Have You Been With Jesus Today?

In Acts 4, we read how the priests and the Sadducees  strongly warned Peter and John not to preach Christ publicly.  They were astonished that these uneducated, common men could be so bold and speak so passionately.  Then we are told, “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). I know I’ve read that passage hundreds of times, but lately it has jumped off the page.

How did they recognize that Peter and John had been with Jesus?

They spoke of Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Everywhere Peter and John went, they were speaking of salvation in Jesus Christ.  When they were asked to give money, they gave the name of Jesus. When they healed, they healed in the name of Jesus. When they were questioned about their beliefs, they proclaimed the name of Jesus. Everywhere they went, and everything they said, they gave glory to the name of Jesus.  Regardless of the threats and warnings they received, they fear and honored the name of the Lord, and made it perfectly clear that they knew and loved Jesus.

They trusted in the power of Jesus to save.  Several times Peter and John were arrested for preaching the name of Jesus unto Salvation.  And every time, through the power of the Lord, they were set free from their prison cells and would return to preach the gospel.  They never doubted God’s ability to save.  They did not question his power to heal.  Resting in the promises of Jesus, they acted boldly and faithfully.  Jesus had promised that he would always be with his people, and trusting in this promise, it was clear that they had been with Jesus.

They were not ashamed to suffer for the sake of Jesus. When all of the apostles were arrested in Acts 6, through Gamaliel’s advise they were all beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus, then they were set free.  Even this did not deter them.  We read in Acts 6:41, “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”  It was abundantly clear to all that the apostles had been with Jesus because they counted it an honor to suffer for him.

The question we must ask ourselves today is this, “when the world looks at me, do they recognize that I have been with Jesus?”  

By God’s grace, and through the ministry of His Holy Spirit, we have the privilege of knowing Jesus and spending time with Him in His Word.  1 Peter 1:8-9 teaches us that “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” We may not see Him face to face now, but we can be with Him, and He has promised to be with us (Matt. 28:20).

Would the rest of the world know that you have been with Jesus?  Do you speak of Him often, telling others of how He has loved and saved you, of the difference He has made in your life?  Do you trust in His power to save, and urge others to trust Him as well? Does the way you handle adversity and suffering point others to your faith in Jesus’ abiding presence.

Friends, I pray that you would know Jesus, and every day spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer.  The more you are with Him, the more the world will know and wonder at it.

SDG

A Labor of Love

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

(Acts 2:42)

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this passage taught as the model for Church ministry – and rightfully so.  This example of the early Church’s daily practice of life together reveals the essential marks of the Christ’s body.  What is the Church if it is not centered around the teaching of the Word of God, with genuine fellowship among believers who care for and build up one another, the regular and proper administration of the Sacraments, and faithful, passionate, and Spirit-filled prayer?  Countless books and conferences have given attention to this passage, seeking to keep the Church grounded in those “means of grace” through which God has long-blessed His people.

Yet something struck me as a I re-read the passage today: As often as I’ve heard this passage extolled to the leaders of the church, highlighting these essential four marks, how often have we stopped to consider what is being said about the members of the congregations? We rightly focus on the fact that the leaders of the Church (teaching and ruling elders) need to keep us grounded on these four marks, but do we give enough attention to the role of those who are being led?

Consider what Acts 2:42 says, “they devoted themselves…”  The people of the church, not just the leaders, gave themselves to these practices, devoted themselves to these means.  This word, “devotion”, deserves some consideration.

In it’s simplest form, “devotion” means diligence, commitment to, or endurance.  It suggests an intent to follow through on a decision, I have devoted myself to this task… So, in one sense, devotion is a labor, a work, that we must be dedicated to perform.

Now, before the “works-righteousness” alarms start going off, please understand that I don’t mean that we must do this in order to merit salvation.  Scripture clearly teaches that we are “saved by grace through faith… it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8-9).  That being said, God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ does not exempt us from doing good works, it actually enables us to those works (Eph 2:10).  When I say that we must commit ourselves to the work of studying the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to partake in the sacraments rightly, and to prayer, I am talking about the discipline and duty of the Christian in ongoing growth and life in the Spirit.

Another aspect of this word “devotion,” however, is that of the heart.  Devotion doesn’t just suggest commitment and dedication, but also love and adoration.  Devotion implies a heartfelt passion.  Devotion cannot be a plodding through the God-given means of grace of study, fellowship, sacrament, and prayer as though these were burdens to be carried out.  Devotion is a joy-filled, Christ-centered love for God and for the blessings known in sweet communion with Him.  It is a commitment to the Lord because of a delight in the Lord.  It is a labor, yes.  But it is a labor of love!

For the church to thrive, she must practice these marks, these are god’s gracious means give for our growth.  As leaders we must never abandoned the principles of Acts 2:42.  But this passage is meant to go beyond a Church ministry model.  It speaks to the heart of every believer.  We must, each of us, be devoted, to seek out the Lord and delight in His presence.

May you know and grow in the joy and delight in devotion to the Lord!

SDG