Our Unstoppable God

The Power Of God Makes Him An Unstoppable Force For All That Believe

Ross Sawyers
Apr 10, 2022    52m
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If you believe that Jesus is our Savior, though you may face trials and persecution, the power of God of your unstoppable God will flow through you, and you can boldly share the good news of the salvation that came through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to a culture that is increasingly opposed to what we believe. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: [00:00:04] Brian Barcelona of One Voice Student Missions, during a decade before 2020, was leading Jesus Clubs in Los Angeles Area high schools. God gave him incredible favor, there are a number of students over the years, high school students, that were coming to faith in Jesus Christ. And he had favor with the schools and being in the public schools, and then in 2020 the pandemic hit, the school shut down, and that shut down those Jesus clubs as well.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:41] He is praying and trying to figure out what does God want them to do, and he sensed that they were to move to Dallas, so they moved to Dallas. And once they arrived in Dallas, then they just digitally started doing what they had been doing live on those high school campuses. And they started, they had 38 of them, that started doing preaching type videos on TikTok, they have a combined 10.7 million followers now that are listening to their messages about Christ, this is a really positive use of a social media platform. They've now started Zoom groups to disciple the students that they're leading to Christ through their platform on Tik Tok. And as a result of all this, now they're training students, since we're on the other side of things, it seems, now they're training students to start these Jesus clubs all over the country, so God has actually expanded what they're doing from what was happening in LA.

