The Church At The Crossroads : Acts Series #11

which_road_business.jpgThe road of the Christian life is filled with crossroads, where we have to make personal and at times profounds that will impact our life and the lives of others for years to come. At some point, all of us will come to the corner of temptation and desire. If we make the wrong turn, we will spend wasted time on wrong roads, taking us to places where we should never go. There is a path that looks right to a person, but the end is death.

How many happy and victorious Christians do you know? When you think of your friends, how many true, happy and victorious Christians do you know? When you look into the mirror, do you see one of them? Are you really a happy and a victorious Christian? Are you happy? Are you victorious?

I wonder if God has been speaking to you about something that He wants you to do, and you’ve not yet done it. For example, has God been telling you that there is a confession of sin that you need to make, and you haven’t confessed it? Has God been telling you there’s some restitution that you need to perform, someone that you need to go to and make amends with and you’ve not done it? Has God been telling you there’s some gift that you ought to give, and you’ve not yet given it? Is there a testimony, a witness that you ought to give? Has God laid some soul upon your heart, and you know that you’re God’s appointed messenger to go speak to that person and you’ve not yet done it? Then you might wonder, why do I not have joy in my life? As the song goes, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

The Apostles have been witnessing. God has been moving. Just prior to Jesus’ ascension, He gave the Great Commission. Jesus went up. The Holy Spirit came down. The Apostles went out. The lost came in. They turned that world upside down and inside out for the Lord Jesus Christ. The Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Herodians were upset at what they were doing throughout Jerusalem. The high priest took these Apostles and put them in jail for preaching the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, an angel came at night and set them free! It’s sort of a sanctified jailbreak.

The Apostles had been commanded not to preach and not to teach in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet in the next morning, they out there in the same place preaching and teaching Jesus. They’d been put in jail for this, and the angel set them free. People come to the high priest and said, “We thought you put those, those guys in jail, and here they are out there on the street, preaching and teaching Jesus Christ.” Thus, they called them back again one more time to threaten them.

We read in Acts 5:27-32,

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council; and the high priest asked them, Saying, did not we straightly command you that you should not teach in this name? And behold, you have filed Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. [Now this man they were referring to is the Lord Jesus Christ].

Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men. . . “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”

Twice in this paragraph Peter mentions obedience. For the Christian, the railroad runs on two tracks: Trust and Obey. If we are going to be happy and victorious, we will need to learn the life lessons of obedience.

We Need To Realize The Reasons For Obedience

If we don’t have a good reason for obeying, we will probably not obey. The first reason is because obedience is a duty to be performed. Notice Peter says. “…We ought to obey…” And there is no contest. “…We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Now men said to do one thing, God said to do something else, and they said, “Well, that’s a no-brainer. We’re going to obey God. We’re not going to obey men,” if what men say and do contradicts what God says and does. Does God have any right to command you? Of course, He does. We ought to obey God. Why? Because God is a sovereign God, and we ought to obey Him. We get in trouble many times because we do not simply obey God.

In 1 Samuel, chapter 15:22-23 we learn that God had told a king to do a particular thing and the king substituted his own will, his own way, his own ideas for what God told him to do. Then, Samuel rebukes the king with these words. “…Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” That is, there’s no way that you can come here today and buy God, bribe God.

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” What he means is offering the very best, animals on the altar. In verse 23 we read: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” God says disobedience is like witchcraft. If you are disobeying something that God told you to do, you are practicing a form of witchcraft.

Well, you may not be thinking you’re practicing witchcraft, but disobedience puts you on the same side of the fence as Satan. That’s what made the devil the devil, was his rebellion against the will of God. And before long, Saul, who had disobeyed the Lord, was consorting with a witch, if you know your Bible.

Secondly, disobedience is not only like witchcraft, but it’s also iniquity. Disobedience is a clenched fist in the face of God. It is saying, “God, not Your will, but mine be done.” Now it may be a small thing, but disobedience over a small thing is not a small thing because disobedience is a big thing, even if the thing is a small thing that you’re disobeying.

There may be some small thing in your heart and in your life that God is prompting you to do, but if you’re disobeying God, I mean, if you’re defying God over that small thing, that small thing becomes a big thing. God says it is witchcraft. God says that it is iniquity.

