Why are so many people uninterested in the Church today? Why do unbelievers stay away? Why do a lot of believers seem indifferent? What if part of the reason is that much of the time, the Church is boring? But what if people experienced the Church today as it is recorded for us in the Book of Acts? “Boring” would be the last word you would use to describe the Church back then! And I think that this “un-boring” expression of the Church is what everyone in our world needs. And it’s the way that the Church should be. In this message, we'll take a peek at what the Early Church looked like and wrestle with what would need to happen for us to experience that same kind of life in our churches today.
If you have your Bible with you, and I hope you do, please open it up to the Book of Acts. We're going to be in chapter five tonight looking at verses twelve through 42. It's a lot of verses to cover in one message, so you're going to want to have your Bible open so that you can follow along with me. If you don't have a Bible and you would like one, just raise your hand and David will come by and he will put one into your hands. And if you don't own a Bible, please accept this one as a gift from us to you.
The title of today's message church shouldn't be boring. And I've given it this name for two reasons. One, we're going to encounter a lot of interesting topics in today's study. We're going to touch on things like miracles, holiness, jealousy, persecution, and supernatural joy. These are all topics that could easily warrant their very own dedicated message.
And if they had their own message, it would be easy to title that message holiness or Joy or persecution. But because we're tackling all of them in one message, I had to find a way to wrap all these ideas into one big idea. And that's the first reason I titled this message the way I did. Because none of these topics are boring. All of these topics will be or should be experienced in the life of the church.
Now, the second reason I titled this message the way that I have is that I want us to think about this claim and I want us to wrestle with it because I believe that a lot of people don't think this statement is true or possible. A lot of people, most people, I would venture to say, think that the church is boring, unbelievers, definitely think the church is boring and irrelevant. That's the spiritual climate of the culture that we live in today. But why do you think they think that about the church? The answer is not that difficult.
It's because when they see the church, they see a boring church. If you think about it, what reason does our expression of the local church give them for thinking about the church any other way? If you put yourselves in the shoes of an unbeliever and you look at the Christians in our city, in our church, or any other church for that matter, what do you think they see? They would see a group of people that get together once a week for a religious gathering, and they might see us meet together another time during the week for a Bible study. Now, don't get me wrong, those are incredible parts of the Christian life, parts that I love and hold dear.
But if that's all an unbeliever ever saw us doing, do you understand why they would draw the conclusions about the church that they do? If that's all that following Jesus boils down to, then yeah, that would be boring. Unbelievers though, aren't the only ones who think the church is boring. There are many believers who think the church is boring too. Let's just be honest.
I know some of you really love the church like I do, and God is doing some amazing things in your life through and through your life right now in the life of the church. But if that's you, I think you are a part of the minority. It seems to me that most Christians are indifferent when it comes to the church. Most treat participation in the church as optional. Most don't get excited about church.
And why do you think that is? Can I suggest to you that if we take an honest assessment of the way we experience church today, when we compare it to the way the early church experienced daily life following Jesus, I think we would draw the same conclusions. Church is boring today by comparison, but it shouldn't be. And if it is boring by comparison, then we have to ask if there are things in our church experience that need to be adjusted or changed so that we can position ourselves to experience the kind of life that Jesus died for us to have. A kind of life that captures the attention of people both inside and outside the church.
I don't think anybody, Christian or nonchristian, would label the church as boring. If they saw a church that was functioning like the church was in the Book of Acts, boring would be the last word they would use to describe that church. And that's why I've titled this message church shouldn't be Boring. So let's jump into our text and we'll take a peek at what the early church looked like. Acts in verses twelve says this many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the Apostles.
They were all together in Solomon's colonnade. At this point in time, the church is still in the very early stages of its existence and the church is still growing every single day. At this point in the Book of Acts, there are most likely tens of thousands of Christians in Jerusalem. The church is meeting on the temple grounds in an area called Solomon's Colonnade, which was an area of the temple that was outside uncovered, and it was large enough for the growing church to gather there. Verses twelve says that the apostles are performing many signs and wonders.
Miraculous power has marked the church since its beginning back in chapter two, and we see this miraculous power continued to be put on display here, three chapters later. Now, you may already know this. What I'm going to say will serve as a reminder to some of you. But the apostles aren't superhumans. They're not mutants or Marvel superheroes like the Avengers, even though supernatural power is being put on display through them.
