Sermon: Acts 19

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Suffering, Sin and Doing Good

1 Peter 4 talks about suffering. There is a good suffering and a bad suffering according to Peter.

Bad suffering occurs when we do sin. If we “suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters,” then we’ve got bad suffering. We’re just getting our come-upins. We’re reaping what the flesh has sown. There is no virtue in suffering for being an idiot.

Good suffering is suffering brought on by doing good, especially in doing good for Christ. When we get this kind, we are taking part in the sufferings of Christ and seriously, how cool is that?!

So, there are two kinds of suffering:

1) Suffering brought on by not doing God’s will, which brings sinful results
2) Suffering brought on by doing God’s will, which inflames the world against you

Either way, whether by doing God’s will or resisting it, you’re going to suffer! This is the beauty of life on earth–aint no one exempt from the suffering. Rich guys, poor guys, powerful, weak, slave, free, men, women it just doesn’t matter, you will suffer.

So, God does not give you a suffer or don’t suffer option. There is no such thing as “Oh, just have more faith and all suffering will disappear.” Not a biblical concept. The Bible says no matter what, you will suffer.

Therefore, you might as well suffer for good. “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

God is good and He will set things right, if not now, then in the world to come. Bind yourself to Him, do His will, do well for He is a faithful Creator. He’s watching. He will take care of you, but through suffering is how we enter the glory later.

Don’t look for shortcuts around suffering, they don’t exist. Instead, resign yourself to suffering and choose to get the suffering that results from listening to God. You will win in the end!

Suffering and Overcoming Sin

Suffering is what we’d rather go without. Our major concern in life about suffering is why God allows it.

One reason God allows suffering is that it helps us put off sin. What, huh?

How does suffering help us put off sin? Actually, that’s not even as extreme as the Bible says it. Chew on this one, “for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.”

Apparently, and again this is the Bible, suffering in the flesh results in ceasing from sin.

Ultimately the context is referring to Jesus Christ. He suffered in the flesh and then He rose again. He was made perfect in suffering, has now put off his flesh body and is in resurrection life.

But what is true for Christ is also true for the one in Christ. So, the whole phrase in context says:

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

We should do what Christ did and arm ourselves with the same mind. To arm means to equip with weapons! Fight sin like it’s a battle worth winning.

There is so much hopelessness taught in modern Christianity concerning sin. We’ve overworked the total depravity line to refer to the believer just as much as the unbeliever. We’ve given in to our Romans 7 woe is me I can’t help it pity sinfest. We’ve forgotten the victory in Christ.

We’ve undermined the power of resurrection life so that we may enjoy sin for a season or two more. In doing so, we marginalize the Gospel, defeat our witness, and blaspheme our Savior who has given us the victory.

Defeating sin is not automatic; it must be fought with spiritual weapons provided by Christ, received by faith, and used by Spiritual fruit such as self-control.

Instead of this, Christians pretend that a lack of suffering is equal to great faith. If you believe enough you get health and wealth, whereas the Bible says suffering is to be embraced as suffering is what leads to spiritual growth.

How often our prayers are being asked amiss and how many spiritual lessons would we learn if we began to see life as God did. Do we desire as Paul did to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings? On the other side of suffering is spiritual victory.

Embrace it, face it, and look for more of it! Suffering: it does a soul good.

The End of the World

Last week we survived the Mayan Apocalypse, which really wasn’t anything to do with an actual Mayan prophecy about anything. But it was another in a long line of failed end of the world jitters.

Reason Magazine had an article about The End of the World, which ended like this:

But 9/11 and Katrina also remind us that the last days never quite seem to arrive. We exit apocalyptic time. A city starts to rebuild. Normal life resumes. Many people’s worlds come to an end, but the world itself persists.

And then the next disaster strikes from above, or the next millennial fever surges up from below. The end times never really end. It’s always Armageddon somewhere.

When I read these paragraphs, my mind immediately thought that this was a secular version of 2 Peter 3:4:

Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

The world isn’t going to end because it hasn’t ended so far is the human logic on display here. To which Peter answers, “Um, what about Noah?” But, of course, we who know more now, know that Noah was just a fairy tale about a guy riding out a bad thunderstorm.

The world will come to an end, there will be an Armageddon, a Judgment Day, and eventually this world being cooked. No, it has never happened before, but if God’s Word means anything, it will come.

Even so, come quickly.

The Trial of Your Faith

Christmas time is filled with dorky movies about “Believing” in Santa Claus. If enough people believe, Santa’s reindeer can fly and presents will be delivered. But woe unto you, o good children, if you stop believing, for then Santa can’t deliver your presents!

So, we believe in Santa Claus. Our faith in Santa is tested when other kids mock us, but we keep believing because Christmas is coming! On Christmas we get presents, therefore, our faith results in the payoff. Faith works!

Except then we go to school and realize the class moron also got presents for Christmas. “Hey, wait a minute! I thought Santa only gave presents to good kids?” Our faith begins to falter.

Believing in Jesus is similar, except Jesus is, of course, real and is not at all dependent upon whether anyone believes in Him or not, but our faith is tested. Others tell us He’s a myth, that the Bible greatly exaggerates His persona, and that His judgment will never come.

But we persevere, we resist the trials and temptations and keep believing, following His Word. Judgment Day will come and our faith will payoff with praise, honor and glory! And the morons won’t get any of it!

Another difference between Santa and Jesus (and yes, there are plenty), is that Christmas comes once a year; judgment day comes once every eternity. There are no do-overs.

Everyone can claim to have faith, to believe in Jesus. But it is only those who pass the testing of their faith–which may include persecution, materialism, abundance, depravity or any number of things–who will receive blessing.

This is my commentary on 1 Peter 1:7