Second Reformed Church

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"You Can't Oppose God" Sermon: Acts 5:12-42

“You Can’t Oppose God”
[Acts 5:12-42]
August 30. 2009 Second Reformed Church

Peter and the other apostles regularly did signs and wonders among the people. The people brought their sick and the demon-possessed, and all of them were healed – they were even bringing the sick in from the neighboring towns – not just Jerusalem. The people held the apostles in high esteem. And multitudes of men and women came to faith in the Lord.

After the violent and terrifying deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, everything seemed to go well for the infant Church. Yet we know that did not and could not continue: Jesus promised that the Gospel will flourish in persecution.

Before we move on to the persecution in this morning’s Scripture, let us remember two things: first, the fact that the apostles did signs and wonders tells us nothing about the existence of signs and wonders today, because there are no more apostles. By definition in the Scripture, an apostle must have sat under Jesus’ teaching while He was alive on earth, and an apostle must have been an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, in His Flesh, on earth, after His Resurrection.

But even more importantly, let us understand that the miracles did not happen separate from the preaching of the Word of God. How do we know that? Paul wrote, “But how are they to call on him whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17, ESV).

Miracles, alone, by themselves, cannot convince anyone of the Gospel; they cannot convey faith to a person. No one ever believed simply by seeing or experiencing a miracle. The only way the Scripture acknowledges for the impartation of faith – for a person coming to faith – to belief – is through the preaching of the Word of God. As Jesus reported of the rich man and Lazarus: “‘And [the rich man] said, “Then I beg you, father, to send [Lazarus] to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’” (Luke 16:27-31, ESV).

We need to be on guard against those who would say nice things and moral things and claim to be able to heal, but do not preach the Word of God. The Word of God is primary and central in Christianity, and there is no conversion – no faith or belief – without the preaching of the Word. Since a multitude of men and women believed in the Lord, we know that the preaching of the Word of God accompanied the miracles that God did through Peter and the apostles.

Now, what should our response be if we find out that there are multitudes of people coming to Christ – believing faithfully in Him – at a neighbor church? We should rejoice, shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we give thanks to God for His Mercy and His Work of Salvation in the lives of all those people?

Luke tells us that the high priest and the Sadducees were jealous of the apostles. It was not just a matter of people believing in Jesus and His Physical Resurrection. It was not just believing in Him as the Savior. They weren’t just angry about theology any more. They were jealous because the people were holding the apostles in high esteem. The people were flooding to the apostles for healing and to be taught. The high priest and the Sadducees were jealous of the apostles – the apostles were getting all the attention and they were better liked by the people than the high priest and the Sadducees! Can you imagine?

I’m sure we can – we probably all know people who, above everything else – even above the truth – there are people – pastors, too – who want to be liked and to be popular. There are some churches that are filled with people and money – not because the pastor is preaching the Word of God – but because he has done everything he can to be popular and well-liked by the people.

The high priest and the Sadducees were like that, and they had the authority to imprison people, so they threw the twelve apostles in jail. But during the night, an angel came to them, unlocked the door, unlocked their chains, set them free, told them to go to the temple and preach the Word of Life – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And then, apparently, the angel locked the prison door and left. The apostles went to the temple and began to preach again.

In the morning, the high priest called the whole counsel and senate together – not merely the Sanhedrin – which would be the high priest and the serving elders – but the whole counsel – something like our Great Consistory – all of the elders (and deacons) who have ever served on the Consistory – it was a much larger group. They gathered together to see how the apostles had fared with the night in prison – to see if they might have decided against preaching in the Name of Jesus now. So the officers went to the prison, unlocked the door, and no one was inside. “Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to” (Acts 5:24, ESV).

“Where’d they go? I know we put twelve men in here last night, but now they’re gone!”

Can you hear God laughing? That’s not sacrilegious to say, remember what David wrote about Jesus’ Coming, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in heaven laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (Psalm 2:1-6, ESV).

What the high priest and the Sadducees didn’t understand is that though we have the freedom to sin against God – to do what He has forbidden or to not do what He has commanded – ultimately, it is impossible to oppose God. And that is good news for us – God cannot fail. God’s Plan will come to pass, exactly as He planed it from the foundation of the world. Jesus has won! God cannot lose. Even when the high priest and the Sadducees are throwing us in prison, God’s Will for us will not fail to occur. Everything God intends will happen. You and I will be received into Paradise with our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, the high priest and the Sadducees did not find the apostles’ disappearance funny, and they found it even less funny when they received word that they were back in the temple, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ So, they marched to the temple, and because they were afraid of the people – who held the apostles in high esteem – they quietly took the apostles aside and set them before the council.

They were angry: “We forbid you to preach in That Man’s Name. And here you are – again – filling Jerusalem with teaching about That Man. You are trying to put That Man’s Blood upon us.” Isn’t it interesting – they were so mad that they couldn’t even say Jesus’ Name – it was always “That Man.”

