The apostles (specifically, Peter) told the officials, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)! There’s no language here of, “We’ll consider obeying God rather than men.” Or, “We’ll obey God rather than men if it’s the safer of the two options—otherwise, whatever way that’s safest is bestest.” We’ve read this passage that the apostles were already arrested due to the jealousy of the leaders. The disciples preached the gospel, with the Spirit empowering them to do signs and wonders that served as a conduit of the wonder of the saving grace of the gospel.
“We must obey God rather than men.” The apostles and the early church did not received favored status. They were not tax-exempt. They were jailed and lost their lives for the faith, as many around world do now! Pastor Saeed this past week just spent his 1,000th day in jail in Iran due to proclaiming his faith. ISIS beheads Christians monthly, if not weekly. We can say, “Well, that’s over there in the Middle East—this is the United States.” Yet, if our culture keeps drifting, and Christians rest on their laurels, then we will see the drift continue. The answer is not changing the political landscape. The spiritual process is far more effective than the political one.
They had two charges, but from two different authorities. In verse 28, the leaders told the apostles, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But what did God charge them to do? “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Their response? V. 21: “And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.” To whom did the disciples listen? “We must obey God rather than men.”
Many have the temptation of going along to get along. Like Demas, they will feel the pull of the world that takes them away from the providence of Christ. But as Kevin DeYoung said, “The Bible says that disciples of Jesus will be hated as Jesus was hated (John 15:18-25; 2 Tim. 3:12). If the world loves us, it is not a sign of our brilliance, but that we belong to the world.”
Know this, if we are clear that God has called for marriage to stay between a man and a woman not just because Genesis 1 says so, but that Jesus said so in Matthew 19:4-6:
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
How counter-cultural is this? Even Chief Justice John Roberts understood this in his dissent from Friday:
The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples… Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.
So, having this mindset that any type of conjugal intimacy takes place within the confines of a man-woman marriage before God, and anything outside of that is sin—be prepared for persecution and mocking. Compromise will make you friends. Complacency will make people leave you alone. Clarity and conviction in what Christ tells you will make you obedient to God. And the only reason you’ll care about what others may say is when you feel sadness when folks reject the clear teaching of what God has said in Scripture. And you will care. You must care.
Trevin Wax, Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage. The Gospel Coalition. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2015/06/26/top-10-quotes-from-the-dissenting-justices-on-same-sex-marriage/
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). That word “devoted” is the key word. Everything that happened in the rest of this paragraph came from these non-negotiables. But what undergirded everything was this one thing: “Love.”
- The preaching and teaching of Scripture. They devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching,” that is, the Scriptures. The Bible contains 66 books (39 in the OT and 27 in the New Testament) that contains books that are historical, poetical, and apocalyptic. We have books called “gospels,” which are selective biographies of Jesus’ life, epistles (letters), and such. All written over a course of 1500 years, from Moses to the Apostle John. The Old Testament is about the promises made regarding Jesus and His rescue. The New Testament is about the promises kept. Jesus spent 40 days not only showing that He was alive, but showing from the OT Scriptures how this would happen. The apostles taught from the OT as shown by the Holy Spirit.The point of the Bible is, as Peter preached, was “this Jesus.” Jesus is the point of the Scriptures. Spirit moved forward in not only opening hearts to rescue those from their brokenness, but also to help them understand the Word of God. You see, when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the mind of Christ and our hearts are opened to understand spiritual matters that we couldn’t understand before. It’s here we see in verse 43 that “awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” At this point, these wonders accompanied and provided authority to the teaching–since the NT had not been written. Hearts were opened to hear and understand His Word, and that brought a sense of awe. Dear Christian, does reading about and hearing about God’s work and promises leave you in awe? Are you hungry and thirsty for His Word? Do you crave to hear His Word preached?
- Christ-centered fellowship. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Fellowship is based on the gospel as taught by the apostles teaching! By connecting with Jesus and being part of His family makes us brothers and sisters. We are brothers and sisters. It’s what Tozer mentioned that 100 pianos tuned to the same tuning fork are tuned to each other. The apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The apostle John adds to this aspect of fellowship: “[t]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Our fellowship with each other is fueled by fellowship we have with God through His Son! Does our fellowship simply look like hanging out, or is there a piece to our fellowship where we are strengthening others in Christ?
- Monday-through-Saturday community. Breaking bread deals with generosity and hospitality among believers, as well as having favor with the people (v. 46). Something has happened. Why does it seem we do not have as much favor with all the people? I’ve been watching a lot of Billy Graham videos over the last few years, and seeing him on talk shows such as Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Woody Allen, and Donahue. He never compromised on the gospel. He called sin sin. He preached on hell and judgment. Yes, it was a different day, but we don’t seem to have much favor. “Day to day, attending the Temple together … received food with glad and generous hearts” (v. 45). Robert Louis Wilken wrote, “A society that has no place for God will disintegrate into an amoral aggregate of competing, self-aggrandizing interests that are destructive of the commonweal. In the end it will be enveloped in darkness.” Do they see Jesus in how we live? Do we spend more time gossipping or gospelling? Does the awe and wonder we have for Jesus affect us Monday through Saturday? (Samuel. Jesus. Us?) Do we see this place as a haven from the world or as a hub to fuel up?
