Tonight we have enjoyed seeing some in our midst stand up and profess their faith publicly. And it is appropriate that we do this in our evening time because we are studying what it means to “have no other gods” before our God.
Those of you who stood up here have just declared that Jesus is going to be your God. In professing your faith in Jesus Christ and taking the vows to this church you have said that Jesus is Lord and he alone is going to rule over your heart.
In looking at the first commandment we have said thus far how important it is for us to Know God. It is so important for us to study to show ourselves approved unto God. A relationship is built when two people get to know each other. As they get to know one another they grow together.
But it is not enough for us to simply know God. If God is going to be preeminent in our lives we must also acknowledge him.
Let’s say that I am sitting down to fill out some paperwork at the doctor’s office. I am going along checking all the boxes and filling in all the necessary information. But then I come to a question that asks my marital status. Let’s say that I purposely check “single.” What is that going to say about how I regard my wife?
The litmus test of how important someone or something is to us is our acknowledgement of it. The same is true with our relationship to God. If God is number one in our lives we will acknowledge him—and we will acknowledge him publicly, passionately, and intelligently.
The first and most obvious way we show that God is preminent is by acknowledging him openly.
That is to say, we claim him before others.
In Matthew 10:32-33 we read “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
The Bible makes it clear that a hidden faith is no faith at all. If you hide your faith in Christ Jesus, you make a declaration that you have no faith in Christ Jesus. If you don’t own him before the world, then you don’t own him at all.
You can easily imagine a person who might say, “I am a Christian. I go to church, but I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t want people to know about it at the office, because if they did, it would really ruin how things are going for me.”
That is not openly confessing your faith. That is being ashamed of God. He no longer has the number one place in your life, but your job does.
All of you who have stood up here this evening have openly acknowledged Christ. That’s a great thing. You have just proclaimed to the world that Christ is your Savior. But don’t think that this is the only time that you need to do that. It needs to be affirmed everyday, outside these walls. I might even say, “its easy to do that here.” This is a safe environment. Here we are surrounded by people who are like minded. Nobody is going to make fun of us or oppose us here. But on the outside, it’s a different story. And we have to be ready to make the same profession—even when the tide is against us and we are in the minority.
Let’s be sure, we can all sin. We can lapse when we are called to affirm our faith openly, and still be a Christian.
This morning I mentioned the persecution that existed under the Roman Emperor Decious. I mentioned that there were many Christians who boldly professed their faith in the midst of that persecution. When the authorities told them that they had to renounce Christ, they wouldn’t do so. They would rather face the lions than speak such a terrible thing.
But don’t think that everyone was so bold. There were many Christians during that fierce persecution that failed to stand up for Christ. There were many Christians, who were weak. And when given the choice to say “Caesar is lord,” or be fed to the lions, they chose to renounce Christ. A lot of these people would then come back to the church weeping because they had turned their backs on Christ.
Even the Apostle Peter denied Christ openly, and three times in a row at that! When that little girl asked him if he was one of Christ’s disciples he cursed and said “NO WAY! I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was weak, wasn’t he?
All of us probably have had times where we have failed to stand up for Christ. But let’s remember, that is a sin. It’s not the unforgivable sin. To be sure Christ can forgive you. But we should never presume upon him. As the Apostle Peter says, in our hearts we must “set apart Christ as Lord.” That is to say we need to convince ourselves of Christ’s exalted position. And we need to be ready to affirm our faith in him before the world at a moment’s notice.
And that really leads us to our second point. To acknowledge God openly, we must also acknowledge him passionately.
Turn in your Bibles to Rev. 3. If you are familiar with the layout of the Bible you may already know that these are the letters that Jesus sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor.
In Rev. 3:15 Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
It seems that the Laodicean church wasn’t as passionate about Christ anymore. They weren’t cold—they hadn’t fully turned away from him, they didn’t hate him. But they weren’t passionate about him either. They had become indifferent. They were lukewarm.
It is like a couple who have been married for a while and are starting to drift apart. They still acknowledge one another, but their heart really isn’t in the relationship anymore.
Nobody wants to remain in that kind of relationship, and neither does God. As a matter of fact, God shows by this passage that he hates people who are lukewarm more than he hates those who are cold!
Lukewarmness is a terrible condition of the heart, and we must guard against it. Matthew Henry with his usual eloquence says, “If religion is a real thing, then it is everything…. If it is a worth anything, it is worth everything.”
Many people think the puritans were the least passionate people alive, but that is not true. Of all things they were the most passionate people who lived—That’s because they had a fervent passion for God. As a matter of fact, we have what we call “Devotions.” When we say we are going to have our devotions, we mean we are going to read our Bibles and pray. That finds its roots in the Puritans. They believed and taught that one’s love for God was nurtured in those things.
Jonathan Edwards even picked up on this notion of passion for God. In his book, The Religious Affections, he said, “If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.”
One of the greatest weapons in Satan’s arsenal is convince us that we need not press on in the faith. If he can lead us to be satisfied with how things are, and make us not wish to upset the status quo, then he will become the victor.
God hates someone who is complacent in the things of religion. Someone who claims to be a Christian, but really isn’t on fire for Christ is detestable to him.
Acknowledging God means we must do it publicly and passionately. But be careful. God does not want misdirected passion either. That is why we have to acknowledge God…
III. Properly (Rom 10:2,; luke 9:54-55)
Do you remember how zealous Paul was before he became a Christian? He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, wasn’t he? He was so zealous for his faith that he persecuted Christians. He actually thought he was doing a great thing for God.
In the book of Romans Paul talks about the same sort of Jews—those who shared his former convictions. He said, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” They were passionate about God. They professed him publicly, but their zeal was misdirected.
We can be like that, can’t we? We can be so zealous for the truth that we really lay into someone. How come that happens when we are talking about the Bible. Instead of having a meek and patient spirit, we can become angry and lose our temper.
Such action does not flow from the Spirit of Christ. That comes as a result of our wicked impulses. How we show that the Lord is our God, can’t be done in any old fashion. Even how we express our love for God must conform to his desires.
Johannes Vos gives a good illustration of this in his commentary on the Larger Catechism: He said that a newspaper reported that somebody inscribed the words, “JESUS SAVES” in the fresh paint of someone’s car. Somehow I don’t think that God was pleased with that.
I find it funny that the ones that Jesus often became the most upset with were his own disciples. When you read the gospels, you find that he comes down on them pretty hard sometimes. And they deserved it because a lot of the time they had misdirected zeal.
We have to be careful how we acknowledge Christ. That old adage, “Look before you leap.” That’s good advice for Christians. Before you do anything, look at the Scriptures. See if Christ will really be pleased with it.
Peter Cartright, a Methodist circuit preacher in the 19th century, came to a town in which he was to preach. Before the service he was informed that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation, and that he should temper his message so that he would not offend him. When it came time for Cartright to preach he stepped into the pulpit and said, “I hear that Andrew Jackson is in the congregation. He should know that if he does not repent, then he will go to hell.” After the service President Jackson came up to Cartright, shook his had and said, “If I had a regiment of men like you I could whip the world.”
That was a rather bold profession. And it was most proper for him to do so. And it certainly shows us that Cartright was not afraid to acknowledge God publicly and passionately.
We too may be tempted to turn the other cheek on God, but we should never do it. God calls us to courageously acknowledge him.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.