Peter responded as we have seen him respond before – the way that we ought to respond when we are asked what we believe about this Jesus – “That Man” – Peter told them that they could not obey the council – just as we cannot obey any authority that commands us to sin, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus” – YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, raised Jesus from the dead – in His Physical Body – “whom you killed by hanging him on a tree” – you are guilty of His Blood, as are all those who deny Him throughout their lives – and you killed Him through the cursed method of hanging on a tree. But God – “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” – God restored the Son – now as the God-Man – to His Eternal Throne – at the Right Hand – which we remember means that Jesus has all of the authority of God – He is Leader – in the sense of being the First One, the Originator, the Prince of the Faith – and Savior – the One God Who would Incarnate, Live, Die, and Rise, able to forgive the sins of all those who believe in Him and credit each one of them with His Righteousness, so that they will be eternally saved from the Wrath of God and live eternally with Him.

And, Peter continued, they were eyewitnesses to all that Jesus said and did – twelve eyewitnesses – far more than the courts required as proof. And God the Holy Spirit is also a witness to all these things – God witnesses to Himself and His Work – and the Holy Spirit inhabits all those who believe in Jesus.

When we consider all those things that might be done against God – ways that someone might try to oppose Him – there is no greater way than to try to stop God from providing the Savior that He Promised – especially through murdering the Savior – and murdering Him through crucifixion. Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ –“ (Galatians 3:13, ESV). And Peter wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to Righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (I Peter 2:24, ESV).

Christ is risen! The greatest attempt by the devil and those who follow him failed by doing exactly what had to happen for Jesus to save us. If “the most spectacular sin” did not defeat God but completed His Plan for Jesus, how can we doubt that God will bring to pass everything that He plans? Jesus gives us hope in confidence as He said to Simon, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV). Jesus promised that Hell itself cannot not prevail again Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16, ESV).

That does not mean that bad things won’t happen – they do – you know they do. We get sick. We fall. We lose money. We die. We don’t get the job we wanted. Our children don’t do what we would like them to do. Our bodies betray us. Our friends betray us. We are uncomfortable. The Church suffers against the evil in the world and in the Church. If our hope was in this world, I couldn’t say how we should go on, but our hope is not in this world, but in Jesus Christ and His Coming Kingdom. If our eyes are on the Promises of Jesus, we can cope with this world, we can even enjoy this world, despite its fallenness. God’s Plan is sure – from before the Creation, God’s Plan stood and God has won and will return triumphant to claim all that is His.

I hope you see and believe what good news that is for we who believe. Once we recognize that everything is about Jesus and Jesus is victorious – there is sure hope for us. If we keep our eyes on that, we need not worry about the noise of Satan and his followers.

We can imagine the high priest and the Sadducees screaming and tearing their robes as Peter spoke – they were so enraged with what he said, they were prepared to kill all of the apostles. But God had placed the Pharisee, Gamaliel, in their midst – we will see him again as the rabbi of a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus, and Gamaliel said, “Wait a minute – let’s not kill them out of hand – let’s think about this.”

Gamaliel brought two historical examples to their memory: There was a man named Theudas, who had about four hundred followers. Theudas claimed to be a magician and said that he could dry up the Jordan River. But after Theudas was killed, his followers disbursed. The same thing happened with Judas the Galilean who, with his followers, opposed the taxing by the Romans at the time of the census. Once he died, his followers disbursed. There had been rebel-rousers in the past, but once they died, their cause went with them. Therefore, Gamaliel gave the advice to let the apostles go, based on this observation: if a thing is not of God, it will pass. But, if a thing is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it – you don’t want to try to oppose God – and, in the end, you can’t oppose God. God is the Almighty, and God will do what God wants, and God’s Plan will come to pass, exactly as He planned it.

It is foolish and futile to try to oppose God. We will see, Lord willing, as Jesus confronted Paul, He said, “‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” (Acts 26:14b, ESV). A goad was a sharp stick used to keep oxen moving. If they stopped, or kicked back against it in anger, they would be pierced – stuck – by the sharp stick. How much was God and His Plan hurt by Saul kicking against a sharp stick? So when someone tries to oppose God, he only hurts himself. You and I only hurt ourselves when we sin, right? Maybe sin feels good for the moment, but it really only hurts us. God will accomplish what God intends. If something is not from God, it will pass away – it will die out. But if something is from God, no one can stop it. No one can oppose God.

Gamaliel’s only mistake was to passively wait. Gamaliel should have known that God expects us to test the things that come before us to see if they come from God or not. Paul approvingly said of the Berean Christians, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11, ESV).

And we ought not merely see if what is taught and if what comes before us is true, but we ought to act on it. Whatever we find in the Scripture that God says we are to do – we are to do it. And all those things that God says we are not to do – we are not to do them. In response – in love and thanksgiving for our salvation – we ought to act on what we find in God’s Word.

Instead of killing the apostles, they beat them, as though they were guilty of something, and then threatened them again not to speak in the Name of Jesus, and then they let them go.

How did they leave? Did they slink off and nurse their wounds and get depressed about the way they were being treated as Christians? No, “[t]hey left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].”

Paul similarly responded, “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17, ESV). And remember what we saw in Peter’s letters: “But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ suffering, that you may rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (I Peter 4:13, ESV). And Jesus said, “‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you’” (John 15:18-20b, ESV).

If we suffer for the cause of Christ – for His Name – we prove ourselves to be His – and in that we should rejoice. That is what the apostles were doing as they left their beating.

And they continued to follow God by teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ – the Savior – in the temple and from house to house – day after day – every day. The apostles obeyed God and not the chief priest and the Sadducees. They continue to preach and teach Jesus Christ as the Only Savior – the Only Hope for humanity.

