Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. I’m so glad to have you with us today as we begin our new series entitled “When Necessary”. What we’re going to do in the next five weeks is look at the story of the early church recorded in the Book of Acts. Now to give you a little bit of background behind this book, it was written by a man named Luke who was a medical doctor and what he did was he interviewed the eyewitnesses and recorded the highlights of the very first people who followed Jesus.
One of the things that I have always loved about the Book of Acts is that it is packed full of action with demonstrations of the power of God the Holy Spirit. And so, right from the very beginning in chapter 1, there’s the promise of power, that God was going to send the gift of the Holy Spirit to the believers. In chapter 2, the Holy Spirit comes and fills the first believers with an unquestionable courage as they go out and preach about the resurrection of Jesus. Many great miracles, signs, and wonders followed, authenticating both the messengers and the message that they were preaching. The number of believers multiplied rapidly because of the extraordinary courage of the eye witnesses who’d been called and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Everywhere they went they testified to the resurrection of Jesus with great confidence.
Today I’m praying that God would take our church and give us that same courage, that same boldness to share our faith so that we too can make a difference in our community. As we look at the Book of Acts we notice that the first believers were surprisingly much like Jesus in faith, in character, and in action. As a matter of fact, they were actually first called Christians because they were so much like Christ.
As we look to the Word of God today, we’re going to begin by looking at a story involving Peter and John, two men who the Bible describes in Acts chapter 4 as having astonishing “Courage”. I believe this is going to be so practical, because a lot of us are able to relate to Peter who often had the greatest of intentions, but his actions often fell short of his great boasts. I think most of us are familiar with the story when Peter declared to Jesus, in Matthew chapter 26,
"Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33).
And yet, within a day, even less than six hours, Peter who boasted that he would never deny Jesus, had in fact denied him three different times. Within 24 hours, Jesus was set up, he was framed by the Jewish leaders, and murdered by the Roman authorities, but three days later, he rose again, he rose from the dead, and appeared to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius one day as they were fishing. Jesus singled out Peter, restoring him, reminding him that not only was he forgiven, but that was he still on the team. Jesus told him in John chapter 21, at verse 17,
"Feed my sheep.”
In other words, Jesus encouraged Peter, “Let’s leave the past in the past, let’s move ahead, let’s be courageous, feed my sheep, take care of my people.” And suddenly, it was like a switch flipped inside of Peter, he was back on mission, he was filled with purpose, and yet the most amazing thing happened on the day of Pentecost. You know, it was just weeks before when the upper room was buzzing with excitement about the appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when suddenly Jesus mysteriously entered the room though locked doors. After proving to the disciples that it really was he and he wasn’t a ghost Jesus said,
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
It was just a little later, in Acts chapter 2, verses one through four, that Luke describes the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the first Christians. The response of the people in Jerusalem to this great sign from God was mixed, some were amazed, some were confused, and others mocked, but the response of the disciples, and in particular of Peter, was unmistakable. Suddenly, the guy who had such great boasts, yet inwardly was so timid, went out and stood before this huge group of people and preached one of the most powerful messages in history. Verse 40 tells us,
“He warned them, pleading with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” …and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:40-41).
The first Christian church explodes in response to the courage of Peter, he’s bold, he’s on fire, and he’s believing God for big things. Just seven verses later, Acts chapter 3 records, that Peter and John were going to the temple at the time of prayer when they encountered a man who had been lame from birth. As they were about to enter, this man asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him and said,
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He…went with them into the temple courts, walking, jumping, and praising God” (Acts 3:6-9).
Within minutes, a crowd gathers, because they recognized him as the same man who daily sat begging at the temple gate. Everyone was filled with wonder and amazement because they knew this guy couldn’t walk. Peter once again, seizes the opportunity and with great courage begins preaching to the crowd. “Why does this surprise you?”, he asked. Verse 16,
“It is by faith in the name of Jesus that this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him as you can all see” (Acts 3:16).