Then God says it is idolatry. Idolatry. Why could it be idolatry? Well, what is an idol? Anything you love more, serve more, fear more, honor more than God is an idol, and if God wants you to do something and you don’t do it, it’s because you’ve put something else before God. Think about what disobedience is. It is witchcraft. It is iniquity. It is idolatry.

cross-mountain-clouds.jpgSecondly, obedience is a debt to be paid. Now what do I mean by that? I mean, Jesus has done so much for us. In this passage of Scripture, notice what he says as he’s giving his rationale for obeying. He says here, ah, in verse 29: “…We ought to obey God rather than men…” And then he explains it. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted, ah, with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, and to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Think of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He suffered, bled, and died upon that cross. Look at Calvary, bloody Calvary, and then tell me if you have a right to disobey. No, it is a duty to be performed. It is a debt to be paid.

Next, obedience is a delight to be preferred. Don’t get the idea that the will of God is something you have to do. God’s not going to force it on you. It is something you get to do. And when you learn to obey, then you’re going to learn the joy that everybody is talking about in the Christian life. There’s no such thing as a happy, disobedient Christian. It is a contradiction in terms.

In Acts 5:41 we read: “Then they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” I am telling you that obedience and rejoicing come together. It is a lie out of hell that doing the will of God is painful and makes you miserable.

Now, the reason that some of us don’t obey the Lord and understand there’s joy in obeying the Lord, is we don’t trust the Lord and we have difficulty taking commands from a stranger that we don’t know. When you get to know the Lord Jesus Christ and you will learn that His commands are not grievous.

Last, obedience is a decision to be practiced. You must decide to obey. God will allow you to disobey. Have you ever heard anybody say, “Oh well, God’s will be done. Everything is God’s will. Just praise God. If God wants it to happen, it will happen. If God doesn’t want it to happen, He won’t let it happen.” However, God’s will is not always done.

There are some people who say that, that God’s will is always done in everything. God’s will is not always done. If God’s will is always done, why did Jesus teach us to pray, “…thy kingdom come, thy will be done?” No, there are a lot of things that are not the will of God, and God will allow you to disobey Him. This reality does not diminish God’s sovereignty at all. God gives men and women the power to rebel against Him without diminishing God’s sovereignty. God has given man or a woman a choice. You can choose to obey, or you can choose not to obey.

There are a lot of people stumble over this truth. They wonder why the world is in a mess that it is. They say, “Well, if God is all powerful, why doesn’t God just, do away with evil and suffering? Well, if He doesn’t do away with evil and suffering, maybe He’s not all powerful.” Or they say, “Well, if He is all powerful and doesn’t do away with it, maybe He’s not all loving.” No, God is all-powerful, and God is all loving, but God has given people a choice. God has given us a choice. We can choose to obey, or we can choose to disobey.

Now some people say, “Well, God can do anything.” That’s not true, that’s not true. There are some things that God cannot do. If I were to ask, is there anything God cannot do, and you’d say nothing, you’d be wrong. Let me tell you some things that God cannot do. Let me give you some things that God can’t do. I’ll give you six things that God can’t do.

First, because God is omnipotent God can’t fail. God cannot fail. Ephesians 1:11 says, “…who works all things after the counsel of his own will.” It’s impossible for God to fail.

Second, God cannot do evil. Titus 1:2: “In hope of eternal life, which God, which cannot lie, promised before the world began.” God cannot lie. God cannot steal. God cannot do evil because He’s a holy God.

Third, God cannot be tempted. James 1:13-14: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil…” God can’t be tempted. You say, “I thought Jesus was tempted.” Jesus was tempted in His humanity. He was not tempted in His essence as Almighty God. God cannot be tempted.

Fourth, God cannot deny Himself. Second Timothy 2:13: “If we believe not, he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.”

Fifth, God cannot be unjust. That’s the reason for the cross. Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the justifier of Him that believeth in Jesus.” There, there’s some things impossible for God to do. It is impossible for God to forgive sin without a sacrifice. The reason that Jesus died on the cross is that He might be both just and the justifier. Do you remember what Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed? “Father, if it be possible, let this cup po, pass from me.” But the silence from heaven said, “No, that is impossible. That is impossible.” Had there been some other way than the cross, God surely would have taken it before He allowed His Holy Son to die upon the cross.

