is deadly and other seasons when it is only social.  There are seasons when Christianity is tolerated and when it’s not tolerated.  There are times when persecution is psychological and times when it’s absolutely lethal.  There are times when it’s simply disdain and rejection.  But whatever form it takes, there is always going to be persecution because Satan hates God, Satan hates Christ, Satan hates Christians.  The kingdom of darkness hates the kingdom of light. 

Persecution may be overt, as overt as chopping someone’s head off or blowing someone to bits with a bomb.  Persecution may be as subtle, as very subtle as just shunning someone, alienating them, being unwilling to give them respect or a job or an academic position or social acceptance.  Persecution today follows those lines in our country, but it has an effect.  It has an effect. 

I think often we’d be better off if somebody was killing Christians because the real Christians would stand up in that environment.  Our Lord said, “The time will come when they imprison you and kill you.  Don’t worry about it.  When that time comes, you’ll know how to react and exactly what to say because the Holy Spirit will show you what to say.  Not only that, the Holy Spirit will strengthen you in that hour because you have a faith that cannot fail.  You have a faith that will not fail.” 

True believers survive the physical persecution, but Christians easily crumble under the social alienation, which very often produces a compromise that steals their testimony and weakens the church as it endeavors to accommodate the hostility of the world. 

I mean this is everywhere all the time going on in our culture.  In the culture of the West, the non-lethal persecution that comes against the church in our time, it doesn’t kill us.  It just makes us compromise.  We fail to preach the truth because we don’t want to be rejected.  We don’t want the scorn.  We don’t want the rebellion and the resistance.  We don’t want the animosity.  We don’t want to be look at as some kind of pariah, some kind of outcast.  But in the early church, it was real physical persecution on top of alienation. 

The early church, you remember now, had exploded onto the world’s scene.  There never was a church before the Day of Pentecost.  It was born on the Day of Pentecost, and we remember it was born when 3,000 people heard the gospel preached and believed and continued in the apostle’s doctrine of prayer, the breaking of bread, and fellowship.  And then daily more and more being added to the church.  It all was captive in the sense that everyone who professed Christ was a real Christian.  They were captive to Christ, as Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians to bring every thought captive to Christ.  It was a captive church. 

They were all real believers, and where did they meet?  They didn’t have a building.  They met in of all places, the temple.  They just went to the temple, the massive courtyard in the temple, and we find them, as we come into chapter 3, with Peter and John in the porch of Solomon, which was one of the great colonnades that had a covering over it in the temple area. 

They gathered there.  They gathered there in the afternoon at the official time of the evening sacrifice, the time of the hour of prayer, chapter 3, verse 1, the ninth hour, and you remember what happened.  Peter and John heal a man who was lame, who has been a beggar at the gate for years and years if not decades.  Everybody knew the man.  They all knew he was lame, and all of the sudden, the man leaps up, verse 8, stands upright, begins to walk, enters the temple, walking, leaping, praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God and they noted that this is the one who used to sit at the beautiful gate of the temple to beg alms.  They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.  And while he was still clinging to Peter and John, as a living illustration of the power of the living Christ, all the people gathered to them as the so-called porch of Solomon full of amazement.  And we know what happened; Peter preached the second great sermon in the book of Acts. 

He preaches a powerful message, and as all apostolic messages, he preaches on Jesus Christ, who He is, what He did, that He died, and that He rose again, and he indicts, he indicts the Jews for killing the Messiah.  Peter did it on the Day of Pentecost in chapter 2.  He does it again in chapter 3, and in chapter 2 in the first sermon he says, “Repent, repent, and believe.”  This one in chapter 3, it’s the same thing.  “Repent and believe, repent and return,” as he says in chapter 3, verse 19.

Then he explains what will happen if they do.  Their sins will be forgiven.  The kingdom will come.  The Messiah one day will return for them in glory.  Judgment will be avoided, and all covenant blessings will be realized.  So he preaches in Acts 2, an evangelistic sermon.  Three thousand people are converted, and then more and more added to the church every day as apostolic preaching goes on.  And then this great sermon in chapter 3, and the results are remarkable.  Chapter 4, verse 4, “Many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to be about 5,000.”  Five thousand men, and this is just counting men. 

The term for men – there are two words that can be used to speak of a man.  One in anthrpos, but that’s generic and that can be used for mankind.  We talk like that.  We use the word man in a generic sense.  This is not that word.  This is andrs, which means males as opposed to females.  So, there were 5,000 males.  That is distinct from females.  That is to say there were 5,000 males who believed.  We don’t know how many other women believed.  This is explosive. 

Now, the church is not just a novelty.  Now the church is a massive threat to the Jewish system.  You can’t have 10,0000, 15,000, 20,000, who knows, people congregating inside the temple courtyard in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they had just crucified, the religious establishment had crucified as an imposter and a false Messiah.

You can’t have that going on in the temple.  I mean this is a crushing blow.  This is in reality worse than when Jesus came into the temple and threw everybody out, and He did that at the beginning and the end of His ministry.  This is far worse than that.  So they have to react, and they do.  They react in chapter 4 with persecution.  Let’s look at verse 1, “And as they were speaking to the people,” which means this is not just Peter preaching.  Peter preached a great sermon, but the rest of the apostles and the rest of the believers.  And as I told you back in chapter 2, there were 3,000 who had believed on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls; but on this day, there are thousands more gathered.  Thousands are gathered because 5,000 men plus women believed.  This is astonishing, astonishing and by believing, they are condemning the Jewish leaders that executed Jesus; and they’re condemning them in their own temple. 

It’s a stunning reality, and this is what launches 2,000 years of hatred, hostility, and persecution.  Temple authorities must do something.  So as they’re speaking to the people, not just Peter, but all the other believers and the apostles.  And they’re talking about Christ and His death and the fact that He was the Messiah and fulfilled the Old Testament, and then talking about His resurrection; and so the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them.  The priests, those are the ones who officiated at all the temple sacrifices. 

There were 24 courses of priests, meaning 24 groups of priests.  Each group served for 2 weeks at the temple.  They were from all over the land of Israel.  They were priests leaving all over everywhere in the land of Israel, and each priest would serve 2 weeks a year in the temple offering sacrifices in the morning and the evening.  And so these were the priests who were officiating at the time.  They composed the first little core of opposers to this massive gathering in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

And then you can throw in the temple guard, the captain of the temple guard, the Sagan was his title.  He was the head of the temple police.  This is police.  The temple was policed very carefully.  If there’s one thing Rome demanded as the occupying power, it was order.  It was order.  Rome was a very tolerant master, and gave a lot of space to the nations that it conquered, and that’s why it did so well in running an empire made up of disparate groups.  But the one thing they didn’t tolerate was disorder, and, of course, the one thing that the leaders of the temple operation didn’t tolerate was disorder.  And so there were temple police, and then there were the Sadducees. 

The Sadducees were the minority religious party, who ran the entire temple operation.  The priests worked under their leadership.  Now, they were a religious group.  They were a religious sect.  They only believed that the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses was inspired by God, and the rest of the Old Testament was just commentary on the Pentateuch.  Since there was nothing in the Pentateuch about resurrection, they didn’t believe in resurrection.  We’ve talked about that. 

But they were the operating power and authority in the temple.  The priests were the functionaries who carried out the temple operation, week in, week out, day in, day out.  The temple police provided the security, and the Sadducees were over all of this.  They desperately wanted to keep control of everything because it was to their benefic economically and because if there was peace there, they didn’t get in trouble with the Romans. 

So this is the contingent that comes to call a halt to this.  Verse 2 describes their attitude, “Being greatly disturbed.”  That’s putting it mildly.  That is a very strong word, a very strong word.  That word occurs only one other place, and that’s in the Book of Acts.  “Being greatly disturbed.”  And that one other place is chapter 16, verse 18 where it describes Paul’s attitude when he saw a woman at Philippi under the power of an evil spirit, and he was greatly disturbed.  You remember that?  The woman comes at him.  The demon spirit speaks, and Paul, greatly disturbed, silences that demon in Philippi. 

This is a strong word.  They are troubled.  It’s the kind of trouble, it’s the kind of mental anguish that comes to someone who is profoundly agitated by what’s going on; and they were profoundly agitated.  What irritated them?  Number one, because they were teaching the people.  They were teaching the people.  You say, “Why would that bother them?”  Because they were usurping the authority of those who were the teachers.  It would be like you showing up today at a Jewish temple with about 10,000 Christian friends, and launching a class in New Testament theology.  That’s not going to go well.  You’re not official.  You’re not invited.  This isn’t your place. 

The priests and the leaders, they were the official teachers.  They were the ones who had the prerogative, and the ones that they affirmed, the ones that they validated.  This is highly disturbing that they were teaching the people, especially, notice down in verse 13.  You can look at it now.  We won’t get there tonight.  “They observed the confidence of Peter and John, understood that they were uneducated and untrained.” 

Now, those are actually kind of technical terms.  They were unlearned.  That is, they hadn’t been trained in the law in the sacred writings.  They weren’t versed in Jewish theology.  They were ignorant of Sadduceean theology.  They were ignorant of Pharisaic theology as well.  They hadn’t been to the proper schools.  They were common men.  They weren’t professionals.  They were amateurs.  They were out of line.  Ignorant Galileans, who have stepped into the world of the educated and the wise and usurped the role of teacher right in the temple and teaching doctrine that they had condemned about a man they had killed.

I like these people.  I like this early church.  I like Peter and John.  It bugged them, first of all, that they taught, and then it bugged them what they taught.  Go back to verse 2.  They were not only teaching the people, but what they were teaching was equally disturbing.  They were proclaiming in Jesus.  Let’s stop there.  They were preaching Jesus.  This is a full open public repudiation of the authority of the entire Sanhedrin because the Sanhedrin unanimously had condemned Jesus to death as an imposter.  Here, we find that they had taken a position that fully rejects the authority of the Sanhedrin, from the high priest down through the supreme court of Israel.  They are proclaiming Jesus. 

That they taught was disturbing.  What they taught was more disturbing.  And specifically, the third thing that irritated them; they were not only proclaiming Jesus, but that He had risen from the dead.  This is their message.  That’s what Peter preached in the first sermon on Pentecost, chapter 2, verse 24.  He preached the resurrection and he gave an exposition of Psalm 16.  That’s what he preached in chapter 3, verse 15.  He preached the resurrection.  “You put to death the Prince of Life.  God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses.”

