Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 7:37-50 “God saved People from Idol Worship”
This is the third Sunday of Advent. We have been waiting for the Lord to come into our hearts. In other words, we have been looking for treasures of the heart! The treasures that we have in our hearts are the relationships that we have both with God and with our loved ones. The true relationship with God is called worship and the genuine relationship with others is called fellowship. When we worship God we are joyful because we are free from the idols of the world and when we have fellowship with others we are happy because we are loved and respected by our loved ones.
Christian Baptism is a time when we declare before God and fellow Christians that now we want a true relationship with God. Today we have the infant baptism of baby Ariana and this is a great opportunity for all of us to reflect on our own baptism. To be baptized, we do not need riches, titles, positions, or education. If we have a genuine desire to keep our relationship with God, we can be baptized. Sometimes God offers this precious relationship with us even before we are aware of it. We call that Prevenient Grace (God’s Grace that comes before us). For infants, God’s Prevenient Grace is working. God comes to the infant and says, “I want to have a truthful relationship with you. You do not have to do anything. Just be still. I will be your Father and I will be with you always.” As the parents and the congregation celebrate this wonderful gift of God, the baby will have a life-long relationship with God! When the baby becomes a teen-ager, our church will provide an opportunity for the baby to respond to God’s Prevenient Grace. We call this Confirmation. Every Christian who is baptized, therefore, should enjoy this genuine freedom and joy that God has promised.
Then why do some Christians feel that they do not have freedom or joy? The answer is because we have lost our genuine relationship with God and kept only the appearance of religion. The book of Exodus 32 shows that the Israelites worshipped the golden calf, an idol. They did not worship the God who brought them out of Egypt. When Moses went up to the Mountain of God to receive the laws, the people forced Aaron to make an idol for them. Then they had music, dance, and proclamations. It looked like worship. However, it was an idol-worship. They lost their relationship with the true God. They lost freedom. They now had to wander around in the wilderness for forty years. If we do not worship God, we tend to worship money, power, and pleasure. We lose our freedom and become captives of our flesh.
1 King 9:1-9 also confirms this same principle. King Solomon built a Temple for God. He was excited and he prayed to God to be in the Temple. However, God’s answer was clear. The Temple cannot be a fixed residence of the Creator. God would be in the Temple while people desired a genuine relationship with God. However, when people deserted the law of the Lord and violated the will of God, God would depart from the Temple. The history of Israel witnesses to this truth. When the Israelites sought worldly fame and riches while they disobeyed the laws of the Lord, the nation was destroyed and the people were scattered.
In Acts 7, Steven appealed to the Jewish people at that time. “Do not repeat history! Both in the times of Moses and in the times of Kingdom, people tried to keep the form of worship but lost their genuine heart for the Lord. They had to pay the price for their actions!” Now, the same message is applied to us also. We are all anticipating Christmas. However, do we have Christ in our hearts? That is the treasure of our hearts. When I baptize Ariana, please reflect on the words of the baptism liturgy and answer it frankly. May God bless all of us with a genuine heart today! Amen.
1. When were you baptized and what difference did it make in your life?
2. What do you want to change now when you witness the infant baptism today?