September 20, 2015
Series: “A Time to Keep Silent, a Time to Speak Up, and a Time to Suffer”
Today’s Message: “A Time to Speak Up” (Part One)
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Intro: Should Christians have a voice in the public square? Should we speak up on controversial issues, and run the risk of being called intolerant and hateful? Many believe that Christians should keep their beliefs to themselves. Should we?
Last Sunday we saw that there were times when we should keep silent, when the best thing to do is to be quick to listen and slow to speak, both before the Lord and with others.
But there are other times when God not only commands us to speak up; we can’t help but open our mouths with His praise and thanks, and tell others Who He is and what He’s done for us in Christ! As the prophet Jeremiah once said, “His Word is in my heart like a fire” and he could not hold it in anymore! (Jer. 20:9)
When you study the Bible to see what God says about the times that we should or must speak up, you find at least four major categories:
1. Speak up to Praise the Lord.
2. Speak up to Proclaim the Whole Gospel.
Then next Sunday, Lord willing, we’ll look at…
3. Speak up to Defend the Weak Against Injustice.
4. Speak up with Intercessory Prayer.
My prayer for you and for me is that God would put such a fire in our hearts that we would feel compelled to speak up in these four ways. Let’s look at the first two ways today:
I. Speak up to Praise the Lord
Psalm 34:1-3 “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.”
Here is the psalmist boasting in the Lord, in a wonderful combination of worship and witness. David was in great danger, and he cried to the Lord and God delivered him, and now his thankfulness spills over into public praise. And David’s heart is so moved by what God has done for him that he calls others in the congregation to join him in publicly giving praise to the Lord.
How about you? When was the last time that you “boasted in the Lord” and called on others to join you in giving glory to the Lord? Think about it: some of you boast about your children or grandchildren; others “boast” of your aches and pains; and some may boast of accomplishments…but do you boast of the Lord? If that’s something that you struggle with, then I urge you to study Psalm 34 this week, and make it your own. See how David fears the Lord, takes refuge in God, seeks the Lord and calls upon Him in the midst of trouble, and how all that adds up to David boasting in the LORD. Will you try that?
Or how about Psalm 96, a great missionary hymn? The background is that the Ark of the Covenant has been returned to Zion (Jerusalem), and the psalmist is bursting with joy to tell everyone about the greatness and the glory of the Lord! It’s like his precious wife, children, and grandchildren have been away for years, and now that they are back with him, he’s the happiest man on earth… and he wants to tell everybody how wonderful they all are! Listen to vv. 1-3:
Psalm 96:1-3 “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
As God’s redeemed people we should joyfully desire to bring praise to our great God with our songs and our declarations. Our worship should be exuberant and energetic, so that it spills over into missions and evangelism! We should desire that all the nations would join us in our songs of praise to the Lord! (Think about our worship going out the windows to the neighbors and to the ends of the earth – in our homes and when we meet corporately).
Later we’ll sing the words of this Psalm in Hymn # 454 “Declare His Glory Among the Nations”
Here’s a principle worth pondering: You will talk about what you love. You will tell others about what you love and what brings joy to you. So… does Jesus Christ bring joy to you? Do you love Him? He certainly loves you and has done great and wonderful things for you!
Would you ask the Lord for a heart that is so full of love and joy in the Lord, that you just can’t keep your mouth shut about the glories of the Lord? Even if people tell you to shut up?
And that leads us to Luke 19:36-40 As (Jesus) went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus tells them that such speaking out in praise is inevitable, when people behold who Jesus really is, because He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords! Furthermore, the psalms remind us that all of creation cries out with praise to the Lord, because that’s why it was made in the first place. God created the world and the universe for His glory! And so the heavens, the earth and the seas all are jubilant with praise to God. The rivers and the mountains, the trees and the fields, and all that is in them, all shout and clap their hands in exuberant worship to the Lord. So if we don’t speak up in praise to the Lord, the stones are going to put us to shame!
And we can say that the stones did cry out: The first time was when the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb, proclaiming that death could not hold him. The second time was in 70 AD, when not one stone was left upon another, in the destruction of Jerusalem, thus confirming the prophetic judgement of Jesus, regarding those who rejected the gospel.
So ask the Holy Spirit for the holy boldness to speak up in public praise to the Lord. As the song says, “Ain’t no rock gonna cry in my place; As long as I’m alive I’ll glorify His holy name.”
Summary: As those who have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s seek the Lord and ask him for a joyful heart to speak up in praise, in thanksgiving, in worship and witness, for He is worthy! Amen?
The second time to speak up is closely related to the first one:
II. Speak up to Proclaim the Whole Gospel
If speaking up to praise the Lord is the vertical aspect, then speaking up to proclaim the whole gospel is the horizontal dimension, but the two are closely related.
Look at Acts 20:20-21, 24-27 “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.…. if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace….Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”
Notice that Paul fearlessly and persistently proclaimed the whole will, the full counsel of God’s Word. He didn’t shrink back from the hard issues and the difficult applications. By God’s grace he told the truth of the whole gospel – to the whole person – and to the whole culture. (By the way, Acts 20:27 has been the motto of this church for at least the last 45 years. At the bottom of the church stationary it reads, “Declaring the whole counsel of God.”)
