September 28, 2014

Believing produces boldness

A young woman told me that she would never tell anyone outside the church that she was a Christian for fear that “they wouldn’t like me.”

In this study on being alert to spiritual danger, fear of people might be at the top of that danger list. Wanting to be loved, accepted, and part of a group are normal desires and not sinful. God loves us with an everlasting love, accepts us in Jesus Christ, and puts us into a Body of like-minded others. He takes care of those needs in many ways. What is sinful is trying to ensure these things without trusting Him.

That lack of trust often shows up not in what I do, but what I don’t do. I can excuse myself by saying things like, “I prefer to witness with my actions” or “people will know I am a Christian by my love” but others might be more blunt and label it, “fear of rejection” or “frozen over at the mouth.” Whatever it is called, lack of boldness presents itself as being afraid to tell others the greatest good news ever to come to my ears and my heart. When I love my security more than caring about others, then I am being sinful and putting them in spiritual danger.

The answer is not a dogmatic fearlessness that is pushy or rude. It is trusting God and being filled with His Spirit. He gives His people words to say and the boldness to say them.

Here is just one example. Shortly after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, His disciples had healed a lame man. As the crowds gathered, the disciples were “speaking to the people,” but “the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody.”

The next day they confronted these new Christians and demanded in whose name and power they were speaking and acting. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you 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 is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’”

When these religious leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.” (Acts 4:1–14)

On this occasion, being filled with the Holy Spirit did not make them popular, but it did make them bold to speak and act in the name of Jesus. As a result, “many of those who had heard the word believed” and five thousand men (and likely many women and children) were added to the church. (Acts 4:4)

Faith made them eager to tell others the good news, and in faith, they prayed for boldness. They said, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29–31)

Boldness is not a brash ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ dogmatism. It is a love that does not care about itself, but about the souls of others, even if some of them respond with violence. It is a love for God that desires to please and glorify Him. As Paul said, “Though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi . . . we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:2–4)

Paul was eventually put in prison for his boldness, but even then, “he welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30–31)

Boldness does not guarantee popularity or even safety, but it does indicate the presence of God’s Spirit and the power of His good news to change fearful silence into a powerful testimony.

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