When we first come to Christ, we are so excited about Kingdom work! Every sermon we drink in, every time the plate is passed and we’re able to give to His work, every song we sing, every time someone comes to Christ, those days were (hopefully are) an absolute joy. That is, until there’s turmoil and division in the church, or someone looks down on you because of how you are dressed, or someone comes up to you while you are sitting and just stands there because you are in their seat and they just can’t sit anywhere else.
Are you ready to take the risk? Because in the passage I read to you, while some good advice was offered by our friend Gamaliel, his leadership was lacking because he was afraid to put down his PIPE and take the risk. And the question for you, as we expand its understanding is this:
- If you are one who is exploring the Christian faith, are you willing to take the risk and investigate the Scriptures and the point of the Scriptures, Jesus—or will you just take a wait and see approach.
- If you are in the faith, are you ready to take the risk in obeying the clear commands of Jesus to go and make disciples—or is the goal a safe Christianity and a clear avoidance of the risk that this may entail?
- If God is calling you to a specific service for Him or to share Jesus with someone else, are you ready to take the risk and trust the One who calls, or will we look more at the obstacles?
For as long as we live, we will have risks. Risks, whether we do something or do nothing. In this passage, the disciples had risks when they obeyed. Gamaliel took a risk by advising half-good/half-bad advice, but the bad advice was so bad that even the good part could turn bad—and that ain’t good!
Gamaliel in all his respect, all his honor, in all his supposed wisdom let the team down. Yes, he was right they did not want to risk fighting God, but he did not want to take a risk period. In verses 36 and 37, Gamaliel brought up two rebels—Theudas (v. 36) and Judas the Galilean (v. 37). Both claimed to be someone, both died, everyone scattered.
But Gamaliel missed something that should have made him stop and say, “Wait, this is different!” Jesus perished like the other men, but these men did not disperse. In fact, they were bold because Jesus died for their sins, and though He died He rose again.
Warren Wiersbe rightly said, “No one can be neutral about Christ. To delay making a decision is to court disaster.”
The disciples did not delay, did they? An angel released them and told them, “Go, stand, speak.” And did not delay. The ruling council obeyed men, the disciples obeyed God! They had to! Gamaliel was governed by caution, the disciples by conviction. What governs you?
Taking a risk for the Kingdom may suffer you dishonor! Jesus was enough for them to put themselves out there for the Kingdom. He was worth it! Jesus encouraged his disciples about what would happen
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).
It all comes down to this. We have approximately 900 Southern Baptist churches closing each year (that’s 17-18 churches every week). On top of this, a 2011 survey with LifeWay,
self-described as “distressing results” – indicate that 61 percent of evangelical Christians fail to share their faith on a regular basis, even though they believe it is their responsibility to do so. Moreover, nearly half of those respondents said they have not invited a non-Christian friend to church in the past six months.
As a result, over the last ten years, a decline of 2.6 million people in attendance has happened in evangelical churches. Currently, 7-10% of our nation are those who have trusted in Christ, believe in the authority of the Scriptures, attend church, and are engaged in active church disciplines and service. But if this trend continues nationwide, by 2030, there will only be 4-5%. Vance Havner once said that where we should be using the sickle to reap the harvest of souls, we are turning our sickles to each other.
In our half-mile radius of our church, there are 13000, 11,500 of whom do not attend church. Denver is fourth in the nation of the number of people who do not identify with any religious affiliation. We have friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors who are without Jesus and any hope of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Fewer and fewer people understand the basics of Scripture, something that many of us have taken for granted. And fewer and fewer believers and church attenders are taking God’s Word and way into consideration for decisions in their lives. Why?
It’s risky. Following Jesus is not easy. Worth it? Yes! But in our culture, folks will laugh at you, reject you, mock you, want to silence you, tell you you are crazy. Or some will just say, “I’ll think about it.” No decision is a decision. Doing nothing is doing something.
We have to be ready to take some risks (1) in our devotion and being disciples of Jesus. We must go in full submission to His will and His way and His direction. We cannot go in our direction and assume God’s on-board with us. And (2) we live in a place that is so unreached and so apathetic to the things of Jesus that what will happen is they will look at how we live. But it’ll take more than that. We will have to look for openings and opportunities in which to say, “You know, I know that you are struggling with this. Can I tell you what helped me through this?” And then be ready to tell others about how, in our brokenness, we need to see God’s design in creating this world and us, but that we have wandered away from that design and pursued our own thing. That’s sin! That’s why we are broken. Rather than finding our own way, we hear about the good news of Jesus who loved us enough to rescue us ourselves. As we repent from our sin and brokenness and turn to Jesus, we can recover and pursue God’s design.”
The acronym PIPE came from an earlier sermon in Acts where the Sanhedrin loved their power, influence, position, and education.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 289). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
“Majority of Churchgoers Never Share Their Faith, Lifeway Study Shows,” https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2012/august/majority-of-churchgoers-never-share-their-faith-lifeway.html