Acts 8: Disciples making disciples
Pastor Adrian recommences the Acts Series with a powerful message on Acts 8. This sermon explores how the early Christians and Christians today face suffering and persecution, but how this is expected and serves to highlight the good news of the Gospel. Through their suffering, the early Christians were able to spread the message of salvation in Jesus to even more people, and we can do the same today.
We're going to be recommencing our Acts series that we sort of paused at the end of last year the last sermon we had in this was at the end of November last year and then we had Christmas and we had the craziness that is or was January all right and if your head is still spinning and you're still finding your feet I think we can relate it's been a bit of a hectic a year already and I don't know about you but it was a bit of a surprise that coven didn't affect things at the beginning of this year at least not too much but I might have spoken a bit too soon who knows um we are up to Acts chapter 8. that's just what we're up to the last one was Acts chapter seven I was really clever because I figured that out by myself um but Acts chapter 7 has the one of the one of the significant parts of act chapter seven was the story of the stoning of Stephen and that's essentially the context in which we're going to be delving into in just a moment but it strikes me that X Factor Acts chapter 8 talks a lot about suffering talks a lot about suffering and so this morning it means that we probably need to discover what the word suffer or suffering actually means and if you do a a Google search you'll come across these sorts of definitions for the word suffer or suffering in other words to feel pain or distress or sustain injury or harm to have a specified shortcoming or weakness it's all doom and gloom isn't it sustain a lost setback or decline in Effectiveness become worse to appear at a disadvantage to experience undergo or feel something terrible and the list goes on and if you continue to do Google searches and other things and look at actual dictionaries you'll see the definitions are all very similar and you have to ask yourself why would anyone choose to suffer it doesn't sound so fantastic it actually is something that most of us have experienced at some point maybe some of you are going through suffering right now and when we're going through that or even the thought of it we do everything in our power to prevent it don't we and if you're in suffering if you are suffering from something right now you will do whatever it takes as much as it's in your power to try and stop that and yet we see the scriptures are rich in this talk of suffering and I would say to you and I hopefully will show you through Acts chapter 8 that there is power in suffering not that I'm suggesting that anybody here should yearn for suffering and that we should want to be persecuted and that we want to go through pain if that's you you've possibly got bigger problems right but uh no one wants to go through suffering and yet it's ordained by God for us to experience such things if you're at Acts chapter 8 right now let's just read the first few verses that we have there Acts chapter 8 verses 1 to 3. and of course as I mentioned earlier the context for this is the stoning of Stephen that's that's if you read in in your Bible it says and Saul approved of his execution it's obviously referring back to the execution of Stephen that and how the the crowds stoned him because he spoke the truth and they couldn't handle it is essentially that story and if I certainly encourage you to go back and read it if you haven't done so recently um it's not only eye-opening it's incredibly convicting because the guilt of Stephen wasn't that he said nasty things the guilt of Stephen was that he just spoke the word the the truth and the crowds who were gathered around knew it was the truth but they couldn't handle it and they decide to kill him instead and so I invite you to read that but that's what this is getting at and Saul approved of its execution and it goes on and there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria except the apostles devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him but Saul was ravaging the church and entering house after house he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison of course the story is that after the stoning of Stephen it tells us that there was a great persecution that rose up against the church in Jerusalem to the point where many of those people were scattered you think about the privilege that it is for us to gather here like we have today can you imagine if a great persecution rose up against caboolture Baptist Church we would be scattered we wouldn't be safe to gather here like we are today and so these people were experiencing that kind of persecution and they were scattered all around the region except the apostles and it says that Stephen was buried and they they mourned him but Saul was ravaging the church if you're not aware this is um Saul who became the Apostle Paul and uh a large chunk of our new testament was written by this man who started out as a great persecutor of the church if you think you're so far gone that God can't use you think again because this is the soul who was I guess the captain of these people who were going out and ravaging the church who was who was instigating and and and and and and and uh dragging people off to prison and so on and causing a great amount of suffering