I can't help but contrast what it meant to be a follower of Jesus then and what it looks like now. So many churches/ pastors now spend their efforts keeping people happy, comfortable, and sedated with pleasant tasting lies rather than speaking bold truth, teaching, equipping and sending out. Most Christians are more concerned with what other people think of them, than they are with obedience to what God has called them to be.
"Boldness, a behavior born our of belief" is hard to come by in our modern Christian circles. Maybe it's because so many who claim Christ no longer actually believe. Many have no idea what truth is. Some don't think it matters much, as long as you sincerely believe whatever seems right to you. I think part of the problem in my generation is that so many who grew up going to church never actually witnessed, experienced, or learned who our great God is...Christianity was just one more religion, a form of "spirituality", or a club to belong to. There is no boldness in that kind of "faith". We have become sleepy fat wolf bait, rather than front line warriors with a mission to accomplish.
One theme that keeps coming out in the book of Acts is boldness. If you read the first 4 chapters you'll see that Peter was one bold dude.
Peter was the former pansy man who had great aspirations of courage but cowered before a little peasant girl. He denied Jesus three times out of fear. Later in Acts...once he KNEW without a doubt who Jesus was, and that he was alive, the Holy Spirit came to him and he was BOLD. Like really really bold. Fierce. That is quite a transformation. He even prayed for more boldness to preach when he had already been warned not to.
Bold obedience, a life lived radically serving, giving, discipling, loving... comes from time with Jesus, it cannot be manufactured by noble intentions.
What would happen if we lived that sort of life....how different would the Church be? How different would our world be? What if we actually dove into the richness of the gospel and used it as more than just a creed to believe to get saved only to be left behind for a life of churchy moralism? What if we actually joined together with our brothers and sisters into authentic relationships like they did in the early church? One purpose, one mission, one body. Am I crazy to wonder? I see it happening...like an awakening.
Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, healed a "man crippled from birth". Peter had no gold or silver to give him. He had no bread to feed him but he gave him something of lasting value....the name of Jesus. God chose to use that disabled man at that point in history, and he chose to use Peter to showcase his glory. Plenty of people were amazed, as one would expect....but Peter also got in a lot of trouble for his act of kindness toward the lame man. Peter and John were immediately seized and put in jail. The next day they were brought before "the rulers, and teachers of the law" for questioning. Peter responded fearlessly.
"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 people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. ...
...Salvation is found in no one else. for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
When they saw the courage (boldness ESV) 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" Acts 4:8-13 (NIV)
The religious rulers forbid them , under threat, not to speak the offensive name of Jesus. They did it anyway. Would we do the same? Or would we decide to use a different name so as not to make people uncomfortable.
I was listening to a sermon series recently by Craig Groeschel (www.lifechurch.tv) talking about boldness.
When you live in bold obedience to Jesus you will face opposition (paraphrased from Pastor Groeshcel).
As I think back over the last several years every time I took a major risk and did what I knew God wanted me to do (through obedience to scripture and prayer)...serving in Mexico, giving sacrificially, reaching out to love an estranged family member, becoming a foster parent, find a new church home....it has all been met with opposition to one degree or another. Sometimes very fierce opposition and sometimes just discouragement, disapproval from others or trials along the way. Even Peter was "called to account" for an act of kindness.
Just recently we were "called to account" ( punished/ opposed) specifically for an act of kindness that we were led by the Lord to do 2 years ago (building a house for a needy family).
It stung, but I began to realize that this is the way it is supposed to be. You can't read the Bible and not see it. You can't live a life of faith and not experience it. If you never face opposition, chances are you aren't living in any sort of bold obedience. I'm not talking about intentionally causing trouble, being a fool, or being called to account for your own sin but, like Peter who was doing the Lords work, being persecuted for obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. So don't be surprised (if you decide to step out and do something crazy like caring for orphans, building a house for a needy family, or forgiving someone who seems unforgivable) when all hell breaks loose.
If all your works of benevolence and kindness do not stir up the armies of Satan against you....then you might not be all that much of a threat.
Don't let opposition or obstacles detour you!
"When you walk in obedience of God you shouldn't be surprised by the miracles of God."
Peter and John were no strangers to God showcasing his provision and power.
People who are living bold lives of obedience know that God shows up! He doesn't leave us alone.
That is where faith is stretched and grown!
When you let go, move beyond what you can calculate or see, take a risk, you are allowing God to do something in the situation that only He can do. Sometimes that takes you in a completely different direction than you had assumed. Often that takes you through some pretty gnarly stuff (totally dated myself there)....but when He reveals himself you will stand in awe...or kneel in humility when faced with His glory.
I am learning this as I go. Each time I chose to trust and obey, I am met with the glory of God's power, provision, and nearness. He reveals himself a little more. The relationship becomes that much sweeter and I will be that much bolder.
Safe "faith" and people pleasing complacency stunt growth.
God won't give you the details before he sends you out, or before you come face to face with a situation you never dreamed of....if he did you would probably run the other way. It will take faith.
He will give you only enough light for the next step but he won't leave you in the dark.
What seems like crucified dreams right now, may just be the beginning of a Resurrection.