This is especially objectionable to the powers of the temple, who are the Sadducees because they don’t believe in resurrection.  So they’re teaching; they’re teaching about Jesus, and they’re saying He has risen from the dead.  And thousands of people are congregating around to listen to this.  The word is spreading.  Thousands are believing, and the leaders are terrified that they’re about to lose their power.  So what are they going to do?  Well, verse 3, “They laid hands on them.”  That means to arrest them.  It doesn’t mean they patted them on the back.  “They arrested them and put them in jail until the next day.”  This would be Peter and John, the leaders, the preachers.  “Put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening.”

So they had shown up there at the ninth hour.  That’s what chapter 3, verse 1 says, and during that three hour period before they were arrested, they had been preaching Jesus crucified, risen from the dead.  For three hours, Peter and John had been in the temple.  From the time of the evening sacrifice and evening prayer at 3:00 until dark really, they had been preaching, and it had been very effective.

Verse 4, “Many of those who had heard the message, believed.  And the number of the men came to be about 5,000.”  If you count the women, maybe 10,000, maybe more.  Who knows?  They were having an effect.  Thousands of people converted, genuinely converted.  These are pseudo-conversions.  These aren’t people who raise their hand.  These are people who were regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  This is more than the enemy of men’s souls can tolerate.  This is more than false religion can tolerate, and so the persecution begins. 

But I said a minute ago and I say it again, it’s good.  It’s good because it purifies.  The threat of death, the cross, death, martyrdom keeps false believers away.  We see that later in chapter 5 where nobody dared joined the church because you could die.  Persecution manifested in those first 4 verses.  Now, the rest of the chapter we see how they handled that persecution, and what I want to share with you tonight, at least in our opening message is to go down at least to maybe verse 12 in the next half hour, and just to show you the practical ways in which those early believers faced this persecution.  Really practical. 

If we live godly in this world, we’ll suffer persecution, but we can look at several simple principles that play out in this incredible drama of these baby Christians, only a few weeks in the Lord and see where they placed their feet to stand firmly in such a threatening environment.  I’ll give you a few of them tonight.  Number one, they were submissive to the persecution.  They were submissive to the persecution.  I mean that’s basic.  That’s very basic.

Let me read verse 5, “On the next day, after they had been in jail all night, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem.  And Annas, the high priest, was there and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.  When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power or in what name have you done this?’” 

Now, this is an argument from silence at this point.  There is no resistance.  There is no resistance.  It’s just remarkable to me.  There’s no resistance.  They laid hands on them.  They put them in jail, took them out of jail, brought them before the Sanhedrin, sat them down in the middle.  No protest.  No resistance.  No fighting back.  They don’t call for arms. 

I think Jesus had made it pretty clear that was not the way to go when He shut down Peter’s effort to whack his way through everybody with a sword.  They literally ended up in the Sanhedrin, at the Sanhedrin. 

Now, the Sanhedrin sat in a circle.  There were 70 members and the 71st member, who would always have the deciding vote if there was a deadlock; there would always be an odd guy to make the final vote, and that was the high priest.  So you had 70 regular members plus the high priest.  This is the official supreme court of Israel again, the tribunal before which Jesus stood.  It’s made up of priests and scribes and elders, people of priestly families.  These are the bluebloods.  These are the officials, the officers, the people of power. 

Verse 6 points to specific characters.  There was Annas, the high priest.  He was the senior ex-high priest, but like a former president in America, we still call them president, even though they are not in office.  Annas still bore the title high priest.  He was the power behind everybody.  You remember when Jesus was first taken to trial, He went to Annas first.  He was a Sadducee, and then there was Caiaphas.  Caiaphas was the current high priest, and by the way, the Romans appointed the high priest.  So in order to be the high priest, you had to be complicit with Rome.  Well, you had to be a betrayer of your own people to some degree.  Caiaphas also was the son-in-law of Annas.  He had married Annas’ daughter.  Caiaphas is the President of the Sanhedrin. 

Then there are two named John and Alexander, two important men who belonged to the high priestly family.  Some say Alexander is a Greek form of Eleazar – again, that familiar name, the name of Lazarus – who was also a son of Annas and certain manuscripts read Jonathan for John.  Annas also had a son named Jonathan.  So there’s a lot of oligarchy in the middle of this power structure.  This is family rule.  It’s an august group, the Jerusalem VIPs.  And here in the middle of this august powerful group are Peter and John, representative of the Christians and the trouble-makers because they’re the preachers.  So they put them in the middle.

They usually assembled in the precincts of the temple in a place called the Hall of Hewn Stone, and they would place the accused in the center, and they would fire the accusations.  What a great opportunity.  If you sat in a back room somewhere and said, “The people on the Sanhedrin are lost and on their way to hell; they need to hear the gospel,” how would you pull that off?  Well, probably the only way you would be able to give the gospel to the entire Sanhedrin would be to get arrested and be put on trial.  So, just another footnote to remind you that persecution benefits the church because it develops a courtroom ministry that leads to a jail ministry. 

What an opportunity!  How would two Galilean guys, Peter and John, ever hope to be speaking to the most august body in Israel?  And they give them an opportunity.  They ask the set up questions.  “By what power or in what name have you done this?”  Perfect.  They couldn’t have asked a better question because that’s exactly what they want to talk about.  “By what power?”  This is a contemptuous question suggesting some magical power.  “And in what name?  By whose authority?”  All authority rested in them in their minds.  Where do you get this power?  And by what authority have you usurped this temple, this sacred place with your heresies?

The first thing I see here is the submission that recognizes that even in persecution, God is opening up a door.  God is providing an opportunity.  God is going to glorify Himself in this situation.  There’s a second and necessary response to persecution, and that is to find your strength in the Holy Spirit.  This should be obvious to all of us.  Please notice verse 8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit.”  You can stop right there.  If you’re in that situation, you want the Holy Spirit in control, right?  You don’t want to be mumbling something about your own impressions and your own ideas. 

How do you become filled with the Holy Spirit?  That’s the default position for a humble, broken, selfless, weak, impotent believer in a dire situation.  You just abandon all trust in yourself.  It’s when you’re weak that you become – what?  Strong.  It’s simply yielding up to the control of the Holy Spirit.  “Holy Spirit, empower me.  Holy Spirit, do what Jesus said would happen.  Give me words to say.”  Here’s the tribunal that He promised in the upper room.  When He said, “Don’t worry about that event.  I’ll tell you what to say.  I’ll show you what to say.”  Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit.  This is about faith.  This is about trust.  Don’t be fearful. 

What did we see this morning when the disciples didn’t want to go back to Judea because they were afraid Jesus would be killed, and they’d be killed with Him.  And He gives them a little proverb, “Twelve hours in a day and then comes night,” and you can’t do anything to lengthen the day.  You can’t do anything to shorten the day.  That’s fixed.  Your enemies can’t do anything to shorten the day that God has given you to minister in His name, and your pursuit of safety can’t do anything to lengthen it.  Yield to the Spirit.  This is a providence that they are there.  They know that.  This is a providence that they are there.  They want to make sure that the Spirit of God is in control. 

So they back up to what I would call the spiritual default position.  This is beyond me.  This is beyond my capability.  This is beyond my power.  This is beyond my wisdom.  This is beyond my control.  Oh God, empower me by your Spirit.  Lead me, guide me, help me to say what you want me to say. 

There’s a third – and I want to camp on this a little bit – third response, and this I think is most important.  First, be submissive because this is all a providence within the will of God in God’s purpose and in God’s time and in God’s way.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Yield completely to the Holy Spirit and to His power and wisdom.  Thirdly, boldly proclaim the gospel.  Boldly proclaim the gospel. 

That’s a little counterintuitive because your life is on the line.  They probably could have been dismissed if Peter had said, “You know what, guys, we’re so sorry.  We didn’t have a permit.  We didn’t get the permit to take over the temple.  We’re really sorry we messed with the ambiance.  We’re sorry we tampered with you there, so I’ll tell you what.  There’s some really nice spots in the hillside.  We’ll just kind of go there and we won’t be a problem.  We just won’t talk about the resurrection in Jerusalem.  We’ll find another strategy so that we can be accepted in the city and so that we can be embraced by the community because we don’t want to alienate everybody or we lose everything.” 

I think that strategy has been reinvented and reinvented and reinvented throughout the history of the church in one way or another.  They don’t do that.  When they’re filled with the Holy Spirit, they’ve yielded up.  The Holy Spirit’s message is going to come out and the Holy Spirit’s message, we know what that is.  It’s revealed in Scripture to us.

So Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them, “Rulers, elders of the people.”  He’s just in charge.  “Rulers, elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands before you in good health.  He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone and there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” 

Whoa!  This is the third point, boldly preach the gospel in the face of persecution.  Of course, you understand what’s at stake, what’s at issue.  Not only do you preach the gospel, but what I love about it is you preach the – are you ready? – exclusivity of the gospel after you’ve indicted them. 

The indictment comes.  “If we are on trial today for a benefit,” a good deed, “done to a sick man.”  Just to remind you that you’re calling us to this tribunal for doing a good deed to a sick man.  If you’ve arrested us for a good deed, this is an unjust court, right?  If that’s the reason we’re here, this is an unjust arrest. 

So, first, he indicts his indicters.  This is boldness.  But if that’s why you’re indicting us, “If that’s why we’re here because we did a good deed for a sick man and made this man well, then let it be known to you, all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucified.”  And the “you” is emphatic here.  Not the Romans, you.  “Whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health.”

If we’re here, first of all, unjustly for doing good, then let me tell you by what power we did that good and by what authority.  We did it by the name, the authority, the power of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ.  What does Christ mean?  Messiah, the Messiah, your own Messiah’s power, your own Messiah.  Jesus the Nazarene is your own Messiah.  It is by His power, which they know very well.  Why?  Because he spent His whole life doing what?  Miracles.  And he raised Lazarus from the dead, and they all knew about that because it was that resurrection of Lazarus after he had been dead four days that precipitated their executing Him.

