When God Brings Revival, and Reveals Bitterness in His People
April 24, 2022
Pastor Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland
A. We are studying verse by verse, line by line through the Book of Acts in your Bible
B. We now come to Chapter 8.
C. But before we start reading chapter 8, we had better remind ourselves what just happened at the end of chapter 7…
II. Background (Acts 7:57-60; 8:1-3)
A. Stephen Has Just Died – murdered by the Religious power of the day (Acts 7:57-60)
1. Act 7:57-60 Then they [THE JEWISH LEADERS] cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
2. The religious leaders quickly rose up and dragged Stephen out of the city walls, out to a bit of open-field, and started stoning him
3. Why? Why was a godly young man murdered in the name of God?
4. Simply because he had shown the Pharisees how wicked they were in murdering Jesus of Nazareth, and for rejecting His authority as the Messiah
5. But as he was dying, he asked Jesus, his most precious Saviour, to forgive those who were killing him, just as Jesus had prayed the same thing on the cross – “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do”!
6. And then Stephen fell asleep – he did not die an agonising death, but fell asleep, into the presence of His Saviour! Wow!
B. Things Began to Turn Against All the Christians Very Quickly (Acts 8:1)
1. Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2. The Pharisees and political leaders became obsessed with eliminating this new cult called, Christianity
3. And look who is agreeing with all the planning and scheming that was going on to kill Christians… a young man named SAUL – we will see this man show up again and again in the Book of Acts
4. A great persecution of Christians began!
a. Constant threatenings, beatings, they were thrown out of houses and not allowed to walk the streets – no one would sell to them – they were being driven out of Jerusalem
b. The persecution was so intense that people began to flee from Jerusalem – from the place where they had heard the Gospel, gotten saved and thought they would stay for the rest of their lives!
5. Christians were being driven out of Jerusalem
a. They fled away into other areas, further and further away, reaching into Judea and even into Samaria
b. That was no coincidence
6. Hmmmm. Didn’t Jesus tell all His followers to head out to those areas on their own?
a. Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
b. Start in Jerusalem
c. And be evangelising Judea
d. And Samaria
e. And throughout all the world… to the uttermost, farthest place
7. When they didn’t head out to other areas, Jesus began to push them into His will
a. Like He did Jonah
b. So, Next time things are not going well in your life and you are having to make bigger and bigger decisions, check and see if God is actually pushing you into the will that He may have showed you before, and you just haven’t started doing it?
8. It is interesting that the apostles stayed in Jerusalem – no fear of the persecution!
C. Stephen Gets Buried (Acts 8:2)
1. Acts 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
2. What a hard thing to do!
3. Must have been a very sad day – sombre – no joy in Jerusalem now – great lamenting
4. Quite traumatic to watch a godly man be murdered for preaching – can you even imagine what that looked like?
5. And then to go out into the open, with all the authorities watching, and pick up the broken body of Stephen and take him, wrap his bloodied body up in a linen cloth, and bury him!
6. But they did it
D. SAUL Becomes a Threat (Acts 8:3)
1. Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
2. This is Saul of Tarsus
a. A very well educated, and zealous Jewish Pharisee from a city in eastern Turkey called Tarsus
b. He may have just recently arrived into Jerusalem
c. Up until that time, Saul must have just sat back and let other people deal with this cult
d. But not anymore – he is going to be taking a very aggressive role in returning his nation back to their religion – he became very zealous
3. Look what Saul did to the Christians in Jerusalem
a. Made havoc – caused mayhem, turmoil, upsetting every life and Christian home
b. Actually barging into homes where Christians were meeting and praying…
1) Homes were where churches first began – they were churches even though they had no buildings!