Ross Sawyers: [00:01:50] And I share that because it seems like there are so many different ways that it seems that the movement of God can get stopped, that the message of Christ gets stopped, and what we see, again and again, is there is no barrier that can stop God, he really is an unstoppable God. If you'll turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 5, I want to anchor that today in verses 33 through 42. But we want to just think about that big idea, and that characteristic, of who God is. This will wrap up this section of the Book of Acts, Easter we'll have a little different run, and then for a few weeks we'll move somewhere else for a bit, and we'll come back to the Book of Acts in the summertime. We will hang out in Acts for quite a while to move through it systematically and carefully, and then we'll have different breaks along the way where we'll pause and look at other things that perhaps are happening in our culture or other places in God's word, but this brings us to a close.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:56] We've been thinking about bold faith, and I really believe that bold faith will be bolstered when we really believe and remind ourselves that God is an unstoppable God. We anchor ourselves in the character of God and who he is, and that enables us to walk freely and boldly in the faith that he's given us. There are three things I'd like us to think about in these verses, just something to hang our hat on. And when I do outlines, and praying through the Scripture, I'm trying to look for ways that we can just kind of hang our hat on particular Scriptures. There'd be different ways to unpack it, this would be the way this week, as I was praying, that God unfolded it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:40] And the first thing that I would say, in verse 33, that cannot stop God is anger. The anger of people cannot stop God. Now, we live in a culture where anger is either simmering or it's sitting a little bit under the surface, and so often it is boiling above the surface. Anger is a major issue in our culture, and yet we find here that in people who are angry, there are all kinds of anger. And then there are people that are angry towards those who are following Jesus and actually believe the things that Jesus says, and that's what happens here in verse 33, we see these people get really angry at the message of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:31] Verse 33, But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. Now, this is a bit of an odd starting spot because that really makes no sense, we don't know who the they is, and we don't know who the them is, and so let me just back us up a moment of what's been going on here. Peter and John are followers of Jesus, they're speaking the name of Jesus, the other disciples are doing the same, they've been told to quit, that they don't need to talk about Jesus anymore it's disrupting things, and so they're told to quit by the Sanhedrin, by the ruling party for the Jewish people. Culturally, in that day, Rome was the ruling government, but the Jewish people had the Sanhedrin which governed them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:23] And the Sanhedrin consisted of Pharisees and Sadducees, two different groups of people, the Sadducees were the majority party, if you will, for the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees were the minority party for the Sanhedrin, I think we can connect with that. And that's important in just a moment as to how this unfolds. The Pharisees, they actually believed the Messiah was coming, they believed there would be a resurrection of that Messiah, they believed in angels, and they believed in the afterlife. The Sadducees, however, did not believe in angels, did not believe in the afterlife, and did not believe in the resurrection. So we have these two groups of people that are the ruling party, that have some differing ideas about the faith and how it's going to unfold. So that is the they, and they're upset with the them, the disciples, who are talking about Jesus as the Messiah and as the Savior. And it's upsetting to them because thousands of people now are starting to follow Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:33] Now, a few years ago I read a book by Andy Stanley called Enemies of the Heart. And I actually did a four-part sermon series with our church, and I owned it, I said I am taking this from Andy Stanley out of his book, it's just so well done. I've rarely done that, but I just loved what he did with the root things that are enemies of the heart, and here are the four he identified, guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. And what was insightful to me, what Andy Stanley did, is he talked about the root of each of those. Why guilt? Why anger? Why jealousy? Why greed? And underneath guilt, he would say, is the idea that I owe you. And the reason that I'm doing certain things, I feel guilty because I feel like I owe you for something I did to you, that's underneath guilt. Underneath jealousy is that God owes me, I don't have everything that I want, I'm not content with what I have, I believe God has ripped me off, and so I'm jealous of others who have what I want. So I believe there that God owes me, is what I'm saying. And then with greed, I'm saying I owe me. Now, I deserve this, I see this, I want this, I owe myself this. But underneath anger is that you owe me, the reason we get angry or frustrated is because we believe that you owe me something. And frustration is simply a softer way to say we're angry, we would rather say we're frustrated people than we're angry people, it just sounds a little better, but you owe me.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:33] Now, why were the Sanhedrin angry with them? Because it says they were cut to the quick. That word cut to the quick means, that their hearts were figuratively sawn two. They were enraged, they were furious, they had mental anguish over this, they were mad that these guys were not following them, they were mad that the message of Jesus was going out and people were following that message of Jesus. So they believed that the disciples owed them loyalty to their system, their power, and their ways of doing religion. And because these early followers of Jesus were not adhering to their system, their structure, their power, then they were infuriated by that. That's what's going on here.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:29] Now, there are two kinds of anger, maybe people divide it further. But there's a righteous anger, and a righteous anger is when I'm mad for the sake of God's name. And we really want to be careful to check our spirits, to make sure there's a purity when we say we have a righteous anger. Am I really upset and angry because God's name is being profaned somehow, or is it because something's being taken away from me, and that's more why I'm angry? So there is that righteous anger, but what we know is that the kind of anger here is not the kind of anger that comes from love, because Paul writes in First Corinthians 13, that love is not provoked to anger, so this isn't a response of love. The Sanhedrin heard this, they were cut to the quick angry, and they were so angry that they wanted to kill them, that's the response here.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:40] Now, the Gospel is laid out very clearly, the message in verses 30 through 32 of what they've been saying. And the Gospel, sometimes we hear that word, and it goes past this a little bit, the word gospel means good news, and they're just giving good news. The good news is that Jesus died, he actually was very direct with them and said, you hanged him on a cross, and then God raised him from the dead so that he could be your Savior, and the way you respond to that is with repentance. There's a way to respond to it, and that's to repent. We find in Acts chapter 2 verse 37 the same phrase of being cut to the quick or pierced in the heart, and that time, though, they're pierced in such a way that they're driven to remorse over their sin. You have a totally different reaction here, they're mad about the message of Jesus and people talking about it. In Acts 2, they hear it, and their hearts are broken over it, and they're remorseful for their sin against God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:48] Now it's interesting we read Scripture, that the response to Jesus for the Jew, he's a stumbling block. He's a stumbling block because the Old Testament says that to be hung on a tree is a curse, and they could not believe that the Messiah would be cursed and hanging on a tree. The reality is, that he was hanging on a tree to take the curse off of us. But the other reaction is from non-Jews, who see the cross as foolish. And that's probably the majority of what people see that it's foolishness. But Paul says, to those who believe, it's the power of God for salvation, it's actually where freedom comes is in that salvation that comes from him. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you'll be saved. For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness; with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation. That's the good news, this is something to be believed.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:53] A guy sent me this the other day, I thought it was a good way to frame it. Every other world religion is action-based, it's check a box, here are the five things you do, and here are the things you need to do, and if you do these things, then maybe it'll end up good for you in the end. Christianity's totally different, it's not action-based, it's grace-based. It's not do something and get this, it's receive something, it's believe something, I'm believing that Jesus did this. It is why people have such a problem because what our tendency and our pride is, we want to make things right. And the cross cuts at our pride because what it says is we can't make it right, we're actually dependent on somebody else to do it for us on our behalf. And that's what Christ did, he did it for us on our behalf by taking on our sin, and curse, and all the condemnation that goes with it. It's grace, we receive it, and then when we receive grace, then we become action oriented. But it's an action that's driven by a love for Christ, out of a gratitude for him, rather than checking boxes to somehow earn my way to him, that's a radical difference. That's the message they were bringing, a message of grace that comes through Jesus Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:30] If you love golf, this weekend is like the premier weekend of the year, with the Master's Tournament. I've seen all morning long, a number of people with their shirts with the Master's logo on them. Scottie Scheffler right now is in the lead, he's three up on the leaderboard. In an interview not too long ago, Scottie Scheffler talked about his identity is not found in golf, his identity is found in who he is in Christ. I love the boldness of people in our culture today that speak so clearly about who they are in Christ, golf's not his identity, Christ is his identity.

