Saturday, May 20, 2017

When the Dust Settles


During the first year after God poured His Spirit out on Believers at Pentecost, things got a little crazy in Jerusalem. People were being healed by just the shadow of Peter touching them and large numbers of Jews were converting to Christianity. The Church was growing and the religious Jewish leaders were losing control. It was notably evident that these followers of Jesus had power and were gaining great popularity.

Acts 5
17 ¶  Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,
18  and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.
19  But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,
20  “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”
21  And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
22  But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported,
23  saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”
24  Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.
25  So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
26 ¶  Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.
27  And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them,
28  saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
29  But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.
30  “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.
31  “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
32  “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
33  When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.
34  Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.
35  And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.
36  “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.
37  “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.
38  “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;
39  “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God.”
40  And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41  So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
42  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Peter and John were some characters to be reckoned with in those early days. They gave the established religious leaders fits. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin council in Jerusalem were enraged to see so much attention being poured out on these illiterate and unlearned leaders of this group of Believers in Jesus. Gamaliel, a well respected teacher of the law, gave good advice in Acts 5:39: “If this is not from God it will simply fade away in time and if it is of God, you don’t want to be found fighting against God!”

Meanwhile people were being healed and the numbers of converts to Christ were growing daily. Unexplainable miracles were commonplace and undeniable. There was such a rush of opposing passions in Jerusalem and God kept growing the Church in numbers and strength.  

Fast forward about 60 years to about AD90 - a lot had happened:
·        The Roman government had taken over the persecution of these Christians as a national affair. (AD64)
·        These Apostles which had been so exalted among the people and of whom the High Priest had complained had all been martyred for their faith. They died in various ways and in many countries spreading the Gospel … all that is except one … the Apostle John.
·        Not only were the initial leaders and followers of Christianity disbursed or dead and off the scene but also Jerusalem had been overrun by the Romans; the Temple had been destroyed, (AD70); the Jews taken captive and now there were no complaints and no complainers. The dust had settled a bit.
·        All of those things which were such irritants and so controversial in Acts 5 were now far from the thoughts or concerns of anyone who had been present in that council at Jerusalem …
·        They were all gone except the Apostle John …
·         60 years later, nearing the turn of the first century, around AD90, this elder Apostle John is the last living Disciple of Christ. He is a long way from the shores of the Galilee where he and his brother James decided to follow a man named Jesus. John lived to be an old man and lived in Ephesus, more than 1000 miles from Jerusalem and the Galilee where he was born and walked with Jesus. All that happened 60 years earlier in Acts 5 is but a memory. The dust had now settled.

It took a few years but when the dust settled and John was the only one left standing, he had something to say. John did not focus on healing, prosperity or world evangelism … John wanted to talk about relationships. John’s goal was to tell Christians how they could please their Father God.

1 John 1
1 ¶  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — 
2  the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — 
3  that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
4  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
5 ¶  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 ¶  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1John 2
1 ¶  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
2  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
3 ¶  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
4  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
6  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

When the dust settles …
·        Everyone will know who was right and who was wrong.
·        Things which seem so important now may not be so important then.
·        The one question will be: “Did I please God?"
·        Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord!

Perhaps we should refocus our priorities and realize what’s important before the dust settles! What’s important? Our relationship with the Father.