On Wine & Wonders (sermon text version)

On Wine and Wonders: A Tale of Two Explanations

Have you ever been mocked?  Been made fun of?  Had someone ridicule something you said?

It can be even worse than being outright rejected, yes?  It’s worse because rejection says that at least your thought is being taken seriously even if your opponent presents arguments to the contrary and you agree to disagree.

on wine and wondersBut, mocking, ridicule, being made sport of…these actions take whatever you thought was good and proceed to assign you to being stupid, trample your ideas as being nonsense, and condemn you as being worthless.

That’s exactly what is happening in our passage of Acts today.  We’re in Acts 2:13-21 and in the flow of Acts, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit come with signs and wonders of speaking in tongues.  He came on the disciples in power just as Jesus promised He would in the earliest verses of the book.

The disciples were speaking in other languages, known languages to many who had gathered for the Feast of Weeks at Pentecost.  Heard by all who gathered, and yet, what do some do?  They make fun of it.

How do we cope when someone does this?

Today’s passage gives us 4 wise strategies for dealing with rejection, ridicule, and mockery. 

Actually, they’re strategies for dealing with Satan.  Rejection, ridicule, and mockery are just his tools to achieve humiliation, division, reduce God’s supernatural works to human explanation, and to keep the Gospel and Jesus’ disciples from having an effect.  Satan wants to stop the work of God and keep the Kingdom from coming on earth as it is in heaven.  We can deal with this wisely by following a pattern that Peter did.

Strategy #1: Confront it to keep it from taking root.  Acts 2:13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:”

Note he stood up…with the Eleven…and addressed the whole crowd, including the mockers.  Why?  Because mockery doesn’t just impact the ones speaking the ridicule.   It impacts all the hearers.  In fact, ridicule is designed by Satan to divide by discouraging the heart and stopping the work of God…AND to keep others from following Jesus through making them feel ashamed.  Shame is the ultimate goal of ridicule.

We see ridicule in numerous places in the Bible.  For example when the Jews were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, a task of God for protection of God’s people, Satan wanted that protection to stop.  So what did Satan do?  He sent discouragers like Sanballat in Nehemiah 4:3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building– if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”…they wanted to stop the work of the Jews but God encouraged where Satan discouraged. And then it says in 4:7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.”

Dispiriting is a work of Satan even in today’s passage and Satan gets angry when it doesn’t appear to work.  Tough luck for Satan.  But it doesn’t keep him from trying to dispirit us.

So, when confronted with the supernatural of all the Galileans speaking in foreign languages to bring people in to the Kingdom, our adversary, Satan, inspires people to try to assign a natural explanation to it.  (Silly though it was, since who suddenly becomes an expert speaking a foreign language when they’re drunk?  Dance on tables. Pass out.  Bow down at the porcelain throne.  Jail time for a DUI, yes, but to suddenly speak a foreign language? I don’t think so.) But it’s Satan’s best effort to strip the supernatural of God out of the miracle. Assign a natural explanation.  Ridicule the disciples.

Think about all the ways our culture tries to ridicule, divide, and shame Christians.  Just a quick look at the Internet, television and newspapers—particularly at election time—and you’ll see anyone with Christian values being ripped to shreds by Satan’s willing accomplices in the media.

Here’s Confrontation Coping Skills 101:  Peter confronts the lies.  He stands up and addresses everyone—including the mockers—in public!  Because everyone who heard the mocking was subject to its evils of dispiriting discouragement.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Praise in public; Criticize in private”…and while true when it comes to the sphere of employment, it doesn’t apply to Satan’s lies designed to dishearten all who hear it and stop the work of God.  It doesn’t apply to false teachers who twist the Word of God and strip God of His authority.  In these cases, the correction must be commensurate with…equal to…the number of those harmed.  So Peter stands up in the public square to deal with it head-on.  To confront it!

But now we’ll see that HOW we confront it is as important as the act of confronting it.  We can confront it as a worldly person and destroy our witness for Jesus Christ…or we can confront things in God’s way and let our witness shine.  Rise above the ridicule!

Which brings us to Strategy #2:  Use it as an opportunity to include…because ridicule is designed to divide.  Division is a great tool of Satan and he’s most likely to try it in the Church.   “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem,” Peter includes both “fellow Jews” and then he brings others in…”all of you who live in Jerusalem.”

How many times when a President is making a speech does he start with “My fellow Americans?”  Quite often.  Whether he continues to unite or divide is up to the individual President, but the opening words offer the opportunity for bringing us together.  By appealing to what we have in common!

