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Fear Factor

Acts 4:13-21
 
 

"Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. [14] And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. [15] But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, [16] saying, 'What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. [17]  But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.' [18] And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. [19] But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; [20] for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.' [21] And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;"

 I don't know about you, but I've thoroughly enjoyed going through the forty days of purpose our church family is completing.  This was my second time through the book this year and I enjoyed it the second time as much as I did the first.  I am grateful to Dr. Warren for his insights and I pray that God will continue to use this book to His glory.  Beyond enjoying the reading, I enjoyed reading the book with my family.  We made it a part of our nightly routine to listen to the book together.  But I also enjoyed knowing that most of you were doing the same thing.  I've stuck my head in on all our Sunday Night small group discussions and was impressed with the quality of the interactions.  You guys didn't just toss softballs around the room, but engaged with one another in meaningful dialogue.  I am particularly proud of our youth.  At Centrifuge this year, I asked the youth if I needed to recruit an adult to lead their group or if the could handle it on their own.  They said they could discuss without adult supervision, and they were right.  They did an excellent job.  Last week, while discussing ministry and service, they decided as a group that they wanted to make themselves available to help members of the church with chores around their houses.  Their spokesman made it clear to me that they didn't want any pay, nor were they wanting to do a fund raiser for the youth they just want to be allowed to serve other members of the church because they love Christ and they love their church.  It sounds to me like they came to grips with the concept.  Tonight we will finish up our discussion on the book by discussing the fifth purpose God has for our lives: Missions.

 Does the thought of  "going public" with your faith and sharing it openly with the people you go to school with, your neighbors, family or co-workers intimidate you?  When it comes to missions, is fear a factor for you?

 At one point in his life, it was for Peter.  During the Passion Week, Peter was afraid to even admit he knew Jesus.  Fear conquered Peter. Oh Peter talked big.  He promised Jesus that he was willing to go to prison for him or even die for him, Let's read Luke 22:31-34.  "'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; [32] but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.' [33] And he said to Him, 'Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!' [34] And He said, 'I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.'" (NASB) 

 It happened just as Jesus said.  He denied Jesus to a servant girl in John 18:17.  "The slave-girl therefore who kept the door said to Peter, 'You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?' He said, 'I am not.'" Later, he made the same denial to a group who gathered around a fire in John 18:25.  " Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him, 'You are not also one of His disciples, are you?' He denied it, and said, 'I am not.'" And then he made the final denial to one of the relatives of Malchus in John 18:26-27.  "One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, 'Did I not see you in the garden with Him?' [27] Peter therefore denied it again; and immediately a cock crowed."

  Why was fear such a factor with Peter?  By nature, he wasn't a chicken.  In the garden, he drew his sword and was ready to fight for Jesus and in the battle he cut off Malchus' ears.  Yet he was later paralyzed by three innocent questions by people who had no power to harm him.  Why?

 In our text today, Peter was bold and would not back down from people who did have power to harm him.  After healing the lame man outside the temple, the authorities threatened Peter and John and told them they had to stop preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Peter and John responded by saying, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; [20] for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard."  Their response was bold.  It was "in your face" bold.  Peter's life went through a radical transformation from self-control to God-control and from a disturbing silence to a bold witness. 

 How do you account for the change?  How did Peter go from a timid to use the words of our governor girly man to a bold witness? And more importantly, how can you experience the same transformation?

 Well for one thing, BY THE POWER OF TEAMWORK.  When he denied Christ, he stood alone.  In this instance, he was with John.  On the day of Pentecost, he was with the other disciples.  Acts 2:14 says, "But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: 'Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words.'" We are more effective in fulfilling our mission when we stand together.  That's why I've said repeatedly during this year of opportunity that we all need to be in the same boat, facing the same direction and rowing together.  Teamwork is part of the answer, but there is more.  Instead of fear conquering Peter, Peter conquered fear BY THE POWER OF LOVE

 Remember the words of Jesus to Peter in John 21:15-17?  Let me read them to you.  "So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?'  He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My lambs.'  16 He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?'  He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Shepherd My sheep.'  17 He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?'  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?'  And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'"

 This is an extremely important text because it identifies our motivation for ministry.  We don't minister to make ourselves feel important or out of love for people or because we enjoy ministering it isn't about us we minister because we love Jesus.  This passage is important because it identifies our motivation for ministry, but also because it identifies a key component for overcoming fear: love.

 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."  (NIV) When Jamie was quite small, he and I were going door-to-door together inviting people to come to our church.  Jamie had run ahead of me a few steps and was going up to the door to knock on it when a pit bull dog lunged for him.  Without thinking I reacted by jumping between Jamie and the dog.  I yelled, "sit" to the dog and I scooped Jamie up in my arms as we slowly walked away.  I did exactly what every parent in this room would have done.  Why?  Because I passionately love my family.  I don't have to think about protecting them it comes natural to me.  In a situation where I should have been afraid, I wasn't, because of love.  2 Tim 1:7 says, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  (KJV) If you want to overcome the fear of being on mission for God, cultivate your love for Him.  Receive from Him the power, love and sound mind He's given you. 

 Which brings me to the final thing I want to say, ultimately we overcome our fear by the power of Christ.  Acts 4:13 says, "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."  Notice the observation of these authorities.  When they saw that these men were fearless, they didn't credit their confidence to training or education but to Jesus.  While there is nothing wrong with education or training, neither will provide you with the power to be on mission for God.  That special power only comes from the Lord.  Proverbs 29:25 "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."  (NIV) 

 Just like Peter and John, you can experience the same power that helped them overcome their fears and be on mission for Jesus.  Walk away from spiritual isolationism and work together with other believers, cultivate your love for Jesus and make the decision that you will minister under his power and authority, not your own.  If you do, fear will not be a factor for you.

 

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