Today on Fellowship in the Word, Pastor Bill Gebhardt challenges you to become a fully functioning follower of Jesus Christ. If you look at the history of the faith, about three quarters of all Christians for 2,000 years lived in hostile cultures.
That's an amazing stat when you think about it. Almost all Christians live in a place that's very hostile to our faith. And yet in places that are hostile to our faith is where the church has been growing the greatest. There are more Chinese on this morning, Sunday morning, worshiping Jesus Christ than there are in the entire continent of Europe. That's how many people under persecution are worshiping the Lord. Thank you for joining us today on this edition of Fellowship in the Word with Pastor Bill Gebhardt. Fellowship in the Word is the radio ministry of Fellowship Bible Church located in Metairie, Louisiana. Let's join Pastor Bill Gebhardt now as once again he shows us how God's Word meets our world. This past week I ran into this article and I find it very convicting.
On April 18th, 2007, three Christians in Turkey were killed for their beliefs. Nakati Aden was one of them. He was a 35-year-old pastor in the city of Malatya. He nearly didn't go to his office that morning. He'd been traveling for 10 days and his wife, Semse, I wanted him to stay home and rest.
She fed breakfast to their two children, Elisha and Esther, and took them to school. Upon returning, she walked softly so as not to awaken her husband. Even so, he stirred, squinted, opened his arms, and admitted his weariness. I don't want to get up today, but he did. There was so much work for him to do.
Only two-tenths of one percent of the mainly Muslim nation in Turkey is Christian. It's an amazing stat when you think about it. And she said that my dear husband walked out the door at 11 and I was waiting for him to get in the elevator. He smiled at me one last time and I didn't know that that was the last smile I'd ever see. That's what I'll always remember. Semse looks down and permits a soft serve, but only one.
It's a bitter cup and we have to drink it every single day. By the time Nakati had reached his office, two of his colleagues had already received some visitors, five young men who expressed an interest in Jesus Christ. Now what's so amazing about that is that these inquisitors brought more than just questions. They brought guns and bread and knives and ropes and towels. The attackers brandished their weapons and they told Nakati all he has to do is to pray an Islamic prayer of conversion.
There is no God except Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. That's all they ask. He refused. And then the torture began. For an agonizing hour, the assailants bound and segregated and cut the three Christian men.
Finally, with the police pounding at the door, they sliced the throats of their victims. The last word heard from the office was a cry of a man who was an unswerving Christian, Messiah, Messiah. When I read that, I don't know how it makes you feel, but I wondered about myself. Just to say that little phrase, spare your life, be with your kids, or will you be faithful to the Lord? See, what would you do in that situation?
What would you do? See, it's an interesting thought. I think we all struggle with that. And probably because of who we are, we're American Christians. If you look at the history of the faith, about three quarters of all Christians for 2,000 years lived in hostile cultures.
That's an amazing stat when you think about it. Almost all Christians live in a place that's very hostile to our faith. And yet, in places that are hostile to our faith is where the church has been growing the greatest. There are more Chinese on this morning, Sunday morning, worshipping Jesus Christ than there are in the entire continent of Europe.
That's how many people, under persecution, are worshipping the Lord. Even in places like Lebanon, 39% of the population there is Christian, the rest is not. In the Sudan, 5%, the rest is not.
Egypt, 10%. Here in America, though, it's different. You see, we're not a very high percentage of people right now who are probably born again and know the Lord, but we're people who have never really struggled with persecution.
We're spoiled. That's the way we think about it. I mean, Christians here, and I've heard them say it, you probably remember it, do you know when they took prayer out of school? As though that was tremendous persecution to be under.
Really? That was tremendous persecution? Does that sound at all what these guys in Turkey are facing? See, we're spoiled by all this, and so now we don't get spiritually persecuted this way. We do get spiritually oppressed.
That happens, clearly happens. When I was studying philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, the philosophy professors, not all of them, but a few of them just loved to have fun with me in class. I was bold enough to tell them what I was there for and what I believed, but they used it as a really interesting time to sort of mock me. In a friendly way, but it was still there. We have colleagues that can mock your faith.