By now, they caught the attention of the religious folks who were infuriated. The Bible says that “they were greatly disturbed, because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2). And so, the temple guards seized Peter and John and put them in jail until the next day. Later, when the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law had gathered, verse seven tells us,
“They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" (Acts 4:7).
Now watch Peter, he doesn’t start stuttering, he doesn’t deny the Lord, he doesn’t turn and run, but in the face of this very real threat, look at his courageous response, in verse eight,
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people!” If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: 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” (Acts 4:8-10).
Now you can just imagine the look on their faces. These were some of the same men who had crucified Jesus, they’d assumed he was gone, that his death was final, and yet it was Jesus who turned out to have the last word. Peter turned the tables and pointing at the very people who’d been responsible for the murder of Jesus and who had the power to kill him too said, “You killed him, you crucified him, but he’s back, because God raised him from the dead.”
And so, Peter and John, drew a spiritual line in the sand, though they were greatly outnumbered, they courageously took a stand. Facing this hostile crowd, they made this statement, speaking of Jesus in verse 11 saying,
“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 4:11-12).
What’s really interesting, is that as massively offensive as that statement was, as exclusive as it was even 2000 years ago, the name of Jesus is still just as controversial. And even though Jesus was rejected, persecuted, and murdered, the fact remains that salvation is found in no one else. Peter courageously told the Jewish leaders, “You crucified Jesus, but God raised him from the dead! You killed him, but he’s back!!!”
The religious leaders, Annas, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the others couldn't believe what they were hearing. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,” Verse 13 tells us, “they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
What I’d like to do for the remainder of our time together is to let this one verse settle down into our hearts as we break it down into three points and I pray that these simple truths will transform your lives. Number one, God gives ordinary people extraordinary courage.
Let's look at verse 13 again; two words stand out “saw” and “realized”:
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men…” (Acts 4:13).
And it’s God who gives ordinary people extraordinary courage. Now, they knew these men were unschooled and unlearned, but the word translated ordinary comes from the Greek word from which we get the word idiot and it literally means ignoramus. And so, the most literal translation would be that these guys were astonished and couldn’t believe the courage of these idiots. But you know, the most amazing thing is that whether you’re at the top of your field or the head of your class, whether you’re educated like the doctor who is writing this, or unschooled fishermen like Peter and John, God can still use you. But God specializes, in taking the foolish things, the weak things, the lowly and despised; he loves to take ordinary people, those that other people overlook, and give them extraordinary courage.
And I know some of you are going to say, well I’m a quiet person, I’m just a stay at home mom or I’m just an average kind of guy, but I want to encourage you this morning, because there’s so many different levels of courage. For example, you may be at the grocery store or at work and everybody is gossiping, but because of your faith you courageously walk away from that situation. You may be a teenage girl who loves God, but all your friends want to go out and they’re all dolled up, but you determine to dress modestly, that you’re going to honor God, and you’re not going anywhere half naked, because God gives ordinary people extraordinary courage. You may be in a business deal that honestly you could make a lot of money on, but you don’t feel quite right about it, because you don’t think it’s ethical, so you walk away because of your faith. You were courageous! And there are so many different levels of courage, so many different ways to be courageous, and God specializes in taking ordinary people and giving them extraordinary courage. And then number two, your courage will astonish the world.
When you stand up and draw a spiritual line in the sand, because of your faith your courage will astonish the world. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,” verse 13 says, “they were astonished…” (Acts 4:13). And I believe they were astonished, because they knew that they could kill these guys, yet these guys didn't care as they courageously proclaimed their faith in a resurrected Jesus who had healed this man who was lame from birth.
Today, I want to stir up your faith and inspire you because God gives ordinary people extraordinary courage. Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist from the late 1800’s, wrote over 100 years ago a statement that sadly is just as true today. He said:
"The only religion in the world which I ever heard of, that people were ashamed of, is the religion of Jesus Christ. I preached in Salt Lake City and I didn’t find a Mormon who wasn’t proud of their religion, I never met a (Muslim) who wasn't proud to be a follower of Mohammed. But many, many times, I’ve found people ashamed of their religion of Jesus Christ, the only religion which gives power..."