But you wouldn't be alone if you ever thought they were like superheroes because of the power they exercised. Some people back then saw the miracles that they did, and they concluded that the only explanation for it was that they were mythological Greek gods come down to earth. In Acts 14, Paul healed a man who couldn't walk. Listen to how the crowds responded. Acts, chapter 14, verse eleven says, when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the licorice language, the gods have come down to us in human form.
Barnabas they called Zeus and Paul Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought bulls and wreaths to the gates because he intended with the crowds, to offer sacrifice. See, some people thought the apostles were like superheroes when they saw the miracles that they did. But we know the apostles are not the source of the power that is being displayed through them. They are just regular people like you and me.
They are natural people who have a supernatural God working his power through them. Keep a place here in verse twelve, look back a few verses two, acts four, verses 29 to 30, and we can see the connection between God's power and the power that was displayed through the apostles. In verses twelve of our text, it says that the signs and wonders were being done through the hands of the apostles. And if you like underlining things in your Bible, underline that phrase, through the hands of the apostles. Back in Acts four, the church gathered after Peter and John were released from being interrogated by the religious leaders for healing a layman.
And when they gathered together, the church prayed. Listen to what they prayed for. Acts four, verses 29. And now, Lord, consider their threats and grant your servants may speak your word with all boldness while you stretch out your hand for healing. And signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
So underline that two in verse 30, your hand whose hand? The Lord's hand. The church prayed for God to move his hand among them by way of doing signs and wonders. God, your hand can make signs and wonders happen, they prayed. So please do that while we continue to preach your gospel.
They prayed for God's hand to move in Acts 430. And we see God's hand move here in Acts 512. This was a specific answer to prayer, god's hand moving through the hands of the apostles. So go ahead and write this down on your outline. It's the first filling.
God works his power through his people and through their prayers. God works his power through his people and through their prayers. I wonder what God might do through us if we prayed God sized prayers. Let's keep praying and we're going to find out. Now, I believe that God still performs miracles today.
I believe the bible says he does. And now if that's true, then why don't we see signs and wonders being performed in the church today like they were back in the Book of Acts? Here's three quick reasons. Number one, miracles served a special function in Jesus ministry and in the apostles ministry. One of the main purposes of miracles was to validate the person and work of Jesus and then to authenticate the eyewitness accounts of Jesus disciples.
Miracles gave people a very good reason to believe the words that came out of the mouth of Jesus and came out of the mouth of his apostles. Number two, we don't pray for miracles that much in the Book of James. We are taught that sometimes we don't have because we don't ask. The early church prayed for miracles and then God did miracles. And I wonder why we don't pray for miracles today.
I wonder what would happen if we did more. And then number three, we don't preach Jesus name nearly enough. The miracles that were performed in the Book of Acts accompanied the preaching of the Gospel. The more the Gospel is preached, the more chances we have of seeing God's power connected to it. And in my opinion, one reason we don't see miracles today like they did back then is because we don't preach the Gospel to unbelievers nearly enough to warrant miracles being done.
Verse 13 continue. No one else there join them, but the people spoke well of them. There are two things at play here. The crowds of unbelievers who witnessed what God was doing among the church didn't want to come near the church. But at the same time they also had nothing bad to say about the church either.
Verse 13 says that they only had good things to say about it. So what's going on here? People were staying away from the church, but they didn't stay away from the church because they hated it. Have you ever heard an unbeliever today joke about not wanting to come to church? And the reason that they give you is I can't come to church because as soon as I enter I will just burst into flames.
I hear that one quite a bit and I like it. But that's why people wanted to keep their distance from the church in our text, not the literal flames, but you're going to see where I'm going. They didn't stay away from the church because they hated it or because they thought what the church was doing was dumb. They stayed away from the church because it was holy. God was in the midst of his people and there was a very real sense of awe and reverence connected to what God was doing in and through his church.
And God wasn't playing games with his church. People had just died in this church for lying and hypocrisy. That's what happened to Ananias and safari in the beginning of Acts Five, if you remember that from a couple of weeks ago. And when that news spread. It kept people from treating the church lightly.
Some people back then didn't want to die, and I can appreciate that they didn't want their sinfulness to be exposed in the presence of a holy God and in the midst of a holy people. I don't know about you, but I think we need God to make his church like that again today. Even though the holiness of the church kept some people away from the church back then, we need to regain a pursuit of holiness in the church today in a major way. If the word holiness freaks you out at all, let me remind you that holiness is not legalism. It is not hypocrisy, we are better than you are attitude.
