Watch Your Heart
Expect opposition and learn to identify it — but keep your own heart clean and clear from envy and malice so you won’t fall into this particular snare.
Alright, thank you very much, my friend at the transmitter. And hello, radio friends, nice to be back with you once again. We wanna continue today, if we may, in the 13th chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 42. It says, “When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.” Isn’t this interesting? Always there’s somebody who is a little higher on the totem pole, and somehow, it seems to me that we don’t always care about the people who are lower than we on the totem pole. It says, “When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought.”
There were some people there who didn’t belong to the Union, so to speak. They weren’t allowed to be inside, they were probably looking in through the windows, or listening here and there, or maybe they had gotten in, but had to sit in a separate enclosure that was reserved for people who were not of Jewish birth, or who didn’t belong to the Jewish faith, however you wanna put it. But now, all of the official members went out, and I think this is a little sad to me, really. None of the official members stayed to greet any of the others. Well, it may have been ceremonially wrong for them to greet the Gentiles and to have some contact with them, that may have been their reason. That they would become ceremonially, religiously defiled if they stopped to shake hands with a Gentile, maybe that was their reason. And if so, it was a good enough reason. But as I say, it’s always seemed a little sad to me that they went out and never said anything about wanting these other folk to hear the message too.
Now you say, “Why are you stopping on that point, Brother Cook?” I’ll tell you something; next time you go to church, just stand off by yourself in a corner and watch how many people head for the door without saying hello to anybody, except perhaps a couple of their special friends, and watch how the people who might have been visitors and strangers sometimes find themselves an isolated human island, and nobody seems to pay much attention to them. We do the same trick today, actually, in our churches, you know that, dear friends. We go on our way, not really thinking about the other person’s need. Here were people with hungry hearts, they wanted to hear about God, they wanted really to know something about the Word and the Son of God, but the official members of that group didn’t care about them.
Now, ask yourself this question: Who is there who may have a real hunger for God, but whom I have been passing by, ignoring, neglecting, simply because I was either too busy, or because I never even thought of them, or because I didn’t think they mattered, or because I didn’t wanna get involved, or whatever reason? Who is there I’ve been neglecting because they wanted to know something about God, but I never told them? Oh, I’ll tell you, dear friends. It may be a little embarrassing, but it would be very good if we think about that. You wanna do it? Ask yourself, who is there that would like to hear about Jesus, but never has because we’ve passed them by?
It says, “They asked that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.” Okay, it says, “Now when the congregation was broken up,” finally, they were gone, even the Gentiles, “many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” Stop here long enough, again, to say that Paul and Barnabas took time for people. This had been a fairly long service. If you stop to think that Paul’s servant was at the end of a regular service, this had been a fairly long service, and they had been talking with folk, and now, after the service is over, it says, “Many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” They had an after meeting after the meeting, and they talked to these folk about continuing in the grace of God. They took time with people.
Oh, I have to admit, and I think probably you will agree with me, so far as your own life is concerned. I have to admit that, oftentimes, I’ve been so preoccupied, I didn’t really take time with people. At home, oftentimes, we reserve the right to give an absent-minded answer to the people who are dearest to us, we don’t take time for them. Isn’t it true? Dad, you come home and you hide behind the married man’s last refuge, which is the sporting page of the newspaper, and some little 2 x 6 toddler comes up and interrupts you or whatever, and you just give sort of an evangelical grunt, or you say, “Don’t bother me now,” or whatever. Or your wife asks you something, and you give a half-hearted answer that doesn’t put any thought to it or whatever. We do that, I’ve done that through the years, I’m sure.
But it’s not only at home, it’s out in the world of needy people. Oftentimes, we don’t take time with folks who need it. The average person you meet has a basketful of needs and burdens and heartaches. If you would only take time to share with him, you could be of such help and encouragement if you would just take the time to share with people. Paul and Barnabas did that. So these people followed them, and they spoke with them, Paul and Barnabas spoke with them and persuaded them. They took time, actually, to clinch the message of the morning in the hearts of these people, and that takes time. They took time with people. Let’s learn that lesson, shall we? I need to learn it all over again, and again, and again. Let’s learn to take time with people, because it’s people that matter. Jesus died for people, He didn’t die for for machinery and organisations, He died for people, so let’s take time with them. Let’s listen to them, let’s encourage them, and let’s help them.
