Our faith is tested when there is a crisis. We served the Lord, we were faithful, so why has God allowed this? We walk by sight and not by faith so we do not see.
In the early days of the church there was great persecution. This time was tough, the people lost everything, but God used it to spread the gospel. As they went they told the Jews about Jesus.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.(Acts 8:1)
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. (Acts 11:19)
But God had already begun to show that the message was for non-Jews (Gentiles) too, and he used this persecution to spread the message to them.
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:20)
People from Cyprus and Cyrene were Jewish Greeks, so they told other Greeks. In business and daily life they lived in a Greek world, but their religion was in a Jewish world, kept apart by kosher food laws, observance of the Sabbath and other religious laws.
Today there is a tension between the world we live in and our faith.
We need to make sure our security and who we really are is in Jesus and not in the world. Who am I? Where do I get my identity from? We look similar but are really very different from people of the world.
Greek speaking Jews built a bridge to the Gentiles and believed the message was also for them. It was greatly blessed.
The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:21)
We need to stand on that bridge ourselves but be careful how we break down the barriers. Don’t say the things of faith are less important now. Don’t preach a truncated Christ, it’s not fair on them to give them less than the truth. Don’t water down Christianity or lower the standards.
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11:22-23)
We have an unchanging faith. We have to find the bridge. We need to reflect the world accurately and hold to faith too. But don’t do the gospel in an unchanging way – we become irrelevant.
How do we do it? The test is ‘Are people listening?’
Why should the world come to a church offering the same things they can get in the pub?
We have to preach the unchanging gospel to a changing world but not lose our distinctiveness.
We have good news and we need to know how to tell it. Many people are afraid of evangelism. There doesn’t need to be a big programme. You can get ready by working out how to tell your testimony in 2 minutes, and how to tell the truth about Jesus. Then pray every day:
‘Lord please send somebody today that will ask me a question so I can respond in a way that I can talk about Jesus.’
[From a sermon by Phil Hill 27 July 2014]