Sermon Options: April 24, 2022

November 25th, 2022


ACTS 5:27-32

There is a strange phenomenon going around these days. Normally quiet, sensible people are suddenly transformed into loud braggarts consumed by a single notion, often to the point of being obnoxious. There is a name for these people. We call them "grandparents!" To try to reason with these people or to tell them to be quiet is sort of like saying to the wind, "Don't blow!" or to a squirrel, "Stay away from the nuts!" They simply cannot help themselves. They have some wonderful news and they are going to tell you about it whether you like it or not, usually replete with photos!

This phenomenon is similar to the early bearers of the good news of Easter. "We must obey God," they said (v. 29). To try to silence them would have been futile. But this world did try.

I. The Early Disciples Found Conflict
One would think that the bearers of such liberating news would have been welcomed with open arms. But those who profit by the system do not welcome news that liberates those whose imprisonment lines their pockets. Enslavers do not want to hear news that would free the slaves. Vested interest seeks to protect its concerns at all cost. The status quo will not foot the bill for change.

So the disciples found themselves in the middle of controversy. When we tell the liberating news of the resurrected Christ, we should expect no other. It could be the state, as in our text, or even organized religion. But beware! The gospel always has and always will have its enemies.

II. The Disciples Continued in Their Obedience
Warnings and imprisonment did not deter them. Even when those threats were carried out, they would not be silent. As the story unfolded, the deaths of James, Stephen, Paul, Peter, and others only made more firm their obedience.

On August 24, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln assembled his cabinet, wrote a resolution, and asked each member to sign it, sight unseen. To call Jesus Lord means we obey, whatever and whenever.

III. Obedience Means Taking the High Road
To follow Jesus means that we expect more of ourselves than does the world. We are subject to a higher standard—the standard of Jesus. It cost him. It will cost us.

The world says "manipulate." To get your way you have to be shrewd and controlling. So what if you have to step on a few folks on the way up the ladder of success! Funny, Jesus never saw it that way.

The world says "dominate." If cunning, deceit, and shrewd manipulation does not work, go ahead and use stronger measures. Some of the issues of our day, like prayer in schools, gun control, abortion, and tax appropriation are very complicated. Some say if we have the answers, it is our duty to enforce them. Funny, Jesus always respected the rights of individuals.

The world says "retaliate." If milder measures don't prevail, lower the boom! Can you picture Jesus saying that? There's only one thing wrong with these measures used by the world—they don't work! We are closing the bloodiest century in mankind's history. It has given us World War II, segregation, apartheid, the Holocaust, Vietnam, Oklahoma City, and the Unabomber, just to name a few. Something ain't working! There must be a better way. And that is something Jesus did speak about—a lot! He spoke about the way of love.

Love, when true to itself, is greater and more powerful than anything evil can throw in its way! Look at the empty tomb!

Like the one who rose from the empty tomb, our love must be for all—the enslaved and those who enslave. As Nelson Mandela states, "A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred. The oppressed and the oppressor are robbed of their humanity."

Our mission is to obey God, to love as Jesus loved, no matter the cost. That's taking the high road.

Although Henri Matisse was twenty-eight years younger than Auguste Renoir, the two artists were good friends. When Renoir was confined to his house the last ten years of his life, Matisse continued to visit his friend. Renoir, almost paralyzed by arthritis, continued to paint. Watching his friend in obvious pain, Matisse asked, "Why do you continue?" Renoir answered, "The beauty remains; the pain passes."

It's worth the cost to take the high road. It is called obedience. (Gary L. Carver)



Today as in the first century, people are confused about who Jesus is. Various theories both inside and outside the church compete for a hearing. We discuss his nature: "Is he divine or human?" We ponder his death on the cross: "What affect does his death have today?" And we debate the future: "Will he return or not?" John introduces his letter to the churches in Asia Minor (and to us) by giving a rather complete summary of the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

I. Who Is Jesus?
John says his message to the churches is from "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (v. 5).

Elsewhere Jesus identifies himself as the "logos," or the "word" of God ( John 1:1) . He also tells us, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" ( John 14:9) . Jesus is God revealing himself to humanity in a form with which we can identify—another human. "Is he divine?" Yes. "Is he human?" Yes. Who else could we trust to be a faithful witness to who God is but God himself?

One of the truths to which Jesus witnesses is God's desire and power to keep his promises, and particularly the promise to raise us from the grave. Having become, "the first begotten of the dead," Jesus proves God can and will raise us.

II. What Does Jesus Do for Us?
John also says it is Jesus "who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father" (vv. 5b-6).

Charles Wesley wrestles with the question, "Could Jesus love me?" and draws the conclusion of an emphatic, "Yes!" in his hymn, "And Can It Be." Jesus' love sends him to the cross to give himself for our sins. Jesus frees us from the power, our desire, of the sins that grip us and stand between us and God.

Jesus will give his people the authority to rule with him. He also calls each Christian to be a priest and have direct access to God on behalf of other people.

III. What Will Jesus Do in the Future?
The purpose of the letter is to tell his reader what will happen in the future. "Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him" (v. 7).

Jesus will return to claim the authority that is his, claim the people that are his church, and judge the world. All people will see him, and know who he is. Then it will be too late to agree, "He really is God!" All the people who rejected him will mourn.

If you will turn to him and trust him, you will find: "He really is the faithful witness!" His testimony can be trusted. If you will turn to him and trust him, you will find not only forgiveness for but freedom from the sins that pull you down. And if you turn to him and trust him, you will reign with him for eternity. Just ask anyone who has accepted him, and they will tell you: "Don't wait, come to Jesus now!" (Bill Groover)


JOHN 20:19-31

John 20:31 summarizes the purpose of biblical Christianity: "But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

Believing in Jesus is affirming and accepting him as Lord and Savior (see John 1:1-18; 14:6; Acts 4:12 ; 16:30-31). Believing in Jesus enables confident living and ensures eternal life.

I. Faith in Christ Offers Confident Living
People who try to live in the world without Jesus as Lord and Savior bring to mind two friends talking at a party. One says, "I don't know who I am, what I'm doing, or where I'm going." The other expressionlessly mumbles back, "Don't worry about it. Most Americans are going through the same thing."

Without identity, purpose, and destiny, people live on the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual edge. Biblical Christianity has always shared the good news of living triumphantly amid the madness, misery, and meanness of life in the world by discovering and experiencing identity, purpose, and destiny through belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Believing in Jesus has always been declared as the way to life—wholeness, happiness, joy, and security.

While Christians are not immune to the problems of this world, they overcome them (Ps. 37:25 ; Rom. 8:18-39; 1 Pet. 5:6-11). The ultimate victory of eternal life (permanent destiny) enables Christians to put common problems in perspective (temporary distraction).

II. Faith in Christ Offers Eternal Life
Biblical Christianity emphasizes belief in Jesus as guaranteeing the greatest desire of humankind—eternal life (John 3:16 ; 11:25-26; 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; Rev. 21:1-6). That expectation is at the core of every believer's faith. It enabled David A. Redding to write, "Anyone who feels sorry for a dead Christian, as though the poor chap were missing something, is himself missing the transfiguring promotion involved" (Getting Through the Night, 1972).

I'll never forget my grandfather Haydn's claim on this most fundamental tenet of Christianity. He called me from his hospital bed to say he was dying. Living far away from him at the time, I said I'd catch the next plane to see him. He calmly stated, "That won't be necessary. When I die, you'll come back and preside at the memorial service. Then I'll see you later."

Biblical Christianity promises existential (confident living) and eternal (heaven) benefits for all through belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Robert R. Kopp)

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