This Week's Gospel Sermons
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August 1, 2010
Who is a Christian? 3
If you had been a memberof the congregation of God’s people who met in Jerusalem in the early part of the first century, what would you have done when the apostles were arrested? What would you have done when Stephen was stoned? Would you have attended his funeral? Would you have been at the next assembly of the saints? Would you have invited your neighbors? These Christians of the first century were people of strong determination and convictions. Anyone who is to be a faithful worker for the Lord must have these same convictions. Today, we may not meet with the same tribulations as did these people, but in whatever situation we find ourselves, we must be strong. The only tribulation we may ever face is that of being questioned or reviled because of our beliefs and manner of life; we must always be strong and ready to answer for our labour in the Lord: “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1Peter 3:13-16). There are many examples in both the Old and New Testaments of those who had strong convictions in their service to God. We need to take their lessons to heart.
Joshua and Caleb — Numbers 13 and 14
Joshua and Caleb were among the spies sent to spy out the land of Canaan as the Israelites were approaching the promised land. Ten of the men didn’t trust in God to provide victory as they entered the land, “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” The entire camp of Israel murmured and showed their lack of conviction, but Joshua and Caleb stood for their belief in Jehovah and in their determination to do His work, “If Jehovah delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it unto us ... only rebel not against Jehovah, neither fear the people of the land ... Jehovah is with us, fear them not” (Numbers 14:8). The people then wished to stone Joshua and Caleb, but the Lord rewarded them with being the only ones to live to enter into the promised land. Would that we would have the conviction to stand against an entire nation in our work for God!
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego —
Daniel 1; 3; 6
The book of Daniel gives us many examples of strength in service to God. When these four young men were taken, with many others, to Babylon after their nation had fallen, they immediately let everyone know where they stood in service to God. They would not defile themselves with the King’s dainties, but were strict in their fulfillment of God’s law (Daniel 1:8). God blessed them for their service, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Some unscrupulous men in the kingdom tried to have Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego slain in a furnace of fire because they refused to worship an image of gold, but would only serve God. They were saved by God because of their convictions. Many years later, men were still trying to find occasion against those who would serve God. Some plotted to have Daniel killed because he was in God’s favour. They used his service to God — his faithfulness to pray — as an excuse to have Daniel thrown into a den of lions. God saved Daniel and the wicked were punished. God will always reward those who are faithful in his service and punish those who are not.
Priscilla and Aquila — Acts 18:24-28
We have already mentioned the apostles and other Christians of the first century who were courageous in their service to the Lord in undergoing tribulations. Let’s look at a different type of conviction to serve the Lord — the conviction of those who might be called “every day Christians” to teach the word of God. An humble tentmaker and his wife, Aquila and Priscilla were very faithful in the study of God’s word and spent time with the apostle Paul, as he was a tentmaker, also (Acts 18:1-3). A very learned and eloquent man who was “mighty in the scriptures,” Apollos, came speaking knowing only the baptism of John. Though this man was accurate in his teachings to a point, and was very fervent in his teaching, Priscilla and Aquila realized that he was in error, knowing only a part of God’s word. They knew what their work in the Lord was and took Apollos aside and showed him further the things of God’s word. What conviction for a tentmaker and his wife to take aside a man of great learning! We should be as determined to spread God’s word! (Acts 18:26).
Our Own Convictions
We can notice some things about each of our examples — their convictions were based upon God’s word and instructions. In our work for the Lord, our convictions must likewise be based on the Bible, not upon a preacher, the editor of a religious paper, our parents, or any family tradition of religion. We must obey God rather than men.
The convictions of those faithful examples are always accompanied by actions. They never hesitated to tell of their faith in God. Joshua and Caleb spoke to an entire nation, encouraging them to be faithful to God. Daniel and the other young men withstood the most powerful King in the world to show their conviction. Priscilla and Aquila never wavered in their instruction of Apollos. We must always be willing to discuss religious differences; we must be ready to give scriptures supporting our convictions. We must have the desire to teach others the Gospel, the good news of Christ
We must be firm, strong, and stable in our convictions — no “wishy washy”ness. Those that doubt are not really convicted of serving God. “For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:7-8).
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.