Act 5 – Scene 3
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
A wise man named Gamaliel, who had seen people rise before and cause a stir but they had ultimately come to nothing and their campaigns had just fizzed out. This is what he says…
“…Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
So they listened to him and they let them go, after giving them a beating, and guess what, they could not stop them as their mission was from God! Our mission as a continuation of their mission, as commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. God is with us wherever we are and is calling us to participate in his unstoppable mission.
Be strong and courageous in his name, wherever you are, for his glory that we may see some come to faith in Christ.
The thing that gets me is, they rejoiced that they had been counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus.
When we suffer, what do we do?
What questions do we ask?
Do we rejoice, would we rejoice or ask why me? To ask, why me is normal but we have to ask, what?
What is God doing through this and what am I learning about God and myself?
I’d love it if you would share your experiences in the comment section of this blog post.
Act 5 – Scene 2
We think we have it tough with what some call political correctness, or as some have commented on, an anti-Christian agenda within the media or politics. We have seen a number of reports in recent months of Christians being put on trial whether it was for praying for a patient, wearing a cross or hoteliers who would not allow homosexual couples stay in there B&B. Now it is not my intention to comment on any of the above cases in this post but safe to say when these things happen some Christians are quick to call it persecution, is it really? Maybe, but when you read stories like these listed here it kind of puts what some in the our country endure into perspective a little. While not wanting to belittle what the people involved in these cases have gone through, there are varying degrees of scale.
Persecution is nothing new to Christians; Jesus faced it, the apostles faced it, and those in the early church faced it, so we should not be surprised by it, but ask God for grace to endure it and learn from it when we face it. Easy to say, but by the grace of God there are those, many of them, who have survived and sometimes not by his grace in persecution.
Before looking at the events in the chapter 5, let me just say that persecution is not because we do something stupid, it is suffering for our faith in Christ and for his name sake.
In Acts 5:12-42 we see that the apostles were put in prison, by the religious leaders for preaching Christ and healing people in his name.
“17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.”
That very night, an angel appeared and set them free so that the next day they could continue their mission as set by Jesus. I think this is brilliant; I would have loved to have been there to see the faces of the religious leaders, wouldn’t you? I wonder what was going through the apostle minds as they were sat in prison. Scripture doesn’t give the impression that they were worried or scared, does it? In fact as we read in their second trial before religious leader (v22-32) Peter seems to talk with great boldness and courage. He basically tells them they would obey God’s command and call on their lives, before they would listen to them and their request to stop preaching.
In today’s world not much has changed, we are still told to shut up (so to speak) and stop talking about Jesus, so much so that nurses amongst other professions, run the risk of disciplinary procedures if they talk to people about the hope found in Jesus. Does this mean we should stop and not share out faith? No, we just need to be smarter, but be confident in the message and discern the opportunities that the Holy Spirit opens for us.
Act 4 – Scene 1
This is a massively encouraging passage for anyone who thinks they are not smart enough, don’t know enough or just couldn’t speak about Jesus either to those who confront you or those people who you know.
Having just seen the lame man healed in and through the name of Jesus, and Peter seen the crowds response he proclaimed the message of life found in Christ Jesus. Peter and John got arrested and put in custody until the next day.
Again amazing results occurred from the bold proclamation of the gospel, verse 4 states that it was about 5000! In a previous post I mentioned that we may need to re-think how we communicate the gospel but the message of Jesus is powerful. We must be confident in the good news and Jesus power to save.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Filled with the Holy Spirit Peter confronts his opponents and they are astounded as they are uneducated, common men! Once we realize boldness in witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus and his transformation in our lives is not about intellect but by being filled with the Holy Spirit who enables a real and living relationship with Jesus. They may have been uneducated but they had been with Jesus. When their opponents said this it was in recognition of that fact that they had literally been with Jesus just a number of weeks before this recorded event.
The key factor in sharing our faith is in being with Jesus. While we may not physically be in the presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit he is constantly with us, in our best and worst moments. While it is important that we carve out time to read and pray it vital that we develop a life of prayer and practice the presence of Jesus in all our life.
“When it is natural for us to talk to Jesus, it will be natural for us to talk about him.”
Boldness is a result of sweet fellowship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus to us, as we grow in confidence of the resurrection power of Jesus at work in us bringing forth eternal life, we will also grow in boldness. Trust him!
Peter and John on their release went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. They then all prayed this prayer…
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Maybe you could pray this prayer for yourself and other Christians you know.
