Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes


Scattered
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 8:1-8
What had been an amazingly joyful season for the church in Jerusalem is suddenly thrown into turmoil. Stephen is publicly stoned and the temple authorities feel they now have enough popular support to send soldiers into the city to hunt down believers from house to house, to put them in prison and then to beat and execute them (Ac 22:4, 5, 19, 20; 26:9-11). The effect of this violence was to scatter believers. They fled the city for their lives. Luke says, “And there was in that day a great hunt upon the church in Jerusalem, and all were sown out into the rural country sides of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Ac 8:1). He pictures believers being sown like a farmer sows seeds. They were scattered far and wide through the surrounding country sides, being careful to avoid those cities where they might be recognized and arrested. At this point it might seem God’s work was severely hindered, but then Luke adds this statement, “Therefore the ones being sown passed through these regions preaching the word (about Jesus)” (Ac 8:4). With that one statement Luke shows us that this persecution didn’t stop the church, it expanded it. It turned a lot of people into missionaries. It forced them to go to Judea, Samaria and even the remotest parts of the earth. The very places Jesus had told His disciples to go after they were “clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).

The meaning of “go!”
A few years ago it was popular to ask the question, “What part of “go!” don’t you understand?” It was assumed that the answer was obvious. Go means “go!” But to be honest with you, I still don’t understand exactly what “go!” means. It’s very confusing. Which direction? How far? To whom? And do what? The world is a big place and I need God to be a bit more specific. To just rush off in any direction seems foolish. But Jesus’ command, at the very least, means it’s not okay to do nothing. After all, He did say “go!”

The apostles
These statements do apply to us, but first of all they applied to the Twelve. They were the ones He was looking at when He said it.
1) Jesus said go!
• Mt 28:18-20: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
• Mk 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
• Jn 20:21: “…as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
2) Jesus said where
• Ac 1:8: “…you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
3) Jesus said when
• Lk 24:49: “…stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And two or three years later, apparently no one has left yet. After all, who wants to leave the fellowship, the preaching, the miracles, the amazing growth, the prayer… There had been some official harassment, and probably a lot of family tension, but every organized attempt to stop the church had been miraculously prevented.

Scattered
God doesn’t cause persecution, but if we stop listening and miss His guidance (Ac 6:2) we can experience unnecessary levels of opposition. Yes, there will always be persecution, but we can do things that make it worse. It appears the apostles had, to some degree, ignored the Lord’s command by remaining in Jerusalem too long. If so, they had unintentionally ignored people who were waiting to be saved (Ac 8:12, 25) as soon as someone came to tell them how. So God used this persecution “for good” (Ro 8:28). Probably without realizing it, believers fled for their lives to the very places Jesus had told them to go. Like a farmer sowing seed, God scattered them outward into the surrounding regions and across cultural barriers (Samaritans). People who were looking for God finally got the chance to hear the truth and be saved. By the way, did you notice, everybody left Jerusalem but the Twelve, the very ones He had personally commanded to go (Ac 8:1).

The Sower
Put simply: God sows people, and people sow the Word. Jesus had told them to go, and if they will not obey, then He will push. How does He do this in our lives?
1) divine discontent: I may become restless, unsatisfied, struggle to maintain focus, have a hard time finding vision for the future…
• this must not be mistaken for spiritual dryness because I have not practiced essential spiritual disciplines.
2) divine opposition: circumstances may change and I find I am being forced out of what is familiar and secure. This may be the result of persecution or merely unforeseen change.
3) divine direction: God says in His Word that He doesn’t want to guide us like a horse or a mule which must be controlled by a bit and bridle. Here’s how He wants to guide us:
• “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Ps 32:8, 9).
• He wants us to listen to Him and choose to do what He says.


Where should I go?
That depends on what He says. Everyone is told to go, but each person has a different assignment. Some are supposed to:
• move somewhere
• stay somewhere
• work somewhere
• attend an event
• make friends using common interests (sports, music, holidays…join, invite)
Jesus told us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that at its most basic level to go! means to help people that come across my path during the day.

Taking the first step
To go! means to cross the social barrier first. I don’t wait for people to come to me. I reach out to them. I say “hello,” am friendly, invite someone to sit with me, sit beside someone who looks lonely. I do this not as a loveless tactic, but as a genuine lifestyle.

Preparing myself
1) Pursue God until I have a genuine breakthrough and a real testimony.
2) Write down your testimony so you can share it clearly and briefly.
3) Each day prepare yourself to step into the mission field.
• morning devotions (RSVP)
• remind myself to “walk in the Spirit” (listen, watch for God’s guidance)
• ask for divine appointments (Pr 3:5, 6)
• pray regularly for those with whom you are in frequent contact (workplace, classroom, see on the bus…)
4) Be kind, pure, honest (and happy).
• do they see a difference in us? Would they want what we have?
• weaknesses faced honestly are not a problem. No one expects us to live trouble-free lives. Sometimes the way we suffer is the greatest witness.
5) Participate in a mission or ministry where I am expected to speak for God (mission team, ministry, ASF, Life Group, LTG…)
6) Support others who go.
• Mt 25:27 “…you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.”
• He’s telling me to make my resources available to others who are expanding the kingdom (committed intercession, financial support, volunteer in an assisting role). God gives the same reward to those who “stay with the baggage” as those who fight at the front.
“…as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage, they shall share alike” (1Sa 30:21-25).
7) Keep doing this, one way or another, for the rest of my life.

Precious treasure
What does all this matter? Why do I have to “go!”? Because what you know is enormously precious. You know God and what a person must do to live with Him forever. And it’s just not right to keep that to yourself. Every person on the planet is dying one day at a time, and at some point will step into eternity, and they don’t cease to exist. They will either cross over knowing God or separated from Him, and that separation cannot be changed on the other side (He 9:27). So you and I can’t be silent, we can’t be passive, we can’t sit and watch while people perish. All God asks of us is that we go where He tells us to go.

Questions
1) Have you ever had a “divine appointment?” You found yourself in a situation where the door was open for you to talk to someone about God? Tell us about it.
2) Describe a time when God told you to “go!” to someplace or someone, and you did what He said. What happened?
3) Can you share your testimony “clearly and briefly?” We’d love to hear it.



 


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