amongst the Christians and this is that soul before he became poor this is that guy okay and so we can see that there was great suffering amongst the Christians and Philip and the rest of the Christians suffered at the hands of predominantly one person but we've got to remember that everybody hated them the Jews hated them the Romans hated them even the Gentiles couldn't understand them and so everywhere they went um they were known for who they were and people didn't want to trade with them they didn't want their kids going to their schools they didn't want to be seen talking with them in the streets they didn't want to spy and sell stuff with them can you imagine how difficult life would have been just to live let alone uh all of the other persecution that would have been coming along their way and so I think it's safe to say that the Christians were suffering would you agree right okay so that's the first section and then we move along uh through to verse four uh in Acts chapter 8 and we see the suffering of the outcast or the suffering of the the Samaritans and it says for unclean spirits crying out with a loud voice came out of many who had them and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed of course that part of the story is Philip going to the city to Samaria and preaching the Good News of Jesus and it says that with one Accord the crowd heard him and they received the message and they were saved I mean that's pretty amazing right that's really really good and we would all hope for that in our circles in the groups of people that we go to but Philip had the privilege of going to Samaria and they were saved not because of what Philip did but what God did through the word through Philip okay we've got to make sure we remember that it wasn't Philip's work it was God's work through Philip and he was able to Simply go and preach the gospel or the good news of Jesus and the people received that and more so God did an amazing spiritual work amongst them it says that unclean spirits were crying out with loud voices and they were coming out of many who had them and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed you see the Samaritans knew what it was like to suffer because for many generations they were the outcasts weren't they the Jews didn't like them because they were half Jews they were half Cuts they were genetically impure and so the Jews hated them as a result of that they didn't allow the Samaritans to go on worship at the temple and other things and so the Samaritans had set up their own place of worship and of course when you're not close to the real thing you start diverting don't you so these were and Afflicted people they'd invited in a whole bunch of spiritual things because they were dabbling in religious practices and worship outside of the bounds of what God had set up now this is a an amazing teaching for us to to take on as well we've got to be so close to the word of God because he's the spiritual realm is very real just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there and does not mean it's not potent I mean the holy spirit is real right and he's potent and he's powerful and he's God but these folks were dabbling in stuff that they didn't really understand and didn't really know they were messing around with spiritual forces and so now we get to this this phase in there in their lives where Philip was sent to them they received the gospel and it says specifically that many unclean spirits came out of these people and many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed God did a significant work it seems that the Samaritans knew about suffering not only did they understand about being outcasts they also understood something about being afflicted by spiritual forces and by sickness and by Death and so they knew what that was like and then if we Skip Along a bit further forward these great crowds that Philip preached to in Samaria one of the men that was there was a man called Simon and we're just going to pick up his his story from verse 20 and chapter 8 it says but Peter said to him something because you see Simon had witnessed the Apostles doing something incredible see Simon was a magician a sorcerer and he was known as someone who was great if you look in your scriptures there it says that in the in the first little part of Simon's story that he the people around him his people in Samaria thought that he was a great man because he'd astounded them for many years as someone who could do inexplicable things or someone who could do sorcery or someone who could do magical things right and so people couldn't understand it and they thought that he was a great man in his own estimation he thought he was somebody as well but when he witnessed and when he heard what the the apostles had to say about who Jesus was he received that he understood that to be good news and he he accepted Christ but you see he had some Hang-Ups and we get to this part where you see that the the apostles are able to lay their hands on people and they receive the Holy Spirit and of course when the Holy Spirit comes unto you there's an amazing power that comes with that because it's not your power it's the power of God working through you and Simon said this he said I want to give you some money so that you can give me some of that power as well so that I can go and do that for everybody now on the surface it seems right right I mean wouldn't you want to give that power to as many people as possible Right but Peter sees through