Sunday, December 11, 2011

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN


THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
 Acts 17:1-4                                                                                  

We are living at a time when wickedness is glorified. Corruption is deeply engraved in the hearts of our institutions and systems. Very few people seem to be willing to do anything to deal with the rot. Even Christians are not willing to do anything either to prevent corruption and all forms of the depravity of men or deal with it when it rears up its ugly head. After watching KTN’s ‘Jicho pevu’ and finding out how senior government officers have been involved in drug trafficking, murder and deception of the highest order in order to compromise and thwart justice, one could not help thinking that it is only revolution that can help Kenya. Revolution that is needed in Kenya, and indeed the whole world is of the hearts of people not political. There is a great need to overturn the world.
How may we turn the world upside down? Three essentials to turn the world upside down are Jesus the Christ, the gospel and faithful preachers of the gospel. Through the centuries, Christianity has been advancing throughout the world and this is what made it possible. There is still a lot of ground that we need to cover since the baton has been passed on to us. We are to commit ourselves to preach the gospel of Christ because as long as a person is without Christ his sinful, corrupt nature will keep on making the world a terrible place in which to live. So what are we to do? We are to do what the apostles did because as far as Thessalonica it was well known that, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also". They were unstoppable because they had God on their side, they had God’s power which is the gospel and the Holy Spirit had dynamited them, not to fear men who can only kill the body but not the soul. They had the zeal to declare and proclaim the gospel without fear. Yes… this is what we are to do:
1.      We are to proclaim Jesus Christ
The flow and extent of the apostolic preaching and particularly Paul’s preaching and arguing was to explain and prove that Jesus is the Christ. This is what he did and we should not do anything less than that. We are to expound on the Word of God pointing out from every Scripture that the Historical Jesus is the awaited Messiah, the Saviour of sinners. What are the things that we are to bring to the people about Christ? When we talk about Jesus as the Christ we are to prove:
That Jesus is the Messiah:This Jesus whom I preach unto you,” and in which you are to believe and have your sins forgiven “is the Christ." The Historical Jesus who was born in Bethlehem of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit in those days when Caesar Augustus was the Emperor of Roman Kingdom and Quirinius was governor of Syria. (Luke 2:1-3). Jesus raised up in Nazareth as a carpenter’s son, of the lineage of David who both David’s Son yet David’s Lord. Jesus is the anointed of the Lord the one who was to come and the One in which you are to look, for God has both by his Word and by His works showed to people beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus is His Son – the Lamb of God is the Saviour of sinners.
He is the One that the all the Old Testament Scriptures point. The Seed of the woman that God promised during the fall (Gen 3:15); the lamb that God killed to provide clothing for Adam and Eve, pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Noah’s ark and the rainbow were all reminders of God’s grace pointing to the ultimate remedy for sin – Jesus Christ whom we proclaim. He is the One that the sacrifices and the temple worship with its elaborate priesthood pointed to. Moreover, He is the One that the prophets wrote about. He was to come from the tribe of Judah through the lineage of David and He is the One who is to be proclaimed throughout the world in all generations – won’t you believe Him and be saved?
He is the only one chosen of God in the eternity to secure salvation for the elect. He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb 2:17). Won’t you ask Him for mercy that He may provide propitiation for your sins today? ‘O come to me,’ He has said and you keep on clinging to your sins?
Those of us who preach the gospel are to preach Christ Jesus only. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1Cor 2:2)  He must be our main subject. The most important business of preachers is to make people acquainted with Christ. We are to persuade men to lay hold of Christ by faith, to go to Him and plead that He may show them mercy and pardon for their sins. That which we are to preach concerning Jesus is that He is Christ; and therefore we may hope to be saved by him and are bound to be ruled by Him as our Lord. Those who are not saved are to go to Him without hesitation and ask for His mercy. They are not to waver in seeking rest from their sins since He has invited them to come to Him and He will give them rest
May I point out to you that whenever, the New Testament talks about Jesus, it is as the Lord or as the Christ because He is entitled to receive all these honors. Brethren let us learn to address Jesus as the Christ or as the Lord. I hear people pray and they say we ask in Jesus name and I shudder. Those who keep on saying in the name of Jesus in their prayers abuse the Name of our most precious Saviour.