Let us remember that the suffering we endure – our trials and tribulations – these are only temporary. Let us live in the sure hope of Christ’s Victory and Mighty Power. Let us be sure that we understand what is of God and act on it. Let us trust in the Almighty God – that He will bring to pass everything exactly as He has planned and promised. That is our hope.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You never fail us. We thank You that we can trust You and place our sure hope in You and Your Plan. Strengthen our faith and belief. Instruct us in Your Word. Lead us confidently forward to do all that You have called us to do and to keep from all those things which You have forbidden. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: "Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century"

Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff is my latest review book from Thomas Nelson publishers. You can go to the following link for product detail:
http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0849900069.

Hanegraaff’s book is a sequel of sorts to his book twenty years ago, Christianity in Crisis. In that book, he look at the faith movement and its divergence from the Christian Gospel, just as he does in this book, but in the current volume, he addresses the teachings and heresies of today’s Word Faith teachers: the successors to Kenneth Hagin’s heresies.

Hanegraaff’s work is excellent and ought to be sought out by any who wish to understand the movement and its errors. Rather than just describe their errors, Hanegraaff quotes the teachers at lengthork, and I am sure I will use it in presenting and defending the faith against this other gospel, which is no gospel at all.

[This review appears on Amazon.com and on my blog.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review: "The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving"

I read Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving as part of my preparation for a recent sermon. It is a book that I had on my list of books to read sooner than later.

Alcorn explains that his study led him to the conclusion that “our approach to money and possessions isn’t just important – it’s central to our spiritual lives” (9). Centering on Matthew 13:44, the parable of the buried treasure and the man who sold everything to get it, Alcorn directs us to what ought be of greatest value to us – Christ and His Gospel.

Alcorn challenges the reader through a tour of the Scripture, culmination in six keys: “God owns everything. I’m His money manager; My heart always goes where I put God’s money.; Heaven, not earth, is my home.; I should not live for the dot but for the line.; Giving is the only antidote to materialism.; God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving” (93).

This book has to be experienced: after reading it, I was convinced that I had to significantly increase my giving, and I was joyful about it. D.V., I plan to get copies of this book for all of our people for Stewardship Sunday in November. You should get a copy, too. Be free from money and possessions.

Review: "Preaching: the Man, the Message, the Method"

Preaching: The Man, the Message, the Method, by Geoffrey Thomas, is an unassuming little book which is power-packed. Yet, I can only describe the tone and language of the book as pure honey. I don’t believe I have ever read someone whose writing tasted so sweet. Thomas is obviously a man in love with his Savior and with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This volume was originally given as the 2000 John Reed Miller Lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi.

Thomas begins his volume with a chapter called, “The Prospect,” in which he talks about the glorious privilege of being a minister: “I hope you will never join with those ministers who sit around grumbling in their fraternals about all the alleged hardships of being preachers. What a marvelous privileged life we lead. I trust you earnestly believe that if it be God’s will for you to spend the rest of your life caring for this particular congregation you will happily do so and thank the Lord at the end of each day for such blessings” (9). (Thomas has been at his pastorate for almost forty-five years.) He goes on to say to the preacher must preach “with heart, with mouth, and with life” (13). If a man does this, then a long pastorate can be a great blessing. But he warns of problems both for the preacher and the congregation and gives counsel of how to avoid them.

“The Man” begins with the argument that any man who preaches must understand that God is sovereign in the sermon and not the preacher. Then he considers the type of man who is called to the ministry, ending with: “Fear God: stand in awe of the office; don’t enter the ministry if you don’t have to. But I am now adding something else; he that desires the office of a preacher does a good thing, so cultivate your desire” (29). Then, he explains that one must believe in the office of the minister, never believing that the race is run, but pressing on towards holiness and the delivery of the Gospel.

“The Message” opens with the call to the minister to believe in the God of the Bible, to believe that He is Lord. Then to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all three of His Offices: Prophet, Priest, and King.

“The Method,” as he presents it, is seven-fold: believe in the truthfulness of the Bible, endure tough times, toil, depend upon the Holy Spirit, , defend the Gospel, practice discriminatory preaching – by this he means to clearly show the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, practice applicatory preaching.

A sweet, powerful book. Another that should be read by anyone “considering” the ministry or in the ministry.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

"You Can't Lie to God" Sermon: Acts 4:32-5:11

“You Can’t Lie to God”
[Acts 4:32-5:11]
August 9, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Our text begins with another summary statement about the early Church: the Church was of one heart and mind, no one in the Church said that anything was his own, the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus was preached with power, and grace was received by them all, and everyone in the Church had their needs met. How well do we follow this example?

Luke tells us that the Church was of one heart and mind. That does not mean that everyone liked the same type of ice cream or that everyone liked the same TV program. What Luke is telling us is that they agreed about what they believed, and they responded to that belief by loving God and their neighbor with their whole selves – body, soul, mind, and spirit.

We recite the Apostle’s Creed each week, and one of the reasons we do so is to remind us of those key doctrines – teachings – that we ought all be agreed upon as Christians. There is more in the Word of God than what is contained in the Apostle’s Creed, but it contains the central, pivotal teaching of the faith. Do you believe what we confess each week? Does it mean anything for how you live once you leave this place?

