“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…”
American Newspaper Journalist, Jim Bishop, wrote the following in a Christmas column.
“There was a man born of Jewish parents in an obscure village. He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30, and then for 3 years he was an itinerate preacher. He never wrote a book, he never held office, he never owned a home, he never had a family, he never went to college, he never put his foot inside a big city, he never traveled 200 miles from the place where here was born. He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away from him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had, his coat. When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. All the armies that have ever marched, all of the navies that were ever built, all of the parliaments that ever sat, all of the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as has this one solitary life.”
Jesus Christ literally turned the world upside down. And this morning I would like to examine how Jesus has turned the world upside down and how he has empowered the church to do the same. In this passage we see that Paul goes to the synagogue, as was his custom, to preach christ crucified to his brothers the jews and to the gentiles. The city officials get hot and bothered by the mission of Paul and Silas that they raised up a mob against them saying that these are the men who have turned the whole world upside down and now they have come to our town. The try to get rid of Paul by highlighting the fact that these world changers are teaching that there is another king whose name is Jesus.
It is so very ironic that these angry leaders unintentionally said 2 very profound things. First, they acknowledged that Jesus Christ is a King. From the mouth of the enemy truth is propagated. Second, they credited the apostles for being men ‘who have turned the world upside down’. Oh, how I hope and pray that the world would say that of the church today.
In his commentary, William Barclay states “’Those,’ they said, ‘who are upsetting the civilized world have arrived here.’ That is one of the greatest compliments which has ever been paid to Christianity. . . . When Christianity really goes into action it must cause a revolution both in the life of the individual and in the life of society.”
C.H. Spurgeon said the same. “They said the Apostles turned the world upside down. They meant by that, that they were disturbers of the peace. But they said a great true thing; for Christ’s gospel does turn the world upside down.”
Jesus Christ has turned our world upside down and from this passage we will see three clear examples of how the world has been forever changed and will continue to be changed because of Jesus and his church. We will move backwards through this text to examine these three points. First, Jesus’ Kingdom is a Kingdom that seems upside down. Second, we enter into that kingdom through salvation that, again, seems upside down. Third, the citizens of that Kingdom live lives that have been turned upside down.
Kingdom Upside Down
The Jews try to appeal to the Greek leaders by accusing the missionaries of teaching that there is another king named Jesus. This is the same argument that the Jews offered to pilate.
“And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” (Luke 23:2–3 ESV)
Later, Jesus told pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. Which was exactly what Jesus taught. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught is followers how his kingdom worked and how they should live. He said very strange things like.
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:38-44
You can see how upside down his kingdom is. It is a kingdom that says the first will be last and that last get moved up to the front. It’s upside down. Those on the bottom get moved up to the top. In this upside down kingdom it is the meek and the spiritually poor who inherit the earth and the kingdom. It is the humble who are exalted and the least become the greatest.
The Bible frequently teaches us how Jesus and his kingdom is completely upside down from the way we think it should be. Listen to this passage:
“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1Cor. 1:27-28)
This is definitely upside down, In fact the real meaning of this passage is that the foolish, the weak, the low and despised and the things that are not – those things, Paul tells us, are you and me. We are the weak, we are the despised, we are the foolish who god has chosen to confront the world and turn it upside down.
If you are a Christian, if Jesus is your King, then you know how he has turned you upside down. Before you were invited into that kingdom you lived for yourself. If someone hit you, you would surely hit him back. But now you have been turned upside down, and some how you can find forgiveness. Before you were invited into that kingdom, you lived for yourself, but now you are learning to die to self and to live for others and to die for Christ.
Jesus reigns over a kingdom that is upside down, and I am certain that there are some here who need their lives turned up side down. Right now Jesus wants to turn your life upside down — and he can do it. He and he alone can take your addiction and turn it into a thing of glory. Jesus can take your anger and turn into compassion. He can take your loneliness, your apathy, your fear, your worry, your hunger, your lust and turn it upside down into things you can not even imagine. I promise you. You see the Gospel is not just a message about salvation from hell to heaven. It is a message of salvation from everything that is creating for you a hell on earth. Jesus didn’t die just to save you from death. Jesus died to give you life. A full life. He came to turn your life upside down and fill it to overflowing fullness.
Salvation upside down
Well, that leads us to a salvation that seems upside down. In verse 3 we read that it was the Apostle’s custom to enter into a synagogue, or the jewish houses of worship, to prove, through the Scriptures, why it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and rise from the dead in order to save the world from sin. It was Paul’s custom to preach Christ crucified. And this is a message that is upside down, both for the Jews and for the Greeks.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1Cor. 1:22ff
To the Greeks it is foolishness. To the philosophical, intellectual, and political rulers it is a ridiculous religion. God redeems his people by becoming a baby, born in an obscure village to a blue collar family, who after preforming several miracles and delivering some outstanding sermons, dies upon a cross in front of everyone, is resurrected from the dead in front of few, and then empowers his disciples with the third member of the Trinity in order to change the entire world. That is just unbelievably crazy. It is foolishness. It’s absurd. It is completely upside down and almost impossible to believe.
Except, of course, for the fact that those disciples really did change the world, and if Jesus has ever changed your world, or if you would let him turn your world upside down it all of a sudden becomes impossible not to believe. It become irresistible.
And to the Jews it is a stumbling block. To the judgmental, religious, legalists — the
Gospel is trap that trips them up. The Gospel says we are saved by faith and saved by faith alone. The Gospel says that all you must do is call upon the name of Jesus and you will certainly be saved. The Gospel says, it doesn’t not matter what dark alley you have crawled out of, or whose bed your boots have been under, simply believe and be saved. For the religious, that is upside down.