Things you can do, get to know Jesus, by developing a habit of prayer and Bible reading (if you have an iphone, android or another kind of smart phone, you can get great bible apps such as this one http://www.youversion.com/mobile). Write out what Jesus had done for you and how you are changing because of Jesus. Seeing it in black and white can help it sink in!
Develop relationship first with Jesus through prayer and you’ll become unstoppable in wanting to talk about him with others.
Act 3 – Scene 2
The lame man (Acts 3) had been healed by Jesus. There was great rejoicing as the man clings to Peter and John, a natural response from a man who had been lame from birth, and people are astounded at what has happened.
Peter saw this and began to preach to the crowd, in a way that the crowd understood. What you notice about all the New Testament preachers is that they pitch it at their audience. Peter is talking to a crowd who were present at the crucifixion of Jesus and had played their part (verse 14). He explains the good news to them in way that they would have understood.
Peter doesn’t pull any punches or try and soften the blow about the condition of the hearts of his audience but he does give them a message of hope. Hope that is only found in Jesus.
Christians are commissioned to be people who spread the good news of Jesus. However, we often talk in terms that people don’t understand and then don’t explain them! We need to talk in language that people understand or we’ll lose them from the conversation. We need to talk about sin but we have to explain it, as people don’t get the concept of sin. Maybe we need to talk in terms of selfishness, start there and then explain its destructive consequences (there is other jargon that we can fall into and it is a big put off for communicating the good news) the gospel’s focus is on the new life in Christ and eternal life at that, if we focus more on sin then we miss the point. Sin is serious, and has been catastrophic for the world, but Jesus is the great redeemer and restorer. What a beautiful message to bring to a broken world!
This message is still powerful and Jesus still mighty to save, a broken world, a broken humanity. Think about the language you use when talking about the good news; does it help or hinder conversations? How have people responded? How do you talk about the good news when a whole generation don’t know about Jesus? What Christian jargon is unhelpful and how can it be reworded and explained to a non-Christian?
If you have any helpful suggestions, then please feel free to comment or share stories of how you have either had successful (people still talk to you and are still asking you questions) conversations with non-Christians or when you have had un-successful ones.
Please help this conversation along and tell us what you have learned.
Most of us give up on God too easily. Confusion comes and crowds out our commitment so we quit. Despair descends and we drop off the spiritual map. Fatigue flails our souls and we forfeit our future promise.
Martha was very frustrated with Jesus. Her situation was hopeless. Her brother, Lazarus, had been dead four days. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
However it says in John 11:21-22 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
There was something about Martha that didn’t allow her confusion, despair or fatigue to overwhelm her faith.
‘Even now…’she insisted; ‘I believe in your power to resurrect the dead.’
It’s one thing to trust in God when your situation is on life support. It’s another thing to trust God when your dream is dead and in the ground.
Maybe a relationship in your life just fell apart.
Maybe a miscarriage suddenly ends your promise.
Maybe you lost your job in this last year.
Maybe you’ve made some terrible mistakes that have cost you a lot of time, opportunity and heart ache.
But it’s not over as long as Jesus is on the scene.
Even now He can restore your relationships.
Even now He can supply all your needs.
Even now He can provide for your promise.
Even now He can forgive you and make you whole.
What do we do? Have a Martha mentality. Trust Him, believe Him, hope in Him… Even now!
In Genesis 12:1-3 we read,
- Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Notice how God says to Abram, “Abram, I’m going to bless you, and you will be a blessing.” But here is what I want you to see: Abram’s being a blessing was tied to being in God’s purpose. He could only become a great blessing if he followed God by faith.
Was there risk involved for Abram? You bet! He had to leave everything that was familiar to him, all of his security, everything that was comfortable and familiar.
He left Ur of the Chaldeans, which history tells us was one of the most highly developed cities of the ancient world. They had cobblestone streets, an underground sewage system, and it was a place of world trade.
Abram left all of that and went out on an adventure by faith, pursuing the purpose that God had for his life. And in pursuing that purpose, God blessed him, and he became a blessing.
But think about this. What if he had stayed back? What if he had said, “I’m secure here; I have it made; I have a nice house and everything I need. I think I will stay put.” We would not even know his name.
Pursue your purpose. In that pursuit your faith will grow.
I once broke a guy’s nose… on purpose. Many, many years ago, a friend of our family called me, crying. Her boyfriend had been hitting her for the past few days, and it was getting worse.
I didn’t think to talk her through this, or call a social worker or a helpline. Instead, I made a brash decision to drive to her place, pick her up, grab all her stuff out of the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, and bring her back to her family home. Along the way, I also — stupidly — decided to punch her boyfriend in the face. Very hard. Twice.
