As I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog, the theme for the student ministry at The Village Church this year is evangelism. As a staff we have been hoping and praying that through our efforts to equip our students the Lord would choose to move in mighty ways. We long to see our students give themselves over completely to serve and pursue Jesus Christ, in whom is the salvation of their souls. We want to see “greater things” (John 1) among the students of our ministry and believe the Lord will be faithful to answer our prayers. To assist the push for equipping in evangelism we have been teaching through the book of Acts. This October we had the opportunity to teach our students a passage from Acts 3 and 4. Here are some of the things the Lord laid on my heart to share with them. I pray it will be encouraging to you as you read it now.
If you’ve read Acts recently or remember the last time you did there is a certain flavor or feeling you get from the text. There is just something different about the first Christian church. There is a kind of excitement and passion that I am not sure I have personally experienced. But the flavor of the text is more than excitement. We get excited about a lot things in life. One of my favorite things is getting packages in the mail. It could be something as unexciting as a textbook, and I just get all geeked up about receiving something in the mail. I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s the expectancy of knowing its coming mixed with how hard it is for us to wait for things these days. But like I said before, the excitement found in Acts is much different. It’s an excitement that lasts and an excitement that produces action. More often than not, once I finally get the package I’ve been dying to open, I open it and forget about it. A lot of us have a what’s next mentality or a what else can I have attitude about things. But the gospel isn’t that way. What we get in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross isn’t easily forgotten. At least not to someone who has the truth of what He did for them rest in on and press on their heart.
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
(Acts 2:41 ESV)
That’s the difference in the first Christian church and the church today. Thousands of souls saved in one day. But what is it? I think there are a few clues into what we are missing in Acts 3 and 4. I’m not saying that if we do these things then we will see thousands of people coming to know the Lord each day, but I’m also not saying we wont. It’s the same God and the same Spirit. The approach I want to take is to position myself in such a way that I am useful to God in case He does decide that thousands of people would proclaim that He is Lord in a single day.
In Acts 3 Peter and John we’re heading up to the temple to pray. Right outside the gate a man who had been paralyzed from birth asked them for money.
“And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
(Acts 3:4-8 ESV)
Every time I read that I am blown away. It seems strange to me that a man would be so quick to do something that he never had before – walk. I think we are a generation that lacks this type of faith. The illustration I used while preaching was this… Imagine if you and I were on a basketball court and I tossed you a ball and told you to dunk it. Most of us would respond with, “I cant!” because we know that it is physically impossible for the average person to dunk a basketball. But consider this; a man who had lived forty years and never taken a step in his life had a different response to a seemingly impossible feat, “in the name of Jesus Christ…rise up and walk.” His response wasn’t I cant, rather he leapt up and began to walk around praising the name that healed him. There is power in the name of Jesus. Faith in the power of his name is something we must have if we want to see revival like the first Christian church. We see it clearly in verse 16…
“And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”
(Acts 3:16 ESV)
As the story continues we see that the Jewish religious leaders heard of what Peter and John had done and were “greatly annoyed” (Acts 4:2) that the name of Jesus was being taught and proclaimed. They arrested Peter and John to stop the proclamation of his name but people had already heard the word and believed. Thousands more had come to know the Lord. The next morning Peter and John were brought before the high priest and elders and were threatened not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus anymore. Their response is one to take note of.
“But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
(Acts 4:19-20 ESV)
That is bold. In the face of a beating, imprisonment and threatened torture Peter and John cannot help but speak of what they have seen and heard. In the church today we lack a necessary boldness for the sake of the gospel’s advancement.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
(Acts 4:13 ESV)
The religious leaders noticed the boldness of Peter and John. Have you experienced Jesus in such a way that you cant help but speak of Him? When people see you can they recognize that you have been with Jesus? If we want to see the Lord move like He did among the first Christians in the book of Acts we need to be able to answer yes to those questions. Let us be a people who have experienced him in such a way that people recognize it, and we can’t help but tell them about what they notice.
Be faithful and bold,