No one in the Church said that anything was his own. Now, some have gotten confused about this and tried to argue that the Church is to propagate socialism – that no one is to have possessions, but all is to be held in common. We see one version of this misunderstanding in monasteries. But that cannot be what Luke is telling us, because in chapter five verse four, Luke records Peter telling Ananias that there is nothing wrong with a Christian having property, selling property, keeping the proceeds of the sale, and/or giving some or all of the proceeds of the sale to the Church. Christians are at liberty to use the blessings that God has given them.

What Luke is telling us is that the Church recognized that they were stewards of all that God has given them, not owners. God blessed them, and they had possessions, but they recognized that they didn’t ultimately own anything – it is God’s, and they were to steward the blessings that God gave them – they were to use all that God had given them to glorify God, to love God and their neighbor. So, they voluntarily shared all that they had so that no one in the Church had any needs. In other words, they understood that God gave more to some so they would be able to share with others.

You and I do not own anything – God is the owner of everything. God has blessed us with all the we possess so our needs will be met, so we can show our love to God and neighbor by giving, and by meeting the needs of those in the Church, especially, who do not have enough to meet their own needs. God does not want us to hoard away what He has given us, but after we have given back the tithe and filled our needs – not everything we could ever want, but our needs – then we are to give generously, liberally, in love, to the Glory of God and to fill the needs, especially, of those in the Church.

Jesus explained this is the form of a parable:

“For [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent away from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 25:14-30, ESV).

All that we have received from God, we are to invest for God – for the Gospel – that God would be glorified and His Gospel would be spread throughout the world. Everything we possess is on loan to us from God and God will call us to account one day. Are we investing what He has given us according to His Wisdom?

Luke also tells us that they were preaching – proclaiming – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – His Resurrection with boldness and power. We’ve seen this the past few weeks as we’ve looked at the healing of the lame man and how Peter and John we imprisoned and threatened by the rulers of the temple, and how Peter and John responded to all of this by saying that they could not obey them – they had to obey God – they had to speak of what they had seen and heard of Jesus. They could not help themselves – they were so filled with joy over what Jesus did to save them that they had to tell others.

And as they obeyed Jesus in proclaiming His Gospel, they received grace. They were empowered to be able to do all that God called them to do. They were given Wisdom from the Holy Spirit to understand and remember the Scriptures and to preach them faithfully. They grew in their faith and understanding as the Holy Spirit grew them.

And, finally, Luke tells us that there was not a needy person among them because those who had lands or houses – not everyone who had lands or houses, but those that had been blessed by God with enough lands and houses that they could sell some and still meet their needs – they sold their lands and houses and gave the money to the apostles for them to distribute as there was need.

In response to the Salvation of Jesus Christ that they had received, those who had much, sold some of what they possessed in order to make sure that everyone’s needs were met. Are your needs being met? Do you have more than you need? Are you giving generously to the Church that the needs of the Church and others can be met?

What are our needs? Until God calls us home, our needs are those things we need to be able to live. In the United States, the government has determined that the poverty level is about thirteen thousand dollars – below that, the government says – one does not have enough to live. Do you gross more than thirteen thousand dollars a year? How do you use the money that is not spent on your needs?

Luke gives us two examples of people who had more than enough – their needs had been filled, and they had houses and lands that they could sell and be able to give the proceeds to the Church:

The first example is of a man by the name of Joseph, who was also called, Barnabas, which means, “son of encouragement.” This is the same Barnabas that we will see travel with Paul later in the book of Acts. He was a Levite from Cyprus who owned at least one field. We’re not told how he came to own the field, but we know that Levites were not to own land – when God divided up the Promised Land, the Levites, as a family, were not given land, they were given cities within other tribes to live in, but the land belonged to others. However he came to own the land, Barnabas thought the best way he could use the land for God, in response to the joy of his salvation, was to sell the land and give the whole proceeds to the Church to meet needs. And he did so.

Barnabas was a cheerful, joyful giver. As Paul wrote, “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly, or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7, ESV). God is not honored when we give because we think we have to. God desires us to give, cheerfully, joyfully. I say each week that we worship God in the giving of our tithes and offerings – and we do – we ought to joyfully, cheerfully, put what we put in the offering plate. We should give because we love God and are thankful for all that He has done for us. We should give as a way to invest some of the blessings God has given us. That’s what Barnabas did.

Then we are given the example of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. They, also, had plenty of blessings in the way of houses and land, and they determined that they, too, would sell a piece of property and say that they were giving the whole proceeds to the Church, but they would actually keep part of it for themselves. Now, like we already said, they were free to possess land, to sell land, and/or to give all or some of the proceeds to the Church. There is no law that says every Christians must sell their house and land and give all of the money to the Church. So, it would not have been wrong for them to sell the land and keep some of the money for themselves and give some of the money to the Church. But they wanted everyone to think that they gave all the money, so they decided to lie.

Ananias went to the temple and put the money at the apostles’ feet, “Brothers, I have sold my field, and I have decided to give all of the money I made from the sale for the Church and meeting the needs of the needy. I am holding nothing back, because God has blessed me richly; I want to give every penny to the Lord.”

And Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? After it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” I want us to make sure that we understand: Christians can possess land and houses. Christians can sell land and houses. Christians can keep any or all of the money from the proceeds of that sale and/or give any or all of the proceeds of the sale to the Church. The sin was not in keeping part of the profits; the sin was in lying about bringing the whole profit as a gift to the Church.

And as Ananias heard Peter utter these words, God struck him dead. Before all of the people of the temple, God struck him dead. And the people who saw it got the point – they were afraid – you can’t lie to God. God knows everything. God knows our hearts. God knows what we do and say. God is not fooled. And God will not be mocked.

Three hours later, Sapphira came to the temple, and Peter asked her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Oh, yes, we received such and such for the land and decided to give the full proceeds for the Church and the needy. We held nothing back, because the Lord has blessed us richly.”

And Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” And before all the people of the temple, God struck her dead. And the people who saw it got the point – they were greatly afraid – you can’t lie to God. God knows everything. God knows our hearts. God knows what we do and say. God is not fooled. And God will not be mocked.

What does this mean for us?

First, it means that we must understand that we are stewards of all that God has given us – not owners – so we ought to find ourselves free to give generously for the sake of the Gospel and meeting the needs of the needy. If we understand that nothing is ours, we will find ourselves free to give more in thanks and love to Jesus and for His Work. Do you love Jesus? Are you thankful for what He has done for you? Would your checkbook agree?

Our typical response to this is to say, “Well, like you already quoted, ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’” And we have tended to mean by that, “I’ll give what I want and when I want, if I feel like it.” But that’s not what the text is about. Paul was writing to the Corinthians, giving them the example of the Macedonian Church, to urge them to participate in the collection for Christians in Jerusalem. He urged them to give, but told them not to give out of guilt or like they have to fulfill a command, but to do so because it fills them with joy.

Paul begins with the example of the Macedonian Church: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed with a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (II Corinthians 8:1-7, ESV).

Paul gave the Corinthians the example of the Macedonians, who were suffering and poor, yet for the joy that they received in doing so – for the cheerfulness that it gave them – they gave beyond their means. Paul wanted the Corinthians to see that the Macedonians were filled with joy and gave cheerfully far more than could have been expected of them – because that giving made them joyful – it made them cheerful.

Paul goes on to say, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity; which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing freely from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift ” (II Corinthians 9:6-15, ESV).

Don’t misunderstand Paul, he is not saying, as some say today, that if you give generously, he will send you a magic handkerchief and you will become healthy, wealthy, and wise. No, what he is saying is if we give generously, God will be glorified and we will continue to increase in Christ-likeness. There is no guarantee that if we give ten dollars, we will receive one hundred dollars. But if we freely, willingly give ten dollars, we will receive joy and be cheerful and be made more fit for the work Christ has for us.

And second, we ought to be aware that God has set a minimum for our giving. After that, no human can judge, but God has set a minimum, not because God needs money, but so we will trust in God’s Providence.

Malachi records God’s words, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:8-12, ESV).

We are to give the tithe – ten percent of our gross income – and time and talent, etc. – to the Church. Jesus confirms this in Matthew 23:23-24, if you need a New Testament citation. We begin with ten percent of our gross income. If you are on the poverty level of thirteen thousand dollars a year – that’s two hundred and fifty dollars a week – so that would be a starting point of twenty-five dollars a week.

“But I can’t afford to give ten percent of my gross income a week ” Randy Alcorn in his book, The Treasure Principle, responds to this objection by asking, “Would you die if your income were ten percent less than it is right now?” If the answer is “no,” then you can afford to give the tithe. You may not want to give the tithe. You may want to spend it on pay-per-view or going out. But you can afford it. Don’t lie. No one in this church will hunt you down and demand that you produce your tax records; whatever you give is thankfully received. But understand, God has said that we are to give ten percent of our gross income – so God has promised that we will have at least enough to provide for our needs and to give the tithe, or that if we give the tithe, the Church will step up and help provide for her members, at least. But you can’t lie to God; God has said that He has given each of us enough to give at least ten percent of our gross income – and He has promised us joy in return!

I read Randy Alcorn’s book as part of my study for this sermon, and it in he explains his circumstances and why he does what he does with his blessings. Paul wrote, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (I Corinthians 4:15b-16, ESV). Paul said, inasmuch as he imitated Christ, he wanted those he served to imitate him. That’s why Alcorn tells his story. That’s why I am ending with an example from my life – not that you would think one way or another about me, but that you would consider what God has given you, what God requires of us, and how you desire to honestly respond in joy for all of God’s blessings.

I grew up in a family that taught tithing as a biblical principle. As soon as I received any money – from my allowance, from working, etc. – I knew that ten percent of it was to be put aside to give to the Church. And I enjoy giving to the Church – I don’t enjoy giving to the government in the form of taxes – and most of you know that I do everything I can to save money in my own life and here at the church. So, it has been a practice of mine – a joyful one – to give at least ten percent of my gross income to the Church.

At the beginning of this year, I was facing some financial issues for which I decided to decrease my giving to the Church – though I still gave at least ten percent. Over these past few months, I found that having the extra money did not alleviate the issues I was addressing, so I started giving more, and after studying for this sermon, I have decided that I need to give even more. The other morning as I was swimming, I was running numbers in my head, and I came to the conclusion that there is no reason why I can’t give twenty-five percent of my gross income to the Church – to this church – so I am. I was doing a backstroke, so I was able to start laughing as I was swimming. I experienced the joy that we are to receive as we willingly give.