Christ had to suffer, die and rise: The Necessity of the death of Christ - The Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah made it necessary He should suffer die and rise (1Cor. 15:3, 4). The great objection which the Jews made against Jesus being the Messiah was his humiliating death and sufferings. The cross of Christ was to the Jews a stumbling-block, because it did not in any way agree with the idea they had framed of the Messiah. However, Paul here charged and made it very obvious, that the same Jesus whom they subjected to the worst torture is the Messiah. He told them that though He suffered, because He had to, Jesus is the Messiah. He could not be made perfect except by sufferings for we read that “… it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering(Heb 2:10).
You realize that if He had not died, he could not have risen again from the dead. This was what Christ himself insisted upon in Luke_24:26, 46-47: and said to them, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"and again, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Clearly, Christ had to suffer for us because there is no other way He could purchase redemption for us. He also had to rise again because he could not otherwise apply the redemption to us.
What a high cost had the Messiah to pay to redeem us from sin and its corruption! What a High price that the Immortal had to die and be buried! Imagine the Creator being subjected to all the sufferings and just in order to purchase a people for Himself! He could have chosen to destroy us all and create some more!
This also serves to show how much we were lost in sin and perdition. There is nothing and no one else who could have saved us from the mire of sin and its depravity. Only the Holy One of God could stand tall on our behalf and pay the penalty and the ransom that we may be set free from the bondage of sin. We read that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved"(Act 4:12). My friends may I tell you that there is nothing, no one else who can deliver you from the condition of sin if not Christ – parents as much as they are willing they are not able. Your strength is nothing apart from Christ because He has expressly told us that apart from Him we can do nothing. Please do not be tempted to look in another direction as the Jews who received the letter of the Hebrews were. They had to be told that they were completely mistaken to think that animal sacrifices could. This is because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb 10:4).
Only Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all those who draw near to God through Him (Heb. 7:25). There is no question that just as there is one God, there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. This is because He is the only one who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1Tim. 2:5, 6).
2.      We are to reason and keep on explaining the Scriptures
On three consecutive Sabbaths, Paul and company brought to the people of Thessalonica the Word of God, the gospel. He continued to do this three Sabbath days successively. If he did not convince them the first Sabbath, he tried the second and the third. For precept must be laid upon precept, and line upon line. From this we see that God waits for sinners' conversion because He desires all men to be saved to come to the knowledge of the Living God. His servants who serve in bringing people to Him but likewise do. All the laborers did not come into the vineyard at the first hour, nor at the first call, nor is everyone struck at once like Paul or Lydia upon or the jailer. Others are, but for many more the conviction comes gradually.
Why did he always start with the Jews? They began with the Jews because they were acquainted with the Holy Scriptures and after all they were expecting the Messiah – these were the points of contact with them. After all, the command of the Lord is to begin with the house of Israel before proceeding to the Gentiles. It was always Paul’s manner to begin with the Jews, to make them the first offer of the gospel, and not to turn to the Gentiles till the Jews had refused it. By this their mouths would be stopped from clamoring against him because he preached to the Gentiles who usually received the gospel cheerfully and so they embraced the new converts. That command of beginning at Jerusalem was justly interpreted as a direction, wherever they came, to begin with the Jews.
When we have the opportunity whether in places of work, when we are to travelling or whatever place, let us always make use of it our first priority (rather than weather and politics) to share the gospel with those who say that they are Christians. It is easier because they know something. Remember that they are more sympathetic and you may agree on major issues. You will find that some of them are saved but have not fully grasped the gospel truth – and this is where you are needed to correct and bring them to truths of the Scripture. You will always find it easy to talk about miracles and giving as presented to them by many preachers today, where they are told to give to receive God’s blessing and they are told to send money by M-pesa to be healed or to get a job or be promoted etc. Use such opportunities to show them the gravity of sin and the willingness and ability of the Saviour to save even the very worst and this you must do by emphasizing the authority of Scriptures.
The preaching of the gospel should be both scriptural preaching and rational. We read that Paul reasoned out of the scriptures. He explained and proved facts and truths of the Bible about the Saviour. Our duty is to take the Scriptures for our foundation and touchstone. Then we are to reason out of them and upon them, and against those who twist them. We are to realize that the hearts of men are in the conditions that they are in because of their mindset. Although reason must not be set up in competition with the Scripture, but it must be made use of in explaining and applying the scripture.
