Prayer for Unhindered Faith

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Holy and Eternal Father,

Draw me to yourself—open my heart, illumine my mind, and strengthen my hands in your service.

Let me follow the example of Jesus Christ, who lived as a role model for sinners, died on the cross to atone for our sins, and who rose from the dead to give us the hope of glory.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, bridge any gap and resolve any tension that hinders my sanctification, blocks ministry to those around me, or blinds me to your call on my life.

Grant me a faith that transcends both lethargy and suffering that I might live and die as your witness through the power of your Holy Spirit and covered by the blood of the Lamb.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Unhindered Faith

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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The Road Ahead

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that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, 

and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 

that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In the Beatitudes Jesus teaches his disciples a simple lesson: how we live and how we die matters in the kingdom of God. This kingdom principle is borne out as we reduce tension with ourselves, with God, and with other people in each of the three movements of our spiritual lives. But our journey in life is not random, we know that in life, death, and resurrection the future is in Christ.

In Christ, we look beyond our natural selves to the person that God created us to be. In our natural selves, we scoff at the idea of living sacrificially without aspiring for personal gain or glory. In our natural selves, we think of holiness as being other worldly and mysterious. In our natural selves hope is futile and death has the final claim. But now we live, not in our natural selves, but in Christ. 

In Christ, we live relieved of our obsession with past failures and present circumstances, chains that have been broken. Because our identity is in Christ and not in circumstances, our identity is secure in the immutable character of Christ, not evolving with changes in fashion, law, or science. Because our identity is in Christ and Christ sacrificed himself for us, we too can live sacrificially and be more fully present in our family life, church life, and work in the world, even loving our enemies. In Christ, we are truly a new creation.

In Christ even in death we can count the cost of discipleship knowing our future is secure (1 Pet 1:3) in spite of failing health, persecution, and rejection. Wherever life takes us we never leave the sovereign dominion of Christ and the shalom of God goes with us, as the Apostle Paul writes:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38–39)

Because Jesus rose from the dead, these words are trustworthy and give meaning to life allowing us to live fearlessly in joy, not being confined to our old nature.

In Christ, the hope of the resurrection means that our attitude in life and death is different, because living in the image of our creator and expecting both persecution and death, we await the glory of Christ in our resurrection (Phil 3:10–12). Anticipating these events, the hope of the resurrection serves both as a road-map and as a source of energy. In Christ, we are a new creation equipped with an objective, a map, and the strength to pursue our daily journey.

In this journey, humility nurtures our Christian authenticity, as we become God’s living artwork in creation (Dyrness 2001, 101), and marks us as Christians, from heart to mind—like an onion, which is consistent from core to skin and back again.

So our faith is in Christ and, like Paul, we emulate Christ’s life and death so that somehow we might attain the resurrection and eternal life (Phil 3:10–12).

References

Dyrness, William A. 2001. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

The Road Ahead

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

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Lamb’s Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

We praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and protect our hearts that we might grow more humble in each passing day.

We praise you for the example of Jesus of Nazareth who extended us shalom in the midst of the chaos of our lives that we might extend shalom to those around us.

We praise you for your example of holiness that we might hunger and thirst for no one but you.

We confess that our hearts and minds are corrupted with the sin of this world; cleanse us through the blood of the Lamb.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Lamb’s Prayer

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Spiritual Links and Tensions

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Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; 

I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matt 5:17)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The subjective tensions in our spiritual life track the objective gaps in our inward, upward, and outward relationships, and are deeply rooted in the witness of the Old Testament. In the inward gap, which arises between who we were and the person that God created us to be, we find in allusions to the person of Moses. In the upward gap, which arises between us and God, we find in allusions to the character of God Himself. In the outward gap, which arises between us and those around us, we find allusions to the messianic prophecies of Isaiah. Together, these gaps and tensions suggest how Jesus intended Old Testament prophecy to be fulfilled.

Focusing on the inward gap, the first three Beatitudes:

Honored are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Honored are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Honored are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt 5:3–5)

These Beatitudes focus on who we are and borrow their language, in part, from Isaiah 61:1. However, the influence goes further back to the attitude and person of Moses, as in: “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Num 12:3). The dominant motif in these three Beatitudes—meekness or humility—is expressed by Moses whose overall spirituality is well-defined in the Books of the Law.

