The Rebel Inside Us 4-17-16

“The Rebel Inside Us” Jer. 3:11-13; Isa. 1:28  4/17/16

For video of Sermon and anthem, click here.

Several years ago there were protests in South Korea by the university students. They would throw rocks, and hundreds of thousands would protest America. One of our American Presbyterian missionary co-workers who taught at the university that his grandfather founded, was bold enough to walk down to the Anti-American protests. He saw several students that he taught. A few of them came up to him and said, “Dr. Underwood, isn’t this great. We are having a big protest.” Dr. Underwood said, “Well I am an American, and this university is founded by Americans.  We also helped rescue South Korea not too long ago.  I am not so excited about it.” They replied, this is nothing personal. We just wanted to have something to do to show our life and power. About that time a tear gas truck came around and everyone scattered. Dr. Underwood came back and said, this is the ultimate human spirit. We are naturally rebels looking for a cause. We don’t know why we don’t like our lives, but we don’t, and the itch to rebel against others becomes insatiable. The status quo is usually seen as evil in and of itself. There is a sense in which all sin is protest and rebellion against God. It is the idea that “No one is going to tell me what to do- even God.” We do not recognize that we are not our own- we are God’s who made us and died for us. If we are on our own and are the captains of our soul- then we are really on our own- the universe becomes a much lonelier and dog-eat-dog place.
THERE IS A REBEL INSIDE US- Sin is in some ways rebellion in essence. The serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die, for in the day you eat you will have wisdom.” In other words- don’t believe God, He doesn’t have your best interest at heart. The serpent was saying “believe in yourself and rebel against what God says is good for you.” Inside all of us, I contend is a rebel ready to fight against God. It shows when we get angry at God. It shows when we are discontent with our lives or the lives of our children. Maybe no teacher can teach good enough; no school is good enough; No work, no job, no parent is good enough. We want change- we itch for it- but the problem is we don’t have a solution. We get angry at the people around us- and we cannot seem to find peace. Lack of contentment and peace with God is a sign, a symptom of rebellion against our Maker. It shows also when we rebel against others. We do not make people vow to obey in marriage. I am often asked if we do. But certainly the woman alone should not vow to obey. But I tell the person who asks “do I have to promise to obey him?” Do you intend to ever obey him? Does he intend to ever obey you? The Bible says submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. It also says, “husbands respect your wife so God will hear your prayers” (1 Pt 3:7). Are you in rebellion against your spouse- or have you learned to forgive him or her?   Mindless, thoughtless obedience is dehumanizing. But listening to each other and respecting each other out of love is different. So Jesus says, “If you love me, you will do what I say.” It is not that we have to obey to get to heaven- but we obey out of love for Him.      Those who rebel against God cannot listen to Him. They don’t enjoy or want to listen. Instead, they like to hear people who ask them to not take God seriously. Think about it. During the Civil War in the South no one wanted to hear the words of Lincoln- even the great Gettysburg Address was seen as yankee propaganda. People in the north, likewise, didn’t want to read the southern papers. If you want to listen to God- faithfully listen to Him, then you’ve got to get rid of the rebel inside of you.
THE REBEL INSIDE WILL NOT WIN- We may as well get rid of the rebel inside of us. Our passage in Isaiah says, “Rebels and sinners will both be broken.” Jesus said to Paul who was persecuting Christians- “Why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Jesus had been trying to goad Paul in the right direction. A goad was a long stick with sharp iron on the end used to kind of prod and direct the ox. Sometimes an ox would kick against it- but it did the ox no good to kick against the goad, and it in fact hurt more. Rebelling against God is like rebelling against all reality. You can deny reality, you can fight reality- but you do not hurt reality- you only hurt yourself.   John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, said, “For there is no one so great or mighty that he can avoid the misery that will rise up against him when he resists and strives against God.”   Maybe you have been resisting God for a long time.  Maybe you have been angry with God about something- but that anger is only hurting yourself.  It is time to give it up- quit kicking against the goads.  Stop beating your head against a wall- it will not hurt the wall, and it is time to quit.  It is time to find peace with God.  I remember John Mellencamp had a song about the rebellious 70s- “I fight authority and authority always wins.”  It is true- God is going to win. Better to get on his side and pull with Him.         Obedience to God does not happen when we agree with everything God asks us to do. Obedience happens when we disagree and listen to Him anyway.        It is easy to point at the Hells Angels and say they are trying to rebel against God. But it is a little more tricky when we look at the people around us who have a hard time with any authority. I admit this was one of my great sins as a teenager in the 70s and it still pops its head up today every now and then. My parents would say do one thing and I would do the opposite. They would say to cut my hair- I would grow it long just to get them. They would say be home by 11- I would purposefully get home at 11:01 just to see what the boundaries were. In the 70s it was a time to rebel.      GOD’S COMPETITOR INSTEAD OF GOD’S PARTNER- Hendikus Berkhof speaks of sin as competition with God. He points out instead of being on God’s side- as a partner with Him in his kingdom and His work, we are God’s competitor. He points out that God recedes to make room for another with whom God wishes to have fellowship. But our sin is we demand the room God gives us and even the throne God sits on. Instead of working for God’s kingdom as a partner we want God to give us the crown and work for our bidding and our kingdom. In other words- we don’t want God’s way, we want our own selfish way. We want God only to bless us and we really don’t care to listen to Him when our way and His way conflict. Sin can be apathy or sloth- and in some sense that too is rebellion- just not caring that God is King and has called us to do things. But sin can also be active rebellion- actively trying to defeat God’s purpose for our own. When people rebel, and admit that in their hearts they cannot hear the other side.      We fight against God in different ways. Many of us it is just a subtle fight, but some fight against Him openly. I remember a guy who was rebelling against God. He was spending so much energy and time trying to defeat Christianity. I argued with him some but he couldn’t hear anything. Finally I looked at him and said, “If God isn’t real, as you say, what difference does it make if you take away peoples’ faith, hope, and love?   Why spend so much energy on what you think is a non-entity?   Does it make any difference anyway? In your mind we all end up in the same place no matter what we do?” He ended up giving his life to the Lord and this was a turning point for him. But my point is if you spend so much time rebelling against God, that doesn’t disprove God- it points to a God that you are rebelling against. If you cannot win against God because He is so powerful and He sets the rules in place, why not surrender to Him?   This is how you fight rebellion: you surrender to His love. This is what I must do over and over again. Not my will, Lord, but yours be done. Not my way, Lord, but let me go yours. Help me deny myself- deny my rebellion- deny my right to your throne- pick up the cross and follow you. Help me Lord, to stop listening to my own voice or the only the voice of those rebelling against you- and start really, seriously listening to your voice.                   There is an Ant in Africa worker ants wander far off but always with a purpose to build up the ant colony.  But if Queen is attacked lose focus, go in circles. If Queen dies wander off aimlessly. If we kill in our hearts the One who gives us life our lives become meaningless and aimless. Ps 27:4 delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. We are called to enjoy God- glorify and enjoy Him forever. Rebellion hurts yourself, and ability to have peace and joy w God, w others, and w yourself.  Rebellion ends up only hurting yourself.   If you know you are rebelling- turn back.  Don’t believe those who say you cannot.  Don’t believe those who say you should not.  They are rebels too.  Instead, listen. Surrender. Find peace and joy with God.