Holiness is a byproduct of lives being touched by and transformed by a holy God. Our sins that at one time made us unholy have been removed, and now the holy God lives in us and amongst us. The presence of the holy living God dwells among us, and we want to live lives that honor Him. We want to live lives that are free from sin. A total and complete freedom from the presence of sin cannot be perfectly achieved in this life, but it is something that we can and should strive towards.
Holiness, says God, I want every single aspect of my life to honor you. I want my life to be free from the stains of sin. Do you know what you get if a bunch of individual Christians start to live a life like that? You get a holy church. I wish people stayed away from the church today for this reason, because we're holy.
Sadly, that's not the case, is it? People stay away from the church today because they think the church is a joke and completely unnecessary. People stay away from the church today because they can't be bothered with it. People stay away from the church today because they believe it has no power to actually do anything of any significance in their lives. One of the first reasons unbelievers give for not liking the church is that it's filled with hypocrites.
People stay away from the Church today because it seems to be filled with a bunch of anonymous and safaris. The only difference is that today we aren't physically dropping dead because of our hypocrisy. People are not staying away from the church today because of how awesome it is. We have to let this teach us a lesson. Coveting the standard of holiness that we pursue in the church doesn't end up bringing people into the church.
Some Christians believe it will. Some believe that if we lower the bar of what it means to trust Jesus and to actually follow the way he calls us to live our lives, maybe that will make the church more accessible to people, and then maybe more people will come. But as that worked, that approach has unsurprisingly been an abysmal failure. We have lowered the bar for following Jesus so much, and people still don't care about Him or his church. And maybe that's the problem.
Maybe people don't care about the church because we've lowered the bar so much, and now there's no sense of awe or reverence connected to the church anymore. The unbelievers in Acts five stayed away from the church because it was holy and it was awesome. And I wish that was the reason people were staying away from the church today. Verse 14. Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers, multitudes, both men and women.
Now, this seems to contradict what we just read in verses 13. Verse 13 says that no one dared join the church. But then in verse 14, we read that people ended up joining the church, multitudes of them. So what's going on here? Unbelievers continue to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of his death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection from the dead.
And some of them were getting saved. These people were becoming believers. And when they were saved, the Holy Spirit flooded their life, and the love of God filled their heart. And do you know what the love of God does? The Bible says perfect love casts out fear.
When the love of God fills a person's life, you won't be able to keep that person away from the church. Even if the church is so holy that people were dying in it because of their hypocrisy. When God comes into a life, the love of God will overcome any fear associated with dying. New believers will want as much of God and of his people as they can get. You couldn't keep Christians away from the church back then, even if you tried.
Those who didn't have God kept the church at arm's length because they were afraid. But those who received God were drawn into the fellowship of God's people. The holiness of the church doesn't push believers away. It draws them in verses 15. As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on COTS and nats, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them.
This is interesting. God was displaying so much of his power in those days that people even wanted Peter's shadow to fall on them so that they would he healed. Did Peter's shadow actually heal people? Or was this a superstitious belief of the people? If you go back and read slowly through verse 15 again, you'll notice that nowhere does it say that people were actually healed by Peter's shadow.
They might have been, but the Bible doesn't explicitly say they were. It just as people wanted Peter's shadow to fall on them. And if there was actual healing done by Peter's shadow falling on people, that miracle would be reminiscent of the way a woman was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus garments. Do you remember that story. Luke, chapter eight, verses 43 says this a woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of his robe.
Instantly her bleeding stopped. The piece of cloth attached to Jesus didn't have any power in it, but it was the faith of the woman in Jesus' power that led her to being healed that would he what's happening here. In verse 15, there was a recognition of the power of God on display in the church in Jerusalem, and people believed they only needed the slightest interaction with that power in order to be healed. Even if it was Peter's shadow, I don't think it mattered what it was. There was faith that God would he them.
Verse 16 in addition, a multitude came together from the town surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed. Now, at this point in the Book of Acts, the church hasn't made its way to the surrounding towns with the Gospel yet. Instead, the people from these towns were coming to the Church in Jerusalem. The news of the Church was spreading into further areas outside of Jerusalem, but the church hadn't physically made its way to those areas yet. This distinction between going to people versus the people coming to us is important to note because Jesus didn't say to his disciples, "If you build it, they will come."
