Good morning! It’s not just a good morning, it’s a great morning! The grave is empty, Jesus is risen in power. Sin, death, and the power of the devil to frighten, intimidate, threaten, accuse God’s kids has been broken forever.
Jesus is sitting on his throne at the right hand of the Father right now enjoying our praise and prayers. Through the person of the Holy Spirit, he’s right here among us. His kingdom is coming and there’s nothing the devil or any of the forces of evil can do to stop it. So don’t be afraid! So team, let’s give the Lord a standing ovation as we take the field this morning!
Wow that felt good! The devil does his best to make it sound like his team is pitching a blowing out and we should all give up and go home, but that’s a lie! Paul puts it this way in Eph 6. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12
We are in a sermon series through the book of Acts. Our focus is the early church and how they overcame opposition, did ministry, experienced the joy of koinonia and kept their focus on Jesus in every trial that came their way. Let’s open our Bible to Acts 4.
Let’s review. Following Jesus ascension into heaven, the disciples were waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit that would empower them to remember and proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the world. On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit came over them all like the rush of a mighty wind and the church was born.
These new beleivers met regularly to hear the apostles teaching and study God’s Word. They prayed together, worshipped together, and shared generously with those who were in need. Do you suppose revival would come to the church today if we did the same?
Last Sunday, Pastor Ralph told us about the first miracle that took place among them - the healing of a crippled beggar. It terrified the religious leaders. They brought Peter and John before the court and ordered them never to speak in the name of Jesus again!
But Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood before them and said, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
When these political and religious leaders saw the courage of these uneducated men, they were astounded. Then they realized these ordinary guys had been with Jesus. They brought Peter and John in a second time. They threatened them and demanded that they stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus.
This should sound familiar. World authorities are still trying to silence the name of Jesus. You can teach about Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed or Darwin and be applauded as multi-cultural, but not Jesus. Why is that? Because Jesus alone is God and Lord of all!
How should Christians today respond to threats to silence the name of Jesus? How should we respond to laws that are currently being written to depict Christians as mentally ill and guilty of hate crimes? How should we respond to laws that threaten to take children away from parents who refuse to stop teaching their kids about Jesus?
These aren’t hypothetical questions! They were faced by God’s people throughout the OT. They are being faced by our brothers and sisters in many places in the world today, even right here in America. We can find the help we need right here in the book of Acts.
“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” Acts 4:23-34
It’s not surprising that they would pray – what is surprising is what they prayed for! They didn’t pray for the power to defeat or destroy those who were attacking them. They didn’t pray for the Lord to deliver them from persecution. How did they pray? Let’s look!
“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
They begin with praising God for who he is. Listen closely, this is important! When we feel threatened or afraid, when the battle gets intense, we should always begin with praising God for who he is. God isn’t threatened by his enemies and we shouldn’t be either.
The second thing they did is to remember Scripture. This is why it’s so important to download the Bible into our heads and hearts so the Holy Spirit has something to work with! Instead of falling into fear and begging God for deliverance, the Holy Spirit reminds them of the Word of God they had hidden in their hearts in the words of Psalm 2. That happens when God’s people get our focus off our problems and on to Jesus.
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his Anointed One” Psalm 2
Who is his Anointed One? It’s Jesus. When you are in trouble, keep your eyes on Jesus. David goes on in Psalm 2 “Let us break their chains”, they say, “and thrown off their fetters.” Psalm 2:3
Who is this referring to? Those who hate God; those who see God as the problem. “If we can just get rid God, we’ll be free to do whatever we please.” Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong, yet they crucified him. Why? The OT prophets hadn’t done anything wrong yet they stoned them. Why? Christians in many places in the world are being beheaded, crucified, jailed. Why? It’s not hard to figure out. Those who are doing these things are trying to get rid of God!
Is that possible? Psalm 2:4 “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Psalm 2:4-7
Who is the King God has installed in Zion? It’s Jesus! What did this king do on Mount Zion? He died on a cross. Why? For the forgiveness and reconciliation of those who crucified him!
So when they were threatened, these Christians in Acts 4 started with praise, then they moved to Scripture, then they made their petition, their request. Look at verse 27…
“Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen...
…Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:27-30
What did they request of God? Did they ask God to wipe out these wicked people who crucified Jesus and are now threatening them? No! Why not? One reason is that the disciples are beginning to figure out that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.
When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing” who was he praying for? He was praying for us all! When Paul quoted the OT, ‘There is no one who is righteous, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ who did he mean? He meant all of us!
The disciples knew that Jesus came to save sinners and that they qualified as much as the men who were threatening them. So instead of praying for deliverance from their threats, they prayed for what? Let’s read it again. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” Acts 4:29
What is the word of the Lord? Jesus came to save sinners! “For God so loved the whole world that he gave his One and Only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.” John 3:16-17
The Word of the Lord can’t be separated from the resurrection. The resurrection is proof that the evil in my own heart and the evil in the world around me has been overcome by the power of God’s love. Because of that power at work in us, we can do what Jesus told us to do. “Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.” Mt 5:44
We can’t deny this morning that our nation is in turmoil. Satan loves it. Unless the Lord brings revival, it’s only going to get worse. So how should we respond as Jesus’ people?
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be pulled into trading insult for insult, threat for threat, or violence for violence. Stay focused on Jesus, don’t be distracted, don’t forget who the enemy really is, don’t get tricked into fighting the wrong battle or attacking the wrong enemy!
Let me remind you again, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:10-12
So how did this little prayer meeting in Acts 4 end? “After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 Lord, let it be so with in our church today!
Let’s pray… “Lord Jesus, you did not come to condemn us but to save us. Fill us with the power of your Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of your love, your resurrection, your power to forgive sins and bring abundant life to everyone who will repent and come to you by faith. Let your perfect love drive out all fear! ”