Acts series # 15
My Faith is saying Go but my fear is shouting NO!! Acts 4:1-12:
We have been looking at the early church and trying to understand what Elim Bible should look like. If you remember the very beginning of this series we talked about writing Acts chapter 29 and we discussed the blunt way that chapter 28 ended. I questioned the possibility that Peter was leaving the end of the story for you and me [the church today] to finish. We are to continue the story.
I believe that every true believer in this place today would love to share his/her faith but you have some “good” reasons why you don’t.
I understand that this problem is common today.
BUT if you had a cure for cancer, for Ebola, or any other deadly disease no one would be able to stop you from sharing that cure with the world. Most Christians have no problem talking when it comes to their college or pro football team… but let someone ask you about Jesus and you clam up...
If you are a born again believer, washed in Blood of Calvary, here’s what I want you see;
Every one of you has knowledge of something far greater than a cure for any disease mankind could ever face.
Question: What is it that keeps us from really witnessing?
The #1 answer to that question is fear. We hear a message like this on witnessing and many of you will hear your faith say “go” and then your fear shouts “NOOO”!
We get intimidated, afraid, or we rationalize why not, or why not now, and despite good intentions, we don’t ever seem to get around to it.
Years ago the Southern Baptist Convention put on what was called the “Good news America, God loves you” campaign. I was a young believer who had very no experience going door to door witnessing so our pastor partnered me with the oldest man in our church. He was a godly man and an awesome witness for Christ so he was to teach me a few things and I felt honored to be with this man of God to learn from him. As soon as we got to the first house he said, “Now son don’t be afraid.” I thought “I’m with you, what have I got be afraid of?” Then he said; “I’m going to let you do all the talking.” “WHAT!!” I remember walking up to that first door almost praying that no one would be home. My hands were shaking from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and for the first time in my life, I knew what fear tasted, smelled and felt like.
Now here was a man who, before Christ, called himself the baddest dog in the yard, a man who feared no human being, yet I was trembling in fear like you wouldn’t believe.
Unfortunately this describes many of our witnessing experiences!
Let me give you the same encouragement Paul gave Timothy.
Don’t be afraid!
[2Timothy 1:7] “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; (If not from God then who?) (Notice what God gives) but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
God does not give us fear that causes our mouth the get dry and our hands to sweat, that comes from the enemy. God fills us with real power, with love in our hearts for fallen man and with understanding to share the salvation HE has given, through His Son Jesus Christ.
All we need to do is get the conversation going and God will say the rest, through us!
A major part of fear is NOT knowing what is going to happen next or NOT knowing what to expect.
So let me show you a few things you CAN expect, should you decide to be a bold witness for Christ:
1. Expect Doors Slammed in Your Face: Look at verse 3
Last week we talked about persecution being a part of living a godly life and being a witness can and will bring persecution.
I remember one man, during the “GNAGLsY” campaign. He was raking with a real rake with real teeth, made of metal. I tried to give him one of the New Testaments we were giving away but he would not take one. I kept trying to tell him that it was FREE but he threw a few frills and dressings at me (cussed at me) and told me to get out of his yard. The people on the porch really found this humorous but what they didn’t know was the man standing in their driveway was certainly under the blood of Jesus or he wouldn’t take the abuse thrown at him. I finally turned my back and walked away, which is something I never did. I learned early that you never turn your back on the enemy. Every joint I ever went into, even a burger joint I always sat where no one could slip up behind me; but that day I turned my back. God was showing me that this man was not the enemy. As I walked away I heard this horrible sound. It was the sound of metal teeth skidding across concrete and my body prepared for the worst. I felt the blood pouring down my back and waited for my head to fall off. No he didn’t hit me with the rake but in my minds’ eye I saw him swinging that rake at me.
There are so many things we can do for the Lord and suffer no persecution, such as: give our tithes and offerings. We can sing praises to His name, in this place. You can go to Sunday school or even come back at night and people will pat you on the back.
But the minute that you open your mouth and begin to speak of salvation through the blood of Jesus, you risk being attacked, rejected and even being called a fanatic or some pew jumping rafter swinging Holy Roller! But let me ask you this:
Is Jesus worthy of us taking that risk?
What can you expect? You can expect to have doors slammed and persecution! But remember the good news:
[1John 4:4] “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
Jesus promised persecution in John chapter 15 & in Luke 6 and the He said something CRAZY! He told us to rejoice in it as a privilege
The apostles did:
[Act 5:40-42 NKJV] “40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus [as] the Christ.”
Sometimes the gospel is offensive…just make sure that if you offend someone it’s with your position, and not your disposition… your character or attitude.
We need to be kind and genuine…We should never sound arrogant or display that holier than thou attitude.
[Eph 4:15 NIV] 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Avoid operating with a hidden agenda.
Steve with campus crusade, in preparing for a crusade meeting, decided to use reverse psychology and tell people not to come! He even put on devil suit & mask, running around the campus dressed as the devil grabbing people saying in an evil voice, “don’t come to the campus crusade”…and guess what…they didn’t come!
Jesus said to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake…not for stupidity’s sake!
The moment you decide to be a bold witness you can expect doors to be closed and even some persecution…but it’ll be worth it!
According to verse 4 it was worth it for Peter and John because even as one door was closing God still brought 5k into the family!
2. Expect Opportunities for God to open some doors:
Look at verse 1. Who were they preaching to?
Peter and John were preaching the gospel to an elite crowd. They are preaching before a group of high ranking religious leaders!
If we look at verse 6 we see these men were the who’s who of the Jewish faith in those days!