2) Romans 16:5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
3) 1Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
c. And dragging everyone found there TO PRISON! Not to jail awaiting trial, but already judged and condemned to years in prison…
d. For just being a Christian – a Christ-follower
e. REMEMBER WHAT WE JUST READ – It will explain something a little later as we read
E. And so ‘the Scattering’ Begins (Acts 8:4)
1. Acts 8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
2. Scattered by force in all directions - Scattered but not silenced!
3. They were not warning people of the coming persecution, but preaching the words of Jesus!
4. One man ends up 50 miles away from home, and starts a REVIVAL!
F. What Will be the Result of the Scattering?
A. Philip Gets Scattered/Driven into Samaria (Acts 8:5)
1. Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
2. Who is Philip? Philip was just like Stephen was - one of the 7 men who became deacons in chapter 6, who served the widows in the church in Jerusalem.
3. He has been forced to flee Jerusalem for his life
4. And he heads north, and enters into a no-man’s-land called Samaria (MAP)
a. It was full of false religions
b. Half-breed Jews and Syrians
c. The Jews were not welcome there
d. And the Samaritans were not welcome in Israel
e. Jesus loved the Samaritans though
5. The city of Samaria was the capital city of the area
a. Samaria of Samaria
b. It is like New York, New York over in America
6. And when Philip got there, did you notice what he started doing?
7. He started preaching to everyone there that their favourite preacher, Jesus, was alive again!
8. So here comes this Jew right into the heart of Samaria talking about Jesus, and how He had been rejected by the Jews (just like they were), and how He had been murdered, and how Jesus had three days later became alive again, and said everyone is welcome to follow Him now, and that Jesus is getting ready to return and being in the final kingdom soon!
B. The Samaritan People Rejoiced at the Gospel (Acts 8:6-8)
1. Acts 8:6-8 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.
2. The Samaritans were humbled that Jesus had loved them, and now were being told that He had died not just for the Jewish people, but the Samaritan people too!
3. And that he was back alive, and coming again!
4. What a great message!
5. Many miracles were done just for them!
6. They couldn’t get over how freely the miracles were being done for THEM!
C. Even Simon the Sorcerer Gets Converted (Acts 8:9-13)
1. Acts 8:9-13 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
2. Who was Simon the Sorcerer?
a. He was not a Jew – he was a Samaritan
b. He was a very powerful man in that area – he was a sorcerer – a mystical performer
1) A magician, but not like modern day ones
2) Someone who was able to speak spells and do “miracles”
3) A fortune teller, astrologer – could curse people, and could guide people’s decisions
4) Sorcerers often used drugs to “see” the future and talk to the dead
5) It is strange that people still enjoy sorcery – fortune tellers, crystal balls, spells, wizards, Lord of the Rings, Merlin, witchcraft, Harry Potter, and so on!
c. He bewitched people – tricked them – mesmerized them into thinking HE was the power of God!
3. He had it made – everyone WAS following him on instagram, liking him on FakeBook, listening to him give his “superior” guidance and opinions
4. That is, Until Philip preached about a greater Power than Simon
a. Philip preached about The kingdom of God – not of some magician, but God Almighty!
b. And he preached the name of Jesus – much better than the name of Simon the sorcerer!
c. He declared all that Jesus did and said, and went through to save a wicked, sin cursed world
d. The Samaritans amazingly BELIEVED what Philip preached about Jesus being THE Messiah
e. And then they all easily DUMPED everything they used to believe…
1) About the Jewish people – their enemies – they turned from that to the belief that these Jews were their family now! In the family of God
2) About religion – they dumped the idea that their religion was just as good as everyone else’s – and instead the only religion they wanted now was what Jesus taught!
3) About themselves – they had always believed they were fine, and good people – but now they were admitting they were wicked and sinner, and repented
4) They dumped all that the moment they lined up to get baptized
f. What a sight to see thousands of Samaritan people getting baptized!
5. Simon the Sorcerer Gets SAVED by believing!
a. He is amazed at what he heard about Jesus and all that he saw in the transformed lives of his fellow Samaritans
b. So, he decided to believe that Jesus rose from the dead as HIS Saviour!
