Obey God First
In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John are told to stop talking about Jesus, but they refuse. David talks about what this means for our lives and our current culture.
Morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Good to be back. If you didn’t make it in the ice storm last week, we did a Pastor’s Swap, and I switched places with the Pastor of enCompass Chuch (our parent church) in Vadnais Heights.
It was great to be at enCompass but, it sort of reminded me of when you come home from a long vacation.
It’s fun to be out, but ultimately, you just want to be at home.
And it’s good to be back. This is the place I love.
Before we get started this morning, if you could, look under your chair, and you will find a postcard. I need everybody to pick theirs up
This week as a church, we are sending out a whole bunch of postcards to the surrounding area.
We do this because it’s a great way to help people who are searching for God find a church.
In fact, many of you attend this church today because you got a postcard from us at one time or another
It’s a VERY effective way to invite people to hear more about God, but an even more effective way is a personal invitation.
We are going to try something different this week, and I want every single regular attender in this room to mail out the postcard in your hand early this week.
This is challenging, but I know we can do this as a church. We talk a lot about our three core values as a church. The three things that we try and do extremely well: Community, Encountering God, and Evangelism (reaching people)
And if we are going to keep talking about reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ, we want to consistently give you tools to do so.
And this is one of them. I want every single regular attender in this room to think of one person in the area that doesn’t already attend a good church that you could send this to.
All you have to do, is put a stamp over this non-profit box, write their address, and then I would encourage you to write a note.
It’s a neat and personal way to invite someone to hear about God through our Christmas series we are starting next week.
In fact, I want to stop and pray right now that God would use us mightily in evangelism this week.
I want you to hold your card and pray that God would bring the person you are going to send this to.
And if you can’t think of anyone yet, pray right now, AND KEEP praying that God would give you someone.
Don’t go to bed tonight until you can think of someone
All right. Let’s get started. This morning we get to talk about disobeying the authorities. Rebellion.
Just what you wanted right?!?
Hopefully I’ll say some really great stuff about how it’s okay to speed if you only go 7 over and how you subtly cheat on your taxes. :)
Maybe. I guess you’ll have to wait and see.
We all have this desire in us, good or not, to rebel.
To rebel against authority, to cheat the system, to get the man off our back, to break free, to tell the world, “You can’t tell me what to do!!!”
And some of that is good. And some of it is…not so good.
Because here’s the reality, we are always accountable to someone (God), and we’re mostly accountable to other leaders as well, but every once in a while, there’s comes an exception where it is indeed okay…to rebel.
We’ve been studying the book of Acts in the NT.
The early church is just getting started, and if you’re new to our church, let me bring you up to speed.
The disciples and new Christians are helping thousands of people get started in a relationship with Jesus Christ and the church is growing
God is also using them to do miracles, like heal a crippled man (which we saw in our last chapter, chapter 3)
Let’s join up with the story again from the first century in chapter 4
(Acts 4:1-7) - NIV
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
So, first off all, we get a numbers report in verse 4. The Last time we received a numbers report was in chapter 2, when they were at 3,120 men.
And by the way, this is just men. Include women, we’re looking at 10,000; include kids, 20,000? 25,000?
Unbelievable growth…in a matter of weeks, months, whatever the case, not long.
We then see that Annas and Caiaphas are there. Great, but who in the world are Annas and Caiaphas.
Caiaphas is the high-priest. He is the most important Jew in all of Israel. He is the leader of the Sanhedrin. A body of 71 religious leaders.
But, he’s corrupt. And so is his father in law Annas (who used to be the high priest).
Not only are they corrupt, but they are the same Jewish Leaders who were responsible for condemning Jesus to death.
If this were a movie, it would be one of those, “Not you again!!” scenes where the evil villain comes back to wreak more havoc
The passage also mentions that they were arrested by the Sadducees. The Sadducees were a sect (or a denomination) of Jews that were quite powerful politically (in fact Annas and Caiaphas were Sadducees), but they did not believe in the resurrection…period.
