An article from OpenDoors, challenging you to think a bt more about the persecuted Church
Reading Acts 4 today, I was struck by the vivid life and conviction of the little church in the early days after Pentecost. It’s a generalisation, but it seems that many among the Persecuted Church are closer to those early days than we are in all our comfort and freedom. How would you cope with prison? Would you forgive? Do you believe that you’ve been forgiven? And will you use your freedom to stand with those who are persecuted, as the church in Acts 4 did with Peter and John?
You see, Jesus is totally central to all this church in Acts 4 does. Everything is ‘in his name’ or ‘by his name’ or ‘through his name’. Jesus’ influence on Peter and John is so strong that the religious leaders are ‘astonished’ and ‘take note that these men have been with Jesus’. They reflect him in their words, in their boldness, and in their prayer. They’ll even go to prison for him – just a few short weeks after they’ve been hiding in a house out of town. The Holy Spirit has been doing some serious heart refurbishment!
Peter and John are just ordinary blokes. They don’t have formal education or training; no-one has performed a ceremony over them to make them leaders. They just know Jesus and can’t keep quiet! They have had a transforming encounter with a life-changing God, and the results are plain for all to see.
I love Peter’s response to the religious leaders when he and John come out of prison. This is the man who, just a few weeks earlier, had abandoned his friend Jesus to crucifixion and denied all knowledge of him out of fear for his own life. Now, he’s rebuking the religious leaders and telling them to listen to God! He doesn’t do it simply because he’s narked off by spending the night in a prison cell. No, he does it because he’s ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’. Peter, for once in his life, says exactly the right thing.
What must it have been like to be part of that church? There is unity between the believers. No-one is in need, but they are all have the same goal and aim. Their message comes with power that convinces and even heals those who hear. And they live out their faith in practical ways – they share their goods, they pray together, they endure prison or stand with those who do. This is a band of people who have found something worth living for – and, eventually for some of them, worth dying for.
We are part of that church, the Body of Christ. Let’s make sure we live like that!
Link: OpenDoors Student Site