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Boldness for My Witness March 4 07

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Boldness for My Witness

Prayer

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Introduction: We continue this morning our Sunday morning series on prayer.  Today, I want us to look specifically at the prayers of the first disciples as they go out to live their lives in their world.  We have asked repeatedly, what is it that God wants us to do? What is our mission?  As you think about those questions—here is some answers that I DON”T want you to come up with as answers—God wants us to save people!  God wants us to covert people!  Our mission will always revolve around how God wants to operate in the world.  It is NOT about what we do, but what He wants to do THROUGH us

It is important for us to understand that God wants to do a radical relocation of himself in the lives of not only His people, but for people we meet in our daily life.  Most of the people you and I deal with daily in our jobs, while we shop, as we go from place to place have a very limited view of who God is and just as importantly, where God is—where he resides, where he lives. All of us need a radical relocation of God in our lives. Jerry Cook asserts that there are three stages of God. For our neighbors, for those who don’t have intimacy with Him, He is the GOD OUT THERE—He is separated and separate from their life.  They live their life as though He is not part of it or if a part—from a distance—maybe some day they will need God’s help—but probably not today.    The second stage of God may come at His Christmas revelation of himself—He is Emmanuel—He is God with us.  In this relocation and revelation of God, we find that He is not an angry, uncaring God, who watches, judges, and finds us guilty at every twist and turn in our life.  In Jesus—the God who is with us—we see one who has not come to condemn, but to love—one who has come not to be servedbut to serve—("For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”" Mark 10:45, NIV). When Jesus comes into our life, He says to us, “what can I do for you?—Not what can you do for me?  In Jesus we find that God really truly wants to be with us—because He loves us, because it is the desire of His heart. 

And some of us get content to let this be the final revelation of Jesus—that He is Emmanuel—God with us. It is not the final revelation of Jesus, of our God.  Jesus makes this strange and mysterious statement to the first disciples, one they will finally begin to understand in the Upper Room in Acts chapter 2.  He says to them speaking about God, "………..The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:17, NIV). 

In Acts 2 the sound of a rushing mighty wind, the tongues of fire all represent the presence of God (did so in the Old Testament—Moses leading the children across the Red Sea; fire always representing God, the burning bush, the fire consuming the sacrifice).  God is no longer out there, He is no longer just with them because He is now in them. And everyone close to the building where the Upper Room is knows something is going on. Peter stands in the midst of them and declares, "No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’" (Acts 2:16-21, NIV)

Think of that statement—everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved! The word saved in this verse is the one we explored last week from James—sozo (sodzo)—to be made whole (that which you lack in wholeness—whatever it is— will be given to you).  You have heard it said, and there is no doubt it is true, “there is a God sized hole in every human heart that only God can fill.”  Only God taking up residence in you and me can fulfill the longing of our hearts for wholeness, for belonging, for being loved and for being forgiven. But that is not the end of our story—only the beginning! 

Acts 3, Peter and John are in the marketplace, on the way to prayer in the temple, and sitting by the temple is a lame beggar—you may be familiar with the story—the beggar is looking for a handout and man o man does he get one:  "Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter 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 jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God." (Acts 3:2-8, NIV)

Now, join me in chapter 4 beginning in verse 13 where we will see this awesome prayer of the disciples for boldness.  "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “ ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ 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 miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:13-31, NIV)

The word for bold and boldness in these verses is (parrhesia /par·rhay·see·ah) and it means to have confidence, to be open and frank (without concealment), to have free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.  This prayer by the disciples says this, “I know who you are—you are God and you are IN me.  I know that I am love, accepted, and forgiven.  Now fill me with the boldness and confidence to be who you have called me to be—one who has God in him—God who wants to bring wholeness to everyone.  What I have—I will give to others!

So it no longer is about what God has done and is doing for me, but is now all about what God desires to do for those around me—those I work with, live with, and share space with on planet earth.  I am the church—I am the body of Christ—I have his mind, I am his hands, his feet, his heart.  When people experience the God who is IN me, they will no longer be able to see God as from a distance—he will be closer because he will have touched them with His life—and they will move from stage 1—God out there—to stage two—God with us. And when they experience Jesus, He will beckon them to come to him and He will bring wholeness to their being.

And your part and my part is to bring Jesus to them—by what we say, by how we act, by how we live.  I am reminded of Paul’s statement in Galatians 2, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

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