Posted by: lepages | June 28, 2011

Standing up for Jesus!

I preached this sermon at Rutland Road Church on 22nd May. I’ve been really caught with the passage and the themes since and have preached adaptations of it several times since. I believe I will preach from it again. Don’t feel like I’m done yet! Unfortunately it hasn’t made it online so you can’t listen to it as yet and hear exactly what I said rather than what my notes say. The notes below are the notes from my original preach. God bless and speak to you as you read.

Standing up for Jesus

Acts 4:1-31

Introduction
A teacher asked a little girl to spell water.
The girl answered, “HIJKLMNO.”

The teacher asked, “Are you sure that is how to spell water?”
She answered, “Of course! It’s H to O!”

There are times when you get asked things in life, and you have to stand up for what you believe to be true.

Peter and John had to do that in our account that we’ve read today. Last week we read of how they had healed a crippled man, and then went on to proclaim about Jesus – and we heard the story from Andrew of his remarkable healing in some ways and of how Jesus has changed his life and given him a new calling to speak about him and share the gospel wherever he can.

For Peter and John, speaking about Jesus resulted in them spending the night in jail.

If you speak about Jesus in the UK today, you’re not likely to end up in jail – though the possibility, if you don’t do it in a wise way, is always there in the future, I believe.

Reality is, for many of our brothers and sisters around the world, speaking about Jesus can end you up in jail – indeed, many thousands across our world will be in jail at this moment because they have spoken about Jesus and have proclaimed the Gospel to others – and yet, even though there was that risk, they still spoke about Jesus and speak about Jesus! Just as Peter and John did.

I’ve entitled this morning ‘Standing up for Jesus’

What is it about people around the world in much more hostile situations than our own that makes them stand up for Jesus, share the Gospel and tell others the good news about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross?

What is it about Peter and John that enable them to act and speak as they did in the account we’ve had read to us this morning?

From the passage we’ve read I want us to look at 5 keys to Standing up for Jesus.

What do we think is the most important thing in this passage as to why Peter and John were able to witness for Jesus as they did?

RESPONSE

1. Be with Jesus v13,20

In v20 Peter and John said ‘we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

Being with Jesus has an impact on your life! It changes you for the better

2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that as we turn to the Lord, so we reflect his glory, and are ourselves changed into his likeness with ever increasing glory.

Some people would say the same about dogs and their owners! At the start of the animation of 101 Dalmatians there’s a stream of people walking their dogs – and they all look like their dogs! I’m not sure whether its the dog owners who have changed to be like their dogs, or the dogs who have changed to be like their owners!!

With us, if we spend time with Jesus, we are changed to be like him.

Feel you’re not ‘hitting the mark’ in your Christian life? failing to be who you want to be as a Christian? Then spend more time with Jesus!

Peter and John had been arrested, they’d been put in prison over night, not because they’d healed a crippled man, but because v2, they’d taken the opportunity the healing had brought to teach and proclaim to the people about Jesus and the resurrection from the dead that comes through him.

This ‘greatly disturbed’ some of the religious leaders, particularly the Saducees, who did not believe in life beyond the grave. The NET Bible says they were ‘angry’, the ESV ‘greatly annoyed’.

After a night in prison they thought they’d question them about their activities. They’d have softened them a bit after their night in prison they thought, so they ask them an accusing question, v7 ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’

And they are then blown away by Peter’s response.
V10 ‘It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified.’

Blown away by Peter’s words they order them to withdraw from the meeting whilst they talk and they decide the safest bet is to tell them v18 ‘not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.’

In the process of all this happening they note a number of things:-
v13
they see the ‘courage of Peter and John’
they note that ‘they were unschooled, ordinary men’

Their speech was not filled with high sounding, carefully worded arguments, as reasoned out by a scholar – these guys were ordinary fishermen, not folk with theology degrees.

The religious council noted one more thing about Peter and John,
v13, they ‘had been with Jesus’.

Peter and John didn’t know the answer to every question they could ever be asked, but they knew Jesus, Jesus had transformed their lives, changed them from people who catch just fish, to people who catch people for God. Their being with Jesus had an impact on their lives!

Your being with Jesus, your putting him at the centre of your life, your sharing every part of your life with him, your spending time with him will transform your life for the better.