We are to appeal to their consciences. As you know unbelievers live in the guilt of sin. They are struggling to understand what will happen to them when they die. We are to be very loving in telling them of their condition of sin as well as the danger in which they are if they remain the way they are. We are also to make them see that they are utterly helpless by themselves to do anything to save them. No one can come to Christ unless the Father by His Spirit draws them. Don’t even imagine that anyone is able to plead for mercy without the help of God.
Our reasoning is in vain without the Spirit working in their hearts to open them up. We are to share the gospel knowing that our part is to plant and leave for God to germinate and make it fruitful. Our concern is not the results because we cannot produce any. We do not read anywhere in the Bible of a preacher who called his hearers forward or to raise their hands if they wanted to be saved. It is for this reason that we do not call people forward to be saved. If you are there and you believe you want to be saved, this is what I will tell you, go by yourself and call on Christ to save you. Repent your sins very sincerely to Him. He is listening and He will save you. You really do not need a pastor to pray either for you or with you to be saved. All you need is to acknowledge and repent your sins before the Saviour – and He is omnipresent. He will hear you whether you are by yourself in your room or you are in a church building like this.
The SDAs have used this passage to show that the Christians met on the seventh day of the week like in the Judaism. But clearly Paul went to the Synagogues not churches! It only requires common sense to know that he went to the places where he could find people. We are to do everything possible to bring the Word of God when it is convenient to the people. If a SDA church called me to preach to them on a Saturday I would go! I would not do it to endorse their day of worship but to use the opportunity.
3.      We are to be faithful witnesses of Christ
Paul and Silas went on with his work, notwithstanding the manner they were ill-treated and manhandled at Philippi. They were faithful ambassadors of the Lord. Paul did not fail, nor was he discouraged so as to stop preaching the gospel. It is remarked that he preached the gospel almost everywhere he went (not so sure about Amphipolis and Apollonia) and was kicked out almost everywhere but he did not cease from declaring the whole counsel of God. When he was rejected in Thessalonica he went to Berea, when he was ejected from Berea He went to Athens etc. He reports this in his first letter to the church here (1Thess_2:2): After we were shamefully treated at Philippi, yet we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God. The opposition and persecution that he met with made him the more resolute. How much are we willing to give to the gospel?
If we are not willing to give anything, when it does not come with suffering, how much less we would be willing if it means being imprisoned or beaten or even killed? Yet the Lord says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Mat 5:10-11). Remember that “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,(Phil 1:29). It is only faithfulness to the Scriptures that is required of us and we leave salvation to the Lord. This is what He did to honour His Word.
We read that some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women (Acts 17:4). The word translated in ESV ‘persuaded’ in verse 4 may mean agree, assure, believe, confident, friend, obey, persuade, trust, urge, yield. This shows that they believed and were therefore saved. God blessed the preaching of these ministers of the gospel and so the church was began in Thessalonica. Those who are faithful to the Scriptures will have an harvest, not always, but the Lord will always honour His Word and give fruit to the preaching of the gospel. It might be after you are dead but the Lord will indeed bring it to fruition because His Word is powerful and active. Praise God that He is a willing and able Saviour of those who go to Him by faith.
They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to them by the will of God, (2Cor_8:5). They adhered to Paul and Silas, and followed them wherever they went. Those who believe in Jesus Christ come into close fellowship with his faithful ministers. The chief women of the city were Gentile proselytes who had abandoned their idolatry and immorality and had come to the knowledge of true and Living God as their God - Paul writes to them as having turned to God from idols (1Thess_1:9).
Praise the Lord that He has willed to turn the world upside down by His Son Jesus Christ, by the gospel and by faithful witnesses. Thank God for the means of salvation that He has chosen are effectual bringing sinful men to be saints and children of righteousness; transforming the sons of wrath and perdition to be His Sons and daughters who will be in fellowship with Him forever. Thank God that we can be used of Him and when we will prove faithful He will laud us with the most wonderful accolades of “well done my good and faithful servants welcome to dine with me!  May the Lord help us to be found faithful when the Master will come that we may go to enjoy the inheritance incorruptible and unblemished reserved in heaven for us who believe.

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