Unintended Consequences

June 18, 2023 

Message Big Idea

The early Church in Jerusalem experienced escalating opposition until it finally boiled over into great persecution. Yet, this did not yield its intended consequences.  In fact, God’s people stayed on mission! They were emboldened and sent out, bridging relational and racial divides.  This displayed God’s power in new ways, bringing more to know Jesus. According to God’s sovereignty, seasons of adversity and opposition can actually fulfill His divine plan!

Lean In

  • Tell of a time when you were in the minority within a group. How did you feel? Were you limited in what you could do or receive? Were you empowered to speak up and act?

Look Down

  • Read Acts 8:1-40.
  • Discuss/highlight the parts of this passage which intrigued you most? What stood out? Why?
  • Share/reflect on key highlights or takeaways from the previous Sunday’s message (Key Points on next page). What jumped out at you as impactful and/or made you want to know more?

Look Out

  • How are adversity, opposition, and persecution viewed by the broader culture? Are they oppressive, unjust, or formative?
  • What about within the Church? Is there space for grieving the current state of affairs (v. 8:2) while also acting resiliently upon hope and love (vs. 8:4-5)?  
  • How can the local church stay focused on the mission as the early Christians did rather than focusing on attacking/countering the opposition (cultural engagement vs. culture war)?

Look In

  • Consider the account of Simon the Sorcerer (vs. 8:9-25). In what ways have you tried to control the Holy Spirit’s work in your own life? Have you attempted to read the right things, say the right words, sing the right songs, do the right actions in order to get a certain Spirit-filled outcome? What does true submission to the Spirit look like? How can you relinquish control and allow the Spirit to fully lead?
  • Now, look at Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian (vs. 8:26-39).  1 Peter 3:15 says we should “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Are you attentive to those around you, ready to share good news of Jesus Christ?  Do you have a practiced testimony? Are you comfortable answering questions about Scripture? Do you know how to maintain a tone of gentleness and respect, even in the face of opposition?  How can you tangibly prepare and look for such encounters?
  • Lastly, Acts 8 depicts the early Church facing significant adversity and opposition. Yet, they remained on mission, implicitly trusting in God’s sovereignty and His ability to circumvent human intentions to accomplish His purposes. Have you faced adversity and opposition in your walk with Christ? Are you currently in a challenging season? Spend some time reflecting/sharing about that experience? How did you respond or how do you want to respond? (Christian hope is not characterized by stoic optimism; rather, it is an emotionally-authentic state which allows space for both lament and longing while sustaining our missional call.)

Live It Out

  • What one truth from this passage would you like to take to heart and act upon? How will this affect you
  • Who will you share this with this week?

Weekly Preparation

Throughout the summer, this section will consist of four areas which will help prepare for the upcoming Sunday’s sermon: a scriptural read ahead, a commentary on the passage, a reflective exercise, and a weekly practice.

  • Scriptural Read Ahead: Acts 9

(Note, commentaries are not without error. Prudent commentary use will lead one to have confidence where consensus exists across commentators while holding loosely where disagreement arises.)

  • Reflective Exercise: Spend time remembering a challenging season in your life, perhaps marked by grief, loss, adversity or opposition. Write down some of the emotions you felt during that time, emotions directed toward God, others and yourself. Now, contemplate all the ways God was present during that period of your life. How can this help you to face similar circumstances going forward? 

Weekly Practice: Pray specifically for opportunities to reach out to others concerning the hope that you have in Jesus Christ. Ask for eyes to see, ears to hear, and words to say, words of gentleness, respect and wisdom. Submit to the Spirit and request the courage to act.

Sunday’s Sermons Key Points:

Persecutions Unintended Consequences

  • God’s People were sent out.
  • God’s People became bolder.
  • The news of Jesus crossed relational divides.
  • God’s power was more widely displayed.
  • The Good News crossed racial barriers.
  • The Plan of God was fulfilled.

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