Now, it says, “The next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God.” Oh my, the crowd grew, didn’t it? How can you get a growing crowd? Just get God working in somebody’s heart, the word gets around. When the Lord starts to work in different people’s hearts, the word gets around. The Gospel is still news; conversation about the Gospel ends up being kind of a point of view. But when the Gospel works in a person’s life, when there’s a transformed attitude and a transformed character, when people start paying their debts, and answering their mail, and keeping their promises, ladies and gentlemen, the word will get around.
The reason many a church is empty is that nothing is going on in the lives of the few people who do attend there. They aren’t excited about the Lord Jesus, they don’t have anything happening in their own lives and characters, or even in other people’s lives as a result of their testimony. And so, it’s dead, nothing’s going on. But you just let one person be really reached for the Lord Jesus, and oh, how the word gets around. And so it says, “The next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God.” They had a big crowd. The way to get a crowd is just to see to it that God is working in somebody’s life, and you better start with yours.
I asked a pastor one day, in a western city, I said, “Pastor, how in the world did you get such a thriving work going here?” And he said, “Well, it all started the day I went to the altar.” Oh, I said, “Tell me about it.” He said, “I was preaching one Sunday morning, and suddenly I stopped my sermon, and I said to my congregation, ‘Dear friends, your pastor’s the neediest man in the crowd. I feel I need a touch from God, and my sermons have been dry and dull, and my heart has been dry and empty, and I need help. I’m coming down to my own altar for prayer, and I want you to pray for me.'” Well, he said he went down from the platform and knelt at the prayer bench in front of the platform, the altar, they call it, in holiness churches, knelt at the altar and there came his people, his deacons, and his trustees, and his elders, and his Sunday school superintendent, and his teachers, and they gathered around, and they wept, and they cried, and they prayed for him, and God came down and blessed them.
Oh, how that church began to grow. It was… And this had been several years previous, it was still growing at a tremendous rate of growth, because one day, God got hold of the minister. Have to start with myself, don’t I? Oh yes. If you want your church to grow, if you want your congregation to grow, if you want your Sunday school class to grow, let God start to do something in your life and in the lives of people round about you. The word will get around, people will come round to get warm when the fire of the Lord starts to burn in your heart.
Now, you can always count on opposition. It says, “When the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, ‘It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you,'” that’s the descendants of Abraham, “‘but seeing ye put it from you, and judge it yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying “I’ve set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the end of the earth.”‘ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.”
Let’s go back now, verse 45. “When the Jews saw the multitudes,” the big crowd, in other words, “they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.” Small thought: Many a church argument has been based on arguing about concepts, but it was actually caused by envy. Many a person is arguing religion, when actually, it’s a power play. That’s a fact. Many a person is arguing about religion and speaks piously about the fundamentals of the faith and all that, but actually, he’s engaged in a power play because he wants to run the church, or the committee, or the board, or whatever it may be.
Now, here you have a profile of what happens with human nature. Somebody else was getting a bigger crowd than they were, and therefore, they were filled with envy, and they began to argue against what the people were saying that got the big crowd. You’ll find this in many places. Billy Graham can’t possibly be right because he has such big crowds. I told you about the minister who said, “I can’t understand why he has such a big following because I could preach much better sermons than he can.” [laughter] Oh, the naive pride with which we approach the work of God. Boy, oh boy. But then, that’s how we are, isn’t it?
You see, it’s hard to pray for God’s blessing on somebody who’s getting a bigger crowd than you are, and getting a bigger offering than you are, and getting a bigger following than you are. It’s hard to pray for him, isn’t it? And you end up envying people who are being more blessed of God, it seems, than you are. These people saw the big crowds and they got envious, and so then, to give vent to their envy, they put a religious tag on it and began to argue religion. Well, all I’m saying this for is simply to warn all of us, beginning with me, to be watchful about this. Watch your heart. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, said the wise man. And so, just watch the condition and the attitude of your own heart, so that you know that you’re not dealing from envy or malice, but from love, okay?
Opposition here had a spiritual argument, a religious argument going, but actually, it was based on a power play. These people were envious because somebody else had a bigger crowd. Expect opposition and learn to identify it, but keep your own heart clean and clear from envy and malice, so you won’t fall into this particular snare, alright? Well, time has gone and I need to pray with you.
Dear Lord, have your way with us today, I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, amen, amen. God bless you, dear friend, all the way. That’s all for now.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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