Pastor Mike will be speaking on The Increase of Intolerance Part 1. He will be reading out of Acts 4: 1-28.
If we are going to fight intolerance, it’s important for us as believers to be filled with the Spirit of God. The Bible teaches us in Ephesians chapter 5, Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.
Welcome to the radio broadcast of Hope Worth Having. We are delighted that you have tuned in today. My name is Mike Sanders. I am the senior pastor of the Open Door Church. Today we are going to be in Acts chapter 4, and we are learning about the increase of intolerance.
What you’re seeing today in our society, in our culture, is fewer people are tolerant of the gospel and Jesus Christ and Christianity and the Bible. So how did the apostles handle that? And I want us to look at Acts chapter 4 and learn how they handled the increase of intolerance.
Have your Bible this morning, join me in the book of Acts chapter 4. We’re going to begin a series that we’ll be preaching on the increase of intolerance for Christianity. We need to be alert to the fact that the American culture is growing increasingly hostile towards Christianity.
We are living in a world that no longer tolerates moral restraint or biblical values. Jesus said, if the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. When we come to Acts chapter 4, we are witnessing the beginning of the persecution of the church.
This persecution arrives first from the religious leaders. You look at Acts chapter 4, verse 1, the Bible says, now as they spoke to the people, the church came upon them. What it is saying is that…
as Peter and John were speaking to the people that the religious leaders came to them. They opposed the preaching and teaching ministry of the apostle Peter. They opposed the healing ministry of Peter and John as they had healed in chapter three, the lame man.
Peter and John then were arrested. What did they do? They taught the gospel. They taught that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, that he died on the cross for your sins and they taught that he rose again three days later, and that whoever believes in him can have eternal life in Jesus Christ.
But they were arrested. We are reminded in 2 Timothy 3, 12, yes and all who desire to live godly in Christ, Jesus will suffer persecution. It doesn’t say they might, it’s a possibility, but they will live for Jesus Christ It means that there will be times that we suffer for the faith, that we encounter opposition to the gospel, and to the message that we are sharing.
If you were under the impression that following Jesus meant everything would go right in your life, you have been deceived. And I apologize to anyone who is teaching that. Somehow, following Jesus means there’ll be no problems in your life, there’ll be no sacrifice in your life, and there’ll be no opposition.
But I tell you just the opposite is true. To stand up for God, to speak up for God, means that you will encounter persecution. The early church faced opposition. At the very outset, Luke wants us to understand how the apostles faced opposition and how they overcame it.
And that’s what I want to equip us with this morning, over the next few Sundays, we will take time to learn how to handle the intolerance of the gospel, the intolerance of Christianity, the intolerance of our faith in this pluralistic society that we live in.
The answers may surprise you, and as a matter of fact, right out of the gate, as I give you my first point, you’re going to be upset and offended. But I only teach the Word of God. So point number one, how do we handle opposition?
Be submissive. Be submissive. Look at verse 2. The Bible says in Acts chapter 4, being greatly disturbed, that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead, and they laid hands on them, and they put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
However, many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about 5,000, and it came to pass on the next day. that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Aeneas and the high priests, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priests, were gathered together in Jerusalem.
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, by what power or what authority, by what name have you done this? We jump back to verse 3. We note that those in authority laid hands on the apostles.
They put them in custody until the next day. It was already evening. The healing of the crippled man in Acts 3 had really stirred up the city. It had stirred up the authorities. They were upset at what was taking place.
And as a result of that, they had declared that these apostles were not allowed to teach the Bible. They were not allowed to teach about Jesus. And they were not allowed to do so. that the things that God had called them to do in this miraculous healing of this lame man.
When you and I follow God, there is always going to be a tension in our hearts between obeying God and obeying the law. The Bible teaches us that we have a responsibility to honor those who are in authority.
The Bible teaches us here in this text, to note what they did not do when people laid hands on them. Did Peter and John fight them? Absolutely not. I want you to be careful as it was already taught that you do not allow your freedom in Christ to become a stumbling block in your own life and to others.
Now why should we as believers be submissive to those who are in authority? I want to help you first to follow the example that was set by Jesus. We already saw that in 1 Peter chapter 2. Jesus is our example when the believers were under persecution because Nero was threatening their lives and he was using the Christians as a scapegoat because the city of Rome had been burnt down and what Nero did was he lied.
He was the king, he was the emperor, he was the one in charge and he said it was the Christian’s fault and so the community turned their wrath and their anger against the Christians. Nero had Christians drug out before the Colosseums and in those Colosseums they would release the lions to devour these Christians limb by limb as the crowds chanted bring on the Christians.
