That is what you must do with your sermons, make them red-hot; never mind if men do say you are too enthusiastic, or even too fanatical, give them red-hot shot. There is nothing else half as good for the purpose you have in view. We do not go out snow-balling on Sundays, we go fire-balling; we ought to hurl grenades into the enemy’s ranks.—C.H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner: How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour; Fleming H. Revel edition, 69.
“In a time of universal deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Let us determine that we will not be shamed into silence or inaction. We will speak, and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel, let us resolve that we will not bow.”Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced, 38.
It is interesting to read about the Apostle Paul’s experience in Jerusalem in Acts 21-26. In these chapters, Paul is constantly allowed to share with different audiences his testimony in one way or another. Incredibly, in many instances, he isn’t allowed to finish his explanation of why he believes in Jesus Christ.
At first, Paul is seized while worshipping in the temple and dragged outside of the temple grounds so he can be stoned to death. By the providence of God, he is rescued by Roman soldiers whom he asks for permission to speak to the angry mob because they don’t seem to agree about why they want to kill him. But before Paul finishes his explanation, the crowd erupts in rage and he is once again needing to be rescued by the Roman soldiers and carried away to safety.
Again and again, Paul speaks: to the Sanhedrin, to Felix the Governor, before Felix’s wife Drusilla. Following Felix, Paul was allowed to speak to the incoming Governor Festus, and in frustration and to seek justice, he finally appealed to Caesar himself.
In each of these interactions, Paul spoke the truth—whether about his beliefs, his experiences, the deception of his enemies, or the truth of the gospel message and Jesus Christ. And in each opportunity, he found that most of those that called him to speak the truth were not actually interested in hearing the truth. And he also found that when he spoke the truth, those who claimed to want to hear the truth did not actually want the truth spoken. Many responded with violence and murder.
Dear Christian, do you not see that this attitude is similar to the one we face in our world today, and it is growing stronger? Many people speak about wanting the truth—but they do not want it when we speak it. Some want a version of the truth that suits them and their version of reality. Some truly want to hear it but are seriously disappointed that it is not what they had hoped. Some respond with calls to silence the truth and truth-speakers.
But like Paul, we cannot be silent. And like Jeremiah before him, we must say, “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” Jeremiah 20:9.
In today’s world, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. May we speak the truth no matter what. Don’t forget that we are a city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden.
“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.” (Acts 14:1-4)
The preaching of the gospel will always accomplish its intended purpose. Soemtimes the fields are slow to yield anything. We need to keep at it and trust the Lord for the growth. But sometimes the results are seen immediately, as in Acts 14 where a great number of Jews and Gentiles came to faith in Christ after the apostles proclaimed the gospel to them in Iconium. How exciting when this happens!
But along with this immediate burst of growth came an immediate response from the enemy. Spiritual warfare in the shape of stirring up strife and the poisoning of minds is said to have been the tactic used here. This probably means that lies and jealous striving were used to incite the Gentiles against the new Christians. It’s interesting that the non-believing Jews who would normally have nothing to do with Gentiles were now willing to feign concern for the Gentiles so long as they could accomplish their desire of persecution.
What I want to point out is what verse 3 says, “so they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord.” The “they” of verse three refers to the apostles Paul and Barnabas (13:50). In response to the attack against the new church in Iconium, the apostles did what any mother would do when her baby is attacked—they stayed longer to defend and care for her.
This “holy stubbornness” is a response of love and courage. Paul and Barnabas weren’t willing to proclaim the gospel, see people receive Christ, and then move on. The goal wasn’t to impress their buddies with evangelistic growth statistics. Their goal was to make disciples of Christ, and that meant that they needed to stay as long as necessary in order to ensure that their brothers and sisters in Iconium were protected from the wolves there.
Accompanying the apostles’ stay was the presence of God who gave to them bold speech that was empowered by Christ. It was Christ working through the apostles who bore witness to the word of His grace. This along with signs and wonders that accompanied the powerful Word confirmed the gospel and these messengers as being from God. This would go a long way to both strengthen the Church and warn the enemy.
Sometimes we think of evangelism in rosy, romantic terms that ignores what it really is—an incursion behind enemy lines to snatch away from the devil those who once were his, but now belong to Christ. And the enemy will not stand by idly and allow this to happen. We can expect him to fight back.
And this is where holy stubbornness is needed. Since we belong to Christ, we do not need to fear the enemy. Christ is for us, so who can be against us? But that truth does not remove the reality of spiritual attack, hardship, and persecution. We might feel the heat of warfare increase as the battle rages in our community and all around us.
Be encouraged. The devil doesn’t mess with the sleepers. He doesn’t want to rouse a church that is deep in apathy. But once you begin raiding the smoldering sticks from his fires, he will rage and seek to stop you. This might come as discouragement, personal attacks, division, distraction, or many other of his numerous schemes. Don’t give up! Don’t stop making disciples. Don’t become distracted. Don’t move on.
