South Sydney Anglican Church

“FAITH in a Faltering World”- 8th & Last Sunday of the series

Bible Passage: Acts 4:1-22

Big Idea:       God has Spoken and Satan is Cancelling the Truth

Intro:              Well Morning Friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are continuing to think about Choosing Faith in Jesus in a hostile world. And today I want to speak about cancel culture and its spiritual attack on Christian truth. So let’s pray…

PRAYER:      Well today in Acts 4 – we are going to see that CANCEL CULTURE has been around since the beginning of the Christian church (and probably earlier). Cancel culture arises because Satan wants to cancel God’s truth and the way it shapes culture. SO WHAT IS CANCEL CULTURE? In our modern western context – there is fast becoming a dominant secular worldview that has very different 1) moral values and different 2) truth claims to traditional Judaeo-Christian western society. Now those who militantly uphold these new values and new truth claims – started by calling themselves “the woke” (meaning enlightened). But more recently “the woke”, has become a term of derision for many people. So here’s a little bit of background….

The term “WOKE” began with African-American activism around the 1960’s. African American people started saying to one another “STAY WOKE”. It was a call to be a Watchmen on the city walls – against racism (and not to get drowsy in this duty). Stay woke. The Black Lives Matter Movement then encouraged people who were woke to adopt a call-out culture with racism. They taught “the woke” (not to be passive), but to call out, challenge and verbally condemn anything and everything that appears racist. This CALL-OUT CULTURE was presented as A MORAL DUTY. You must condemn racism.

 Now at this time the internet and social media created a really good platform for a call out culture. 1) You could unfriend a person if they said the wrong thing. 2) You could shoot off a condemning text without looking the person in the eye. So human behaviour started to change. Instead of having the attitude of live and let live – people started to believe it was their moral duty to condemn “wrong behaviour”.

This condemning of “wrong behaviour” became known pejoratively as “cancel culture”. Instead of engaging in healthy dialogue about what is right and wrong behaviour – the new morality and new truth started shouting, shaming and boycotting – all opposing voices into repentance or at least silence. Most young people will have experienced this at some point in their life. So the internet now defines cancel culture as; (Slide 2). The problem is who decides what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour?

Then in 2017 the Me-Too movement went viral and the phrase “stay woke” – extended to violence and sexual exploitation of women. Soon afterwards – CALL-OUT CULTURE started to attack anyone who was anti-LGTBQIA. This was the enlightened’s moral duty. Then it extended to anti-transgenderism (think JK Rowling) and anti-environmentalism (think any number of politicians).

Sadly, this confrontational call-out culture – exploded on the streets of Australia this week. English Feminist Kellie Jay Keen (Slide 3) spoke on the fact that there are only two sexes male and female. She is not a Christian. But her speech was seen as anti-transgender and the moral police decided to cancel her in Melbourne and Canberra. Meanwhile, here in Sydney(ENTER) Mark Latham was invited to speak at a Catholic Church in Belfield – about PARENTAL RIGHTS and RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Now whatever you think about Mark Latham is besides the point. But some people in the new moral police decided Mark’s speech and Marks views had to be cancelled. They are offensive in a modern secular society.

Now what happened after this was not good. But how will you respond – when people start to cancel your Christian freedoms and your right to speak. Will it be with punches and heil Hitler salutes? OR will it be with acquiescence and silence?

Point 1:         Choosing Faith means Speaking Biblical Truth (even – Offensive)

Show:            Acts 4:1-4 (READ)

Explain:         Well in this story. Peter and John are going into the temple to PRAY. They meet A CRIPPLE at the front gates who asks for help. So Peter heals him and all of a sudden everyone is talking about Jesus. This offends some people. So Peter and John are thrown in jail and then told to stop talking about Jesus. It’s the first attempted CANCEL in the Christian church and there’s a few things we can learn from it.

