Break Free: Rejection

Acts 5:18-20
18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail (for teaching others about Jesus). 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
Last week, we started a new message series entitled ‘Break Free!’ where we are learning about different prisons that hold us back from sharing the good news of Christ’s salvation.  Just as God set the apostles free here in Acts so that they could tell people all about the new life that Jesus offers, He desires to set us free from these various prisons so that we are able to tell others this good news!
This week, we’re looking at the first prison; rejection.
We all have an innate need to be accepted.  None of us like being rejected by others.  It could be a child on the playground being abandoned by their friend for another child, a teen getting broken up with for the first time, getting fired from a job, or a spouse finding out that they’ve been cheated on.  All of these things and much, much more can cause us to feel rejected.
When it comes to sharing our faith with others, this fear of rejection can be a significant prison.  This fear of rejection forces us to ask ourselves:  What if?  What if they disagree with me?  What if they never speak to me again?  What if they think I’m weird?  What if I can’t answer their questions?  What if I mess up and say something wrong?  What if I offend them?  What if they distance themselves from me?
We ask these ‘What If?’ questions because of our need to be accepted and our fear of being rejected.
Now, I had planned to speak about how to overcome this need to be accepted and this fear of rejection – how to rid ourselves of it.  However, as I studied and prayed, I found that this is actually not something that we can nor should want to remove from our lives.  This need for acceptance isn’t actually a bad thing by any means!  In fact, I believe that God created this desire within us for good purposes.
The first purpose is that from the very beginning, God created mankind to live in community – with Him and with each other.  This need to be accepted within us draws us to God and to others.  This need to be accepted just cannot be satisfied if we remain isolated and by ourselves.
The second purpose is to give us the desire to do what is right.  This need to be accepted actually motivates us to obey God’s law – to love God with our everything and to treat others as we desire to be treated (Matthew 22:37-40).  This need to be accepted by God and others motivates us to do what is right in all situations as to be accepted by God and others.  We know that if we do what is right, we will be accepted and if we wrong someone, we will be separated from them.
However, Satan has figured out a way to malign and manipulate this innate need to be accepted and to use it against us and against God.  God desires to give us an abundant life through it, but Satan uses it to steal, kill, and destroy us (John 10:10).  In fact, we’ll find out soon that this is one of the first ways that Satan caused mankind to fall; by manipulating this desire within us to be accepted.
Instead of this fear of rejection causing us to become obedient and blessed by God, Satan uses it to cause us to become disobedient and cursed by God.  The doorway that permits us to be manipulated in this way is opened whenever we choose to fear man and desire to be accepted by others more than our fear of and desire to be accepted by God.
It’s not wrong to want to be accepted and not rejected, but we must be intentional about valuing acceptance by God far above and beyond the acceptance of man.  There are many, many scripture references to emphasize this, but we’ll take a look at just a few for time’s sake.
Proverbs 29:25
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
That’s a visual picture that we need to keep in our minds.  Fear of man is a snare, a trap intended by the enemy to destroy us.  Trust in the Lord, which is revealed by our choice to obey Him, is a place of safety and refuge.
Also, Jesus said:
Matthew 10:26-33
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Jesus couldn’t have made this issue any more black and white than this.  His desire is that we share the good news of His salvation, along with everything else that He reveals, with everyone.  We’re not to keep silent or be shy about who God is and what He has done for us.  Eternal bliss in Heaven or eternal torment in Hell is at stake for all mankind!
We’re also not to fear man.  The worse that they can do is take our lives, which means instant entrance into an eternity with no more pain, death, suffering, sickness, or tears.  We win either way!  We are, however, to fear God alone; who holds all eternity in His hands.  The One who holds eternal reward in His presence for those who accept His free salvation and eternal torment for those who stubbornly refuse it and choose to pay the price for their own sins instead is the only one that we need to fear.
As you can see from just these few scriptures, it is critical for us to keep in mind God’s original purpose for this need to be accepted.  We must desire and value acceptance from God before that of man.  It is this fear of rejection of man rather than of God that has driven many to do all sorts of unthinkable things just to be accepted by others.  So many people are kept bondage, not only from sharing their faith, but also in very dangerous and harmful situations and relationships because they simply fear rejection by others.  This is what enables gang cultures to thrive and cause so much damage.  It’s also what enables abusive individuals to have continued dominance over others.  This need to be accepted being manipulated.
Rejection started at the very beginning of human history going right back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rejected God by eating the forbidden fruit and God having to ban them from the garden as a result of their actions.  The fruit didn’t fall far from the tree, either.  Let’s take a look together at the next account of such rejection which occurred with Adam and Eve’s children.
Genesis 4:1-16
1 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.(Adam was sure to obey God’s command to go forth and multiply!)  🙂
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.Now there have been many speculations made as to why God favored Abel’s offering over Cain’s.  This event occurred long before the law was written regarding what an acceptable offering and sacrifice was.  However, I believe that Adam and Eve, along with Cain and Abel, were taught by God, Himself what was required of them.  God would not be good, just, or righteous if He judged these offerings without first informing them of the requirements for such an offering.  The difference in their offerings, I believe, revealed their heart toward the Lord in the same way as it does for us today.
Although many people teach that it was because Abel brought an animal, blood sacrifice and Cain brought a grain/fruit/vegetable offering that it was more favorable to God.  After all, we know that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness for sin.  However, I don’t believe that this is the case with what made one offering more favorable than the other.
I believe that it came down to this.  Abel brought only the very best portions right from the firstborn of his flock to offer to God.  Abel’s offering was a sacrifice, which was owed to God and also honored Him.  Cain, on the other hand, brought in some of the fruits of the soil as an offering.  It’s almost phrased, however, as if though Cain was simply bringing to God the leftovers and not the best and first fruits of his labor.  Abel brought a tithe from the very first of his flock, Cain only brought an offering from his excess.
In any case, God favored Abel’s offering.  What unfolds next is triggered by Satan’s open door in Cain’s life to pounce on the rejection felt by Cain.6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
And here God teaches us one of the greatest lessons about overcoming rejection in our lives.  We must choose to do what is right before God.  Sin is crouching right at our doors the moment that we choose to do wrong and it desires to have us – to consume, devour, and destroy us.  We MUST RULE OVER IT!!!
Two wrongs do not make a right, but that’s exactly what rejection tempts us to do.  Rejection says, well God rejected you.  Although, the reality is that He simply rejected your actions, not you.  Rejection affirms and defends your behavior.  Rejection says what you did what was right, you brought an offering to God.  It’s His fault if it wasn’t good enough for Him, not yours!  Now, reject God and the others involved since they rejected you.
Of course, we know that this will only cause further division and solve nothing.  However, the prison of rejection never makes us aware of that.  When we reject someone as a result of feeling rejected, it creates an infinite loop of irreconcilable rejection.  When we reject someone, we’re doing wrong, which causes rejection.  Rejecting those who we feel rejected by becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Because of this, the prison of rejection’s voice rings true in our minds – they have rejected me and will not accept me – that’s their problem, there’s nothing wrong with me and my decisions!
This will look different depending on the circumstances, but the prison of rejection’s purpose is always to further isolate and divide people from God and others.  It will always blame others for the rejection and will never allow you to think, “Maybe I didn’t exactly do what was right.”.  After all, isn’t that what God’s truth just taught us?  We will never be rejected by God if we simply do what is right.  It had nothing to do with Abel!  It had everything to do with Cain and God’s relationship and Cain’s choices.
Let’s take a look at what this prison of rejection did in Cain’s life, however.

