If It's from God, You Can't Stop It
The early Christians set the tone for what it means to support our fellow believers.
Morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Happy Super Bowl Sunday to you. Anyone here rooting for the Packer’s today?
How many people want the Packer’s to win?
How many people want the Steeler’s to win?
How many people could care less?
One of the things I think is really frustrating about football games is the fact that you, the fan, are powerless to stop the outcome.
I’ve unfortunately been a Vikings fan for my 29 years of existence
And I feel like I’ve tried everything to try and change the outcome of their key games.
I’ve tried excessive cheering, the silent treatment, I’ve tried mocking them, I’ve tried sitting in this chair, sitting in that chair.
Growing up, I don’t know if you know the Vesperman’s in this church or not (Pat’s a HL), but Molly Vesperman’s brother was my best friend growing up, so their house was a second home for me.
We would watch every Viking’s game there.
And whenever the Vikings were down, we would yell out “Pillows!”
And we would all sit on “pillows” because that was I guess going to supposedly help them win.
I may or may not have chucked my pillow across the room when the Vikings lost in 1998.
As a fan, there’s just nothing you can do to stop the outcome.
In my mind I tried to change the projection of Brett Favre’s overtime pass last year.
I tried to pretend there was a flag on the field, but there’s just nothing you can do.
You can’t stop it.
And this morning, we are going to look at a passage with a similar concept.
The concept that, IF it’s from God, You can’t stop it.
There’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing anyone opposed to Him can do. It’s just simply going to happen.
HEALING AND JAIL
We are currently going through the Book of Acts here at Renovation .
Acts is the 5th book in the NT and chronicles the beginnings of the church after Jesus ascends back into heaven.
So far In Acts we’ve seen the church grow exponentially and experience only minimal opposition.
Today we’re going to see that opposition start to increase a little…and in the weeks to come, we’re going to see it really start to get ugly.
We are in Acts chapter 5 today if you want to turn there.
(Acts 5:12-16) – NIV
12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
So, we get yet another statement from the author of Acts, Luke, that the church is really growing and God is doing miraculous things.
In fact, this is the closest thing we have in the Bible to a modern day healing service.
Yet, this isn’t about cheapening the gospel for tricks or just healing.
This isn’t call the number on the screen, and send me $500 and I guarantee God will turn it into $5,000 and heal your back (wink)
The focus was still Christ. And it wasn’t easy. We’re going to see in a moment that it is BY FAR from easy OR convenient to be a follower of Christ
(Acts 5:17-26) – NIV
7 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 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.
So the Jewish leaders were filled with Jealousy (they’re in it for leadership, not leading God’s people), and the people are following the Apostles now.
So out of jealousy they finally get a hold of the apostles, and bring them in to their court. Here’s what happens.
(Acts 5:27-42) – NIV
27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “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.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named “Gamal-ee-ale”, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Couple of fast facts here before we get into the meaning
“Gamal-ee-ale”, the Pharisee, who gave those incredible words, was actually a pretty famous Jewish Teacher.
In fact, the Bible tells us in Acts 22:3, that he actually trained the apostle Paul before Paul became a Christian.
And it’s just fascinating that his words, that “If it’s from God, You Can’t Stop it” are true.
It doesn’t even mean he was in favor of the Christians, but God is a BIG God, and was still able to use “Gamal-ee-ale” for his purposes.
It’s brings truth to the phrase that “All truth is God’s truth.”
And God can bring it forth from whomever he wants
But the wisdom of that phrase, “If it’s from God, You can’t Stop it” are powerful words for us to ponder.
19 months ago, I was sitting in a living room on a Sunday morn with 18 people.
We were still in the very beginning stages of starting this church. We hadn’t even gathered a launch team together yet.
just had some people who were excited to already start meeting together on a Sunday morning before our launch team started, so we got together and met a few times.
And on one particular morning, 19 months ago, we sat in the living room of a house here in Blaine, and I opened up my Bible to THIS passage and read this story to the small group that was there
And I talked with that group of 18 people about all the things God was starting to line up for our church
I told them how I had been meeting with so many people, and so many were saying yes
I told them how I was finding people who were willing to pray for our new church we were trying to start. People who were willing to financially support it.
I told them about this cool new school that was recently built that we were going to be able to meet in.
Some of the them even left afterwards and drove by here…checking it out, wondering…dreaming.
We said to each other at that time, “If this is from God, no one’s gonna stop it
If He’s moving…it’s going to happen.
We had this sense from the beginning that God was calling us to start a church here in this city…a city where only 16% of people are in church on a given Sunday.
