Sunday, June 22, 2008
“When God Is In It, It Is Unstoppable!”
Again, I always love when God takes what we are going to study and makes it real in my life for the week. We have been continually posing the question, “What is next for Sugar Grove?” I’ve played and watched sports for many years now, and every once-in-a-while you hear a player or team described as unstoppable. Either they are so fast or so strong that their opponents do not stand a chance against them. This past year in the Tipton U10 girls’ softball league, we thought that there was that team. The problem that I had was that they wore black. You would hear parents in the stands say, “Man, the black team is tough! I don’t believe that anyone has beaten them.” We would go to Emmilynn’s games and see teams tie them or even come close, but in one way or another, “the black team” would win. Tournament came and there was a double elimination. Emmilynn’s team was seeded 7th in the league, and of course the black team was seeded 1st. Emmilynn’s team was beat the first game but won every game until they again had to face the “black team.” Needless to say, the black team beat them, but I was overjoyed that Emmilynn got second place. As I was thinking about this sermon this week, and actually thinking realistically, even though these teams and players were good none could really be called unstoppable. Why? Because those girls will get older and move up in the league, and may never play together again. We are limited creatures living in a restricted world. Only God is not limited. Only God does not amend His character. Only God is unstoppable. This leads us to our study for this morning.
History: A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, honored by all the people, who counseled letting the apostles out of prison (Acts 5:34-39) and a teacher of the law who instructed Paul
The apostles were arrested for healing the lame man, and then arrested again for preaching in the name of Jesus. Then a couple of weeks ago we saw that they were freed from jail by an angel who told them to go and tell more people about new life in Jesus, and brought before the Sanhedrin, who confronted them concerning their disobedience against the Sanhedrin. The thought of the apostles, and Peter’s reply, “We should obey God rather than man.” Remember Peter also had words that cut right through the heart of these men. Now, along with some other words that angered them, Gamaliel brings up some “wisdom” to the Council.
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; 35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyedc him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyedd him, were dispersed. 38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
I. There will be those who will avoid the truth. Vs. 33-39
a. Gamaliel wants the apostles excused so that he can talk to the boys.
i. “Let’s put the apostles, in a little space.”
ii. “Let me tell you about some history!”
b. Gamaliel begins to offer what he thinks is some wisdom.
i. “Look here fellows these men Theudas and Judas thought that they were somebody, and both perished. Don’t you think that the history will repeat itself and the same thing will happen to Jesus and His followers? Give these Galileans enough time, and they too will disband. He said, let’s just step back and watch and see what happens…chances are it will all fall by the wayside…this movement will come to its end as well!
ii. Gamaliel had one more idea. Hey, if something is not of God, then it must fail.
b. He forgot something.
1. The sinful nature of man.
2. The power of sin in the world.
3. Plus, let’s straddle the fence. He’s trying to be a peacemaker, yes, but he’s got issues!
c. Success is no test of the truth.
i. Mark Twian said, “that a lie runs around the world while truth is still putting on its shoes.” You say, well that is discouraging pastor? Yep, God’s truth will win in the end, but Satan can be very strong and influence so many people.
b. So, I have a question here for these Sadducees. How will you determine if these guys will survive?
1. Bottom line, Part one of Gamileal’s adive: Let’s ride the fence on this one. Why?
i. Because he did not examine the evidence!!!
2. That thought blows my mind! When you look at this account, and know that these fellows were of “religious” persuasion. As well as students of the OT, why in the world did they not study it for themselves?
b. How do we measure success? Success is standard gauge of the world in evaluating men, movements and merchandise. Nothing succeeds like success etc. The problem: The world’s yardstick is does not apply to Christ and Christianity. He had the idea right with if it is of God it will not fail. Check this out. Look at Bible record and see many apparent failures e.g. Abraham leaves wealth and comfort of Ur to become a nomad in desert. Moses gives up Pharaoh’s palace to become a shepherd then suffer with God’s people for 40 years in wilderness. Nehemiah gave up a well-paid job as a highly placed government official to build a wall around a ruin. Jeremiah was imprisoned at the bottom of a stinking mud hole for proclaiming the Word of the Lord and worst of all, the Founder of Christianity Jesus Christ, died a shameful death on a cursed cross. Sadly, many churches fall into that same trap, we have many wonderful people in , and yet for the most part their leadership worships results/numbers, sometimes to the exclusion of what is true and right!
