Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul’
© February 14, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Messaged Shared at BLCF on March 2 2014
Worship: Responsive Reading #634 Christian Unity – from John 10 and 27, 1Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); Prayer
Opening Hymn #171: Thine is the Glory, Risen, Conquering; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 32:21-24 and Acts 4:23-33
Let us pray…
“The devil made me do it.” Any of us who lived through the 1970’s may recall the comedian Flip Wilson, who coined this popular catch phrase used whereby any mistake would be blamed upon the devil.
Psychologist use the term “projection” for a form of denial of the truth, by placing the blame or responsibility for an unacceptable attribute(s) upon others.
Here is our Wikibits explanation of the term:
Psychological projection was conceptualized by Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) in the 1900s as a defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world. For example, a person who is rude may accuse other people of being rude.
While we can only guess as to what may have inspired Flip Wilson in blaming the devil for actions or words which might offend others, we see this phrase strikes a harmonic chord among those familiar with the Scriptures. There are numerous examples in the Bible, which describe an individual attributing sinful or evil behavior as being the fault of others. I have listed a few of the more familiar one in today’s bulletin.
The first example comes from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, verses 11-13:
Genesis 3:11-13 (ESV)
11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
God finds Adam and Eve have covered their nakedness, and asks: “Who told you that you were naked?” Such awareness could only come from eating from the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
Adam blames Eve, and even God for giving him Eve to be with him, by replying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate”, also implying innocence on his part. If you read Genesis, Chapter 3, you will see that Adam was present when the devil, disguised as a serpent, and tempted Eve with eating the forbidden fruit by saying in doing so she would become wise as God. Adam heard the whole conversation between Eve and the devil, and knew that the fruit that Eve had given was from the tree that God said was forbidden to eat.
And when God asks Eve, “What have you done?” we see that Eve responds, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” In other words, “The devil made me do it.” Both Adam and Eve gave responses which betrayed their sin, since they had acquired an awareness of right and wrong, by the clothes they now felt compelled to wear, and by the blaming others for their transgression.
Our second example comes from Genesis, Chapter 4, where Cain, jealous over his brother, Abel’s offerings to God, slays him:
Genesis 4:9-11 (ESV)
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
Again, we see this sinful tendency in humanity demonstrated by the actions of Cain, who after killing his brother, hid from God and then falsely told God that he does not know where Abel is. He even makes the sarcastic rhetorical response to the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Our third example comes from Exodus, Chapter 32, verses 21-24, when Aaron tries to blame his actions of first blaming “the people”, indicating that “they are set on evil.”
Exodus 32:21-24 (ESV)
21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
Aaron does not acknowledge the sin or his involvement, indicating that “evil people made me do it.” Sounds a little like: “The devil made me do it.”
What make matters worse, after committing a sin, is to blame sinful behavior upon someone else. Now we have two sins to confess: the initial sin and then the bearing false witness by blaming the sin someone else, even as in the case of Adam and Eve, the devil did his best to induce them into sin.
God not only wants us to avoid sin, but when sin happens to confess and acknowledge our sins. Remember, God has already projected the guilt of our sins upon His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty for those sins, with his life. In effect, we have no excuse to not confess our sins.
And as in the account of the golden calf, God wants us to acknowledge Him for what he provides, whether it is freedom from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt or the gifts of the Spirit. By acknowledging the powers and gifts we receive from God, particularly through Jesus Christ: salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life, we are drawn closer to Him.
By accepting Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit, believers become united, through the Spirit, into a “body of believers.”
An account, that is in contrast the above accounts of sinners compounding their sinful behavior by denying God’s authority and not confessing their sins, is that involving the apostles, Peter and John, who used faith and the Spirit’s power to heal a lame beggar, as described in Acts Chapter 3, verses 1-16 (ESV):
The Lame Beggar Healed
3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Not only is the healing by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, but it allows the lame man to join with the body of worshipers inside the temple. You see, in those times anyone with a physical impairment was not permitted to enter the temple, as their impairment was considered God’s punishment for a sin by the individual or by his or her ancestors. The beggar, having been healed of his affliction, is for the first time in his life, permitted to enter the temple and join the body of the church, or body of believers, as they worship inside the temple. Christ intended for all people to worship together in a unified Spirit, regardless of their physical condition. Through Christ, all who believe and confess become acceptable unto God and become a part of His church.
This healing, as well as others, where the disciples acknowledged the resurrected Christ as Lord, from whom they had been given the power of the Holy Spirit, had angered the leaders of the temple, resulting in the arrests of Peter and John not just once, but twice! On one occasion, the two are freed by the words of Peter as he is guided by the Spirit. And on the second occasion, John and Peter are freed from prison by an angel of God, who instructs them to continue sharing the Lord’s Gospel.
After the two arrests, we see that the disciples pray not for their own personal safety, but for the Spirit’s guidance and influence, for courage to continue to praise and glorify God, and to acknowledge the gifts through His Son, Jesus. Acts, Chapter 4, verses 23-33 (ESV):
The Believers Pray for Boldness
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[a] said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’[b]—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[c] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
They Had Everything in Common
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
We see that a choice is offered us, between two contrasting paths that we may take:
One choice is to be like Adam, Eve, Cain and Aaron, is to drift away from God towards sin and to make matters worse by not confessing those sins, instead placing blame on others.
The other choice is to draw closer to God, by confessing the sins and accepting God’s path to forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then, we may pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to boldly witness the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the world, which is our Commission as believers in the Resurrected Christ. Just as in the days of Adam and Eve, Cain and Aron, and the disciples of Christ, we see that those without faith exhibit Godlessness, which is an absence of God, in their behavior, 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 1-5 (ESV):
Godlessness in the Last Days
3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
We should avoid the influence of people who are Godless, but instead being bold in our courage to witness the Gospel of Jesus, for the salvation’s sake! Let us pray to God, as a body of the church of believers, united in God’s Spirit, for a unity of purpose, and a boldness of Spirit, in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding
Benediction – (Romans 15:5-6):
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.