It even seems upside down to many of us who have been saved. It is like we have a hard time believing that Christ would save us. Sometimes we want to try to earn, or at least prove, our salvation. Paul frequently has to fight tooth and nail to defend this upside down Gospel.
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:1-5
Maybe you have found this Jesus stuff hard to believe. Maybe this gospel of grace is just too hard for you to swallow. If it is, I can’t say I blame you — because it is upside down. But — in order for God to do a 180 in your life, in order for God to right all of the wrongs, and untangle all the lies, and to completely change your paradigm, he is going to have to turn the whole thing upside down. And if you haven’t heard this morning yet I want you to hear it now, Jesus has turned the whole thing upside down and he has down for you and your salvation. Call on Jesus and you will be saved.
Citizens upside down
Finally, those citizens who have been redeemed through an upside down salvation to a kingdom with upside down principles live an upside down life. When a human being is redeemed and made a citizen of Heaven the Bible tells us that he is no longer a citizen of this world but becomes a stranger, a foreigner, and a resident alien. He is completely different. His ambitions are different, his desires are different, his threshold for pain, suffering and persecution is different. He is other-worldly.
The Christian experience causes us to say strange, upside down kinds of things. Christians who live upside down lives will say things like, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). And, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus” (Philippians 3:8). Or, “We rejoice in our sufferings… (Rom. 5:3). The Christian actually loves his enemies. He offers the other cheek and his tunic too.
“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2Cor. 5:13–17
Now this point is implied in our text and in the surrounding context. I’ll show you where I see the implication because its isn’t necessarily spelled out. This section actually begins in the previous chapter where Paul is lead by the holy Spirit, through a vision of a macedonian, to go into Macedonia to preach the gospel. He begins that missionary endeavor in Philippi.
In Philippi he preaches the Gospel to some Greeks and wins many for Christ, but he is beaten and thrown into prison. While in prison, there is a miraculous earthquake and it seems that Paul and Silas are saved by God. The jail itself crumbles to the ground and the jailor, who thinks that Paul and Silas had surely escaped, decided to fall on his sword for loosing the prisoners. Just then, Paul shouts out, “Wait we are all still here.” And the guard, moved by their lives, falls on his knees and becomes a Christian.
From there Paul and Silas go to Thessalonica. While there Paul pleads with his fellow Jews for 3 Sabbaths. The Greek words are very strong. He pleads, reasons, proves. Paul is relentless to save his brothers. He is begging them to see and understand, from the OT, that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
After persecution in Thessalonica, Paul sneaks off to Berea. There he has many converts, but the Jews from Thessalonica traveled there to persecute them some more so they go to Athens. There, Paul is compelled by the Spirit to preach the Gospel in Athens. In his famous sermon on Mars Hill, he appeals to the Greeks through their own believes and quotes their own philosophers.
It would be easy here to talk about the boldness of the apostles. And it is true they are quite bold. Despite the fact that there are persecuted at every corner they just keep coming back for more. But I truly believe that to preach on their boldness would miss the point. There is a reason for there boldness. It is love that compels them, not boldness. The are bold because of love.
It is their love for the jailor that saved the jailor. It is Paul’s love for his jewish brothers that made it his custom to go straight to the synagogue in every city in order to win some of his fellow Jews. Paul loved the Jews and even wished that he could give up his own salvation in order to some how buy salvation for them.
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” Romans 9:3
As citizens of the kingdom we live upside down because it is the love of Christ that compels us. Jesus said that they would know we are Christians by our love. Paul said that even if he could convince men with his eloquent words t would be nothing with out love.
I dare say that, though I do believe that the apostles gave some bold sermons and I am confident that Paul had some rich and compelling arguments, I am confident it was their love for lost that won souls. It is hard to argue with a man who keeps coming back for more and more beatings. It is hard to silence the martyrs who are singing while the flames consume their flesh. It is upside down. The citizens of Heaven love Jesus, love the Gospel and love the lost. They are desperate for others to hear and accept the Gospel.
But the work of the Holy Ghost is to impart love. Paul could say, “The Love of Christ constraineth me.” He could not help going from town to town and preaching the Gospel. Jeremiah at one time said: “I will speak no more in the Lord’s name; I have suffered enough; these people don’t like God’s Word. They lived in a wicked day, as we do now. Infidels were creeping up all around him, who said the word of God was not true; Jeremiah had stood like a wall of fire, confronting them, and he boldly proclaimed that the Word of God was true. At last they put him in prison, and he said: “I will keep still; it has cost me too much.” But a little while after, you know, he could not keep still. His bones caught fire; he had to speak. And when we are so full of the Love of God, we are compelled to work for God. – D. L. Moody
Jesus told us that God the Father loves the world so very much. God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son. God loves the world so much that he turned it upside down. God is love. Christ is love. The Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit are love. It is love that will turn the world upside down.
I wish it could be said of the church in the 21st century, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here also!” What if the church today lived completely upside down kind of lives that upset the rest of the world? What if we were very bold because of our love for the lost. What if we made it our custom to plead and beg for our neighbors to understand that Jesus is the Messiah who died and resurrected in order to reconcile the world to God.
What if we could be a church that turned our city upside for Jesus and then planted more churches in different cities, and when we got to those cities the people there would say, “Oh, this is that church that turned their city upside down and now they have come to our city to do the same!”
Perhaps in 2012 we could make that a goal. Let’s make it our goal to turn the world upside down. What else are you going to do? Loss some weight? Learn Spanish? Come on…lets turn the world upside down!