Pastor Daniel Bramlett
Do you ever long for the days of the apostles and the happenings found in the book of Acts? Any group of believers who have walked with Jesus for any length of time can say in all honesty that there has been a period in their lives when they experienced this longing. It’s not unusual. Here’s where it comes from: we grow weary of the slow pace and few happenings in the church here. We get tired of fussing and arguing. We want to see times of refreshing from the Lord and we pray to that end! We get excited about the things that deserve celebration. But it seems, sometimes, that there are more reasons to be weary than there are reasons to celebrate. So what’s left to do? Long for the days when everything was good.
I have news for you, from a fellow-long-er…the days of the apostles weren’t any different than the days we are in right now. The same Spirit is living and working in our lives and in the church. The same Jesus died for both and commands both to GO OUT! The same Father offers the same book of truth at no cost for the purpose of teaching, encouraging and building up the church.
In fact, those days really weren’t as good as we remember. If you recall there were many trials before people who called themselves God followers. (Imagine that! Church people who disagreed with what God was doing!) There were many hardships: beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, life threats made, and many, many deaths with no more reason than the person loved Jesus and took Him at His word.
One of my favorite passages in Acts is when Peter and John find themselves in church court in chapter 4. Luke tells us that the leaders were annoyed because these ‘Christians’ wouldn’t stop teaching the people and proclaiming, in Christ, resurrection from the dead. (Annoyed. Humm. Basically the apostles wouldn’t do what they were told. Nothing new. Neither did Jesus!) The put them in jail…something that happens all over the world today to Christians…and spoke to them the next day. Their main beef was that they wouldn’t be quiet about Jesus. Their main problem was a lame 40 year old man who just happened to be standing in front of them!
They questioned the guys and Peter shares the Gospel—with the church people!—and the leaders are quiet. They didn’t know what to say. This guy that everybody knew who had been unable to use his legs for years was standing in front of them on his own two legs! They had no argument! Clearly God was at work among them. Luke says this about the occasion, “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!”
Normal guys. What? Ordinary men. Wait a minute! Healed guy. This doesn’t make any sense! Jesus followers attracting thousands of listeners…these guys are trouble. Their shakin’ up the boat. What can be done? Nothing. They played the fear tactic card: “they charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” This comes as a pretty heavy hand from the people you’ve listened to and respected all your life. Peter and John answer as respectively as they could and still be truthful: “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.” No attitude. No disrespect. Just straight forward truth. They didn’t say “Shut up and listen to what we have to say!” They just answered truthfully and the crowd was left speechless.
Here’s the truth for us: these days can be just as good as the days of the apostles! God is working in mighty ways among us! I can’t wait to see what He is going to do next and who He is going to use to do it! When He moves there is no question about how we are supposed to respond: immediately and obediently. What’s left is up to us. Will we speak truthfully, honestly, respectfully, and boldly in front of the audience God has given us or will shrivel in fear? Will we obey the Spirit and watch God confirm in ways that only He can the work He wants to accomplish through us or will we walk away from opportunity after opportunity, shrugging off the voice of the Spirit like a bad case of indigestion?
I pray this Thanksgiving we give credit where credit is due. God is the Only One who can bring life, restore health, invigorate the Church and rebuild a nation. Any good we see today is wrapped up in His grace. I pray our Thanksgiving holiday is surrounded by prayer. Truly, the only thing that keeps today from resembling the days of the apostles is me and you. What will you do about it? Let’s talk about Jesus!