It doesn’t matter if you know all the theological niceties, where to turn in the Bible for the answer to every theological question, if you spend time with Jesus, he will transform your life and help you stand up for him.

Peter and John summed up the effect of doing that well in v20
‘We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

Being with Jesus, seeing what he’s doing, hearing what he’s saying makes you want to speak about him.

Having said about theological niceties, there is one which is absolutely essential to know.
It’s the second of our 5 keys to standing for Jesus, and it’s this:-

2. Know salvation is found in no-one else v12

This is, I believe, a fundamental doctrine which we need to take on board as Christians in our multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-faith society.

Peter says, v12
‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’

Jesus is the only Saviour. He is the only way in which we can be put right with God.
Going to church won’t do it.
Converting to Islam, or Hinduism, or Sikhism, or Paganism, or Buddhism, or Atheism, or any other system of religious belief will not save you.

It might bring some pleasure to your life, it might bring some direction to your life, it might put in place a system of rules for you to live by, but it won’t save you, it won’t put you in a right relationship with God and bring to you life in all its fullness in this life, or life with God beyond the grave.

We live in a world which says it doesn’t matter what you believe, all roads eventually take you to God – and I believe there are many of us as Christians who sub-consciously, if not consciously hold to that prevailing world view – but it is false and a deception of the devil.

Was this just Peter’s idea? Could he have got it wrong? Perhaps have gone a bit far in what he said?

NO!! He said it because he ‘had been with Jesus’!

He had been with Jesus when Jesus had said, John 14:6
‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’

Jesus made it very clear that he is the only way we can be put right with God and come to know him as our Father. He is the only one who is truth. And he is the only one who can give to us life in all its fullness.

This is a real key to our standing for Jesus.
When we really understand that it is only through Jesus, through giving our lives to him, surrendering our lives to him and setting our lives to follow him, that we can be saved and have a life with God now and beyond the grave, then we will stand for him, we will speak for him, we will witness for him.

The problem with the prevailing theological nicety that all roads lead to God, is that it blunts our witness. Why bother to tell people about Jesus unless they’re interested because it’ll work out okay in the end?
NO IT WON’T
Outside of Jesus people are condemned to a godless life in the now, and an eternity of separation from God beyond the grave.

When we know that, it becomes a key to standing for Jesus, because we understand that our friends, our family members, our neighbours, our work colleagues are lost, they have no hope and no future, or if they have a future, it is not a pleasant one.

If you are here this morning and you have never surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, recognised how you have failed to live for him, thanked him for going to the cross and there bearing the wrath of God against the wrong stuff in your life, if you have never asked him to forgive you for your past and asked him to give you the gift of his Holy Spirit and a new life to help you live for him, then you too are lost, without a hope, without a future and condemned to a life without God.

But you don’t have to be!

If you want to give your life to Christ, receive his forgiveness, receive his gift of new life and the gift of his Holy Spirit, you can do that now.

RESPONSE

5 keys to standing for Jesus:-
1. Be with Jesus
2. Know that salvation is found in no-one else

And

3. Be filled with the Spirit v8, v31

How was Peter able to stand up courageously before the religious court and speak for Jesus?
It was because he was filled with the Holy Spirit
v8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them….

The Holy Spirit empowers us to stand up for Jesus.
Jesus had said in Acts 1:8
‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses…’

In v31 we read:-
‘And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’

If you want to be able to stand for Jesus, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit – and you can be filled more than once! Peter was filled and spoke courageously to the religious leaders from v8 onwards. At the end of the chapter it seems the Holy Spirit came on all of the people, which included Peter, and his presence was so powerful that the building they were meeting in was shaken.

A deceived man got on the news schedules across our world in the last couple of days because he said the world was going to end yesterday, starting with a huge earthquake in Australia which would spread across the world – but it didn’t. Jesus said that no-one would know the day, the time, the hour, when he would return. One thing he did say was the the gospel would be preached to all people groups before the end…. and I don’t think that has happened yet!