him and he says may your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money you have neither part nor lot in this manner for your heart is not right before God repent therefore of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that if possible the intent of your heart may be forgiven you and here's the Crux of it for I see that you are in the Gaul of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity in other words Simon was jealous that the apostles had all this power whereas he used to be the man he used to be the man in Samaria he was the one that people came to because he had power he had inexplicable power but all of a sudden as much as he loved the idea of Jesus Jesus was now usurping his position in Samaria and he was bitter about that and Peter saw it through him he said you're coming to me and saying I'm going to give you some money if I can give you the Holy Spirit to give to everybody I mean it sounds right but you don't want to do that you just want your position back you just want to be the man who gives out power so that people will look to you again because I used to always wonder why was Peter so harsh with someone who said to him I want to have the Holy Spirit so I can give it to everybody I mean it seems so right he also thought that he could buy God's power and Peter had to teach him that actually it's God who decides who gets the Holy Spirit and who doesn't not you Simon it's not your power to wield see Simon was suffering and we can look at someone like that and think oh how was he suffering he wasn't in pain he wasn't being persecuted for his faith he wasn't someone who seemed to be afflicted and yet he was a capable man he had power he had prestige and when you have that it's really hard to let go of it we are all very capable people we can do a lot of things and yet if you rely on your own capability you don't need God Simon was that person it's capable who's intelligent he knew how to get stuff he knew how to make people do stuff and when you're that kind of person you don't need God you just rely on yourself and this is a challenge to us capable Christians not that it's a bad thing to be capable don't get me wrong here it's it's if we have the ability to do things that's that's that's valuable but when we rely on that rather than God that's when we go wrong that's when we are suffering and it turns into bitterness for Simon he was bitter at God for taking away his own power and his own Prestige you might think well that sounds a bit silly why would he do that he wasn't rational about it he'd lost his position in Samaria and so he was trying to hold on to whatever he could hold on to in terms of power and prestige in that place and even though he himself believed in the gospel or the good news of Jesus as as Philip had preached it he's still harbored resentment towards the power that the apostles seemed to wield and that he didn't Peter told him that he had to let go of his own power before he could receive the power of God now that's that's a tough thing for us capable sophisticated Christians to give in to him and if we're honest with ourselves it's tough man God do you really want me to trust you with my finances I mean I know how how accounting works I know if I spend more than I earn that's bad but God says you can't afford not to give and often we hear when it comes to tithes and offerings oh the church just want my money no we don't actually it's your privilege to give and if you haven't got that much that's okay you can't afford not to give because it's not about what you've given God it's about what he's going to do for what he's already done for you and what he's going to continue to do for you not because he wants your money but simply because he loves you see Simon didn't grasp that the other thing is um we're all busy people we have a calendar we have schedules Simon managed to schedule God out of his timetable because he had places to go things to see people people to go and and influence right so what's your schedule look like what's your availability how can God use you if you haven't got time for him and then we move along to this Ethiopian in Acts 8 verses 26 3-39 again another great story but I want to read you just verses 30 and 31 it says so Philip ran to him and heard him that's the Ethiopian reading Isaiah the prophet and asked do you understand what you are reading and he said how can I unless someone guides me and he invited Philip to come up and sit with him now the Ethiopian eunuch it says in scripture there that he was essentially in charge of uh Candice's the queen of Ethiopia's treasury okay so this was a a powerful a man who had access to a royal treasury he was wealthy okay and he could do and Achieve whatever he want if he wanted something he could just make it happen but here he was struggling with the scriptures and in particular he's reading Isaiah 53 verses 7 and 8 if you want to know you go through that Isaiah 53 is an epic epic better scripture and yet he's sitting there and wondering who is the prophet speaking about and he was puzzling that over you see all of the wealth he had was never going to give him that kind of understanding right he could pay for all the greatest teachers they would not be able to give him Godly wisdom and here you had access to all of that stuff and yet he was still suffering because he didn't have the understanding that he needed he could never ever get himself into the kingdom he could never ever get himself into heaven and he was spinning