Saturday, November 19, 2016, 6:37 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 8:1-8 (ESV).
And Saul Approved (v. 1a)
And Saul approved of his execution.
Who was Saul? He was a Jew, a Pharisee, a student and expounder of scripture, a strict adherent of the Law, and a Roman Citizen. Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen, and held or kept guard over the garments of those who did the stoning. Not only that, but he approved Stephen’s execution by stoning. Then, in his zeal for his faith, he became a strong persecutor of Christians, thinking he was doing this in the name of God. Saul later was converted to faith in Jesus Christ, and his name was changed to Paul. He went on to be a great leader of the Christian church at that time. He also penned a large majority of the New Testament books in the Bible.
We have multiple modern-day Saul’s, I am sure, though I am convinced not all of them will ever truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, because scripture teaches us that those who follow the beast will be eternally condemned, and they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. Yet, I believe we should pray for all our persecutors to find true faith in Jesus Christ, to be born of the Spirit of God, and to have eternal life with God.
I would like to bring attention to just one of those “Saul’s” today, because of the words he is saying, and of their intended message to all of us, I believe. His name is Pope Francis. He lives at the Vatican, which is in Rome, although he is not originally from Rome. For many Catholics, the pope is equivalent to God, as they believe he speaks for God. He is head over the Roman Catholic church, and he has an enormous weight of influence world-wide, but not just in the Roman Catholic Church, but in the church, as a whole, protestant and Catholic alike. Every day now he is in the news, as are his speeches that he gives. And, his words are powerful and extremely influential in today’s world.
Pope Francis has a very specific message which he has been giving for several years now, which our president Obama has been echoing, as have other religious and political leaders in the world. It isn’t all bad, though. He has some good points, but they have a hook (catch) to them. He is concerned about division among the people of the world along the lines of ethnicity, color of skin, nationality (country of origin), lifestyle of choice, and religious beliefs, etc. So, he is making a plea for global unity among all people of all walks of life and of all nationalities, races and religion.
Part of it sounds good on the surface, but we have to look at the message which lies underneath it all. Should there be division among people of different skin color or national origin? No! Absolutely not! We are all just people, and we all bleed the same way, regardless of what we look like on the outside or where we come from. So, does that mean we should have open borders between countries and people be allowed to live wherever they want? I don’t know that I have the answer to that question, but I believe we need to have law and order or we have chaos, anarchy and upheaval.
Would you be ok with just anyone deciding to live in your house? And, with you not being allowed to lock your own door at night, because that is putting up walls, is it not? If someone wants to live in your house, he or she should have to go through the normal legal process involved in buying a home. Well, I think it should be the same way regarding national borders. People should not cross our borders illegally, and then expect to receive special treatment. The only time I see in scripture that we are allowed to disobey the law of the land is if that law requires that we disobey God’s laws. And, God’s laws do not give us permission to go in to countries not our own, of our own accord, and take possession of other people’s lands illegally.
But, back to the Pope’s words, he speaks against hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn (1). Now, again, this sounds good on the surface, but there is a catch to it all lying underneath. For, this includes the gospel of our salvation which judges sin, divides people by saved and unsaved, opposes evil, and condemns those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. We, who preach this gospel, are thus classified among those who judge, divide, oppose and condemn, because we confront sin, call for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and we warn of divine judgment, yet promise hope and healing for the repentant. The pope’s goal is to bring the people of the world together as one, and he speaks much about removing all which divides us. Well, the gospel divides us.
A Great Persecution (vv. 1b-3)
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. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
A great persecution of Christians has already broken out across the globe, and is now coming to America – a nation where Christians have had relative religious freedom up to this point. If we listen to the pope’s words, and to Obama’s, and to other religious and political leaders of the same thought, we will soon realize what this is all about. All these speeches about division, judging, condemning, etc. are intended to show that we have a very broken (universal) society and church, and that we need help healing ourselves.
The solution, which is preconceived among those who oppose Christ and his gospel, is to do away with all which divides us as the people of the world, and to bring us all together as one unified people. What this means for us is that we will be forced into compromise with a one-world religion under the authority of a one-world totalitarian regime, or we will face enormous persecution. And, this is what is coming to America, and has already come to much of the rest of the world, I believe. The elite of the world have been plotting out how to bring about this New World Order (of the beast) for many years, and I believe it is soon to reach its fulfillment.
Yet, I believe good is going to come out of this. For one, I believe the church in America (most of it) needs this, for the vast majority of the church has become complacent, idolatrous and is living in spiritual adultery against God. I believe this is going to wake her up, though not everyone who claims to have faith will awaken, and that God is going to bring about a revival. As well, I believe that through this persecution, not only will the people be scattered, but that the gospel will spread throughout the earth and that many will come to faith in Jesus Christ before our Lord returns for his bride. And, then the end will come when the gospel has gone to all the earth.
Preaching the Word (vv. 4-8)
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.
Persecution has a way of getting our attention, and of getting us to call on God and to bow the knee in submission to his will for our lives. It is also a great motivator to get us out of complacency or spiritual laziness, and to make us passionate about getting out the gospel to as many as possible before our Lord returns.
Yet, don’t wait until you are persecuted to get serious about God and doing what he has called you to do. Follow him in obedience today, do what his Word teaches, and share the gospel with others so that many will be saved from their sins and have the hope of life with God for eternity. When you are persecuted for your faith in Jesus Christ, though, know that your Lord is with you, he will not leave you, and that he will give you all you need to endure and to be victorious over our enemy’s evil schemes at work against us.
His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014
Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.
Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.
Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.