I don’t know if buildings shaking happens often when the Holy Spirit is poured out – I don’t remember reading of it anywhere else. I know that sometimes people shake, inwardly or outwardly, when they are filled with the Holy Spirit. But what physically happens, or doesn’t happen is not important, what is important is that we are filled with the Holy Spirit so we can stand boldly, courageously for Jesus, whatever is happening around us or to us. So after I’ve finished these 5 keys, I’m going to pray for the Holy Spirit to come and to fill us, to manifest his presence amongst us, and to enable us to speak boldly and courageously for Jesus, and when I’ve done that I’d encourage you to cry out to God, to speak out for God, to lift your voice in praise to God, and to testify to what God has done, is doing in your life, because that is key no 4

4. Share your stories v23ff

READ v23
‘On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.

It’s important to share what is going on in our lives. How God is working. The difficult things we face. Peter and John did that. It’s my guess they didn’t need to share about the crippled man who had been healed; I’m sure the evangelical gossip column had already passed that news back, because it all happened in an open space and clearly drew a lot of attention, enough for a couple of thousand people to believe and trust in Jesus! That news would have spread, hence the reason for the religious leaders being ‘greatly disturbed.

They shared things that others would not have known. What went on behind the closed doors of the religious courts. My guess is this wasn’t with the large group of over 5000 followers – I suspect there would not have been many buildings in Jerusalem that would hold 5000 people! It was probably with a smaller group in someone’s home.

As we gather on a Sunday, it’s good to share testimony to God’s grace in our lives, it’s good to share struggles too, but there’s not time for us all to share regularly in a large group of people. This is where our cell groups are so important, small groups which meet in people’s homes where we are able to share stories of God’s blessings and of the struggles of life. As we do that we build one another’s faith, we encourage one another, we stand with one another, and together we help one another stand for Jesus.

If you’re not currently, or regularly a part of a group, why not join one??!! There’s 6 to choose from, and we can build some more as they get too big.

The result of Peter and John sharing their story was that it led to our 5th key to standing for Jesus:-

5. PRAY!! v24ff

v24 ‘When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God…’

There is power when God’s people pray together! And boy, did that power come for Peter and John and their friends as the Holy Spirit came and filled them afresh!

We can pray together on a Sunday. We can pray together in our groups. But it tends to be limited by time, because of the other things we expect to do as we gather. That’s why we have a prayer time on a Saturday morning, to pray in line with this prayer in Acts 4. That’s why we’ve started a short prayer time before our service on a Sunday morning. That’s why on June 16th we have a day of prayer and fasting. If you’re physically able to fast and give that time that you’d spend eating to come and pray do so. If you’re not able to physically fast, then fast from something else!! The TV, the computer, the phone!!

Prayer is powerful and prayer releases the power of the Holy Spirit.

Note how the people here prayed.

Firstly, they praised God v24
‘Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and everything in them…’

They reminded themselves of the greatness of the God they were coming to.

They rooted their prayers in scripture, quoting from Psalm 2, which we’ll be looking at in a few weeks time!

Want to grow your prayer life? Then turn your scripture reading into prayer!
Read a phrase and turn it into prayer, praise, intercession – let the Holy Spirit inspire your prayer life from his Word.

They reminded themselves of how God was at work even when things didn’t go as one might expect – and then they brought their situation to God – but it’s fascinating – they didn’t pray for deliverance from it, they prayed…. v29

‘Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus…’

Anyone up for praying a prayer like that??!!

The result, v31
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.

Conclusion

Anyone up for this?
To stand boldly for Jesus, to speak boldly for Jesus, to seek God to manifest his power and presence with healings and other miracles, with his saving grace?

If you’re up for it, I invite you to stand with me, if you’re able – if you aren’t able to stand easily, perhaps raise a hand to God, or open your hands to him – and we’ll ask him to come in his power, to come and fill us afresh with his Holy Spirit. I’ll lead us in prayer. If anyone else wants to cry out to God too, you just go for it. If anyone wants to lead us in prayer and praise, whether spoken or sung, to inspire us and remind us of the greatness of our God, you go for it. If anyone has a story to share, or spiritual gifts to put to use, you go for it and we will seek to honour and worship God, to receive from him the filling of his Holy Spirit and anything else he wants to bring to us, so that when we leave this place, perhaps even before we leave this place, we will speak his word with great boldness.

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