D. The Apostles Are Surprised (Acts 8:14-17)
1. Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
2. The apostles heard some strange news – Samaritans were getting converted and were following Jesus, and were back to following the word of God’s instructions after 700 years away!
3. This was something new
4. Samaritans getting saved? Baptized? Listening to Jews preach? And loving it?
5. And so the 12 apostles decided to walk all the way up to Samaria and see for themselves
6. They had to walk the 40 miles north of Jerusalem to check this out
7. And then they prayed for all those precious souls that were listening to Philip as he taught them about Jesus’ cruel crucifixion and burial and resurrection, and how it was for THEM too!
8. And [NOTICE THIS] they laid their hands on these new believing Samarians, and they all started speaking with other languages, and it proved they had the Holy Spirit just as the Jews did!
9. They had the same Holy Spirit living in them as all the believing Jews did
10. So, Those Samaritan believers were FAMILY now – brethren!
E. Simon Wants That Power (Acts 8:18,19)
1. Acts 8:18,19 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
2. Why? Because Simon has now discovered a greater power than he had ever known
a. Simon is gob-smacked - amazed at the power that Peter had, that John had, that James had, to fill those new believers with the Holy Spirit of God!
b. The power that transforms lives
c. That turns hated enemies into family
d. A power that healed the most impossible of diseases
e. And a power that gives people the ability to preach and speak the Gospel in languages they had never known before
3. Every believer needs the Holy Spirit IN them – can’t be saved without HIM in you!
a. Today, He comes in the very moment you believe on Jesus Christ
b. It is HE who enables us to actually live the Christian life!
c. But at first, God needed to convince the Jewish believers that other nationalities were getting just as saved as they are – and so God used the miracle of speaking in other languages as proof
4. And Simon wants THAT power now
5. And he offers to BUY that power!
6. But… Why would he do that?
7. Because he had always paid loads of money for tricks and drugs and spells, and illusions – all magicians BUY their tricks
8. But God was about to reveal a deeper disease that was at work, that needed to be healed before it poisoned the work of God there!
9. People were getting healed from diseases in their bodies
10. There are far more dangerous diseases in people’s souls and spirit!
F. Simon’s Problem Was Deeper (Acts 8:20-23)
1. Acts 8:20-23 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
2. Wow! Such strong words!
a. Your Heart in not right with God!
b. Gall of bitterness!
c. Enslaved in the BONDAGE of sin/iniquity!
3. Simon was told that even though he was saved, he was still enslaved to one of the most destructive sins that can ruin a Christian’s life – bitterness!
4. Can you imagine Simon’s expression? SHOCKED
G. Simon’s Right Answer (Acts 8:24)
1. Acts 8:24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
2. I guarantee you that he had no idea what Peter was rebuking, but he had the right response…
a. He was horrified at how wrong HE evidently was
b. He asked for Peter to pray for him – to help him NOT be bitter. He did not want his heart to be wrong. He wanted to be free from EVERY sin – especially the ones he is blind to!
3. When God cuts deep into your heart, you will do well, to at least admit maybe you DO have deep problems in your heart that need to be healed just as much as cancer!
H. The Apostles Head Back to Jerusalem, Satisfied (Acts 8:25) And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
IV. What is The Gall of Bitterness?
A. A Heart Disease (Acts 8:21,22)
1. Something unseen, and invisible that is wrong deep in the heart
2. It is just like physical heart disease – most people don’t realise they have it until they get a stroke and it is too late!
3. It is poisoning the heart of the believer, and eating it from the inside out!
4. Eating away deep in CHRISTIAN hearts!
B. A Hurt We Haven't Recovered From
1. Someone hurt us - maybe small, maybe big – maybe yesterday, maybe 55 years ago
a. Like being tripped by bullies at school, or beat up
b. Like being laughed at and made fun of
c. Like being robbed
d. Like being raped
e. Like being constantly let down by false promises and fake love
2. And we never recovered from it
3. You may not believe it, but all hurts can be recovered from – but only by yielding to the supernatural work of Jesus Christ in your heart!
