We are naive to think that just because God is at work, others around us will be happy and accepting of it. After being with Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and seeing God give the Holy Spirit to a group of Gentiles, Peter was rebuked by Jewish background Christians. Their attitudes could have stood in the way of what God was doing. Can we be in danger of the same kind of thinking and attitude today?
God's commission to take the good news message of Jesus to the ends of the earth would inevitably mean that Jewish background followers of Jesus, like Peter, would have to be confronted with their cultural views towards Gentiles. Peter had to get over his discomfort with Gentiles in order to take the message to them. God calls us to 'get over ourselves' in various ways as part of following Jesus. The simple, yet difficult path to doing this is to listen, trust and obey.
Can people really change? We intuitively know people do change, yet we all struggle to believe this when it comes to certain people or certain areas about our own attitudes, behaviour and character. Paul's Damascus Road experience and the events following also give us some clues on how to make God's invitation for change stick in our lives.
After the death of Stephen, many followers of Jesus fled from Jerusalem yet continued to talk about Jesus wherever they went. When Samaritans received the message of Jesus and then received the Holy Spirit, the Jewish leaders realized they needed to break their old patterns of thinking to stay in line with what God was doing. Unfortunately, as we see in the example of Simon the sorcerer, old patterns can be hard to break... Yet, Peter and John's response to the Samaritans show that old patterns can break, if we submit ourselves to Jesus.
God is in the business of using ordinary people for His extra-ordinary purposes and Kingdom. The life of Philip serves as an example and inspiration for us as the same God at work in Philip is looking to be at work through us. For this we need to renew our confidence in God and His ways.
Stephen was the first person to die for following Jesus. He was challenged by the religious leadership as being against the Temple and the law of Moses. This became a common challenge of Jews against Christians. Stephen's response to this challenge was striking, bold and instructive for us today. His example of courage, witness and character still inspires.
Rumbling of discontent: Discernment is knowing what to do, when to do it and how to do it. God is always speaking to us. Discernment is recognizing the signs of divine messages, marching to the beat of a different drummer (Henry David Thoreau) and knowing the truth.
Sometime we want God to make things in our lives go well. God; however, has bigger concerns than our comfort. He is looking to bring His message of salvation to others through you…even if it may cost you. What level of discomfort are we willing to go through for Him?
Another dynamic of the early church was the voluntary, sacrificial giving of those who had extra financially and materially for those who were in need within the church community. This kind of generosity was a fruit of the unity the church experienced because of their shared faith in Jesus. How do we form the kind of unity that leads to this kind of generosity today?
For many followers of Jesus sharing our faith is something most agree is something Christians should do, but many struggle with doing for all sorts of reasons. But what might evangelism for normal people look like? It would and should look like how Jesus did evangelism. How Jesus blessed and invited people into the Kingdom was based out of a foundation that is the same for His followers. Have your Bibles ready to skip through the gospel of John as we look at Jesus' pattern for doing evangelism.