Three are ours biologically and the two youngest were gifts from God through international adoption. Each of our five children are equally precious to my wife and me. The manner in which they came into our family is totally irrelevant when it comes to our love for them.
Recently one child was being unkind to the other four children and so I had to impose some discipline. I chose to take away a few privileges and send the child to their room for the remainder of the evening.
As a father, I disciplined my child because I love my children. Parents who love their children do not discipline them because they want to be mean or harsh or domineering. Fathers and mothers discipline out of love, not hate, and the loving discipline that godly parents use with their children is not unlike what our heavenly Father imposes upon His children who need correction.
As King Solomon wrote,
“My Son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
It was this sort of correction that God had in mind when disciplining His children in the city of Jerusalem in the book of Acts.
What Does Discipline Have To Do With Love?
As a continuation of my last post, we’ve been looking at how God introduced persecution to the early church in the book of Acts because they would not leave the city of Jerusalem in order to share the gospel with other cities (nations). Although much blessing was taking place throughout the city of Jerusalem, God was growing weary of the fact that no one would leave.
And so He forced obedience to His great commission by using the rod of affliction, if you will.
God certainly was not opposed to the gospel being scattered and proclaimed throughout Jerusalem. The problem God had was that He wanted those things to be happening in Judea and Samaria as well. Though the Lord was granting miracles and healings and thousands of souls were being saved, God’s revealed plan was for ministry to begin occurring elsewhere as well.
What God Is Most Interested In
Remember, God is interested in the praise and radical worship of those who call upon His name. Pure and simple.
He is not so concerned about whether or not Christianity is the world’s most popular religion. God is not concerned about the popularity of your local church, nor is He remotely interested in how many names are listed in the church directory of a particular congregation.
What God is most concerned about are the people whose names are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life!
Just ask Ananias and Sapphira.
In Acts 5:1-10 Ananias and Sapphira forfeited their lives as the consequence for lying to the Holy Spirit. The result of this miracle was that “great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). Despite the church’s partial obedience to God’s revealed will of Great Commission Discipleship, the Lord remained patient, blessing His people in many ways.
It was at this time, however, that the effects of spiritual complacency began to really take root there in Jerusalem.
In Acts 5:12-16 we see the fruit of God’s blessing, but also the harbinger of problems in not being wholly obedient in venturing out into Judea and Samaria with the gospel. Take special notice of Acts 5:16 (“the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together”) in this passage of Scripture,
“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:12-16; underline mine).
Unfortunately, we learn from this passage that Jerusalem had become a Christian magnet of sorts. Outsiders needed to travel into Jerusalem rather than the goodnews traveling to them. The people living in the regions surrounding Jerusalem were forced to bring their “sick or afflicted with unclean spirits” into Jerusalem because no one was bothering to go to them.
Obviously, that was a significant obstacle to the Great Commission, which is a mission requiring world conquest.
Christ’s plan for the church was to remain in Jerusalem only “until” they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Unfortunately, the early church chose to remain in Jerusalem rather than begin traveling outside the city in order to reach all the nations.
Fine, But What Does This Have To Do With Me?
Be sure you do not miss this critical truth. Divine Persecution of God’s redeemed children will never make sense if you misunderstand the very reason it occurred.
If you don’t believe me, listen to Peter the apostle, who wrote.
“but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BE THE OUTCOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:16-19; underline mine).
Although it is often difficult to understand why, physical, emotional, and religious suffering is often according to the revealed will of God. Chastening never feels good at the moment, but the wise person will admit that—if only years down the road—it lead to their becoming a “better” person in the end.
I pray that would be the truth for you as well. God bless!
Image credit: Jonathan Zajas (Creation Swap)