Good morning everyone. I pray that you have had a blessed week? Last week our Lord moved in a mighty way within our body. I pray that you have been in prayer over the week as to what the Lord did and where He desires you to be as our church is rebirthed in these days. So last week we talked about the Peter and John and how our Lord uses these two men of God in a step of faith to not only change the life of the lame beggar in front of the temple but also speak into the hearts of the men that surrounded them. Today we are going to continue this journey as we see the heart of the people moved and the persecution that comes when we follow our Lord in the Holy Spirit.
In this world, there are few amongst us that have been given a gift that is beyond normal. From the Tyger Woods that can hit a golf ball like none other in history, to the Joe Montana/Tom Brady that can pass a ball under duress in the pocket, to the Santana that can play a guitar beyond our wildest imagination or the singer or writer, etc… There is illustration after illustration of people who have been given a gift that is beyond our imagination. This gift not only shapes what we think of that person, but in some cases can completely revolutionize how we define that sport or talent.
Over the past two weeks we have been talking about what happens when we as believers walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and what we discovered is that walking in the Holy Spirit redefines our realities. That the lives of those touched by the Holy Spirit are not only forever changed but that their lives in turn revolutionize those around them too. That the church was redefined not by the ideas of men but by the movement of the Holy Spirit. Today like always, I would like for you to consider the spiritual concept of being “set apart”. What do the scriptures say about being set apart for God? In John chapter 17 our Lord looks to his Father and prays for his disciples and for you and me today. Within this chapter we see in verse 15 that our Lord prays to his Father,
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word of truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
Within these couple of verses it is evident that first of all we are called to remain in this world because He has sent us into this world to change it for his glory. Secondly it is evident that we are called to be sanctified (set apart) in the truth and that because we are to be set apart, that we will face the evil one within our lives. So this morning, knowing that this is our Lord’s prayer for each one of us today, are we set apart, do we live the Word of Truth, do we live as sent disciples into this world? So what does it look like to be set apart as a child of God? Turn with me to Acts 4.
“And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.”
Here in these first three verses we see that as Peter and John were speaking to the people, they are taken off by the guards (captain) and priests because what they were doing. From the first couple of chapters we have discovered that it is evident that these two men have been set apart for God and here we see them arrested. From this we can conclude that it is evident that those who are set apart for God are not popular within the world. In fact, when I read this, this past week I thought imagine what it would be like if right now while I am preaching that the cops come in to the sanctuary and haul me away. All they while as I continue to preach what God has on my heart. I am sure that you would all say, “sign me up for that”. Probably not. Yet this is what we are seeing here in this passage, two men preaching and living the Word of Truth, being dragged off to jail for speaking the truth. In our lives, each of us like to be popular or loved to some degree. Whether it is by the family (wives, husbands, brothers or sisters) or friends that surround us or by our piers. So this idea of being set apart, disliked by those around is something that is contrary to our very nature as human beings. Being set apart does not immediately speak to the love of Jesus or the grace of our Lord but rather illustrates for you and me today that there will times in our lives where we will desire to embrace opposition in this world. Being set apart for God creates a deep desire in our heart to embrace the opposition of this world, not because we enjoy to fight those around us, but because we have a deep desire to see those around us saved by the Word of Truth. The Word of Truth tells us in Romans 12:2 to not be conformed to this world, so seeing those around us embracing this world as truth breaks our hearts causing us to embrace worldly opposition.
The Foundation of Opposition
So what is this opposition that we face? This is a critical element for us to understand as children of God. The world does not dislike us because we are terrible people. In fact Christians are often complimented on their heart for helping those in need. So what is it that causes this world to hate Christians? Often times when I find myself talking to those around me about our Lord and the church, there always seem to be a reason as to why they don’t embrace Christianity.
- Oh, Christians are too holier than thou. They are just as bad as non-Christians.
- The Bible is antiquated. Our society has progressed beyond the point of needing a God.
- I don’t need to go to church to find God. Beliefs are to be personalized. You believe what you want to believe and I will believe what I want to believe.
- Christianity is for the weak.
