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I want to share with you this transcripted version of a sermon I delivered on Sunday August 12, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. I believe God had a much larger audience in mind. I have done just a bit of editing to help the spoken word flow better into the written word and to help clarify some colloquial references for those for those who live outside of the USA. Although our particular situations may be somewhat different, we all share a common enemy and a common goal. Let us continue to awaken, strengthen, and equip the Church so that we might stand firm for Christ in these last days and reach as many people as possible with the message of Salvation in Christ alone!
“More Is Required”
By Pastor Bruce Sikes
The title of today’s message is, “More Is Required”. You know it’s worth pondering the timing of recent events here at the local church. Last weekend as this church was getting ready for the big dedication service for its very first church building, the Pastor had received the news that his mother lay dying in the hospital. Now, was this just a coincidence? Maybe, I don’t know.
I do know the devil is not happy that a fellowship of believers now has a church building with which to reach the lost in this community. He doesn’t like that sort of thing.
By the way, have you ever considered that before? The devil’s feelings? What he likes or doesn’t like? No? Well, maybe to some degree we should, and let me explain why. The devil is your enemy. Yes? Yes. He wants to hurt you, he wants steal your joy and then kill you. I’d say that qualifies him as being our enemy, wouldn’t you?
The Bible tells us in 1st Peter to, “Be self-controlled and alert.” Why? Because “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:3)
You see the devil is not passively waiting around for you to come to him. He is actively and constantly pursuing you. He is on the prowl looking for souls to devour.
Now someone might be quick to say, “Well I’m a Christian, I’m saved. He can’t devour me!” Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of devour. We might want to ask the apostle Paul, who was beheaded for his testimony of Christ, or Peter who was crucified upside down, or any of the rest of the disciples who were likewise gruesomely murdered for their testimony of Christ. And let’s not of course forget the countless hundreds of thousands of Christian believers who have been martyred throughout the centuries and right up to this present day. I must say, there are more to come.
So yes, the devil can devour a believer, but in doing so he receives no eternal benefit for his trouble and ironically, it ultimately brings glory to God through the martyrdom of His saints who will receive many crowns. Yet persecution and martyrdom do not come without cost.
I said the apostles were murdered; that’s not exactly true. It is, but it isn’t. If you think that sounds like a politician’s answer, then you would be right. Most of the apostles were “legally” arrested by various government officials and “legally” executed by them.
More than likely the charges brought against them were along the lines of speaking against the government and its leader and of subverting and inciting the people against their legal authority.
In fact, this is what they accused Jesus of doing. In Luke Chapter 23:2 it says, “…they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes the payment of taxes…” and so on.
It was not true of course, but this is the way the corrupted government along with hostile non-believers twisted and spun what Jesus had been telling the people.
There are many examples of this in the Bible. In Acts chapter 17, we have the account of the Apostles Paul & Silas who had just finished teaching openly in a meeting that Jesus was the Messiah. Some people didn’t like that. They didn’t think these Christians had the right to say what they said so they decided to go and attack Paul and Silas. When they couldn’t find them, they located another church leader, Jason, who was with some other Christians and had them all arrested. They were brought before the city officials and accused of causing trouble and quote “defying Caesar's decrees” which means breaking the law. Once again, these charges were not true, but the Scriptures say,”…they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.”
That doesn’t seem to be a very fair legal system, does it?
A little bit later in Acts 24, the Apostle Paul gets arrested after he had been publicly preaching the Gospel of Jesus. A group of non Christian religious leaders did not like what Paul had said, so they hired a lawyer named Tertullus and had Paul arrested and taken for a preliminary hearing in the governor’s court. They falsely accused him and said, “We have found this man to be a troublemaker…stirring up riots…a ringleader of (a) sect…and even tried to desecrate the temple” And again, as before, these charges were not true. Paul was able to speak in his own defense and said,
“My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.”
He actually says much more in his defense. We don’t have time to share it all here, but I would urge you to read Acts Chapter 24 and the chapters before and after it. In them, Paul shows us how to properly respond to false charges that may be made against us when we share our faith. In doing so, he also shows us how to keep the focus on the real underlying reason for the accusations, which is Jesus.
