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The Church's Strength

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
October 10, 2022 2:00 am

The Church's Strength

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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October 10, 2022 2:00 am

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If you would turn in your Bibles with me I were to look at the book of acts chapter 4 Morgan be looking in verses 23 through 31. Hear God's word for us tonight when they were when they were released they went to their friends and reported with the chief priests and the elders had said to them when they heard that they lifted their voices together to God and said sovereign Lord who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them and who through the mouth of our father David, your servant said by the Holy Spirit. Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.

For truly, in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand in your plan had predestined to take place.

Now Lord look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal and signs and wonders are preferable performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus, when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Let's pray heavenly father we come to you tonight asking that your Holy Spirit teacher word Lord.

The words that we just read is your word and it is instruction to us on how we are to respond where we are to find our strength as the body of believers is the church is threats and persecution loom against us. Father, we thank you for this instruction. We ask that your Holy Spirit, make it real to us tonight, Lord God, take your word and drive it deep in our hearts and conform us more to the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and it's in his name we pray. Amen. You may be seated. To be in the night to look at these verses that the key will be to look at the context which of these verses are in. In that context is found in chapters 3 and four if we flip back through three and looked up through four to where were at what we would find is that Peter and John are going to the temple in chapter 3, at the hour of prayer, and as they are approaching the temple a lame beggar looks to them and asks to be given alms and it says that Peter met him with his eyes and said to him, silver or gold, I have nine but what I do have I give to you, arise and walk and at that moment the beggar stood and walked and entered into the temple with them at that healing. Peter then is in the. The porch of the portico of Solomon. It goes on and he is preaching the gospel to those in the portico of Solomon with now the blind. Third, the lame beggar who is healed as an authentication of this Jesus Christ to he is presenting to them as their only hope. So we have Peter healing that healing be and not being an authentication making what words he is speaking to the people. Now the gospel of true value because they see the truth in the power of the name and he preaches the gospel well to them to the point that they're believing there being save the Holy Spirit is working and we move into chapter 4 in the very first verse tells us in the chief priests and the temple guard and the Sadducees were annoyed when us to take a minute and think about that as we build up to this car build up to these verses.

They just see this lame beggar who's been begging at their gate, it says at the end when we get through that. He was 40 years of age, so it's not like he's new they see the result of what Peter did in the healing they see and hear his teaching and they are annoyed, annoyed to the point where they go forward and they arrest and they hold them overnight because it was already evening and they didn't question till the next morning. What happens then is the Sanhedrin gathers and they question them. And as you read the text. It's tremendous Peter again preaches now to the Sanhedrin who Jesus Christ is. He preaches the gospel to them and they become even more angered and so they come and they say and admonishment that they are no longer to speak in this name of Jesus Christ and Peter then responds back by saying if it's good to listen to your to listen to God. We must listen to God. So we will continue and then the Sanhedrin finishes by threatening them. That is the context we find our verses 23 through 31. Following what is really need is what we see is that from the very beginning of the New Testament church that there has been resistance to the message. There has been threats about that message. There has been persecution to the church from the very start of the church.

This is not new.

Whether it's the church in China or the look the church in what used to be the former Soviet bloc or even the church in Muslim countries. Or, as we have concerning the church in the West and the United States that may face stiffer persecution is not new. It is not something that we have to try to figure out what God teaches us how we are to respond. There are times especially in our culture that it seems to have been flow doesn't it. It seems like Christianity is well accepted in certain circles and in certain circles. Christianity is actually wanted but then we can turn to a different source or a different outlet and it is a damning talk about Christianity and how vulgar and file that religion is and what it is done to people's groups word or two to different sexes of the female role and how they've exploited that we see it Evan flow in our time and we get worried and we get concerned and especially around election time, we can get worried and concerned. But Jesus gave a warning glare back in John 15 and he said this, verses 18 through 21.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

But all these things they will do onto you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me understand that as we face these difficult times. Whether it's here or at the church abroad in China in Muslim countries. What we need to do is know how to respond how God calls us to respond how God calls us to respond so that he strengthens us even more so that we can be a light of the gospel into the world that we live. I'm sorry I'm driving on I don't know why the first things that that I see when I look at this is the questions the pop into our mind, especially when we face a threat or a concern about being persecuted. What is our response to be is it that we should go into hiding. Should we get as far away from the threat as possible hide from them so they can't get to us.

