Holy Boldness or Not-So-Holy Huddle?
Reading: Acts 3, 4
You have to admire these people. They went from a huddle of scared rabbits “…with the doors locked for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19, NIV) to the “Bring it on!”, “Is that all you got?”, “Come on, hit me again!” in the days and weeks after Pentecost.
From scared to scary–at least for the local authorities. The magistrates and religious leaders couldn’t shut them up. They just HAD to talk about Jesus. They just HAD to meet daily and worship, pray, learn, and fellowship. These believers in Jesus, followers of the Way, created such a buzz that many joined their ranks.
It was a “God-thing,” the power of His Spirit unleashed in people who wanted God’s kingdom to come to earth more than anything else in the world. They put everything on the line, including their lives, to fulfill the mission that Jesus had sent them on before His ascension. They took “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV) very seriously.
That commitment got the followers of Jesus into big trouble. But it is in the stew pot of suffering for the sake of the Gospel that we most admire them. Peter and John are arrested and asked who gave them permission to preach and heal. Standing before the magistrate, Peter preaches Jesus and says: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).
It’s obvious that these men haven’t received a doctorate in anything. Even a diploma is foreign to them. What they do have is the Spirit of God and the life lessons of Jesus and that sends their critics into a tizzy.
They are threatened, but stand firm: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19, 20, NIV).
Then Peter and John go back to the other believers to report. I don’t think they locked the doors this time. And it certainly doesn’t appear they were afraid anymore. They praise God for His sovereign power and pray for boldness to continue to speak the truth (Acts 4:24-30). In their prayer they acknowledge that Jesus’ death was predetermined by God. It’s almost as though they are doing a “Your will be done” as they pray that prayer.
Did their prayer sound something like this: “We know that Jesus died because it suited Your purposes to allow that. If we die, we know it will be because it suits Your purposes to allow that. You know the threats being made against us. We embrace the consequences of those threats. Now give us boldness to speak Your Word and glory Your Son through our actions.”
To the death, whatever it costs. That’s commitment.
The followers of Jesus got what they asked for: “…the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31, NIV).
Many of them also received a death sentence. And perhaps that’s where we get stuck as followers of Jesus. We want the fullness of the Spirit and the holy boldness, but the price tag of total commitment that comes with them is too much to pay.
The doors to blessing are still locked and we remain huddled in fear not knowing what God could do in us and through us if we’d just die to self to live completely for Him.