Ross Sawyers: [00:15:15] If you're a basketball fan, last week is one of the best basketball weekends for college basketball, the Final Four. North Carolina made it to Monday night, to the final game and they lost, unfortunately, in historic fashion. And after the game, Hubert Davis, the coach from North Carolina, just a class act. Why is he such a class act, even in defeat? When he was giving his introductory press conference a year ago to become the coach of North Carolina, this is what he said, "Faith is the most important thing to me. My faith and foundation is firmly in my relationship with Jesus, it just is." he said. "This is where my faith is, this is where my foundation is, it's not a faith with another object, it's a faith where Jesus is the object of my faith, what will you do with Jesus?" Hubert Davis, following Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:14] I love it when we have public figures. I pray on Tuesdays, I just kind of for my own discipline, I pray for different categories, different days, the scriptures that I'm in. And on Tuesdays, I pray for the influencers in our culture, for people in sports, the media, social media, the arts, people in big tech, corporations, government, local, state, and national, and my prayer is that God will raise up people that'll be firm in their relationship with Jesus. And I love it when I come across stories of people who are influencers that are firm in who Jesus is in them, we can be encouraged today by them, and they are not worried about the anger of other people and their response to it. You see, today we live in a day where the culture is way more hostile to our faith than it's ever been in our particular context, but God is unstoppable, and anger will not stop him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:17:15] There's a second part of this, as it unfolds, and I would call it wise counsel. And when we teach Bible study, we've been teaching a method of Bible study that all of us should be able to do, it's called the Discovery Bible Study Method, and it's asking some questions for when we go to a part of Scripture. What does it say? What does it say about God? What does it say about people? What does it say about what I'm to do? What does it say about who I pass this on to? And we really want to flow in that order, because I think our tendency might be to go to Scripture and say, what does this say to me? What is my application of this today? Well, this is actually God's story first, not our story, so we want to ask, and that's what we do each week, what does the scripture say then, what does it say about God? And once we know what it says about God, then we say, what does it say about people? And once we know what it says about people, what's our response to that, does God have something for me to obey? And does He have something for me to pass on, just out of a love for him, motivated by his love?

