(Prepared for a sermon based on Acts 8:1-8)
You don’t have to follow the news very closely to realize that persecution against Christians is on the rise. We used to think that persecution was something which happened only in distant lands. However, we’re seeing a rise of opposition to Christianity and Christians right here in our own country. Some of the things said on the Internet and on social media are vicious and cruel. People can even lose their jobs for not condoning socially accepted evils.
In response to the pressure we have a choice. Either we can keep quiet and try to fit in with the rest of our culture, or we can do what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. In 1st Timothy 6, verses 11 through 14 he said, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Timothy 6:11-14 NIV)
What really caught my attention in this passage is the phrase, “the good confession.” What is this ‘good confession’ which Timothy made before many witnesses and Jesus made before Pilate? In John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, in chapter 18, verse 37 it says, ““You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”” (NIV)
If I understand this correctly, the confession Jesus made was that He is a King and that He testifies to the truth. To put it another way, Jesus is the ruler or supreme authority and anything which does not agree with what He says or teaches is false. It is Jesus who sets the standards. Our society can say whatever it wants; our legislature and courts can pass whatever laws they want, however it is not they, but Jesus who decides what is right and wrong. Whenever we uphold Jesus’ authority and His standards we make the ‘good confession.’
By what means do we make the ‘good confession?’ Certainly one way we make the confession is with our words. Whenever we say that Jesus is Lord or Christ, we are acknowledging His status and our allegiance to Him. Another way we make the confession is through our lifestyle. As Paul indicated in the passage we read, one of the consequences of saying that Jesus is our Ruler is that we will live according to His standards and principles. As a result, the way we live will be radically different than those who do not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord. The Apostle Peter put it this way in 1st Peter 4, verses 3 and 4. “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” (NIV)
In addition to our words and our lifestyle, there is another way in which we make the ‘good confession.’ We make the ‘good confession’ each Sunday when we take part in the Lord’s Supper. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV)
This bread which we eat and this juice which we drink is a declaration. Yes, Jesus died, but He triumphed over death! He not only lives, He’s coming back! By partaking of these reminders of what Jesus did for us we proclaim that we have made our choice. We will not bow to the demands of our culture. Jesus is our Lord. We will live by His standards and not by those of our society in spite of whatever pressure is brought to bear on us. As Paul put it, we will “fight the good fight of the faith.”
Please join with me in making the ‘good confession’ once again.