Allen Jackson - Antichrist Revealed - Part 2
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I wanna go to Acts chapter 8, and I wanna look at an event. We looked at it a few minutes in an earlier session, but Acts chapter 1, Jesus goes back to heaven. Acts chapter 2 is Pentecost. The balance of the book of Acts is this unfolding story of Jesus's closest friends and what happens with their diligence in accepting that assignment to take this gospel into all the world. And in Acts chapter 8, it's gettin' a lot like Matthew 5's description. The very first phrase is really a holdover from Acts chapter 7, because in Acts chapter 7, the Jerusalem church has their first martyr. Stephen is murdered in the streets, not for stealing, not for a Ponzi scheme. He's murdered for it because of his advocacy for Jesus.
And, Saul, who is going to be the apostle Paul, we're told in Acts 8:1 was there, giving his approval to Stephen's death. He was all for it. "Hit him harder. He deserves everything he's getting". Paul describes himself, later in his life, as an angry, murderous, violent man. The next sentence is "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem". It was as if the spilling of Stephen's blood just ignited a lust for more blood. "And all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria". Those were the expanding regions around Jerusalem. The only people that stayed in Jerusalem were the apostles. All the other believers fled. Think about that, not an insignificant number, because on Pentecost, thousands of people said they believed.
And between Acts chapter 2 and Acts chapter 8, it says that the church was growing daily, that the surrounding communities were being impacted to the point that the leadership in Jerusalem was jealous of the apostles' influence, and now, in chapter 8, it says, "Everybody except the apostles were scattered," thousands of people fleeing the city. "Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison". It's in Jerusalem. Persecution. Persecution.
I'm grateful to say we haven't known a great deal of that, but I can tell you, whenever it comes your way, it always feels personal. It may be a general problem, but when it encroaches on your life, it's personal, and we need a different kind of an awareness. We're gonna have to have the courage to acknowledge when we've been forced from the public square because we were trying to avoid persecution. Sometimes persecution may simply be from a personal satanic attack. It's a challenge to your health. It's a challenge to your peace of mind. It's a challenge to your family system. Again, we've tried to imagine that we lived above such things when it's a very biblical idea. I'll give you one example, I didn't put the notes in your Scripture, but I think that the event is familiar enough to you.
Do you remember Samuel? There are two books in the Old Testament that carry his name. He's the last of the judges. He's a very significant figure in Scripture, particularly to the Jewish community. The Christian community have maybe given him a little bit less attention, but in Jewish tradition, Samuel is a towering character. He's the last of the judges, and he anoints the first kings of Israel. Samuel is older, but he still has a lot of youth, a lot of years left, and the leaders of the tribes come to Samuel, and they say, "We don't want you to be our leader anymore. You're old, and you're a lousy parent". That's what they said: "You're old, and we know your kids, and did you ever mess that up, so we don't want you anymore. But not only that, we don't want the form of leadership you've given us anymore. Never mind it's been there for 400 years. You've done such a poor job. We want an entirely new system," wow.
When Samuel goes to the Lord, you remember what the Lord said to him? "Samuel, it's not you they've rejected". You know why God said that to Samuel? 'Cause, I promise you, it felt like, to Samuel, it was him they had rejected. "Easy for you to say, God. They were talkin' about my parenting skills". "It's not you they've rejected. Tell 'em what will happen if they hold to this path". And he did, and they did. I promise you, from Samuel's vantage point, that felt like persecution. Are we gonna have the courage to tell the truth? Or will we say it's about our career or our profession? "I have to do what I have to do".
Folks, we don't have to lie. We don't have to be deceptive. We don't have to deny our faith. We're gonna need a different kind of courage. Again, we don't have to be angry. We don't have to be belligerent. We certainly don't have to be violent, but we're gonna have to choose the truth. You see, persecution comes with the package. Now, we've been very fortunate; our homes haven't been confiscated. That hasn't been the world we've lived in, and I'm not volunteering for any excess persecution. It's like, you know, when you're a young Christian, you want a testimony. I'm happy just to say, "I love Jesus". Let's push on to this passage. Verse 4, "Those who had been scattered," those that got run out of Jerusalem, "they preached the word wherever they went".
