Sermons

Summary: THE CRY OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF THE CHURCH, IS FOR MEN AND WOMEN COMMITTED TO CHRIST, IN THE FACE OF THE SWORD, TIED TO THE STAKE, IMPRISONED, AWAITING THE AXE, ALL WITH THE SAME COURAGE, NOT TO DENY THEIR FAITH.

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THE COURAGE OF THE CHURCH

ACTS 4:1-35

OFFERATORY PRAYER

HEAVENLY FATHER, IN THE QUIETNESS OF THIS SACRED HOUR, WE HEAR YOUR VOICE CALLING US AWAY FROM THE AFFAIRS OF LIFE THAT OFTEN CLOUD OUR VISION OF YOU. AS WE TURN OUR EYES UPON JESUS, LET THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD GROW STRANGELY DIM IN THE LIGHT OF YOUR GLORY AND GRACE. BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THE TITHE BELONGS TO YOU IN A SPECIAL WAY, OUR FATHER, WE BRING IT TO YOU NOW. THIS WE DO, NOT OUT OF A SENSE OF OBLIGATION, BUT OUT OF A SPIRIT OF LOVE, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD:

A-MEN

THE COURAGE OF THE CHURCH

THE WORLD HAS ALWAYS HAD A SHORT BUT CONTINUOUS SUPPLY OF TRULY COURAGEOUS PEOPLE. AS CHILDREN WE SOUGHT THEM ON THE PAGES OF COMIC BOOKS, OR ON THE TELEVISION. I CAN REMEMBER TYING A TOWEL AROUND MY NECK AND BEING THE CAPED CRUSADER (BATMAN) OR BEING SUPERMAN. I WAS PART OF THE RAT PATROL A TV SERIES BASED ON WWII. THE MEN DROVE JEEPS, I HAD A BICYCLE BUT IT DID THE TRICK IN A PINCH WITH IMAGINATION. COWBOYS WERE ALWAYS FEARLESS, AND WHEN I WOULD STRAP ON MY SIX-SHOOTERS SO WAS I. GOOD GUYS WERE ALWAYS RIGHT AND BRAVE, BAD GUYS WERE ALWAYS WRONG AND WOULD HIDE.

WHEN I GREW UP I WAS SURPRISED TO SEE WHERE I THOUGHT PEOPLE OF COURAGE WERE. SOME OF MY FAVORITE SPORTS STARS, TEAM CANADA 1972, WATCHING THE REMEMBERANCE DAY PARADE SPECIFICALLY THE VETERANS AND THE ARMY CADETS FROM BACK HOME, A MAN WITH ONE LEG WHO RAN HALFWAY ACROSS CANADA TO RAISE MONEY FOR CANCER RESEARCH. THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO TRIED TO SAVE SO MANY PEOPLE AS A RESULT OF 911. WE CONSTANTLY LOOK FOR MEN AND WOMEN WHO WILL STAND UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES. THIS IS TRUE COURAGE.

THE CHURCH HAS GROWN TREMENDOUSLY AS A RESULT OF THE COURAGE OF THE MARTYRS. FOXES BOOK OF MARTYRS IS FULL OF STORIES OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO WOULD NOT DENY THEIR FAITH, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF DEATH IN HIDEOUS WAYS. MODERN DAY MISSIONARIES BRAVELY FACE THE POSSIBILITY OF DEATH TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD. TODAY, PEOPLE WHO CLAIM CHRISTIANITY IN MOSLIM AREAS OF THE WORLD DO SO AT THE PERIL OF LOSING THEIR LIVES. YET THEY CONTINUE TO DO SO. IT WOULD BE TRUE TO SAY THAT THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH HAS BEEN GREATLY AIDED BY THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS.