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Again, Cain is taking no responsibility for his own actions – not even to God, Himself!  The prison of rejection will always blame, accuse, and divide.  It’s ruthless and strongly desires to drag others into its prison walls.  How can it do this?  By getting us to reject others instead of accepting responsibility ourselves.

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

So, what is the solution?  How does one break free from the prison of rejection?
Well, I figure that there are a few different scenarios that we can look at when it comes to rejection.
First, we may be feeling rejected, but it may not be true.  If this is the case, speak to whomever you are feeling rejected by to see if it is even true to begin with and also to see what caused this to occur if it is true.  If it is just a feeling that we have, but isn’t based on truth, we can just choose to deny it and walk in the truth until the feeling of rejection passes.  To expedite this process, it helps to pray and ask God to remove this feeling of rejection as well.  He’s able to instantly deliver us from it!  There’s no need to allow this feeling to hinder our relationships or our freedom that we have in Christ!
Secondly, we may have been rejected by someone, but for reasons which we are unable or unwilling to change.  In these cases, we’re called by Jesus to bless them and move along (Luke 6:27-31; Luke 9:4-6).
Thirdly, we may have been rejected because we have wronged someone.  In this case, we should:
1. Accept responsibility.
Instead of blaming others or your circumstances, accept full responsibility.  Confess to God and to others what you did that was wrong.  Understand that most of the time, people have not rejected you as a person.  They may have rejected your actions or behaviors, but they love you as a person and have not rejected you.  This is absolutely true when it comes to God.  He never rejected Cain, only his offering and his choice to murder.  Even after all of this, God still had mercy on Cain, defended his life, and took care of his needs.  His life simply was going to be quite a bit more difficult as a result of his choices.
2. Seek forgiveness.
As we confess our sin to God, He is faithful and just and will not only forgive our sins, but also restore us to righteousness (1 John 1:9)!  Also, ask the others involved to forgive you.  Just confessing your fault alone is not enough, forgiveness must also be requested.  Also, don’t forget to forgive yourself.  This is often the most difficult thing to do when dealing with the prison of rejection.  Once you realize that you are responsible for your own actions, the prison of rejection often causes us to reject our own selves.  This is where the enemy brings in all sorts of tragic self-mutilation temptations such as cutting, eating disorders, addictions, and other compulsive behaviors to deal with this self-rejection.  Don’t fall into these traps, forgive yourself!  If God can, you can!
3. Do what is right.
Learn from your mistakes and the next time around, do things right.  We all make mistakes, which is why we all are still in need of a savior.  Don’t get too down on yourself if you feel rejected, don’t allow it to cut too deep.  In fact, our feelings of being rejected are sometimes not even true.  We may feel rejected by someone, but they may have not even done so.  Try to take an objective look at the situation and learn how to better handle it the next time around.
Lastly, what about when it comes specifically to sharing your faith and the fear of rejection?  Simply do not let the fear of being rejected by someone imprison you from sharing your faith with them!  Jesus simply did not give us a third option on the matter.  We choose either to be accepted by Jesus by sharing the good news with them or we reject Him before others by remaining silent and in doing so choose to have Him reject us.
And honestly, if others truly care about us and love us, they’ll accept us for who we are: followers of Christ.  Even if they don’t choose to accept Christ, they can still accept us and vice versa.  In healthy relationships, I get to be me, and you get to be you.  Also, if someone does reject you because you are a Christian, remember that it’s not really you that they are rejecting, but Christ, Himself.  Don’t take it personally!  God had to remind Samuel of this same truth (1 Samuel 8), Jesus had to remind His disciples (Matthew 10), and I’m also reminding you all this morning.
So, break free from the prison of rejection this week!!!  Romans 8 promises that nothing can separate you from the love of God – there is simply no condemnation nor rejection for us who have accepted Christ’s salvation.  If God accepts us, that’s good enough!  Share the good news with others unashamed this week – you’ll be glad that you did!