So Peter accuses the Sanhedrin of the killing of their own Messiah, and indicts them for being far from God, far from God.  The very Messiah that you killed is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, which became the chief cornerstone.  They sentenced Jesus to death.  They killed their own Messiah.  That is a constant message.  We heard it in chapter 2.  We heard it in chapter 3.  We hear it again in chapter 4.  We’re going to hear it again in chapter 5.  No punches are pulled. 

Chapter 5, verse 30, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.”  You killed Him, chapter 2.  You killed Him, chapter 3.   You killed Him, chapter 4.  You killed him, chapter 5.  In the face of the most severe persecution, there’s no tamping down the message.  Why?  Because sinners have to be indicted for their crimes.  They must repent if they are to be saved, and that’s where he comes in verse 12, “And there is salvation.”  There is.  You see how that verse begins?  “And there is salvation,” for even you.  There is salvation.

Yes, as he quotes Psalm 118:22, “”You have rejected the stone, which has become the chief cornerstone of the kingdom.”  Yes, Messiah is the chief cornerstone of the spiritual temple of the apostles and prophets that Ephesians talks about; but there is salvation, however.  There is salvation in what?  No one else. 

Sometimes that’s hard to say, particularly, in a religious environment.  Could you walk into a house of false religion and say, “You, have rejected the only Savior?  You must repent.  There is salvation only in Jesus Christ”?  Could you announce that to a synagogue congregation?  Could you announce that in a mosque?  That’s what they did in the most sacred building one could argue in the world.  The point is simple.  You asked us by what authority and in what name we did this?  It is in the name of the one you killed, God raised, who is now alive, and it is by Him and His power that this man was healed.  What is that saying?  Jesus is not dead.  He is what?  He is alive, and there is salvation in no one else.

That’s the exclusivity of the gospel.  It’s so disturbing to me how many times I hear professing Christian people, even ministers want to somehow soften that exclusivity up.  “Well, who am I to say who God will accept?  I don’t know.  That’s up to Him, not me.”  People say silly things like that, heretical things like that to make money.  Peter knew is life was on the line.  So did John, and they wouldn’t say that.  “There is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  We must be saved.  We can be saved, but in only one name. 

Through the years I’ve preached on this and written on this.  No gospel, no salvation.  No Christ, no salvation.  Apart from Christ and the gospel, no salvation.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” He said.  “No man comes to the Father but by Me.”

In persecution, how do we respond?  First, with submission knowing God has a plan and that God is going to open a door even in the persecution and maybe take me to a tribunal that I would otherwise have no access to.  Secondly, fall with all your weight and all your weakness on the power of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Holy Spirit to fill you, empower you, and give you the things to say.  Thirdly, this is the one that is most defining, boldly present the gospel.  Do not compromise the gospel. 

Thinking back to the upper room just in conclusion, in John 15, Jesus said this in verse 18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  The slave is not greater than his master.  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept My word, they’ll keep yours also.  But all these things, they will do to you for My name sake because they don’t know the one who sent Me.”  Verse 23, “He who hates Me, hates my Father also.”  Then in verse 25, “They hated Me without a cause.” 

Verse 16, “These things I’ve spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.  They will make you outcasts from the synagogue,” social persecution.  “An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he is offering service to God.  These things, they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.  But these things I have spoken to you so that when their hour comes, you may remember what I told you of them.  These things I did not say to you at the beginning because I was with you, but now I’m going to Him who sent Me.”  I’m leaving, and I’m telling you these things so that you’ll be ready. 

He closes that 16th chapter by saying in verse 33, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”  The worst that can happen to us is that they kill us, and that would be our ultimate triumph, right?  If you live a godly life in the world, you will be confronted, and you will likely be persecuted.  Submit to that with a gracious attitude.  Don’t retaliate.  Christians don’t need to get an army and go kill Muslims, and individuals don’t need to return persecution with hatred.  They are the mission field, not the enemy.  Submit to the Spirit and boldly preach the gospel.  Leave the results to God.  Well, that’s how it all started.  We’ll see next time more about how it goes on.

Father, again, tonight just a real joy for us to be together and think of the testimonies and just singing the songs of praise and testimony as well.  We’re so grateful for the fellowship, grateful for these precious folks who are here so faithfully, who are taking in the truth and growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.  Lord, give them opportunity, even through persecution to speak boldly the gospel. 

Give them opportunity through persecution to be able to reach people they otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.  Give us a love that defines your attitude toward your enemies.  We’re told by our Lord Jesus to love our enemies because when we do that, we’re like you, our Father.  Even people in the world love those that love them.  Help us to love even our persecutors. 

We think about all of the martyrs of the past.  We think about all those credible stories in Fox’s Book of Martyrs when we read of the love of Christians toward their persecutors and the boldness of Christians in the face of death, and the triumph of Christians being filled with the Holy Spirit even in the fires and under the sword.  This is our faith.  It withstands all of that as we learn in Hebrews 11.  It is a triumphant faith.  It is a bold faith, and I ask that you would give that triumphant faith and that boldness to Christians all over the world, true believers in Christ who are being persecuted. 

Help them to be submissive, see it as an opportunity to advance your church as a purifying reality in your church, as a providential opportunity to give the gospel.  Help them to find strength in your Holy Spirit and to boldly preach the gospel no matter what the price.  Lord, may we begin to hear testimonies of the impact of persecuted Christians who don’t retaliate, who don’t fight back, but who entrust their souls to a faithful Creator when they’re unjustly persecuted, even as you did Lord when you were unjustly executed and committed yourself to your Father. 

We ask, of course, for protection for your gospel, your Word, pastors, leaders, true saints, but at the same time not at the expense of their boldness or of the purity of your church.  Do your work in your church to your glory.  We are so blessed to be a part of it.  We thank you in Christ’s name.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/44-17/persecuted-for-truths-sake-part-1

Your Calling: Truth

by Skip Heitzig | December 8, 2020

Toward the end of his life, the apostle Paul foresaw the abandonment of truth, even in the church, and gave his young protégé Timothy this antidote: “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul then offered three directives to help us sharpen our spiritual vision and anchor ourselves in God’s Word:

1. Be concerned about knowing the truth. Spiritual blindness is a metaphor for the unwillingness or inability to see spiritual truth. Over time, things we once saw clearly can become hazy, whether that’s because of life experiences or our own sin. This happens easily in a culture in crisis, where the cynical regularly question truth, as Pilate did (see John 18:38). Lines can become blurred in the church, too. That’s not a new development; Satan has always used non-truth as a tactic (see Genesis 3:1).

But we sharpen our spiritual vision when we concern ourselves with knowing spiritual truth. Paul mentioned truth eleven times throughout 1 and 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4 alone, he talked about “the word” (v. 2), “teaching” (v. 2), “sound doctrine” (v. 3), and “the truth” (v. 4). Truth is tied to doctrine, which in its simplest form means strong biblical teaching. Christians are to be people of the truth, because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6). That means we are accountable for our knowledge of biblical truth (see Hosea 4:6; Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:13; Titus 2:1).

2. Be cautious about neglecting the truth. Our culture has largely rejected truth, mainly because sensationalism has become more important than facts and truth is considered personal, which means it can shift depending on the situation. But think about it: if someone says, “There is no absolute truth,” they are making an absolute statement, which is a self-contradictory and self-defeating declaration.

Now, we might expect that sort of thinking from our culture, but keep in mind that Paul wrote 2 Timothy as a warning not for unbelievers but for believers who were turning from the truth. Christianity is always one generation from extinction. It starts in the pulpit when pastors who don’t believe the Bible is the literal Word of God don’t preach the full truth of it. This problem leads to “itching ears” (v. 3), as preachers feed the desire for novelty over a need for truth. God’s people starve when pastors pander to what people want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

3. Be careful about nurturing the truth. Paul warned Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (v. 5). Paul was calling Timothy to hold to truth and sound doctrine, feeding on it for himself and then sharing it. The Greek word for sound is related to our word hygienic; in other words, preaching good, true doctrine promotes healing and health.

And preaching carries the idea of an imperial messenger making a proclamation with authority. Timothy’s mission was to preach the truth of the true King—Jesus. As Christians, this is our calling, too: to believe the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, teach the truth, and live the truth, always pointing others to the one true King.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/08/your-calling-truth

How to Handle Persecution, Part 2

Oct 1, 1972 John MacArthur

Let’s bow in prayer as we come to our study. Father, we do thank You for the wonderful opportunity that is ours to look into Your book, and to see what it is that the Spirit would teach us this morning. Make us to be open, and help us to be teachable, and not that we only learn it in our heads, but that we translate it into our lives. Bless our time, Father. May Jesus be lifted up, we pray in His name. Amen. Take your Bible, if you will, and look at Acts, chapter 4, which will be our passage for this discussion this morning.

And we are dealing with the subject how to handle persecution, and this is our second and concluding study of these verses in this particular section. In our continuing study of the early church, we have come in chapter 4 to the first persecution. The book of Acts, as you well know if you’ve been with us at all in our study, records for us the life and times of the early church, from its birth through the early years of its growth and its spread to the world. Now, along with the birth of the church, we were to anticipate a reaction from the world.

In John, chapter 15, Jesus Himself had warned by saying, “Don’t be surprised if the world hates you; they hated Me. And they will kill you eventually,” chapter 16 of John tells us. So, Jesus warned that there would be hostility to the church, just as there was hostility to Him; that it is to be expected, that it is inevitable. And so, it comes in chapter 4, in the very early days of the church. The church has been born in chapter 2; through chapter 2 and chapter 3, the great sermons of Peter, the church grew.

And by the time we come to chapter 4, verse 4, it is likely that there were probably at least 20,000 people involved in the early church. The 5,000 of verse 4 has to do with men; in addition to that, women and children would be included, or young people. And so, the threat to the Jews is very serious. They had attempted to get rid of Jesus Christ by executing Him, and now they are having to live with people going all over everywhere proclaiming that He rose from the dead, and it isn’t a handful anymore.

It’s probably between 10,000 and 20,000 of them that are doing this in Jerusalem, so, they’re scared, and opposition naturally comes, politically and religiously. Now, the event that teed off the persecution is recorded in chapter 3. Now, you’ll remember that Peter and John went for the afternoon prayer time down to the temple, and coming through the gate called Beautiful, they came across a lame man, who for 40 years had been lame, and was probably a fixture at that particular gate, where he would daily beg for alms.

