A 9/11 Message

Posted on September 14, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

It was a privilege to preach at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin last Sunday in a special service commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. Many have seen 9/11 as an unprecedented tragedy perpetrated against our country and the American people. This resulted in a massive loss of life and changed our society, creating fear of an elusive global terrorist enemy. But that conspiracy of al-Qaeda pales in comparison to the conspiracy and injustice that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross.

The aftermath of that event brought persecution and suffering to His followers. They were arrested, beaten, threatened and ordered by authorities not to teach and preach in the name of Jesus. Acts 4 is the account of Peter and John being arrested and threatened. When they were released they went to where believers were gathered in Jerusalem and shared what had happened. The response of the church is a lesson for us as to our response as we remember 9/11.

What the church did was to pray. That prayer is recorded in Acts 4:24-30.

1. First, they recognized the consequences of a sinful world. Quoting the Psalmist, they asked, “Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of earth set themselves and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His anointed” (Acts 4:25-26). We are asking the same questions. Why is there such hostility toward our Christian witness today? Why do people react to the values and principles that honor our Lord? Why do the nations restrict and persecute the church and Christians around the world?

It is because of our failure to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of all nations. If we had been faithful to share the gospel to the ends of the earth and to bring people under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, it would be a different world. We are simply living with the consequences of a sinful world that does not know God.

2. Second, they reaffirmed their confidence in a Sovereign God. The prayer of this early church was couched in confidence of God’s providence. It began, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24). They continued, “In this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).

This unlikely conspiracy between Herod and Pilate, between Jewish religious leaders and Gentiles that resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus was no surprise to God. Though the church could not understand why this tragic event had occurred, why they were suffering and threatened, they acknowledged that nothing was happening contrary to God’s purpose. From our perspective we understand that the tragic death of Christ by those who meant evil had actually been pre-destined to provide redemption for a lost world.

3. Finally, they renewed their commitment to a saving word. They did not pray, asking God to remove the injustice, the threats, the suffering they were experiencing. They did not ask God to bring peace and favor with officials in authority so they could witness effectively. They prayed for boldness to speak and witness to the word of God. “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).

All over the world there are Christians being persecuted for their faith. Churches are being intimidated by threats and are victims of injustices. We are finding freedom to witness in the marketplace being limited and Christian values, long the foundation of our society, now being eroded. In an increasingly humanistic and pluralistic society Christians are scorned and ridiculed, much like those in the first Christian century.

We need to recognize this is the consequences of living in a sinful world that does not know Jesus. But in this context we need to reaffirm our confidence in a sovereign God and renew our commitment to boldly proclaim God’s saving word.

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