Again, that doesn't make sense. If you had to flee your home and your business, and your family is distributed, you would think, when you got to your new location, you'd turn down the volume. I mean, "They ran us out of Jerusalem. They'll come here for us. Can we just go incognito for a while? Can we dial it back a little bit"? But that's not the attitude. It says that, "wherever they were scattered, they preached the word wherever they went. And Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to him. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. There was great joy in that city". There had been joy in Jerusalem too. They were bringin' people from all the surrounding villages.
Verse 9, "Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.'" Now, I want to contrast Simon in Acts 8 with a sorcerer that we're introduced to in Acts 13, but we're gonna have to save Acts 13 for the next session. You can stream it. "This man is known as the Great Power". We'll work on that definition of a "sorcerer" a little bit more in another session. "They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic". He's a person of a great influence. Don't think of him as a sorcerer like a Disney version with the pointed hat and a wand. He's a person of tremendous influence in the city.
If we used current language, we would talk about him as a person with significant political influence or economic influence. He shapes the policies in the city where he lives. "They followed him because he'd amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized". Verse 13 is worth noting. "Simon," the sorcerer, "he believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles that he saw". He saw an authority in Philip that was different than the authority he had. Sounds a lot like the disciples who followed Jesus.
"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. And when they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them. They'd simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus". The book of Acts begins with the circumstances surrounding Spirit baptism. I don't wanna take a great deal of time here, but when you're born again, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within you. In John 20, on Resurrection Day, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they had a personal experience with the resurrected Christ, and he breathed on 'em and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". Meets every biblical qualification I know for the new birth. But then, in Acts chapter 1, he said, "Don't begin your ministry, don't leave Jerusalem, until you're baptized in the Holy Spirit".
So throughout the book of Acts and throughout much of the New Testament, this notion of Spirit baptism is a part of the experience of the believers, not a requirement for heaven but a part of their experience. "The Holy Spirit hadn't yet", this is verse 16, "had not yet come upon any of them. They'd simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money". There had to be some physical demonstration that went along with the event, or he would not have bribed them for the same power. If it was a silent gift, if it was a gift that wasn't noticeable, it would not have had an appeal to Simon.
"He offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' And Peter answered, 'Bless your heart.'" "Peter answered, 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he'll forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you're full of bitterness and captive to sin.'"
Wow, somebody needs to give Peter some inclusive-language training. I mean, Simon's a brand-new believer. It was verse 13 when he believed and was baptized, and by verse 22, Peter's callin' him out in front of everybody: "Repent, you're wicked". How about just huggin' him in, Pete? He hadn't been through the 16-Week New Believer's Class yet, chill. "He said, 'You have no part or share in this. Your heart is not right before God. Repent.' And Simon answered, 'Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.' And when they testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John went back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages".
Wow, now, Simon's response, when he sees the impact of Peter and John laying hands on people, is a carnal, earthly, Adamic, selfish response. He's a new believer. He's made his way through life by accumulating power. He's a person of influence. He's a person of authority. It has brought him status. It has brought him wealth. And he's met someone that has a power greater than the power he knew. And he's a believer. He's a part of the team, but when he sees something he hasn't experienced before, he responds in a very carnal way. He's motivated by greed and selfish ambition. "I want what they have. I want that power". It's worth noting the resolution that Peter gives him. Peter tells him the truth, plain language. He didn't sugarcoat it. He said, "Repent". The resolution for carnality, selfishness, is repentance. It's a very important lesson. We just got to listen in and watch an inter-church squabble. "I wanna do what you're doing. Wow, looks powerful". "You're wicked". He didn't say he was ungodly. We'll look at that when we look at the next sorcerer. He said, "You need to repent".
Now, remember, our topic being "Spiritual Things," but particularly expressions of the spirit of Antichrist, things that oppose the purposes of Christ. If you'll allow me a bit of latitude, because it's beyond the way we typically, I think, have used the definitions, but I think, when you and I respond from our carnal, selfish, Adamic selves, not directed by the Spirit of God, what we give expression to is something that opposes the purposes of God, and we need to be more aware that that capacity is very close to us. None of us have to be coached up on ungodliness. We have to teach ethics at the university level. We don't have to teach people how to be selfish. We don't do any seminars on Ponzi schemes except how to recognize them because we're very good at launching those on our own, and we have a whole new slate of them in the news these days, right? But when we don't respond, when we're not led by the Spirit, we respond with a part of ourselves that stands in opposition, and the only way to overcome that, to defeat that, is through repentance.