Why be submissive? Because that is how Christ was when he stood before the political authorities. Why should we be submissive? Because we are commanded. Again I want you to take your Bible and go to Romans chapter 13.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God. And the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God.
And those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same, for He is God’s minister to you for good.
But if you do evil, be afraid, for He does not bear the sword in vain, and for He is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on Him who practices evil. Why should I be submissive? Not only because it is the example that Christ gave us, and we are commanded in the scriptures over and over, but third, to be a witness.
Our submission to the government is a witness. Now, the early church has experienced great triumph as they are witnessing many coming to Christ. We already see in Acts chapter 2 and verse 41, you can look back there real quickly.
The Bible says those who gladly received His word were baptized, and that day 3,000 souls were added to them. Then we go down to verse 47 of chapter 2, and the Bible says the church was praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
We jump over to chapter 4 and verse 4, what we just read, and the Bible says, however, many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about 5,000. The church is experiencing an explosion of growth, and God wants to use the church.
Every believer to be a witness, and it is interesting in verse 3 that the authorities lay hands on Peter and John, and throw them into custody, and then the next verse says in contrast that while the leaders are being persecuted, God is bringing people to true salvation in Jesus Christ.
Every Christian is commanded to submit to the government for the sake of being an effective witness to God. It’s important for you to recognize this is part of your testimony for Christ. So the question is when?
Pastor Mike, you tell us to submit to the government. The Bible teaches that. When can I resist the government? Because in your mind, I know you’re thinking about those founding days of our nation, and you say, well, Pastor, if we follow your plan, now look, I want you to understand, there is a time that we are allowed to resist the government.
Let me give you those two times. Number one is when we are forced to worship false gods or idols. When we are forced if the king or the government tells us that we must worship them. You remember in the book of Daniel that the Hebrew children were called to worship the statue.
They were called to bow down, and the Hebrew children said we refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar, and they said if you don’t bow down, you’re gonna be thrown into the fiery furnace. And they said it doesn’t matter, we’re not bowing down.
And whether God spares us or whether He saves us, we are not bending a knee to a false God. Though any time that you and I are called as believers to worship an idol, we have every right and responsibility to resist the government.
The second area is when we are forced to disobey the word of God. In Exodus chapter 1, you remember that Pharaoh in Egypt said that if a child is born and that child is a male, that child must be killed.
If it’s a female, it gets to live, but if it’s a male, it has to die. Well, you remember the story in Exodus 1, how Moses’ mother refused to kill him. And she made sure that he was protected, and in God’s sovereign plan, in his great work, Moses was found, and Moses was in the Nile River, and he was found, and he was protected.
And then God in his great mighty work allowed Moses’ mother to be hired by Pharaoh’s family to raise Moses. How awesome is God? We know that in Acts chapter 4, as we’re going to learn, in Acts chapter 5, the apostles were told not to preach the gospel, not to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
And the apostles said that classic statement, that we will obey God rather than man. That’s when you’re allowed to resist. But each of us, in all that we can, strive to honor the king, not that we agree with the king, not that we always agree with the governor, not that we agree with our president, not that we always agree with our politicians.
But I want you to remember that we are called to honor them. As I always taught my children, you may not agree with the person in authority, but you have a responsibility to respect the position of authority.
And that’s what we do as believers because we’re commanded because it’s what Christ did because it is our witness. We want our witness to go far and wide, and we want to make an impact on Jesus Christ.
Now, I want you to remember that in our responsibility to submit to authority, that we have to always balance that with the understanding that there is no earthly submission ever mandated by God to follow a human authority into sin.
And I hate that there are people who abuse their authority and that there are people who misuse their authority. And you say pastor, do I have to submit if there is abuse? Do I have to submit if there is mistreatment?
We could go on down the list, listen to me, you do not have to submit. You get help, you come to talk to me, you come to talk to someone, but we understand that unfortunately because of the sinfulness of mankind, there are people who abuse their authority and we would never want you to stay in a situation where you’re being hurt or you’re being abused and you’re being taken advantage of.
We stand strong against any of that crazy silliness that is against God almighty. We have always been an advocate to keep the children safe, to keep the wife safe, and to keep individuals safe. Every time I hire a staff member, I tell them that there’s going to be over 500 children on this campus every day, Monday through Friday, and here’s how it works, whether you like it or not.