Jesus didn't give Christians the attraction model of church. He didn't say, do everything I command you, and people will eventually come to you to check the church out. Instead, Jesus commissioned the Church to go to these towns and then to the rest of the world. Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, Go, therefore make disciples of all nations. Go, he said to the nations, and make disciples out of the people you meet when you get there.
Acts 1:8 Jesus says, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. How can we be witnesses in the ends of the earth if we don't actually send Christians to the ends of the earth? At the heart of the mission Jesus gave us is the call to go, not a call to wait for people to come to us. We will eventually see the church move out into these areas in upcoming chapters in Acts. And if we are going to be a biblical church today, we must focus on doing the same thing.
We need to focus on going to people who don't have the Gospel so that we can bring it to them. We can't wait for people to come to us. We must go to them. Verse 17 then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with them who belonged to the party of the statueses were filled with jealousy.
The religious leaders were so jealous of the apostles and their ministry. These religious leaders had killed Jesus, and they thought that would have been the end of him and his teaching. It usually is when you kill someone. But then Jesus went ahead and rose from the dead, and that put a little bit of a damper on the religious leaders plans to shut him down. This Jesus movement that they had tried to snuff out unsuccessfully when they killed Jesus was now gaining momentum with each passing day.
And this growing movement wasn't centered on the religious leaders or their doctrine. It was all about Jesus. The crowds weren't excited about what the religious leaders had to say anymore. They were excited about what the apostles were saying about Jesus, and that's what made the religious leaders jealous. We should take a couple of things away from this.
If or when we grow as a church, expect jealousy from other people, even other churches. It's an ugly part of human nature. We don't have to like it, but we cannot be surprised if it ever happens to us. But we have to be aware of the flip side, too. If or when other churches grow, we have to guard ourselves against jealousy.
If another church is experiencing a special grace from Jesus, that's causing it to grow. And the gospel is spreading throughout the city with power and people are getting saved and getting baptized and getting disciples, we cannot be jealous of that. We have to celebrate the building of Jesus church in our city. Even if the Master chooses to use a different church in a different way than he is using us, we need to be more like John the Baptist and less like the sadducees. John the Baptist said this of Jesus he must increase, I must decrease.
And if we are Christians, the only thing we have to care about is that the name of Jesus is being lifted up. There's no room for jealousy if that's happening. So we shouldn't care how big our platform is, as long as Jesus is getting all of the glory. Verse 18 so they arrested the apostles and put them in public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, go and stand in the temple and tell the people all about this life.
I don't know if you know this about God, but he has an incredible sense of humor and is put on full display right here. Here's why this scene is funny. The group of religious leaders who are persecuting the church are made up primarily of sad juices. The sad juices don't believe in the supernatural. They don't believe in resurrection from the dead.
So that means they don't believe that Jesus rose, but they also don't believe in the supernatural beings we call angels. The sadducees don't believe in angels. They don't believe angels exist. And so of course, God used an angel to release the apostles from the prison that the Sadgy sees had just put them in. I think that's funny beginning part of verse 21 hearing this, the call to go and preach in the temple, they the apostles entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
I love this. Look at what the apostles do with the freedom that God just gave them. They didn't use the freedom God had just given them, so they go and hide from the religious leaders so that they couldn't be arrested again. They didn't get out of jail and then make plans immediately to move out of Jerusalem. They didn't use their newfound freedom to pursue their dreams or their personal comfort.
They used the freedom God had just given them to go straight back to obeying the call of God. They went straight back to preaching the Gospel, even though preaching the gospel is what got them put in prison in the first place. If you're here with me right now in this room, that means you're not in prison for preaching the Gospel. Praise God. Praise God.
But that doesn't mean that it is in a different kind of prison that you want to be freed from. Some of you right now are trapped in an area of your life and you long for God to open the door so that you can walk out into freedom. Some of you are trapped by physical limitations and you want God to free you from those. Some of you are trapped by difficult circumstances and you want God to free you from those. Some of you are trapped by addictions or other vices and you want God to free you from those.
You want to be free from the things that are hindering you. Can I ask you a very important question? What would you do with the freedom, that freedom, if God gave it to you? What if the door was unlocked and you were set free to walk out of your illness or disability or circumstances or addiction and you were able to walk out of that just like the apostles were able to walk out of the prison doors that day? What would you do with your new freedom?
