8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12 – NASB95)
On October 3, 1789, George Washington proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday in November, in honor of the new United States Constitution. Below is his proclamation:
WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;
WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
We are in the midst of a wonderful time of year (between Thanksgiving & Christmas). It is a time to reflect on the wonder of God in giving us this wonderful country and all its blessings. It is also a time to reflect on the wonder of God in giving us His Son and all His blessings. But what do we do with these blessings? Do we thank God and keep them to ourselves? What do we do with the message of Christmas? Do we believe that people MUST know Jesus in order to spend eternity with God? Are we motivated (Titus 2:11-14) to live zealously for Jesus and proclaim Him to people all over the world?
Many years ago I was a limousine driver. One day I was driving two movie producers, both of whom happened to be Jewish. When I told them I was a follower of Jesus, one of them began firing questions at me about Christianity. I calmly answered his questions (1 Pet. 3:15) when he indignantly asked me, “What about the innocent natives in Africa who never heard of Christ?” I promised him I would answer that question if he would then answer my question, “What about you since you have heard of Christ?” Later in the conversation the other producer told him to “stop blowing smoke and be quiet” because he wasn’t listening and dealing with the implications of my answers to his questions. How about us? What are we doing with the truth of the gospel and ALL of its implications? Below are some answers to the producer’s question and some thankful responses by people in history that honestly wrestled with the implications of the gospel. Please read the following carefully and decide what you will do since Jesus is THE ONLY WAY TO GOD. There are three ASSUMPTIONS inherent in the producer’s question:
Assumption #1: Innocence. We assume that these people are “innocent” when in fact God proclaims them to be “guilty” (Rom. 1:17ff; 3:1-23). The question should be phrased, “What about the guilty person who never heard of Christ?” A person may have “relative innocence” compared to men, but not compared to God (cf. God’s righteousness in Rom. 1:1-17). We have been led to believe that “primitive” = innocent but this is simply not true.
Assumption #2: No Revelation. We assume that since they haven’t heard of Jesus and don’t have the Bible that they have not received any revelation from God and are therefore safe. This assumption is false! God says that He has revealed Himself to all (Rom. 1:18ff) and that people have suppressed (willfully held down) & denied what they know to be true.
Assumption #3: The Gospel of Jesus is the only revelation that condemns if ignored. One must ask the question, “Is the only condemnable offense against God rejection of Jesus? If that were true, then we shouldn’t tell anyone about Him! What other condemnable offense is there? Rejection of God the Father! All people of all nations of all times have done this. God has been revealing Himself to all peoples of all times (Rom. 1:20) so that nobody has an excuse. Instead of recognizing Him as God, honoring Him and giving thanks, they have turned to their own religions (worship) that God rejects (Rom. 1:21-23). In God’s eyes “religion” is not commendable, it is condemnable! It is man’s rejection of truth in exchange for error.
These biblical truths should light a fire in us! We must go out with great zeal to reach unreached peoples knowing that they are condemned apart from Jesus Christ. Our awareness of God’s wrath abiding on them (John 3:36) should motivate us to pay any price so they can hear and respond to His gracious offer of eternal life. The Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:13ff) said he was “under obligation,” and “eager” to tell other about Jesus. John Knox (16th century Scottish Reformer) got on his knees and pleaded with God for the lost souls in Scotland saying, “Give me Scotland or I die.” Hudson Taylor (19th century English founder of the China Inland Mission) as a young man looked across the thousands of miles to the unreached multitudes of China and cried to God, “I feel that I cannot go on living unless I do something for the lost in China.” Henry Martyn (18th century English missionary to India and Persia) after landing in India said, “Here I am in the midst of heathen midnight and savage oppression. Now, my dear Lord, let me burn out for Thee.” Robert Arthington (19th century English businessman from a wealthy family) was unable himself to go overseas so he enabled others to go reach the lost by living meagerly while sacrificially giving over $500,000 to foreign missions. He wrote, “Gladly would I make the floor my bed, a box my chair, and another box my table, rather than that men should perish for the want of the knowledge of Christ.” These men all believed that those who had not heard were condemned because God’s righteous wrath was already over sinful men.
What about the innocent natives who have never heard? They don’t exist! All are sinful and under the wrath of God until they accept Jesus Christ and His once-for-all payment for our sins. Jesus came that first Christmas so He could live a sinless life and take the wrath of God for us. Are we thankful? What are we doing to make sure that all peoples can hear this glorious message? What could we specifically do for our neighbors during this Christmas season? Prayerfully consider giving a bag with gospel-related gifts to people on your street. Include your written testimony and make yourself available if they want to talk or need prayer. Invite them to the TBBF Christmas Concert on Sunday, Dec. 10th, 6pm (postcards with info. will be available this Sunday on tables by each exit). May our great God and King use all of us to spread His glorious gospel far and wide.