UNRESTRAINED BOLDNESS

Acts 4:31 – At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.

You ever wonder about what happened after the death of Christ that caused the disciples to become so bold that they would defy death? Actually you could say there were two things that changed everything. First, apparently five hundred people were eyewitnesses of the resurrection. These followers saw Jesus for themselves after He had been publicly crucified. There lives could never be the same after that. But that wasn’t everything, what explained their bold speech even when facing death? This passage today gives us insight into what was going on. It says that these followers were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were supernaturally empowered to bare witness to the testimony of Jesus. There would be no turning back from these events; Christ was alive and they were commissioned to tell everyone the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are some thoughts from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“The Greek word is parresia. This involves more than confidence; it was a free-flowing, unrestrained boldness. It can also mean “freedom of speech.” Parresia carries nuances that are not easily brought over into English. The person who speaks with parresia will say everything that is on his mind with no restraint, flowing out of his heart with confidence. It involves being frank and honest, hiding nothing and speaking directly to the heart. Most often it is a word used for public speaking. It refers to speech that is not tailored to make everyone happy but to speak the truth, in spite of what that may cost. It is the courage to speak truth into the ears of others…. parresia refers to an unrestrained boldness.”

That’s it; outspoken boldness. This explained the obvious change in Peter and the rest of the apostles. There was no turning back. They had the message and now the power to change their world. How does this relate to us today? We too face opposition when we begin to share the claims of Christ. The only way we can hold up against the opposition of the world is to be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak when we open our mouths and share the beauty of the gospel. We too can be filled with unrestrained boldness.

BEFORE THEY FINISHED PRAYING HE ANSWERED

Acts 4:30,31 – Stretch out your hand of power through us to heal, and to move in signs and wonders by the name of your holy Son, Jesus!”

At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.

What a picture of God’s readiness to answer prayer. The words were still in their mouths when the building they had gathered in was shaking under the power of God. God hears and answers our prayer, that is an amazing benefit of being a son of God.

Isaiah spoke about God’s readiness to answer prayer in Isa.65:24 – “Before they even call out to me, I will answer them;

before they’ve finished telling me what they need,

I’ll have already heard.”

The amazing thing about this is that it is true for us today. The Lord hears our prayers and answers sometimes before we can even get the words out of our mouths. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this characteristic of prayer.

“God will anticipate their prayers with the blessings of his goodness. David did but say, I will confess, and God forgave. The father of the prodigal met him in his return. While they are yet speaking, before they have finished their prayer, I will give them the thing they pray for, or the assurances and earnests of it. These are high expressions of God’s readiness to hear prayer; and this appears much more in the grace of the gospel than it did under the law; we owe the comfort of it to the mediation of Christ as our advocate with the Father and are obliged in gratitude to give a ready ear to God’s calls.”

Too many time we try to handle all of our stuff by ourselves. Too often prayer is just a last resort. If it is true that God is good and that we are His sons and daughters then He really can’t help Himself. He is always listening and ready to work on our behalf. The real secret is being intimately connected to what matters to Him. In this story the disciples were praying for boldness to preach Christ. Before they got the words out of their mouths they were filled with power to preach Christ with the added bonus of signs and wonders.

Power of His Name

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By what power, or in what name, have ye done this?
Acts 4:7
Jesus said something just after His resurrection that used to confuse me. He said that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him. He was apparently saying He had authority after the resurrection that He did not have before. What bothered me was that I knew that Jesus has had authority over all things as the Son of God from eternity. What could He possibly mean? I finally understood it when it dawned on me what had changed. The Son of God had become the Son of Man. He gained authority over all things as a man by His death and resurrection. He had conquered sin, hell, death, and the grave. But here is the best part, He did that as a representative for me (and all mankind) giving us authority to act in His Name. We can now pray and act in the Name that has authority over all things. Here is how Watchman Nee explains it.