Focusing on the upward gap, the second three Beatitudes:

Honored are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Honored are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Honored are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:6–8)

These Beatitudes focus on God and God’s core values expressed in Exodus 34:6:

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exod 34:6).

The repeated references to God’s character in the Old Testament, especially Jonah 4:2, highlight God’s mercy and Christ’s atoning work on the cross (1 Cor 15:3).

Focusing on the outward gap, the last three Beatitudes:

Honored are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Honored are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Honored are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matt 5:9–11)

These Beatitudes focus on what we do and draw us back to Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (Isa 61:1)

God’s sovereign work instituting shalom in a social context is unexpected—we do not expect to experience God’s presence in the context of persecution. Yet, even during persecution God is not only present, he is sovereignly at work to transform lives and to offer shalom, the heart of Christian spirituality.

The Beatitudes are a key to Jesus’ own spirituality. A complete spirituality needs to answer four important questions (Kreeft 2007, 6) The questions are: Who is God? (metaphysics); Who are we? (anthropology); How do we know? (epistemology); and What do we do about it? (ethics) The Beatitudes answer three of these four questions: Who is God? (God is merciful . . .); Who are we? (we are meek like Moses); and What do we do about it? (we offer shalom). Jesus’ resurrection answers the fourth question: How do we know? (because Christ rose from the dead).

Knowing that the Beatitudes are anchored in the Old Testament, not only highlights God’s immutable character traits in Exodus 34:6, it ties Christ’s divinity to them. The Beatitudes and their scriptural context assure that we do not shape Jesus into a likeness of our own image. This is why the early church focused intensely on the Beatitudes (Guelich 1982, 14) and why the Beatitudes deserve renewed study today.

References

Guelich, Robert. 1982. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Dallas: Word Publishing.

Kreeft, Peter. 2007. The Philosophy of Jesus. South Bend, IN: Saint Augustine Press.

 

Spiritual Links and Tensions

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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Wholeness Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

We praise you for your gift of salvation available to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, as our great high priest, transcends our weakness having been tempted as we are yet without sin (Heb 4:15). For out of Him, by means of Him, and into Him are all things created, sustained, and restored (Rom 11:36), for which we are grateful.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, work in us to complete our journey from isolation in our natural selves to the person that we were created to be, from isolation from others to persons able to offer hospitality to others, and from isolation from God to people of faith.

Enable us to follow the example of Jesus Christ who in life, in death, and in resurrection was merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exod 34:6), even during persecution.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wholeness Prayer

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Surprising Priorities

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For we do not have a high priest 

who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, 

but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, 

yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When Christ enters our lives, we begin the journey from our natural selves to the person that God created us to be. This journey transforms our self-image, our faith, and our relationships as we exchange acts of the flesh for fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:19–23). These transformations can be joyful as we grow in personal knowledge, in faith and in relationships; they can also involve painful losses because fundamental change is inherently difficult and losses must be individually grieved.

The change required in the journey of faith is often compared in the Bible with the challenges in marriage (e.g. Matt 9:15) The newly wed is almost always joyous at the initiation of marriage. Yet, the journey from me to we in the first years of marriage can also be challenging because old relationships with our parents, siblings, and spouses must transform into new ones.

The joys and challenges of marriage over those first few years inform the tensions we experience within ourselves, with God, and with others over a lifetime. The first three Beatitudes focus on tension with one’s self (humility, mourning, and meekness). The second three Beatitudes focus on tension with God (zeal, mercy, and holiness). The last three Beatitudes focus on tension with others (peacemaking, persecution, and being reviled).

What is most striking about the Beatitudes is that they reveal that Jesus honors humility, mourning, mercy, and peacemaking much more than we do.

Jesus honors the poor in spirit, the humble, which does not come naturally to us. We prefer naturally to build physical strength, self-esteem, assertiveness, and influence over others. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit are we able to grow in humility and to see it mature into the character trait of meekness.

