Have you ever been out somewhere and all of a sudden the topic of conversation changes to religion? Do you hope that no one asks your opinion as you hear the criticism of Christians being hypocrites and it’s just a pack of lies made up by people years ago to control us? Have you felt uncomfortable around someone when you hear them use Jesus’ name in a way that is cursing? Or do you have a favourite show your really love to watch but every now and then it makes fun of Christians and the church? Should you stop watching it? Are you sinning if you have a laugh?
I remember when The Life of Brian came out and many Christians thought it was blasphemous to watch and particularly to laugh at. And some of you may remember the movie release of The Last Temptation of Christ and The Da Vinci Code that questioned the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Many churches protested outside cinemas. I even remember hearing on the news that the Da Vinci Code would rock the very foundations of the Christian church and what it believes and holds sacred. Should we be concerned when things like this happen? And believe me there’s been worse and more blasphemous than these. Or how do we feel when we hear the latest census results that reveal that Christians now, for the very first time in Australian history, have Christians less than 50% of the population – 43%.
First of all we hear from Paul that there is legitimate concern. He says – Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. But it’s the question of what is our role when he is. How do we defend God? It’s hard sometimes when you’re in a group and you begin to feel uncomfortable. Do you walk away? Do you speak up and say something? Do you try and change the subject? First of all – remain positive about God and uphold him.
Look at our Psalm: Be joyful in God, all you lands; sing the glory of his Name; sing the glory of his praise. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you. And remember, no matter what anyone says about God to put him down – we know the truth. We know the love he has for us and everyone. We know the power and authority he has given to Jesus. Listen to the report of the 70 that returned home after being sent out by Jesus. The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Jesus said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.
What we need to remember is that God doesn’t need us protecting and defending him – he needs us upholding him. Again, as we see in the Psalm – Be joyful in God, all you lands; sing the glory of his Name; sing the glory of his praise. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! I know very few people who have been argued into believing in God. But I know many who have become Christians because they have seen the blessings of God. Even Jesus says the same – let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. And Peter – in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, And James too, doesn’t say to fight the devil for God but rather – humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
When the disciples came back to report to Jesus they were over the moon because the demons submitted to them. Jesus didn’t want that to be the focus of their attention because that was not what their mission was. Their mission was to take the Good News out to the people. The demons submitting to them was a byproduct not the mission. And so Jesus says to them – do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. We don’t want or need people going around smiting Satan. No – Jesus did that on the cross already.
Jesus wants us taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth so that everyone has an opportunity to have their names written in the Book of Life. Paul encourages us to look for opportunities to show the world how much we love this world and all God provides. He says – whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. It’s interesting that he points out doing good especially for those of the family of faith. Why? Does he want us to show favouritism for Christians? No. He wants us to show the world how great it is to be a part of the family of faith. If the world sees us bickering and arguing – why would they want to be part of our family? If you went past a gym or a café or any other institution and you saw friendly cheerful people – would you be inquisitive and perhaps think of joining?
We want the world to see the joy of being in a relationship with God – again, as our Psalm said – Be joyful in God, all you lands; sing the glory of his Name; sing the glory of his praise. Jesus encourages us to do that in our daily lives – Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide. And know this: the kingdom of God has come near. He didn’t tell them to cast out demons – no – their joy in the Lord naturally caused that. Their joy cast out demons and replaced their presence. You won’t be well received everywhere you go – I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. But regardless, wherever you go – the kingdom of God goes with you – even if they reject you.
So whatever you do with your daily life- work, school, sport, shopping, U3A – anything – be the presence of God. Be the presence of the Kingdom of God. Work for the good of all and let the peace of God remain wherever you go. And here – in our family of faith, let us be an example of true family – a family of love and joy singing the glory of God and being prepared to give the reason for the hope and joy we have when anyone asks. And they will.