First, I want you to notice (in verse 2) the Sadducees are greatly disturbed by Peter and John’s words. “GREATLY DISTURBED” means seriously offended or even emotionally hurt by their words. So Peter and John have OFFENDED some people with their words. Now I hope you realise that causing offence is becoming THE CARDINAL SIN in the call out community. You can kill a baby at birth. That’s ok. But causing someone offence by your words – is a hate crime.

So let’s just think about this for a moment. The Jewish Sadducees don’t believe in life beyond the grave OR that Jesus is the Messiah. So preaching these things in the temple is obviously provocative. I wouldn’t say it is intentionally provocative – because Peter and John didn’t go to the temple to stir the hornet’s nest. They went to the temple to pray. But given a good opportunity for the gospel, they do NOT shy away from being provocative OR causing offence.

Show:            Acts 4:8-11 (READ)

Well as you can see (verse 8) Peter says all this with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In fulfillment of Jesus words – the Holy Spirit gives the apostles the words to speak. So it is not really Peter and Johns words that are causing offence. It is the Holy Spirits words that the Sanhedrin ultimately try to cancel. So lets consider this offence.

The first thing the Holy Spirit says through Peter is;

  • This miracle is done in the NAME OF JESUS’ of Nazareth. Peter is saying the historic Jesus of Nazareth works miracles. You may have noticed before – that you can talk about God, spirituality or even church – and people will generally put up with you. But the minute Jesus’ name is used in a sacred way – silence and death stares come across the room. The name of Jesus is powerful to save. So the first thing Satan is super keen to cancel (n all contexts he controls) is Jesus’ name.
  • The second thing Peter says is that Jesus is THE CHRIST. That’s the same as you telling the people at work – Jesus is King of King By calling Jesus – the Christ – Peter is telling the Jews – Jesus is the one to whom A) you should ALL bow the knee and B) the one by whom you will ALL one day be judged. This is also offensive. If Jesus is King of King, it means I am not king; It means Mohammad is not really King and it means Jesus is the one to whom we will all one day answer. For sinners this is an offensive truth.
  • Then Peter says whom you crucified. This is an INDICTMENT of sin and wrongdoing. (GOSPEL) Now of course, Jesus was crucified and died on the cross to pay for our sins. There was a penalty for sin – it was death and hell. But Jesus took that penalty for us – as he died on the cross – so that we can be saved. So we should thank Jesus for dying for us and ask him to forgive us – because we are sinners. But until people grasp they are sinners – no one becomes a Christian. No one asks Jesus for forgiveness until they know they are a sinner. So, Peter is pretty direct. You crucified the King of Kings. Again, PRETTY OFFENSIVE. People don’t like being told their conduct is sinful.
  • Finally, Peter speaks about RESURRECTION LIFE. God raised Jesus from the grave. Now this pushes – lots of buttons. FIRST, it says the Sanhedrin are wrong. God vindicated the one they condemned. SECOND, Jesus’ resurrection proves there is life beyond the grave. This is pretty offensive to everyone who believes eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.Peter is like YEH, NAH. That’s wrong. You live. You die. You answer to Jesus. AND THIRD, Peter points out Jesus’ resurrection power is still working miracles for those who believe.
  • And then Peter finishes by talking about stones. The stone Jesus you guys rejected is actually the most important stone. Now all 70 men on the Sanhedrin (would have thought they were pretty important stones) in God’s house. So Peter is telling them to humble themselves and recognize Jesus’ glory. Now again, telling big men, with tickets on themselves – that they need to humble themselves – is kind of offensive.

Apply:            My point is simply that the gospel itself IS OFFENSIVE to sinful, proud human hearts. Of course, we shouldn’t be unnecessarily offensive because that is unloving. But neither should we change the gospel or shy away from the gospel simply because it does offend. – because that would also be unloving. Without gospel truth people are going to hell – and that is an absolute biblical truth.

