Sermon Notes 8/29 Take Me Back: Martyrs Code

Take Me Back: Code of the Martyrs

Hebrews 11:1-4,Hebrews 11:35-38 – Acts 7:54-60

I was especially struck by the feel good feeling watching the end of the movie 2016, Sully, in which Captain Sullenburger and his crew safely brought Flight 1549 out of LuGuardia safely to a water landing in the Hudson River after a bird strike saving all 155 passenger and crew. It was based off a true story of 2009 events.

            One line in the movie stuck out to me. – Sully, I’ve been flying for 40 years, but I’ll be judged by 208 seconds. 3&1/2 minutes! 


  • ***WELCOME: To Central Church of Christ, not a place, but a people called out to Show God’s Love, Tell God’s Story, Be God’s Family. Lately we’ve been enjoying a new sermon series called, Take Me Back. It’s inspired by a desire from the elders to reexamine early Christianity, what the disciples after Jesus did, how they gathered, worshipped, and encouraged each other., and what the heart of the church looked like. It’s a desire to Take Us Back to Church.

Take me back

To the place that feels like home

To the people I can depend on

To the faith that’s in my bones

Take me back

To a preacher and a verse

Where they’ve seen me at my worst

To the love I had at first

Oh, I want to go to church

The question is, WHAT CHURCH do we go back to? 1990’s, 1950’s, late 1920’s, 1800’s, 1600’s KJV, 1500’s Martin Luther, 313AD (Constantine made state religion of Roman Empire), Church of the 2nd Century under writers (PolyCarp, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius).


They “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” Hebrews 11:33-34

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy…” Hebrews 11:35-38


Hebrews 11:4 tells us “By faith Abel (the first man mentioned in the chapter) offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though HE DIED, he still speaks.”


            54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed togetherb] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.    Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” II Corinthians 11:24-27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Back in the 1800’s there was a successful lawyer and businessman named Horatio Spafford. He and his wife Anna had five children and it seemed that all was well with his life. But then, in 1871, his young son died of pneumonia. And in that same year, much of his business was destroyed in great Chicago fire. By 1873, he’d rebuilt his business and could afford to take a vacation with the family, so they booked an ocean liner to travel to Europe. However, because of an unexpected business issue, Spafford was forced to stay behind. But he promised he’d catch another ship and join his family later. About four days after his family left for Europe, the liner collided with another ship and quickly sank – 226 of the 313 passengers drowned, including Spafford’s 4 daughters. His wife Anna was rescued and sent a telegram to her husband “Saved, alone.” Spafford took the next available liner to be with his wife, and as his ship passed near where his daughters had died he was overcome with grief. But on that voyage, he penned the words to now famous hymn… it goes like this:

***“When peace like a river attendeth my way; When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say “It is well, it is well with my soul.” It is well (it is well) With my soul (with my soul). It is well, it is well with my soul.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

 “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

            History holds Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155AD) as an elder of the church that met in Smyrna, just north of Ephesus in Asia Minor. Both Irenaeus (130-202AD)and Tertullian(155AD-220AD)record that Polycarp had been a disciple of John the Apostle. Jerome(342-420AD)writes that Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle and that John had ordained him as an elder of the church at Smyrna. The Martyrdom of Polycarp is an ancient writing dated to about 155AD and contains the final trials and words of Polycarp before he was executed. Here are the recorded words of his final prayer.


“O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before You as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as You, the ever-truthful God, have foreordained, have revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”

       Revelation 21:4 says “God will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was COMMENDED as righteous, God COMMENDING him by accepting his gifts.” Hebrews 11:4

Hebrews 11:16 “… they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

“From heaven even the most miserable life will look like one bad night at an inconvenient hotel.” Teresa of Avila

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