This is the story of Easter! This is the power that is changing the world!
After 3 years of phenomenal miracles, breathtaking teaching, and compassionate encounters with the poor and marginalised, Jesus said his time on earth was coming to an end! The disciples will have thought, ‘Come Again Jesus - What are you saying?’. After His death, they gathered in an upper room fearful for there lives. But that was the moment when God the Holy Spirit broke in. When suddenly the whole of what seemed like the tragic Easter story made sense.
A powerful declaration by God that he would transform ordinary people into extraordinary followers, as God made His home in them! And with boldness and confidence, the Easter story hit the streets and thousands were made new! God brought and new presence, a new purpose and formed a new people….His glorious church….a city on a hill and a light that would never be put out! This is the story of Easter! This is the power that is changing the world!
The Apostle Paul next to Jesus, is probably the most influential man that has ever lived. His church planting, teaching and writings legacy continue to change the world today. Early church father John Chrysostom said this of the Apostle Paul “Put the whole world on one side of the scale and you will see that the soul of Paul outweighs it.” Yet like many of the early Christians who encountered God the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended to heaven, we can learn quite a bit about how ordinary people are changed by an extraordinary God. This case study allows us to explore how the grace and wonder of our God transforms even the most toughest of men. Will this true story fuel us with faith to share the gospel that changed us - the greatest gift possible?
The miraculous story of the growth of the early church in the book of Acts happens through conversions. The stories of these conversions of thousands of people isn’t known individually. But Luke in Acts gives us some details of a few. They are extraordinary windows into how people come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. What we learn is that the gospel comes with wisdom and power. That it is ‘joy news’ not just good advice. That is it is much bigger than we often make it. That it is a nation shaper, person transformer, community builder, and joy bringer!
Why? Because ultimately is not about a set of values or a list of ‘do its’. Its about a relationship….a friendship…a trust…with Christ. Bottom line - its all about Jesus!
The book of Acts tells us a handful of details about Stephen’s life and focuses more on the moments before his death. We can learn much from him and his courageous stand for Jesus.
Under normal circumstances, opposition from authorities may lead to surrender, However, in the case of the early church, it lead to growth of the church and spread of the Gospel. Just as the authorities were trying to silence the apostles (sometimes resorting to violence), it becomes clear that no door can be closed to God.