Should we complain about and just continually griped our concerns to one another.

How can this be, it's wrong. We have no reason to be suffering through this and just complain constantly. Should we plan should we plan how to fight it within the culture using the cultural tools that are available to us. I don't see any of that. So my answer would be no in verses 23 through 31 we see revealed the proper response and weight in these verses we see how God works to strengthen his church, his people in response to these threats in this very real persecution that this particular group is facing at this time.

This is in a distant threat this is and if the wrong thing goes it election day, or if the countries different style of thinking brought a bottle water.

It isn't something that could possibly occur. Peter and John were just before the Sanhedrin and they were told in no unspecified ambiguous terms. You are not to preach Jesus Christ, you are not to preach in that name and if you continue in that name.

These things are going occur. We don't know what these things were, but it says that threats were made.

So what I want us to do tonight is look at our text and see how God helps us as we respond appropriately to those threats.

When we look at the text.

I believe to specific actions jump out right away.

So in a look at those as our two points .1 will be that of proper assembly and report brings strength and .2 will be at that a proper prayer brings strength so turning first to this first point, let's look back in verse 23 and what do we read when they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them, if you have the ESV it is. Went to their friends. If you have an NIV Bible. The NIV says it. They went to their own people. The King James version translates this to their own company.

I read seven's are not seven several different commentators on this passage and each had a differing opinion. Was this their friends her own people or their own company churchwide was it a small grouping of of men and women within the church. We don't have the answer here if you have an ESV study Bible. The footnote there on 424 says the whole church responds to the Sanhedrin's so I don't think were wrong of rethinking the whole church but that would be well over 5000 people. I don't know if there was a church large enough to hold 5000 for them to go and give report to.

I would lean that it was probably a smaller group, but even that smaller group was a part of the whole church and so that is who they came to when they were released they didn't go hide. They didn't try to run away. They didn't go and try to plan how their next move would be to preach the gospel they went and assembled with fellow believers as gentlemen. I think that's a huge point. We need to see Christianity is not an individual sport. We are not called to be Christians on an island in Harrisburg. If you are a believer and you are called by God to this church. You are called here for more than a reason of just coming in, hearing, or coming for good teaching or coming even to serve were called to be brothers and sisters together, working together as a common body for Christ, each having different gifts, but in that process that assembly of God's people with Christ at the head brings us strength. So when Peter and John come back to the assembly. They being apostles, the strongest, probably of the group still need strengthened by the assembly, so a proper assembly God uses to bring strength. You know when we sit and look at the biblical set up of the church. John chapter 10 verses 14 through 16, Jesus tells us this. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the father knows me and I know the father and I lay down my life for the sheep and I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice so there will be one flock and one shepherd. As God grows his flock as he brings in Jews and Gentiles together. The church is built in a strength, not through what the Jew or the Gentile brings but as the Holy Spirit empowers each believer in that assembly to bear with one another to up lift one another to encourage one another, we see that it is much more than J or Dan or Eugene or Doug or anyone else trying individually to find the right ways to handle issues Jesus Christ as our head in us is the body strengthening one another to do his ministry and his work in John 17 Jesus prays for this body and what does he pray for, but that we are united to him and to the father and to each other that our love for one another unites us that were found in him and he is found in the father so the whole idea of coming to his friends or his own people or his company in and of itself is a proper responses. We base threats, or persecution, so that we can take strength from one another. You know, if you look at most of the epistles and you can name examples quickly from Romans or Galatians or Ephesians or Corinthians.

