(Originally posted 9-13-18)
The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1
It seems the older I get, the more cautious I tend to be. As a kid you have wild dreams and limitless possibilities. Nothing seems too big and really if you can imagine it, you can do it. The sky is the limit. The world is your oyster. Somewhere along the line, however, we start to doubt what we are really capable of and tend to focus only on things that are safe. I’m not sure exactly when or where it begins to happen. But inevitably, we gravitate toward the things that make sense and allow us to be comfortable in our own skin.
If I’m honest, aging has caused me to deal less with the sins of commission and more with the sins of omission. I struggle more and more with not doing the things I know I’m supposed to do. I know the bad things. The big sins and entanglements that can deceive and trap. I’m not saying those things aren’t temptations anymore, don’t get me wrong. But I’m certainly tempted to keep life “between the lines” and not rock the boat. I’m definitely less inclined to think about leaving the 99 to go after the 1.
I’ve been reading through the Book of Acts lately and the start of the early church. It’s totally been rocking my world as I see the faith of these new believers and stack it up against my Americanized and sanitized idea of Christianity. It tends to be a complete night and day comparison. In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish leadership “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in the person of Jesus the resurrection from the dead (vs. 2).” In Acts 3, Peter and John saw a lame man healed through the power of Christ. In the aftermath of that event, they were brought before the leadership to testify to their actions. I love the exchange that takes place:
7 After they had Peter and John stand before them, they asked the question: “By what power or in what name have you done this?” 8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” 13 When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:7-13
This passage speaks clearly about the boldness and authority we have in Jesus Christ. It’s easy at times to forget the power source we have access to. It’s also easy to believe everything rises and falls because of us and therefore, we tend to play it safe and step out less. If we study the early church, however, a bright light reveals those misconceptions. I’m hoping today’s blog reminds us of some simple truths.
1. The Holy Spirit makes us bold
Verse 8 states that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirt as he began to give his answer to the Sanhedrin. On more than one occasion, those listening to Peter and other disciples remarked that these were just “uneducated men.” It’s easy to read that as a slap to the face and be offended for the disciples. We know many of the Jewish leaders were viewed as pious men, highly educated but often hiding behind a list of do’s and don’ts. What is remarkable is that they took special note of Peter and John and realized that something deeper was going on here (“they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus” vs 13).
The boldness Peter has is attributed to the Holy Spirit and he gives a clear testimony to these men. It’s the same thing that happens to us when we allow the Spirit to do His work. We often have fear about what words we will say when the time comes to tell someone about Christ. We agonize over whether or not we will say the right things and if our message will stir the listener’s heart. But we don’t need to put so much pressure on ourselves. The Spirit speaks through us, gives us boldness, and causes people to go away hearing something that was truly impactful.
2. When we are bold, we cannot contain the truth
Let’s be completely transparent: the message we have in Jesus, of His life, death and resurrection, is the most powerful message on the face of the planet. Sadly, we are prone to forget its impact and minimize its truth because it’s not in the front of our minds on a daily basis. Certain times of the year may remind us of it once again (Easter, a testimony at church, a baptism, etc). But when we don’t think about it regularly, we tend to forget what we are truly living for.
I pray for a hunger in myself for the Gospel story. If my heart is cold it’s because I’ve allowed it to get that way. I haven’t been in the word, I haven’t been in prayer, and probably haven’t been in fellowship with other believers. But an amazing thing starts to happen if I start to do those things. The things of Jesus become greater and the things of Earth grow strangely dim. And I begin to want to tell others about this Jesus, just like the disciples in Acts 4:19 (I LOVE THIS!): But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” The boldness we develop in Christ makes us not able to hold it within. We have to tell others about Him!
3. We must pray to be made bold
Just like my natural tendency to play it safe the older I get, the inclination of my heart does not seek out boldness. My prayers can be very self-focused and more about me and my needs and less about the world around me. I’m convicted of that lately; seeing how very much my prayer habits need to change. I believe we can develop healthy prayer lives that are rooted in a desire to see the world around us transformed by the Gospel.
Acts 4:29, 30 is a prayer request of the gathered disciples and early church after Peter and John were released from the Jewish authorities. It’s a request for boldness and I believe we do well to pray the same prayer today: “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” As I read that prayer, the words “complete boldness” hit me like a Mack truck. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that God answered their prayer. The Gospel message was not hindered, rather it was multiplied and spread like wildfire. Oh Lord, give us boldness today!
In conclusion, I’m often tempted to think that revival, true revival, is a very unlikely event within my lifetime. I see such hopelessness in the world and I see the church, the American church, often unengaged and uninterested in truly seeing this world changed for Christ. But then I go back and read these accounts in Acts. I see the odds that were stacked up against these men and women. I see their faith on fire and the passion they had which never waned or faltered. And I think, “maybe God is looking for those men and women today who have the same hearts and are praying for that same boldness.”
If any of this today has resonated with you, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to keep the conversation going and talk about how we can be “as bold as lions.” More and more, I’m convicted of my safety and security and am tired of just trying to keep it all between the lines. I’m ready for us to be daring. I’m done with complacency and a mundane, predictable faith. How about you?