HUNGER FOR GOD 4 Apr 1 Palm Sun-Witnessing
Witnessing to Spiritual Passion
Anything about which you are passionate…you talk about. The man who never says a word about the lady with whom he is in love ought to be questioned, and vice versa the lady who never talks about her man ought to be questioned. Because that which you are passionate about, you talk about.
So when we can go day in–day out, week in–week out without talking about Jesus, I believe it is fair to say it raises questions about our passion.
Now why should the name of Jesus be in my mind and on my lips day in and day out – because the message of Jesus invites passion. Who can you name that has a greater impact on the world than Jesus and His message? That is what is greater than: the Good News that God forgives the sin of sinners, and imparts to them the gift of eternal life in heaven when they place faith alone in Christ alone. That is nothing short of stunning. In fact it is the only message that imparts salvation, rather than eternity in Hell, and we have been invited to become passionate.
I like the way Paul puts it, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” Why—because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Look how the Living Bible puts it: (sermon notes) In other words, Paul says when you get something this hot; it’s not that you just talk about it…you talk about it with boldness.
And my family in Christ, we are in passionate need today for Christians who are bold; who don’t want to apologize; who are tired of being secret agent Christians; who are weary of watching what they say about Jesus, in other words, we need Christians who want to be defined by their holy boldness. What do I mean by that? To be bold is to have the courage to speak openly and frankly about your convictions. In fact in our Gospel text today, Jesus said if you don’t speak…you will be replaced by a rock…because if you don’t cry out the rocks will! So today, with Easter coming…I want to give 3 reasons why we ought to be bold:
Reason #1 We should be bold because we know what God can do.
How do I know…because we’ve experienced God and seen God happen in the lives of others. Now if you don’t know that God can save a man; if you don’t know that God can forgive a man; if you don’t know that God can change a life, then “shhh” don’t say anything. But if you’ve been with God yourself, and seen others transformed by God then you have something to talk about.
This is precisely why Peter and John are so bold in the book of Acts. Let’s start in Acts 3. Will you go there now please? In the beginning of Acts 3, we find Peter and John heading to the temple for prayer. The hour is 3:00 pm., the time set-aside for prayer. And as was their custom, they entered by the Gate known as “Beautiful” in Solomon’s portico. As they do, they are confronted by a man who is lame, begging for coins for his survival. He catches Peter’s eye, and Peter stops; his hopes rise that he is going to receive a coin, but fixing his gaze upon the man; Peter says: Acts 3:6-8
Now, I can assure you, this formerly lame man did not apologize for leaping and jumping around after he was healed. He was not the least bit embarrassed. Why – because something had happened to him; something wonderful had taken place, and so he went public. As a result it says: v9.
Now…there were also present at this event those who thought they had gotten rid of Jesus. In fact, when they crucified Him they thought their troubles were over only to discover that when Jesus died, their troubles were only beginning. Because now that Jesus was gone, suddenly they discovered, instead of one man with a few uninspiring followers, they now had to deal with 12…Spirit empowered leaders who were making things happen just by invoking the Name of Jesus. This had to be stopped. And so, that sets the stage for chapter 4:
Acts 4:13 Did you catch all of that? No Bible college, no seminary, no degrees on their walls, no libraries inside their homes, only one thing was clear… these men had been with Jesus. So don’t tell me you can’t be confident because you haven’t been to Bible college; don’t tell me you can’t be confident because you haven’t been to seminary; don’t tell me you can’t be confident because you lack a theological library… Because the only qualification I see for boldness is to spend time with Jesus.
IOWs, they had seen the power of God at work, they knew what God could do, and as a result they were confident and were not about to keep quiet about it. Why—because we talk about what we are passionate about.
Let me illustrate: March Madness has provided some great moments…like when Ohio State came back from a 20 point deficit to beat Tennessee….like when Georgetown came back from down 9 with 2 minutes left to beat North Carolina in over-time. WOW those were exciting games. It was the talk of the town because it was so spectacular. And why not? When things are spectacular, you talk about them.
So it is that one would think, when we see God take a sinner…a beaten, broken down, human being…and cause them leap over the mountain of Hell into the Kingdom of God…we would want to talk about it. But many of us would rather talk about sports than a Savior; a basketball dunk than a baptismal dunk, a first place trophy than everlasting forgiveness, IOWs, we would rather talk about things that have no eternal value at all.