C. A Resentment of Someone Being Better Off While We Still Hurt
1. Simon evidently had taken on this power trip as sorcerer all those years because someone hurt him long before, and this sorcery was a way to have power of people who might hurt him again
2. Many a bully was horribly bullied when they were younger, and they became a bully to keep people from hurting them ever again!
3. When someone hurts you, lets you down, be careful that resentment does not destroy the home GOD gave you, the marriage, the church, the job
4. Because the devil intends to cripple you, while the other person succeeds at life
D. It is a Self-Righteous Attitude
1. When we have been hurt, we feel justified being angry about it
2. Resentment, and bitter anger just FEELS right
3. It gives us a false sense of power in our heads over the person who hurt us
4. But it is not in our power to take vengeance for that injustice – THAT belongs to God
5. Romans 12:19-21 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
E. It is a Refusal to Forgive
1. Let’s be very honest… It is hard to forgive people who have:
a. Hurt you
b. Robbed you
c. Taken advantage of you and your kindnesses
d. Succeeded at your expense
e. Ignored you, and your needs
2. But the problem with bitterness is not that you CANNOT forgive, it is that you REFUSE to forgive
F. What is So Wrong with Withholding Forgiveness?
1. Of all the evil, destructive things that can happen to us Christians, resentment is one of the worst.
a. Another word for bitterness is resentment
b. It is like a killer germ – an infection, working invisibly to gain power over us and to destroy us.
c. No right-thinking person would allow a deadly germ into his body, knowing that this germ would eventually kill him.
d. Yet many Christians discover the deadly poison of bitterness in them, and hold on to it, and nurse it, and feed it, even though it is far more destructive than any germ or virus ever could be!
2. And so bitterness becomes a poison that permeates/fills every thought and desire and act until it has consumed you
a. Bitterness is one of the worst enemies of our relationships.
1) Bitterness is worse than your enemy who hurt you!
2) It destroys friendships and turns the best of friends into enemies.
3) It divides husbands and wives, and makes them hate each other.
4) It splits churches
5) It has destroyed entire nations
6) But the most damaging effect of resentment is the destruction of the one who holds it.
b. Here is a story
1) A pastor was called to the hospital bedside of a dying man.
2) He was a man whom nobody liked. He was hard, bitter, and angry.
3) He lived on the edge of town.
4) And when he went into town, he made it clear that he didn't want to speak to anyone, and he didn't want anyone to speak to him. Even children ran away from him.
5) People wondered what had made him so bitter and mean.
a) Some thought he had a guilty secret. Others were sure that he had committed some terrible crime and that he was a fugitive from justice.
b) But they were all wrong.
6) The simple truth was, when he was a young man, a close friend had done him a wrong. And had hurt him deeply.
7) He became so angry that he said, "I'll remember what that friend did until my dying day."
8) And that is just what he did.
9) As he lay in that hospital bed, barely breathing, he said to the pastor who sat at his bedside, "I've gone over it every morning. I've thought about it every night. I've cursed that man a hundred times a day. I have wished only for that man to die."
10) Gasping for breath, he painfully continued, "yet only now do I see now that my bitterness has devoured MY SOUL. And in the end, my hate has hurt nobody but myself. Only God knows how much my bitterness has turned my life into hell."
G. The Only Cure is to…
1. Go for the root (Hebrews 12:15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled
2. Forgive the one who hurt you – forgive the first hurt, and every hurt thereafter!
3. Ephesians 4:31,32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, [DIVORCED FROM YOU] with all malice: And [INSTEAD] be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
H. What is Forgiveness?
1. To forgive someone is to let whoever hurt you off your hook – not off GOD’S hook (He will deal with them), but you let them go… free!
2. To forgive is to turn the key, and open the prison door that you have tried to imprison your enemy in, and let that person go free. THAT is what forgiveness is!
