Monday, April 4, 2016

Go!


Acts 4:18-20
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, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Jesus has given his disciples his final command before ascending back to the Father’s right hand. Having seen him defeat death and now having the Holy Spirit given to them at Pentecost they take to the streets to do as their Master has commanded them but quickly they find themselves here standing before the very council responsible for the execution of their Lord.

John and Peter were Jews raised in a culture of Jewish beliefs, traditions, and laws. Their families, their friends, and the customers they had as fishermen were Jews indoctrinated by and practicing what the Jewish authority and culture their taught.
But John and Peter had an experience that forced them to change becoming very different than the culture around them. They could no longer pretend to hold to the Jewish beliefs they were raised and indoctrinated into. The social pressure for them to conform was immense, more than we today can imagine.

Certainly by this point Peter and John had lost family members and friends, surely their livelihoods were also greatly affected by their choosing to follow this executed Rabbi. Things from this point forward begin to get even tougher as they would begin enduring beatings and numerous imprisonments.

Things would have gone so much easier for them and the other disciples had they just conceded to keep there mouths shut. But they would not, actually as they tell the Sanhedrin here in this verse, they can not keep quiet about it. They rejoiced at being worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. They say the will do what is right in Gods eyes not what is right in mans. Certainly they felt the spreading of the Gospel more important than even their own lives.

The Pharisees and the Sanhedrin hated to hear this message that was being preached by the disciples, why, because they lived lives of power and comfort based on the very lies this message sought to destroy. Without even realizing it they had chosen comfort and self exaltation over the very God they professed to worship.

The culture we live in today, while being very different, is in the grip of a lie just the same as this ancient Jewish society was. The people of our current culture have been and are being indoctrinated into a belief and a lie of comfort and self-centeredness.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said-There are no facts, only interpretations.
I believe if our culture today were given a slogan this would be it. We are told that truth is however we choose to see it or feel about it. You can have yours and I can have mine.

Our culture and sometimes our own upbringing have conditioned us to base everything on self gratification. The idea of living a life with any other authority than our own self pleasure, much less an authority that tells us to serve rather than be served tastes like bitter medicine to anyone that’s been living only to please themselves.

Much like the Sanhedrin, they don’t want their lie destroyed so our culture and our media tells us to keep our beliefs to ourselves, but is that what we should do?
Is that what God would have us do?

And let’s ask ourselves this also- is that what our culture and the media are doing?

Of course not, our media exalts violence for ratings, idolizes people living very unhealthy lifestyles, and preaches to us the constant sermon of consumption as a means of self fulfillment! They seek to evangelize and devour anyone who’ll listen!

Who will counter this message, who will confront this lie being hoisted on the people around us if not the church?
There is a war going on and for many years now the church as a whole has been kind of like Switzerland, neutral, or worse in retreat and surrender of this ever growing cultural message until it now threatens to devour our churches as well.

This isn’t a war we fight with anger, judgment, pointing fingers or picket signs, no, but with the very thing Jesus said himself was the most important distinguishing characteristic of being one of His disciples. The most powerful tool we have against this invading culture of lies.

In John chapter 13 verse 35 just after Judas has run out of the upper room and just before Jesus is to be put on trial and crucified he tells the remaining eleven “by this they will know you’re my disciples if you love one another as I have loved you.” A very hard challenge but given to us by our Lord as loose advice or a suggestion but as a command.

This is exactly what these disciples set out to do and it changed the world. They see love as an action to be called to; they begin to love each other and there surrounding community so much that it draws people in with an almost irresistible pull.

Remember when you first met the person your married to? We get consumed with love for this person, we are swept away doing silly foolish things and at times looking pretty silly to others also, but we don’t care, we’re not even totally conscious of how we are being seen by others because we are so in love.

John and Peter are in love here, they have been consumed and swept away by the greatest love mankind can ever know, the all encompassing love and peace of Jesus Christ, a love that gives and transforms, but also makes demands.

They have seen Jesus defeat death and now have dwelling inside them the Holy Spirit that raised him back to life.

We too know through our study of scripture and the same Holy Spirit dwelling inside us that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father.
So shouldn’t we be just as empowered?

The Psalmist says it best in Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom should I be afraid?

We live in a world surrounded by drowning people. They are drowning in the lies this culture is preaching. The lie entered the world at the tree in the garden and has since been told a million different ways but all of them are of the same theme saying the same thing- it’s all about you.

We as Christians get suckered by this also. When it comes to evangelizing we say “well I don’t feel comfortable telling people about Jesus” or “I don’t want to offend anyone” or my favorite “they won’t listen to me anyway.”

We let how we feel or how we think others may feel have rein over our actions when John and Peter would tell us we should do what’s right “in God’s eyes” not in our eyes, not in mans eyes! This is certainly what they and all this first church do, even to their deaths.

They did not want beatings,
they did not want to be ostracized by their friends and family, and they surely did not want to be martyred
but they didn’t live their lives based on what they wanted or what the world told them they should want, they lived for Christ and threw worldly comforts aside for the ultimate eternal comfort they would have with Christ when this life was over!

Jesus spent no time on this earth building a church of brick and mortar he built his church from disciples, living stones Peter calls them in 1 Peter 2. In that same chapter Peter calls these disciples a Royal Priesthood that have been chosen to declare the praises of God even while living in an unbelieving society.

Jesus saw the lost as captives and slaves to be freed by the truth, not any truth, His truth. He came here with a very specific mission, to save, and he passed that mission on to anyone that might call themselves His disciple.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see the Prophets, Apostles and disciples all taking action. They do not keep what the Lord has given them only to re-share it among themselves over and over again.

The Lord tells them to Go. Go love, Go serve, Go and give this message.

When the Lord calls Isaiah he tells him to go and preach to people while telling him at the same time many will not listen or understand what he says, “For how long Lord?” Isaiah asks. The Lord replies instructing him to keep talking till it’s all gone and nothing remains. Why?

The Lord wants every opportunity to be given to his children, as we would also if they were our children. Even if only a few might listen and turn to him he wants us to make the effort.

Love is not sedentary it calls us to action and as James said in James 2:17 “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord ask
“who will go for us”

Isaiah replied “Here am I, send me”!

Surely this sums up the replies of all Gods people through the entire Bible including that of John and Peter here in this verse.

Imagine what would happen if all of us reading this today began to strive and strain to Love the way Jesus loves. Imagine if we took that love out into our community and surrounding communities.
The God we worship here today is an all Loving Father that watches out the window waiting to see the lost prodigal return. He has set us on a mission to SAVE!

Who will lead them to that road?

Who will tell them that it doesn’t matter what they’ve done or where they’ve come from?

That it doesn’t matter what color their skin is, what clothes they wear, or what gods they’ve worshipped before?

That is doesn’t matter what sins or addictions they’ve been enslaved by?

Who will tell them that the Father loves them and only wants desperately for them to come Home?

If one of our children were lost how far would we go, how loud would we yell, how many people would we recruit to help search for that child? How much money would we spend? How uncomfortable would we be willing to be?

This is the pursuing Love of the Father, the triune God that wishes none to perish. He is asking us, he is begging us, he wants to know “who will go for us?”

I hope today you will hear that plea and answer it by saying- Here am I, Send me!


The Father surely has a direction for us to Go!