“Our eyes must be opened to see the mighty change wrought by the ascension. The name of Jesus certainly establishes the identity of the One in the throne with the Carpenter of Nazareth, but it goes further than that. It represents the power and dominion before which every knee in heaven and earth and beneath the earth must bow. Even the Jewish leaders recognized that there could be this kind of significance in a mere name, when they asked this question of the disciples concerning the lame man’s healing. Today the name tells us that God has committed all authority to His Son, so that in the very name itself there is power. But further, not only is it His, but it is “given among men.” He has placed that authority in our hands for us to use. In three passages in His last discourse, the Lord Jesus repeats the words “ask in my name.” What confidence He must place in us to say “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do”!”
This is one of those too good to be true promises from the Lord. I can preach in His Name, heal the sick in His Name, cast out devils in His Name, and pray and receive whatever I ask in His Name. Do you belong to Jesus? Have your sins been washed away in His precious blood? If so, you too can pray and live in the power of the Name of Jesus.

POWER OF UNITY

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

and spoke the word of God boldly.

ACTS 4:31

There is something special about Christian brothers and sisters moving together in unity. In Psalms 133 it is called the place of commanded blessing. David compared it to the oil being poured on the first high priest, Aaron. Of course this awakens visions in our heads about Jesus, our Heavenly High Priest, and the heavenly anointing oil poured upon His head.

That first scene of commanded blessing in the New Testament is seen on the Day of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are in one accord, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon everyone in the house. The results? Commanded blessing. Thousands of people gather in response to the sounds of celebration, 3000 come to Christ that first day. There is something about unified spiritual hunger that produces incredible outpourings of the Spirit. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray on the power of unity.
“The power of union can clearly be seen in nature. A single drop of rain cannot be compared with many drops that become a stream. Speedily the stream’s momentum becomes irresistible. Such is the power of true union in prayer. The world can be overcome with the power of united prayer. In KwaZulu-Natal, owing to the many mountains, the streams often flow down with great force. The Zulu are accustomed to joining hands when they wish to pass through a stream. The leader has a strong stick in his right hand, and gives his left hand to some strong man who comes behind him. And so they form a chain of twelve or twenty and help each other to cross the current safely. When God’s people reach out to others, there will be power to resist the overwhelming influence of the world. And in that unity God’s children, when they have overcome the power of the world and the flesh, will have power to prevail with God.”
So if you are experiencing a dry season in your Christian faith it could be from this, isolating yourself from the body of Christ. Joining our faith and our fervency together with other believers taps into the very power source of the Almighty. Join yourself to a good church. Join yourself to a group of believers who are hungry for God Himself. In that place of unity you too will experience the power of His presence.

NO OTHER NAME

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By what power, or in what name, have ye done this?
Acts 4:7
Revelation is incredible, it never stops; it comes to us in waves. Over the last several months I have been thinking again and again about something I have known for a long time, but has recently become more precious and real to me by revelation from the Holy Spirit. That something is this, when Jesus became a man, He became a man permanently. He is still a man. What is the significance of that? He represents me as a man before the Father and He rules the universe as a man. He has been given the authority that has always been His as the Son of God as the Son of Man; as a result, a man is ruling the universe. Now there is even better news, He has given us authority to live and pray in His Name; absolutely unthinkable. Here are some thoughts from Watchman Nee on this very subject.
“Our eyes must be opened to see the mighty change wrought by the ascension. The name of Jesus certainly establishes the identity of the One in the throne with the Carpenter of Nazareth, but it goes further than that. It represents the power and dominion before which every knee in heaven and earth and beneath the earth must bow. Even the Jewish leaders recognized that there could be this kind of significance in a mere name, when they asked this question of the disciples concerning the lame man’s healing.

Today the name tells us that God has committed all authority to His Son, so that in the very name itself there is power. But further, not only is it His, but it is “given among men.” He has placed that authority in our hands for us to use. In three passages in His last discourse, the Lord Jesus repeats the words “ask in my name.” What confidence He must place in us to say “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do”!”
This is the beauty and power of redemption. Not only has the fallen race of man been forgiven and reconciled to fellowship with God, we have been brought to the unthinkable place of ruling with Christ for eternity. This is surely amazing grace. I have been justified by grace, reconciled into His family, and seated together with Him in heavenly places all to magnify His amazing grace.