There is an emphasis on the importance of the body and believers in the way that they enhance one another but Romans 111 through 12 probably tells us the best in those verses, Paul says, for I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you. That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.

The apostle Paul who I would believe I have nothing to offer to them, tells us that by coming and sharing with us that he benefits he is strengthened when he participates in the body of the assembly, so a proper assembly is one of God's ways of us properly responding to threats and persecution.

We also want a notice from this verse when they released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them, their report was clear and succinct. Their report was to the congregation that which was told to them so that they could prepare but not adding or taking away to cause confusion within the body so as they bring their report they come and say this is the words that they told us if we continue to preach Jesus Christ. These are the consequences we can expect and so at that point the church is well aware of the danger that it is facing right there right then in that city of Jerusalem. So what is the early church's response that say they formed a committee to go and meet and try to determine the best way forward to meet with the Sanhedrin leaders and see if there was some way that they could come to an agreement so that they could continue their ministry.

No, their response very simply read write out we could say its worship, but most definitely prayer. What a prayer. They prayed the second point I want us to consider is that God strengthens us by proper prayer will begin with me. In verses 2324 through 30 and when they had heard that they lifted their voices together to God and said sovereign Lord who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them who through the mouth of our father David, your servant said by the Holy Spirit.

Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed. For truly, in the city there were gathered together against you against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand in your plan had predestined to take place, and now Lord look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through your name of your holy servant Jesus, we have this mind brothers and sisters when we go in prayer. What we read right here is a people saying we are fully dependent upon you, you know, I shared with a few a couple weeks ago there was an article that caught my eye in Yahoo and it was Christian author Philip Yancey and I had to look him up just so that you guys are aware, I wasn't completely sure, but Philip Yancey wrote the book fearfully and wonderfully made, and he also wrote one. What's so amazing about Grace and he was interviewed by CNN and the whole goal of the CNN interview Philip Yancey considers himself an evangelical and of course that term in our country today is a very hot button term. It has more political motivation than it does church or Christian motivation, but that's what they wanted to interview him on because he classified himself as an evangelical, so it was a rather long interview of how can you put yourself in with this group and tied it to two different conservative policies. Long story short, don't waste your time reading the interview is not horrible, but there was one question that really popped out and I want to use it as an illustration as we walk into the seven second point he was asked this question. He he had traveled through 87 different countries so far in his 50 years as being a Christian author and so they asked him how has your travel to other countries. Change your faith in this answer to me. It is something that that we need to consistently think about and make sure our thought process matches that of Scripture.

He said Americans have what they think is suffering, but in the rest of the world. Boy it's a lot worse and I will I learn from those people. I remember being in China one time with the underground church there.

People had to sneak in and they could have been arrested just for attending and we were talking about praying for the government, which was persecuting them. I asked them how do you pray for the government. They said we pray that we can bear the persecution. I asked them you don't pray that they would stop the you would get a change in government. They said no that's up to God where here in our job is to demonstrate our faith in the midst of persecution and edges struck so deeply into my thought process that is so different when things are uncomfortable when threats stand before me when opposition rises up my prayer many times as Lord remove the opposition remove the threat Lord, take away the tough time from me. And here is a church going through that persecution.

At that moment saying our prayer is Lord Barris up in the presence of persecution so that Jesus Christ may shine before those who persecute us. Is that not a different mindset.

But that is the mindset we see an accident.

The early church teaches us the exact same thing when Peter and John come back and they give their report. They do not go in prayer and ask that the Sanhedrin be overturned or that Rome be destroyed in a government be raised up. That is more to their liking. What did they do this is what they do they go in prayer and say sovereign Lord who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them who through the mouth of our father David, your servant said by the Holy Spirit and in their prayer they pray Psalm to Psalm two. You know what Psalm two is a messianic Psalm about how the kings the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain kings of the earth they set themselves in the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed, and if you go on to read it all read one through six. It says in verse three we just got through verse two. Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us. He who said said the heavens laughs, the Lord holds them in derision, then he will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in his fury, saying as for me, I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill when they go in prayer and they quote Psalm two and I never thought of this. I read James boys commentary on this section and this is almost mind-boggling.