Obviously we want to grow, reach people, fill this place up, but we have to do it in a genuine way, which is why when I am asked the question of what is next for SGCC, this Acts study on the early church and God’s way of doing it is the answer!
In other words, success cannot be measured by the size of the crowd, but rather by what you do w/ the crowd once they are sitting there!
ii. Second, Jesus made it clear! You cannot be riding the fence when it comes to Him. Looking at Gamaliel that is exactly what he wants to do!
b. Matt. 12:30 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
1. It is a clear decision. Either we are for Christ, or against Him. Jesus always gave us clear decisions.
i. In context, This means that God is Victor over Satan, and that men must decide on whose side they will stand. There can be no compromise. We are either with God or against God. It is not possible to be impartial about Christ. Anyone who is not actively following him has chosen to reject him. Any person who tries to remain neutral in the struggle of good against evil is choosing to be separated from God, who alone is good. To refuse to follow Christ is to choose to be on Satan’s team.
c. Rev. 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth
1. Spew: Vomit! The word in the Greek is only mentioned one time in the NT!
2. We enjoy a beverage that is either hot or cold, but one that is tepid is flat and stale. That’s why the waitress keeps adding hot coffee or fresh iced tea to our cups and glasses
3. I was right here in the preparation of my sermon Wed. morning. My Dad and Step-Mom came up to spend time with my Grandma and we found out that my Uncle Jim was in the hospital for the same problem. Heart issues. WE joked around about how we did not want to have the same thing happen to us, both siblings being in the same predicament. When Dad walked in to the hospital room, he said, “I had to do a double take. I thought that I saw Grandpa Harlow sitting there.” My Dad exclaimed how Grandpa and Uncle Jim were the epitome of what it meant to be a Christian. Uncle Jim said, “You know fellows, I just want to be like Jesus!” Aunt Sue said, “Yeah, he even sits and thinks if he offended someone through the day, and if he was Christ-like that day.” He said, I just want to be like Jesus. I said, “No wonder where I get my self-consciousness from. I want to be like Jesus! I don’t want to waver! I want to and need to be more like Jesus. Don’t settle for following God halfway. Let Christ fire up your faith and get you into the action. To be hot for the Lord!!
d. Then Gamileal does say something profound.
i. “I tell you keep away from these men and let them alone. For if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrown them.”
II. Those Who Pursue God’s Purpose Can Weather any Opposition (34-39)
a. We Can Overcome Bullying
i. V.40 says, “They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus.” The fear factor has kept many sincere Christians from doing what God wanted them to do. We sometimes get the idea that if we come up against obstacles or threats, that we must have missed God’s leading somewhere along the way. However, difficulties may actually be a sign that we are in God’s will, rather than out.
ii. If we stop pressing forward when the enemy rears his ugly head, we will not get very far in pursuing all that God has marked out for us to do.
iii. How many times have you seen Christians who are discouraged? Who don’t want to serve the Lord because they are fearful?
iv. The Lord told Joshua numerous times, “Fear not, for I am with you.” The closer we are to the Lord through prayer and reading the word, and just walking with Him, the better we will be able to overcome the fear factor when opposition comes our way.
b. “And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”
i. Not considering it adequate simply to admonish the apostles, the council had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus (on Jesus’ “name” see comments on 3:16). The flogging was evidently punishment for the apostles’ disobedience to their earlier prohibition (cf. 4:18, 21; 5:28).
b. Peter and John were warned repeatedly not to preach, but they continued in spite of the threats. We, too, should live as Christ has asked us to, sharing our faith no matter what the cost. We may not be beaten or thrown in jail, but we may be ridiculed, ostracized, or slandered. To what extent are you willing to suffer for the sake of sharing the gospel with others?
c. In spite of the beating, the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing. Rejoicing? They were rejoicing after a beating?? Here again the theme of joy is evident in the Book of Acts (cf. comments on 2:46-47). A victorious church rejoices in God’s working in spite of persecution—and even on account of it, as here.
III. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
a. Verse 41 gives the amazing description of what they were feeling as they left this beating: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name”—that is, the name of Jesus. When they were desecrated among men because they were Christians, when they were treated unjustly and made fools of among men because they stood for Jesus, they took this as a mark of respect. They felt as though they had been counted worthy of a privilege, an honor. And in this tribute they rejoiced.
b. Now their response:
i. Even though they were basically skinned alive, where does Luke say you found them again?
b. Back in the Temple preaching!!