So, needless to say, they aren’t happy that the Christians are “leading the people astray” (in their minds) to believe that they are going to be resurrected to eternal life by believing in Jesus.
So, we have some major conflict here. The passage continues.
(Acts 4:8-22) – 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. 11 He is
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.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But 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.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Pretty amazing. Think about how lost in their hypocrisy these leaders were. It said, “they could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God” because of their ministry.
Everyone’s is giving their lives to God and trying to obey Him, and they are trying to punish the people who are making it happen
NEXT TIME ON THE BOOK OF ACTS
Okay, so at the core of this passage, we see the apostles blatantly say to their authorities, “Sorry, but we need to obey God first.”
In fact, if we could do a little, “Next time on the book of Acts,” we’ll see a really similar thing.
By the way, can I just insert quickly how much I hate when TV shows do, “Next time…on The Amazing Race” or whatever show you watch.
I actually now protest and refuse to watch it because it gives so much away.
They show you some clip from practically the very end of next week’s episode and it completely takes the suspense out of the episode when you actually watch it next week
The only thing I hate more is subtitles in Bibles
Used to drive me nuts when I first started reading the Bible when I became a Christian 10 years ago at 18
You’d be reading some suspenseful story about King Saul in the OT, and then they would have a heading, “Saul dies.” THANKS!
Can you think of another book that does that? NO!
Does Nicholas Sparks do that? Does he write, chapter 14, “Main character gets married before she dies from cancer.” NO!!
Anyway, excuse my rant…check out this preview snap of a really similar thing in Chapter five of Acts
(Acts 5:27-29) – 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!
So, yet again, we see them draw a line in the sand and say, “We’re first and foremost about obeying GOD!”
EXAMPLES OF REBELLION
So, all of this begs the question? Can we as Christians rebel against authority?
Not in a let’s all bear arms and storm the capital sort of way, but can we in calm civil disobedience rebel against authority?
Before you get all excited about starting some sort of grassroots rebellion, let me bring you back down to earth.
God is actually quite serious about us obeying our authorities.
(Romans 13:1-2) – NIV
1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
The passage goes on to even talk about how authorities are worthy of respect, honor, and even taxes.
It’s a good chapter to study if you are really interested in the subject.
So, the standard is this: We are to obey the authorities that God has put over us: in government, in churches, at work, in our families…and we are to obey them even in their imperfections.
That’s part of obedience. Sometimes being a Godly employee means you do the right thing and honor your boss even if they are not the most competent manager in the world.
However, we must ask the question: IS there ever a time in which we should rebel and go against the authorities and institutions above us?
Yes. Rebellion (I mean that in the most Godliest of ways) should happen if our authorities are asking us to do something that is unbiblical and against God’s commands.
Today’s passage is a perfect example of that. They were asked to stop talking about Jesus.
And they replied, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Meaning. Thanks, but no thanks, we’re not gonna stop.
And this isn’t an isolated instance of where believers in God are called to obey God first. Here are a few other examples
In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sets up a 90 foot high statue of gold and commands that everyone must bow down and worship it. However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse. Because they refuse, they are ordered to be thrown in the fiery furnace, to which they reply:
(Daniel 3:17-18) - NIV
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.”
They are then thrown in the furnace and seen walking around with a 4th person (presumably Jesus or an angel) and they are delivered
Another example: In the story of the Exodus in the OT, the Israelites are forced into slavery by Pharaoh and the Egyptians and around the time Moses is born, this happens:
(Exodus 1:15-20) – NIV
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” 20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.
IN the story of Esther, the Jewish woman who was picked to be queen says this
(Esther 4:16) – NIV
16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
Or, even in the Christmas story, the wisemen are ordered to report back to the evil King Herod when they find the baby Jesus…do they report back? Absolutely not
So yes, there are times when we should rebel. But it’s not all out rebellion. In fact, maybe rebellion isn’t even the right word. Our culture probably needs a different word.