Again, I don’t tell you that so you will think one way or another about me. I don’t tell you that to make you think I’m overpaid. I don’t tell you that to say that everyone should give twenty-five percent. I tell you that in the same way that Paul says to imitate him as he imitates Christ.

Understand that everything you have is a gift on loan from God. God has called us to steward our finances – and everything we have – well and to His Glory. Understand that God has set a minimum standard for our financial giving. Consider what you have been given. Consider Who Christ is – how thankful and joyful He has made you. And then honestly respond as God leads you. God knows what He has given you. God knows your heart. And you can’t lie to God.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for giving us so much that our needs are met and we have more to give for Your Work. We ask that You would fill us with joy as we cheerfully worship You by giving. Help us to address the issue of stewardship honestly, knowing that You cannot be deceived. You are worthy of all – take us and make us useful for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Reformed Wisdom

On Acts 5:10 –

“Dropping dead is a small thing in comparison with being thrown into eternal fire to endure unending pain” – John Calvin, Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 1-7, 208.

Reformed Wisdom

On Acts 5:8 –

“We see how Paul looks at the matter. After stating categorically that he faithfully executed his office, he adds that he was not thereby justified (1 Cor. 4:1-4). He was well aware that when a man has done his utmost in the service of God, he is still unable to do what he should, not even by a tenth. If Paul, with his degree of perfection, states categorically that he is not justified by having done all that he could for the increase and preservation of God’s church, and if he is bold enough, as I said, to declare openly that he walked in complete uprightness, we need to consider that that will be our lot too. Let us realize, then, that after making every effort to walk before God in complete uprightness, we will not be perfectly acquitted of our responsibility, and that the only thing left for us to do is to begin again. That is because, as I have already said, we have vices in us which God alone can recognize and punish, vices which we cannot see” – John Calvin, Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 1-7, 206-207.

Reformed Wisdom

On Acts 5:4 –

“‘Ananias had lied to God the Spirit, not to men and Peter. Dare, if you can, O Socinian, thus to read it, “He has lied, not to the Spirit and Peter, but to God.” – Bengle. The Holy Ghost, so far from being less than God, is He against whom the sin (against the Holy Ghost,) is more heinous than again the Father or the Son’” – Melancthon W. Jacobus, Notes – Critical and Explanatory – on the Acts of the Apostles, 123.

Reformed Wisdom

On Acts 5:4 –

“Not in common possession, but in common use. Plainly the property belonged to some and not to others. This providential inequality gave room for the exercise of such a precious Christian grace, as it cannot be exercised in heaven. The charm of it was in the light in which they regarded their property – not contending about the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ – not oppressing a poor brother – not aiming at laying up treasures and acquiring riches to hoard; but holding all that they had at the demand of each other’s necessity, and on the principle that the goods belonged to those who had need, just so far as God had cast the needy brethren upon their care and resources. And so this mutual aid was cheerfully and universally carried on” – Melancthon W. Jacobus, Notes – Critical and Explanatory – on the Acts of the Apostles, 117.

Reformed Wisdom

On Acts 5:4 –

“This shows conclusively, that no compulsory abandonment of property, or absolute community of goods, existed in the primitive church” – J. A. Alexander, Acts, 190.

Reformed Wisdom

On Acts 5:1 –

“Therefore, it is, to say the least, prudent for a man who has an abundance of possessions to be prudent in his use of them to satisfy his brethren’s lack, just as Paul also shows clearly in 2 Corinthians that it is for this purpose that we have the possessions which God gives us in this world (2 Cor. 8:14). Consequently, he who has an abundance is not to waste his excess but to consider that it has been placed in his hands to make him aware that he is not so much its owner as the one who must help his neighbors with it. That is why we cannot impose a definite rule to indicate to what extent everyone is to be generous. But the fact is that we cannot do too much.

“Still, our Lord wants us to have a joyful heart, for he wants the sacrifices which we offer to him to be voluntary (2 Cor. 9:7). He does not want us to act out of constraint but out of our free will. He does not want us to act with pretense and hypocrisy, but whenever we are disposed to help our neighbors, he wants us to do so wholeheartedly and voluntarily, as if opening our hearts to show them our goodwill toward them” – John Calvin, Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 1-7, 192.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wednesday Night Study

Our Wednesday night study is now on a short hiatus. D.V., we will resume our study of the General Councils and the Crusades on Wednesday, September 2nd at 7PM. Mark your calendars!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

"Can You Keep Quiet?" Sermon: Acts 4:13-31

“Can You Keep Quiet?”
[Acts 4:13-31]
August 2, 2009 Second Reformed Church

I got a call last week from the Mayor’s secretary, and she said that the Mayor would like to meet with me and one of our councilwomen this coming Monday – tomorrow. I asked if I could know why the Mayor wanted me to come to his office, and she told me that she didn’t know. Do I have an obligation to go see the Mayor? And more generally, should you and I obey the government?

A lame man had lay at the gate to the temple in Jerusalem, begging for enough to get by from those entering to worship, for his whole life – for over forty years. When Peter and John came upon him, he asked them for money, but they didn’t have any, and instead, in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, they commanded him to walk. The Holy Spirit gave the man the faith to believe, and he believed. He was saved from the Wrath of God, he stood on his own two feet, and walked and leapt and praised God.