Would you use your new freedom to obey the call God has on your life in a new and a greater way? Would you have gone back into the Temple? Or would you use your newfound freedom to pursue all those things in your life that you always wished you could have done but you couldn't, but now you can. Would you pursue those things even if those things were the things that kept you from obeying God? I'm not God, so I don't know why he brings freedom into people's lives when he does.
But I can't help but wonder if he's using some of the prisons in our life to teach us to depend on Him. And if he freed us from some of those prisons, I wonder if we would use that new freedom to honor Him or to honor ourselves. Whatever the case may be, I can confidently encourage you to do this in this next villain on your outline. Use whatever freedom God gives you to do his will in your life.
Use whatever freedom God gives you to do his will in your life. Verse 21. Halfway through verse 21, we'll pick up there. When the high priest and those who are with him arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin, the full counsel of the Israelites, and sent orders to the jail to have them brought. But when the servants got there, they did not find them in the jail.
So they returned and reported. We found the jail securely locked with the guards standing in front of the doors. But when we opened them, we found no one inside. As the captain of the temple, police and the chief priests heard these things, they were baffled about them. Wondering what would come of this.
Someone came and reported to them look, the men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people. Not much explanation is needed here for these verses. They were baffled by what God had done. The apostles were put in prison and then they were unexplainably not in prison anymore, and they were back in the temple preaching. Verse 26 then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force because they were afraid the people might stone them.
I could imagine them going to pick up the apostles but trying to keep it hush-hush. Peter, John, can you guys do us a huge favor? A big solid here? Could you come with us? I'm going to take you somewhere.
And the apostles did quietly. They honored the request. The apostles didn't put up a fight. Understand? They could have easily started a riot right here.
They had the crowd on their side. They could have used that to their advantage, but they didn't. There are times that you will need to resist and there are times when you will need to just go with it, even though it's not right. May God grant us the wisdom to know what's required of us in each situation. Verse 27.
After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin. And the high priest asked, didn't we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood. The religious leaders hate Jesus so much that they couldn't even bring themselves to audibly say the name of Jesus out loud. You can see that in verse 28 they say this name and this man's blood.
They hate Jesus so much. And the apostles are given a stern talking to here. The religious leaders bring up two points. Of contention with them. Issue number one according to the court, the apostles weren't supposed to be teaching the people in this name referring to Jesus.
They remind the apostles that they had already given them this warning once before. Verse 28 said, didn't we strictly order you not to teach in this name? We've already told you about this, guys. And they did. Back in Acts 418, when Peter and John stood before the same court, they were told not to tell people about Jesus.
So they're upset with the apostles because they didn't heed their first warning. But they add something else to the issue they have with the apostles. Issue number two the religious leaders seem to be getting tired of the apostles blaming them for Jesus' death. They say to them in verses 28, you are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood. How disconnected from reality can these religious leaders be?
Don't blame us for Jesus's death? Are you kidding me? These are the very religious leaders who had Jesus killed only weeks before this. They planned it. They orchestrated it.
No one has to make up a story in order to have the blame placed on them. They did it. They're guilty. The apostles respond appropriately to both issues. The religious leaders bring up to the issue of not speaking to people about Jesus.
They reply in verses 29, we must obey God rather than people. The apostles are like, we remember what you said to us, but do you not remember what we said in reply to you back then? Nothing's changed. We are going to continue coveting God even if that means we have to disobey you and obeying God, means that we are going to tell everyone about Jesus. And they go on to reply to the second issue this way.
In verses 30 to 32, the God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging him on a tree. God exalted this man to his right hand as ruler and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him. The apostles are like, we are not trying to make innocent people take the rap for Jesus death. You guys are the ones who killed him.
Stop trying to weasel your way out of that. And as the apostles paint the religious leaders into a corner regarding their role in Jesus'death, they also share a quick but thorough presentation of the Gospel with them yet again. I put the pieces of their Gospel presentation on your outline for you. Verse 33 let's keep going. When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
Well, that escalated quickly. The religious leaders go from questioning the apostles to flying into a murderous rage against them. But then one of the religious leaders speaks up almost in defense of the apostles. Verse 34 but a pharisee named Gamalo, a teacher of the law who is respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. He said to them, Men of Israel, be careful about what you're about to do to these men.
Some time ago, thudas rose up claiming to be somebody, and a group of about 400 men rallied to him. He was killed, and all of his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas the Galilean, rose up in the days of the census and attracted the following he also perished, and all his followers were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail.