At that point, they healed the man; he jumped up and hopped all over everywhere, praising God. And such a thing drew the crowd into the courtyard; so startling was the miracle, and so familiar was the man, that everybody gathered around. And Peter and John jumped on Solomon’s porch, and with the man standing between them, Peter preached a great sermon on Christ. Announced that their Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth, that they had rejected their own Messiah and executed Him; and he indicted them for that, and then offered them salvation through the grace of God.

Now, as a result of this, many believed, and the number came to be about 5,000 men, as we see it in verse 4. In response to this sermon and to the growth of this new faith in this Jesus, there came to be a tremendous antagonism on the part of the leaders of Israel, and in chapter 4 that breaks out. And it progresses to be more severe as we go through Acts, even as it did in the case of Jesus. Now, the persecution in Acts takes the form of physical abuse. Although there is some threatening in the beginning of this persecution, it finally finds its way to personal abuse.

And in most cases, you might say, “Well, that really doesn’t relate this text to me very well, because we don’t have that kind of persecution.” Well, I’m not sure we wouldn’t if we didn’t – if we did confront the world in the same way that they did. But aside from that, I think Satan is subtle enough to know, that as we said last time, the kind of persecution that gets to your ego may be more severe than that which gets to your body.

The kind that hits you in the area of status, or acceptance, or pride, or makes you fearful of losing your reputation or your position in the community, may be the most subtle and devastating of all. I think that Christians are wont to depreciate their testimony, and to back off from naming Christ as they ought to, because of the fear that somebody might not like them. Or the fear of being ostracized from their society. Or the fear of being fired from their job. Or the fear of being shut out of a community of people that they’d like to be a part of.

Or the fear of being ignored as some kind of a strange commodity. I think we fall prey to the temptations and the persecutions in the area of ego, and acceptance, and pride, more than anything else, and if I’m honest in examining my own heart, I think that’s what gets to me. Now, there have been several occasions where physical abuse has been a reaction in terms of my preaching Christ, and that didn’t have a negative effect at all; it had a positive effect.

But there are times when I feared to name the name of Christ because I’m afraid of being an outcast, or looked down upon, or spurned, or being shut out, or being thought to be some kind of a weird individual, or a religious nut, or a freak, or whatever. But one way or another, a Christian who really confronts the world is going to get some reaction from the world, and we went into that a little bit last time. In 2 Timothy 3:12, we took a key from that, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

It’s just a known fact, revealed in the word of God repeatedly, that if you live for Christ in the face of the world, you’re going to get some flack. That has to happen, because you’re running cross-grain to the system. It can’t be smooth. The apostle Paul recognizes this, and in Philippians 1:29, he says this – now, listen: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” That’s part of being a Christian. That’s not a foreign element to the Christian life.

That’s a natural response to the Christian who really lives his Christianity in the world. And he says in verse 30, “You should have the same conflict which you see in me, and hear to be in me – if you’re doing what I’m doing, then suffering is a part of it.” And so, when you say to somebody, “You ought to suffer for Christ’s sake,” that doesn’t mean run out and, you know, do something masochistic, beat on your head with a hammer or something, so you can – it simply means, “If you confront the world as I do,” Paul’s saying, “you’re going to get what I got when I did it.”

It’s the measure of your commitment, you see. Now, as we saw last time, the persecution begins in the first part of chapter 4. But the great instruction that we want to look at is in verses 5-31, because this gives us principles for handling persecution, and that’s what we began to study last time. But let me just preface it by giving you a kind of a little picture of persecution that maybe you’ve never seen before. If handled right – now watch it – if handled right, persecution is a blessed experience.

It is a wonderful experience. It is a plus, not a minus. It is a positive, not a negative. I’ll show you what I mean. Look at James, chapter 1, to begin with, and we’ll just kind of pick up a couple of points there. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” When you have problems, whether persecution or whatever, consider it a great joy. Why? “Knowing this, that the trying” – or the testing – “of your faith works patience.” God has a plan. He wants to make you patient. “But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.”

Don’t avoid the persecution. Don’t get away from it, because in it, God’s going to bring you to maturity. Let it have its perfecting work, you see. In your life, God has a desire, and His desire is to bring you to maturity. That’s very clear. The plan of God is that you be perfected, or made mature. And there are really two things that bring you to maturity. Number one is the Word of God, 1 Peter 2:2; this is what makes you grow. But number two, 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 as part of the process of spiritual growth. So, if you’re going to grow, you’re going to have to be confronting the world and getting persecuted. That’s part of growing. You don’t run away from it, you accept it; verse 12. “Blessed is the man that endures temptation” – or trial or testing – “for when he is tried, he’ll receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” So, what do we learn from James?

We learn that persecution, number one, brings maturity; persecution, number two, brings reward; maturity and reward. Now, I want you to listen to Peter. Now Peter knew a lot about persecution. In 1 Peter 2:20, listen to this – interesting. “For what glory is it, if, when you are buffeted for your faults, you take it patiently?” In other words, you know, if you’re being punished for your sins, that’s not persecution, that’s punishment for your sins. No glory in that. “But if when you do well” – you serve God – “and you suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

Verse 21: “For hereunto were you called.” You were called to suffer. Now, some people have gotten it all twisted around, and there are some people who have become concerned with making themselves suffer. There’s a certain order of the Catholic Church, for example. I met a man in that order, who desired to suffer. Therefore, this man wears around his waist a belt that has inserted into it sharp, pointed nails. He wears it all the time, because he does not understand what it means to suffer. He thinks that to suffer itself is redemptive.

And there are other people in Europe, and you’ve seen them on television at certain periods of time, called flagellants who go down the streets, and with cords filled with bits of glass, beat themselves until the blood runs out of them. And they do this in the name of Jesus Christ, because they are feeling that they must suffer. But you see, they are suffering by a masochistic effort to suffer, not as a result of confronting the world with the truth of the gospel, and getting the reaction that God has naturally promised will happen.

You see, to suffer independent of proclaiming Christ is ridiculous. And some people would go around and say, “Well, my husband is my suffering. Well, I bear my cross, it’s my son.” That is not your cross. Now, that may be one of the problems, but to suffer for Christ is to get the response of the world to an open proclamation of Jesus by your life and your lip. And that’s the only kind of suffering that pleases God. The kind that comes as a result – in terms of persecution – that comes as a result of your active, aggressive, living godly in Christ Jesus in the face of the world.

And that is exactly what Peter is saying. “This is what you were called to, but suffering apart from that kind of life has no significance in terms of persecution.” Now, look at chapter 4 of 1 Peter, verse 13. Now, here’s his attitude in persecution. “But rejoice” – isn’t that terrific? In verse 12, he says, “Don’t think it’s some strange thing when fiery trial comes. Rejoice, inasmuch as you’re partakers of Christ sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.

“For if you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Isn’t that wonderful, to get 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. Back in chapter 1, he said, “The glory of man fades as a flower of the grass.” If you put yourself in a culture, and you try to accommodate yourself to the culture, and accommodate yourself to the society, you may grab a little temporary glory, but it’ll fade like the grass.

But you accommodate yourself to Jesus Christ, you confront the world with your message, boldly proclaim Jesus Christ, and you may get flack from the world, but you get glory from God. And so, he simply says, “If you suffer, happy are you,” because glory is involved. In verse 16: “Yea, yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God.” So, what do we learn? Persecution is wonderful. It brings growth, it brings glory, it brings joy, and it brings reward; terrific.

And I warned you by what I said earlier, that that doesn’t mean you run out and suffer, and then say, “Boy, am I racking them up with God. I’m beating myself.” No. Something else Peter says in 1 Peter 5:10, “That the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus” – there’s glory, again connected with suffering. All through Peter, he connects glory with suffering, because first the suffering, then the glory – “unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

You want to be established, strong, settled, and perfect? How are you going to be it? Say it. Suffer. That’s hard to say, isn’t it? That’s part of growth, you see. That’s part of maturity. That’s part of arriving where God wants you. And as I say, it’s not masochistic; it’s the proclamation of Christ by your life and your lip that sets up a reaction in the world by Satan, and you get it. And yet, there’s nothing negative about it, you see? There’s nothing negative at all about suffering. It’s entirely positive, from beginning to end.

You say, “Well, I get scared out there. What happens if I get out there, and the Lord leaves me?” That’ll never happen. I’ll read you – you know this passage – Romans 8:35. It says this: “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or” – what? – “persecution?” No. And he says in the next verse, “As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all day long.’” We’re expendable. “’We’re counted as sheep for the slaughter.’ But in all these things we are more than” – what? – “conquerors.”

That’s victory, you see? I mean, to go through persecution is a fantastically wonderful experience. It’s growth, it’s glory. It’s joy. It’s reward. It’s conquering. It’s all those things. Listen to Paul’s attitude. Second Corinthians 12:9. And here he’s kind of saying, “Lord, I’ve got a thorn in the flesh, and Satan buffets me with it, and it could be possible that I could rid of it, if You’d like, Lord. But, he says in verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

I like you weak, Paul, because then you lean on Me. Then he says this, “Most gladly therefore will I glory” – there’s that word again – “in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Now, listen to this; this is a statement that is strange, apart from what we have said. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmity, in reproach, in necessities, in persecutions.” You say, “He really enjoys his persecutions. Why?” “For when I am weak, then I am” – what? – “strong.” You see, when I’m being persecuted, I lean on Jesus.

God save us from a placid life where we never get persecuted, because then we can hack it on our own. But when the going really gets tough, and we are weak, and we are incapable, and we can’t make it, that’s when we lean on Him. And so, we pray that God would bring us trials, and God would bring us persecutions, that in our weakness, His strength may be made perfect. And so, you see, all the way through this thing, persecution is a plus. It is never a minus.

Paul said – and this is good – in Philippians 2:17 – I’ll give you two more things that he said, and then just take off from here. But 2:17. “Yea,” and he says, “if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” That is terrific. Now, Paul didn’t suffer for his own sake; he was already saved. He could have grabbed his scrolls, tucked them under his arm, and taken off for the hills, you know? Sure. I mean, he could have said, “Look, people, I don’t need to do this.

