Friday, April 29, 2011

Persecution of the Early Church and in the Christian Life

The persecution that fell on the early church was extremely important to the church as a whole. Until the church began to feel this persecution they were living in a very happy tight nit community that was not doing as it was told by Jesus in the beginning of Acts. “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.” (Acts 8:1b ESV) While those persecuting the Christians in that region thought they may destroy them, they only helped in spreading the gospel. Polhill says, “They were scattered like one scatters seed. But scattered seed grow, and the irony is that the persecution and scattering of the Christians only led to their further increase.”[1] So like the evil planned against Joseph, this evil will bring about an ultimate good by pushing the gospel out into the world.

One of the signs to show that we are Christians is the persecution we face especially in today’s society. I say that because of the very words Christ says, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:20 ESV) So yes, persecution for a Christian should be normal and expected. We should learn to look at our persecution as a tool for the gospel. John MacArthur has said, “Paul said that he gloried in infirmity, tribulation, necessity, even in persecution, because when he was persecuted, people got saved, and that is good.”[2] When we are not looked at as one of the in crowd because we are Christian that is a form of persecution and we should count ourselves blessed. And if we are not being persecuted because of our faith, are we sharing it enough so people know where we stand?

[1] John B. Polhill. Acts. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1992)211.

[2]John MacArthur. (Found: God's Will. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 1977) 51.

Getting to the Heart of God’s Will

According to Pastor John MacArthur there are five aspects to finding God’s will. These aspects include salvation, being Spirit-filled, becoming sanctified, learning submission, and being willing to suffer. If we live according to these five things we are going to be well on our way to living in the will of God.

If we do not live for God how can we think we are living in his will? Pastor John says, “If you are stumbling around in life and tossing up some periodic prayers to God but have never come on your knees to the Cross and met Jesus Christ, then you are not even in the beginning of God’s will.” (MacArthur 1977, 11) It is hard for me to see someone that you know and love rejecting God and then blaming Him for what he has not done for them. MacArthur goes on to explain, “If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, you cannot expect anything at all from God. He owes you nothing. He is not obligated to you in even the slightest sense.” (MacArthur 1977, 13)

The next successive step we should take is to live a Spirit-filled life. And upon hearing that statement you may become rather confused, but MacArthur defines it like this, “The Spirit-filled life is yielding every decision to the control of the Spirit.” (MacArthur 1977, 21) When we surrender our desires over to the Lord we become more empowered to lead the Spirit-filled life because, we will be “…living every moment as though we are standing in the presence of Jesus Christ!” (MacArthur 1977, 26) By us choosing to live our lives as though we are living our lives in front of Christ, we will be more vigilant not to live by our fleshly impulses.

The next step is our sanctification which is very crucial because it involves work on our part, and not only using the gifts we have received from God. We must guard ourselves and work toward growing closer to the Lord. Pastor John in this area focused a lot on sexual purity, but it goes so much deeper than that. When we live our lives in the pursuit of sanctification, “You can be blessed by God only so long as you are controlling what you do for His honor.” (MacArthur 1977, 33) We can only be of benefit to God when we grow to look more like Christ himself and that can only happen through the sanctification process. MacArthur quotes McCheyne as saying, “Mr. Edwards, you are God’s chosen instrument. According to your purity, so shall be your success. It is not great talent; it is not great ideas that God uses; it is great likeness to Jesus Christ.” (MacArthur 1977, 35)

One of the more difficult steps in this process at least for many of us will be learning how to be submissive. Since the garden rebellion is in our nature, we want to do things our own way and having to submit to anyone is a challenge. Because of our bent to want to live our own way “… sometimes the world can’t distinguish us from itself.” (MacArthur 1977, 40) Once we learn how to live our lives in a submissive manner the world will notice that something is different about us. According to MacArthur, “… God wants us to be the kind of citizens in the world who will draw the attention of the world. We need to be different. We need to have the qualities of salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16).” (MacArthur 1977, 41) Living in this manner will not be easy, but if we are surrendering to the Spirit and longing to be sanctified it sets us up to move into this area because Christ in the garden showed us his submission (Matt 26.39).

The one aspect that none of us look forward to is suffering, no matter what forms it may take. In America we have been fed the fallacy that if we chose to follow Jesus our lives are going to be smooth sailing from there on out. We couldn’t be more wrong. MacArthur says, “Suffering is linked with faith. The Bible never sees a Christian at any time who doesn’t suffer—because anybody who lives a godly life in the world will get the flak that the world throws back.” (MacArthur 1977, 45) As Christians we are to be bold and make a difference in the world. As Americans, “You may not get the physical flak but may suffer intellectual persecution instead. You may be quietly ostracized from society. You may be politely shunned at the water cooler. People may take a “there-goes-the-weirdo” attitude.” (MacArthur 1977, 51) All of these types of sufferings are more than acceptable because we stood up for our faith and belief in Christ Jesus.

Learning to live our lives and applying these “laws” we can gain clearer understanding of God’s will in our lives. I personally feel as though I am staying in the will of God. I gave my life to the Lord approaching nine years ago now. I try my best to live in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord, and being sensitive to the leadings of the Spirit. I attempt to spend time in the Word daily, while I may struggle with a regular prayer life I can tell when something is of the Lord. For a long time I struggled with an addiction to pornography and by God’s grace have had victory over it. I don’t allow myself to get caught up in movies or things that might drag me back into that lifestyle.


MacArthur, John. Found: God's Will. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 1977.