April 13, 2019

No matter what . . .

Election day happens on Tuesday. Some people are unsure. There are many new, inexperienced candidates, some with names that are difficult to pronounce. The main party leaders have been slinging mud at each other and claiming they alone know how to fix the problems. In our riding or voting area, all the names on the ballot are new. We have not heard them debate but are aware of the power struggle between political parties and personalities.

I’m thinking of that old nemesis today — the desire for power, to be on top, to have control of everything, to put down any and all threats. It happened as soon as the church came into being. The religious leaders saw the ‘baby’ Christians as a threat to their status and control over the lives of worshipers.

And as (the disciples) were speaking to the people, 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 until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Acts 4:1–4)

No wonder these religious leaders felt threatened. Christians offered a message of eternal life, not earned or deserved but given freely to those who believe in Jesus. He rose from the dead and offered them incredible hope, nothing that their established religion had ever claimed. While Old Testament faith was about a coming Messiah that would save them from sin and death, that had deteriorated into a “do good and live” faith with a list of rules controlled by these leaders. “Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved” had great appeal but it also made mush out of their control.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 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.” (Acts 4:5–12)

That last line is the greatest threat to all other religious systems, whether controlled by one leader or an elite group. All their rules, rhetoric, charisma, and whatever else they offer is declared useless. Only Jesus can save souls and give eternal life.

The boldness of these uneducated, common men astonished the establishment. They obviously had been with Jesus. The man who had just been healed stood beside them. What could they say? They were stumped because “a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” (Acts 4:13–17)

They charged the disciples not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered to a higher authority. They replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

What else could be done? These were religious people. How could they deny that God was the greater voice? They further threatened the Christians, letting them go because they could find no way to punish them. Besides, all the people were praising God for what had happened. (Acts 4:18–21)

Reading this begs the question: Why am I sometimes unable to speak for God? Shy to share the good news of the resurrection? Hesitant to tell others that there is salvation in no other than Jesus? The Lord is greater than all the religious organizations put together. He can silence their protests. He can protect those of us who trust in Him. What is the worst that could happen? They could throw us in jail (and the jail stories in Acts show that didn’t stop the disciples) or they could kill us . . . and what would that do? It would send us to live forever with Jesus. No matter what anyone attempts, God’s people always win!

Jesus, You are my Rock, my Defender, my Prince of Peace. Transform my life so that it shows without any doubt that I trust You, no matter what comes my way!

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