FAMILY RESEMBLANCE

And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13
The disciples did not look like candidates to be world changers. The religious leaders said they were uneducated Galileans (their words were really ignoramuses). That was somewhat of a slur. In New Orleans, like everywhere else, we have those kinds of terms. Some will call others Mandevillians, or Yats, or maybe Chalmatians, or Westbankers. That’s how it was for the disciples, they were ‘those kind’ of people. That was what got the attention of the priests, there was something different about them that reminded the leaders of Jesus. There was something in their words and in their look, they reminded the Pharisees of Jesus. You could say there was a distinct family resemblance. Recently someone commented that Parris and I were starting to look alike, I guess maybe we rub off on those we hang around. Is Jesus rubbing off on you? Here is something Andrew Murray said about looking like Jesus.
“A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is his living biography, written out in the words and actions of his people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness; but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of him; he is like him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions.”
There was a dramatic increase of this family resemblance after the death and resurrection of Christ. The disciples actually received an impartation of the very life of God. It started Easter Sunday night when Jesus breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. It continued on the Day of Pentecost when they were totally consumed by the Presence of God. They had been born again and baptized with the Spirit. Their lives had taken on a new quality. They began to look and act like Jesus. That’s the point of our conversion. Our changed lives reveal Christ to this world. So the next time you are scorned as a Yat or whatever, don’t be alarmed. You may be an ignoramus like Peter but you have a distinct look of a king, you too have been with Jesus.

THE SONG OF HEAVENLY FELLOWSHIP

MERRY MONDAY- BY PARRIS BAILEY

“All that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people.” Acts 4:32

There is something special about living through seasons of revival. Yes, I said revival. No, I wasn’t born in the 1700’s during the Great Awakening, nor lived during Azusa, and I could go on about the Healing revivals and many others. I got saved during the Jesus Movement/Charismatic movement down at the lakefront of New Orleans and went onto California to a Bible School/Commune. Little did I realize when I received the Lord there were literally thousands of hippie folks just like me getting a hold of Jesus and changing the whole structure of church. God came down and took me by surprise. The city of New Orleans would be a epicenter of the Catholic Charismatic move for years. When we came back to New Orleans in 1979 our church and many others encountered explosive growth due to the Catholic’s wanting more.

I can still feel the move of God in my heart when I was at bible school, I can still see us worshipping together for hours in the open air. Singing songs and reading our Bibles fervently . We believed everything and lived on nothing. It was the song of heavenly fellowship. “Wherever there is inward vigor of life there will be outward growth; and the Church which is pure, earnest, living will be a Church which spreads and increases.” (Maclaren) God came down and met us in that simple little place called Kerman. That would be my first taste of revival and there have been others. The last revival which I believe still continues started in 1994 and has only gotten deeper. The scary thing is many are clueless that God is at work today in our generation. Sometimes we have an opinion about how revival will look or not look and we end up missing out.

“God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

PICTURES OF CHRIST

PICTURES OF CHRIST

And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13

One of the telling stories in the book of Acts is this story of Peter, the lame man, and the priests. The priests knew exactly who they were dealing with, these were the disciples of that preacher, Jesus of Nazareth that they had just killed. When Peter and John were arrested for questioning about the healing of the lame man the thing that stands out is this; the priests said that these fishermen were uneducated ignoramuses (paraphrase). Obviously, the priests were struck by the miracle but they also were struck by the articulate speech of these uneducated men. What they went on to say tells the whole story; they said that these men had obviously been with Jesus. How did they know that? There was no other explanation, they spoke like Him and now there were even signs and wonders like those that followed Jesus. Here is how Charles Spurgeon sees this scripture verse.

“A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is his living biography, written out in the words and actions of his people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness; but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of him; he is like him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions.”