You realized this prayer that they are leaning on 6 to 8 weeks earlier they did not understand the implication of Psalm two.

They knew Psalm two. But the Holy Spirit did not move and reveal to them the Jesus that walked with them was the fulfillment until after his death and resurrection and that he walked along and opened all Scripture to them and brought the Holy Spirit.

They knew the tax but eight weeks earlier they would've been able to pray this because they would've understood who Jesus was and what he did but be by the work of God and by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Now, do they not only pray it, but they go on to say. For truly, in the city there were gathered together against your holy servant, and he listed out are they listed out Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel who 6 to 8 weeks earlier they were upset put Jesus to death because he was laying in a tomb and hadn't resurrected yet but now on this side of Pentecost and on the movement of the Holy Spirit say to do whatever your hand in your plan had predestinated to take place. The church understood who God was and not only did they understand who he was. Now they rested in that sovereignty. The very first line sovereign Lord. The Greek word used desperado where we get the word despot, the meaning that they use when they use despot is one who exercises complete jurisdiction absolute domination one who confesses no limitations or restraint. The very opening address of who they were praying to. They were going and saying you are the one that only we can rely upon. You are the sovereign to the level that there is nothing outside of your will or purview. They remember the acts that occurred that declare this that he is the one who made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one that spoke through David. David didn't teach them the Holy Spirit spoke through David the teach them the very thing they now understand about Jesus and they rest in that sovereignty. We understand the sovereignty of the rightly denied or are we, much like the one who came forward and asked Jesus if you can. And Jesus said if I can, and how did he have to respond many times, like I have to. I believe forgive my unbelief.

This sovereignty thing many times we say we can rest on, but then we find ourselves wringing our hands or worried whenever it is the Lord God Almighty, the sovereign Lord, the despot, the one with no limitations. Who sets what is to occur.

Who ordains and allows all things for us. Do we believe verses like Matthew 625 and 33 therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, nor what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing down to 33 but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you Matt and that's a promise of God's care is a promise of God's character every moment of every day. Matthew 1028 through 31, and do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell are not two sparrows sold for a penny, and not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore you are more of more value than many sparrows. The promise of God's providence over our very being.

Every moment that he ordains us to live. There is not one of us, and I've said it before, from here and I'll say it again, there is not one of us that can make our heartbeat.

There's not one of us that can make ourselves breathe.

There is not one of us that can make us think clearly, rationally, in our mind. It is all given by God to us the promise of his presence. John 14 one through three let not your hearts be troubled.

Believe in God believe in. Also in me. In my father's house are many rooms. If you were not so what I've told you that I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where you it where I am, you may be also. Jesus physically present with them. God physically present with them saying I'm leaving further in this same chapter he said, but I will not leave you as orphans. I will send the Holy Spirit. I will send God back to be with you. And while I'm gone. I'm preparing a place for you and I'm going to take take you to myself.

So promise of his presence that leads to the promises like Romans 828. Can we honestly say when we look at the threats and the difficulties in the issues that arise in our lives we think to ourselves. Romans 828 that God will do good for those who believe in all things, or do we think why is this happening to me.

How can I get through this. How can I get out of this. How how can I make it less on me.