Point 2:         Choosing Faith in Jesus means Making Absolute Truth Claims

Show:            Acts 4:12 (READ)

Explain:         Well as you can see here – Peter is simply REPEATING Jesus’ own words. in John 14:6 – Jesus says; “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is THE ONLY WAY to God the Father. So as a faithful follower of Jesus, Peter chooses faith and simply repeats Jesus words. He says; “Salvation is found in no one else (but Jesus) for there is no other name under heaven given to men – by which we must be saved.”

Now this is why Christianity is so offensive. Christians believe in absolute truth. We (the church) have absolute truthNOT because we are clever; NOT because of church tradition or EVEN human experience. No! Christians have absolute truth – because God has spoken his Word – first in natural revelation; then in Scripture and finally in Jesus (God’s Son) becoming flesh.

Nature tells us the speed of light is 300,000 km/second – because God made it this way. The speed of light is not relative. It is absolute. Denying the speed of light is 300,000km/sec is not choice, it is ignorance. Scripture also tells us that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and He is to be worshipped as three spiritual persons in one God. This is an absolute truth claim. Again, Jesus tells us that He is the ONLY way to be saved and everyone who rejects him will be sent to hell. There is absolute truth and we know absolute truth because God has spoken what is TRUE in nature, Scripture and Jesus.

But friends – in recent years Satan has waged war on absolute truth claims. In the 1980’s and 1990’s we saw the rise of POST-MODERNISM. People started to say – you have your truth and I have my truth. Now part of this came from MODERNITIES failure to deliver heaven on earth. People started to become skeptical of truth claims.

Multiculturalism also led to relativism. People would say; “you have your truth as Christians” and “Muslims have their truth as Muslims”; you can’t say one is right and one is wrong. But then, flash forward 40 years and the words man and woman have no meaning. Truth is simply my truth. If I identify as a woman, I am a woman. That is ok. But for some reason, if I identify as a disabled, blind man – I still can’t get a government pension. Even though truth is relative, the absolute truth is only some truths are relative.

Apply:            This is now simply the world we live in. Truth has been thrown to the ground (Dan.8:12). And its quickly becoming the case – that anyone who makes ABSOLUTE TRUTH CLAIMS (that contradict the secular worldview) are now being accused of causing offence and being hateful. But part of being a Christian is sharing the absolute truths of the Christian faith because they work and they are good for people to comprehend. We not only speak the truth in love. We speak the truth because it is love. It helps know how to live. We also uphold the absolute truths of Jesus – because there is no other way to be saved. So, even though absolute truth is now offensive to many people – love compels us to continue speaking God’s truth. If Gods truth gets cancelled completely – what remains will be hell (on earth).

Point 3:         Choosing Faith means obeying God, not man.

Show:            Acts 4:17-21 (READ)

Explain:         Well please note – the Sanhedrin try to cancel God’s truth by passing a law against the preaching of the gospel. Now this is an OFFICIAL LAW of Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin write the laws. What’s more, in verse 22 – you’ll see that it talks about further threats.” The threats are telling the disciples the consequences of disobedience. AND THOSE THREATS may include death – because later in Acts 9 the same word is used for Paul issuing “murderous threats” against Christians. The Sanhedrin have just cancelled public Christianity and evangelism. So the disciples respond; “WHO SHOULD WE LISTEN TO – GOD OR YOU?” The implication is God has also spoken AND who should they obey?

Apply:            What we see in Acts 4 – is that cancel culture or call-out culture has been around since the very first days of the Christian church. Satan is in the business of cancelling Gods truth and common sense.  Now I’d say Satan has been doing this since the Garden of Eden. Satan’s first words to Eve were; DID GOD REALLY SAY…”That could also be translated DID GOD REALLY SPEAK?  Of course, A) if God speaks, there is absolute truth. But B) if God did not speak (and has never spoken) – then truth is to be found by ourselves – through reason, experimentation, trial and error – ie the Enlightenment…

So today Satan is asking the world the same question as Eve – over and over again? Did God really say – homosexuality is a sin – show me chapter and verse  Did God really say – abortion is murder? Did God really say – man is man and woman is woman? Did God really say anything clearly? THE GENERAL CONSENSUS of the Western World is “No, God has not spoken.THE QUESTION NOW ISwill the church have the courage to keep saying Yes, God has spoken and He said don’t eat this forbidden fruit, or this forbidden fruit or this forbidden fruit.That’s the job of the church. 1 Timothy 3 is clear that the church is meant to be the PILLAR and FOUNDATION of God’s truth. But Satan is trying to cancel that truth.