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:15] And when we unfold this, what I see when we say, what does it say about God? I see the sovereignty of God all over this because this is an unlikely person that is about to help continue the movement of God. And God is sovereign, he works through people that are his own children, and he works through people who are not, he works through religious people, and he works through irreligious people, and he works through those who are his own, those are different categories.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:48] Verse 34, "But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time." Now, at the outset, I gave you the difference between a Pharisee and a Sadducee. So now we're in this council, the Sanhedrin, here's a Pharisee, Gamaliel, he's in the minority party. And yet, he's a teacher of the law, meaning he's well studied, he understands the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, he understands the Scriptures that they had in that day. He's respected by all the people, there's something about him in his character, he's respected, he has the value of those who are around him, of all the people, all different kinds of people, he spans the the the respect of a variety of different stances and viewpoints. He stood up in the Council and he gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And so here's Gamaliel, he is this respected man, well thought of. We also know he's the grandson of a man named Hillel, and Hillel was influential in the Pharisee's school of thought, he had a particular school of thought. And you're seeing this influence flow down from the grandfather to the dad, now to Gamaliel the grandson, in this respected position.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:17] The other way we know Gamaliel is from Acts 22:3, and he was actually the mentor for a man named Saul. Saul was a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, he was zealous for God and for the law, but a persecutor of those following Jesus until he was encountered by God in a dramatic way, and then later, his name would be changed to Paul, a follower of Jesus. Now here Gamaliel is making a move that seems to free up the disciples to go and continue taking the message of Christ. At the same time, his star pupil Saul would be a heavy persecutor of the way, even being behind the killing of early followers of Jesus. So God took this man, Gamaliel, to actually give wise counsel to the council. Verse 35, "And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men." He's the voice of reason, he's the restraint, he's the calm one in the room that said, hold it, let's get these guys out of the room, let's talk for a little bit before we kill them. It might be good if we just take a pause here and kind of regroup, let the anger subside, we know good decisions are seldom made out of anger, and so he brings it back.

Ross Sawyers: [00:21:51] In Proverbs 15:1, I think he's a good example of that, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger." So here's Gamaliel, a voice of reason. Gentleness, by the way, is not weakness. Gentleness, in its very definition, is strength under control. There's the ability to do beyond that, but the strength is under control. Gamaliel is under control while the others are not. He cites two examples of the point he wants to make, “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing." So there was a man named Theudas, that was a common name in that day, there were a number of insurrections and movements that would rise up. We're not unfamiliar with that, someone gets a quick following, and they start to kind of bring their version of what a revolution is. And in this particular case, it gets squashed, and then the followers disperse, it scatters, and the movement doesn't continue. In verse 37, he says another example, “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered." So both examples of movements that were started by humans, they started this movement, they gathered a following, they tried to get it going, but it ends up getting crushed, and as a result, the followers don't keep it going, they scatter.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:33] So he cites those two examples to say this, in verse 38, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown." People who study this well on Gamaliel, they're not really sure what his motives are. It could be that he's just fearful of the crowd. It could be that as a Pharisee, he's just trying to one-up the Sadducees a little bit. There are a number of things that could be going on here, but regardless of his motive, God is using this so that the message will continue on. And he says, look, if this is of people, let's just watch it for a little bit and see if it fades out. Because we can point to all these different cases, these are just two of many, where it fades away. Just kind of don't get all up in arms about it, let it go. In verse 39, he says, "But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Most of the New Testament is written in Greek, and in this case, this is a clause. And the strength of this clause in the Greek is such, that really what Gamaliel is saying, is he actually is leaning towards the thought that this might be of God. So he's giving them a choice, this could be a human movement, or it could be of God, but it seems he's leaning towards that this is more of God, and we don't want to find ourselves in a position of fighting against God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:29] Now, this last week, I've been hanging out in Joshua, just in my own personal time with the Lord. And with Joshua, he's the one that God used to bring the people of Israel, after they had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, he brings them across the Jordan River into the land that God had promised them, and Joshua leads a conquest throughout the land to get that which God has given them. In chapter 5 of Joshua, there are Amorite kings who were in that area, and they heard what was happening and they knew this was of God, and the Scripture says they lost heart and their courage failed them. They knew this fight was against God, it wasn't against human armies.

