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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pentecost - the Word made alive!

8-12With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: "Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I'll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.' Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one."  13-14They couldn't take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed!—what could they say against that?
(Acts 4:8-14)

We have been exploring the results of the first Pentecost within the New Testament church.  Acts 4 begins with the story of Peter and John, two of the disciples, being imprisoned for having healed the man of his inability to walk.  The man had been giving testimony in the Temple and to everyone that would listen to the story of his healing.  Peter and John had simply been on their way to their daily prayer time when he had petitioned them for something that would meet what he had thought would meet his needs - he was asking for monies, but he got more than money could buy!  His exuberance had caused the leaders and Pharisees to become upset with the teaching that Jesus was alive and he was now healing people through is disciples.  So, they deal with their "perceived threat" by locking Peter and John in jail.

Now, Peter and John are brought before the leaders - kind of like an arraignment hearing.  They are asked to give an explanation for their "behavior" in healing this man and in preaching the message that Jesus was raised from the dead.  We are told in the verses that lead into our passage that by the time these disciples were arrested and thrown into jail, over 5,000 had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  In one simple action - the obedience of the disciples to give what they had - thousands were touched, convicted and their lives changed forever.  One of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to change our focus from "internal" to "external" - seeing the needs around us and then finding ways to meet them as the Spirit leads.

The leaders are incensed by the simplicity of the disciples' actions - they simply spoke and the man was healed; they powerfully declared the Messiah had come and thousands were dedicating their lives to serve him; they shared dynamic truths from the Word of God without any formal training.  This "framed" the leaders and Pharisees in a "bad light" - pointing out their lack of power, their fruitless explanation of the Word of God, and their inability to impact lives in any way that was close to "dynamic".  It is not uncommon to see the reaction of those that do not understand the simplicity of the gospel message as one of criticism, mistrust, and often even denial of the reality of what is right before them.  Unless the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the truth, we remain blind to what is right before our eyes!

There is a boldness displayed in the testimony of Peter before the leaders - "nothing to hide", being "completely frank" with them.  In other words, Peter was going to "tell it like it is" - he was not pulling any punches, masking over the events of the past day, or making any excuses for his powerful words that cut to the core of those who stood guilty of murdering the Messiah just weeks before.  He had a "dynamo" of power igniting every word that flowed from his mouth - it was the Holy Spirit empowering him that gave him this boldness.  We can count on the Holy Spirit to give us the very words we need in the times we lack the ability to say what needs to be said - he is there to give testimony to Jesus through us.

The message they bring is plain and simple - salvation comes by no other means than through Jesus Christ!  That is the testimony of every disciple.  The evidence was standing right before them - the man healed, upright, and walking strong.  There was no denying the testimony or the display of its power.  The leaders thought they'd silence these "rabble-rousers" - the plan of the Lord was that these disciples would silence the leaders!  

The outcome of the infilling of the Holy Spirit was evident in the lives of the disciples - and it impacted the lives of others in their pursuit of normal daily life.  In turn, the lives they impacted continued the process of sharing the message of hope and the power of deliverance.  Pentecost produced than any seminary training could ever hope to - these were unschooled disciples, yet they knew the Word of God intimately - the Word was alive in them by the power of the Holy Spirit resident within.  Is there evidence of this kind of power in your life?  Is there evidence that the Word of God is alive in you?  It is available to you through the infilling of the Holy Spirit - just ask!