“I mean, I don’t need to go into town and get stoned” – with rocks, of course, you understand. He could have said, “I – this – I don’t need this. I’m saved. I mean, I know what the Spirit-filled life is like. I don’t have to do this.” But he said, “Look, if I can be offered for your joy, I get a joy out of it. If my life is a sacrifice, if I have to die to reach you, man, that’s a great thing.” And 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, “Hey, you know something? I got thrown in jail for preaching Jesus, and people got saved; why don’t I do more of this?” Because, you see, his life was expendable. This is the whole point. As a Christian, as we said last time, your life is expendable. You can spend your life on somebody else, and if you die in doing it, what a blessing if you’ve brought somebody to Christ. We’re expendable.

We have to look at persecution as an opportunity to suffer for the sake of somebody else. You know, you might have an opportunity to preach Jesus or to talk about Jesus somewhere, and you’ll clam up to protect your ego, and because of that somebody won’t hear the message of Jesus Christ. And therefore, you have considered your own pride, and your own status, and your own selfish comfort, above the salvation of that individual. True? True? You see, it’s only when you recognize that you are expendable, and that you, like the apostle Paul, will say, “I will sacrifice myself for you.”

That is when you understand the blessing of persecution. It is not because you get some intrinsic joy in suffering; it is because you know that you’re suffering, number one, so somebody else can know Jesus. That’s a blessing. Listen, there’s a second reason that Paul suffered, and this is beautiful. Colossians 1:24. This verse confuses a lot of people, and they find it difficult to understand it. It isn’t really that difficult. Let me see if I can open it up to you a little bit. Colossians 1:24, here’s another way Paul looked at his suffering.

This is beautiful. He says, “I, Paul” – verse 23, he’s talking about himself – “am made a minister” – and then he goes on – “Who now rejoice in my sufferings” – what are the next two words? “for you.” You see? But that’s the first thing about it is, I’m not doing this for me, it’s for you. I’m expendable. And this is the whole point of Paul’s life. “If I live, I live unto the Lord; if I die, I die unto the Lord. So, if I live or die, I’m the Lord’s, and it’s for you.”

But he says this, “I rejoice in my sufferings for you” – and here’s a second thing he loved about his sufferings – “I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, the church.” Now, there’s two things he’s saying here; number one, I do it for you. I suffer for your sake, for your sake, for your sake. But secondly, I have the wonderful opportunity of filling up in my flesh the afflictions that are meant for Christ. Now, watch what he means by this. Beautiful thought.

Since the time 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. True? So that when we are persecuted, who is it that they are really persecuting? It’s Jesus Christ. They don’t even know us. I mean, I may go into some place and proclaim Jesus all over everywhere, and they may attack me, and they don’t understand that just personally I am a nice guy. You know? I mean, I am not that bad.

I mean, I’m not a warmonger. I’m not a murderer. I’m not there to assault anybody, but they’ll get infuriated, and they may pounce upon me, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me at all. Who is it that they’re after? It’s Jesus. And you see, since the time the world began, they finally got so far that they killed Jesus, but that didn’t stop it anyway. They’re still trying to kill Him again and again and again. There are people in this world, and there always have been, who are after Christ constantly.

All the false systems in the world are after Christ, persecuting Christ. And when any Christian, standing really in the place of Jesus Christ, gets persecuted, he is really getting that which is directed at Jesus, but Jesus isn’t around anymore to get it, so we get it instead. True? That’s exactly what he’s saying. “I fill up that which is still left behind of the afflictions meant for Christ.” You see? In other words, “In my body I bear” – Galatians 6 – “the marks” – of whom? – “of Jesus.”

These aren’t meant for Paul. They’re meant for who? You see, people are still trying to kill Jesus. They’re still trying to get rid of Jesus. And because He’s not around anymore, those who stand in His place are the ones who get it. And so, Paul says, “You know something, folks? Persecution is so wonderful, because after my Lord suffered so much for me, can I do less than suffer some for Him? I mean, He bore all my reproach. Can I bear a little of His? I mean, He died and provided all that for me. Can I take a few of the darts meant for Him?”

He endured because it was necessary, to be a blessing to the church to endure, and secondly, because he loved the fact that what he was suffering was meant for Jesus. You know, I think that there are some people in your life that you might suffer for. I’ve often thought that – and you have too, probably – that if one of your children went through something extremely painful, you might have thought to yourself, “You know, I’d have gone through that for them. I wish it had happened to me.” Ever thought that?

Or some pain and anguish that somebody went through, and you thought because you loved them so much, “I wish it had happened to me, and not them.” You don’t say that about too many people, do you? But the ones you deeply, deeply love. Now, that’s how much Paul loved Jesus. He said, “You know what, I’ll take it all for Jesus. If He can just be up there in glory, getting what He deserves, I’ll stick around down here and I’ll take it. I’ll fill up in my body the afflictions meant for Jesus.”

So, persecution is a good thing. It’s good for the sake that Paul says, that we are allowed the wonderful privilege of taking in the arrows of Satan meant for Jesus. So, it is in this sense that all true believers who live godly stand in the place of Jesus Christ, and get the afflictions that are meant for Him. That’s what Mark 13:13 means when it says Jesus said, “You shall be hated of all men for My sake.” See? “Not because they hate you, but because they hate Me in you.” Second Corinthians 1:5, Paul said this: “The afflictions of Christ overflowed toward us.”

You see? “That which the world had meant for Him came to us.” He says, “I’m always bearing in my body the putting of Jesus to death,” you see? The world is always trying to kill Jesus, and they can’t get to Him, and they keep getting to me. “I’m always bearing in my body the putting to death of Jesus.” What a tremendous testimony. “I’m out there confronting the world, constantly face to face with the world, and I am so representative of Christ that I keep getting what they mean for Him.” And he says, “Oh, what a joy.”

And he even prayed further in Philippians 3:10: “Oh that I may know Him and the fellowship of His” – what – “of His suffering.” I get to share in what is His to suffer. You see, that’s great joy. 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 whom we reach. And it produces the privilege of identification with Jesus Christ, to fill up the sufferings that are meant for Him.

Now, maybe you don’t love Jesus enough to want to do that, but Paul did, and so did Peter and John. And so here, as we look at Acts, chapter 4, we see this kind of spirit. And here we’re going to find – that’s the introduction; now I’ll get to the sermon. You say, “Boy, MacArthur, I never thought of persecution like that.” I know. That’s the way to think about it, though. That’s the only way. And if you really live Godly in the world, and confront the world, you’re going to have the wonderful opportunity of getting persecuted, and having all those blessings come to pass.

But the beauty of this passage – now, understanding that the persecution began – was how they handled it, and there are seven principles here for handling persecution. Last week, we looked at the first three. And here we’ll look at the remainder, reviewing briefly. Seven principles involving how to handle persecution. Now, they got it, Peter and John did, and here’s what they did. Number one principle – you have an outline in your bulletin, which we’ve changed a little bit from last week, so you might want to follow along.

Principle number one in handling persecution: be submissive to it. Remember that from the beginning of chapter 4 clear through verse 7, to the time they got set down in the middle of the hall of hewn stone where the Sanhedrin met together, they hadn’t resisted at all. They had just willingly gone right along. And they weren’t cowards, and they weren’t afraid; they were submissive. They said this in their minds: “God brought us this far, He must have some reason. Let’s see what He’s going to do.”

And they didn’t fight against it. They – when persecution came, they willingly submitted to it. You never hear Paul doing anything but that. In the Philippian jail, when the jail started to fall apart at the earthquake, what did he do? Say, “At last we’re free, and wheem.” And no, he didn’t. He just stayed in there. He submitted, because he knew God had purpose. It’s a good thing he stuck around, too. God wasn’t finished with what He wanted to do in that place. But you see, they were submissive.

Whenever God brings you into a situation of persecution, stick around and see what God’s going to do. Don’t fight it, be submissive. That’s principle number one. And we went into that in detail, and you remember that Paul and Silas stuck around in the Philippian jail, and they could have gotten away. They could have gotten out of there fast, and they stuck around, and who got saved? The jailer and his whole family. Now, do you know what? The key to the salvation of that jailer, apart from the theology, the circumstantial key to the salvation of the jailer was persecution, right?

They got persecuted. They got thrown in jail. They were having a great time singing songs in there. The place got all rattled. Everybody was panicky. The man was going to fall on his sword. Paul introduced he and his whole family to Jesus, and it all came about because of persecution. Again, a classic example of Satan doing his best, and being overruled by God. Second principle we saw last week, not only be submissive to persecution, but secondly, be filled with the Spirit. 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 it in their own strength, and develop their own techniques, and their own cunning. They yielded to the Spirit. Third principle, boldly use it as an opportunity to present Christ. And this dynamic. They got into this situation, and they saw an open door to present 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 – and they could have watered down their message, and as I told you last week, they could have come out with a few little religious platitudes that would have been innocuous and inoffensive to anybody, and just kind of gently accommodated themselves, but not them.

They used it as an opportunity to present Christ. Jesus had told them “I want you to go into all the world to preach the gospel to” – whom? – “every creature.” And here was some “every creatures,” sitting right there. They may have had a big sign on them, Sanhedrin. Boy, that didn’t make them not “every creatures.” And so, Peter and John say, “Hey boys, we’re here; we’ve got to do it.” Off Peter went. Verses 8-13, he preaches Jesus. And he even indicts them for crucifying Him.

And then in verse 12, he says, “You know there’s no salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” He lays it on the line. He says, “Guys, this is the only hope, is Jesus. This man was made well by Jesus physically, and you will be made well by Him spiritually, or you will not be made well at all.” No other name but Jesus. And so, they are bold, unbelievable boldness, in the face of persecution, and to the Sanhedrin, the highest court in Israel.

That’s how to handle persecution: be submissive, be Spirit-filled, boldly use it as an opportunity. Now, what was the effect of it? Look at verse 13, and we’ll move into our study for this morning in terms of this text. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant” – which means that they were not educated in the rabbinical schools, not versed in prevalent Jewish theology, and the word ignorant means they were amateurs as opposed to pros – “they saw that they were unlearned amateurs, they marveled.”