Not so Peter and John: these were ordinary men with extraordinary power because they had been with Jesus and they knew what God could do.
But let me pause and give you a warning – precisely because they spoke with confidence, they began to be opposed: vv17-18
Loved ones, I have got to stop here for a moment and ask you to listen… please. Today in our culture, we can talk about God, and it’s no problem. We can talk about God at the office all day long and never get into trouble. In fact, a lot of us talk about God so that we don’t have to bring up Jesus. Why— because nobody’s going to put you down for talking about God. Athletes talk about God, entertainers talk about God, even atheists talk about God.
The problem is, you don’t get saved by believing in God, you don’t go to heaven by believing in God. Acts 4:12 (Sermon notes – The Msg)…and that Name is Jesus. You do not get saved by believing in a “generic god.” That’s why talking about God is not enough! All talking about God does, is keep us safe and general.
In fact, I will tell you, if all Jesus had done was talk about God, instead of claiming to be God as He was impacting the lives of people, He would never have gotten into trouble. The test of our passion is the witness of our lives as they speak to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not our belief in God. We need to stop apologizing for Jesus.
You know, I get asked to pray at public gatherings all the time, and quite frankly it has become an exercise in frustration, because with every invitation comes the stated expectation that I will not pray in the Name of Jesus. “Remember,” they say, “We have people of all faiths, so please just do a generic prayer.” What in the world is a generic prayer?! In my book, a generic prayer is nothing but stupid speech. I mean where does it go? The only ones pleased by this kind of prayer is the politically correct crowd.
So if you don’t want to hear about Jesus, then don’t invite me. I don’t hear the Muslims apologizing for bringing up Mohammad. I don’t hear Eastern Mystics apologizing for Buddha. In fact, after “9-11” the message was very clear, “God, you are now welcome back to America, but please leave Your Son at home, He offends people.” So it seems that it is only Christians who keep allowing themselves to be pushed into a closet. Well it’s time to come out of the closet! Everybody else is out of it!! In fact, did I tell you this…Jesus said if you don’t come out…you will be replaced by a rock.
You see, folks don’t mind God, what they mind is Jesus, because what you’ve done in naming Jesus, is narrow things. It says in our text, “Don’t say anything else about Jesus!” But look at how Peter & John respond:
vv 19-20 Peter said, “I can’t do that. I can’t be silent about the only message that gives people eternal life with God. I cannot be silent about the Savior of the world. When we know what God can do, we cannot be silent! But there is a second reason we should be bold…
#2 we should be bold because of Who God is
The first thing the Disciples did when they were released was to pray and remind themselves of Who God is: vv 23-24a Isn’t it interesting that they didn’t call a political meeting…it says they prayed. So if you lack confidence and boldness, you need to go into God’s presence and remind yourself Who it is you serve. New Testament believers knew that prayer was the thing that would connect them with God’s power and give to them a holy boldness. And so they prayed, and what a great prayer it is:
V 24b. The first thing they do is to affirm God’s power. Why is this so important? Why begin here? Because they are being threatened by powerful men.
And indeed we need to the same, because we too are afraid of what people can do to us, and so we become timid around the people who hold authority over us. We are afraid of the people who can fire us…the people who can put out a bad report on us…the people who can deny us a raise…the people who can interfere with our upward mobility. These early Christians pray “God, You are the Creator of all, You made the seas and all that is in them.
In other words, the first thing they do is get their perspective straight. But after that look…they quote Scripture: VV25-26. That is a quote from Psalm 2 when David was being opposed by the mightiest armies on the earth. In other words, we are not the first ones to face tough odds and great opposition. Then they get practical…
vv27-28 That is a great line. Even when sinners are working against you, God is still in control. In fact, you are never in the will of God more than when you are rejected for representing Jesus. So it is very important, it is critical in fact, that you and I understand completely that our rejection is part of God’s plan.
V 29 They were confident because they’re representing God; confident because it’s the message that saves; confident because they have the power of the Holy Spirit; confident because what they are speaking the truth.
