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Have you been with Jesus or do you just go to church?

In Acts chapter 4 we find an incredible account of what happened to Peter and John after the healing of the lame man at the temple gate.  From this account we can see there is a huge difference in “being with Jesus” and simply attending church.

Let’s set the stage:  Peter and John had just been instrumental in the healing of a lame man that was “laid daily at the temple gate” Acts 3:2.  Everyday he experienced temple life.  Every day he saw men and women of God go in and come out of the temple.  He knew their names, knew their routines, knew their schedules.  In fact, he even knew who Jesus was and knew his disciples.  How can we know that?  He was at the gate every day, he was 40 years old (4:22) and we know that Jesus had been to the temple a multitude of times.  He knew the drill.  He recognized Peter and John.  So ask yourself, if he was there daily and Jesus went to the temple, why hadn’t Jesus healed him?  Sometimes, God wants us to exercise our faith and act in obedience so that we will be partakers of a blessing.  What benefited the church more at this point, having another person healed by Jesus? or seeing their new church leaders operate in the power of God?

I think we know the answer and because we know the answer, it drives us to another question, what power are church leaders moving in today?  How is the church using God’s power and authority to make a difference in the world today?  If it was possible for Peter and John to move in this power, is it possible for us to move in this power?  What made Peter and John so special?  Was it their education? Their wealth? Their work ethic?  The color of their skin?  What exactly enabled them first to pray for healing and the man receive it, then while on trial not to shrink away from what had happened?We find the answers in both chapter 3 and 4.  First, Peter did not attempt to help the man in his own power.  Think about that for a moment.  Peter did not say, “I’ve grown a church from 100 to 10,000 so I believe I can help you.”  Nor did he say, “I’ve written best sellers on how to fix this problem so this shouldn’t be an issue.”    He didn’t offer him anything that he had, in fact, he is blunt in his proclamation, “Silver and gold have I none.”  What you’re asking for, I don’t have!  “But what I do have, I give unto thee!  In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  What a novel idea!  Peter did not attempt to help the man in his own power.  Rather, he simply gave the man Jesus!

The second thing that happens, Peter didn’t back down.  After the man was healed, he preached a message to those that rejected Jesus.  We are told that he and John were arrested for preaching the name of Jesus.  Yet, as they were being hauled off to jail, we read that “many of them which heard the word believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand.”  Come again?  Because Peter gave Jesus away and then continued to preach the gospel, one was healed physically and about 5,000 men were healed spiritually!

So two things right away and now Peter and John are kept over night in prison.  They stand trial and when challenged on who gave them authority, Peter doesn’t whine they are being treated unfairly.  He doesn’t attempt to orchestrate some political spin to keep everyone happy.  He doesn’t say there are many ways and many powers.  He doesn’t say I don’t want to offend anyone.  He pulls no punches in answering,

10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12

All I can say is wow.  Some of today’s most popular preachers have been given the opportunity to speak boldly for Jesus.  However, they choose to smile and mince their words so as not to offend.  The church can not afford to operate this way any more.  More importantly, the world can not afford for the church to operate this way! 

We find the second key to this story in the next verse, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”  With that proclamation, a group of men seeking to persecute the early leaders of the church give us the greatest insight into how the church should be operating.  When we come together, it is not to see one another, it is not to see what this one is wearing.  It’s not to hear the latest praise and worship chorus.  It’s not to catch up on the week’s happenings.  When the body of Christ comes together, the sole focus should be to be with Jesus.  To hear his voice.  To catch his vision.  To understand that our sole purpose in coming to church is to gain purpose for our soul.

As you can see, there is a vast difference between the lame man, Peter and John.  The lame man had no hope, no ability to sustain life.  He was broken, dependent on others, looking for hand outs because it’s all he could do.  He was most likely ashamed, never knew the joy of running with friends.  Never knew freedom.  Never knew peace.  We could go on and on, but when he looked at Peter and John and they proclaimed Jesus, because THEY KNEW JESUS for THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS, his life changes instantly.

 

(Message notes from 5/29 am)

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"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7