Jesus honors mourning. We do not naturally mourn over the sin in our lives and mourning is the only emotion among the Beatitudes. Other emotions are closer to our hearts and we seek comfort, not transformation. Yet, it is when we pour out our hearts in mourning that we turn to God. This may be why the Apostle Paul admonishes us to:  “Gócense con los que se gozan y lloren con los que lloran.” (Rom 12:15)

Jesus honors mercy. Mercy is one of God’s core values (Exod 34:6) and it lies at the heart of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. We see God’s love primarily through the lens of His mercy. Mercy is hard for us to ask for and even harder to give which is why we see the hand of God at work in the simple act of forgiveness.

Jesus honors peacemaking—shalom. Shalom forces us to step outside our comfort zone perhaps more than any other Beatitude. It is because by extending peace in all of our relationships we deny ourselves and emulate Christ. Peacemakers must abdicate their privileges, take up the cross daily, dwell in solidarity with all people, and practice sacrificial hospitality.

Jesus’ priorities are clearly not our own and they explain Jesus’ focus on our transformation, not just in the next life, but in this one. How we live and how we die matters in the kingdom of God. We know this, not only because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Phil 3:10-11), but also because Stephen and ten of the twelve apostles followed Jesus’ example and became martyrs for the faith.

Jesus’ example poses a paradox when he admonishes us to treat persecution as a teachable and redemptive moment: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matt 5:44) The power of love is revealed when it is unexpected and unearned. We see this power in Christ’s words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34) It is through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross that we are reconciled with God and experience the depths of his love.

Jesus’ priorities are not naturally our own, but he admonishes us to embrace the Beatitudes and the creative tension that they engender.

Surprising Priorities

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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Prayer for the Holy Spirit

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Lord Most High,

Forgive us for sins known and unknown, transgressions flaunted, and iniquities seen and unseen.

Give us penitent hearts that repent, make amends, and seek justice, not just quiet absolution.

Transform our lives, Oh Lord, that we might become fit stewards of grace.

Let us put on the full righteousness of Christ as knights suiting up for battle that we might extend your kingdom into hearts yet unrepentant and minds shielded from grace.

May our lives always speak louder than our words and our words speak only of you.

May we not squelch your Holy Spirit, but give your spirit full reign centered on you and you alone.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for the Holy Spirit

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Persecution and Spiritual Lethargy

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But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. 

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 

always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you 

for a reason for the hope that is in you; 

yet do it with gentleness and respect.

(1 Pet 3:14–15)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Being reviled is painful and triggers a Gethsemane moment with a choice—do we turn upward to God or inward into our pain? When we turn to God, our spiritual life blossoms and the church grows; but when we turn to our pain, individually or corporately, then our spiritual life suffers terribly because being reviled is seldom an isolated, one-time event.

Persecution in the modern and postmodern eras has taken on a whole new level of sophistication. The open slander of the Christian faith perpetrated by Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche in the nineteenth century placed church leaders on the philosophical defensive throughout the twentieth century (Plantinga 2000, 167). More recently, the media and other large corporations have actively promoted lifestyles inconsistent with the Christian faith—causal sex, abortion, stores open on Sunday—and caused internal questioning of the faith among believers. What greater suffering could a parent experience, for example, then to see their children fall away from the faith and fall into every manner of sin and deprivation? Today’s lions may appear only on television, but they are perfectly capable of consuming our faith.

This persistent, low-grade persecution can result in spiritual lethargy which affects all three movements of the spirit—within us, with God, and with others. These can be described as loneliness (within us), illusion (with God), and hostility (with others). Let us turn briefly to examine each of these aspects of spiritual lethargy, starting with loneliness.

Loneliness

Evangelist Charles Finney (1982, 74–76) cited six consequences of squelching the Holy Spirit in our lives:

1. Darkness of mind—the truth makes no useful impression,

2. Coldness towards religion,

3. Holding various errors in religion,

4. Disbelief,

5. Delusion regarding one’s spiritual state, and

6. Attempts to justify wrongdoing.

Cited on this list are each of the tensions—with ourselves (1, 2, 3, 5), with God (4), and with others (6)—suggesting different aspects of spiritual lethargy and fertile ground for church conflict.

Illusion

Allusions to persecution fill the New Testament, but they are frequently left out in public readings of scripture leaving the impression that the postmodern church no longer faces persecution and that sin is not intrinsic to the human condition, not part of the context of daily life. Lacking a basic awareness of persecution and sin, the postmodern church struggles less with the emerging persecution evident in our culture and more with the residual context of spiritual lethargy of past decades.