Of course, knowing it’s the serpent asking usDid God really say…” we need to be as wise as a serpent in how we respond. We don’t want to be lured into the wrong fight or die on the wrong hill. So we need wisdom from the Holy Spirit. But we also NEED COURAGE to die on the right hill – if necessary. Wisdom (and fine sounding arguments) are often simply a mask for nothing more than pure cowardice – from little men who are not willing to climb out of the trenches. But this is NOT true or faithful Christianity either. It is sin. No where in the book of Acts – do the apostles lie down and allow themselves to be cancelled. So if you are going to choose faith in Jesus – you are making a choice to speak gospel truth and keep speaking gospel truth – even though causing offence is now the cardinal sin of secularism.

And if we do not find this courage we will have no gospel. There will be no need for a Saviour – because nothing will be sin. There will be no sin to call people to repent from and no godly living to call people to take up. So WE NEED COURAGE to uphold the truth and WE NEED COURAGE to uphold the truth in all contexts. Jesus told us to go into all the world preaching the gospel. There were no exclusions. So when your workplace says you cannot speak about Jesus – you need to decide who you will obey – God or man. When laws are passed saying you can no longer protest abortion near abortion clinic – you need to decide who will you obey? When such laws are passed (and they are being passed) will you A) get angry and lash out with a punch or a heil Hitler salute. Or B) will you acquiesce, go silent and stop sharing the gospel? And what makes you think the first response is any more sinful than the second?

Straight after Peter and John were CANCELLED by the Sanhedrin – the church came together and they read Psalm 2 and then they prayed, asking God to help them. And then, Acts 4:31 tells us the whole church was filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God boldly (directly disobeying the Sanhedrin). The Holy Spirit helped them do the right thing, instead of the wrong thing. Now in a world that is calling GOOD-evil and EVIL-good; the right thing often feels like the wrong thing, while the wrong thing feels like the right thing. But as the early church leans into God – through Bible and prayer (the ordinary means of grace) – they are led by God’s Spirit to do what is right. Now before long the right thing means – the apostles are thrown in jail again and they’re told to stop preaching Jesus’ name again AND again, they refuse to comply. The right thing can sometimes have negative consequences. The right thing can sometimes lead to greater hostility – not less hostility. Now the disciples are not violent, or aggressive and they throw no punches. But neither are they COWARDS who comply with laws that contradict God’s law. And my belief is that Christians need to start practicing these words in Acts 4 “who should I listen to you or God?” Who should I obey, you or God?

Do you have the courage to say this to your boss at work or principal at school – when they forbid you speaking about Jesus in these contexts? Will you just comply? Do you have the courage to still call sin – sin, when certain behaviours are protected by the laws of the land? Or will you just comply? And how might you justify that to yourself?

Yes, last week I spoke about being WISE AS A SERPENT and not dying on the wrong hill. But remaining innocent as a dove means being willing and ready to die on the right hill if it is asked of you. Please remember that disobeying God, in order to obey man – is not right and it is never right. It is sin. It is unfaithfulness and it is cowardice. So as the storm clouds darken (and Christians start to be cancelled and lose their jobs) – I think we need to start praying that God will give this sort of courage to our church leaders and even to ourselves; that if and when the time comes we may GRACIOUSLY, GENTLY AND YET UNEQUIVOCALLY say; (with the apostles); “Judge for yourself what is right in Gods eyes. Should I obey you or God?And I suggest we keep praying, until we have the courage to stand by every offensive part of gospel, in every context and under every threat – because this truth is only truth under heaven given to man by which people may be saved.


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