So, to whom are you going to talk this week? Whose heart are you going to ask God to work on before you share the message of Jesus Christ this week? “But,” someone says, “the timing just hasn’t been right.” The timing hasn’t been right for ten years, so maybe it’s time to make time. Finally…
reason #3: we should be bold because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers: vv29-30
Let’s look at this for a minute: “Signs and wonders and healing” – does God still do that stuff today? Yes, absolutely – God still heals and God still does signs and wonders. But let’s clarify something – God does not do signs and wonders just to strut His stuff, nor does He do them for everybody. So anybody who tells you God does them for everybody is going to have a lot of disappointed people on their hands. God doesn’t do it for everybody.
So when does God do signs, wonders, and healings? God does signs and wonders according to His sovereign pre-purposed plan, in order to bring greater attention to the Gospel.
Jesus did not heal every body. He healed certain people at certain times in order for people to see who He was. In other words, why does one woman with breast cancer get healed, while another does not…when they both love the Lord – because of His predetermined purpose.
In Hebrews 11 there’s this whole group that is delivered from the mouth of lions and conquering enemies and we say, “Praise the Lord!” Then there’s this whole other group who is sawed in half and put to the sword, IOWs, who received no relief and yet they were still considered approved by God.
So if you take the position that you are going to trust God for healing and at the same time submit to His will…IOWs if you accept this position and trust God, God is going to give you some things to sustain you in your time of trial…
· you will have peace: a peace that passes all understanding.
· you’ll have joy: the joy of the Lord.
· and yes, you will have both victory and tribulation.
So yes, God does signs and wonders but it is to demonstrate Who He is. So the passage closes with this: V31a That’s why God showed up. The Lord responded to their prayer and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now there’s a very important point about the filling of the Holy Spirit– the filling of the Holy Spirit always evidences itself. That is, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, it will demonstrate itself in a real way. There is no such thing as invisible filling. Look at the rest of the verse:
V31b So one of the ways you’ll know you are filled, is “people who used to scare you, don’t scare you anymore.” IOWs, now you fear God more than you fear men. But you say, “That’s not in my personality.” Remember Peter… after Jesus was arrested? We’re going to hear that story this week. He’s sitting around a fire when a girl says, “You’re one of them aren’t you.” And Peter says, “Listen, girlfriend, I do not know this Jesus.”
So what happened? This is the same Peter here in Acts 4…in front of the same people he had been scared to death of in Luke 22!! What happened!?
Well, Scripture tells us: Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit! So the Peter who was running scared in Luke 22, suddenly has a personality change here in Acts 4. And as a result he is now speaking with boldness. So if you have a personality deficit, you need to become filled with the Holy Spirit. And how do you become filled? By being in Jesus’ presence. It’s the only way. You have to be in His presence.
So, as you prepare to go to work tomorrow, and be bold, don’t just grit your teeth and say, “Grrrr, I’m going to be bold today.” No, you say…
“Lord, here I am, an empty vessel, I invite You to fill me up. And I ask You to give me an opportunity to speak on behalf of Jesus Christ. And although I don’t know as much as I wish I did, the little I do know I am going to communicate the best I can, and I am going to start learning more so that I can do better next time.”
Now, let me tell you what’s going to happen, when you become a witness for Jesus Christ, you will see God working in your life like you have never seen it before, because now He knows, you’re not ashamed of Him!! And what is this message of which we are to speak boldly?
God will forgive any man or woman of all of their sins, and give them the gift of eternal life in Heaven, if they will but place their faith in Jesus as their only Savior.
That’s the Good News. It doesn’t matter how bad they are or how much wrong they’ve done…it doesn’t matter…because God will forgive every single sin.
Now that’s Good News! I don’t have to beat myself up; I don’t have to find a way to work it off, I don’t have to do any of that because Jesus Christ will forgive every single sin that I have ever committed if I will but place my faith in His death on the cross for me. That’s Good News loved ones! That’s Good News, and here’s the rest of it: God will give me the gift of eternal life. Don’t you know somebody that needs to be forgiven?! Don’t you know someone that needs a free ticket to heaven today? Then tell somebody the Good News! It’s Easter for crying out loud. People are open to listening…BE BOLD THIS WEEK LOVED ONES!!!!
I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God unto Salvation for everyone who believes.