He didn’t press charges. Good.
She went back to him. Not so good.
They eventually separated ways (thank God) but I always thought that if I had handled the situation differently, maybe she wouldn’t have had the urge to go back into the abusive relationship. Maybe if I hadn’t responded to his violence and quick temper with violence and a quick temper of my own, she would have understood that she had better options than to return to a man that hit her.
I wondered about that incident many times and wondered why I reacted that way. Was it confidence? NO! In all honesty I was more afraid than anything else. In fact it took me a while to stop looking over my shoulder in fear to see if he was going to get even with me.
According to the Bible, fear was not a part of God’s original creation. It came on the scene only after human beings rebelled against God’s plans and tried to rule his world without him. Thankfully, the Bible declares that God had a solution for the fear problem. He sent his son to die so that by overcoming death itself, he would conquer the object of our greatest fear, and release the power of eternal life into our weary hearts. Once a person comes to faith in Jesus he or she begins to experience a new kind of confidence, based on an uninhibited relationship with God. When people truly commit themselves to Christ, they begin to feel that despite their weaknesses, frailties, flaws and fears they can face life full on. Those who accept Christ are made righteous by him, and they feel a boldness and courage they’ve never experienced before. Those who do not acknowledge God in their lives, flee even when there’s no-one pursuing them. They’re constantly looking over their shoulder, conscious that something is missing in them and that someday they will be found out.
I never had an older brother, but I know if I had, it would have made me very bold when I was facing someone who tried to intimidate me. I would simply have called on my brother, and he would have sorted the other guy out! Now I know that’s what Jesus does for a believer whenever fear comes a calling.
Prayer: ‘Lord, help me to develop a strong confidence in who you are in me. I know I can face life’s problems full on. Thank you that I can let Jesus deal with my fears and the things that cause them.’
Fear takes a hike when love comes to town! Faith, which the Bible says is based on love, always supplants fear. Now, that doesn’t mean that people of faith never face problems without fear showing up. Coming to spiritual faith is just the first step in overcoming our deepest fears – but it’s also the biggest and the most liberating. Through a growing understanding of God’s plan for their lives, a new intimacy with God through prayer, and a spirit of joy and courage even in life’s toughest moments, people of faith are able to gradually face up to the issues that have caused them anxiety. What begins as a spiritual experience, grows out into every other aspect of their being – soul, mind, and body. That’s what the Bible means when it says that we can be totally transformed by the renewal of our minds. To put it another way, as you daily learn to line up our emotions and thoughts with what God is doing deep in your spirit, you will begin to experience freedom and release from anxiety. Of course, if you have suffered from serious or debilitating phobias, therapy may be necessary and helpful, particularly if it helps you to identify the hidden causes of some specific fear. Counseling, combined with personal support, can be very helpful in the process of healing. But, in the end, it’s the new life of Christ within you, the nature, character and power of Jesus working out through you, that really sets you free. So, don’t give in to your fears – they’re not part of God’s plan for your life. Claim the promise of his word, that your life can be totally transformed. Learn to line up your thinking with what the word of God says about you and watch fear take a walk…
Prayer: ‘Father, please help me to be filled with your special brand of love, so that faith is mobilized in my heart, and fear is evicted. I want your strong love to fill every part of my existence today.’
Boldness is Beautiful!
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; boldness is beautiful, there is power in it. There is a time to wait, the time of soul searching and heavy prayer. But there is also a time for action — for bold, courageous and determined steps into the unknown.
Acts 4:29 ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.’
Boldness unlocks the power of God in our lives like nothing else, because boldness works to release the true power of our inner faith. Without faith we cannot find the favour of God; but without boldness we can never exercise our faith. Without boldness, favour is like a muscle that is never flexed. Without boldness, nobody will ever see the depth and the power of our faith in God — not even us. Faith demands more than giving mental assent to a course of action — it means more than simply saying, ‘Yes God, that seems like a good idea to me…’ Faith must have an outlet in action. Eventually, my faith in a word from God requires that I seize the opportunity he has put before me, without delay.
Sometimes, doors of opportunity are open for only a short space of time. If we fail to make use of them at the right time, they disappear. God is a gracious God and will often give us a second or even a third chance, but he wants us to learn the power of grasping God-given opportunities when they are first given. He wants us to learn the power of decisiveness, because it strips away all insecurity and double-mindedness. The boldness of faith breeds a mind of single focus, and a heart of gritty determination to succeed.
Prayer: ‘Lord, help me to learn how to act at the right time, with boldness. Help me not to delay when you have prepared a path before me.