Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Acts 8-9

(Acts 8:1-8, John 4:6-42)
As Christians we can expect persecution.  The apostles and the early church were persecuted for their belief in Jesus. When the apostles were persecuted, it did not stop them.  Even good things happened.  This persecution united them more. (Acts 8:1) - They were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (Acts 8:4) - They preached the word wherever they went.  By being scattered they could now preach to more people.

When facing hard times do you talk about what God is teaching you?

Philip went to Samaria where the apostles had already proclaimed the Christ there.  When Philip performed miraculous signs, they listened.  Many people received Christ and were baptized.  Preaching the word to them was a new outlook for the Jewish Christians.  The Jews and Samaritans did not get along at all.  The Jews thought they were special, since they had the law and were God’s chosen people.  Samaritans were thought to be the lowest of people and were despised by the Jews.  They were probably the last people the apostles thought they would ever preach to.

The King of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites.  Over time the races were mixed.  Jerusalem Jews considered them to be unclean and not pure.  Many of them continued to worship their own gods as was their customs. 

Do you let your prejudices stand in your way of telling others about Jesus?

(Acts 8:9-40 Isaiah 53)
The apostles came face to face with the occult.  Simon was a sorcerer and had many followers.  He boasted that he was someone great.  When he heard Philip’s preaching of the good news and saw his great signs and miracles, Simon believed and was baptized.  To believe doesn’t always mean saving faith.  (Even Satan believes.)  When he saw Peter and John giving the people who believed the Holy Spirit, Simon offered them money and said “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit”.  Peter explained that he cannot buy this gift of God and he had no part in this ministry because your heart is not right before God.  Peter told him to repent of this wickedness and pray for forgiveness. (Acts 8:20-23)  Simon was amazed by the power of the Holy Spirit and not interested in salvation.

This shows that God knows your heart and you cannot deceive the Holy Spirit.  You cannot manipulate Him for your own purposes.

The Ethiopian
The Ethiopian didn’t understand the Isaiah passage.  He was dedicated to God, but didn’t know Jesus Christ.  God knew the Ethiopian’s heart and sent Philip to witness to him.  Philip did not question God, he just went.  God prepares the person and makes all the arrangements of time and place.  Philip was prepared.  A student of the scriptures and he knew Jesus Christ.  Philip explained Isaiah 53 to him.  This passage is talking about Jesus and how He was led to the cross as the sheep to slaughter.  Jesus didn’t try to talk His way out.  He was humiliated and deprived of justice and His life was taken.  God sends just the right person just when we need them as He did for the Ethiopian.

How much are you really seeking God?
How willing and available are you to go where He’s directing you?
How willing are you to cross over boundaries like life style, race, etc.?
Are you willing and ready or intimated to share the gospel?

(Acts 9:1-19a; 22:1-16; 26:9-19)
Saul’s Conversion
Saul was a highly religious and educated man.  He was the leading persecutor of Christians.  He believed he was working for God.  Saul was threatening the disciples and persecuting them and their followers.  One day on the road to Damascus a bright brilliant light from heaven slashed all around him and he fell to the ground blinded.  He heard a voice (Jesus) saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  He told him to go to Damascus and then he would be told what to do.  For 3 days he was blind. 

Who are you persecuting?

Then a disciple named Ananias was told by the Lord to go and minister to Saul.  Ananias was afraid and didn’t want to go for he had heard of Saul’s reputation for persecuting Christians, but  Ananias obeyed God and went to Damascus.  He placed his hands on Saul and immediately Saul could see again.  Saul believed and was baptized.  God turned his mission of hate to a mission of heaven.

Saul then preached in Damascus.  Then he went to Jerusalem and to all Judea to the Gentiles, preaching that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.  He never lost sight of the glory of God throughout his life.  He endured many types of persecution, but continued to do God’s will.

We must follow God’s will and obey whatever He asked, even if we are afraid.  What is Ananias had said “No”?  What a privilege he had to lead Saul to Christ.  God used Saul to evangelize to most of the unknown world.  He wrote much of the New Testament. 

1.      Hard times can prepare and position us to share in truth about God with others.
2.     A heart that truly seeks God will find Him.
3.     No heart is too hard for Jesus Christ to change.

Who do you identify with?
            Philip – trusting, going without question and doing what God says
            Ethiopian – seeking God, but clueless
            Ananias – feeling overwhelmed of what God is asking you to do
            Saul – showing a hard heart
Do you have a Saul in your life?  Are you willing to pray for them? 
God wants all of us to be ready, willing and available to help someone else to have life in a new direction.

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