The Missing Ingredient of Boldness
THE BIG IDEA: What was the one ingredient that the early church had in Acts that caused them to be world shakers and history makers? Boldness! How do we get more boldness in our lives? By being with Jesus, praying for boldness, and being filled with the Spirit.
“When a man who has crept along for years in conventional Christianity suddenly zooms into spiritual alertness, becomes aggressive in the battle of the Lord, and has a quenchless zeal for the lost, there is a reason for it. But we are so subnormal these days that the normal New Testament experience seems abnormal.” (Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries).[i]
P.C. – A Preacher Who Wasn’t Very P.C:
Peter Cartwright was a famous Methodist missionary who became a preacher in 1802. He helped start the Second Great Awakening, a period of amazing spiritual revival in theUnited States. He was known for his bold, uncompromising preaching. One of my favorite stories about him happened one day when Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of theUnited States, came to his church. Because of their pastor’s radical and sometimes controversial preaching, the elders warned him not to say anything that might offend the President. Peter Cartwright wasn’t the most politically correct preacher in his day!
When Peter Cartwright got up to preach, the first words out of his mouth were, “I understand that President Andrew Jackson is here this morning. I have been requested to be very guarded in my remarks. Let me say this: Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent of his sin!” The entire congregation gasped with shock at Cartwright’s boldness. How could this young preacher dare to offend the tough old general in public? But that’s not the end of the story.
Later, when the preacher met Andrew Jackson, the President looked him in the eye and said, “Mr. Cartwright, you are a man after my own heart. I highly approve of your independence; that a minister of Jesus Christ ought to love everybody and fear no mortal man. If I had a few thousand such independent, fearless officers as you were, and a well drilled army, I could take Old England!”
Thousands of people came to Christ during the ministry of this courageous man of God. Where does that kind of boldness come from?
Two Bold Fishermen:
In the last chapter, we looked at the story of Peter and John. On their way to a church prayer meeting, they encountered a man who was crippled. Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” After this man was healed, he went into the temple with them, leaping and praising God. The people were filled with wonder and amazement. As a crowd of people gathered around, Peter preached a powerful message about Jesus, saying, “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” This brings us to the beginning of chapter four, where we pick up the story:
“Now as they (Peter and John) spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.” (Acts 4:1-3).
Let’s step into the scene of this Bible story and imagine what’s happening here. Peter and John had just healed a man who had been born crippled, and the crowds of people knew he had been in that condition for over forty years. Then the religious leaders – the Sadducees – got angry because they were preaching that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Isn’t that something? Peter and John had done a good deed – helped someone who was crippled to be able to walk again – and the religious leaders got upset. There are still people in certain churches who get mad at us because we preach the Full Gospel and tell people that Jesus still heals today. Whenever we get radical in our walk with Jesus, someone’s going to get upset about it.
What was the consequence of Peter and John’s participation in this miracle? They were persecuted and put in jail. Sometimes we have the idea that once we become a Christian, nothing bad will ever happen to us. Jesus taught us otherwise when He said, “In the world you willhave tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b). If Jesus has overcome the world, then we too can overcome the world.
Some of you might wonder why I am passionate about contending for signs and wonders, healings and miracles to be restored to the church. Look at what happened as a result of this man being healed: “However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” (verse 4). Two thousand more people came to faith in Jesus just because one person got healed! One person healed, two thousand people saved. That sounds like a good return to me, and that tells me that signs and wonders are an important part of the ministry of the church. When people’s lives are transformed, the world will stand up and take notice. When people are healed from sicknesses, delivered from addictions and bondages, or find freedom from fear, worry and anxiety, this will impact their families, their friends, and their co-workers. People will come to know Jesus as a result of it.
“And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together atJerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:5-12).
When Peter gave his defense, he didn’t preach a watered down, politically correct sermon. He said, “You killed Jesus – it was your sin that put Him on the Cross – but God has raised Him from the dead. And even though you might call me narrow-minded, I declare to you that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.” That kind of preaching got Peter into trouble in the first century, and that kind of preaching will get us into trouble today. In today’s morally relativistic world, people say, “There are many roads that lead to Heaven.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Peter proclaimed this truth boldly; he didn’t care what the people thought. Peter knew that if he compromised the truth, and preached a message that said, “There are many ways to God, come however you choose,” that people wouldn’t get to Heaven. What happened after Peter preached this message?
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” (Acts 4:13-14).
Why were they bold? Because they knew in whom they believed. They knew their Redeemer lived. They knew Jesus personally – they had walked with Him and talked with Him.
Not Ashamed of the Gospel:
One of my favorite Scriptures isRomans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Paul declared that he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because he knew that this Good News had the power to change people’s lives. The Gospel has the power to take someone out of darkness, and translate them into the kingdom of His marvelous light. It has the power to take someone who was lost, and cause them to be found. It has the power to take someone who was a child of the devil, and make them a child of God. It has the power to take someone who was sick, and heal them. It has the power to take someone who was addicted to drugs, alcohol, or sexual immorality, and set them free. And he who the Son sets free is free indeed! Paul said, “I’m not ashamed of that Good News.”
If the Gospel truly is so powerful, then why are there so many Christians who are ashamed of it? Why are so many believers afraid of what other people think of them? How do we get rid of this fear of man? How can we stop being so concerned about what people think of us? How can we stop being people pleasers? We want people to like us. We don’t want to be rejected. We’re so afraid of offending people. Peter wasn’t like that. He had a bold, unshakable confidence.
After they saw the boldness of Peter and John, these religious leaders sent them out of the council chamber and discussed what they would do with them. They said, “We can’t deny they have done a miraculous sign, and everybody inJerusalemknows about it. But perhaps we can stop them from spreading their propaganda. We’ll warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.” The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God for this miraculous sign – the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years. (Acts 4:15-22, nlt).
Peter and John had performed an amazing miracle, and then they were thrown in jail and threatened by the religious leaders of their day. But throughout this entire ordeal, Peter and John responded with a steadfast, confident boldness from Heaven.
“And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:23-31).
What was the one ingredient that the early church had that caused them to be world shakers and history makers? Boldness! How do we get more boldness in our lives? By being with Jesus, praying for boldness, and being filled with the Spirit. Let’s take a look at each of these keys:
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries. (Bethany House, 2004).