Sermon: Acts 4:23-33
Easter 4 - April 22, 2018 - Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
I would imagine that many of you have had a sandwich at a
Chick-fil-a restaurant. Or at least the name of the chain restaurant may be familiar to you. Chick-fil-a was in the news a couple of years ago when people on the left began to publicly criticize the restaurant for bigoted, homophobic, and unfair hiring practices. The charges were not really true.The real reason, of course, for the attack from those on the left was that the Chick-fil-a corporation is not ashamed to publicly proclaim that it’s a Christian based company whose purpose is to glorify God. The headquarters for Chick-fil-a is in Atlanta fully decorated with religious imagery, Bible verses, and a statue of Jesus washing the feet of a disciple. Their stores are closed on Sunday.
So what has happened to Chick-fil-a? Have they been run out of town? Far from it. Since that attack from the left a couple years ago Chick-fil-a has opened three or four stores in New York City, the mecca of the left and those who have no use for God or Jesus Christ.
A certain journalist named Dan Piepenbring does not approve. He recently wrote in The New Yorker Today of the “creepy infiltration of New York City” by Chick-fil-a and that the Chick-fil-a chain restaurant “does not really belong here” [in New York City]. Chick-fil-a has plans now to open nearly a dozen restaurants in New York City.
Do we learn anything from this hatred from the non-Christian? We certainly do. It doesn’t do any good to attack Jesus Christ and his people. God will in the end defend his people and bless his kingdom.
We learn the same truth from our text today:
IT’S NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST
THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS ANOINTED ONE
It was in the very early days of the New Testament Christian church in Jerusalem not long after Jesus had ascended into heaven. Peter and John, while they preached the gospel of Jesus, healed a man who had been unable to walk for many years. The people were amazed, but the religious leaders of Jerusalem were not so pleased. Likely the same people who had condemned Jesus now dragged Peter and John into court.
This time the outcome was different. There were too many people who were praising God for the wonderful miracle of healing that Peter and John did in Jesus’ name. If the leaders had condemned the apostles, jailed them, or even killed them, the people would have rioted. These religious leaders were in a real spot. They chose to let Peter and John go but ordered them first of all to no longer preach in the name of Jesus. Peter responded by telling them, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” The officials warned the apostles once more and then let them go.
If you had been Peter or John how would you have felt? What would you have done? You probably would have been very relieved that nothing worse happened to you. You would have praised God. You probably would have rushed to tell your fellow Christians what had happened.
That’s exactly what Peter and John did. “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.” They went directly “to their own people.” It’s interesting that Luke the writer of this account notes that they went to their own. They went immediately to their fellow Christians.
We all need on a regular basis to be with “our own people.” I don’t mean necessarily our relatives or our friends. I don’t necessarily mean our neighbors or fellow workers or those who share our interests. We need to regularly be with those who share our Christian beliefs, our love for our crucified and risen Savior, those who share our biblical morals and values. We need to regularly, again and again, together hear the message that Jesus died for our sins and was raised again from the dead.
The LORD God had a good reason for his Old Testament commandment “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” In Jesus’ day faithful believers in the LORD God of Israel gathered each Sabbath day in the synagogues throughout Jerusalem, Judea, and Galilee, as well other nations where Jews had scattered. Jesus himself went regularly to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. New Testament Christians observed the same pattern of regular worship and ultimately weekly Sunday worship. The writer of Hebrews saw fit to write, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The vast majority of people among whom we live, work, and share space in this world take their stand every day against the Lord and his Anointed One. That’s never a good idea. We need to gather regularly with our own, with our own people, with our fellow Christians to encourage one another, worship God, praise Jesus, and hear his word.
Peter and John met with their fellow Christians and told them all that had happened to them, how they had been threatened by the authorities but were let go. And what do you think the believers in Jesus did first? They prayed. They prayed and they praised God. They said, “Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” Note very carefully they didn’t first of all thank God for Peter and John’s release. They didn’t first of all ask God for something. They praised God as the almighty Creator of the universe and everything in it.
What a lesson there is in the prayer of these believers. Before we pour out before the throne of God our prayers about ourselves and how we feel and what we need, God deserves our worship and praise just because he’s the almighty God and Creator and we’re his creatures. He deserves worship and praise because he created the universe, the earth, and everything in the earth. He provides for us every day.
And by the way, the first reason we come to worship God on Sunday morning is not just because it’s the thing to do, not just to be made to feel good or uplifted or to be entertained with good music and preaching. Worship is not first of all about us. It’s about God. The first reason we come to worship God is to praise him as our Creator and Preserver, the only God, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What did the people do next in their prayer? They still didn’t ask for anything for themselves. They acknowledged how God the Holy Spirit verbally inspired King David to write this truth in Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.” And then they reviewed how King Herod and Pontius Pilate and the other enemies of God took their stand against the Lord and his Anointed One Jesus Christ. They took their stand against Jesus Christ, but God raised Jesus from the dead.
And note how the people didn’t complain to God about the apostles’ imprisonment and trial or that Herod and Pilate had taken a stand against God. They knew it was supposed to be that way. They prayed, “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” It was foretold in the psalms. It was for their eternal salvation. They knew God was in control. And they knew, and let us all know, until Jesus comes again the world will take its stand against God and against Jesus and the truth.
It’s amazing how people never learn, how our world never learns. People endlessly take their stand against God and against Jesus Christ. Leftist politicians, university professors, educators, philosophers, journalists, feminists, and Hollywood actors and entertainers, and those mindless sheep and goats who willfully or ignorantly follow them attack the almighty Lord God who created this world and sent his Son Jesus to save sinners. They attack the gospel message as foolishness and God’s will and commandments as outdated.
Think about what they especially attack in American society - marriage and the family as established by God in Genesis, the roles of men and women as God established in Genesis, gender identities, male and female, as God established in Genesis. They attack the very foundation of our society as established by God himself. They take their stand against the Bible and the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as foolishness. They deny that we need any forgiveness from God and that Jesus is the only Savior. They drag our young people away with satanic lies that sound so good. They attack us as narrow-minded bigots, misogynists, and homophobes. They take their stand against God and against Jesus, and that’s never a good idea.
Only at the end of their prayer did the believers make a request of God and then it was a prayer to defend the name of Jesus and the growth of his kingdom. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Notice that they didn’t even ask God to protect them. They didn’t tell Peter and John to be more careful the next time. No, they said, “God, do more. Let your people do more of these miracles to glorify the name of Jesus Christ.”
What are we to do in a world that continually and defiantly takes its stand against Jesus Christ? We preach Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus Christ. We pray that more people will believe in Jesus Christ. We help support preaching about Jesus Christ. The only message that will win over the enemies of God and of Christ is the gospel. Jesus died on a cross to take away the sins of the world. He rose again to prove that our sins are forgiven. It’s always a good idea to stand with the Lord and with his Anointed One Jesus.
“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.” God’s rumbling assured these early believers that he had heard their prayer and would answer it.
I was thinking of having a Chick-fil-a sandwich today, but I can’t. They’re not open on Sundays. Good for them. I’ll have one tomorrow. And today and tomorrow and every day I, and I hope all of you, will take your stand with the Lord and with his Anointed One Jesus. Amen.