and saul approved of his 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]
as you approach the Lord today, ask him to examine your heart–what is it that you approve of?
search me, o God, and know my heart!
try me and know my thoughts!
and see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! [psalm 139:23-24]
we will see the active role that saul takes in the persecution of the church in the next verses, but for now, he is standing by and tolerating the death of the innocent. what sin do you tolerate? what sin are you allowing to go unconfronted as you watch it happen?
as you hold up your life to the word, as you sit in the presence of God, you will be astounded at the gap between your own sin and God’s infinite holiness, and as you allow the word to work, you will be confronted by your deep need for a Savior.
only when this happens will you boldly and unashamedly speak out against sin.
take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. for it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. but when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. therefore it says,
“awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [ephesians 5:11-16]
and when we approve less and less of the world, as we speak boldly against sin, as we proclaim Jesus unashamedly, there is something that is assured–we will be hated by the world. this hatred and persecution by the world is not evidence of God abandoning us, quite the opposite–it is evidence of his love!
see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. the reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. [1 john 3:1]
the great persecution that our christian brothers and sisters faced–and still do face–is not a curse of God, it is preparation:
so we do not lose heart. though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. [2 corinthians 4:16-18]
so as you watch the news and look out the windows and see the world rapidly changing, and our culture deteriorating, i will challenge you with two thoughts:
- do not stand by and approve. the world is a hostile place to the gospel of Jesus. Jesus saves, and does not abide sin. do not participate in the works of darkness–proclaim boldly the cross of Christ in the way you speak, act and live!
- do not lose heart. part of our work here is to bring light into dark places, and it can be discouraging–press on brothers and sisters, press on to show the world Jesus, it is what a dying world needs!