Ross Sawyers: [00:26:18] In Chapter 9, though, some of the kings in the area, they formed an alliance. That is what we do and we're afraid, we start forming alliances, to see if we can get some strength. And so they formed alliances to fight against Joshua and Israel. In Chapter 10, we see the Lord coming to Joshua and he tells him not to be afraid. Now, I've never counted this, I don't know who sits and counts these things, but it seems consistent, but there are 365 times in Scripture where God says, don't be afraid. Why do you think that he tells us so many times not to be afraid? Because we're afraid. And he says to Joshua, don't be afraid, I've handed them over to you, not one of them will be able to stand against you, not one. Man, you can go with confidence when you know God's unstoppable, and that you're in his design, and that this is his plan. So don't be afraid, God's fighting for you, not against you. You don't want to be fighting against God. And do you know how God did it this time? He threw that alliance of armies into confusion. It's what a number of us have prayer would happen in Russia. That the Russian army would be thrown into confusion, and there have been multiple times where we've seen that happen. But God did something different in Joshua 10, and it says he threw large hailstones on this alliance of people. And then something supernatural occurred as well, it says, the sun stood still, and the moon stopped so that they could finish the battle that God was fighting for them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:28:33] Now I know that's hard for people to believe oftentimes, is the supernatural that we read in the Scripture, it unfolds on multiple pages, so it's a challenge if we don't believe the supernatural. But God is a supernatural God, he's the God that created everything, and when he created, he created with natural laws. Every time science makes a discovery about a natural law in the universe, God is the one who set that law in place, science and God do not have to be in conflict with one another. When they come in conflict is when we make science God, but actually, the Bible answers the question who and why? Who created, and why we're here. Science is incredibly helpful because we discover when and where and how, all kinds of different things, but answers different questions, it's actually complementary, it doesn't have to be a fight against each other, but it becomes a fight if we can't acknowledge that God is the who. So God created, he created the natural laws that govern the universe, and then God is supernatural, and there are times that he supersedes the natural to accomplish his purposes, and he does the supernatural. And this is one of those times, where the sun stood still and the moon stopped, the Lord fought for Israel.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:59] And the beauty of what happened here in this particular situation that we're reading in Acts, is verse 40, they listened to his advice, they took his advice. It's good to listen to wise counsel, and they listen to it. Now we do want to be careful because Gamaliel’s logic is not always how it plays out, it's the logic he used in this case. But we know that there are evil movements, dark movements, things that are not of God, that actually last for decades and centuries. We also know that there are good things that get squashed. But what we know is that in God's timeline, which he's outside of time, in God's timeline, he will triumph overall, we know that, he's an unstoppable God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:57] In Christ, we can, like Gamaliel, be well studied. Like Gamaliel, we can have strong character. Like Gamaliel, we can be the voice of restraint in different settings where we find ourselves. Christ is our wisdom, and when we hear, then we can respond in a way that's wise when we know God's ways. The Bible can be an intimidating thing to people, and there have been people over the years I know that won't get into the small group community where people are studying the Bible, because they don't know the Bible and it's intimidating to walk into a setting where it seems everybody knows the Bible. Now, oftentimes people don't know it as well as we might think they do, but it seems like it, and so I totally understand that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:43] One of the things that really excited me this week, is we started a class called Understanding the Bible and 60 people showed up on Tuesday night for that class. It's a six-week one, and it's not too late to be a part of it. But what I love is, most of the people that came are not involved in the small group community at 121. And I think a lot of that is you don't understand the Bible, and by understanding it this way, then they'll be more comfortable getting in the small group community and having that kind of Bible study with other people. Years ago, someone said that to me, he said, do you have some one-on-one person I could meet with to help me understand the Bible before I go to a group? But the more we understand the Bible, I love that people are taking that step, the more we will actually know what wise counsel is according to what God says.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:33] There's another incident in Scripture where wise counsel was not listened to. In First Kings 12, Solomon had died, he was the third king of Israel, Rehoboam His son was now the king. Jeroboam, these names can get confusing. Jeroboam comes to Rehoboam with a group of people and says, hey, your dad's been pretty hard on everybody, is there any way you could remove some of the hardship from the people? And he said, let me seek counsel on that, so he was wise to do that as a young king. And he sought the counsel of Solomon's Elders, and they said, you know what, you would do well to serve the people, back off a little bit, speak kindly to them for a while, and they'll probably serve you forever. But I don't think Rehoboam liked the advice he received, so he went to people he grew up with and sought counsel from his own generation. And when he listened to that counsel, they said, no, make it harder on them, discipline them for even asking the question, and Rehoboam took that advice. And that's where the kingdom split, it was no longer a united monarchy, it became a divided monarchy. So when we listen to wise counsel, things tend to move well. When we reject wise counsel, it tends to not go so well.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:14] Well, the third piece here, when we think about an unstoppable God is persecution. Physical persecution is the case here in verse 40, "After calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them." This is the pattern of these guys, they keep bringing the disciples in, they listen to them talk about the message of Christ, and then they can't figure out what to really do with it. So for optic's sake and power's sake, they needed to make sure this time that they've flogged them, they've imprisoned them, and this time they flogged them. To be flogged means to take 39 lashings and the way they would have done it, more than likely, is they would have had the disciples get down on their knees, they would have had them bare-chested and bare-backed, and they would have had a calf whip that they'd whip them 39 times. And they would have it in such a way that the straps on that whip would catch both the chest and the back, and then they'd pull it off of them, many times people did not even survive the flogging, and yet the disciples in this particular time did survive it. And so they faced persecution physically because they were proclaiming the good message of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:36] And yet, in verse 41, this is how they responded. I find this to be the most incredible response, "So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." Now, this is an honor and shame culture, and they're rejoicing that they've been able to suffer shame for the sake and glory of God's name. They heard Jesus teach, a long time ago, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you, so they'll persecute you." They rejoiced. How do you rejoice after receiving 39 lashes for speaking the good news of Jesus?