Now, even after Paul’s eloquent defense, he was still put in jail and remained there for years even after a new governor and administration took over. So much for placing our faith in political slogans such as “Hope and Change!” Amen.
Actually, that’s a lesson for us today, don’t you think? When we place all our hopes, efforts and energies for a brighter future on getting a new government administration and a new leader, we will be sorely disappointed. The world system works against God’s people, not for them. First John 5:19 says,
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
Certainly, God gives us abundant power to overcome the evil one; nevertheless, we must not forget that we are living our lives in enemy territory. We are raising our families, going to work, school and worship in enemy-held territory. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians,
“…many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18)
This is the challenge we have as believers who want to help establish and maintain a government that is based on truth as found in God’s word. Not everyone is on the same page with us.
Obviously, the devil does not want the truth getting out, so he will raise up people to speak against believers who try to openly share God’s word. He is not stupid about it either; that’s why he likes to use people with great influence. He gets more bang for his buck that way. He uses people in government, in politics, in the courts, in the military and in the media because they have the ability, the influence and many times even the authority to attack God’s people.
In the case of Christ and the apostles, they were harassed, threatened, imprisoned, fined, beaten, abused and ultimately killed by people who were doing the devil's bidding. Now, does that mean everyone who did those things would say the devil made them do it? No. Most were deceived, that is, they allowed themselves to be deceived. They chose to accept the logical arguments coming from the devil who was deceiving them into thinking they were doing the right thing. They suppressed the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit on their hearts who was telling them not to go along with the crowd.
That’s why believers are such a threat to Satan and why he does what he can to stop them from speaking the truth of God. We have the Holy Spirit who gives us spiritual discernment. It enables us to see through deception and falsehood, providing us with an opportunity to expose evil and bring the truth of God’s word to those who are being deceived. By exercising this gift of discernment along with prayer and patient endurance, we seek to further the opportunities men have to reconcile themselves to God. This can be a challenging and thankless task, as many do not practice discernment, particularly of course, non-believers who do not have the Holy Spirit residing in them. Their lack of spiritual discernment creates a tension between believers and nonbelievers which I refer to as a “holy tension”. This often accelerates into conflict, especially when unbelievers gain control in positions of secular authority. It not only causes the politics to change, but also the social atmosphere surrounding us. It creates a climate of dialogue and discourse which becomes increasingly unpleasant, risky, and even hostile to believers. This is nothing new of course, as we just read in the scriptures about Jesus & the Apostles, but for the Church in the 21st century, particularly for those of us in the United States and the so-called Western World, we are having to learn all over again how to “fight the good fight”, and what that fight will cost us.
Today, the devil is creating an environment of spiritual terrorism. He wants to intimidate Christians into worrying so much about being attacked that they will be afraid to speak the truth of God’s word publicly. I must say, this is a very cost-effective method for him. He doesn’t have to physically beat you, abuse you, fine you or even imprison you, if he can just make you too afraid to mention the name of Jesus at work, at school, at sports or with your own friends and family.
Oh, the devil doesn’t much care if we share the gospel here in this church building; in fact, he wants us to. We can knock ourselves out! He’d rather we not, of course, but if he can box us up in here, if he can trick us into thinking this is where we “do” church, then he can trap us, not just physically, but mentally. Nowhere in scripture will you find the word “church” being used to describe a building or sanctuary. In scripture, “church” is always used in reference to a group of people, the body of Christ. So when we say, “We’re going to church,” my question is, “Where were you before? Were you not already the church?” Unless of course, you are not saved, then you would be correct! Now, I know we when we call this place, this building the “church”, we are just using verbal shorthand. Instead of saying, “We’re going to the church’s building for worship”, we say “We’re going to church.” We reckon that, “Everybody knows what we mean!” That’s the problem, most do not. Now it’s become a habit. But, maybe it’s one we need to think about changing.
Let me ask you, “Where will this church be tomorrow morning?” I can tell you where it won’t be, It ain't gonna be here! This church will be scattered throughout this city in homes, businesses and schools for miles around. So next time someone asks you, “Where is your church located?” you tell them that! You say, “Well, I’m here. My wife is at home. My pastor is visiting at the hospital. The music leader is at work in the neighboring city” and so on. Just watch the funny look on their face, then tell them, “But my church gets together for worship at this address.” Then give them the church building’s address. Remember that and try it next time. Have some fun with it!
Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
Think of the church building as the salt shaker. Your job, Jesus says, is to be “the salt of the earth”. You cannot do that by staying here in the salt shaker. The devil tells us that salt belongs in the shaker. That kind of makes some logical sense, doesn’t it? The devil’s tricky that way. We cannot let him affect our thinking with such subtle mental arguments.
By the way, when we get lazy and fall into that “church is a building” mentality, what are we actually telling non-Christians? Aren’t we really telling them that if they want to find God, if they want to be saved, they have to come here to this church building, between 10 a.m. & 12 noon on Sunday morning? If that’s so, then one might wonder what is God doing the other 6 days a week!!!?”. Or should I ask, “What are we the church doing the other 6 days a week?” Let me ask you, “How does a lost, troubled, confused, deceived and hurting soul hear about the loving, forgiving, saving message of the Gospel outside of our church buildings on Sundays?”
You see, that is the devil’s main concern, when we try to take the Gospel message beyond these church walls. Therefore, if that is his big concern, where should your priorities be? That’s why I mentioned earlier it might be a good idea to know what the devil likes and doesn’t like. Why? So we can do the opposite! We don’t want to be in agreement with the devil on anything.
If the enemy is spending so much time and effort into preventing us from preaching, speaking and sharing the Gospel, shouldn’t we be putting in at least as much time and effort into telling people about Jesus?
Romans Chapter 10 reminds us that, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ….How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
You know, here in this state, the voters just passed a “Freedom to Pray Amendment” to our government’s constitution by a huge majority. That’s great! That’s fantastic! There’s all kinds of excitement about it from Christians. But you know what? It’s completely meaningless! It changes nothing…unless we start using it!
More is needed. I do pray and I hope that the new amendment will encourage and inspire Christians to more openly and un-ashamedly share the Name of Jesus in public through prayer and testimony. However, I must confess, with very few exceptions, the Church as a whole in America has not shown much intestinal fortitude these past 20 years in this area. Perhaps if we had, we would not have needed to vote recently for an amendment to ensure the right to pray publicly.
That leads me to say that I hope what each of us will really do is not just say, “Gee, now that this has has passed I sure hope someone will pray publicly in Jesus’ Name,” but rather that we ask ourselves, “Will I now pray and proclaim the Name of Jesus in public?”
The truth is, we already have the legal authority to pray and to freely share the Gospel wherever and whenever we want. It comes from an authority much higher than our local State government. It originates from much higher than the United States government & it’s President, far higher than the United Nations or the combined authority of all the world's religions and secular Courts of Justice. Our authority comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Creator, the Beginning and the End.
The Bible says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The name of Mohammed cannot save you. The name of Buddha cannot not save you. The name of Obama cannot save you. The name of Romney cannot save you. You Pastor’s name cannot save you. Your church’s name will not save you. Salvation can only be found in the Name and person of Jesus.
Demons flee at the Name of Jesus! People are healed with the Name of Jesus!
How powerful of a Name is that!
“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord”, the apostle Paul tells the young minister Timothy, “But join me!” He says, “ in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.,” (2 Timothy 1:8)
How’s that for a slogan? How’s that for a rallying cry? How can you stop people who believe like that? You can’t. The devil can’t!
Such is the power and authority we possess in the Name of Jesus to proclaim the Gospel message against all odds, in spite of every persecution and fear of retaliation.
God has given us church buildings not to confine us, but to put the fear of God into the devil and his demons when they see us walk out those doors!
That is who you are. That is your destiny and purpose in Christ. It is to carry the message of eternal salvation to a lost and dying world. And the message is this:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)
Therefore, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
“ That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11)
That is the message we have been given to share with the world. Let us carry it and proclaim it when we walk out the doors of this church building so that the devils will run and hide, saying, “Oh no! Here they come! The ones who carry the Name of Jesus wherever they go!”
Amen and Amen!
For Christ and His Remnant,