Last, God cannot force loving obedience. God cannot make you love Him because it is a contradiction in terms. Forced love is not love at all. God cannot force somebody to receive a gift. God will not force you to obey Him. That doesn’t mean that God loses His sovereignty. That simply means that there are certain things by God’s very nature that God cannot do. God cannot do them not because He is limited in power. It is that He cannot do them because of His very nature.

Now, you cannot obey Him unless He enables you to obey Him. We love Him because He first loved us. And it is God that works in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Obedience to God is like breathing. Is breathing a gift of God? Well, you’d better believe it is because God gives you lungs and God gives you air, but you can smother if you want.

Obedience is a gift of God in the sense that God gives you the will, God works in you, but there comes a decision, and God is not going to force you to obey Him. We are not to shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, if God wants it to happen, it’ll happen.” No! There is a decision to be practiced. You must say, “I will obey Him.” And these are the compelling reasons for obedience.

We Need To Recognize The Requirements Of Obedience

What are the requirements for obeying God? I want to mention some of them so we can really obey God.

Our obedience is to be perspective obedience. How can you obey God if you don’t know what it is that God wants you to do? Now these apostles had had a command from God. In Acts 5:17-19 we read, “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. [but watch verse 19]. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to all the people all the words of this life.” They were told what to do. Go do it.

Now the reason they were doing it is because they’d been told to do it. All true obedience is informed obedience. You must hear from God in order to obey God. Now just don’t go out doing things just because you want to do them and think you’re living the Christian life. What God doesn’t initiate God doesn’t appreciate. God is going to tell you what to do. And God has never promised to bless any endeavor that He has not commanded.

In the context of perspective obedience, there is to purposeful obedience. Doing right is not merely abstaining from doing wrong. It is obvious that these apostles wanted to know the will of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You say, “Well, it’s not my fault. I don’t know what God wants me to do.” Well, it just may be your fault. We read in Proverbs 8:32, “Now, therefore, hearken unto me, O ye children; for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” Are you hearing God? Are you reporting for duty?

We need perspective obedience, purposeful obedience but also prompt obedience. The Apostles were being told, “Listen, we told you not to preach or teach in His name.” Let’s just look at it again in verse 28: “…Did we not straightly command you that ye should not teach in his name? And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted….”

The Apostles were told not to preach but promptly, they kept on preaching. They don’t wait but keep on doing what they were commanded to do. Procrastination is a form of disobedience. Be swift, my soul, to answer Him. Be jubilant my feet. The best time to do the will of God is when you are aware that God wants it done.

Understanding can wait; obedience cannot. In Psalm 119:60 we read, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” Ours is not to reason why, ours is not to make reply, ours is but to do or die. When God puts a period, don’t you put a question mark.

We must also have persistent obedience. I mean no matter what it cost. You cannot compromise with obedience. Now these apostles knew that to obey could mean death. In Acts 5:33, we read, “When the authorities heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.” They were preaching with a cloud of a death sentence over their heads. Inflexible obedience – no matter what.

Selective obedience is not obedience. A man was bragging about his dog. He was asked, “What kind of a dog is it?” He said, “Oh, it’s a very smart dog, very trained.” He said, “Well, show me what he can do.” He said, “Well, when I go somewhere, and I say to the dog, ‘Are you coming with me or not?’ and either he does, or he doesn’t. Very smart dog.” Now, that’s the way a lot of Christians are. We kind of decide what we want to do, and selective obedience is not obedience at all.

We Will Receive The Rewards Of Obedience

Remember, trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. There are several rewards to be given to us when we obey.

First, the Spirit will be received. In Acts 5:32 we read, “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”

Do you want spiritual power in your life? God is not going to give spiritual power to rebels. Why should God release the anointing power of the Holy Spirit upon your life when you’re not living in obedience? God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. The Holy Spirit is there to get His work done. God cannot trust some people with spiritual power.

