They never stopped Acts 5:42

How much does being a Christian cost? I don’t mean just money! I mean time, effort, energy, possessions, relationships. How much does following Jesus demand? Or to put it another way – how much would we really lose if Jesus was NOT the Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God?

Being a Christian in the early Church cost everything. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, those first Christians would have lost everything to gain nothing at all. This is very clear from the whole of the book of Acts and especially passages like Acts 5.

God was doing amazing things in Jerusalem through the Early Church.
Acts 5 12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

God was working all kinds of miracles and more and more people were believing in Jesus and becoming Christians. So the Chief Priest and the ruling Council in Jerusalem tried to stop the apostles from preaching.
Acts 5:18-20 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

As a result the apostles were brought back before the Sanhedrin again:-
28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!

The apostles were only released by the intervention of a godly Jew called Gamaliel. Then we read:
40 They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

Arrested, imprisoned, forbidden to preach, flogged. But the apostles would not be silenced!

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:42)

Acts 5:42 confronts us very powerfully with the challenge of discipleship.

Day after day …. we read … they never stopped!

Being a Christian takes over the whole of life. It’s not just an optional extra, a pastime, a hobby. Christianity is all or nothing. As they say, the entrance fee to heaven is free, Jesus has already paid it by his death on the cross for our sins. But the annual subscription is everything, everything we own, everything we have, everything we are.
When Jesus came to Galilee preaching the Good News, his message was simple. The Kingdom of God is at hand. “Repent and believe.” Change direction, turn your lives round. And then he said, “Follow me!”
Later Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Discipleship is an ongoing commitment to Jesus Christ, all or nothing, day after day, the never stopped, unceasingly! You can have a part time job. You could even be a part time policeman or a part-time nurse. But you can’t be a part-time Christian. That idea is a silly as the idea of being a part time husband or a part time parent or a part time human being! The challenge of discipleship is all day, everyday, they never stopped!

It’s at all times – and in all places. In the Temple courts and from house to house.
In the temple courts

Despite opposition from the Jewish Leaders the Sanhedrin, despite the floggings and imprisonment, the apostles still went to the Jewish Temple to worship and to preach. For the first Christians, following Jesus Christ was a corporate activity – it was something each individual would not do alone but always as part of the community of faith.

Nowadays it’s sad but true that far too many Christians value individualism higher than community. That’s all a part of our Western self-centredness of course, our consumer culture which demands freedom of choice and satisfaction guaranteed or else we take our custom elsewhere. So even in church we value our religious freedom to believe and worship as we choose higher than we value God’s New Society, the Church. So nowadays we find people who claim to believe in Christ but don’t take any part in His Church. Who claim to be joined to Christ but not joined to His Body on earth. Now that’s not New Testament Christianity. Because in the New Testament commitment to Christ implies commitment to his Church – with no exceptions!

It is completely inconsistent to accept all the blessings which God gives his children in Christ but then distance oneself from God’s people, his forever family, the Church. So the first Christians were there with their spiritual family in the Temple day after day. Committed to its worship. Nobody was asking whether it was their kind of music or how long the sermon was going to be. They were there to worship God at every opportunity. Taking every occasion to learn and grow in their faith. And that’s part of what it means to be a Christian. Each individual’s faith was lived out in corporate church life and worship.

But it wasn’t just “in the temple.” It was also
From house to house

The faith of those early Christians wasn’t just expressed when they met together in great congregations. It was also expressed in small groups and in homes.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. … 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Every day! There’s one kind of creature you wont find anywhere in the Bible – a “Sunday Christian”. No disciple of Christ can fit all their worship and learning and prayer and fellowship and service into just a couple of hours once a week. These first Christians were in and out of each others houses talking about Jesus, praising, praying, witnessing, growing, seven days a week. And so it should be for us too!!
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This is why our midweek prayer gathering, “Draw near to God” is so valuable. This is where Home Groups are so important. Bible Study, fellowship and prayer. Learning and growing together, caring, sharing and bearing each others burdens. That is living the Christian life “from house to house”!! Which is most important? Job, family, school, hobbies, television, or being a disciple of Jesus Christ?

But this phrase “from house to house” also reminds us of course that we have to live out our faith in daily life. In our homes and families. With our neighbours. In our workplace or in our school. Wherever we are. Do they know I am a Christian? Have I shared the difference Christ makes with all my friends so they can know the Saviour too??

