Monday, February 8, 2010

Death, The Catalyst for the Church

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea nd Samaria."  Acts 8:1b

It's snowing again and... well... I love the snow and the moisture it brings but it is quite cold.  One of the reasons I love New Mexico is that we get to have the four seasons.  I like the spring because it is new and fresh, things grow, trees get their leaves and flowers their pedals.  I like the summer because it is warm and the summer skies are beautiful. I like the fall because of the changing colors of the leaves and the cool freshness in the air and I like the winter because of the beauty of the snow.  Even in the winter here in New Mexico we can ski in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and watch a gorgeous sunset in the evening. It's a great place to live!

A lot of people don’t like the idea of things changing in their lives. Once they get used to something they like the security of it staying the way it is. For some it is the fear of the unknown and for others it may be the comfort of the past. I know that for years and years Trudy and I would go out to eat somewhere, especially places I had been before, and I would order the exact same thing over and over again. Why? I knew what I was getting and liked it and I didn’t need to try anything else. For some reason, as I have gotten older and at the encouragement of Trudy, I began to try different things and “venture” out into new culinary experiences. I discovered that I really liked trying some new things and have expanded my menu choices.

It is quite easy for followers of Christ to get comfortable in their spiritual lives and not want to venture beyond what their past and present commitments are. Often even an exciting and growing church can steadily work its way into a rut that slowly keeps getting deeper. Someone once said that when you’re in a rut long enough it becomes a grave. I think that is probably true.

Getting too comfortable was not a problem in the early church, not because it was so intentional in avoiding it but because God didn’t allow time for it to happen. The “gospel train” needed to keep moving. The huge impact of the preaching of the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem had touch the lives of thousands while, at the same time, infuriating the religious hierarchy. The result was that a “check mark” was put beside the first goal of the great commission, Jerusalem had received the gospel.

The catalyst that would move the gospel further into Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world would come through a totally unexpected event… the stoning of Stephen. Those who opposed the gospel might have thought that his death would stop the others from preaching Jesus, instead it scattered the body of Christ so that it would exponentially increase the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ. I love how God took the death of His saint Stephen and energized the body of believers to move forward and outward with confidence.

Do you ever feel like you’re in a rut? Do you ever feel like the rut is slowly getting deeper and deeper? Do you ever desire in your heart to move out of or even climb out of that rut? I want you to know that the Lord Jesus wants you out of that rut as well. He challenges us to move out of our comfort zone, to move away from the self-imposed sense of security we live in and join Him in His plan of touch lives for Christ.

As we study Acts chapter eight we will see the impact of Stephen’s death on the church and begin to look at another man who had been chosen to serve in the church, Philip, and how God used him as he moved forward with the gospel of Jesus Christ. May the Lord richly bless you!  – Pastor John