Now many of you might take such a stance for granted, for this has been the perspective of the pastors of this church for at least the last 57 years, by four pastors. But declaring the whole truth of God’s Word is getting harder in our culture, isn’t it?
I recently read an article in a reformed denominational magazine, where the author, a pastor himself, was speaking to a group of reformed pastors in Canada. Now Canada has, for 10 years, put restrictions on what anyone can say in the area of sexual identities and same sex marriage, etc. So he asked these pastors, as ministers of God’s Word, how they were dealing with these restrictions. Here’s what he wrote: “For several long seconds there was no answer. Finally one of the senior ministers in the group quietly offered: ‘We simply avoid the issue’. I was stunned. I was shocked. I retorted: ‘Brothers, do you fear God?’.”
When the fear of man replaces the fear of the Lord, our churches are in big trouble. I know what this may mean for me, as a pastor, and for a church such as ours. We may lose our tax-exempt status and have to pay a yearly real estate tax. You may not be able to get a tax deduction for your contributions to the church. I could be taken to court for intolerant, discriminatory, hateful language… just for proclaiming the whole counsel of God; not merely for preaching on passages such as Romans 1, but for teaching from Gen. 2 and Matt. 19 that marriage is only for one man and one woman, for life. It’s already happening in Canada. But by God’s grace I will proclaim the whole counsel of God’s Word while I still have breath. As God enables me, I want to declare His glorious gospel, in all its fullness, applying it to the crucial questions of today.
Listen to a quote that is usually attributed to the reformer Martin Luther:
“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”
I cannot be silent when God commands me to proclaim His truth. Yes, I must do so graciously, lovingly, and wisely, always desiring to give glory to the Lord and to speak the truth in love to my hearers….but I must proclaim what the Lord has said.
And each of you, if you are true followers of Jesus Christ, if the Holy Spirit lives in you, each of you must also speak the truth of the gospel, in the same gracious way. See Col. 4:5-6, where Paul commands the believers to “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Also see 1 Peter 3:15)
Look at the courage to speak up that some blue collar ordinary guys had in Acts 4:13-20 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus….But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name. Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The leaders of Israel had had enough of this preaching about Jesus Christ and Him being the only way of salvation (4:12), so they tried to use the authority of the state to put a gag order in place, seeking to restrict what the apostles could say. (Sound familiar?) And how did Peter and John respond? Did they say, “Well, we need to obey the government/ the law of the land”? No. They said “We can’t help speaking about Jesus Christ!” or as Peter replies later in Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men!”
The apostles didn’t retreat (the so-called Benedict Option, of retreating into our monasteries);
They didn’t give in and let the state dictate what they could say or not say, in the public square;
Rather they chose the Daniel or Shadrach option, by honoring and obeying God above the laws and judgements of men, when the two are in conflict. Likewise, we too must speak up and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, even when in runs counter to the laws of the land. It will cost us to speak this way; it may cost us dearly. Right now it sometimes costs our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in Nigeria, and in India their very lives. But that’s when others realize how valuable and precious this gospel message is… when they see how much it costs us.
You know, if you pay a lot for something, you are acknowledging that it is very valuable, right? Well, remember that no message is more valuable than the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
And there was a forerunner to Jesus Christ whose preaching the gospel did demand his life:
Luke 3:3-20 “(John the Baptist) went into all the country… preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins….John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? …And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.”
Note that John’s public ministry of the gospel included publicly and repeatedly rebuking the country’s leader, not only for the sinful action he had taken with regards to Herodias (Herod married his brother’s wife, even though it meant that both of them had to first divorce their spouses), but also for “all the other evil things he had done.”
As a result of John’s bold and pointed preaching, and for specifically applying God’s Word to Herod’s wicked behavior, John was locked up in prison, and eventually put to death. But like the prophets before him and the apostles after him, John had the gospel fire in his bones, and he could not help speaking of what he knew about God’s Word and God’s Savior, Jesus Christ.
Into a world that considers any exclusive truth claim to be intolerant, we must lovingly speak up that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)
Into a world that has rejected God’s meaning of marriage, we must graciously speak up and say that God has created and defined marriage to be between one man and one woman. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5)
Into a world that has embraced the horrible lie that to kill an unborn child is an act of compassion to his mother, we must mercifully speak up and proclaim that God alone has the right to give and take life, and that we shall not murder. (Job 1:21; Exodus 20:13)
Into a world that has repressed the truth about God, and has attributed the glorious richness and order of the universe to matter, chance, and time, we must wisely speak up and point to the heavens that are declaring God’s glory, and that what can be known about God is plain and clear, from what He has created. (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:19-20)
Into a world that has embraced the rejection of the Truth, the destruction of marriage, the extermination of the innocents, and the veneration of nature…
…we must speak up with the joyful praise of the Lord and the proclamation of the whole gospel!
It will be costly to speak up in praise and proclamation…
But that’s when others will see how costly and valuable our message really is.
When it’s costly to deliver a message, the message must be costly; for people will only pay dearly for what is valuable.
Paying dearly glorifies the valuable thing, and no message is more valuable than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So keep speaking the gospel, in praise and in proclamation.
Remember: You talk about what you love.