Because it’s not rebellion to free ourselves. It’s not like we are rebelling and “DOING WHAT WE WANT!”
No, it’s only rebellion to serve the right master instead of the wrong one.
Our allegiance is first and foremost to the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. And if something tries to get in the way of that and tries to convince us to go against that and disobey our true master…than…we have an issue.
For instance, John Kenneth “Gal-brayth”, a famous economic theorist wrote the following story about his family’s housekeeper, Emily, in his autobiography:
It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. “Get me Ken “Gal-brayth”. This is Lyndon Johnson.”
“He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him.”
“Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.”
“No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.
Mr. “Gal-brayth” writes, “When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure.” “Tell that woman I want her here in the White House working for me.”
And that’s a great example. It’s not really a matter of rebellion. It’s a matter of who you really work for? Who is your allegiance really to?
And if our allegiance is really to Jesus Christ, we will be challenged in that. We will cause waves once in a while, we will make people uncomfortable once in a while.
Check this out…After chapter 3 in Acts, only three of the 25 remaining chapters do NOT mention persecution. 22 of 25 chapters talk about the early church being persecuted.
It’s like 2 timothy says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
But wait, maybe you’re thinking, “Well, not sure if I’ve felt much persecution in my life.” Not sure if I’m ever been in a place where I’ve had to make a decision about who I will obey…God or someone else.
It’s true that we don’t live in a country with the most Christian persecution, but it certainly exists.
One example of where you can really see it is if you are willing to take a stand on a particular belief.
We are living in a postmodern world where it is not “the norm” to state what you believe in AND believe that it is absolutely true. (no other name for instance)
I was listening to a radio show on a Christian radio station the other day because one of my church planting friends was a guest. During the show, one of the other Christian leaders being interviewed started talking about evangelism, and he said, “I don’t think we can say to people, you know what, we’re wrong, you’re right. We just have to love people.”
But you know what, when it comes to the belief that Jesus died for our sins and is the salvation for the world, we are right.
And the very fact that that just made some of you uncomfortable shows you that we do indeed live in a postmodern world where it’s wrong to say you’re right on something.
But listen, if we can’t believe we’re right in some things, we’ve got nothing left to believe in.
What if Peter and John would have taken the postmodern approach?
“Oh, sure. That’s just fine. We won’t talk about Jesus. We’re not even sure it’s true. It’s just another option of belief. Have a great day!”
No, they say, He is the only way, and because He is the only way, I’m sorry, but we just have to talk about Him!
You know, we don’t see a whole lot of persecution today in America, but I have to ask, perhaps we just do a really good of avoiding it by refusing to take a stand.
Christianity exploded in places like China because people said, “sorry, I have to obey God first.” Even if it’s illegal, and even if I’m risking my life by doing it.
And maybe you have some friends or family members that disrespect you or even mock you for your faith. Or, maybe you have a work environment that completely disallows you from mentioning even a word about it. Or maybe even other so-called religious friends mock you for faith (after all it was “religious people” who persecuted the disciples.
But my challenge to you is this:
Don’t fall for the temptation to avoid persecution through disobedience. Don’t exchange a lack of persecution for disobedience. Suffering brings strength.
It’s like lifting weights.
Sure, you could avoid the pain on your muscles, the embarrassment of starting out, and the exhaustion that it sometimes brings, but in the long run, the more you avoid the pain, the weaker you will be.
And it’s not that much different with persecution.
Do what’s right, not what’s easy.
Don’t live a life of decisions that you would be embarrassed to watch when you sit with Jesus and watch your life back with the perspective of eternity.
Your allegiance is to Him, and any decision except to honor Him, won’t even make sense when you are sitting with Him in eternity.
Live from that perspective now.
Be bold. As He was bold…on earth…and when he boldly went to the cross for you.
Let me close the message this morning by reading you the epilogue to today’s event in chapter 4
(Acts 4:23-31) – NIV
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people[e] of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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