The apostles weren’t silent! They devoted the time and gave up their lives
teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ

Teaching means explaining our faith – helping people to explore and to understand and to believe. Proclaiming means preaching, announcing the good news, broadcasting it so that everybody can hear it. Boldly declaring what we believe. And we need both. It does seem to me that most Christians in England have become much less brave about proclaiming the good news than they used to be. Perhaps so many people have told us that the message is foolish we have begun to believe it is. “Perhaps it is the pressure of the false god of Political Correctness”, in a world where they tell us that the only thing you can be certain of is that you aren’t allowed to be certain about anything any more. Perhaps Christians have lost confidence in the power of the gospel to change lives, the transforming power of Jesus Christ which can save “from the guttermost to the uttermost.” Remember the words of the apostle Paul,
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

We have a responsibility to tell people the truth which will set them free. A few years ago we went to visit some churches and orphanages we support in Bulgaria. We went to the young people’s Bible Study and they were studying this passage in Acts 5. Somebody asked the question, “If we were preaching the gospel outside the Orthodox Cathedral and the police told us to stop preaching, would we stop? Or would we carry on preaching even if we got arrested?” It was an important question – some members of that church including their Minister our friend Evgeniy HAD BEEN arrested for preaching the gospel in public. Would we be prepared to take that kind of risk?

We have “the Good News that Jesus is the Christ” to share!

Sociologists tell us that we live in a “post-modern age”. That just means that this generation has elevated the individual above God. We have become a society trapped in sins of selfishness and greed, what Richard Foster describes very well as the hyphenated sins of the human spirit, self sufficiency, self-pity, self-absorption, self-deception, self-exaltation, self-indulgence. And there is only one antidote to the self-centredness which is dragging the world ever lower today. The only challenge to the relativism of postmodern thinking is the good news of Jesus Christ. Whether they want to hear or not, whether they listen and believe or not, the only hope for our lost neighbours lies in the historical facts of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the message the world needs to hear! The gospel is God’s rebuke to the selfishness of our consumer culture. This is the truth which will set people free! We cannot be silent!! Whatever the cost! Remember the example of the apostles. And the examples of persecuted and martyred believers and missionaries around the world even today:-
But Let us be clear about what the Christian gospel is. The gospel is not an offer. The gospel is not an invitation. The gospel is not a debate. The true gospel is simply an announcement that Christ has come, and that Christ is Lord of all. And that announcement is so earth-shattering that it demands a response from every one of us who hears it. JESUS IS THE CHRIST! What are you going to do about it?
Some Christians play down this radical nature of the gospel announcement. We seek to share the good news of Christ at Christmas in a very gentle way. As if we are saying – take another look at Christmas and you’ll find a free gift inside, the gift of the Baby in the Manger. But the message of Christmas is not an offer or an invitation which people can choose to accept if they would like to. The message of Christmas is the announcement of a historical fact. Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem was indeed the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. Whether you like it or not, whether you choose to accept it or not, God was in Christ! Jesus Christ is God! Fact.

In the same way, the message of Easter is not an invitation to believe that the cross of Christ was in some way special and different from the deaths of other Martyrs. The message of Good Friday is the announcement that on the Cross Christ died for our sins and that saving death is the only way of escape any of us have from the righteous judgment of the Holy God. Fact! And the good news of Easter day is not a gentle invitation to discover for ourselves that Jesus is alive again. It is the proclamation of the historical fact that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and is exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Fact! God raised Him from the dead and that is all the proof that anybody will get because that is all the proof that anybody needs that Judgment Day is coming. So what are we going to do about in?
PAUL in Athens: Acts 17 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

The gospel is an ANNOUNCEMENT – a proclamation of the good news that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!

The supreme task of the church in every generation is to preach the gospel. To proclaim and announce to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all! Whether people respond or not to the gospel is all God’s work. That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. OUR job is to tell people!! We are not responsible for how people respond to the gospel. We ARE responsible for making sure that we have told them!! To make sure that the seed is sown! The old saying is true – you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Our job is not to make people drink from the waters of life. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. But our job is to MAKE SURE that EVERYBODY knows where to find those living waters – to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is the Christ!

And we must deliver that message urgently! Our responsibility is to make the most important announcement anybody will ever hear with all the diligence and urgency we can! Because people who we don’t tell will be lost without Christ for eternity!
they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news

They never stopped!! The problem with too many Christians today is that they never START teaching and proclaiming Jesus. The first Christians never stopped. If they had stopped, there wouldn’t have been any more Christians and we wouldn’t be here today! They never stopped. Have we even properly started?

I am always moved by the story of the messenger sent by the King to the prison with a message for the Governor. But it was a hot day and the messenger stopped at a taverna along the way for a tequila. But he was thirsty so he had another tequila. And another. And another. So it was dusk as the messenger arrived at the prison as yet another prisoner was executed. And the messenger delivered his message – it was a letter of pardon, for the prisoner who had just died.
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:42)

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