They were the Sanhedrin. But there was just one small problem, in that for the most part, they were corrupt. They were known for passing their religious offices down thru the family regardless of spiritual qualifications. It would be much like handing the pastoral ministry of Elim Bible down to one of my grandsons even if they were living in open rebellion and sin…
They had turned the Jewish faith into a corrupt family business. They were powerful and wealthy and as a matter of fact this was some of the same crowd that Jesus stood before at His trial. Here we find these poor, unlearned apostles; in the company of the high and mighty spiritual leaders of the nation of Israel.
Most people would have been looking for the nearest exit but the apostles saw a great opportunity to preach the gospel!” Their faith said GO and refused they refused to listen to their fear shouting NOOOO!
This was an opportunity, an open door for proclaiming the Name of Jesus!
It happened that way for Paul, too.
Paul said in, [1Co 16:9 NLT] “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.” Paul experienced the door slamming as well as the persecution but he never missed an opportunity to walk through a door that God opened.
Do you know where Paul was when he said this? Paul was in prison yet he was given the opportunity to speak to the Palace Guard, which was like preaching to the presidential secret service.
In [Philippians 1:12-13 NLT] says; “12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.”
Paul could have used his credentials (who he was as a citizen of Rome) and walked away from all the suffering and eventual death. Instead he stayed on course and got the opportunity to preach in the original Caesar’s palace, not the one in Vegas!
The real question, however, is did it work? Did anyone get saved? Did he accomplish anything?
Well listen to what Paul says in [Philippians 4:22 NLT] “And all the rest of God's people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar's household.”
Was Paul a guest of Caesar or some dignitary? No! He’s been arrested for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and he is nearing the end of his journey! He will soon be put to death but, even though he could have walked away; a free man, he stayed the course and kept preaching!
Your fear may see the obstacles, but when your faith sees the opportunities, at that moment God will take that bad circumstance and do something great!
Your car may have broken down and you needed a tow truck, but how else can you witness to that particular tow-truck driver, whom AAA sends to get you? You picked the WRONG line at Walmart because you got the cashier who is having a bad day! OH NO YOU DIDN’T! God placed you in that line to speak peace to that person.
What can you expect if you decide to be a bold witness?
You can expect some doors to be shut in the form of persecution…
You can expect opportunities for God to open some doors so you can proclaim the good news.
3. Expect God’s Protection: Look at Acts chapter 4 and verse 21.
Could these Jewish leaders have ordered Peter and John killed? Sure!
But God wouldn’t let them, because He wasn’t finished with them…
Pastor Jerry Shirley made a statement that I happen to agree with. “The child of God is indestructible until God is finished with him!”
In Mark 16: 15, Jesus tells the disciples to go preach the gospel, plain and simple.
How many of you remember seeing the show on Natgeo or Discovery about the snake handling churches? Mar 16:18 NKJV Jesus says "they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
Billy Richardson with “Final Call Quartet” told me that when he goes to a church up in the mountains he walks in the back door and immediately looks to the left and right corners of the sanctuary. He says if there are no boxes in the corners you can go on in BUT if you see boxes in the corners you might want to think about going in. I asked what boxes had to do with anything. He said “that’s where they keep their snakes!”
Now how many of you are trusting God for something, right now? Are you standing on faith, waiting for God to do what no one else can?
Well think about what Jesus said in Mark 16: 18… How many, here today, are willing to say that your faith is that strong? Are you really trusting God right now?
Well just how deep does your faith run? Let’s find out.
Pull out my box marked “Baby rattlers” for this demonstration. (The box really only has baby rattles in it…WHAT! did you think I was stupid!?) For those who may not believe the sign I ask if they have enough faith to stick their hand in the box and find out if it’s empty or will they operate on pure pride? It takes just as much faith to believe the box is empty as it does to believe you won’t get hurt.
Very few use this passage in the correct context. They believe that if you have enough faith and drink poison or get bitten by poisonous snakes you won’t die!
This is a promise based on verse 15 and is a promise to those who are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, for protection and not a demonstration of faith.
I have handled a few snakes in my life but none of those occasions had anything to do with faith. In my opinion, snake handling is less about faith and more about stupidity! The only reason I can say I’ve never been bitten was I got smart enough to quit catching poisonous snakes, by hand. But you do have to admire their sincerity and boldness. The problem is that “Those snake handling preachers are extremely bold, but they never seem to grow old!”
What can you expect if you decide to be a bold witness?
Expect doors to shut and persecution to come. Expect opportunities for God to open doors for you to proclaim the good news. Expect God’s protection…
4. Expect God’s Power: Look at verse 8
God’s Word WILL NOT return void because it’s filled with power. When you are surrendered to Jesus, you’ll be filled with the Spirit, and it will be an awesome experience as you watch God take over!
I read about a young man who was struggling with lack of power and he knew that he needed to get on fire for God. He went to his pastor for help and his pastor sent him to an art gallery and look for the picture of the Cross at the end of the long hallway. He told him to make sure and look at it from just the right angle but the young man didn’t understand. When he found it the cross didn’t look right but seemed top-heavy. He took a few steps closer and it improved, but still it was not right. He moved closer, and closer, until he was right up to it. Then he moved left and right but it never did look right. The young man became so disappointed he fell to his knees and cried out to God and then, looking at the cross from his knees, it suddenly made sense. It was from this position the artist painted and now it looked just right!
He realized that to have the power and boldness he needed, he had to stay on his knees at the foot of the cross!!
My prayer for Elim Bible and every person present here today is that God will make us bold witnesses, that He will empower us, protect us, open doors of opportunity for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ…and even in negative circumstances help us to see His Mighty hand at work.