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The Tragedy of Unbelief

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The Tragedy of Unbelief

Acts 28:16-31      February 11, 2001

 

Scripture Reading: Romans 10

Introduction:

          Imagine the greatest tragedy you have ever heard of or experienced.

          Perhaps it was the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

          Perhaps it was the horrible earthquake in India.

          Perhaps it is the AIDS epidemic.

          Perhaps your memory goes back even further to WWII or the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

          Perhaps your mind focuses more on your personal life and the near-death experience you had where God gave you a few additional years of life that you presently enjoy.

          Perhaps it was your divorce, that even if it wasn't ugly, it was devastating to you emotionally and even spiritually.

          Perhaps it was the death of your child or your spouse or a tragic accident that left someone you know maimed and disabled.

          Perhaps it was the death of Jesus and all that has meant for God's own people, the Jews, because of their unbelief.

          Perhaps it is the unbelief of someone you know and have talked to.

          Perhaps it is your own unbelief.

          Dr. Luke, the committed friend and companion of Paul, has written us this amazingly insightful and detailed history in Acts of the early church age, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to let people of all ages envision and accept by faith the reality of the Son of God that changed the world.

          Jesus Christ is the power and the reason behind all the miracles and other acts of faith that we find in the book of Acts.

          None of it could have happened without the reality that he is.

          As we close our series in the book of Acts this morning in chapter 28:16-31, we find a challenge presented.

          It is a challenge to believe in the One who inspired it.

          We have, under Luke's pen, covered much ground and now we are challenged to take our own ownership of what we have learned.

          Perhaps you already believe but now you are emboldened to live and proclaim it more fully after you have witnessed these tremendous examples of faith and the furtherance of Christ's kingdom.

          Indeed, the book of Acts ends quite abruptly as if to say, "Now go and do likewise. The rest is up to you as you apply your faith in me."

          Indeed, Paul did just that, as if it were up to him.

          But God allowed him to be martyred as a final act of overwhelming faith to all ages.

          And God is not yet done with the world.

          So we must continue on the trail that Paul blazed under the sovereignty of God.

          But perhaps you have never really come to that kind of faith that is willing to take a stand.

          In your heart you know that you have not yet believed.

You have been going to church for a while, perhaps even for a long time. You have heard the message, but you have kept faith in your own way rather than in God's way through Christ.

I submit to you that is the greatest tragedy of all time.

So ---

Big Question:

          What are some reasons why unbelief in Jesus is such a tragedy?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 17-20)

          B.      Implication

Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because faith in him is offered without condemnation in order to fulfill our hopes. (It is freely given.)

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          It may have cost us but it is offered freely to others.

          And we are pleased to bear the cost.

          John 3:17

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 21-24)

          B.      Implication

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because faith in him is rejected primarily not out of preconceived prejudice but because of a preference for righteousness by works. (It is eminently superior.)

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 25-27)

          B.      Implication

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because rejection of faith in him leads to further separation from God and the real hope he offers through that faith. (It is real acceptance.)

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          They have allowed themselves to become deaf and blind for fear that they might hear and see the disturbing Word of God and so receive healing from God.

          God's Word brings he diagnosis of sin, which is painful to hear and accept, but at the same time it wounds in order to heal.

          Once a person deliberately refuses the Word, there comes a point when he is deprived of the capacity to receive it.

          It is a stern warning to those who trifle with the gospel.

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (v. 28)

          B.      Implication

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because rejection of faith in him will result in its offer to others who will believe. (It is preferential treatment.)

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 30-31)

          B.      Implication

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because God continues to offer his kingdom to all who will come into it by faith. (It is continuing grace.)

- He does this through those who have accepted God's sovereignty in their own lives.

Suffering is often the context out of which great creativity emerges. Php. 1:12 "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." The depth and effectiveness of Paul's ministry was greatly enhanced by this mingling of deprivation, sovereignty, and obedience. Evangelism thrives under the shadow of sovereignty. To the one who lives under sovereignty, success is obedience to God.

- He does this through the message about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.

The KOG represents the greater purpose of God rather than just what God can do for an individual. Preaching Jesus apart from the larger perspective of the KOG can produce weak Christians who are just looking for what God can do for them, meeting their personal needs. When it happens that God does not seem to be meeting their personal needs they must be able to envision his greater purpose, that he is the God of the universe. They must see what God is doing in the world.

- He does this through the method of preaching and teaching.

Preaching appeals to the will whereas teaching appeals to the mind.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

          Why is unbelief in Jesus such a tragedy?

Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because faith in him is offered without condemnation in order to fulfill our hopes. (It is freely given.)

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because faith in him is rejected primarily not out of preconceived prejudice but because of a preference for righteousness by works. (It is eminently superior.)

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because rejection of faith in him leads to further separation from God and the real hope he offers through that faith. (It is real acceptance.)

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because rejection of faith in him will result in its offer to others who will believe. (It is preferential treatment.)

          Unbelief in Jesus is a tragedy because God continues to offer his kingdom to all who will come into it by faith. (It is continuing grace.)

- He does this through those who have accepted God's sovereignty in their own lives.

- He does this through the message about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.

- He does this through the method of preaching and teaching.

Timeless Truth:

          The tragedy of unbelief is that it is so unneccessary.

          Unbelief in Jesus is such a tragedy because it is so needless.

          It is a needless waste of God's grace, a needless waste of his time and favor, a needless waste of life.

          The opportunity for faith is freely given that it might be freely received.

          What do you have that you have not received?

          Will you, like the Jews, continue to attempt righteousness on your own merits?

          The more you reject his offer of grace, the harder it will become for you ever to receive it because of the growing hardness of your heart.

          But the more you receive it by growing in your faith of what Christ has done for you, the more assured you become of its truth and effect.

          The book of Acts was written to establish the historical credibility of the witness of Christ through his apostles in the power of the Holy Spirit.

          It ends on the note of "take it or leave it".

          If you don't want it, there are plenty who do.

          God has spoken to you. Will he speak again?

          Perhaps he will just move on and present his message to others.

          And what a tragedy that is for those who are "left behind".

          And will you be able to catch up once you see you could have been on the winning team?

          God gave the Romans a captive audience but he did not make them one.

          It was Paul who was in chains, not them.

          We are your captive audience.

          We are compelled to preach the gospel.

It is we who are in chains, and we would have it no other way since we have cast our lot with Christ.

          You are not chained. You can take it or leave it.

          God's word is not chained, but how about your heart?

The tragedy of unbelief makes evangelism a priority.

          Unbelief is such a tragedy because God will prevail in all things, and therefore we should trust him, which leads us to the priority of evangelism that calls people to trust God.

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