And listen, God was intent on making it happen. In spite of all the roadblocks that crept up, Even w/ all the mistakes we made along the way, it didn’t matter, He wasn’t going to be stopped. It was going to happen if He was in it.
And we trusted in that. Held on to that. Believed in that.
And God moved.
BUT, I would also caution us that almost all things that start as a movement from God have the potential to turn into a movement driven by human beings.
We can, if we’re not careful, eventually turn this into something that is completely human run. With human ideas.
In fact, much of the world has done that to the very “church” that was started in the very book we are studying the Bible.
But there is one thing that will ALWAYS be true. And one thing you must never doubt.
God will build his church.
It might not be this church. If we forsake him, and try it do it on our own.
Don’t worry, He’ll find someone else to build his church. He always will.
Through the wars, plauges, genocides, and every evil that you can imagine over the last 2,000 years, one thing is true: God’s church remains. He can not be stopped.
But how does the church remain all of those years? It remains by being faithful to Christ and by fulfilling it’s ultimate purpose.
Bringing people to God. Evangelism.
One of the things that’s been surprising to me as we’ve gone through Acts so far is that in pretty much EVERY single passage we do, Luke HAS to insert something like, “And then the believers when out and proclaimed the message of Jesus!”
It’s in every passage!
I mean, look how often it is even referred to in today’s story
(v. 18) The apostles are arrested for what? Evangelizing
They weren’t “obeying the authorities” like we talked about this Fall
(v. 20) As soon as they get out, they go and do what? Evangelize
(v. 29-39) When they are arrested, what do they talk about? They share the gospel
(v. 42) At the very end, they get out and what? Go to the temple courts and homes and evangelize!
This relates to the theme of our series: “GO: The book of Acts”
Church is about GOING. It’s about the spread of God. The spread of his church.
This mission of THIS particular church is “To be a people being changed by God TO Change the world”
We are being changed…WHY???...to change the world.
But… we see the church was asked to stop spreading the name of Jesus. Twice now in Acts.
That’s kind of a big deal. They were basically asked to stop doing their mission.
It would be like asking GAP to stop selling clothes
It would be like asking an auto-repair shop to stop repairing cars
It would be like asking Culver’s to stop making delicious butterburgers
It would be like asking the Vikings to stop winning Super Bowls… oh wait.
The mission is Jesus. And making Jesus known.
But, listen, we are starting to be asked in this culture to STOP spreading the name of Jesus.
It’s not very popular anymore to firmly believe that a religious belief is “right”
It’s not very acceptable even in a lot of workplaces to talk about spiritual beliefs
Even among friends it can be offensive to even bring it up
But do not fear. Remember your allegiance. Remember who you “work for”
And remember the power of God.
IF it’s from God, you cannot stop it.
And let’s just admit here that a partial compromise is still a compromise.
Too often we are afraid of the opposition or embarrassment of proclaiming Jesus to our friends, coworkers, family, so we are quiet. Or if we do say something, we dilute the message.
Afraid of cultural backlash, churches all over this country have diluted the word of God because of fear of what opposition might come from the culture.
But look again at what the Angel told the apostles when they got out of prison in verse 20
(Acts 5:20) - NIV
20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
Don’t let opposition hold you back.
This is super important to the passage.
You are going to be opposed, but don’t let that get you down.
If all we’re doing is evaluating if they can stop us, then yeah, we might give up, give in. But if we can remember that it’s about God, then we shall not fear.
He can not be stopped. Don’t let opposition get to you. Follow the boldness of the apostles here. Keep sharing and changing the World.
I’m struck by the fact that whenever the early Christians went to court or were tried (Stephen and Paul included) that their primary concern was not winning a case, but it was furthering the cause of the Gospel
And on the flip side, I worry that when we are pressed, our primary concern becomes our self-preservation, and not Jesus.
Well, I could…not get a promotion. Well, my neighbors might not help us out anymore if they are weirded out by us talking about our church…well…
Remember the mission. If self-preservation could be put above the mission of God, martyrs wouldn’t exist.
GOD MOVES EVEN IN DARKNESS
“But it’s not just that the mission of God comes first,” it’s that suffering doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Suffering doesn’t mean God isn’t moving.
One of the most fascinating things about this passage is that the apostles leave rejoicing about because they suffered for His name.
They were able to do so because their focus was not just on how well things were going for them, but on God’s will being done. And if they could be chosen as worthy of suffering for his name, that was an honor.
So, their flogging brought them joy for 2 reasons
Their suffering allowed them to demonstrate their loyalty (and they were proven loyal)
It proved that God cannot be stopped.