- Christ-pursuing prayer. They were praising God, with awe coming on every soul. By adoration, confession of sin, thanksgiving, supplication/requests, they maintained a connection to God by the Spirit after Jesus ascended! Why the prayers?
- Because there was a desperation.
- They were new. They had never done this before.
- They did not have protections from the government like we in the States are used to, so they relied more on Christ to sustain them.
- They went from 120 to 3000 to even more every day– logistical and administrative challenge!
- They were thankful for what God has done in their own hearts and in seeing lives changed.
- Most of all, they were zealous to know God and His heart!
- Are we zealous to connect with God in prayer? Or do we feel little need for relying on Him because we feel experienced enough?
May God help us be devoted to that for which He is zealous!
[Throwback Thursday reproduces blogposts either from this blog or other blogs I’ve had over the years that may be helpful today. This was originally posted back in 2013 at my previous blog.]
The Southern Baptist Convention (a denomination of which I’m proudly a part) has updated their website. I encourage you to take a look around, especially at the page, “A Closer Look: What It Means to Be a Southern Baptist,” which goes into some detail about what we’re all about. One of the things I like best about the SBC is the Cooperative Program. They have a very cool graphic on that page, which is reproduced below:
It’s always good to cooperate, knowing that the funds given by the churches’ members, who are part of local, autonomous churches who give and cooperate at a level they see fit.
Take time not only to read up on this page, but to peruse around the sparkly new site.
Take that next step!
As you know, evangelist Billy Graham (1918-2018) is now with Jesus, dying this morning at the age of 99. His influence in my life regarding his preaching from the Word, his desire to win many to Christ, his moral code while traveling, and the doors that God opened all over the world (even preaching in Communist parts of the world during the 1970s and 1980s) left an indelible mark on my life.
One book I read during seminary was by William Martin called A Prophet with Honor that chronicled his forty-year ministry, outlining both the successes and the failures that happened in his ministry. At a husky 830+ pages, I was glad to read this to show that even Billy Graham himself learned from his mistakes in dealing with politicians and the media. His humility, more than his preaching, stuck out to me.
Before moving on, I’ll leave you with this quote he said many years ago:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Graham’s passing comes two months after the passing of another man who enriched my life with his teaching on the holiness of God, R.C. Sproul (1939-2017). I came across Dr. Sproul about twenty years ago on the radio (yes, radio, where you’d have to wait for a program to come on at a designated time, as opposed to podcasts to which one can listen to any program released at any time). While many preach the Scriptures, few preached with a passion like Sproul.
Granted, I did not agree with everything on which he taught, such as his support of infant baptism. This, though, helped me in my growth! I grew up in a church culture where any disagreement on any subject would mean we would refuse to listen to any other subject that person addressed.
So imagine my surprise when on Sproul’s radio program, Renewing Your Mind, that he aired a debate that he (a paedobaptism–infant baptizer) and John MacArthur (a credobaptist–baptising only professing believers) over this topic of baptism. Sproul and MacArthur debated passionately and civilly, but still walked away from that calling themselves ‘brothers in Christ,’ even as they disagreed on this topic.
While Graham helped me to see the wideness of God’s mercy among the nations in calling all to repent from their sin, Sproul helped me to see the bigness and holiness of God and how our lives should bow in worship to Him Sunday to Sunday.
Thank you, Lord, for Billy Graham and R.C. Sproul.
*For extra reading, check out Albert Mohler’s article on A Call for Theological Triage which outlines first, second and third tier theological issues.
A discipline of theological triage would require Christians to determine a scale of theological urgency that would correspond to the medical world’s framework for medical priority. With this in mind, I would suggest three different levels of theological urgency, each corresponding to a set of issues and theological priorities found in current doctrinal debates.
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:2-8, ESV).
We as Americans tend to think that the trials are what cause our instability as believers–but that’s not the case. The trials are what test out our faith. God sends the trials to see if Jesus is enough, or whether we believe Jesus is there to keep our lives comfortable and safe. As a result, any trial that comes along is seen a sign of God’s disfavor. We hear this from prosperity preachers on a regular basis.
Yet, trials are how God makes us stable (steadfast); it’s the mechanism by which God brings about our maturity! But what if we struggle in the midst of this? What if, as we are experiencing these trials, we do not know what to do or which way to go?
Ask God for wisdom. The fact that we can ask Him is amazing, but what’s more amazing is that, as we trust and believe Him, we can not only ask but He will give it generously.
So you see, the instability does come in our trials, but in our lack of trust in the One who promises wisdom in the midst of trials. We risk only loving and trusting Jesus when our lives are smooth, but hating him or running from Him when trials come. Thus, the accusation of being double-minded. Thus, the instability.
Trust Christ! When trials comes, He sends them or permits them in order to strengthen us. Look to the cross where the greatest of all trials happened–and how God used that to strengthen and perfect all who follow His Son!
This beautiful rendition of one of my favorite hymns from the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.
Let this help you get your week started off well.