So we confront lies, but we still use it as an opportunity to include others.  Then we counteract the lies with God’s Truth, divisions with fellowship, and dispiriting with the powerful encouragement of God’s Word.

You see, Satan’s currency is falsehood.  He lives in lies.  He tells lies.  He’s called the father of lies.

Anyone who does likewise is a son of the devil, according to Jesus—(which BTW is an important point in and of itself.  Jesus believed in the devil and talked about him.  A lot.  Not as a funny little guy in a red suit with horns that kids will dress up as for Halloween or which belongs on canned ham.  Jesus knows Satan as the most insidiously evil, sneaky, nasty, worm of a being that ever existed.  Jesus didn’t underestimate Satan and we go wrong when we do.  When we accept the caricature of him as just being a jolly guy in a red suit encouraging you to have fun.  He isn’t Flip Wilson’s “The devil made me do it” as in buying a dress you didn’t need.   The devil wants you dead.  The devil wants you in hell.  The devil wants to murder you and have you living in depression and shame and defeat day in day out until the day you die and join him in misery.  He’s a defeated enemy who just wants to take as many people down with him that he can.  That’s who the devil is, according to Jesus.)  Jesus said this about the devil and those men and women the devil uses to discourage us:

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

This should be a good message for us in an age of relative truth and in which we’re afraid to call anything a lie.  The only people we’re truly deceiving are ourselves when we use words like spin, narrative, version of the story…or when we “Cry Wolf” and insist that something is true when it’s not.  Suddenly Ebola comes upon us and we don’t know who is telling the truth anymore.  Do we believe the CDC when the story keeps changing?  We’ve been told so many lies that we don’t know whether to worry or trust.  Everything seems to be a million shades of gray when what we want is something in black and white.  Something we can trust.  Something we can take to the bank.  A little truth goes a long way in a world of lies.  So every bit of opposition is actually an opportunity for Truth.

Strategy #3: Use lies/opposition as an opportunity to counteract it with explanation of truth.

Verse 14 continues, “Let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

The lie that was being introduced is that men are drunk at this feast and there’s nothing special about what happened.  While I’ve seen drunks staggering around at many times of day, including 9 am, Peter’s point is that it’s not wine that is causing this, but wonders.  Wonders that the fellow Jews…the devout Jews…would have been waiting to see fulfilled…what they heard declared as the wonders of God…IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGES!!  They heard it.  Then Peter quotes from their Scriptures.

Which brings us to Strategy #4.  Use the Word as your weapon.  When we know the Word of God, we can confront and teach against error with the Truth of God.  The Sword of the Spirit.  It’s the best tool for the spiritual battle—the spiritual realm being ground zero for the battle of lies versus the Truth.  Here’s the Old Testament (Jewish Scripture) passage these devout Jews would have been waiting to see fulfilled!

Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

We’ll look at this passage a little bit more next week, but for now, let’s just say that the “fellow Jews” would have been excited to see the connection.  It always helps us (when confronting error with truth) to begin with a point of connection.  And moreover, the Spirit of God, alive in God’s Word, can make connections and combat lies in ways that regular words cannot.  Knowing your Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is invaluable in counteracting lies, ridicule, any ideas or comments designed to dispirit you on a day to day basis.  The Word of God is particularly helpful because Scripture tells us in Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And Isaiah 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Sometimes that purpose is correction and there’s no better weapon than the Word of God.

It’s easy in this life to have the wind taken out of your sails.  To start well and finish poorly.  To give up the fight.  To give in to the lie that tells you nothing will ever change.  To let your heart get discouraged and drop into depression.  To let go of the miraculous and embrace the earthly.  To ignore God and just say evolution caused it all.  To say the Cross of Christ is meaningless and go back to trying to earn your way to heaven.

Discouragement is one of the most evil tools of the evil one, our adversary, Satan.

In every life opposition comes.  In every church too.   And Satan has a whole tool box of favorites.  Lies.  Deception.  Division.  Ridicule.  Stealing your joy, your hope, your trust in God.  But today’s passage gives us 4 wise strategies for coping:

  1. Confront it in a way that maintains our Christian witness.
  2. Use it as an opportunity to include since Satan seeks to divide.
  3. Counteract the opposition with the Truth.
  4. Use the Word of God as our weapon.  There’s nothing better.

When faced with opportunities to attribute God’s work to wine or affirm and declare the wonders of God…what will you do?

Let’s pray.

* * *

This message,  On Wine & Wonders: A Tale of Two Explanations was first preached at Plymouth Congregational Church in Racine, WI on October 5, 2014 by Barbara Shafer



Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on October 9, 2014

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