God says no matter what all things for your good for those who love and believe me, believe in me. We sit and say that many times we end up being that man saying if you can heal and having to confess our own unbelief. What we need to be just like the early church just like the Chinese church. We need to be grounded in this truth of God's sovereignty. If we take one thing from this small text. The only true and living God ordains all things for his glory and our good and he makes for them to occur. Though we don't understand as we walk through the do you believe this, that is what the Scripture tells us that we can rest fully in him no matter the situation going on around us because he has us Psalm 23 of the greatest Psalm that everyone knows the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He deleted me, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Why because I figured it out. No, because he is there. Do we truly believe and walk in this daily. We also see in this prayer, not just on sovereignty, but they lay their petition to him to grant there. The ability that they need so relying on that sovereignty to give them the power that they need to do the very thing that will bring honor and glory for him and see them through. In John 15 verse five Jesus says that he is the vine and tells about being found in him, but at the end he says. Apart from me you can do nothing. We need to pray that God grants us the ability to serve him with boldness that they continue in their supplication and they asked that he continues to work in their presence at this time that ask is to continue with the wonders and miracles that are putting forth this authentication. But even today we see the miracle of miracles of God working out in the salvation in men and women as the gospel is preached, so we must be praying the same thing as a church built on Christ Jesus, that God continues to work that the Holy Spirit takes this word and it makes it effective to those that are his.

When we sit and look at how the church responded to a time of threat to a time of persecution whether it was the early church are us today. The only place that we can be driven to is to an assembly of our brothers and sisters uplifting one another in Christ Jesus finding our strength in him and him alone and then turning and resting upon his sovereignties. These are the truths that strengthen us and honor God and these are the truths that are honored by God to finish out. I just want to move your attention down to verses 32 through 33, and we read this after a while.

Let's go to 31 now when they had prayed, the place in which they gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and continue to speak the word of God with boldness. So we see a prayer answered in a physical sign given by God, and there are some people say see that they were believers.

They got filled with the Holy Spirit.

We I saw that in one commentary and I just put it to the side. I noted throw that away because these are believers. The apostles are believers. At this point they already have the Holy Spirit so God fills them or revitalizes them with the strengthening of the Holy Spirit. We talk about him being the comforter that word comforter with power so as God gives the Holy Spirit. At times they are more power filled we are more power filled at times in the Holy Spirit than others are weak proper assembly. A proper report a proper prayer leads to revitalizing of that power of the Holy Spirit.

And it goes on. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things that belong to him was his own, but they had everything in common and listen to verse 33 with great powers.

The apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

God honors the gospel is being proclaimed boldly and God's grace is showering the church and the threat is still there.

The persecutors are still there but God's church flourishes as we finish out. It would take you out and explained that up to 5000 now have been added from this preaching. You see, God's mighty hand working at building his kingdom not ours church is an artist to build or destroy to God to move to where he wants it to be and what we know is God's church will prevail in this world up and through the consummation like J God said, I will Jesus that I will establish my church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it. Jesus does not lose the church is in the position of power when it rests in the sovereign God.

It may be, not the church that we think it should be, or how it should be. But then our thinking is wrong and we must submit ourselves to that sovereignty of God and pray for is working within us and within our body that is the proper response that we have that is the only response that we have because ultimately God moves all the events of mankind. It is his story. That's history is story, not ours. We get the privilege the honor to be a role player apart a co-laborer, but is still his story and he will finish it. We see that the church in acts moves in one mind and one heart, and Christ's grace. Showers, his bride as they rest in his sovereign father. That is just amazing. That is my prayer tonight at Grace Church that we move with that mind and that mind being the mind of Christ that he showers us with his grace, which he does as we rest in his father's work.

Let's pray Lord we thank you for your word. We thank you that you instruct us how we are to respond in all situations because Lord we can only respond through you, Lord, you are our strength. You are our righteousness. You are our justifier. You are Redeemer and father as we stand before you as we face trials and threats, and even persecution in this world. Lord God, we will only go through what you allow. When Jesus stood before Pilate pilot said do you not understand that I have the power to take your life in Jesus's response should be our response to all situations. You only have the power that the father is given unto you, Lord.

Let us rest in you let us know the truth of your sovereignty of your love of your grace of your mercy is in Christ Jesus.

We pray, amen

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