Dig in. Be stubborn. Refuse to relent. God is with us. We have the victory!
Robert Quinn, a leadership professor at University of Michigan, has joined others in pointing out that the origins of the word leader means to “go forth and die.” In his book Change the World, he writes: “Leadership authors do not understand that leadership means “Go forth to die.” If they did understand it, they would not be enticed to write about it—because people do not want to hear this message. Most people want to be told how to get extraordinary results with minimum risk. They want to know how to get out-of-the-box results with in-the-box courage.” True leaders are servants who die to themselves so others may flourish. True leaders go forth, not for themselves, but for others.Geiger & Peck, Designed to Lead 
Many have noted that an alarming majority of our young people are not staying in the Church following high school. There are several contributing factors as to why this is, but one reason to add to that list is probably that we do not do well in developing in our young people a need to serve and grow into leaders.
That isn’t to say that many of this younger generation aren’t interested in serving and becoming leaders—we often are simply failing in taking them serious enough to develop them into leaders in our Bible Church movement. The results have been disastrous.
Not only do we find it more difficult for the younger people in our churches to stay in our churches, but those that do stay often move on to churches that they perceive are forward thinking and have a vision to win the world for Christ. They want to be involved in a living church. Although the millennial generation has been often lampooned as lazy, hyper-sensitive snowflakes that want everything handed to them, I don’t think that is a fair estimate of many, if not most of them (at least in the church).
As proof I can point to the revolutionary activities of several movements that have captivated the hearts and minds of our young people—from Bernie Sanders to Black Lives Matter to the LGBTQIA+ movement. That brings me back to the Geiger & Peck quote at the beginning of this post. Clearly these movements are driven and manned primarily by young people—the very same ones that are leaving many of our churches!
Maybe instead of youth pizza parties and volleyball we should be calling our young people to “Go forth and die.” BLM and other social issues have clearly demonstrated that many are willing to go out and do just that for causes that at best will only yield temporary answers, but at worst are soul-destroying at their core. Although I understand that those that leave the Church and run headlong into apostasy would not have been “fixed” or kept if they had served or trained to lead in our churches. I’m not saying that. But I also recognize that a shallow vision of a holistic church that ministers to every age of Christian as Christians, will lead to a departure of those dissatisfied with a church that has an appearance of life but is dead inside.
Ours is the most noble cause and our Leader went forth to die for us. And He calls us to do the same. Let’s stop soft-selling the gospel and stop coddling our youth. Let’s stop putting the bar so low and begin to raise it up again. Let us point them to the cross and then show them how to take it up and follow Jesus, dying if we must.
 Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, B & H Bools, 2016, Kindle ed. Loc. 254-263.
“This is not a moment for timid souls. Boldness comes easily when you are in the presence of those who agree with you; it is difficult when you are standing alone in the midst of people who seek your demise. Boldness behind a pulpit is one thing; boldness in a city council meeting is another. Boldness is seen most clearly when you have burned the bridge that would have enabled you to retreat to safety.”Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Cultures Assault on Christianity, 120.
We are at a critical point in the history of the world and the Church. Should the Lord tarry, our children will look back on these dark and trying days and judge whether we were courageous in the face of great opposition or see evidence of compromise and capitulation. What will make the difference? Can I suggest a few things from Acts 4:8-12, where the disciples ran into their first major confrontation with aggression?
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
1. The disciples were filled with the Spirit.
This is the only way a group of Christ-followers who were cowering behind locked doors only a few days before could be so radically different. Courage and boldness is not for those of this type of personality. Boldness and courage filled the hearts of those filled with the Spirit.
2. The disciples testified to Jesus Christ.
The evangelical church is scattered and divided about a lot of things today—spiritual gifts, baptism modes, music, methodology, women in ministry, and more. Don’t get me wrong, hese are all incredibly important things. But the primary need for standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy is the gospel message. The heart and focus must highlight the cross of Jesus Christ and the atoning work accomplished. Everything else must be seen in its subordinate place.
3. The disciples upheld the importance of the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection points to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is not tangential, but central. The resurrection of Christ points to our own future resurrection and glorification. If you grasp this, then courage is sure to come because nothing—NOTHING—can stop you. Not even death.
4. The disciples never forgot that Jesus was rejected too.
If you forget that they hated Jesus, you might be tempted into the sin of seeking to please man. But if you remember that they hated our Lord and crucified the Lord of glory, then we will not be surprised when they hate us as well—no matter how winsome or loving or kind we might be.
5. The disciples knew that there is no other hope for the world than Jesus.
If a person could be saved through Islam, or Mormonism, or liberation theology, then it would be much easier to just quietly practice our faith privately without any care about others because they’ll eventually get to heaven too. But the message of Jesus was clear—He is the only way to the Father. And that should embolden us because although some people might want to silence us or shout us down, we can’t be silent if we truly love them.
Brothers and sisters, don;t lose heart. Jesus is coming soon, but we have work to do and we can’t allow the shouts of the world to drown us out.