As I continue to read and study the book of Acts for Sunday mornings, I am simply struck by the power of God to overcome barriers and obstacles that threatened the Gospel’s advancement. Whether it was governmental or religious opposition, geographical or ethnic challenges, demonic oppression or even internal disagreements (practically and doctrinally), the early believers faced a myriad of difficulties in spreading the good news of Jesus. And yet, their work could not be stopped because of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit had come into each believer’s life as to give him/her the resources necessary to overcome each issue.
This truth encourages me even as I continue to see great resistance to the Gospel in our culture. No doubt, we face some of the same hostile attitudes, worldviews, and personalities now—pluralistic philosophies, demonic attacks, racial bigotries, doctrinal apostasies, geographical boundaries, and even governmental interference in some countries. It is as though the story of Acts is repeating itself today . . . and yes, it is. The evil one will not rest in pushing back against the church and its life-giving message. But here is the truth, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4c NAS). The devil is no match for our God! He may appear to win some temporary battles, and culture may be capitulating to his authority, but our King has already won the war and continues to sit on His sovereign throne. We need to recognize that reality again . . . especially in such turbulent moments.
In a nation and even a church (collectively speaking) that seems so fragmented, we must continue to rely on Him as we bring Christ’s message of true peace and reconciliation. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King exhorted us decades ago, the Gospel itself must convict us and ultimately unite us across all barriers and challenges. For we, who identify as Gentiles, remember that we “were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12 NAS). But now, we are “in Christ Jesus” having been “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 NAS). In other words, we who were outsiders have been brought into the family! And if God can bring salvation and peace to the underserving person I am, He can impart that rest to us all! He can unite us across all barriers through the Gospel.
Let’s take our place and do our part in promoting that peace through the Gospel. Again, Dr. King encouraged such an effort as he himself followed the example of that theologian with his shared name, Martin Luther. (I encourage you to read the Washington Post article entitled “The Story of how Michael King Jr. Became Martin Luther King Jr” published January 15.) King wrote, “There was a time when the church was very powerful, in the time when early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” How true! The early church broke down barriers/obstacles through the power of the Spirit and figuratively “turned the world upside down.” In this time of uncertainty and hostility, may we do the same!
I’m praying for you even now as we all commit to being “thermostats” changing the temperature of our culture, and I look forward to gathering with you this week for worship. Lift up our youth and their leadership as they spend the weekend together and make a commitment to be here Sunday as we study Acts in the morning services and Colossians in the evening service. You are loved always! See you then!