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:59] Well in James chapter 1, he says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." So when you're in the middle of a trial, the heart's response, and attitude towards it is joy. And one thing I would encourage us today is to think not about a joy that comes when the trial is over, but a joy that happens in the middle of the trial. That's the kind of joy he's talking about, that for the sake of Jesus' name, that there is a deep joy in me when the persecution is happening, not when it's over. Certainly, we rejoice when it's over, but during. So when that's happening, we know that God has counted us worthy to suffer shame for the sake of His name and for the glory and honor of his name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:27] In Hebrews 12, this is Jesus, he said, "we're to fix our eyes on Jesus (verse 2) "The author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." So how do we have a joy, and not lose heart, when we're increasingly in a culture that's opposed to what we believe? We do it by reflecting on Jesus, who was treated with hostility by sinners against himself. We continue to remind ourselves of what happened to him, and that stirs our spirit to no longer grow weary or lose heart or be fearful or afraid, but instead to respond with deep joy. And that joy will come only as we abide and are united closely to Christ, it will be the joy of Christ that will flow through our hearts.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:41] There's been a long line of persecution all through the ages. In the first 300 years after Christ, the Roman emperors were horrific in the way that Christians were treated, churches were burned and Scriptures were confiscated, and those who are following Christ, many were tortured and killed for their faith. And yet, Tertullian, one of the early followers of Jesus, who's one of our church fathers, said this, They kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust, the more you mow us down, the more we grow. The seed is the blood of Christians." All over the world today, people are being severely persecuted for their faith, and the reports we continue to hear is how Christianity continues to spread and grow. With each persecution comes more strength, God is an unstoppable God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:45] I want to ask you this question, and I'm not sure the best way to ask it. I've been working through it, and I still don't know if it's the best way, but at least when to ask it. Not as a way to feel guilty, but as a way to sort through what we're saying today when we are talking about what the scriptures say? What does it say about God? What does it say about people? One thing it says about people is that people can be zealous, it's just a matter of what they're zealous about. But what do we do with this? When I look at Gamaliel, I wonder today how many people are more like Gamaliel. We might know Jesus; we might even be well studied and really know the word well. We might be people of good character, that people, they speak well of us, people at work speak well of us, people in the community speak well of us, we might have good character. We might be voices of reason that somebody actually wants us in the room when things are a bit chaotic because we can actually settle a room. But you can do all that, and not know Jesus, and not be persecuted. So I think a way I've tried to figure out, and kind of wrestled this with really with someone else this week is, are we positioning ourselves for safety, or are we positioning ourselves so that Christ goes out? And more than likely, if we position ourselves that way, there will be persecution today. That's good to surround ourselves with people who are followers of Christ, that needs to be our primary community. But if there's no persecution coming our way, I think it's fair to ask the question, have we just positioned ourselves where things are good, but I'm not going to quite take a next step where it might bring risk?

