Sunday, March 13, 2016

Retracing Wesley #8 - Out of the Kettle; Into the Fire - Acts 4:23-31 & Galatians 5:19-23


As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said.  When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God:  “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,
‘Why were the nations so angry?
    Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
“In fact, this has happened here in this very city!  For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed.  But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will.  And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:23-31(NLT)

In our retracing of Wesley’s favored Scripture texts, last time we investigated Ephesians 5:14 about the sleepy, complacent frog languishing long enough to cook in the kettle – an analogy of the sleepy church, slowly dying, complacent, unwilling to awaken, arise and move out for God.

Today we want to follow-up with what happens if a frog-church decides to change and hops-out of the kettle to serve God; often we find we’ve jumped right in the fire!  That fire is the opposition of the world’s culture.

John Wesley’s sermon on this text, where all the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost gives us the picture of a church on fire for Christ, preaching the word of God with power!  They left the kettle and became God’s torch, filled with the Spirit of the living God.  And they set ablaze their generation with the holiness of heaven. 

At various times they faced the fire under the kettle; they would find themselves thrown in jail, swimming against the tide of “mainstream” culture.  Some were thrown in the arena with lions, or had their heads placed on chopping blocks.  It’s no wonder our lazy, sleepy frog preferred that nice warm kettle.

It’s interesting to note that in his sermon Wesley set aside what he called all the usual and curious, needless inquiries concerning the more exotic gifts of the Spirit, and rather honed-in on what purpose God had for the ordinary fruits….mercy, humbleness of mind, gentleness, long-suffering.[2] 

For John Wesley, being filled with the Spirit did not mean acting weird and speaking in an unknown tongue.  Rather, a full measure of being controlled by the Spirit of God meant using the ordinary fruits of kind, uplifting maturity to speak a word of truth in a generation of empty promises.

Rather than beat the air for an hour or so in a meaningless exercise of preaching with his head in heaven’s clouds, John Wesley wanted to be practical; he wanted to give down-to-earth advice for Christians who had to live life in the real world.  I’d like to do the same this morning. 

I want to frame what we say about being a “Scriptural Christian” AND what it means to be a good citizen while living in a culture that has forgotten what it means to be either a good citizen or serious follower of Christ Jesus.

A Disclaimer

The context for what I will say is the national election process, and my disclaimer is that I am not about to tell you for whom you should vote. 

This is primarily because I don’t know anything more about the real story behind the candidates than you do; frankly, none of us is privy to knowing what really happened with Hillary’s emails, Benghazi, Whitewater, charging for overnights in the Lincoln room, or foreign campaign and Presidential Library contributions. 

Neither are we on the inside about The Donald’s Trump University fraud class-action suit, his bottom-line financial status or whether his hands are the right size for someone with a massive comb-over. 

You and I all have our opinions about such things as border walls, immigrants, terrorists and waterboarding…not to mention abortion and homosexuality.  These are all issues with which we must wrestle and seek God’s truth in Scripture, tradition, reason and experience.  I know where I stand on each of these; I know what the United Methodist Church teaches, and I know what the candidates have said about each of these.

I’m not standing here today to rehash any of that; you can watch endless hours of CNN or Fox coverage on the debates and find out far more than you ever wanted to know about each niggling point.

So…let’s be clear…I am not here to tell you what to do about the issues that are on the table…but I must say something about what kind of person a Scriptural Christian chooses as a leader, and ask you to think about it as you vote.  First – who DOES NOT get a Scriptural Christian’s vote:


When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.  Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.    Galatians 5:19-21(NLT)

When you look at that very long list of undesirable qualities it should raise huge red flags in the minds of Scriptural Christian voters.  Being on that list should disqualify a candidate as choice for leading a moral, God-pleasing government; the whole process screams for a write-in, rather than choose anyone currently offered by the Democrats or Republicans.

One characteristic that stands out above all the others is quarreling.  Every debate, both blue and red have been as contentious as your average back alley dog fight.  The outbursts of anger, hostility, implied threats and backbiting negative television ads leave me nauseated and uninspired – to say the least! 

What’s odd here is that ALL the candidates profess to be either Christian, or Jewish, which indicates none of them pay attention to the governing Scriptural admonitions of their faith.  Accusing another believer of acts such as lying, stealing, incompetence, immorality and negligence of sacred duty in front of a worldwide audience is forbidden for people of Judeo-Christian faith.[3]

Another characteristic high on the list is idolatry.  People in love with their accomplishments are idolaters; they worship themselves!  Whether it is building resorts or coalitions to promote abortion, bragging about what great movements you’ve built is a lot like what Nimrod said about building a tower in Babel [4]as a monument to his greatness; God wasn’t pleased!

And, finally, drunkenness and wild parties kind of characterize politics these days.  A political rally these days looks more and more like teenagers in Daytona Beach during spring break!

So, we’ve talked about who isn’t qualified; now let’s see who is qualified?


But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!  Galatians 5:22-23(NLT)

The apostle holds up example of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and says that there isn’t any law against any of it.  And well there shouldn’t be! 

Take a moment to think about the ten people you’d most like to hang out with – would they be among the first list of quarreling, selfish, angry, quick-tempered, overly ambitious…or the second:  kind, faithful, gentle, patient, and with all their energies and personal self-control working well?

The best leaders, the ones who truly have in mind and on the front burner serving the people who elected them come from that second group.  That second group would never for a moment consider tapping into your fears and weaknesses to exploit you into voting for them.  Rather they would talk unceasingly about the right and honorable thing to do, and encourage you to humbly consider helping them lift our nation, state, county or city government towards a more noble way of life. 

They wouldn’t push to make America great, or make every empty promise they can to get elected; they would seek to honor the eternal purposes of our Creator who made us in His image, by inspiring us to seek what is best for all people!

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Philippians 4:8(NLT)

I know the candidates have to express their views on the issues we face; that is what government is supposed to do.  However, when they do that, is there anything noble, pure, admirable, true and lovely about the way they do it?  That’s a qualified candidate!

Who is DISQUALIFIED…Who is QUALIFIED…and One last Question:

What’s in the Heart of the VOTER?

Placing nationalism (which includes being a good citizen of America) over Christianity (which is being a good citizen of that city not made with hands), is idolatry.  And idolatry in any form invites the wrath of God.

You can be good citizens of both your country AND your Christ – but you cannot serve two masters; you must choose one

If you choose American nationalism – making America your god, then, in this election it does not matter which candidate for whom you vote. 

However, if you will be a citizen of Heaven, you must choose to align with Jesus.  And that means choosing someone who places character above ambition, and godliness above the polls. 

Can you do that with the choices you now see being offered by the Democrats or Republicans?

What to Do?

I can’t tell you what to do, or for whom to vote; I can only tell you what I’m going to do.

I’m going to pray between now and November that God will raise up someone full of the Spirit and godly to the core. 

I’m going to pray every day that God will give this person favor with all the people and propel him or her into the arena, and that, once elected, he or she will be able to lead us in a revival of actually doing and being what’s been on our coins for many decades: 


In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

[1] Title Images: Oliver Spalt, via Wikimedia Commons
[2]Scriptural Christianity, John Wesley, ©1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology. Text may be freely used for personal or scholarly purposes or mirrored on other web sites, provided this notice is left intact. Any use of this material for commercial purposes of any kind is strictly forbidden without the express permission of the Wesley Center at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID 83686. Contact the Webmaster for permission.
[3] See Romans 6 and others.
[4] Genesis 11

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