If there are any rumors, if there is any sniff of you mistreating the children, you’re gone. Now sometimes people say to me, whatever happened to so and so, you don’t even want to know. You just got to know that this pastor is working overtime to protect the entirety of this ministry.
The elders know, the deacons know, but they’re not allowed to tell because we’re not going to let the kids be exposed to any abuse. We’re not going to have anyone unsafe. You’re not going to walk around here and act like the world and mistreat people, and you’re not going to walk around here being abusive in your words and your language and your actions.
It’s not going to happen. You’re going to disappear. That’s the way it’s going to be. You say, well, Mike, you’re too tough. What if they’re innocent? They could be innocent somewhere else because I got to protect the kids.
I can’t take a chance. I can’t take a chance. I’m sorry. I wish I could in the sense that maybe I could give somebody that proper due process, but I have to make sure that the ministry is protected and that everything that God has done and is doing in this place, continues to prosper and move forward and that we touch as many lives as we can and we reach as many people for Jesus Christ as we can.
And so, yes, Pastor Mike is a little protective and maybe overprotective, but I want you to know we do everything we can to follow the rules, to make sure things are exactly as they should be, to be submissive.
We’re not out there to attack the governor. I was invited to come to Harrisburg, by Pastor Mike. Come with us. And let’s yell at the governor. Well, first of all, he’s not even there. Are you kidding me?
Number two, he’s not listening. And number three, I’m called to peace, not hate. I’m not called to be a rabble-rouser. I’m just not into it. Not gonna walk around and wave a flag. Some politician came up here the other day and he said, I wanna put my sign out there.
And I said that’s not what we’re all about. And I pulled it on the Open Door Church and had a political sign planted in our yard. Now, if it happens and I didn’t see it, you have the right to go and grab it and throw it in the trash can.
But we’re not here to push a candidate. But privately, I’m a conservative. Privately, I’m out there trying to help the fight. I want there to be freedom for my children. I want there to be freedom for my grandchildren.
I’m gonna vote and I’m gonna do what I can. I’m just not gonna go out there. and be a rebel. I’m not just gonna go out there and fight. You do you. If you wanna sign in your yard, that’s fine. That’s you.
But I’m a pro-life guy and I wanna keep freedom moving forward and I wanna be able to preach the gospel. We’ll do what we can behind the scenes and anytime I’m active in something like that behind the scenes, I let the elders know so they’re not shocked.
There goes Pastor Mike. No, no, trust me. We keep it all separate. But I want you to know we’re always submissive. Number two, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Look at verse eight. Peter and John were not only submissive when they were thrown into jail.
They didn’t cause any problems. They just did what was before them. And verse eight, as they were brought before the authorities, the Bible says Peter filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them rulers of the people and elders of Israel.
If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him, this man stands before you whole.
If we are going to fight intolerance, if we’re going to be able to stand up against the opposition, it’s important for us as believers to be filled with the Spirit of God. We’re to be filled with the Spirit of God.
The Bible teaches us in Ephesians chapter five and verse 18, be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit. And as you think about this comparison, it’s not a contrast, it’s a comparison.
And that just like alcohol or wine has the ability to influence somebody’s thoughts and it has the ability to influence somebody’s behavior and actions, we are… are called to let the Spirit of God fill us and that we are to be so filled with the Spirit that the Spirit of God is influencing our decisions, our choices, our actions, that we are called to be filled with God’s Spirit.
As a believer, the Spirit of God lives in me. As a believer, the Spirit of God is already residing in my life and the question is will I allow the Spirit to have more of me? It’s not that you need more of the Spirit, it’s not that you need a second spiritual experience in your life, it’s not that you have to come to an altar and flop like a fish and experience some kind of anointing upon your life that leads you to begin to speak in gibberish as if we cannot even understand what you’re saying.
All you need to understand is that the moment you gave your life to Jesus, that the full Spirit of God lives in you and the question is does the Spirit of God have full control of your life? That’s a lot to contemplate.
Every day of your life You are called to yield to the Spirit’s leadership We read in the scriptures that we are to keep in step with the Spirit We’re to keep in step. It is the idea that the Spirit of God is leading us So every day when I get up, I surrender my life to the Lord I surrender my thoughts my actions my body my spirit my attitude I surrender it all to the Holy Spirit of God and I yield my life to him You say why do you do that pastor because my friends if I start my day in the flesh if I start my day with what?
I want it will lead to disaster It will go down the wrong path and I will make choices that will ruin my life and will be a curse upon my family So I choose every morning to say Lord. Here is my life.
I surrender to your spirit as the day dawns Why is it that so many of God’s people are frustrated and they are impotent in their ability to serve God? It is because they are not living in the fullness of the Spirit of God in their life And they are manifesting the works of the flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit in their hearts and they are making choices that dishonor God and they dishonor their own family and they dishonor their community and their church Because they are not yielded the Bible teaches us to yield our lives How else can I be filled with the Spirit is to saturate my life with God’s Word?
Listen to Colossians 3 16 let the Word of Christ well in you richly in all wisdom teaching admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord Here we are called to dwell richly in God’s Word That is the idea of saturating our life to saturate our life with the word of God.
Listen, Sunday morning’s not enough. You need more of God’s word. You need it every day of your life. You begin your day with the word of God. You open this Bible and you get it. You read the Bible at lunch.
You read the Bible in the evening before you go to bed. You get the word of God just saturated in your life. You’re soaking it up every moment, every time, every day that you can. Why? Because as you do that, the Spirit of God is filling you and is leading you and blessing you with wisdom.
Did you see that? Dwell in you richly in all wisdom. Your life is a composite of your choices and the choices that you make in life determine your life. And when you make bad choices, then it is something that you’re gonna reap down the road.
And so if you want to make… good choices. You’ve got to be in the Word, and you’ve got to be saturating yourself in the Word in all wisdom. The Bible teaches us that we’re to be teaching and admonishing one another.
Another way to be led by the Spirit is to listen to the people that God puts in your life. It could be a friend. It could be a parent. It could be a pastor. It could be a neighbor. But God uses these people to speak into our lives, and they are admonishing us.
They are teaching us. The word admonish means to bring to mind, to bring to your attention. I thank God for the people throughout my life who have spoken into my life, and they have been a blessing, not a curse.
They have spoken about things that I need to remember, things that I need to think about, and things that helped me. And so have a teachable Spirit. And the Bible says, with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord, I know some of you don’t like to sing, but you need to.
You need to sing the Word of God. You need to sing the praises of God. But how glorious it would be if God’s people were driving down the road. They were driving down 30 East and became so overwhelmed with the Spirit of God as they sang praises to God that people could hear them just praising the Lord.
Please don’t lift your hands under God when you’re in a car. Keep your hands on the steering wheel because we can’t afford any more accidents. Amen. Keep your eyes open. I know you want to pray, but keep your eyes open while you’re driving.
But just singing unto the Lord, listening, get your playlist out, Christian song, get your playlist out, and start praising God. And the Spirit of God will fill your heart. What’s the third thing we need to do when we’re facing opposition is to be persuasive.
It is to be persuasive. We note in verse 13 what he says, and I’ll be finished here. He says, now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated, untrained men.
They marveled and they realized that they had been with Jesus. Peter displayed great courage. He saw this as a priceless opportunity to teach the gospel. He didn’t cry when he was thrown into jail. He didn’t complain when he was thrown into jail.
He didn’t call everybody, let’s have a big rally, and let’s get mad, and let’s wave our flags, and let’s protest. He saw it as an opportunity to get him before a group of people to tell them about Jesus.
Is it possible that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord? Is it possible that the Lord will turn the heart of a king in whatever way that he desires? Is it possible? that God would put you in positions of trials and opposition to give you a platform where you might be persuasive, that you might share the gospel, that you might tell others about Jesus Christ?
Is that possible, church? I think so. What was the key? What was the key to His persuasiveness? Yes. It’s found in verse 13, they had been with Jesus. When you spend every day of your life with Jesus, when you walk with Him and you talk to Him, when you are so filled with His Spirit, and you are loving Him and He is loving you, you are a contagious person, you are a dynamic person, and you are a persuasive person who shares a message that is more glorious than the message of the kingdoms of this world.
It is a message that supersedes what this world can offer. It is the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I close with this quote by Billy Graham. Billy Graham, who is now in heaven, was a great evangelist, many of you know him.
He said the evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear the full responsibility for the next one, but we do have our generation.
God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibility to this age, end of quote. One thing’s for sure, there’s going to be opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just because you have the opportunity to tell others about Christ and to preach teach and proclaim the name of Christ doesn’t mean the devil is just going to sit on the sidelines and let things go as they are.
But not only just the work of the world and the work of the devil, but you have the work of religion that is going to do everything it can to stop the advancement of God’s kingdom. So we have to be ready for this and the things that we’re learning in Acts 4 are going to be a blessing to us.
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