his wheels he just he was just coming back from Jerusalem because he'd been there to worship right so he knew there was something to this God of the Jews but I just can't put my finger on it and it was eating him up can you imagine if there was a motorcade driving past caboolture Baptist church right now it had the Australian flag on it and a whole bunch of expensive cars and they had the window down because the air conditioning was broken right because otherwise you wouldn't be able to see inside okay and there's a very important person sitting in one of those cars and if they're stuck at the roundabout because it's always queued up isn't it and so they're just sitting there with the window wound out because the air conditioning is broken and there's The Treasure of Australia he's sitting there he's reading Isaiah 53 I mean it'd be fantastic if he did but let's assume that he was doing that it's going I don't know what's going on here what does it mean a man of great power great wealth great means he has connections right but he just doesn't get it he doesn't understand it and you know there are so many even perhaps people in the room but there are so many around us who we think they know because they're intelligent they're capable they they've studied they know all these things but it says in Scripture that these are Mysteries these are The Godly Mysteries and Only God Can reveal them to us and so for all of his power and his wealth he was suffering in his misunderstanding in his lack of understanding and he desperately wanted to know because he knew that there was going to be something coming that he wasn't aware of and so Philip was used by God to go and teach that Ethiopian how can I unless someone guides me I mean that's a cry of my heart isn't that the call of discipleship unfortunately there are many amongst us who can't even say that how can I unless someone guides me you don't know what you don't know and there are many who don't even know that there is salvation for them there are many who don't know that they're not with God right now everybody wants to know that their loved one is going to heaven when they die I've done many funerals many Christian funerals many non-Christian funerals every single time everybody wants to know that their loved one is going to heaven it's amazing how many people believe in God at a funeral but the only way you get to heaven is through rightness with God and the only way you can be right with God is through the power of Jesus and the cross you it might not be a popular message today it might be something that people don't want to hear you talk about I've heard that story so many times but surmending how how many people desperately need to hear that message because on their Deathbed everybody wants to know they're going to heaven because the alternative is devastating and so we need to talk about why suffering I look at God and he I know that he he loves us I know that he uh he has the best intentions he has the best most perfect plan for us not for our Glory but for his because we learned last time that we exist for his pleasure and for his honor don't we not for our own and so if that's the case then there is power in the suffering that God has ordained for us he's not the author of suffering or pain as a matter of fact we that's the wages that we've earned through our own sin and that doesn't mean that you're suffering now because of something that you've done wrong we just live in a fallen world and bad things happen would you agree if you haven't had bad things happen to you you're probably not alive bad things are gonna happen to you that that's just guarantee that's just the the price of admission into this world right because of sin it brought in death that's the wages of sin that's something we've earned and nobody here can sit here and say well I haven't done that yes you have every single person I could probably say this fairly General every single person in this room has lied has lasted has Dishonored the name of God at some point in the life if you've done it once if you've lied once what are you called a liar and this I'm not judging you I'm not saying that you're a dirty rotten sinner we all know that right but here's the thing if we're going to go through suffering like this what's it for and I think suffering is is is is is the landscape that we live in it's this this landscape of pain and suffering and hardship and sometimes we go through that varying degrees okay there's varying degrees of all of that and that's just our reality but that's what makes the good news so darn good doesn't it if everything is good news there's no such thing as good news but if you're living in a landscape of Hajj in landscape of hardship pain suffering misunderstanding persecution and that's the reality of your life then when you hear the good news you know it's good news don't you yeah excuse me if you're someone who's who's suffering because of your lack of understanding when someone gives you that understanding you go ah it all makes sense to me that's really good news right if you're the persecuted church and God says to you don't worry about what's happening here on Earth because I have Paradise for you in heaven is that good news if you're someone who's living in Samaria afflicted by demons and you're afflicted by the people around you when you're at an outcast and God says I'm going to give you the kingdom and you can be one of my people is that good news so when we're sitting here this morning and we