Recently I have been reading about the early church in Acts and it was a glorious time in Church history. The Holy Spirit had been poured out on the believers, as Jesus had promised, and lives were being wonderfully transformed. Miraculous signs and wonders were being performed by the apostles and the Church was growing at a dramatic rate. The sick were being healed, the demon oppressed delivered, the gospel was being preached with a holy boldness, that could only come from God and much grace was upon the church (Acts 4:33). Wow – what an exciting time to be alive! Jesus had promised His grieving disciples that their grief about Him going away would turn to joy and it was (John 16:20). They were experiencing joy unspeakable. They were full of glory, and their lives would never be the same again (1 Peter 1:8).
It was not all smooth sailing and hallelujahs though, as it didn`t take long for the persecution to start. The believers were seeing God`s Kingdom being established on the earth but the religious leaders, who Jesus had correctly labelled as blind guides and hypocrites in Matthew 23, were forcibly standing against the purposes of God. The comparison between these leaders and the believers was like comparing `chalk and cheese.`
The disciples were overflowing with the life of the Holy Spirit but the religious leaders were `filled with jealousy` (Acts 5:17). It was not a godly jealousy either, but a jealousy that caused them to rise up and make war on God and His church. They could have embraced what God was doing and joined in themselves, but they didn`t. Their jealousy, and later their rage, was their downfall and drove them to persecute God’s servants, in an attempt to hinder the growth of the church (Acts 5:33).
How foolish they were! Jesus had already prophesied that He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not overcome it (Matthew 16:18). These leaders would not even listen to the God-inspired wisdom of one of their own. Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, told them to consider their actions carefully, because they could find themselves fighting against the purposes of God (Acts 5:35–39). His wisdom persuaded the Sanhedrin to let the apostles go free, but not without having them flogged first, and warned again not to speak in the name of Jesus, (a command that the apostles had no intention of obeying).
The same ‘jealous and rage filled’ religious leaders were instrumental in the stoning of Stephen, and the great wave of persecution that broke out after his death (Acts 7–8). History shows us though, that this actually helped spread the gospel further afield, for ‘those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went’ (Acts 8:4).
As exciting as that fact is, this isn`t meant to be the focus of today`s devotional. The question I want to challenge you with today is simply `what spirit will you be filled with?` Alongside the apostle Paul, I exhort you be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). `Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom)` (2 Corinthians 3:17, AMP).
Prayer: Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me. I want to be continually filled with You and You alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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