You have family members that do the same thing. And what I want to say is this, in America, it's going to get much, much worse. And I don't know if we're ready for that. Albert Mohler in his book, The Gathering Storm, he writes this. He said, actually, this storm has been on the horizon and working its way through history for over a century now. But in our own day, with a dramatic strengthening and acceleration, this is a gathering storm of the secular age. And he said, I don't know if Christians believe enough biblical truth to be able to withstand it. Persecution is coming. It's only a matter of time.
And are we ready for it? You see, and I don't think the question should be, in this case of these young men in Turkey, what would I do? God's already given us an answer. Right when persecution began in the early church, right when it started, God tells you and I what we should do.
Not what we would do, but what we should do. Open your Bibles to the book of Acts chapter four, the book of Acts chapter four. Now, as you know, at least I hope you know, the book of Acts is about the early days of the church, when the church was born, started, and then what were these first decades like? In Acts chapter two, you have the day of Pentecost, and that's when the church began.
It was a phenomenal event. The Holy Spirit comes rushing in, you see, into the early church, and it's called the birth of the church. Peter then gets up and preaches. And he preaches a sermon, and he tells the people what they need to do. And he said that you need to believe in Jesus Christ.
You need to repent and be baptized and identify with Jesus Christ. And 3,000 men did at that time. Tremendous, like a Billy Graham crusade. You know, he gets up there, he speaks, and 3,000 men in Jerusalem accept it. Well, then in chapter three, there is a man who has been lame since he was a child.
He's probably been an invalid for 40 years. Also, everybody at the temple site where he begged knew him. And so Peter and John raise him and allow him to stand and walk. So there's this miraculous healing a lot like the Lord did. Well, that's when we get to chapter four.
And when we get to chapter four, what you're going to see is that something begins to happen, and it never stopped for 2,000 years, persecution. It says, as they were speaking to the people, the priest and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees came to them. Now, they're on the temple grounds.
Peter and John are speaking, teaching. And it's interesting that the priests are just normal priests. These are just regular Levites who are doing their shift there. There's 24 orders of priests.
They're doing theirs. But the second one is the captain of the temple guard. He is, under Jewish standards, the number two person on the temple site. The high priest is the high priest. Then there's the captain of the guard. He has a lot of authority.
He keeps order on the temple grounds. And then it says there were Sadducees there. And the Sadducees are a very interesting group of guys, to say the least. They're extraordinarily wealthy.
They're very, very well educated. They sort of run the show at the highest levels of the priesthood. The high priest is a Sadducee. Every priest at the time of Christ were all Sadducees.
In fact, all of them were very much from the same family. And we'll get into that in just a moment. And so, as this happens, they want to talk to Peter and John. And it says, being greatly disturbed, they're upset.
What are they upset about? Because they were teaching the people and proclaiming Jesus in the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them.
And they put them in jail until the next day, for it was evening. But, it says, many of those who had heard the message believed. And the number of men came to be about 5,000. That's probably 2,000 more men.
That doesn't include women and children. So, in these couple days, you have 5,000 converts. That's great.
Sounds great. But these people are disturbed. Now, they're really disturbed because what are Peter and John doing? Well, they're preaching about the resurrection of the dead. And they're using Christ as an example. Sadducees, even like the high priest, don't believe in the resurrection. They don't believe that anyone will ever be resurrected.
They don't believe in angels. They're extremely liberal-minded, let me put it that way. Highly educated, wealthy, and they're also very loyal to Rome. They're not like Pharisees. The Pharisees would be insurrectionists if they could be, not the Sadducees. The Sadducees sort of pad their skids with Roman approval. And so, they don't want anything that will upset Rome. So, that becomes the scenario.
So then, whenever that ends, it says this then. It says that on the next day, the rulers, elders, and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem. And Annas, the high priest, was there. Caiaphas and John and Alexander were also of the high priestly descent. Now, and again, let me just say this. These are the same people, Annas and Caiaphas, who were involved in the arrest of Jesus.
The difference is this. Annas is the real power. Annas is about as horrible a man as a man could be. He was the high priest. The best way to describe him is he is the head of the mob. He's the head of the Cosa Nostra.