They were shocked. I mean, how could you explain two unlearned amateurs handling a disputation with the Jewish high supreme court, and coming out on top? “And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” See, only the Ph.D.s were supposed to be able to handle these tougher matters, but these two guys had such poised assurance and bold confidence that they were shocked. And the boldness is unbelievable in the face of possible death. And it says in verse 13 – I love this: “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

Now, I’m not going to spiritualize that, because I don’t think it needs to be spiritualized. It’s not some foggy ethereal thing. It simply means this: they kept remembering that these guys had been associated with Jesus, and what reminded them of it was the fact that they were doing what He did. Because it was exactly what Jesus did, that they were doing. What do I mean? Just this. The thing that shocked the Jews about Jesus was this: “He taught them as one having” – what? – “authority.” And He had never been to the rabbinical schools.

He didn’t go to the right school. In fact, He came out of that cruddy place, Nazareth; would anything good come out of there? Not only that, He was an amateur. He wasn’t one of the pros. “He taught them as one having authority.” Well, what happened? Not only that, what else had Peter and John done here? They’d done a miracle, hadn’t they? And what did Jesus always do? Miracles. Another thing that Peter and John had done so well is in verse 11, handling the Old Testament, and Jesus was the master at handling the Old Testament and applying it.

And they had done the same thing, just as masterfully as Jesus did it, because they did it directly under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were like Jesus, in the fact, number one, that they had authority; number two, that they did miracles; and number three, that they interpreted the Old Testament. They were just like Jesus. And they were saying, “Wow, it’s obvious that these guys have been with Jesus. Here we go again. We’ve got this same problem all over again.”

None could equal Jesus in person, but they were the equal of Jesus in the miracles and the message, because it was Him speaking through them. And so, they took notice of them, that they had been with Jesus, because they had the same pattern that He had. And they marveled. And then that brings us to the fourth feature in handling persecution: be obedient to God at all costs. Verses 14-22, be obedient at all costs. In this little simple narrative, you’ll see how obedient they are.

Verse 14: “And beholding the man who was healed standing with them, they couldn’t say anything against him.” Well, what are you going to say? The guy’s been 40 years a cripple. All of a sudden, he’s jumping around, having a great time. And he’s standing there, and everything seems to be in great order, you know. His legs are doing terrific. And if I read my Bible right, he’s been standing for at least three hours. Now, if you haven’t stood in 40 years, standing for three hours is pretty good. And he’s still hanging on to Peter and John; they haven’t gotten rid of him yet.

Not that they wanted to, but he’s hanging on. And so, what happens is, it says in verse 14, “And beholding the man who was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” I guess not. What are you going to say? They really didn’t have any argument. It’s a tough problem. What are you going to do? But it’s interesting that though they couldn’t argue about it, and they couldn’t deny it, they wouldn’t accept it either. This is the blindness of sin. Here they were face to face with truth, with power, with all of these things, and they blindly had their eyes shut.

And John 3:19 tells us that it’s simply that, “Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light” – why? – “because their deeds are evil, and they don’t want to come to the light, because if they come to the light, their deeds will be reproved.” So, they know the truth, but they avoid the truth. And Jesus hit it right on the head in John 8 when He said this: “You are of your father” – whom? – “the devil, and from the beginning he was a liar. And so, because I speak the truth, you don’t understand.”

Now, if I talked lies you’d read Me clear. And so, they know the truth, but they reject it. Boy, that’s the character of unbelief. In the face of absolute evidence, they reject. People say, “Well, if – I’ll believe if God will do a trick. Do a trick, God, and I’ll believe. Do a miracle.” Oh, you hear that all the time. “If there’s a God, why doesn’t He do a miracle?” Listen, in the case of Lazarus, you remember, and the rich man? The rich man said, “I want to go home and tell my brothers.” And it was said to him, “If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe that one rose from the dead.”

And you know something, somebody did rise from the dead, and they don’t believe. It’s not a miracle that brings people to belief. It’s that brokenness of spirit, and that conviction of sin, and the knowledge of the truth. Now, a miracle may have a part in it as a sign, but miracles alone don’t do it. They have a very limited use, even in the life of Christ. And so, they simply do not do anything positive about it at all. They’re going to figure out what to do negative.

Verse 15: “When they had commanded them to go aside out of the council” – they sent Peter, John, and the man outside; they had a committee meeting – “they conferred among themselves, saying, ‘What shall we do to these men?’” Now, that is a stupid question to begin with. What had they done to deserve you doing anything to them? “What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle has been done by them, is manifest to all those who dwell at Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”

Now, if that doesn’t give you some insight into the terrible plight of the blackness of their unbelief; they had a miracle that was obvious, they could not deny it, there was no way they could set it aside, and yet they were intent on rejecting it and getting rid of these people. Now, that is the character of unbelief in its hardest type. And so, they have to have a meeting as to what to do with these people. I mean, they didn’t have any laws against doing miracles. And they didn’t have any law against good deeds, either.

And Peter and John were now popular heroes, you see. I mean, they were – they had healed a guy, and so everybody – it would have been disastrous to the public relations department of the Sanhedrin if they had pulled off some deal and punishment for Peter and John, because they were heroes. So, they had to find a compromise without starting a reaction among the people. And here’s their decision, verse 17: “But that it spread no further among the people, let us threaten them.” They say, “We’ll lay it on them with our authority.”

“And that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” And they all decided “Yea, we’ll do that.” So, they brought them in, verse 18, “And they called them, and they commanded them not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus.” “That’s it. 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. Isn’t it an interesting thing that the early church had to be commanded to be quiet, and the modern church has to be commanded to speak?

Boy, we’ve come a long way. I’m not sure in what direction. So, they desperately wanted to be rid of the name of Jesus. You know, they still can’t get 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 there’s 20,000 people running all over Jerusalem proclaiming Him. And it just got worse.

And you know, even today, as I was in Israel, the thing that struck me the most, I think, the most – the clearest thing that I could see in terms of just kind of identifying certain factors, the thing that overwhelmed me every day, was that right in the middle of Judaism, which rejects Jesus, are all of the things that relate to Jesus. I mean, just think how much easier it would have been if Jesus had been a Chinese individual, and it just cleared away – of course, then it wouldn’t have started the conflict.

But just imagine having to live in Israel, and one bus load after another of pilgrims coming to see the places where Jesus was. “There goes another one.” They’re all over the place. And everybody’s carrying around little olive wood New Testaments, and little Jesus symbols, and everywhere you go in the midst of Israel there are churches with crosses and Jesuses everywhere. They cannot get rid of Jesus, no matter how they try. They can’t. And here, they hope that they had gotten rid of Him when they killed Him, and now they hope they can get rid of Him by shutting up Peter and John.

Do you realize that if they had shut them up at this point, that church history would have been totally different? What a disaster. I mean, it all boiled down at this point to two guys who were really the ones. Boy, am I glad they were faithful. So, they said, “We don’t allow you to speak.” And the word they use for speak there in verses 18, 17 and 18, is an unusual Greek word, used only one other place in the New Testament. It means to speak publicly, to speak aloud, public speaking. So, they put a ban on preaching; no more preaching about Jesus.

And they put all their authority behind it. And they hoped this would shut them up, and it didn’t. Peter and John recognized a higher authority. Jesus had said “Go into all the world and” – do what? – “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. Let’s just play it real cool, and we’ll get out of here and do what we want.” See? But no, they’re so bold. Verse 19: “Peter and John answered and said unto them” – now, I don’t know if they had this memorized so they could do it unison, but anyway.

“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.” Whoa, what a bomb that is. He says, “You’re the supreme court of Israel. You judge this. Here’s the decision. Is it right to listen to you or God? Help.” If they say, “Listen to God,” then they can’t say anything to them. If they say, “Listen to men,” they reject their faith in God. They’re stuck. They’re not only on the horns of a dilemma, but it has also been determined that they and God are at opposite ends of the world.

And so, with holy courage, they don’t sneak away. They don’t cower away. They simply say, “We have a higher authority.” You say, “But doesn’t Romans 13 say, ‘Be subject to the powers that be, for they are ordained of God?’” Sure, and I think in the general rule and the general principle, this is absolutely accurate. Peter himself, in 1 Peter 2, even says that we’re to be subject to the king, and the governors, and those that rule over us. But when it comes into conflict with a higher command from God, then that’s different.

Do you remember Daniel? The king said, “You will not pray, that’s a new edict.” What did Daniel do? Prayed. Somebody may come along and say, “You will not read the Bible,” but the Bible says it needs to be read. Somebody will come along and forbid you to proclaim Jesus, but Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Somebody may come along and command you to do something that is wrong, and against the direct statement of God and the word of God. Don’t do it. You see, there comes a point when you must be obedient to God.

Peter and John knew that they were to be subject to authority. Christians should be the finest citizens possible. But at the same time when it comes to violating the command of Jesus Christ, that’s when we obey Christ and disobey the government. And they don’t argue, and they don’t hassle, and they don’t make a big deal out of it. They simply say, in verse 20, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” We must do what God says. Now, here they are, obedient at all costs.

They realize they’re expendable by putting their life on the line, but they want to be obedient. Over in chapter 5, verse 29, they said the same thing, “we ought to obey God rather than men.” And so, they don’t snivel around, and they don’t sneak out, and they don’t hide. They courageously state who they will obey. Somebody said the trouble with most Christians is that the voice of their neighbors is louder in their ears than the voice of God. But not in the case of Peter and John. They knew to whom their allegiance belonged.

You know that historically there have been great times in the history of God’s dealing with Israel that disobedience has been important, and I mean disobedience to governments. In Exodus 1:17, you know that they want to get rid of the Hebrew babies in Egypt, and so there was an edict sent out. but it says in verse 17 of chapter 1, “The midwives feared God and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.” You know, it’s a good thing they did that. It’s a good thing they did that.

It’s a good thing they disobeyed the king and saved the children. For they are the progeny of the race. Then there was an interesting command: “And Pharaoh” – verse 22 – “charged all his people, saying, “Every son that is born you shall cast into the river.” Well, that’s a pretty good – you say, “Well, did they disobey that?” Well, sort of, they threw Moses into the river, but they had a boat, you see. But they disobeyed and isn’t a good thing that they disobeyed because Moses was God’s chosen instrument.

