Sunday, May 7, 2017, 8:08 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 5:17-33 (Select vv. NIV).
Go, Stand! (vv. 17-20)
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
In this world we are going to have trials, tribulation and persecutions. We will face opposition from the enemy, and from those who have fallen under his deception; under his spell. Some of these enemies have infiltrated the church, and some are even the pastors, elders, deacons or otherwise spiritual leaders within the church. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, or else they are the naïve who have been duped by a clever adversary.
Today’s modern church movement has brought worldliness into the church as a way to market the church to the world. So, they entertain the world rather than proclaim God’s plan of salvation from bondage to sin; rather than make calls for repentance – turning from sin to Christ and to his righteousness. In fact, many of them teach God requires no repentance, no submission to Christ and to his cross, and no obedience to God. They teach a grace, instead, which gives free license to lasciviousness (immorality/sin).
Because of this, many of these churches have embraced ecumenicalism or even syncretism, i.e. the blending or merging of different religions and beliefs. Their bible, in practice, rather than being the word of God, has often become marketing books on how to grow their churches (businesses). And, many of these leaders and their followers are followers of humans, rather than followers of God. Thus, the Holy Spirit has been pushed out of many of these churches, because he does not fit with their marketing plans.
Thus, many of these church leaders are being trained in how to choose their targeted audience, and in how to discourage participation from those with “strong convictions,” i.e. from those who still teach the gospel as Jesus and his NT apostles taught it. They don’t want to offend the world with the true gospel, so they create one which is less offensive and more acceptable to the world. And, for many of them, the gospel has been reduced to “good deed doing” rather than confronting sin, warning of judgment, calling for repentance, and promising the hope of eternal life with God for the repentant and the obedient (to Christ and to his commands).
Because of this, many Christians who are following Jesus Christ with their lives, who are living separated lives from the world, who still hold to the tenets of the Christian faith and practice, as taught in scripture, and who stand on the Word of God, and on his gospel message, are being persecuted, even within the worldly church. Some of them, I am sure, are being told to “go someplace else” where they will be a “better fit,” because many of these pastors are saying this, so this is their training. And, not only that, but Christ’s followers are being accused of teaching works-based salvation, even though they are teaching what Jesus and his NT apostles taught. And, beyond that, they are also being accused wrongfully of being hateful, bigoted, intolerant, judgmental, unkind, and even dangerous.
Yet, the Lord Jesus is saying to his persecuted saints to “Go, stand on the Word of Truth, and tell the people about this new life in Christ Jesus.” We are to tell them that Jesus didn’t die just so they could be rescued from hell and have the hope of heaven when they die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us; and that we might no longer walk (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25).
Obey God! (vv. 25-33)
Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
When we obey God, and we do what he tells us to do, according to (in agreement with) the teachings and biblical principles of scripture, there are going to be people who will not like us, who will object to what we are doing, and who may even kick us to the curb. Some of these may be pastors. Some may be elders in churches. Some may even be moderators or owners of Christian websites. As well, they may also be government enforcers whose job it is to stop the gospel of Jesus Christ from spreading further, so they may clamp down on what can be said on the internet or in person with people. They may even declare it to be a hate crime to confront sin in sinful humans, to tell them that faith in Jesus Christ is the only path to God and to heaven, and to warn of judgment and to call for repentance.
In the Western World, in particular, it is not the name of Jesus that is an offense, for many make Jesus out to be whatever fits with their lifestyles. What is an offense is the cross of Christ, but not just that he gave his life up for us on the cross, but that he requires that we die with him in death to sin and that we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, and in order for us to have eternal life with God (See: Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Lu. 9:23-25). For, this is what it means to be born again; to be born anew of the Spirit of God.
Yet, when we face opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and even if we are commanded to stop teaching the whole counsel of God, and if we are instructed to take it down a notch, i.e. to remove the offense of the cross, we must obey God rather than men. Always God’s Word trumps! Yes, we are told in scripture to obey our leaders, but NOT if they are commanding us to disobey God, to deny our Lord, and to stop preaching the truth. We need to be men and women of God who stand strong on the Word, who do not compromise with the world of sin, and who do not dilute the gospel message either to be liked by people or out of fear of what humans might do to us.
So, keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. Don’t let discouragement set in, either. God has a plan and a purpose for it all. He is still sovereign over all he has made, and he is still in control over all things. Trust him! Do what he says, and leave the results to him. His word will never return empty, but will accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it.
Be Strong and Take Courage / Don Moen
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way
Why don’t you give him all of your fears?
Why don’t you let him wipe all of your tears?
He knows, He’s been through pain before
And He knows all that you’ve been looking for.