The elders, priests, Sadducees, scribes, and the high priest’s family were outraged that Peter and John had said that Jesus Christ of Nazareth had healed the man and that Jesus had physically risen from the dead – and not only that, they proclaimed that there was no other salvation by which humans may be saved except through Jesus. So they grabbed Peter and John and through them in prison and in the morning demanded an explanation from them, but they said the same thing again: Jesus saved and healed the man, and there is no salvation except through Jesus Alone.

The leaders of the temple were confused: where did these common workers get such boldness? Why were they unafraid to stand before the leaders of the temple? And then they remembered, these were not merely believers in Jesus, but these were two of His apostles – men who had trained with the Rabbi for three years – men who adopted the same boldness that Jesus had shown.

But what could the temple leaders do? The crowd had seen the lame man healed – it was a public miracle of someone who was well-known – there was no way they could deny the miracle happened. The people were in the courtyard praising God and thanking Him for the miracle. And they thought, “Let’s threaten them: we’ll let you go, but don’t ever preach or teach in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth again – or else!”

But Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Peter said – tongue in cheek, “You must judge, because I don’t know – is it right to obey you over God? All I can say is that we don’t have a choice – we have seen and heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and we can’t keep quiet We can’t keep from teaching and preaching in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth because of what we have seen and heard!”

Have you ever been asked to keep a secret? To hold back telling someone some good news until a certain time? Have you felt it bubbling up in you – feeling like you would burst if you couldn’t announce the news to the person? Is there – or has there been – anything in your life where you have said, “I just have to do this”?

The novelist, Stephen King, was once asked in an interview why he writes horror novels, and he responded, “Who says I have a choice?” For him, there is something in him that makes him need to write the kind of stories he writes. He is compelled to write about the evils of humanity and evils of mythic realms.

Amos said, “The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophecy?” (Amos 3:8, ESV). What Amos was saying is that just as people are naturally, instinctively afraid when they hear the roar of a lion, so he could not but preach when the Word of the Lord came to him.

Jeremiah, when he was angry with God, tried to suppress the Word of God that was given to him, and he said, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot’” (Jeremiah 20:9, ESV).

And Paul wrote of his preaching, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16, ESV).

People who are called to the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament – ministers, pastors, like me – cannot help but preach the Word of God. That inability to hold back the Word of God overcomes every other inability. Many of you know that I am an introvert – I love spending time alone. It is very difficult for me to be in crowds or to get up in front of people and speak – it is not something I would normally choose to do. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth compels me – I can’t help it! And on those Sundays when I am away from you, as much as I enjoy hearing other ministers preach, I miss being in the pulpit delivering God’s Word to you – I long to be in the pulpit whenever and as often as I can.

Yet, that should be true for all Christians. That is, everyone who has received the Gospel of Jesus Christ should have something in them that is bubbling up – something that makes us want to let others know. Like we have said – in various ways, depending on who we are and how God has gifted us. But we know the greatest and only saving news in heaven and earth and throughout all of eternity – can we keep quiet? Can we keep it to ourselves? Can we let our neighbors and friends and family members blindly walk down the corridor of time, never letting them know the Truth that we have received? Never letting them know that there is a hope and a future through Jesus?

I’ve got to tell the story of Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Peter and John had to tell: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
The religious government told them to stop teaching and preaching that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and that there is Only Salvation through Him Alone. And they said, “We can’t.” We can’t.

And the temple leaders threatened them again: “Well, you listen to us: you must stop preaching and teaching in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth – or else ” That’s the best they could do to threaten them. The miracle that Jesus performed through them was too public, and the temple leaders were afraid of the people and what they might do if they tried to deny that the man who had been lame for forty years had been healed – he was standing right there – everyone knew him – there was nothing they could do.

Did Peter and John sin by not obeying the religious government? Remember what Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement” (Romans 13:1-2, ESV). Peter and John did not obey – they resisted the government: did they sin? No.

Why not? Because what the religious government was commanding them to do was a sin. Everyone who holds a position of authority has been given that authority by God: both President Bush and President Obama have held the office of President because God put them there. We are to obey the government because those who are in authority have been put there by God. We may disagree with some of President Bush’s policies. We may disagree with some of President Obama’s policies. And in this country we have the freedom to disagree and express our opinion. But we are to subject ourselves to those in authority – those men and women who God has put in authority over us.

However, if the government commands to us sin, we must disobey the government and accept whatever punishment may follow. Understand, we may only disobey the government when we are clearly, biblically being commanded to sin. And, also understand, that if we disobey the government, we may have to suffer the consequences.

Some of us may believe it is wrong for the government to require us to pay taxes. However, it is not sinful for the government to require us to pay taxes. Paul wrote, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7, ESV). It is not sinful to pay taxes, so we must pay the taxes levied on us.

However, if the government commands me – us – to stop preaching that Jesus is the Only Salvation – we must disobey. It would be a sin to preach that there is salvation in anyone other than Jesus Alone.

Another example: there has been an anti-racism bill – a hate crimes bill – floating around for some time that would make it a crime to say that homosexual acts are sinful. If that is ever passed, I will have to disobey it, because God has clearly stated in His Word that homosexual acts are sinful. It would be a sin for me to say that God did not say that something is a sin when God did say that it is a sin.

