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Sermons about Persecution
This week, the Chapel in the Oaks hears from two preachers, first from Stephen, the first martyr, and then from Pastor Hans Googer.
Primary Claim: Christiains are to remember, pray for, and seek to help those who suffer trials due to their faith in Christ
How faithful are we in the face of persecution and apostasy? Would we hear the words of Jesus saying that He has written His name upon our hearts?
This week, we hear from Acts 5:12-42 where the apostles are thrown in prison for proclaiming, then freed by angels and told to proclaim more, and then questioned and beaten by the high priests, only to continue in confidence again, boldly proclaiming the gospel! The message: Continue With Confidence!
Revelation 2:8-17 King James Version (KJV) 8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. 12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
In Paul's ministry at Thessalonica and Berea, we see two responses to the Gospel. People treasure the Gospel or are threatened by it. The invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to lay down our lives, to treasure the Gospel.
It’s bad to be persecuted and to have to suffer through difficulty…At least that is the way we normally think. What we see in scripture, however, is a different dynamic. Persecution and difficulty are used by God to develop a deeper relationship with us and when we have that deeper relationship, we see God use what is tough and negative in our lives to accomplish good. Persecution and difficulty often push us out of our comfortable nests so that all around us can see our faith fully exposed. I. A great persecution came out of the martyrdom of Stephen A. Persecutors were emboldened (Acts 8:1) 1. Saul approved of Stephen’s execution 2. He and others began to ravage the Church B. Here is some of what Saul did (Acts 8:3) 1. He entered house after house of Christians 2. He drug off men and women (Acts 22:4, 5, 19, 20; 26:10, 11) 3. He put them in prison for their faith II. What happened with Stephen? (Acts 8:2) A. Devout men buried Stephen B. They made great lamentation over him III. What happened to the Church that was under pressure but not in prison? A. The church was scattered (Acts 8:1) 1. They went out into the regions of Judea 2. They went out into the regions of Samaria B. The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem C. Those that were scattered went about preaching the word (Acts 8:4) IV. Persecution and suffering are used for our good by God A. Persecution 1. Matt. 5:11, 12 – Rejoice and be glad when you are persecuted 2. II Cor. 12:10 – Content with persecution – When I am weak I am strong 3. Acts 5:41 – Glad to be counted worthy to suffer dishonor B. Suffering 1. Romans 5:3-5 – We rejoice in our sufferings knowing what they produce 2. Col. 1:24 – Paul rejoiced in his sufferings 3. James 1:2-4 – Count it all joy when you meet trials 4. I Peter 1:6, 7 – Rejoice in your trials It was awful for these early Christians to have to live like they did, but what happened to them was for the good of the church and the good of the world. Many of them probably prayed for the suffering and persecution to end, but in the end the trouble they faced reaped a great harvest of souls. It got them out of Jerusalem and out into the world and many nations were saved because persecution pushed them out.
"Pray For More." After persecution, the disciples don't ask for protection or safety, but more boldness to proclaim the gospel in spite of it. Hans challenges the Oaks to think more rightly about our priorities when confronted with adversity because of the gospel.
Paul writes to the Philippians, and with all of his affection and love for them, his prayer is that they would not grow cold to the Gospel, but that they would engage with the living savior. But they must pursue the things that are vital - but how do they know what is vital?