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:52] It's difficult to read the scriptures and see that we can move through this life and not be persecuted, or met with anger, by people that are hostile to a message. It doesn't have to be how we deliver it, I'm not saying we go and figure out what can I do to really irk this person so they'll be mad at me. No, it's just if I'm so filled with the teaching of Jesus that I speak about Jesus, and when I speak about Jesus, some people are just not going to like that. And we want to be wise, innocent as a dove, shrewd as a serpent. But these guys just couldn't help it, they just couldn't help talking about Jesus and they were okay with the consequences of that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:43] So I think it's a good question for us to ask, are we just, are we Gamaliel's? Good wise people but we really haven't gotten outside and really stepped into our faith in such a way that it costs us anything. I don't know what that looks like for me, I know sometimes people think, what do you want me to do, like on my zoom call, just break in and read Acts chapter 5 to everybody? Or do you want me to learn to be a preacher at my work or at my school? I don't know what it looks like for you, I know that as you abide in Christ, and you live in Christ, and Christ starts to flow through you, it will just happen.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:27] Well, what did these guys do? "They kept on, (In verse 42) every day in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." They just kept on doing it, they knew the consequences by now, but they just could not stop because God is an unstoppable God. There are all kinds of ways in our community to keep preaching Jesus, talking about Jesus with our friends and with the people we work with.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:00] Arnaldo Soto is our International Pastor. He's in the reserves, he's been deployed for a few months now to the border, and it's been hard in a number of ways, obviously being away, and yet good in a number of ways. And he's established a relationship with a church down on the border, and we have an opportunity May 4th through 7th to go and take a team from 121 to be a part of immigrants who have been through the process and they're seeking asylum in America, and the church there is the first face that these immigrants are meeting. So it's an opportunity to talk about Christ, that's the very first thing when someone crosses the border, is to be greeted by Christians filled with joy that are bold in speaking about Christ. There's room for a few people on that trip if you'd like to be a part of it, and then there are ways to be a part of it from a distance. When you leave today, there are things out in the lobby in ways to be a help, but it's a way to keep on preaching and teaching Jesus. That's just one way among many.

Ross Sawyers: [00:46:11] Well, a few months ago, probably about a year ago now, Brandon Smeltzer, who is a teacher and coach at Faith Christian School, he taught here. And I just thought that what he gave us that day was gold in talking with people, I've been using what he shared for the last year. But he talked about five questions, and I think these five questions, the way you answer them, are key to the way we continue to be like the early disciples, I want to be like those early disciples, I don't want to be like Gamaliel, I want to be like these disciples. So I thought, well, how, how do I do that? Well, I think these five questions are crucial.