The annual number of Christian martyrs in 2015 has been estimated to have been 90,000 people. This is a decline from 377,000 in 1970s in the heyday of world communism, but still about three times the number (34,400) in 1900 (IBMR 2015, 29). Communism is an atheist philosophy and remains widely influential in secular circles even today. Over time, communist nations have been fairly open in their persecution of Christians who are often accused of representing a foreign influence.

An important indicator of spiritual lethargy is a lack of interest in prayer. Prayer is difficult in the absence of faith which is obvious when the words spoken take precedence over the relationship that we have with God. In the absence of a relationship with God, prayer seems like happy thoughts or a type of poetic expression rather than communication with a close friend, confidant, mentor, or father. When we are in relationship with God, our prayers are structured, in part, by the nature of that relationship—a kind of personal theology or spirituality.

Another indicator of spiritual lethargy is the tendency to read scripture out of context or in view of our own personal agendas. One passage often cited out of context is: “always be[ing] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). This hopeful snippet is often used to argue apologetically for the faith, but contains three important weaknesses. The first weakness is that the snippet ignores the context of persecution, an important reason that First Peter is one of the favorite books of persecuted churches (McKnight 1996, 35). The second weakness is that Peter’s admonition to speak “with gentleness and respect” is frequently glossed over by apologists anxious for debate. The final weakness is that the focus on offering a verbal defense ignores the Apostle Peter’s own emphasis which was on lifestyle evangelism—living out the faith. Consequently, highlighting only 1 Peter 3:15, which mentions offering a verbal defense of the Gospel, distorts the appeal, attitude, and main point of Peter’s letter, which is to inform Christian life in a world of persecution.

Hostility

In a world of persecution, we expect conflict with others over our faith because of the work and power of the Holy Spirit, as we read: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The power of the Holy Spirit normally acts in us to become witnesses, unless we give in to fear and squelch the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

Fear of taking risks can squelch the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as Barthel and Edling (2012, 101) note:

When individuals or groups are motivated by fear of the opinion of other people (what others personally think about them) more than the fear of God, their hearts grow cold to the Spirit of God. Lacking God-consciousness, there is no restraining the motivation of the heart; only worldly passions and popularity with the crowd control. This is common in church conflicts. Defensiveness, self-righteousness, and pride rule the day when people give in to the fear of man.

While we frequently pray for protection—evidence of fear, the early church prayed for boldness in their witness (Acts 4:29–31).

Spiritual lethargy, the opposite of boldness, can also quench the power of the Holy Spirit, as Apostle John observed in the church of Laodicea: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Rev 3:15-16) Spiritual lethargy is widely viewed as a postmodern problem where evangelism is neglected, churches battle over music and decorations, and biblical illiteracy is a problem even among aspiring seminary students.

Church conflicts start with inattention to God’s priorities, a corporate dimension of spiritual lethargy. Barthel and Edling (2012, 89) observe churches in conflict coming to their senses when leaders are reminded of the need to remain God-centered and to reframe conflict around well-chosen questions for reflection. Centering worship and our spiritual formation in Christ is therefore an important starting point in reducing and averting church conflict, because the underlying problem is spiritual, not the conflict itself.

The good news about spiritual lethargy is that God is sovereign and the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of Christians everywhere to bring about spiritual revival. This is as God promised the people of Israel (Deut 30:2–3) and the Apostle Peter preached, citing the Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28–29), on the day of Pentecost:

 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17–18)

While some have become hamstrung with fruitless activities, others have been empowered through Christ’s Holy Spirit to work for the reconciliation of the world with Himself (2 Cor 5:17–20).

References

Barthel, Tara Klena and David V. Edling. 2012. Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks.

Finney, Charles. 1982. The Spirit-Filled Life (Orig pub 1845-61). New Kensington: Whitaker House.

Persecution and Spiritual Lethargy

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Preface to a Life in Tension

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Prayer for Conviction

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty and Compassionate Father,

The Bible says that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to become witnesses to our neighbors, the region, and the whole world (Acts 1:8). Convict us, Lord, that our witness reaches all in need.

The Bible says that Saul approved of Stephen’s execution and afterwards a great persecution arose (Acts 8:1). And that many churches were founded as the disciples were scattered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:19). And even the grand persecutor himself, Saul of Tarsus, was himself transformed into an evangelist who we know as Paul (Acts 9:5). Convict us, Lord, that our witness reaches all in need.

