Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category
Posted in Christian Living, Christian Witness, Church Membership, Covenant, Dale Tedder, Discipleship, Every Sphere, Faith, Family, Good Works, Gospel, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, John Wesley, Justice, Kingdom Discipleship, Kingdom of God, Mercy Ministries, Mercy Ministry, Missions, Obedience, Persecution, Prayer and Revival, Revival and Reformation, Salt and Light, Scriptural Holiness, Small Groups, Social Holiness, Social Justice, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, The Church, United Methodist Church, Worldview, tagged Charles Yrigoyen, Cost of Discipleship, Dale Tedder, Discipleship, Early Methodists, General Rules, Holiness, John Wesley, Kingdom Discipleship, Kingdom of God, Methodist Societies, Rueben Job, Scriptural Holiness, Three Simple Rules, United Methodist Church on March 2, 2011 | 2 Comments »
To begin our next story, we need to fast-forward about 1,700 years. John Wesley was born on June 17, 1703, in the small town of Epworth in northeastern England. Here are just a few descriptive phrases about this England into which John Wesley was born.
England had just come out of a bloody civil war. Political tensions were high. There was extreme poverty.
Regular employment was uncertain. Housing was often inadequate and unaffordable.
Pure drinking water was scarce. Food was in short supply. Disease was rampant.
Alcohol, violence, prostitution, and gambling were popular means to escape feelings of desperation and hopelessness.
Children as young as four or five were employed as chimney sweeps or in mines and factories. Life was insecure. (I got these excerpts from a biography of Wesley’s life by Charles Yrigoyen. Its title is, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart & Life. It’s a great biography and could be used very profitably in a small group.)
That was the condition of England that still existed as John Wesley began his ministry. It has some pretty remarkable similarities to our own day, doesn’t it?
I wish I could spend a few hours with you telling you all that Wesley preached and did. But here’s the short version of his ministry (and this is key): He preached the whole Gospel for the whole person.
He didn’t preach merely a Gospel message that promised heaven once you died. It, of course, included that… but it was much bigger than that. He preached a Gospel – the biblical Gospel – that changed lives in the here and now.
And as people were won for Christ, Wesley made sure that they were discipled. That means that he encouraged them to get involved in what we would call Bible studies, small groups, accountability groups. It would be in those settings that they would worship God, study his Word, take communion, pray for each other, hold each other accountable for growing in holiness.
As the Apostle Peter would put it, they were seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wesley gave these early Methodists “General Rules” that served to keep them moving in the right direction. Our church family here at Southside studied a basic summary and explanation of those rules a few years ago when we all read the book, Three Simple Rules, by Rueben Job. I want to share just a few of these rules so that you can get a sense of what was being emphasized…
“It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as:
- The taking of the name of God in vain.
- Slaveholding; buying or selling slaves.
- Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil,
- The giving or taking things on usury—i.e., unlawful interest.
- Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation;
- Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.
- Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, as:
It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men:
- To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison.
- To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with;
- By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith; helping each other in business,.
- By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily;
It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such are:
- The public worship of God.
- The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.
- The Supper of the Lord.
- Family and private prayer.
- Searching the Scriptures.
Now let me ask you something: What might happen to a city where genuinely Spirit-empowered, Spirit-guided people were faithfully and regularly practicing these things? Well, I’ll tell you what happened in England. It turned England upside down, just like it began to do in Rome 1,700 years earlier.
The Methodist movement, according to secular historians with no special fondness for the church, saved England from the same bloody revolution that happened in France.
But there was a cost. There’s always a cost of discipleship… which is why Jesus wants us to count the cost before we commit our lives to him.
These disciples of Jesus Christ, called Methodists, were insulted, slandered, attacked in newspapers. And just like what happened in Thessalonica 1,700 years before… mobs physically attacks them. They were beaten, their houses were burned down, their property was stolen: Simply because they were Methodists!
And so, what happened? Did they give up and return to their old ways of living? Far from it! Methodists grew in faith and numbers. The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was declared in more places with greater impact. Lives were changed. That little corner of the world called England was transformed. What a great witness for Christ!
As I draw to a close, let me leave you with two big ideas.
Scripture says that the early disciples turned their world upside down with the message of the Gospel and that lives were changed by it. History shows us that John Wesley and the early Methodists turned their world upside down with the message of the Gospel and that lives were changed by it.
And so here’s my first big idea: The Gospel of the Kingdom doesn’t actually turn the world upside down. It turns it right-side up!
You see, our fallen, sinful, broken world is already upside down. It’s values, beliefs, attitudes, desires, actions –and all the rest – are contrary to those of God’s Kingdom. Jesus came to set things right – in every sphere of life.
But that far-reaching, socially impacting, worldwide transformation that we all want has to first begin in the hearts of individuals. Each of us must become new creatures in Christ who will faithfully follow him as his disciples. Only then, as we take our new life – our new values, beliefs, attitudes, desires, and actions – with us, wherever we go, can we transform the world… or at least our little corner of it.
It starts with us. It moves to our families. It affects our church, our workplaces, our friendships, our community, our city, our state, our country, and eventually our world. But we have to first start where we are. We have to first be faithful where we are.