The Sanhedrin couldn’t stop their God.
I imagine they walked away like, “A flogging?? A flogging? That’s all you got. Good luck trying to stop our holy, all-powerful God…with a flogging!”
On the flip side, often when we are ridiculed or opposed in public, we get angry or resentful.
We feel like we should look victorious. We should win.
But “winning” isn’t always coming out on top.
God uses surrender as well.
After all, isn’t that what the cross was?
Jesus was murdered. He was killed.
But in his suffering, the ultimate victory was won.
And in our suffering, God can often shine the greatest. If we let Him. If we believe and remember that He also works in our suffering!
Too often, WE forget that He is moving, and WE ironically try and stop His movement in our suffering.
He couldn’t work this way, could He?
God only loves me if I’m happy, and in work, and in a good relationship, and, and….
But it’s in our suffering that He often is the most glorified
I mean look at this passage. They were flogged. That’s 39 lashes!
And through THAT the word of God spreads even more!
God can’t be stopped by suffering, by opposition.
We just have to get past the false idea that any sort of opposition means that God has stopped moving.
Look at Paul’s life:
(2 Corinthians 11:23-30) – NIV
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
And was God not moving in his life???
He was. God could not be STOPPED in his life!!
But too often at the slightest faint of opposition (your friend seems kind of put off to you inviting them to church, there’s an illness in your family) Too often at the slightest faint of opposition, we’re ready to throw in the towel
We reason: God’s not moving. There’s a closed door here.
Yeah, well sometimes God creates closed doors just so He can later blow one up to prove how powerful He is.
So, even if it seems like nothing is happening…trust in God
Even if it feels like OPPOSITION Is happening. Trust in God’s plan.
And it’s really important that we trust him in those times like the apostles trusted he would still move despite the beginnings of their opposition.
Because if we do…if we’ll let him glorify himself in our sufferings…He will…and I think He will in a dramatic way.
Because listen, most people don’t “suffer well.”
Here’s what I mean: When we suffer, human tendency is to turn inward. But some of the most powerful testimonies I’ve seen by Christians are those of suffering Christians.
I’ve seen this over an over again as a pastor. Watching and admiring families whose children are in the hospital with a terrible illness, and yet those families are talking to the nurses about the goodness of God
Watching families who lose loved ones boldly proclaim to others how GOD is carrying them through.
“Sometimes God’s loudest testimony through us is actually in suffering or in opposition like it was in the passage today.
We’ve got to remember that the church spread like wildfire in the 1st couple of centuries BECAUSE they were being OPPOSED like this.
People got to see 1st hand, “GOD CANNNOT BE STOPPED!”
Because it’s in moments of opposition, that our faith is shown for what it really is. And hopefully God can be revealed.
And really, it’s also in those moments where we can personally really grow with God as well
Let me explain in an odd way. My wife really wants a dog. I’m not interested. Just not a fan of animals defecating all over my lawn.
But my wife is smart. Real smart. So, lately she’s been renting Dog Whisperer seasons from the library for us to watch.
Fascinating show. The guy can fix like any dog. I go over to my brother-in-law’s house & practice on his dogs.
We watched one particular episode that caught my eye. Great Dane. Afraid of linoleum/tile. Glass door accident. Owners couldn’t get him to go on slippery surfaces.
Cesar takes him right onto it. And eventually he just starts walking around on it, right next to Cesar.
And it got me thinking. That’s not all that different from our own lives.
We experience pain. We get afraid. We don’t want to go anywhere near anything that resembles suffering.
But yet, this dog was now able to trust again. He could trust that He was going to be okay because his master was going to bring him through.
After all, He brought him through once before, and He can do it again.
So, we want to be a people that will trust in God’s movement in our lives.
To trust that He is working and CAN work no matter how crazy it may look to us.
Listen, I pray we can be a people that even when suffering shall afflict us, our hope is that we could say to opposition, to persecution, to affliction…you CAN not and you WILL not stop my God.
Even in our darkest days, we will still allow Him to move through us. That we could say, “I will STILL be a light even if this world brings darkness all around me.”
And after all, let us remember, that it is in our darkness that we experience the power of the light.
You wouldn’t even know what “comfort” is if you didn’t first experience affliction.
Sometimes it takes a walk through the valley before you can actually trust that God can’t be stopped. To learn that He is indeed able to pull you up and out.
So, like the Apostles, trust in God’s movement in your life.
No matter what may come.
HE is God. We are not. God, give us the strength to trust you more.
“God, we do pray that you would give us that strength………
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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