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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Fellowship of His Suffering

(part 2)

“Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”

Acts 9:19-21

Paul’s reputation as a persecutor and enemy of the faith had proceeded him. His dramatic encounter with Christ was of particular interest to the believers in the early church. Was his conversion genuine? How would they gauge his sincerity?

If Paul was going to impact the world for Jesus Christ, it was going to take more than a “little prayer at the altar” to convince those who had been giving their lives for the faith, that Paul’s faith was authentic. Although he shared in their salvation, the question would be “Would he also share in their sufferings?” That is why God told Ananias…

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:16

Paul would go on to suffer much for the cause of Christ! In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Paul writes:

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

And although, not a single one of these acts “earned” Paul his salvation, they did much to earn him credibility. For Paul wrote to the church in Galatia:

“I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me.”

Galatians 1:22-23

Paul’s transformed life caused the people to praise God! There was now adequate evidence that Paul was not simply a convert (Christian is name only), but a disciple- ready to lay down his life for Jesus Christ!

Pastor Scott Burr

Thursday, August 18, 2011

“The Fellowship of His Suffering”

(part 1)

“I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report, “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.”

Galatians 1:22-24

The story of the Apostle Paul is a story of transformation. A household name among Christians today, he was also a “household name” among Christians in the early church…for entirely different reasons.

We are first introduced to Paul in Acts 7. It is the story of the stoning of Stephen. Stephen was taken before the Sanhedrin (the religious council of his day) charged with speaking blasphemy against Moses and against God. As Stephen is dragged from the city to be stoned to death, Acts 7:58-8:1 tells us that the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. Saul was there, giving approval to Stephen’s death. Prior to his conversion Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus.

Fueled by Stephen’s death, Saul began going from house to house in search of Christians, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison (Acts 8:3). We catch up with him again in Acts 9:1-2:

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them prisoners to Jerusalem.”

Ignited by misguided passion, confidence in the flesh and new found authority from the religious leaders of his day, Paul blazes off for Damascus, when on his way, he has an encounter with Jesus:

“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Who are you Lord? Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Paul was led by the hand to Damascus and for three days was blind and did not eat or drink anything. Then the Lord spoke to a man by the name of Ananias to go and pray for Paul. Ananias, knowing who and why Paul was coming to Damascus, responded:

“I have heard may reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
Acts 9:13-14

God instructs Ananias to go. He tells him that Paul has been chosen to carry God’s name to the Gentiles and the people of Israel. He leaves Ananias with these words:

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:16

Pastor Scott Burr

Thursday, August 11, 2011

“Mobilizing the People of God”

(part 3)

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Mark 16:15-18

How many of us have heard that Scripture preached and taught in churches, Sunday school classes and small groups around the world? Denominations have built their core beliefs around it, churches have split over it, books have been written to analyze it…but WHO’S DOING IT? I think part of the problem is we don’t finish reading what happened after Jesus said this:

“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs and that accompanied it.”

Mark 16:19-20

Like a general commanding His troops, Jesus directed His disciples to engage the battle. The disciples went out and preached everywhere! As I thought about Jesus commanding His disciples, it made me think about how generals will often visit the staging areas, before major conflicts, to encourage the soldiers about to be deployed. I thought, what if, after one of General Patton or General MacArthur’s stirring speeches, the soldiers would have got up, came by shook their hand and said “Good message today General. Very thought provoking. Can’t wait to hear the rest next week.” …but never engaged the battle! Isn’t that what we are precisely seeing in churches today all over America!

We like coming to the staging area to see everyone, listen to the music, be encouraged by the speeches, but very few are engaging the battle! We have gone AWOL (absent without leave)! AWOL is a military acronym that simply means not being where you are supposed to be at the time you are supposed to be there! We have been given our orders by our commander and chief- Jesus Christ and yet, we hide within the confines of our churches.

That isn’t the way it is in real life. In real life, every individual who arrives in the staging area has one thing on their mind…the mission! They know that they are about to engage the enemy. When we come together, we ought to have one thing on our minds…to proclaim the glory of God to the ends of the earth, engaging peoples, tribes and nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You have been commissioned! Go into all the world and share the good news about Jesus Christ!

Pastor Scott Burr