You see, whenever conflict arises between the command of God and the command of men, whom do we obey? We obey God. And this is all, you can trace this all the way through the Old Testament, suffice it to say, at that point. So in the great tradition of men of God, they obeyed God, even though they knew it could mean their lives. And I love it in verse 20: “For we” – what is the next word? – “cannot.” Remember what Paul said, “woe is unto me if I” – what? – “preach not the gospel.” I can’t do anything else but speak this.

“We can’t be silent,” they said; “we have to speak this.” And so, the Sanhedrin lays a heavier threat on them. Such obedience. It would be so convenient, you know, to get into persecution, and say, “Well, I’m going to obey you and not preach Jesus, because I’m going to subject myself to the powers that be. Romans 13:1, see, I’m all right.” They knew who their higher command was. Verse 20 – 21, they had threatened them more. “So when they had further threatened them” – they really laid it on now – “they then let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people.”

You see, they were all involved in politics. All involved in prestige in keeping their position. “For all men glorified God for that which was done.” Why? Because the man was 40 years old in whom the miracle of healing was shown. So, they were afraid of the people, and so they just had to let them go, after they’d really put the heavy threats on them. And so, we see here complete obedience to God’s will. Persecution breaks out, but it doesn’t break them. They remain obedient in the middle of it.

You don’t ever want to stop doing what you’re doing just because you get persecuted. No bribes, no threats, should ever tame our spirits, should ever steal our zeal. No claims, mental or physical, against us, no chains that would bind us, should ever make us violate the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love the statement of Chrysostom, the great Christian of the early years. He was summoned before the Roman emperor Arcadius, and he was threatened with banishment. And he didn’t – he had preached Jesus, and Arcadius said, “If you do not cease to preach Jesus, you will be banished.”

And this is what he said: “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will slay you,” exclaimed the angered emperor. “No, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.” “Your treasures will be confiscated.” “Sire, that cannot be, my treasures are in heaven where none can break through and steal.” “Then I will drive you from men, and you will have no friends.” “That, you cannot do either, for I have a friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

Ultimately, he was banished to Caucasus, which is on the edge of Armenia, but when he got there, he was so greatly influential by the letters that he was writing all over the world, that his enemies determined to banish him further away, to a place called Pityus, and he died on the journey getting there. Couldn’t stop him; couldn’t stop him. No threat broke his spirit. No threat broke his obedience to God. He knew his priorities. And so we are to be obedient; obedient. How do you handle persecution?

Be submissive, be Spirit-filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, and be obedient at all costs. Skip some thoughts here, the time is gone. Number five, bind yourselves closer together. And this is beautiful, look at verse 23: “And being let go, they went to their own company.” They got together with their friends. They went – you know, persecution drives us together. We often talk about the unity of the body, but persecution is such an important ingredient.

If we all confronted this world, and if we all had to live in a hostile world, and if the world was persecuting us, it would drive us together. You know, I think sometimes Christians get so tied up in picayune little dumb things, you know, and we all sit around, and our whole Christian life boils down as to what we wear to church or, you know, “Well, lookit, there’s Mrs. So-and-so, she’s had some terrible things to say about Mr. So-and-so.” And you know? And we live in these little, really dumb little things, that we get all involved in.

And we spin our wheels on piddlies, you know? When, if we’re really out there confronting the world, we’d be getting so much heat back that we wouldn’t have time to mess with all that stuff. And we’d be driven together for the common love and security of the body. If we really confronted the world, there’s a key to our unity. It would drive us to each other. As it is now, we don’t confront the world, so we live a kind of a placid, innocuous existence, and there’s not enough trouble so that we need anybody else.

We can buy our way out of our problems, you know? Because everything’s so nice. But they were persecuted, and they bound themselves together. Over in 32-35, it talks about the fact that they had one heart and one soul, and if anybody needed anything, somebody else provided it. The next thing, the sixth one – and this is what they did when they got together – is bless the Lord. This is the next reaction to persecution. Verse 24: “And when they had heard that” – they reported to them, all the chief priests and elders, it said.

“And when they heard that” – it says – “they fell on their face and cried, and said, ‘O God, save us.’” Is that what it said? No, it doesn’t say that. It says, “They raised their voice to the Lord in one accord, and said, Lord thou art God.” Isn’t this terrific? “And you made the sea, and the heavens, and the earth, and everything that’s in it.” They acknowledge God. “God, You’re in this. You made everything. You’ve allowed this to happen.” They didn’t come back in a state of mental depression.

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? And they all might have come back with the attitude, you know, better a live chicken than a dead lion. But they didn’t. They were a whole gang of Joshuas and Calebs, you know; they believed it could be taken for the Lord. Their reaction is PTLA, Praise The Lord Anyhow, and they’re happy.

And they address the Lord as Lord, and the Greek word there is the word that – it’s a very unusual word for Lord; it’s a word that translates into English, despot. It’s the most severe kind of dictatorship. They recognized their absolute bondage to Christ. “Lord, You’re running the show, and if this is what You want, great, we’re in it.” They praised God for His sovereign power. “You’re on it. You made the sea, You made the heaven, You made the earth. You made us, You made the situation, You know what’s going on.

“It’s Your deal, and we’re going to go right in it with You.” Praise the Lord. And then they quote the Old Testament, Psalm 2, verse 25, and I’ll give you the translation of this. “Who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth, of thy servant David” – that phrase should be in there – “has said, ‘Why did the nations rage and the people imagine vain things. The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers are gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’” And here, they say, “Hey Lord, clear back in Psalm 2, 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. So this whole persecution deal, You know all about that, don’t You, Lord? For a truth, boy, it happened, against Thy Holy servant Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed or made a Messiah. Herod, Pilate, the nations, and Israel gathered together, Lord, just like you said: persecution.” But when it was all over, look at verse 28: “They did whatever” – Whose hand? – “Thy hand and”- whose counsel? – ”Thy counsel determined before to be done.”

Isn’t that something? The world gave its best shots to Jesus and was all done. You know what they had accomplished? They’d accomplished salvation. Psalm 76:10 simply says, and gives us the principle, “He maketh the wrath of men to do” – what? -”praise Him.” And see, they’re comforted in the fact that Jesus got persecuted, but when His persecution was over, through His death, salvation was provided for the world. And again, Satan had overdone himself. And that’s exactly the point right here. This is their comfort.

The God who turned the persecution of Jesus to salvation can certainly turn their persecution into something wonderful. Now, you see, that’s what you need to recognize when you’re getting persecuted. “Hey Lord, what wonderful thing are you going to do out of this? Why, when Jesus got persecuted, You brought the redemption of all men. What are you going to do about this?” So, they’re just praising God and having a wonderful time. That’s trust.

I’m reminded of the story of Joseph. You remember Joseph got persecuted, first of all by his own brothers. Genesis 37:8, he got persecuted by his own brothers, remember, sold into slavery? Then he got into Egypt, and he went to work for some guy name Potiphar, and he got persecuted by them. And they – his wife told all kinds of lies about Joseph, and had his coat to supposedly prove it. And Joseph got persecuted by Potiphar. Next thing you knew, he got into jail, and he was in there and he got – he had done his best to help some people, you remember the butler and the baker situation? He got persecuted by them.

He got nothing but persecuted, persecuted, persecuted, and when it was all over with, he got exalted didn’t he? To the highest place next to the king in Egypt, and he was able to supply everything for everybody that they needed, even those who persecuted him. And the book of Genesis wraps up with a fantastic statement in chapter 50, and the statement is in verse 20: “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it this day, to save many people alive.”

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. So what’s the principles, then? To handle persecution, be submissive, Spirit-filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, be obedient, bind yourselves together, and bless the Lord, the last one. Beseech God for greater boldness. You say, “Are you kidding?

“You mean, they want to go back into the thick of it again?” Sure. Verse 29: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants” – slaves, connected with that same word, Lord – “to Thy bond servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word.” With how much boldness? All boldness. “We want to go right back out and speak again.” You say, “Oh, they told you not to do that.” See? Well, we need power to do it. “And then, God, stretch forth Your hand to heal; and do some signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.”

“Let’s really give it to them, both barrels, God. I mean, they’re talking against You. Let’s go.” That’s exciting. They prayed, and they didn’t pray for the Lord to smash their enemies. It was too good. Why eliminate the joy, right? “Lord, don’t – just let them do what they’re doing, we love it.” So, they were looking not for an out, but an in. They were looking for not an escape, but a power. And so, they said, “God, give us power.” You think God will answer prayer like that? Yeah, He did, in verse 31.

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled.” Some of you can relate to that. You know what that experience is like. Can you imagine when that whole thing’s shaking? “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.” There they go, He answered their prayer. You know what persecution did? Did it have its effect? You better believe it did, but its effect wasn’t the one Satan meant it to have. They flew out of that place, and verse 32 says, “And the multitude of those that believed were of one heart and one mind.”

They went out of there, and people got saved all over the place. It doesn’t even tell how many; so many, they didn’t even count. They asked for more power, and God gave it. This could be your experience, beloved, if you live godly in Jesus Christ. Now, some of you have never experienced this, because you’ll never really live a godly life. You may be a Christian, but you’ll never confront the world, so you’ll never know this. Others of you will live godly, and persecution will come, and you’ll crumble, and that’ll be it.

A few of you will live godly, you’ll suffer persecution, and in the midst of it, you’ll be submissive, you’ll be Spirit-filled, you’ll boldly use it as an opportunity, you’ll be obedient at all costs, you’ll bless the Lord, and you’ll beseech God for great boldness, and yours is the victory, and the growth, and the glory, and the reward, and the joy. Let’s pray. Father, we thank You this morning for teaching us again how it is that we’re to be responsible to confront the world with the claims of Christ.

O God, we pray that we might be bold for Jesus. And even as we go from this place, Father, we pray that we might put into practice in our own hearts and lives those things that You’ve taught us by Your Spirit this morning. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

END

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1715/how-to-handle-persecution-part-2

VIDEO Why I Need the Church

 BY FRANCESROGERS

Praying this morning on the eve of another Lord’s Day, praising God, my Father, desiring His name to be hallowed, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, and His will to be done here on earth, it was with worship in mind.