That's who he is. That's how he runs everything. Every high priest that he appointed was family members. He appointed his own sons to be high priest. He appointed Caiaphas to be high priest. Caiaphas is his son-in-law. Annas was so bad and had no scruples that Rome removed him from being high priest. Rome didn't want him to be high priest because of how bad he was. So, he made Caiaphas high priest.
And so, he's just sort of running a show here, making it as clear as he can. And it says then, and when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire. He says, by what power, by what name have you done these things? This is the beginning of the persecution. This is going to be real type of persecution.
They're going to find it. And from here on in, what you start seeing here is that in these verses, there are seven principles. And God tells you and I, what do we do when we're persecuted by people? What happens when the governing authorities persecute us?
How should we be? And what's interesting to me in that first section, just five through seven, what you gather there is that all the Peter and John were were cooperative. That's all they were. They were submissive. They put them in jail. They had to put them in jail to hold them. This is funny, if you understand what I'm saying. The reason it's funny is they couldn't, they're not allowed by Jewish law to have a trial at night.
You're not allowed. So they put Peter and John in jail to hold them so they get the Sanhedrin together and have a trial the next day. Do you ever remember them doing a trial at night? I think they did, didn't they?
That'd be an illegal trial. That's what they did with Jesus. They tried them all night long, you see, but they won't do it with Peter and John.
So they hold them. Peter and John's view is, okay, that'll be fine. One of the things you see with effective martyrs throughout the 2,000-year history of the church is they're always submissive. I mean, think about it in the Roman Empire. I mean, thousands of Christians were arrested, sent to the Colosseum. You see, they were crucified in high number because they identified with Christ. They crucified them.
Even Roman historians were right. I still can't understand why they didn't resist. Why would they cooperate with that? And that's what they had for about 250 years of that kind of persecution. And after that, guess what happened? They won the Roman Empire. They won.
You see, that's an amazing thing. And it was always because the Romans couldn't understand how these people like this. Why aren't they fighting?
They wouldn't fight. So the first step is to sort of be submissive. And that's why they ask, by what authority or by what name? See, name means authority. Who's named?
How did you heal a guy? What name? What authority did you use? Remember, the Sanhedrin and the Sadducees, the reason they don't like Peter and John is they have no credentials. They don't have anything. They're not educated at all. You see, they don't identify with a rabbinic school like a male or someone like that. They have no reason.
They shouldn't be allowed to stand up in the temple and talk and then heal a guy like this. So what name do you use? And of course, Peter lets them know here in a moment. So be submissive. And then the next thing is a very short phrase. Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ah. The word filled there is passive in the Greek, which means he yielded to the Holy Spirit. But if you want the Spirit to control your life, you have to yield to him, whatever you say. What's interesting about that is this is the fulfilled prophecy from Jesus. Hold your place here and go with me to Luke 12. Luke chapter 12. Just hold your place.
We'll be right back. And verse 11. This is what Jesus says directly to them. Luke 12 and verse 11. When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities. And that's just what happened in Acts chapter four.
Do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense or what you are to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in the very hour what you ought to say. Wow. And that's exactly what happens.
There's something more to it than in an applicational way to us, though. And I've had people say this to me. You know, Pastor, I had an opportunity to share the gospel and share Jesus with a friend, a colleague at work. But I was terrified. I didn't even know what to say. I just, I felt comfortable talking about it.
I just didn't know what to say. Well, my view is don't say anything and let the Holy Spirit speak. I mean, let him speak. That's what he's going to do.
Jesus said he'll do it. And some of you have had that happen and actually said this to me. You know what?
What? I started talking to this guy at work and it wasn't even me. I had words coming out of my mouth.
I wasn't even sure what I meant. But I'm just talking away to someone and they're listening and I'm thinking, wow, this is something that shouldn't surprise you. This is the business God's in. You have to yield to the Spirit of God sometimes and let him speak for you. And so the second thing, be submissive. And then the second thing is be dependent on the Holy Spirit. And then he says this to them, rulers and elders of the people. If we are on trial today for the benefit done to a sick man as to how this man had been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health. Wow.