So if the church imagines that the only time we need to repent is when we find our way into the kingdom of God that very first time and then, after that, all our heavy lifting with repentance is done, we leave that carnal part of us to run rampant, and we have very carnal, selfish, earthly expressions of our faith, and our light is dim and our salt is diluted. Look with me in Romans chapter 8: "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. The carnal mind is enmity against God," is an enemy of God, "for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be". When the Bible talks to us about renewing our minds, changing our thoughts, Isaiah, in chapter 55, in that beautiful language, it said, "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so," God says, "are my thoughts are above your thoughts".
See, we have to give some real attention to learning to think in a different way. If your thought processes, if your life plans, if your aspirations, if your dreams, if your ambitions from your children are inseparable from the secular folks you know, it is highly probable your thought processes are a long way from God. I didn't say you weren't born again. Simon was. But Peter said, "You are behaving wickedly. You better repent". Verse 8, "So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, but if you live according to the flesh, you'll die, but, if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God". Now, I spent most of my life hearing people talking about being led by the Spirit. We typically think in terms of dreams or visions or impulses or something that's a little bizarre.
You know, "I would've never thought of it, but I felt like the Spirit led me to it," but in the context of the presentation, it's talking about dealing with that old carnal nature and... specifically our thoughts that we won't allow the Spirit of God to lead our thought life, wow. Look at that next passage, Colossians 3: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature", doesn't mean to literally execute your physical body. It's that old Adamic part of you. When you're born again, your spirit is made alive to God. You become a new creature, a new creation, but you still got your earth suit, and you still have your emotions and your mind, your soulish self, and that part, we have to reconcile. We have to bring it under the lordship of Jesus.
"Whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language from your lips". Now, I don't believe that's presented to us, intended to be an inclusive list of character fails. I believe it's intended to open the category of those expressions of that carnal, earthly self, but the language is very clear the responsibility remains with the believer to address these concerns. Look in Colossians 3:5, "Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature". Verse 8, "You must rid yourselves of all such things as these".
What did Peter say to Simon? He said, "Your thoughts are wicked, and you better repent". We've been drifting along, trying to find ways to use the gospel to optimize our life journey to give us a supernatural power to get ahead, to outrun the Joneses, and in reality, we need a change of thought directed by the Spirit of God. So I wanna close with James 4, and then we're gonna take Communion. We're gonna take a moment and humble ourselves before the Lord. James chapter 4, "You adulterous people", James is the in-your-face book in the New Testament. If you're havin' kind of a blue day, maybe don't read James. Just hold that, okay, 'cause James will, he'll tell ya how it is: "You adulterous people", he's written to believers, "You adulterous people, don't you know", and, by now, you know, any time that phrase is introduced, the assumption on the author's part is the reader does not know.
"Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil. He'll flee from you. Come near to God and he'll come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord. He will lift you up".
So then, we're given a response. We're given a response. If you find yourself in Simon's shoes, a little self-indulgent, a little greedy, too much selfish ambition, if you've been undisciplined, it says, "We humble ourselves". See, self-sufficiency or the desire to be independent of God is pride. "I'll just take care of myself. I don't have to depend on the Lord". I'm not encouraging you to be lazy. We have enough of that, and if you don't know, the government is not God. If you think you could depend on the government for your well-being, you're an idolator. Governments will take your freedom. They always have. They always will. God is the author of liberty and freedom. But that thing in us that wants to be independent, it's not new, and humbling yourself, it's counterintuitive.
Humility comes to you indirectly. Humility comes to you from serving others. Humility comes to you by listening to others. Humility comes to you by attaching value to others. Those are not things that are championed these days very often, but humility comes with some of the richest blessings in all of Scripture. In Philippians 2, when it describes Jesus's pattern, pathway that led him to the name that's above every name, it begins by saying he humbled himself. He humbled himself. It's self-inflicted. If humility comes to you because of external forces, it's not humbling. It's humiliation. I would suggest you choose to humble yourself, and if you'll humble yourself, then you can submit to God. Don't ask God to submit to you. We don't manipulate God. We don't manipulate him with his Word. We don't manipulate him with his promises. We submit to God.
Before we go, I wanna pray that God will give you a revelation, a vision of who Jesus is that will change your future. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for your Word and the value it has in us, but I ask that, by your Spirit, you would open our hearts to understand you and your kingdom as never before, in Jesus's name, amen.