Tomorrow He will meet with us who are gathered in the name of our Lord on the day of our Lord, January 10, 2021. This Eve has become a day of preparation for me, remembering that every day is the day of our Lord for over two thousand years. But, specifically, the first day of the week belongs to Him. According to His atoning work, we, who are His by grace, plan for this day to honor Him. He is the beginning of eternal life for us through His death and resurrection.

So, what difference does it make if I honor Him on His day? And what happens in this celebration of His atoning work of grace? New thoughts came to mind as I prayed for Chris, our pastor. He has specifically asked for prayer that He may preach more faithfully, more pointedly, and more Christ-centeredly. Daily praying for the Holy Spirit to work in Him in His preparation to preach the word in power, we pray more fervently the day before for the sword of God’s Word that will pierce our hearts. We pray for the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts to receive the truth of His Word and that it will find its resting place to root and grow and produce its fruit in and through us as His children.

 This means more than just saying “Amen” to what we hear. A prepared heart comes to listen to what our Father has given His servant for us. If we “have an ear to hear,” we will take in what He intends to reveal of Himself. The truth in the power of His Word will change our minds and hearts and conform them to His.

So, why do I need to be in church? The church is the place for gathering God’s people to honor His Son and receive the eternal life He came to give. It is the place of His worship and His Word. I need to know and hear from heaven the Father/Creator and Redeemer of my soul. The church was His plan, not man’s. We need under-shepherds who know Christ and the life He came to give His people, who are filled with the Holy Spirit, and who feed His sheep with the manna from heaven.

I need the cutting edge of the sword of His Word, not to desire what makes me feel good about myself, nor to be entertained, but to have all sense of pride and deception stripped from my being. I need to be cleansed of thoughts of, and plans for, myself.

Individual reading and study are good, but these are not all we need. We need the “body of Christ” listening collectively to how He plans to shape us into His image.

Christ died and rose again to give us His life, that we may live through Him (1 Jn. 4:9). The more we know of Him as revealed through the preaching of His Word, the more we become like Him, understanding the reality of His dwelling in us and our dwelling in Him (1 Jn. 4:13; Jn. 14:17, 23), Filled with Grace ~ Wrapped in Glory.)

The supernatural, spiritual work in His incarnation, His resurrection, and His ascension is the same divine power working in us through the sword of His Spirit ~ the Holy Spirit working His Word in our hearts and lives.

His sanctifies us individually and collectively.

We must submit ourselves to the weekly preaching of God’s Word to know His transforming power in the days ahead, lest we lose ourselves in the overwhelming chaos and uncertainty of the world. His Word defines who we are in Christ. We must plan, prepare, and anticipate a newness of life in Christ we have hardly known.

Dear Father, we ask for the unction of your Holy Spirit for the preaching of your Word tomorrow. Prepare our hearts to receive what you have given your ministers. Enable us to receive the truth of your Word for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. Let us willingly accept what your Word reveals of the intentions of our hearts, deliver us from our sins, and conform us to the image of Christ. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

VIDEO The Battle for Truth — 7 Unmistakable Traits of False Prophets

 July 13, 2020  by Shane Idleman

“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:11-12). 

Theologians debate the historical context of this verse, but one thing we do know is that it definitely applies today. Many people want to know about end-times signs, but first we need to discern end-times voices—voices of truth versus those of falsehood.

In these dire times, many of us can relate to the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “My heart within me is broken because of the [false] prophets; all my bones shake … because of the Lord, and because of His holy words” (23:9). The lies of Israel’s leaders led to Jeremiah’s broken heart as well as a loss of balance and stability. God declared, “‘For both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,’ says the Lord” (23:11). The land, not unlike ours today, was full of unrepentant sin and fake voices, and the people were paying the price—the pleasant places were dried up.

In short, a false prophet is one who proclaims, “This is what God says,” when it’s not what God is saying at all. They also embrace ungodly movements because they are filled with the world rather than God’s Spirit. Leaders who are not mightily filled with God’s Spirit may exhibit some of the same characteristics as false prophets, which I’ve outlined below. However, in these cases, they lack holy fire but aren’t necessarily false leaders. A false prophet is unconverted, whereas those who are wishy-washy may simply be quenching and grieving the Spirit by their choices. Be careful in labeling people too quickly. The false prophet will draw clear lines in the sand; those struggling just need biblical direction. If we don’t cling to the cross and seek God daily, we could easily become lukewarm and not boldly stand for Him. We all must be vigilant. Listen to a short clip here about this very issue.

Although the main focus of this article is on those who say they believe in Jesus, there are also false prophets in cults who downright reject the deity of Christ. The apostle Peter warned, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). False prophets will say they believe in Jesus, but they’ve never repented of their sin and embraced him as Lord and Savior. This point is critical—just because someone says something does not mean they believe it. Look at the fruit.

With that said, here are seven surefire signs of a false prophet based on Jeremiah 23.

1. False prophets scatter God’s flock rather than unite it. “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!’ says the Lord” (v. 1). As just one example of many, during the COVID-19 pandemonium, I saw a pastor (who I believe to be a false teacher) mock another church that had stepped out in faith to host a meeting. Sadly, some people from that church did come down with the virus. But instead of praying for the church and protecting them by not spreading gossip, the mocking pastor had the audacity to ridicule them on social media even further, thus dividing instead of uniting.

False prophets also divide the body of Christ by embracing liberal theology and supporting such things as gay marriage. Spirit-filled believers are left baffled and confused because false teachers keep promoting sin rather than looking to what God says. Granted, some Christians do not fully understand what the Bible says about certain topics and may therefore appear vague on their stance. These people are not necessarily false prophets; they are biblically illiterate.

2. False prophets do not care for the spiritual needs of others. They appear loving to the world, but mature Christians can spot their hypocrisy a mile away. They march with ungodly movements but say nothing about the murdering of children in the womb. They are arrogant and boldly shake their fists at God in the name of tolerance. In 2 Timothy, Paul warns about people who are rebellious yet have a form of godliness. The world loves them because they are not convicted by their messages.

It’s a given that most of us struggle with selfishness, but the rebuke from God is focused on how they lead: “‘You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,’ says the Lord” (v. 2). To not attend to their flocks is to not care for their spiritual needs. People are dying spiritually, and false leaders counsel them to keep sinning. Instead of offering the cure, they encourage the disease. For instance, a pastor I debated on Fox News actually said that he would encourage someone who struggles with same-sex attraction to embrace it (the link is here, and my podcast here where I cover many of these topics). This leads right to the next point.

3. False leaders encourage people to indulge the flesh rather than fight it. They are more afraid of holiness than sinfulness. Jeremiah’s words are dead on here: “They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness” (v. 14). They encourage sin and avoid words like repentance. They won’t talk about judgment because it convicts their unconverted soul. The very thing they need is the very thing they are running from—repentance. They promote freedom, but they are “slaves to depravity” (2 Peter 2:19).

There is a huge difference between a Christian who says, “I’m not really clear on this issue, but I’m searching God’s Word for answers,” and a leader who says that God is fine with sin. False prophets often align with Hollywood more than with the Holy Spirit. They talk about peace but never repentance: “To everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you’” (v. 17). Granted, it’s biblical to encourage and help people. We are to encourage them in the midst of their sin, but we should never encourage sin.

4. False prophets avoid the difficult truths in the Bible. To truly help people, we must preach the difficult truths as well as the joyful ones, preach the cross and the new life, preach hell and heaven, preach damnation and salvation, preach sin and grace, preach wrath and love, preach judgment and mercy, preach obedience and forgiveness, preach that God is love but not forget that God is just. It is the love of God that compels us to share all His truth. But false teachers avoid unpleasant doctrines to tickle ears rather than challenge hearts. Christians should not be an echo chamber for the world but a powerful voice proclaiming God’s Word with a spirit of humility.

5. False prophets use the phrase “don’t judge” out of context (this point differs in the sermon above). To them, “judge not” apparently means “don’t offend.” When asked why they don’t talk about sin, their statements go something like this: “It’s not my job to judge, just to love.” Yes, we need to love people and avoid a judgmental attitude, but this isn’t the issue here. Leonard Ravenhill was famous for saying that we must “weep before we whip.” True, biblical love speaks the truth, especially regarding moral issues that destroy lives and dishonor God. We are to judge, to “call into question” behaviors, choices, and lifestyles that lead people in a dangerous direction. In 1 Corinthians 2:15, the apostle Paul said that those who are spiritual should judge and discern all things. Jesus’s famous words “judge not” were meant to condemn a pride-filled judgmental heart, not to have us remain silent on sin. Simply read Matthew 7 in its full context.

6. False prophets question the inerrancy and reliability of Scripture. As a result, they often say, “I think,” rather than “I know” when it comes to biblical truth. This is where the trouble starts. When we minimize the authority of God’s Word and maximize our opinion, we will always lead others astray. False teachers have no solid foundation for their lives or for their theology. But had “they stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings” (v. 23). God is crystal clear here that only the undiluted preaching of His Word leads to radically changed lives. Ironically, because they question God’s Word, they themselves don’t like to be questioned. Truth invites scrutiny, but error runs from it.

7. False prophets lack boldness and have no urgency in their preaching. When God truly calls a person and fills them with His Spirit, boldness always follows. They speak with authority and urgency. They are more concerned about God’s opinion than popular opinion. This is what the Lord says: “Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and … tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word” (v. 28).

Yes, love and grace have conquered many hard hearts, but God also uses bold preaching: “‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the Lord, ‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’” (v. 29). But false teachers “speak great swelling words of emptiness and “they allure through the lusts of the flesh” (2 Peter 2:18). Their words are not a burning fire but empty pleasantries.

True prophetic voices are often too radical for most people because they threaten their comfort zone and dismantle lukewarm Christianity. But isn’t that the whole point? “When we become so tolerant that we lead people into mental fog and spiritual darkness, we are not acting like Christians—we are acting like cowards” (A.W. Tozer).

The most important question one can face is, “Do you truly know God?” We cannot minimize the destruction, danger, and damage of sin. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for a minor violation. He died because the wrath of God was abiding on every human who ever lived. If you’re a false teacher, or if you’ve drifted from God, please change that today, and embrace the wonderful gift of assurance via repentance and confession of sin. “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). God’s grace will flood your soul as He renews and rebuilds your life.