Faith to do right in God's sight

The faith that God wants to foster in us is passionate for the Lord, passionate to obey Him, and to disciple believers and share the good news with others even when the world lectures us to sit in the corner, be quiet, and behave.

This is what Jesus fostered in the early church, and what He fosters today.

In Acts 3, to the amazement of the crowd, Peter and John healed a man, and when the people asked how this miracle took place, they preached the good news that Jesus Christ who was put to death for our sins, rose from the dead, so He's alive, and this Jesus, the Son of God and the future Judge and King of the world, He is the One who healed this man.

The civil authorities didn't like that answer. In Acts 4, they arrested Peter and John. But God was doing something great, about five thousand people believed their message. The church was growing bigger, and bolder in Christ.

So the city want to silence these men. Yet, God was moving and five thousand people believed so if they just kill these men off the city would revolt. Again. And like today's politicians, each was more afraid to go against the will of the mob than to go against the will of God.

So the city officials asked each other,

Acts 4:16 "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them [the disciples] to speak no longer to any man in this name."

Today, it's not yet illegal to preach the gospel and tell others about Jesus but our culture warns us not to speak of Jesus.

Rolls its eyes. Says it's hateful to claim Jesus is the only way to God. It's judgmental to imply that anyone needs God's forgiveness. We're told Jesus marginalizes people, He makes certain groups feel uncomfortable. So be cool, be decent citizens, fit in, and don't talk about him.

It's actually a pretty effective argument today. Nobody wants to come across as judgmental haters.

Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

This gives us a profound principle: we're to obey the authorities over us and the laws which govern us, unless or until they compel us to disobey God.

But there's something more relational involved: whenever we make such a choice, we choose a side. We choose to remain in friendship with one or the other: Culture or God. Govt or God. Friends or God.

There are far more laws and pressures over us than what the government establishes.

Whenever the authority over you—government, pop-culture, peer pressure—tells you to do something which God forbids, or forbids you to do something which God commands, you have a choice of whom you will fear or love and serve.

"Whether it is right in the sight of God to do what you say rather than God, you be the judge,"

The faith which the Holy Spirit wants to foster in you is passionate for what is right in God's sight. And is passionate to speak about what God has done.

"We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Not long before this, Jesus' disciples were scared to death of being arrested. Fearfully, they denied following Jesus; Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Once someone called him out, "You were one of Jesus' followers. You told Jesus you'd never turn away from Him!" Peter's like, "No I didn't, you did."

Two months later, Peter and John tell the governing authorities your authority only goes so far. You may arrest us. You may beat us. But "we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

What changed? They saw Jesus, risen from the dead!

They saw Jesus put to death. They saw Him risen and alive. And this changes everything. It's proof that every word Jesus said about Himself, about His Father, about reconciling sinners to God, every promise of eternal life and the kingdom of God is true.

But how does that help us? We haven't seen the glory of Christ risen from the dead. No, yet they did. And we believe the apostles' words. We believe their testimony.

By faith we see Jesus risen and ascended through the apostle's eyes.

Acts 4:23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them."

As you read their prayer, their faith in God's sovereign rule led them to praise God even when the government warned they can no longer speak of Jesus.

The faith that God is building in you trusts in God's sovereign will even in the midst of terrible events and personal hardships.

Acts 4:27 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur."

Peter and John saw the same thing everyone else saw, Herod and Pilate, the region's governor and city's mayor took violent action against Jesus and His followers. But like them, let us believe that God is way more involved and directs the political authorities and uses even their unjust laws to achieve God's glory and our good.

I.e., whatever happens in this country, this world is in line with God's purpose.

This affords us the peace to follow God's will and not be overcome by fear. For God wasn't just sovereign back then, but He is active and engaged today,

Acts 4:29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus."

God wants you to trust that He is fully aware of the threats you face, He knows how hard it is, yet He wants you to obey Him. He takes personal responsibility for what happens if you obey Him.

This church didn’t pray for the government to stop persecuting them. "Lord, once they lift the threat, then we'll do what you say." No, they prayed, "Lord, we trust you to take note of their threats, we trust you with the consequences of obeying you. Help us to to be bold in faith. As you free us to carry out our mission, extend your mighty hand to work in great ways through our obedience."

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

The LORD answered their prayers.

The city officials told them to cease and desist speaking of Jesus. They committed themselves to God's mission and trusted that God is aware of their threats and chose by faith to defy the law. And God proved to be more than faithful to work through their obedience.

This is given to encourage our faith. To encourage us in our day today. Two believers trusted God to do something big. And He did. This brought the law down on them. Cultural criticism. Name calling. Threats and warnings.

But they learned to value what is right in God's sight and they committed to honor Christ. Plus they were passionate to share what they saw and heard. And the whole church got behind them. Their trust in God's sovereignty was rewarded. God blessed them and rescued people from sin's power.

Notice also the effects such faith had on the whole church,

Acts 4:32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.