Grant us the mind of Christ that we might focus on your priorities, not our own. Transform our hearts that we might feel the things that you feel, not feelings of our own. That on the Day of Judgment, we will be judged according to Christ’s righteousness, not our own. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us eyes that see and ears that hear and feet that obey. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer of Conviction

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Believer’s Prayer

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Persecution Can Be Transformative

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And Saul approved of his [Stephen’s] execution. 

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and 

they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, 

except the apostles. (Acts 8:1)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In my grandparents’ home, every meal began with prayer and ended with a scripture reading. One time in college when I visited, I read the story of Stephen: “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.“ (Acts 6:13-14) Stephen offered no defense, but rather he accused the Jews of false worship and not keeping the law (Acts 7:48, 53). Then, he reminded them of Jesus’ words during his trial: “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:64) Here Jesus paraphrased Daniel 7:13 in a clear claim of divinity. This claim drove the Sanhedrin crazy and in a fit of rage they stoned Stephen, an act illegal under Roman law (John 18:31).

After the execution of Stephen, the Book of Acts introduces Saul (Acts 7:58) who, not only approved of Stephen’s stoning, but led the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem that followed, ravaging the church (Acts 8:1–3). The word, ravage, suggests a self-destructive manner, as in the proverb: “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.” (Prov 19:3) This manner of persecution confirms Saul’s own testimony that he was a zealous persecutor (Acts 8:1; Phil 3:6).

In leading the persecution of the church, Saul assists in scattering the Jerusalem disciples to both the regions of Judea and Samaria. This fulfilled the first two parts of the commission of Christ in Acts 1:8 and he was aided by disciples who shared the Gospel as they fled Jerusalem (Acts 8:4). Thus, even at his worst Saul acts as an unwilling, unknowing instrument of the Holy Spirit as he accomplishes Jesus’ charge in Acts 1.8, cited earlier.

When Saul sets out to oppose the third part of Christ’s commission in the scattering by going to Damascus, however, the risen Christ intervenes, preventing him from further self-destruction, saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). To this question, Saul responds: “Who are you, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:5–6) This is in stark contrast with the response of Judas Iscariot who commits suicide (Matt 27:5). Even before he was even aware, the Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, served God’s purposes even in persecuting the church and, in doing so, was driven painfully towards his own conversion and call (Acts 9:15-16).

Persecution often traumatizes us, leaving deeper wounds than most other things. On an individual level, this trauma can lead to lifelong emotional and psychiatric issues, and, if we then turn into our pain and away from God, can be intensified by spiritual confusion. On a communal level, persecution can be followed by a cycle of revenge between warring communities. At either level, those persecuted and those persecuting are bound in an indelible, negative bond that is not easily broken.

Forgiveness breaks the bond created by abuse and persecution, and makes room for God’s Holy Spirit to work in our lives (Rom 12:19). Stephen died praying to God for the forgiveness of his persecutors: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60), paraphrasing Christ’s own words from the cross (Luke 23:34). As one of those persecutors, Paul never forgot Stephen and mentioned him as he recounted his own conversion before the Sanhedrin. Was Paul’s conversion God’s answer to Stephen’s prayer? (Acts 22:20).

Another important consequence of the Jerusalem persecution was that the Holy Spirit worked to establish the first gentile church in Antioch, as we read:

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19–21)

The key word in the Greek is scattered, which only appears one other place in Acts 8:4: “Now those who were scattered [by Saul’s persecution] went about preaching the word.” The word, scattered, infers an action of the  wind and the word for wind in the Greek is pneuma, which also translates as Holy Spirit. The inference is that the Holy Spirit established the church at Antioch in response to persecution (Acts 11:22).

Because the apostles remained in Jerusalem at this point, the Holy Spirit used ordinary disciples, whose names remain unknown, to establish the Antioch Church and churches throughout “all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) It is much like God has used Pentecostal evangelists in our own time to reach much of the known world (IBMR 2015, 29).  much like God has used Pentecostal evangelists in our own time to reach much of the known world (IBMR 2015, 29). And in many places around the world, persecution remains ever present.

Persecution Can Be Transformative

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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