CONSIDER THE CHURCH AS PRESENTED HERE IN THE BOOK OF ACTS. IT HAS FACED PERSECUTION FRIGHT FROM THE ONSET. ALL BUT ONE OF THE APOSTLES FACED UNNATURAL AND VIOLENT DEATH BECAUSE OF THE MESSAGE. THEY ALL FACED THE PERSECUTION OF IMPRISONMENT AND BEATINGS, BUT STILL THEY WOULD NOT DENY THEIR FAITH. THOSE LIKE STEPHEN WHO RESPONDED TO THEIR MESSAGE FACED THE SAME PERSECUTION AND BRAVELY WENT TO THEIR DEATHS, RATHER THAN TO DENY THEIR FAITH. AS A RESULT THE CHURCH GREW AND FLURISHED IN THE MIDST OF THEIR PAIN.

IN THIS PASSAGE PETER USES THE HEALING THAT HAPPENED IN CHAPTER THREE TO PRESENT THE GOSPEL TO THE CROWD THAT HAD GATHERED. THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OPPOSED THIS VIGORUSLY BUT DID NOT KNOW HOW TO GET THE MEN STOPPED. FINALLY THEY HAD THEM ARRESTED.

CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT THE MEN WHO WERE PRESENT WHEN PETER AND JOHN WERE BROUGHT BEFORE THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS.

ACTS 4:6: “ANNAS THE HIGH PRIEST WAS THERE, ALONG WITH CAIAPHAS, JOHN, ALEXANDER, AND OTHER RELATIVES OF THE HIGH PRIEST.”

NOW CONSIDER THE QUESTIONS THAT WERE POSED TO THEM.

ACTS 4:7: “THEY BROUGHT IN THE TWO DISCIPLES AND DEMANDED, “BY WHAT POWER, OR IN WHOSE NAME, HAVE YOU DONE THIS?’’”

THESE WERE THE SAME MEN IN CHARGE OF THE JEWISH TRIAL OF JESUS. THEY WERE THE ONES WHO TORMENTED PILATE TO THE POINT WHERE HE ORDERED JESUS EXECUTION. IT WAS THE SAME TYPE OF QUESTIONING THAT JESUS FACED. THERE WERE CERTAINLY ENOUGH SIMILARLITIES THAT PETER AND JOHN MAY HAVE EXPECTED THE SAME FATE AS JESUS.

A THING I’VE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS IS THAT WHEN YOU ARE TRAPPED IN A ROOM WITH A BUNCH OF WILD ANIMALS, DON’T ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVE, PUT MEAT TENDERIZER AND GRAVY ON YOUR ARM, FIND THE MEANEST OF THE ANIMALS AND SAY COME HERE BOY HAVE I GOT A TREAT FOR YOU.

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT PETER AND JOHN DID. THEY WERE IN A ROOM FULL OF MEN WHO WANTED NOTHING MORE THAN TO BE ABLE TO EXECUTE THEM AND GET THEM OUT OF THEIR HAIR, AND THE FIRST THING PETER DOES IS ACCUSE THEM OF KILLING JESUS. ANY LAWYER WOULD TELL YOU THAT’S NOT A GOOD MOVE.

ACTS 4:8-11:

“8 THEN PETER, FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, SAID TO THEM, “RULERS AND ELDERS OF OUR PEOPLE, 9 ARE WE BEING QUESTIONED TODAY BECAUSE WE’VE DONE A GOOD DEED FOR A CRIPPLED MAN? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW HE WAS HEALED? 10 LET ME CLEARLY STATE TO ALL OF YOU AND TO ALL THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL THAT HE WAS HEALED BY THE POWERFUL NAME OF JESUS CHRIST THE NAZARENE, THE MAN YOU CRUCIFIED BUT WHOM GOD RAISED FROM THE DEAD. 11 FOR JESUS IS THE ONE REFERRED TO IN THE SCRIPTURES, WHERE IT SAYS, ’THE STONE THAT YOU BUILDERS REJECTED HAS NOW BECOME THE CORNERSTONE.’”

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