The third thing is be aggressive and seize the opportunity. Does Peter have a history of bravery? Was he real brave? Was he at the crucifixion?
Oh, no, no. He must have had another appointment, huh? Oh, and the night before, how did he act?
He is strong. No, he wasn't. Remember he did three denials and he denied to who? To the Sanhedrin?
No, to servant girls. Three times. And the third time, he curses. I never knew that blankety-blank. What a coward.
Does this sound like a coward to you? I mean, think that you want the name. I'll tell you the name, Jesus.
Wait, I'm going to be clear you don't misunderstand. The Nazarene. Now they knew. You see, this isn't just Yeshua. This is Jesus the Nazarene. Oh, by the way, who you crucified. You think you want to tell the high priest in the Sanhedrin they crucified?
You see, they don't like this idea. He said, yeah, I just want to tell you that. Notice how aggressive he is. Who you crucified. And then God raised him from the dead. He said, by this name, this guy stands here in good health.
Then he does this. He said, he is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, by which he said became the chief cornerstone. That is Jesus. He quotes scripture to them. They've got to hate this. These guys are scribes and Sadducees.
They're expert on the Old Testament. He quotes Psalm 118. Oh, by the way, you know when the psalmist says that he's going to become the stone that you reject? He'll become the chief cornerstone? That's what you did when you rejected him. This is unbelievable courage on his part.
And then it gets even narrower. He says this. And there is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Wow.
That's amazing when you think about it. There's no other name. You don't believe in Jesus, you're not saved.
And you never will be. That's what he's telling them. He's telling them, by the way, you're lost.
There's no other name given among men. Why would Peter say that? Well, didn't Jesus say in John, I am the way, the truth and the life? No one will come to the Father but through me. Not some of you will.
No one will. See, one of the problems we're having in our culture now as Christians, and one of the reasons we're going to be persecuted is real simple. Christianity is exclusive. Not because we made it exclusive, but because the Lord made it exclusive. You see, we live in a... We have an exclusive faith and an inclusive culture. And so our culture just hates it. Our culture's belief is pluralism.
That's what the culture believes. How many roads lead to heaven? All of them. They all lead to heaven. Everyone goes. Doesn't matter what you believe.
As long as you believe everybody gets to go, all roads lead to the same place. That's our culture. You say, no, that's not right. Well, then you're a hater. See, in this culture, you're a hater then. You're saying your way's the only way. No, you misunderstood that.
I wouldn't say... I'm not saying my way's the only way. My Lord said his way's the only way. I said that once to a professor at the University of Pittsburgh because he said I was being too exclusive. And I said I would never be exclusive.
Who am I? But the Lord Jesus Christ is, and I said I am the way, the truth and the life. And I said so if you have a problem, you have it with him.
Take it up with him. Don't say it's what I'm saying. I'm not saying that at all. But see, we live in a culture that says, no, Christianity's too narrow. That's OnePlace.com, and you can listen to Fellowship in the Word online. At that website, you will find not only today's broadcast, but also many of our previous audio programs as well. At Fellowship in the Word, we are thankful for those who financially support our ministry and make this broadcast possible. We ask all of our listeners to prayerfully consider how you might help this radio ministry continue its broadcast on this radio station by supporting us monthly or with just a one-time gift. Support for our ministry can be sent to Fellowship in the Word 4600 Clearview Parkway, Metairie, Louisiana 7006. If you would be interested in hearing today's message in its original format, that is as a sermon that Pastor Bill delivered during a Sunday morning service at Fellowship Bible Church, then you should visit our website, fbcnola.org.
That's fbcnola.org. At our website, you will find hundreds of Pastor Bill's sermons. You can browse through our sermon archives to find the sermon series you are looking for, or you can search by title. Once you find the message you are looking for, you can listen online, or if you prefer, you can download the sermon and listen at your own convenience. And remember, you can do all of this absolutely free of charge. Once again, our website is fbcnola.org. For Pastor Bill Gebhardt, I'm Jason Gebhardt, thanking you for listening to Fellowship in the Word.
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