You will never know the release of the Spirit until you know the restraint of the Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit to those that obey Him.

Imagine a man who pushes an automobile into a full-service gas station. The fenders are flopping, the tires are flat, the gas tank has a hole in it and the headlights are broken. A gentleman comes out and says, “What can I do for you?” He says, “Well, fill her up.” He says, “What for?” What good would it do? Imagine a man who says, “Oh, God, fill me with the Holy Spirit.” God says, “What for? Why should I give the Holy Spirit to you?” God gives the Holy Spirit to those that obey Him. If you don’t have power in your life, I’m going to tell you, it’s because you’re living in disobedience.

In addition to the Spirit being received; the joy will be achieved. In Acts 5:41, we read, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” We will be joyful Christians when we obey the Lord. Disobedient Christians are not joyful Christians. I see a lot of folks look like the picture on their driver’s license. We need some joyful Christians. When we obey, the Spirit is received. When we obey, joy is achieved!

Next, the gospel will be believed. In Acts 5:42, we read, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Has God given us a command to share Jesus Christ? Yes! What is the alternative to obeying Him? It is disobedience. What is the result of disobedience? Is no spiritual power and there’s no joy in our lives? God has given us a command to do it.

Will God bless your obedience, will God give you the Holy Spirit and bless what you’re doing? In Acts 6, we read, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied….” When we obey Him, the Spirit is received, joy is achieved, and the gospel is believed.

God has called us to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. No matter what else you’re doing, if you are not sharing the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re not an obedient Christian. I don’t care how faithfully you attend. I don’t care how eloquently you teach. I don’t care how beautifully you sing. I don’t care how generously you give. I don’t care how scrupulously you live. If you’re not sharing Jesus Christ, you’re living in disobedience, and you are guilty of high treason against Heaven’s King. We are not all called to be preachers, but we can all be reachers. God wants your church to share Jesus Christ in your community.

Has God been speaking to you? Is God telling you to do something? Remember that procrastination is a sin. Is God telling you to give something? Then do it. Is there somebody that you need to make restitution with? Somebody you need to go to and say, “I’m sorry.” Has God been laying something on your heart, some restitution you need to make, somebody that you need to ask forgiveness? Is there some deed of kindness that you know you’re supposed to do? Why don’t you do it?

Is there some point in your life where, where you are disobeying God? Remember that disobedience is as witchcraft. Disobedience is as iniquity. Disobedience is as idolatry. Don’t stonewall God. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

There was father and a son who were living together. The mother had gone to heaven. It was a winter night. The father and the son were settled down. The fire in the fireplace was burning out and the father said to his son, who was a grown boy, “Son, would you put another piece of wood on the fire? Go outside and get a log and put it on the fire.” The son said, “Dad, I, I’m busy, I’m doing something. I don’t want to do it.”

The dad said, “Son, listen. I’m your father. You’re living here under my roof. You’re supposed to respect and obey me. Son, I’m asking you to put another piece of wood on the fire.” The boy said, “No, I’m not going to do it, I’m not going to do it.”

He said, “All right. Now, son, this time I’m telling you to do it. Put another piece of wood on the fire, and if you cannot obey me, you cannot live under this roof.” The boy said, “Is that the way it is? Well, all right, then I will not live under this roof. Goodbye.” The young man walked out and slammed the door, went out into the cold, and left his father’s house because he would not put another piece of wood on the fire.

He stayed gone for months and began thinking about the entire incident. I am a fool, a sheer fool. My father loves me. He would do anything for me. He asked me to do a small thing, and in my pride and arrogance, I said no, and I turned my back on my own father. I have defied my father. I wonder if my father would ever forgive me.

He went back home, knocked on the door. When his father saw him there, tears burst into son’s eyes. And he said, “Dad, I was such a fool. I was so full of arrogance and pride and selfishness and self-will. Daddy, I am so sorry for talking that way to you. Could you find it in your heart to forgive me and receive me back into the house?” The dad reached out, like any dad would do, hugged him, kissed his neck, embraced him, and said, “My son, oh, my son, welcome home.” And then he said, “Son, before you sit down, put another piece of wood on the fire.”

There is no statute of limitations when it comes to obeying God. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.