These are just some of the many reasons that the world give as to their reason why they oppose Christianity. However if we take the time to consider all of these reasons, the truth is, is that they just don’t like Jesus. Here in this passage we see in verse 1 that the priests were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus, the resurrection of the dead”. Even when they give Peter the chance to respond, he once again supports their disdain where in verse 10,
“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
These men did not dislike that this lame man had been healed, they did not dislike Peter and John, they disliked that Jesus was being preached. So in the days to come as we are faced by those individuals who dislike what the scriptures say about how we should live our lives. Know that it is not the messenger that they dislike but rather the Word of Truth that they don’t like. It is interesting, that too often the church softens its message when it is faced by the world. If the world doesn’t like our stance on sex before marriage, we soften our position in order to not offend people. If the world doesn’t appreciate our position on divorce we soften our stance on that biblical moral standing. I can mention issue after issue that has been changed over time within our church and within the global church and we wonder why our churches suffer as they do. Folks we need to understand that the world does not come to God so that He can tell them that they are great. We don’t come to God because we think we have it all figured out and that He just needs to put his stamp of approval upon our lives. We come to God because we know or realize that we are morally bankrupt, that we have messed up our lives and that we need his grace and forgiveness to experience a new life. As Ezekiel put it in Ezekiel 36:25;
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you….”
Today as we embrace the spiritual concept of being set apart, we need to understand the truth that it is not our moral positions that set us apart from the world. It is not the good things we do for those around us. It is not the fact that we are members within our church. It is not fact that we embrace a faith in a truth that the world does not understand. We are set apart by Jesus Christ and Him alone. He cleanses us from the filth of our lives. He removes the heart of stone within us. He gives us a heart of flesh and He puts his Spirit within us. Today, the world may not understand us. Today the world may not agree with us. Today the world may revile and persecute us because today we have Jesus Christ and Him alone.
A Heart on Fire
In verse 19 of this passage of Acts we see Peter and John answer these men’s desire to squelch their ministry with a stark reality of what it looks like to be set apart for God. They answer the charges at them by saying,
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Here within these few words from these men we see that they are place before us a truth that so many of us fail to understand as believers in today’s world. These men that had Peter and John were not to be trifled with. They could have locked them up forever. They could have beat them. They could have made them disappear. Yet here we find that they were prepared to die for what they had experienced in Jesus Christ. This was in stark difference to how Peter had responded when our Lord had been arrested. Now he was willing to speak out to those very same individuals who had put our Lord upon the cross.
This past Christmas my Emily and Ethan got gifts for us and for their grandparents. My daughter got me a great dress shirt that I wear on a regular basis and Ethan got my Mom a great little bunny that she keeps as a pet. Because we got this bunny I had the opportunity to spend a little time with it and other than the little scratches it made with it’s paws it was one of the sweetest little things. You are probably wondering why I am sharing a story about a little bunny.
Why is it that as believers in this world, we are scared of the little bunnies or kittens in our lives and completely ignore the lion? Why is it that we are afraid of what men and women will say? That we are afraid of what they will think? Within the context of our eternity, they are the little bunnies of our lives, able to at times able to scratch our skin with the things that they say or think. Yet, we completely ignore the our God (the lion) that holds the keys to the kingdom of life and death. We completely ignore sometime the instruction from our Lord in our lives because quite honestly it is easier to embrace the love the world around rather than the saving love of our Lord. Peter and John that day were not being defiant of the rulers they now faced. They weren’t trying to stir the pot. They did relish the idea of being thrown into a dark unforgiving hole, forgotten by society. They just could not help but share the truth and love they experienced in Christ with those around them, because it was no longer something they wanted to be but rather something that they were.
Finishing off today in verse 13 of this passage we see, a new reality of being set apart for God. Here all of the elders, scribes, men of importance saw a truth that can only be realized when we are set apart for God. In verse 13 it says,
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Here is this one verse is a truth for you and me which provides the proof of being set apart for God. When we experience salvation of Christ in our lives, are lives are cleansed and made whole, but when we experience the mark of the Holy Spirit upon our lives, we are recognized as children of the almighty God. Men and women marked not by some stamp of approval but by a peace, a Godly spirit, a spiritual intensity that lifts up, corrects and searches after the presence of God in all aspects. This is a life that reveals miracles both in the physical healings of those around them, but more importantly in the spiritual healing of the hearts surrounding them. This is what it means to be recognized as one who has been with Jesus. This is what it means to be one who is “Set apart for God”.