That’s my first big idea.
Here’s my second big idea: As followers of Jesus Christ, and spiritual descendents of the Apostle Paul and John Wesley, this is YOUR spiritual legacy as United Methodists. You see, their stories belong to you. In fact, this is YOUR story. You are a part of it.
And so, let me ask you this: What legacy will you leave to those who follow you? How will you keep the story going?
Grace and Truth,
Posted in Bible, Christian Living, Christian Witness, Church Membership, Courage, Dale Tedder, Discipleship, Evangelism, Every Sphere, Faith, Good Works, Gospel, Holiness, Jesus Christ, John Wesley, Kingdom Discipleship, Kingdom of God, Legacy, Missions, Persecution, Revival and Reformation, Salt and Light, Scriptural Holiness, Social Holiness, Social Justice, The Church, United Methodist Church, tagged Apostle Paul, Christian Witness, Dale Tedder, Discipleship, Evangelism, Gospel, Holiness, Kingdom Discipleship, Kingdom of God, Missions, Persecution, Scriptural Holiness, United Methodist Church on March 1, 2011 | 1 Comment »
by Dale Tedder
click here to read Part 1
Our first story beings with Paul and his companions, who had just come from Philippi. In fact, they had just gotten out of prison there and had been escorted out of the city by the officials. Their next stop was going to be Thessalonica, which was about 100 miles away. On their way there, they passed through a couple of cities, Amphipolis and Apollonia, staying at each only to spend the night before heading out the next morning.
When they arrived in Thessalonica, Paul began his usual routine of going to the local synagogue of the city. Why did he go there first? Take a look at verses 2 and 3…
As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,  explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said.
Paul was a Jew. His heart was for his fellow Jews. He loved them. So even though he was called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, he just couldn’t help himself. He would always go to his own people first. What did he do with them? He reasoned with them. He taught and preached from the Old Testament. He used it to explain and prove that Jesus was just who he said he was… and that the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ.
Furthermore, he showed them that Christ had to suffer and die on the Cross for the sins of the world – but that he had to also rise from the dead for our salvation. Paul proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was no less than the Christ – the Messiah of God.
Beloved, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ… the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Gospel first calls us to turn away from our own sin – our fallen, broken, and selfish thinking, desires, words, actions, and attitudes.
It also calls us to trust in Christ alone to forgive us, to save us, to heal us, to mend us, lead us, and to make us holy. That’s the Gospel… and that’s what Paul preached and taught in Thessalonica… and people responded. Take a look at verse 4…
Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
People responded. Lives were changed. Supernaturally speaking, disciples of Jesus Christ had been made.
But, as often is the case, some folks weren’t happy about this. In fact, where the Gospel is preached and where God is doing a great work of deliverance, there will often be opposition.
Take a look at verse 5…
But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.
You see, the Jews weren’t at all happy about this work of Paul and company… nor the message they proclaimed. So they got the meanest, toughest, nastiest folks they could find to stir up trouble for Paul and Silas and their newest converts. Thessalonica was something of a harbor town. There were plenty of drifters roaming around the market place with a lot of time on their hands. It wouldn’t have been a great effort to round up and “encourage” some of these folks to cause a little trouble for Paul and company.
And that’s exactly what they did.
But there was a problem. Paul and Silas evidently got word of this and got out of there. And so the mob did the next best thing. They grabbed Jason and a few others. Jason was one of the converts who was hosting Paul and Silas. It seems that Jason and some of his new brothers in Christ were guilty by association.
At any rate, I’ve now arrived at the whole reason I chose this text. Let me read verse 6 for you…
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,
Those who have “caused trouble all over the world”… have now come here.
That translation from the NIV is my least favorite. Here are a few other translations of that verse that help to capture what was being said…
These men who have upset the world have come here also; (NASB)
These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! (The Message)
Here’s my favorite…
These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, (ESV and KJV)
What were they referring to? How could this little insignificant group of people do anything to the mighty Roman Empire? They weren’t even armed. Or were they?
They were indeed. They were armed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul tells us, is the power of God for the salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. And everywhere that disciples of Jesus Christ went throughout the Roman Empire, both Jews and Gentiles were being transformed into new creatures in Christ. Their lives were changing. Their values were becoming different. Their new beliefs were colliding with their old beliefs.
They were upsetting the established comfort zone. The kingdom of this world was being turned upside down with the message and order of a new kingdom.
Look at the second part of verse 7…
“They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”
Do you see what their accusers were doing? The same charge that was brought against our Lord Jesus – namely treason against Caesar and the Empire – was now being leveled against Paul and Silas. They were accusing them of declaring that there was a new king, one called Jesus. They knew that was the way to get Rome’s attention.
Well, after the city officials decided that there was no reason to hold Jason and his companions, they basically made Jason promise that Paul wouldn’t preach anymore… or at least until they were out of office. Paul probably wasn’t happy about having to leave, but he seems to have honored Jason’s promise and left for a season. Of course we know from the two New Testament books, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, that Paul had an extended relationship with them. This doesn’t appear to be his only time there. That’s the first story I wanted to share with you.
We’ll take a look at Story #2 tomorrow.
Grace and Truth,
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