Sunday, March 4, 2012

From Acts to Revelation Part 19 – In Depths of Sin


From Acts to Revelation
Part 19 – In Depths of Sin
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | www.PS127.org | www.TruthDigest.org

INTRODUCTION
Today's scripture gives us insight into “Extremist-religious” groups, and their mishandling of faith, as well as how God will use all things for good, even when we don't understand.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCE
Acts 8:1-8
 1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Philip in Samaria
 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

Up to this point in the Book of Acts, we have seen;

ñ Jesus gave the Apostles their command before His ascension, they obeyed Christ, returning to Jerusalem and waited for the promise
ñ The Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and The Church began
ñ Peter & John were preaching and teaching in front of the temple daily
ñ They healed a man lame from birth
ñ The Sanhedrin became jealous and angry and arrested them
ñ They warned them to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus
ñ They continued, and were arrested again, and beaten
ñ They continued and the Church grew
ñ They appointed Deacons to help see to the Disciples needs
ñ Stephen was arrested for preaching Christ
ñ He was charged with Blasphemy
ñ Last week, we examined Stephen's defense in Acts 7:1-53
ñ Stephen is stoned to death
I.       SAUL APPROVED STEPHENS DEATH
1.      Saul, a zealot for God
1.      but he fully approved of the murdering of Stephen

2.      Knows the Word, but lacks understanding
1.      The scriptures he had studied and memorized were full of the prophecies and teachings of the coming Messiah...Saul should have known, but lacked understanding of the very words he thought he was defending.

3.      Lives in the depths of sin and hatred
1.      Many today think they have a relationship with Christ, but live a life full of hate, un-forgiveness, vicious anger, resentment, selfish-motivations.
2.      A true believer in Christ will cast these things down when they try to exalt themselves above the life Christ has called us to live.
1.      2 Corinthians 10:5 “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”
3.      Knowledge of God, and Obedience of Christ!
1.      Saul knew the words, but lacked knowledge.
2.      Saul's behavior was against the knowledge of God, and against the obedience of Christ.
3.      How are you doing in these areas?
4.      Are you following in Jesus' footsteps, or are you following your own selfish-motivations, fueled by anger, hate, un-forgiveness, self-centeredness?
5.      Are you living in obedience, or in sin?

4.      Yet, Saul is still redeemable!
1.      Saul is not a lost cause, and neither are any of you!
2.      There are times in our lives when we do not understand what a relationship with the Lord is...a time when NONE of us were “saved”.
3.      There are also times when we stray from the narrow path Christ walks.
4.      Times we may not find our way back to the path.
5.      But as we see with Saul, who approved the murder of Stephen, and actively sought out more “Christians” for slaughter, even this is forgivable to one who is truly seeking the Lord.
6.      Many sins can be forgiven, when one finds the Lord, even if he had already had Him at one time, and is returning!
1.      James 5:20 “...he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
2.      This chapter is speaking of believer's who have strayed.
7.      Saul is going to live this scripture. He is going to prove God's forgiveness, love and grace, which gives us time to repent.


II.   THE GREAT PERSECUTION BEGINS
1.      All but the Apostles scattered
1.      Until this time, the “church” was confined to Jerusalem

2.      Saul began to destroy the church
1.      Persecution actually helped take the gospel to Judaea and Samaria, so the devils plan to end this “Church”, backfired!

3.      Going house to house searching for followers
1.      Saul went to houses he knew had Christians in them

4.      Putting both men and women in prison
1.      Saul spared no age or gender, and forced them all to stand trial in front of the magistrate


III.                        GODS WILL BE DONE
1.      Those who scattered preached the Word wherever they went
1.      The persecution backfired...instead of stopping the spread of the Word, it aided it!
2.      Satan has a problem with the preaching of the gospel by those anointed with the Holy Spirit...but has no controversy with ritualism, or philanthropy.

2.       Philip (an Apostle) proclaimed Christ in Samaria
1.      vs.5, “Then Philip went down...”
2.      The scriptures do not tell us why Philip left Jerusalem to go to Samaria
1.      I believe it was because the Disciples were preaching and teaching Christ in Samaria, and the people may have doubted their authority.
2.      So an Apostle was needed to show that the things they were hearing was the Truth of God, and authorized by Him.
3.      I believe this because of verse 1 saying “All but the Apostles fled to Judaea and Samaria...”, and then reading in verse 5, Then Philip went down to Samaria...”, and what do we read next?
4.      Verse 6, “When people saw the miracles, signs, healing...they paid close attention to the things Philip spoke” (Verse 5 says he preached Christ).

3.      When the people saw Miraculous signs, they paid close attention to all he had to teach
1.      The sign of a TRUE Apostle, one who is eye-witness to Christ's resurrection, and has the ability to perform miraculous signs, wonders, healing at will.

4.      He cast out evil spirits from many, paralytics and cripples were healed

5.      These are all signs of a true Apostle, and one who is authorized to speak for God
1.      I believe that those in Samaria had trouble believing the Disciples, and an Apostle was needed to prove that the Christ that was being preached, was the Truth of God.
2.      Because Philip went to Samaria and took care of this, the result is verse 8

CONCLUSION
vs. 8 “So there was great joy in that city.”

We see from today's scripture a few important facts.
1)     Like Saul, sometimes we “think” we are right with God, and we are “helping” God in the things we do and say to others...when in reality, we are hurting others, and getting in God's way. We need to evaluate our behaviors, and motivations...anything we do that is NOT motivated by God in the imitation of Jesus Christ, is selfishness...we are not truly following Christ, but ourselves.

2)     Like Saul, no matter your current relationship with God, whether it is good, or bad, or you think it's good and it is bad...you can be forgiven, and your relationship with Him restored.

3)     Like the first church, sometimes we can be persecuted, and forced to move in this world into directions we never dreamed, nor wanted to go...BUT, if we are listening to the Holy Spirit, and obeying Him, we will be part of God's Will and plan!

4)     Even when things look their worse, as the church was just getting its start, and is now persecuted and appears to be dissolving, God's will may be doing something great! We do not always see what God has planned, and usually don't until after it is complete.

5)     God's will is going to be done, regardless!  You can either be part of it, or in His way...the choice is yours!

6)      Saul was at this time in God's way...but before long, he will repent and choose to be part of God's glory!