A text of the message of Sunday, May 31, 2020 by Melvin Gaines for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church:
For audio of this message, please click here.
I want you to think about something that probably is not talked about as often as it should be. It has everything to do with how you, as a person who acknowledges Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, will respond when someone who opposes you turns up the heat. Here’s a clue about today’s message. Today’s world is certainly heating up. It’s about to get very hot.
A very interesting comment was made on social media earlier in the week, and it was done within a conversation that I was having with a person who happened to be affiliated with a major social media platform. The platform is known as Gab, which is a lesser known version of Twitter, but it actually prides itself on freedom of speech, whereas Twitter has been accused of bias and censorship over a number of years. Gab, in contrast, allows all forms of speech, including what many would deem as “hate speech.” Well, it is easy to spot hate speech, and there are limits to this type of speech, and that is where I was having a friendly but pointed discussion as to how and when their specific platform makes the determination as to when a user engaging in hate speech is crossing a line. A line is crossed when there are actual threats against another user, and that was acknowledged within the discussion as a violation of the terms of service. We were debating where that actual line was being drawn. At the end of the conversation, the person from Gab made a very good comment, and I quote, “One day the Bible will be viewed as hate speech, brother. We (Gab) are just getting ahead of the curve.”
I thought about that comment, and then I responded, “I believe we’re already there. Many Christians are self-isolating in this area. They’ll be brought up to speed very soon.”
Now, I want you to think about both of these comments, and we will circle back on this and ask a very important question for you to consider.
Now, for those of you who are not on social media, allow me to add some additional insight into today’s electronic era of communication. There are a number of different platforms or venues that people can explore and, frankly, get lost into because of what they are looking for as far as entertainment. There is the “social” part of social media and making electronic “friends,” but it is also an arena for the discussion and exchange of ideas. It is the electronic version of the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates spending the day standing in a courtyard discussing the issues worth talking about, or fast-forward to the barber shop gatherings during the post-civil rights movement where men got together for hours to talk about everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. It is also important to point out that social media is not always a very positive place. It is an active place of cultural warfare, and yes, even spiritual warfare. When encounters online take place like this, it is not a place for the faint of heart, and to be fair, neither were the philosopher discussions, nor those at the barber shop. If you lacked knowledge, you kept your mouth shut, listened and learned, or you would be subject to abject ridicule.
But the comment about the Bible being viewed as hate speech one day made me think. So, here are my questions for you:
What would you do if the Bible was deemed to be hate speech?
What would you say in return?
Consider today’s world and today’s climate. Of course, there has been a change in the mood of the people not just in this country, but all over the world. We have seen how our country can be shut down in a matter of days, if not hours, when a pandemic takes place. So much has changed that what seemed to be a time of prosperity has turned into a time of uncertainty. The economic recovery will be very slow. It is necessary to point out that a number of people have their self-worth intertwined in their jobs and in their livelihood. Millions of people lost their jobs. Domestic violence was on the rise. Suicides were increasing in number. Many people were looking at this time as the beginning of the end.
Let me share this with you…the Bible, God’s holy Word, for many millions of people, has been a place of solace, peace and contentment. Not just in this day, but for as long as we all can remember. But what if it was now labeled as hate speech? What do you think would happen in a time like this? Think about it.
What will you do?
Let’s talk about my response to the gentleman’s comment, “I believe we’re already there. Many Christians are self-isolating in this area. They’ll be brought up to speed very soon.”
I said this because any Christian who has read and studied the Word of God already knows that we are already in the last days. We are already facing what I will refer to as a covert and overt operation that declares opposition to the Word of God. It is a certainty because we have seen it with our own eyes, and God’s Word speaks of it.
Let’s be clear. I mentioned that there are haters of God on social media. Well, there are haters of God everywhere.
Romans 1:28-32 ESV
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
So these are the people that we would immediately avoid because of what they believe. This is in line with my comment that many people who follow the Lord will readily self-isolate themselves. They do it to avoid confrontation. But here’s another question for you…is this what God would have us do? It’s one thing to not socialize with people like this, because “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33), and there are many reminders in Scripture to be aware of those who practice what is corruptible behavior.
But let’s go a little deeper here.
Let’s consider, and remember, that not every person who is in opposition to God is forever lost. The Holy Spirit is responsible for bringing even the most wretched people on earth to a place where they experience salvation in Jesus Christ. With that being said, are we to stay in isolation, or are we to stand firm in our faith in the midst of opposition? The obvious answer to this question is “Why, yes, of course!” Well, what happened to Paul and the apostles when things got really hot?
Mark 14:26-31 ESV
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
Then it got really, really hot…
Mark 14:43-50 ESV
43 And immediately, while he (Jesus) was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they (the disciples) all left him and fled.
And of course, Peter, a mighty man of God, also wilted in the heat of the moment.
Mark 14:66-72 ESV
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Have you been thinking about what you would have done?
Is it safe to say that many of us would, or could, be Peter in the face of extreme adversity?
It is for this reason that when we are faced with opposition as we ask ourselves the question, “What will you do?” Well, here’s what where we should start…we need to pray for God’s strength and be ready to take a stand.
Here’s a truth for you to consider. If you are dealing with a person who hates God, there is not a lot that you can say to change that person’s mind. Of course, God is the one who will provide you the words to be said:
Luke 12:11-12 ESV
11 “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Remember that we are in the midst of cultural and spiritual warfare. It will continue to get more and more difficult to be a Christian. We are in the end times. Jesus spoke openly about this when questioned by his disciples:
Matthew 24:3-14 ESV
3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
There will come a time and a place where people who were avid defenders of the faith will shrink under the pressure of the opposition and in the midst of great lawlessness. The haters of God will be more prevalent and more apparent in our midst.
What will you do?
What can you do?
You can hide and self-isolate yourself, or…
You can read the Bible.
You can meditate on His Word.
You can pray for His wisdom and knowledge through the Holy Spirit.
You can pray to live a life of purpose in Jesus Christ.
You can have faith and trust in His presence.
You can lean on Him for strength and endurance.
Your best defense against the opposition is to merely stand. Stand on God’s promises.
Ephesians 6:10-18a ESV
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
God has provided you with the best equipment that money cannot buy. The equipment listed here in this passage is available for anyone who calls upon Him in our most difficult moments. There is no need for you to be eloquent or fancy with words—to do so may be a recipe for disaster. It’s best for us to just stand firm in our faith. It says in verse 13 to “stand firm,” and in verse 14 to stand in truth and righteousness in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By wearing the armor of God, we cannot lose. Please note that those who will shrink away will be the ones who are left naked before Him because they will turn away from Christ. You have been given everything you need by Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit, to be successful. Your ultimate victory is in Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:56-58 ESV
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Do you see this? What will you do? You will remember to remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in God’s work. This is your key to overcome the God-haters. We must always remember that it is not you that they are opposed to.
Romans 8:31-39 ESV
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You already have the victory, so live like a winner. There’s no need to hide when things get hot. Put on that full armor of God and stand firm in Jesus Christ.
Now you know what to do.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines