What does a loving father always do?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being thought of as stupid. I like to think that I’m at least as smart as the average guy. So when my intelligence is questioned, it sort of raises my hackles. I want to argue, and prove that God is real.
We started the reading today where we left off the last time we were in Acts. Stephen had been stoned to death because of his plain truth speaking to the religious leaders.
Present at that stoning was Saul, and we’re told that he approved of Stephen’s punishment. Isn’t amazing how Jesus can change a person who is willing? In chapter 9, Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision and you know the rest of the story.
What I would like to focus on for a moment is what happened after Stephen’s execution. The scripture says that “On that day widespread persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem and most believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”
And then a couple of verses later it says that “The believers who were scattered went from place to place, where they spread the word.” They didn’t cower in place. They didn’t shut up. Having seen what happened to Stephen, they knew what could happen. But they spread out and spread the word.
Now, I know that I might be starting to sound like a broken record, but I never know when someone new might be listening, and I don’t know what will be happening in the news when you hear this podcast. Christians are facing this kind of persecution today, as I record this. Most of us have heard reports and seen videos of the Islamic terrorist group ISIS killing Christians. Here in America, it’s nowhere near that bad…right now…but it is not outside the realm of possibility that it will happen here.
Be encouraged by what the early church did, beloved. Be encouraged and know that what looks like defeat and disaster to the world is far from it in the eyes of Almighty God. Jesus has already won the war. What we are seeing today are the death throes of satan and his demons.
He knows that his time is running out. He wants to frighten people and keep them from following Jesus. Don’t fall for his lies. Don’t accept the defeat of denying Jesus. Kick the devil in the teeth and remain strong in your faith in Jesus Christ. Because there will come a day when EVERY knee will bow, and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, including the master of lies himself.
In chapter five, after the apostles had been locked up for preaching about Jesus, and after the angel of the Lord had released them during the night and had told them, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life”, they went right back to the temple to again teach (or preach) to the people.
The high priest had them brought back to stand once more before the Council and he said, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
Now, does this sound at all familiar to you? Doesn’t this go on today? Aren’t we told not to speak the name of Jesus? Christians are one of the only groups today that are discriminated against, and it’s perfectly fine with most of the world.
What Peter and the other apostles said to the high priest and the Council should be an encouragement to us. They said, “We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Friends, they got the courage to do this from the same Holy Spirit that is in every believer today. Don’t be afraid to speak the name of Jesus and tell what He has done in your life and what He wants to do in the lives of every person alive. Be bold. Be strong. Do not obey those who would tell you to shut up. We answer to a higher authority. We answer to Almighty God!
Oh my goodness. So much I could say about what we read today. Where to begin?
In chapter 4, after Peter and John were arrested for talking about Jesus after the lame beggar was healed, and they were standing before the religious leaders, they were asked, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”, what does scripture say happened?
It says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…” Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit! Do you remember how often Peter would put his foot in his mouth when He was with Jesus? Sure, he got a few things right, but he often said exactly the wrong things, didn’t he? And now that he is filled with the Holy Spirit, God speaks just the right words through him.
Earlier in this chapter, we are told that after he preached, the number of the men added to the church was now about five thousand. The day before it was three thousand. So the Holy Spirit’s filling has made him a powerful and convincing speaker, wouldn’t you say?
What happened on the night that Jesus was crucified? Peter wouldn’t even admit to knowing Jesus. He was afraid and perhaps even ashamed to acknowledge Jesus. And now, the words he speaks have brought about five thousand men to believe in Jesus. And we don’t know how many more women there were.
So many of us are afraid to stand up and speak the name of Jesus. Here in Acts chapter four, Peter says to the religious leaders, “…if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
How is that for boldness?
Now get this: “13Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”
Why did they recognize them as having been with Jesus? Because of the Holy Spirit’s speaking through them! They spoke in the same way as Jesus did! Well of course they did! God is One. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have the same message because they are One.
The point to take away from this is that if you will let the Holy Spirit speak through you, you will have the right words to say…words that are from God and words that will change the hearts of people.
And my friend, we need this kind of filling of the Holy Spirit as much today as they needed that day, because there are those who tell us, like the religious leaders told them, “Do not speak of Jesus!”
You know it’s true, and it is only getting worse. If you are a believer, be ready to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit. You will be amazed at what He will do through you.
The book of Acts is about the dawning days of the Christian church. How it began. It’s about the empowerment of the seemingly defeated followers of Jesus after His crucifixion and resurrection.
Jesus knew that his disciples would need encouragement and courage and ability from God to be able to take the message of the Gospel to the world, so just before He ascended to Heaven, He told them stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit.
Put yourself in their place. Yes, they had seen and spoken with the resurrected Christ over a period of forty days after his ascension. But they had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. What was Jesus talking about? How would this happen, and how would they know?
They gathered in an upper room of a house in Jerusalem and spent their time praying. The remaining eleven disciples (remember that Judas Iscariot had been one of the twelve, but he betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide), Jesus’ mother, some other women, and Jesus’ brothers were there, and they waited…for what?
Well, when the Holy Spirit arrived, there was no doubt that His presence was a game-changer. When the day of Pentecost arrived, which was 50 days after Passover, He came into the upper room accompanied by the sound of a strong wind. Note that the text doesn’t say it was a wind. It was the sound of a strong wind.
And then there were what looked like tongues of fire which came and rested on each one of the people. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in languages which they had never spoken before, led by the Holy Spirit.
All of this noise drew a crowd. Some thought that the speakers were drunk, but it was early in the day. Of those that heard, many were from other lands who were not Jews. And they heard what the believers were saying in their own languages.
And then Peter stood up and told those in attendance of the words of the prophet Joel. And he preached his first sermon to them, telling them all about Jesus. And 3,000 new believers were added to the church that day.
What a beginning! What a miraculous event! When the Holy Spirit works through His people, Jesus Christ is glorified and lives are changed.
Every believer is meant to have this experience. Every believer is called to share the Good News of the risen Christ. Whether or not you believe in the Pentecostal experience, God calls each of us to be a light to the world with Jesus’ message of hope and salvation. That is your call and mine. Jesus said, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Wherever you are, you are called to share.
Today we conclude the reading of the Acts of the Apostles, and begin the Old Testament book of Numbers.
We read today about Paul’s defense in front of King Agrippa, and a voyage gone wrong.
Paul gives a defense and raises a ruckus!
Paul stirs things up in his travels, causing the Jewish leaders no end of consternation.