ACTS 4:1-20 JULY 12, 2015
“EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED/NOTHING HAS CHANGED”
I am a boomer as I was born in 1955. I have witnessed tremendous societal changes in our country, some which were good, while others have been detrimental. The world I grew up in, no longer exists. Our society has slowly shifted away from following scriptural principles to a secular/humanist understanding. From a secular point of view there is no such thing as absolute truth as there is no eternal perspective. The only thing that matters to most people is right now.
This shift away from scriptural principles means that we no longer acknowledge that there is a God who created the universe and everything in it. As a result prayer and bible reading is no longer permitted in schools. Secularists have declared that there must be a strict separation between church and state. This only means that those who believe in God are told to keep their ideas and perspectives private and at home. In 1973 the Supreme Court, since it denies that God created life, approved the killing of unborn children.
Since scriptural truth is not allowed in the public sector the Ten Commandments are no longer recognized as being good for society and are forbidden to be displayed anywhere in public. Our nation was founded on Godly principles, upholding the Ten Commandments: honoring marriage and promoting honesty, while prohibiting murder, stealing, fraud, slander, depravity, etc… When God is denied, a void is created and society demands that the government become the authority to declare what is valid and what is prohibited. Since there is no standard for truth, then all one needs is a simple majority among the leadership of the country. No one can appeal to the foundational principles of our founding fathers as they are seen as outdated and no longer valid or permitted.
The ruling on same sex marriage by the United States Supreme Court was decided by a 5 to 4 margin. This should not come as a surprise! Everything we have known to be true is no longer accepted by our government. The changes that are coming to our nation are going to place the church and Christians in a precarious place. Our educational system has already been promoting behavior that the bible teaches is sinful. Our biblical ethics and standards are going to be ridiculed and deemed unacceptable in the public sector. Persecution against the church and believers will continue to escalate. You may wonder how I can be so sure of this prediction.
I know persecution is going to increase because the bible tells me so. We are in a spiritual battle! Ephesians 6:11-12 (NIV) “11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Jesus told us that there would be persecution. John 15:18-20 (NIV) 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
Everything has changed in our country from the way it was. Yet, nothing significant has changed. God is still the same. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) “8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God does not change, so we have nothing to fear!
Scripture shows us the path and how we are to respond to these changes in our society. In the time of Daniel, the Jews were living in Babylon and struggled to be faithful while living and worked in a country that worshiped other gods. King Nebuchadnezzar had a statue made and demanded that his officials bow down before it. There were local officials who were jealous of the Jewish officials and they knew they could cause trouble for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So they told the king that these three refused to obey the decree of the king. The King brought them before him and gave them the opportunity to obey his law. They were told that if they refused they would be thrown into the fiery furnace.
Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV) “16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Like these three Jewish believers, we are faced with the choice of either obeying the law of the land or speaking out against a government that seeks to force us to accept what we know to be sinful and against the commands of God. We will be accused of hate speech and called bigots when we stand up for the truth of God’s word. The book of Daniel reminds us that God is in control, in spite of appearances. We must not remain silent, sitting in our pews, while this country follows the wide path to destruction.
So what is to be our message to our community and to our country? Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin because they had been preaching Christ crucified and had done a good deed, by healing a lame man. They had been told to stop talking about Jesus but they refused. Acts 4:8-12 (NIV) “8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.. 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Notice, that it was the religious authorities who told them to stop talking about Jesus. Even today there are denominations and churches that have accepted the teaching of the culture and are promoting behavior that is clearly against scripture. They are just like the Sanhedrin, who have chosen to ignore the teaching of the Bible and they stand in opposition to the commands of God. They want us to join them and they want us to be quiet about Jesus and not talk about sin and the need for repentance.
Acts 4:18-20 (NIV) “18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” God has saved us by his grace. How can we remain quiet about the merciful love of God and his offer to forgive all of our sins?
We are facing a test of faith? How are we going to respond? Are we going to be loyal to God? When Joshua was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised land he spoke to the people of their needing to chose whom they were going to serve. Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV) 14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Is the church going to serve the gods of unbelief or are we going to be faithful to our Savior? In the time of Joshua, all the people said they would be faithful. However, Joshua warned them of what would happen if they failed to live by their commitment. Joshua 24:19-20 (NIV) “19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
I ask you today to choose whom you will serve. Remaining neutral is no longer an option. Choosing to do nothing and remaining silent is making a choice to deny the faith! Yes, I am putting everyone here on the spot. I am going to ask you to stand today and then we will pray, asking for God to give us wisdom and courage in these days.
Will you stand with me?
Let us pray!