3. To forgive is to write in large letters across a debt, no matter how much or little, “Nothing owed!”
4. To forgive is to relax a stranglehold in your mind that you have maintained for years on your opponent, and then walking home as free as the person now is! REPEAT
5. It is when you hurt, but you no longer try and hurt the other person back.
6. It is being kind to them, tender-hearted towards them again, even though they don’t deserve it
7. It is realising that since Christ forgave you, then there is no one you should not forgive!
8. It is most of all, telling them that you forgive them – maybe they don’t even know that they hurt you
I. If you don’t forgive…
1. If you don’t, you will be like Simon – you will remain imprisoned to your past – in its BONDAGE
2. It will give Satan a key to the front door of your life!
a. Unforgiveness gives Satan an open door into your life. (Ephesians 4:26,27) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
b. God says anger and bitterness is a welcome mat for demonic activity in your home
c. DO YOU EVEN CARE THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN SATAN THAT KEY?
d. A continual unforgiving spirit gives Satan a green light to walk into your HOME, your life, your HED, and cripple everything you try and do for the Lord
e. Satan (and his demons) will ALWAYS have a foothold in your life if there is bitter wrath and anger in you!
1) Satan will and probably already does have a vice-grip on your thinking and heart
2) And like Simon, you probably don’t even know it
3) If you won’t forgive, you will be giving SATAN a way to come in and wreck havoc of your life just like SAUL was trying to do to every Christian home at the beginning of this chapter! Go back and read Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
4) IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO CONTINUE TO ALLOW IN YOUR HOME & LIFE?
3. You will be the loser!
a. Poisoned, ruined, crippled – all because of a single root of bitterness
b. Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled
c. And not just YOU, but your marriage, your children, and grandchildren, and friends
d. YOU LOSE if you won’t forgive everyone!
4. Unforgiveness hinders your fellowship with God
5. Why? Because it is a sin not to forgive someone (Matthew 6:9-15)
a. Mat 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
b. Mat 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
c. Mat 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
d. Mat 6:12 And
forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
FORGIVE THE DEBTS OWED TO US!
e. Mat 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
f. Mat 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
g. Mat 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
A. Simon was told that even though he was saved, he was still enslaved to one of the most destructive sins that can ruin a Christian’s life – bitterness!
B. Maybe you are like Simon… SHOCKED AT THIS REVELATION
1. He was holding onto a poison that would defile the whole church there in Samaria
2. Could any of US be doing the same thing?
C. Satan is wrecking havoc in homes, and in Christian churches all over the world
1. Do we really want to give him the key to OUR homes and to THIS church?
2. If we don’t, then don’t think of anyone else getting right – decide to humble yourself, and get your heart right, and soft, and forgive whoever you decided a long time ago to never forgive!
3. The main reason why we have no revival today is because we Christians refuse to humble ourselves and forgive!
4. Until you do that, you will struggle with every past hurt, and remain in the BONDAGE of iniquity!
D. Who needs to forgive someone today?
1. Did someone break your heart, and you can’t let it go?
2. Did someone take advantage of you?
3. Did someone constantly tell you that you are no good? That you will never amount to anything?
4. Did someone abandon you? Neglect you? Abuse you?
5. Forgive them.
6. Does someone owe you an apology? Forgive them anyway. They still need to apologise, but you need to let go of them and leave them in God’s hands!
7. Trust God will take revenge – that God will judge – that God will work all things together for good!
8. Your only job is to forgive, and you can do it with God’s miraculous help!
9. One of the greatest days of my life was when I forgave my Dad for leaving my Mom when I was 12. I mean, I forgave him. Told him I was sorry for holding on to the grudge against him, and that Jesus told me I had to forgive him because Jesus had forgiven ME! And that I wanted my dad to be SAVED and not face God’s wrath!
10. Who do YOU need to forgive?
E. Who needs to be forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ?
1. You will never have the ability to forgive until YOU have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ who died to pay off all you owe God!
2. And there is no cost to you – he paid it all – just ask for forgiveness, and it is yours!