Ross Sawyers: [00:46:54] I walked through this with a young Muslim man the other day, and just asked him and said, how would you answer these? And he answered them. And then I asked him, and I said, can I answer them back and just tell you how I would answer them? And it was a great dialog, we didn't see it the same, but it was just a clear layout of what we believe. And these are the questions, what are our origins? How do you explain our origins? What do you believe is the problem in the world? What do you believe is the solution to the problem? What do you believe is our purpose? And then what do you believe is our destiny? And the way we answer those questions reveals what our worldview is, the lens through which we look.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:33] And the way I answered the question is the way these disciples would answer the question, and I think this is crucial how we answer those questions, that the origins are that God created everything, everything started with God. In the beginning, God, He created the heavens and the earth. If you can believe Genesis 1:1, some people have said you ought to be able to believe the rest of it, if you can believe that God created all of it, there's no reason that it would be hard to believe the rest. In the beginning, God. So I believe God is the creator of all.

Ross Sawyers: [00:48:03] What's the problem with the world? I don't believe it's an economic problem, I don't believe it's an inflation problem, I don't believe it's a political problem, I don't believe it's a social imaginary problem, I don't believe it's an expressive individualism problem, there are all kinds of problems we can identify it as, but the core and root of the problem is a sin problem. That's the problem, and that's why there are all the other problems. And our hearts, that's the problem is sin in our human hearts. We inherit sin nature, and then we live that out unless something interrupts it. And the solution to the problem is, Jesus. Jesus crucified, Jesus risen, that's the solution to the problem, he's the one who can heal the human heart. And if I believe that, then I know what my purpose is. My purpose in life, then, is to live for the one who gave his life for me. It's to lift His name up and glorify His name, that's my purpose in life.

Ross Sawyers: [00:49:01] And then I know that my destiny is to be with Jesus for all eternity, and one day I'll die, and my spirit will go to be with God. And then, in the end, He's going to come back and he's going to set everything in such a way that there's a new heaven and a new earth, my spirit will be united with my body, and then I'm going to live not in eternal death and eternal separation from God, but instead an eternal life with God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:49:28] And if I believe that about those five questions, and that's rooted deeply in me, then that's my identity, I know whose I am, I know what my purpose is, and it doesn't matter how anybody else responds to it, because I have the God who is an unstoppable God who dwells in me. I'm His, I'm following him, and I'm all in on him. What about you, Gamaliel, or a follower of Jesus, which? And that's our question to consider. We have an unstoppable God; anger can't stop him. Wise counsel, he uses that along the way to keep it moving. Persecution won't stop him. It's a beautiful day, a beautiful week, when we think about the Christ who gives us the life we so desire.

Ross Sawyers: [00:50:18] Father, thank you for our time to be able to just ingest your word. And God, I pray that we would be like these early followers of Jesus, that our hearts would be cut to the quick and that we'd have remorse over our sins, that we'd not be mad about it, that we'd be remorseful over it. I pray, God, that we would be more than Gamaliel, that we would be wise people because we have the wisdom who is Jesus’ dwelling in us. And Father, I pray that we've not be fearful of persecution, but God, that we would speak Jesus freely and that you'd flow through us. And God, that when people respond poorly, that there would just be a joy in our hearts. And Father, I pray that more and more people will actually get exhausted being against you, and instead, God, like Saul did, that you would come to them and they would yield to you and God, that they would become totally transformed from the inside out. Thank you, Father, for letting us be a part of a church body that's on the move and following you. I love how many people, so many, that are following so hard after you, and God, would you just raise that more and more so that we can be in on the most freeing and joy filled life possible that's in Christ today. And I pray that in Jesus’ name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:51:45] If we could, let's be quiet before the Lord. I love these moments just to contemplate not just trying to get ready to get out of here, but what is that thing that God is saying to me today that He wants me to respond to, if anything? And then seal that and a prayer to him of submission and obedience.



Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051
817.488.1213