Acts 8 has it all. Persecution, a hateful antagonist who will become the beloved and powerful protagonist, the influence of a passionate follower of Christ, the importance of place, “power evangelism,” sorcerer, city wide revival, ethnic hatred being overcome, miracles (yep; real miracles), evil spirits exorcised (no kidding), emerging leaders being checked out by founding leaders, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the treasurer of Ethiopia’s conversion, and the Holy Spirit catching someone away like Elijah! Wow! If I were saying that sentence out loud I would be out of breath! All in one chapter.
With the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, the Sanhedrin was united in their opposition and persecution of the early believers. Their hatred isn’t directed at the apostles alone but towards the church. As the church mourns the murder of Stephen, Saul sets out with his murderous plan. He drags men and women out of their homes to prison in order to destroy the church. Like most religious terrorists, he thought he was serving God. Saul’s life remains one of the great stories of conversion in history.
Throughout the history of the church there have always been deluded people who think they can destroy what God has begun. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary released a study that estimates 100,000 “believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” This matches a study that a Vatican official told the United Nations that 100,000 Christians lose their lives every year because of the witness.
Iran’s persecution of Christians hasn’t stopped the growth of the church. Forty years ago Iran had 200 Christians who came from a Muslim background. Today, estimates are that 370,000 converts are worshipping house churches. So while, Iranian authorities try to force/torture Pastor Saeed Abedini, a United States citizen, to renounce Christ, the Holy Spirit continues to use the witness of others to draw people to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray for and support our persecuted brothers and sister around the world. For more information about the persecuted church, please check out http://www.morningstarnews.org
I gratefully acknowledge, as believers in America, we are not subject to the kinds of persecution that believers in Iran or Nigeria and other such nations are. A concerted effort among some in our beloved country seeks to limit the expressions of faith from students to military chaplains through legislation, courts and expensive lawsuits. At times believers have been responsible for their marginalization because of a lack of wisdom or inconsideration. I confess to at times feeling helpless against the direction our country is taking. Then I remind myself, that this battle is the Lord’s. The enemy has already lost. God has a people and he is preparing the hearts and minds of people in places we wouldn’t think of. We will see this and more in Acts 8.
This week lets read Acts 8 together.
Peace and Joy!