Message on Acts 4:8-13, 18-20, 29-30 for Epiphany 2B
January 14, 2018
We’ve made it a couple of weeks into the New Year, and maybe some of us are working on forming some new habits. Things like losing weight, or at least eating healthier food and exercising more; maybe getting out of debt or doing a better job of taking care of the house or the car… I know someone who has resolved to drink less diet soda this year. These are all good things, good habits to form.
When you think about it though, the New Year’s resolutions people make mostly focus our attention on ourselves. We might even ask God to help us keep our resolutions for self-improvement. Instead of surrendering to God’s will, we see him as a tool to get us what we want.
God, help me. Bless me. Protect me. Make my life better, make me happier, make me richer. And then when things don’t go our way, when God doesn’t perform according to our expectations, we reject God. “Yeah, I tried God, I tried church, but it just didn’t work. It didn’t help me.”
And the tragedy is that, when we focus on what we want God to do for us, we miss out on the real blessings God wants to pour into our lives.
So during the month of January, we are exploring what it means to be self-less followers of Jesus Christ. We’ll see how serving, generosity, and sharing our stories of faith help us get re-oriented away from working to get our own needs met, toward something much more satisfying, much more rewarding: knowing Christ and becoming more Christ-like.
Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matt 16:24
When I deny myself, I become selfless, and instead of asking God to bless me or help me, I ask God to:
- Use me to reach more—even if I’m laughed at and ridiculed.
- Use me to serve (show love)—even if it makes me uncomfortable.
- Enable me give more (bless)—even if I have to make personal sacrifices
- Empower me to do everything for God’s glory—even if it pushes me.
This week, we’re looking at living boldly, sharing our faith boldly, as the first disciples did. In the third chapter of Acts, Luke writes about Peter and John healing a crippled beggar, and then using that opportunity to boldly tell everyone who will listen that it is through Jesus this man has been healed. They get arrested, and that gives them yet another opportunity to boldly share their faith.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. …
So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:8-13, 18-20)
We speak boldly about what we believe deeply! John and Peter told the temple rulers, “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” (4:19-20)
What can you not stop talking about? Today, a member of our congregation is going to share with you some things he can’t stop talking about. As you listen to his story, ask yourself, what is it that I believe so deeply I can’t stop talking about it?
Let’s go back to that story in Acts 4 for just a moment. Luke writes that “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:12-13
How amazed are people by your boldness for Christ? If you were to rank the way others think of your witness on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero as “completely unmoved” and 10 as “amazed,” where would your score land?
Notice that there are two reasons people were amazed by Peter and John’s boldness:
1) they were ordinary people, like you and me, but
2) it was clear that they had been with Jesus.
SO, how do we grow in boldness?
- SPEND MORE TIME WITH JESUS.
We often talk about inviting Jesus into our lives, but the truth is that Jesus invites us into his life. So accept the invitation. Talk to Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Spend more time with Jesus. And then,…
- ASK GOD TO MAKE YOU BOLD.
I want to read you a couple more verses from the 4th chapter of Acts. The religious leaders had released John and Peter, but they also threatened them. When John and Peter went to tell the other disciples what had happened, a prayer meeting broke out! Listen to what these disciples ask for, beginning in verse 29:
And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants 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.” (Acts 4:29-30)
They didn’t ask for protection or safety. They didn’t ask for God to destroy their opponents. They didn’t ask God to send them somewhere else where their message would be received more favorably. No. They asked God to grant them boldness in speaking the gospel, and for more healing, more signs and wonders, to give them more opportunities to tell others about Jesus.
We speak boldly—About what we believe deeply.
You might be thinking, “But what if I tell them about how God has been at work in my life, and I share Jesus with them, and they are offended and they reject me and the gospel?”
Let me ask you this: What if you don’t?
1 Peter 3:15b says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Notice it doesn’t say, “Cram Christ down people’s throats.” Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks why you have hope. If you’re saying to yourself, “No problem; nobody ever asks me that,” might I gently suggest that you could probably live a little more boldly than you are now, so that your life invites the question?
How would you like to become bolder when it comes to sharing your faith? What do you think it will take? We heard some questions in the testimony earlier, and the answers can help point us toward greater boldness:
- How is God working in your life?
- What opportunities is God putting in front of you, and in front of this congregation?
I encourage you, in this coming week, to start praying. Be bold and pray with power. And then I invite you, in this coming week, to start doing. Commit to one step toward boldness and live it out this week.
Maybe it’s asking God to put you in touch with someone who needs to hear your story, just as we heard someone’s story today. Maybe it’s asking God to show you what it looks like to deny yourself and follow Jesus. You have access, through the Holy Spirit, to the same otherworldly courage that John and Peter discovered. Ask Him for boldness, ideas, and names as you step out boldly to share the reason for the hope that you have.
God, thank you for Jesus. Please help us deny our selfish timidity, laziness, or pride. Help us step out and share your love. We ask for boldness from the Holy Spirit so, like Peter and John, we won’t be able to stop telling others about You. Give us so much otherworldly courage that we can’t stop talking about what Jesus has done in our lives. Amen.