have the opportunity with all of our pain our suffering with all of the stuff that goes on in our lives and God says I love you I've made a place for you isn't that good news That's The Power of suffering nobody prays for suffering but we endure it and we endure it because of the good news that's why it's so good that's why it's so good and I think sometimes we lose sight of just how good the news really is because if you go through your life thinking I've just got to get to the next day and the next day and the next day into retirement into this and to that you're not looking far enough to see just how much suffering you're in see Simon didn't think he was suffering right he he had power he had prestige in his community I don't think he would have been the first person to put his hand up and say well I'm suffering I don't think he would have thought that but Peter nailed him and said actually you're envious you're bitter at the things of God than what you you want that as a commodity for yourself can you see how far you've Fallen and I would say to you some people are so poor that all they have is money yeah I think the Ethiopian Munich understood that he knew the power of money he knew what that could achieved for him on this Earth but he also knew the limits he also knew it was never going to get him to heaven he also knew was never going to make him right with God and for some of us we don't care about that some of us all we want to do is is have a peaceful existence on this Earth do right by others and they'll do right by you right just Live and Let Live but there's coming a day as David reminded us this morning that Jesus is coming back he is coming back he's not coming back because he wants to Smite us all down he's coming back because he wants to make sure that the promise of the good news comes to pass because he always keeps his promises right and so and when we go out into our community this is our community this is our community these are our people not just here where we live right our neighbors our friends people we're working with they might not see their suffering but you know that there is a lack in their life that they're enduring this existence and not having really any hope when Jesus comes back and it's not your job and my job to save them all we can tell them is the incredibly good news it's only good news if it's real for you is it is it good news to you because that's what's going to be in inspirational for the people around you they know you they don't know God agreed they know you do they see you get on your knees and pray do they see God come through for you do they see you give up all things for Christ and do they see Christ come through for you we could talk about faith but do they see Faith lived out in your life moms and dads do your kids see you get down on your hands and knees and pray when you're at the end of yourself do they see you do that dads do they your kids see you when you're weak there's a challenge don't be a bloke be a man right a book says I got this a man says God I need you and that is far stronger it's so good so easy to follow a man like that so what are people going to see will they see your suffering because they need to see your Brokenness because if you're not broken you don't need God so church as we live life as we do the things as we have coffee as we do ministry and all of the things that God has called us into let's not pretending we're not okay that's why we need God that's why we need God that's why it's such good news right I don't know I'm pretty sure most parents struggle getting themselves and kids here this morning right because it's it's so much easier to sleep in man because I'm tired and kids can be really ready and it's been hot and it's a struggle so be real about that maybe that's not your struggle maybe you've got health issues that are just really weighing you down nobody needs to know all of the gravity of all that situation but we're real with yourself and go God I need you I need you in this foreign there is power and suffering not because suffering is the thing that gives us power but suffering is the landscape in which we live and when we see that in the context of the Gospel man it's good news man it's such good news because this is all coming to an end okay some of you with really broken bodies you're going to get a new one how good right I'm gonna be sleek right right there's going to be perfect relationship we're going to see Jesus as he is and he's coming back but if you don't love Jesus that's going to be hell for you because heaven is all about him so my challenge this morning as I finish up is what is your suffering bringing you to your suffering in God's eyes is not bringing you to tiredness it's not bringing you to the end of yourself it's not bringing you more pain it's just to say hey remember Jesus remember his suffering remember his suffering he knows what suffering is about man and he's got some really good news and when he says something it will happen amen Heavenly Father we thank you so much for your sure promise we thank you so much Lord God that knowing how we would stuff things up you gave us this this living water this this fresh water that just this gives us life back into our bones if we would just receive him not just one time Lord God but I pray that we would turn to you over and over and over again that we would rather admit our Brokenness and sip from the good news then not amid our Brokenness and continue on in the desert Jesus now we prey. Amen.