Wednesday, June 28, 2023

           Acts 5 recorded the persecution that the apostles suffered at the hands of the Sadducees.  This persecution was motivated by “jealousy” as these religious leaders plainly saw just how much attention and influence the apostles were gaining in their presentation of the gospel.  There was no buzz or energy surrounding the Sadducees and their work.  We read in Acts 5:18 what the Sadducees did: “They arrested the apostles and put them in public jail.”  Jealousy can often lead to extremes and overreaching behavior.  But these apostles did not stay imprisoned.  No walls, cells or doors could hold them or contain the gospel.  And to think otherwise was a fool’s errand.  The Bible says, “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out” (Acts 5:19).  And soon, the apostles returned to the temple courts to preach the gospel of Jesus (Acts 5:20). 
            A bit later in Acts 5, Peter, in his own words, offered a defense of the preaching and teaching that the apostles were doing.  The Bible says, “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:29).  Peter taught the importance of trust and obedience.  Christians occasionally sing a hymn by the name “Trust and Obey.”  Those two words are important pillars in the Christian faith.  To trust means we believe God will provide and through God we will prevail.  The trails of faith that we often walk are not always easy but we take comfort in knowing that we never walk alone.  To obey means we prefer God’s ways to the ways of the world.  We will endeavor to do what is right and good at all times and in all ways.  Again, obedience is not easy.  But we trust that God provides the strength we need to serve and honor Him as He would like.
            Peter’s words help us to recognize at least four other truths about our walk with the Lord.  First, our walk is purposeful.  We are not just zig-zagging through life doing whatever we like whenever we like it.  We follow Christ—in humility, in trust and in obedience.  Christians often sing another hymn by the name “Footsteps of Jesus.”  And we sing that we will follow those steps wherever they may take us.  We can lose sight of where God is leading us if we grow lazy in things like Bible reading, prayer, worship and time alone with the Lord.  It is in the daily disciplines of faith that we begin to discern where God is leading and what He is doing.
            Second, God’s standards are always right.  We often discover today that the world’s ways or culture’s commandments are in conflict with what the Lord’s ways are.  But Peter made it clear what we are to do—we obey God’s ways rather than human ways.  We lean on the Lord and not ourselves.  The ancient command in Proverbs 3:5-6 is worth remembering: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Doing what is right is not always without challenge.  But obedience leads to the pathways that are right and good.
            Third, we have to choose to follow the Lord.  We have to decide to trust Him.  We
have to make a decision to live obediently.  Our default mode is disobedience and pridefulness.  Left to our own thoughts and opinions, we are likely to turn away from God much more than we turn toward Him.  We tend to want to sit on the throne of our lives much more than we want God to occupy that position.  Obedience is not an involuntary action.  It is not like a heart beating or lungs breathing.  When presented with conflicting pathways, we have to assess which way leads to the Lord and which way carries us away from Him.  Adam and Eve had a choice in the Garden of Eden.  They listened to the serpent rather than the Lord and lost their place in the world’s perfect paradise that God had given them.  By contrast, Peter, James and John listened to Jesus when He called and became fishers of men.  Choosing the Lord is a daily act—and often it can be a minute-by-minute decision when the enemy is really leaning against us.
            Fourth, Peter’s confidence reminds us that no one ever regrets listening to the Lord.  That decision is never wrong.  That decision never leaves us broken or dismayed.  And we never make that decision in isolation.  The Holy Spirit is with us and in us.  He empowers us to do what is right.  Choosing God is the right choice for both earth and eternity.  Obedience is its own reward here and now.  And our trust and obedience will be affirmed in eternity.  I doubt that you have ever had a situation where you could say you listened to the Lord and His Word and regretted the outcome.  But, I imagine, there are plenty of occasions where we have not listened to the Lord and deeply wished we could have had a do-over. 
            May we have the same courage and conviction that Peter did and choose to obey the Lord more than anything.  May we stand with the same trust and obedience seeing only Him and His ways and not the confusion and cloudiness of culture or human wisdom.  Perhaps the last words of Acts might be an encouragement to us.  May we speak of Christ and live for Him with “all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31b). 
            Have a great Wednesday!  Join us tonight at 6:30pm in the assembly room for our second summer Prayer and Praise Time.  May God bless you today as you live for and trust Him.    

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