And that’s so true. God gives ordinary people extraordinary courage, a courage which will astonish the world, because from the very beginning of the Book of Acts the Holy Spirit has been clearly portrayed as the key player, the driving force behind the church, because he is the promised power (Acts 1:2). Jesus said, "You’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8) and this promise was fulfilled when the believers in that upper room "were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). As we read the New Testament, the frequent mention of the Holy Spirit reminds us again and again and again that all believers are serving, not by their own power, but by the promised power of God.
And so, when verse 8 tells us, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them…” they were astonished! And today, your courage will astonish the world. There are people right here, people on your right and people on your left who are courageously living with integrity, courageously generous with their money, their heart, and their time. It’s astonishing the courage with which some of you are faithfully serving people in Jesus name.
And yet, there may be some of you who honestly just don’t know when the last time was that you astonished someone with your spiritual courage. Some of you might say that you’re not courageous when it comes to living out your faith. And that leads us to point number three, because “God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power…” (2 Timothy 1:7). We get the courage we need from the Holy Spirit. Spiritual courage comes to us when we spend time with Jesus.
You see, Peter could face the very real threat of death, Peter could say what he said because he’d spent time with Jesus. Death had lost its sting, there was no fear in death, because he had a supernatural courage that came from the Spirit of Christ. In Luke chapter 24, Jesus had promised his power and his presence in the lives of his followers telling them,
“Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
Jesus promised to move among us with signs, wonders, and miracles that would leave no doubt about his presence in the eyes of a lost and hopeless world. In Acts chapter 1, Jesus told his followers, “Wait for the promised gift” (Acts 1:4) and it’s the Spirit that gives us that supernatural courage, it’s the presence of Jesus that moves among us and lives inside us.
He told his disciples, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the counselor (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you” (John 16:7). And that’s the courage which Jesus promised in verse eight saying,
“You’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you’ll be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
It’s his Spirit that will guide us and empower us to take the good news of our Savior Jesus Christ out into the streets and to every corner of the globe. He assures us that his Spirit will never leave us nor forsake us and yet it is our responsibility to walk by faith and trust in his “still, small voice” to guide us. The courage that Peter and John demonstrated came from the Spirit of Christ and they acknowledged that in chapter 3 saying,
“Why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if it’s by our own power or godliness that we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12).
The courage they demonstrated was that which was promised through the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days…” (Joel 2:28-30).
And it’s because of the courage given by the Holy Spirit, the power of the risen Christ demonstrated with miracles, signs and wonders, that the rulers, the elders, and the teachers of the law at the end of verse 13, “took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
This morning, it’s my prayer that as Jesus’ Church, that we would live by the Spirit, in the Spirit, always being directed by the Spirit, seizing every opportunity to be courageous and to be his witnesses. Today, as you seek to spend time with Jesus, as you seek to be filled with his Spirit, not only does your courage grow, but your faith grows as well, and you start praying bigger prayers, and you start seeing the Lord’s power released in the world with New Testament type of results.
This morning, there’s so much more that God wants to use you to do, he’s ready and willing to pour out his power, to perform miracles in the name of Jesus, to use you to make a difference in this world. Jesus wants to stir you up and empower you; so that you too can make a difference like Peter and John. But when and whether Jesus decides to do that through our lives depends on whether we’re willing to step out of our comfort zone, re-evaluating the way we think, forsaking the things of this world, and trusting in the promise of God’s provision. As we close, are you willing to put aside your own opinions, your agenda, and focus on the leading of the Holy Spirit? I’m believing that God’s got a whole lot he’d like to do in you and through you this morning and so I’m going to pray and then we’ll give you an opportunity to respond.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 30, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.