So, Peter and John were right to say that they couldn’t keep quiet – that they couldn’t obey the command of the religious leaders. And we, also, cannot obey the government when we are command to sin. But let us be careful, because, if something is not clearly a sin in the Scripture, we are to obey the government, even if we don’t agree with the government. And if we disobey the government, we also must be prepared and accept that we may be punished for our disobedience – even if we are right.

The leaders let Peter and John go – there was nothing more they could do at that point. And Peter and John went to their friends and told them what had happened and all that had been said, and they joined together in prayer.

They opened their prayer by recognizing that their God – the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – is the God of heaven and earth – the God Who created everything that is, Who holds all authority over everything and everyone from before time and through the end of time. They acknowledged their faith and trust and confidence in He Who is Almighty and Sovereign.

Then the Holy Spirit let them understand that this is part of what was prophesied by David in Psalm 2:1-2 when he wrote, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”

Now, it is true that David was writing this Psalm about himself and how the nations were coming against him – the anointed king – and Israel – and against God, Himself, but the Holy Spirit helped them to understand that this is one of those times when a prophecy has more than one fulfillment – remember I have explained that prophecy is often like looking at a mountain range from a distance – they look like they are one on top of another, but they are actually far apart. So in prophecy, there is often one prophecy that is fulfilled in more than one step or time. Here we see that Psalm 2 is about King David, but also about his Son, King Jesus. As they explained in their prayer, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.”

And lest we forget – the Gentiles and the Jews sinned against Jesus and God for putting Jesus to death, but God also did a good thing – the greatest thing – in predestining the same act – Jesus’ Crucifixion: “to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” The human murderers of Jesus sinned, but God, in planning the same act, did something righteous and good.

Notice, now, what they asked for, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” The Christians prayed that Peter and John and all the Christians, in the face of the sinful command of the temple leaders, would boldly continue to preach and teach in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. They asked that they would be given the gift to be able to heal, to do signs and wonders, through the Name of Jesus. They prayed that they would continue to steadfastly do the same things that they were doing, in the Name of Jesus, and to the Glory of God, that they had been doing since the day of Pentecost – and even before.

Notice what they did not pray for: they did not pray to be delivered from persecution. They did not pray to be delivered from the evil of the temple leaders. They did not pray to be kept from being hunted down for being Christians. Understand, it is not wrong to pray for Christians who are being persecuted – that they would be delivered and kept safe – we are to pray for those Christians around the world who are being persecuted. But the primary issue of their prayer – and our prayer – is not to be that we will be physically safe, but that we will boldly announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what we may face in the way of opposition. The German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote, “When Jesus calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”

When Jesus calls us to Himself, he bids us to die to ourselves, to die to our priorities, to die to everything that does not put the spread of the Gospel first and foremost – and if that means that we must die physically for our faith, so be it. Although that is unlikely in this country at this time, it is still happening around the world: Christians are still being put to death for believing – proclaiming – that Jesus is the Only Salvation. We ought to be in prayer for them. And we ought to be in prayer for those, like us, who are not really experiencing persecution – we need to pray that we will not become lazy, but will boldly continue to tell others that there is Only Salvation in Jesus Alone.

After they prayed, like on the day of Pentecost, God gave them a visible sign – the place where they were meeting shook. At the start of the persecution of the Church, they needed to have the physical sign of God’s approval and reception of their prayer – it’s unlikely that we will experience a physical manifestation to our prayers. But God does hear our prayers – and God answers every prayer that is prayed in Jesus’ Name according to His Will with a “yes.” That means that if we pray that we would also have boldness to let others know that there is salvation only in Jesus Alone, God will give it to us, because He wants us to go out and tell everyone His Gospel.

So, just like on that day, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit – He will gift us with what we need to be His witnesses – and we will “continue[] to speak the word of God with boldness.”

I intend to meet with the Mayor and our congresswoman tomorrow, and I will let you know what it is about – unless it is a secret! But whatever he has to say or ask of me, I will make it clear to him that I cannot compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I will not say anything less than that there is Only Salvation in Jesus Alone. I would ask that you would pray for me to be bold before him for the sake of the Gospel, and let us pray for each other that we would not be afraid of what humans can do to us, but for the joy that we receive through Christ Jesus, let us confess that we “cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

May God give us boldness and the words to speak.

Let us pray:
Sovereign God, Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the Creation, we rejoice and give thanks that You have been pleased to let us know Jesus and His Salvation and that You have now called all of us to boldly go out from this place and let others know – through many and various ways – that Jesus is the Only Way, the Only Truth, the Only Life, the Only Salvation. Give us boldness, we pray. Assure us of the Truth of Your Gospel. Minister to us with Your Grace as we receive the bread and the cup of the Sacrament that is before us. Make us useful and use us to Your Glory and the furtherance of Your Kingdom. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

August Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

8/2/09 Communion Acts 4:13-31 "Can You Keep Quiet?"
8/9/09 Acts 4:32-5:11 "You Can't Lie to God"
8/16/09 Guest preacher: Will Lampe
8/23/09 Guest preacher: Will Lampe
8/30/09 Acts 5:12-42 "You Can't Oppose God"

Join us for worship at 10:30 A.M.