Have you been with Jesus lately? Has He rubbed off on you? The priests thought they had eliminated their troubles with the death of Christ. All they had managed to do was multiply their troubles. Now there were little Christs everywhere they looked. The disciples carried the very picture of Christ on their souls. Paul said that we would be transformed by the glory into the image of His Son, that is exactly what has happened.
As the story unfolded, the priests commanded the disciples not to preach in the name of Jesus any longer. The problem was this, that is exactly what they planned to do. From that day on the church in Jerusalem began to swell. Instead of one Jesus now there were thousands. The signs and wonders that followed Him were now everywhere. The housewives, the children, even the fishermen were experiencing the power of God in them and through them. How is that possible? They had all been with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is taking snapshots today. Each picture of God’s sons and daughters bear His image. Smile, He is about to take your picture, the resemblance is striking.

RENEWED POWER

RENEWED POWER

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

I had something unusual happen to me several years ago when I was invited to speak at a large gathering of college students. Actually I misread the crowd because of the passionate worship that preceded my message. I spoke about the power of renewal in my life and how I had become complacent over the years of ministry and how I needed a fresh work of the Spirit in my life. Shortly after the message began, several students left the meeting literally shouting out slogans about nazis and Hitler. I guess what made matters worse, these were actually some of the organizers of the meeting. Needless to say, the meeting scheduled for the next night was canceled. What was the point of contention? These precious students believed that there was no second work of grace; to them,what I was describing had to be demonic. Actually, the book of Acts is very clear about this. There were multiple fillings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles. Here is how R. T. Kendall describes it in his book Holy Fire.

“This event was some time after Pentecost, possibly weeks later. It shows that the same people who were filled on the Day of Pentecost were filled again—and were thus enabled to speak with renewed power. What happened was this. A forty-year-old man who had never walked was suddenly and miraculously healed by Peter and John. Everybody in Jerusalem knew who this crippled man was. After thousands saw him “walking and praising God,” Peter (again) took advantage of this opportunity to preach the gospel. At least two thousand were converted as a result (Acts 3:1–4:4). Instead of the elders and teachers of the Law being thrilled, they were indignant. They warned Peter and the other disciples “to speak no longer to anyone in this name” (Acts 4:17). Peter and John reported this to the disciples who began to pray. It is an amazing prayer. (See Acts 4:24–30.) This is when the place was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
My point is this. What happened once can happen twice. Or three times. Many times. This is why Paul wrote, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). We need to be filled—again and again.”

I have come to the conclusion that all of us need to be filled with the Spirit on a daily basis. Our world is too dangerous, our faith is too precious, and temptations are a constant threat. Only the power of the Spirit in our lives can equip us for the challenges we all face on a daily basis. As a pastor I also need continual fillings. Actually real ministry comes from the overflow of the Spirit in our lives. We must drink if we want to have anything to pour out.

SNAP, CRACKLE, POP

SNAP CRACKLE POP!

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-

Acts 4:29 “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”

Since 1973 I have felt deep within me that Frank and I live in an exciting age. When we received Christ down at the lakefront of New Orleans and found ourselves married and in bible school in California two weeks later, it greatly influenced my life in the unexpected. I like to look at it as “Snap, crackle, pop!” God starts something in your life and it is followed by an ebb and flow of trials, testings, breakthroughs and miracles. I love to read the account of Paul when he talks about, in 2 Cor. 11:23 “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” Paul experienced a lifelong journey into the depths of God. Snap, crackle and a whole lotta pops! (the pops are the breakthroughs-haha) Jesus really didn’t have to go to far out of his way to experience a Holy Ghost divine combustion taking effect. When Jesus looked up He saw Zachesus in the tree, when He steped on a boat He was caught up in a storm, the demons automatically came to Him like He was a magnet and the stories could go on and on.
Last Thursday at our “Riverday” on the north-shore proved to be one of those kind of days. What was normally a typical prayer meeting, God decided to show up and work among us. One sister in our church got up and testified how a mammogram showed up with a tumor only for her to go back and get another mammogram with the tumor gone. Then, while praying for a sister, I saw an evil spirit on her and when I laid hands on her, something came up and out. (She testified that she felt free) While I was preaching I happened to grab a girls hands and jerk them back and forth, just to have her testify later that she couldn’t move her neck (arthritis) for months and now can move her head all around.
Yes, I know what this is-it’s the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Just open and receive- POP!