But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God. They were persuaded by him. Now, at first glance, this sounds like great wisdom. Gamaliel says to the court, if this movement is of human origin, it will fail.
If this movement is of God, it cannot fail, and you will not win, and you might be fighting against God. Sounds like solid advice, but after a little bit of thinking, I don't think this advice is that great. It's lacking in two ways. One, we know that not every manmade scheme fizzles out that quickly. Just think of Nazi Germany, for example.
That was a man, and that was a powerhouse that didn't just fade quietly into the night. Two, for as wise and respected as Gamaliel is, he gives zero encouragement to examine the apostles claims about Jesus. Wise counsel would suggest at least to examine the claims, then make a judgment. But gambleeo doesn't suggest they do any of that. Any wisdom that doesn't take into account the plain evidence for God is not wisdom at all.
But either way verses 39 says that the court was persuaded to take Gamma Lille's advice to leave the apostles alone. Kind of. Verse 40 after they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. The apostles were tortured. That's what flogging was.
Flogging consisted of 39 lashes on the exposed back. This kind of punishment killed people frequently back then. And you may remember that Jesus was flogged before he was crucified. This is the first record of physical persecution of Christians. They had been arrested unlawfully before this, but they hadn't been tortured before this.
This was the first time, and it wouldn't be the last. And remember what their crime was. Their crime was that they were going around telling people the truth about Jesus. Verses 41 then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin and underlined this in your Bible, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the name just so that you understand what's going on here. The apostles left Rejoicing after they had just been tortured.
Don't skim past this.
How can this be explained? How is it possible to be full of joy after you've just had the flesh torn off your back? I don't think I have to tell you that it's not normal to be filled with joy after you've been tortured. That's not a natural response. This is a supernatural response.
In this moment, the apostles are experiencing a supernatural level of joy that few people ever get to experience in this life. It's a joy that the Bible talks about. Write this down and then we're going to unpack it a little bit. There is a joy in Christ that can only be experienced through suffering for Him. There is a kind of joy in Christ that can only be experienced through suffering for Him.
Now, to be sure, you can experience a measure of joy in Christ apart from any suffering that is completely possible. You can experience joy in Christ when you read his word to you, when you sing his praises, when you pray, when you spend time in fellowship with other believers, when you serve, when you give. This fuels a Christian. It gives us joy when we do these things. And you can know a level of joy in all of these things.
And you can know this level of joy without suffering any persecution. But there is a level of joy in Christ that can only be experienced when we suffer for Him. So what's the connection between suffering and joy? I'm going to give you three ideas for your consideration. Number one, there could be joy connected to suffering for Jesus's name, because now I can understand what he went through to a greater degree.
Let me try to explain what I mean by comparing this to the idea of loving someone who is trapped in the grip of drug addiction. Now, you don't have to have experienced the hell of drug addiction yourself before you can love someone who is trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. You don't need to have lived on the street, a downtown East Side before you can love a person who lives there. But I'll tell you what, you can sympathize with that person on a deeper level if you have walked a mile in their shoes, if you have experienced the prison of addiction firsthand, and with it the feeling of being ostracized from your family and from your community. If you know the powerlessness, if you know the self loathing that comes from that life, then you are able to relate to a person who is in that exact same situation on a much deeper level than someone who has never shared that same experience before.
You can know Jesus by having his spirit in you. You can know Him by reading his words. You can try to imagine what it was like for Him to be treated shamefully. But when you experience the same kind of persecution that he experienced, that enables you to relate to Him in a way that you wouldn't be able to otherwise. And if you already love Jesus, then that experience would only help you to love Him even more.
That would produce joy. Number two, there can be joy connected to suffering for Jesus name because it validates our faith in Him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promised that his disciples would be treated the same way he was. Jesus said in John 15, verses 20, remember the word I spoke to you. A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. If we live the life of Jesus, we will be treated the way Jesus was treated. I think there would he been this sense in the apostles that they were doing the things that Jesus had asked them to do, because this was the response they were receiving for doing it. They were persecuted for telling people the truth about Jesus, just like Jesus was.
I'm being like Him. I'm being treated like he was. I'm doing the things he told me to do, and I'm experiencing the things he said I would. And I think that would produce joy in a follower of Jesus. And we have to ask ourselves this question what does it mean if I am a Christian and I have never experienced any hardship connected to my Christianity?
It's a difficult but necessary question to ask. Number three, there can be joy connected to suffering for Jesus name, because I can experience the presence of Jesus in a special way only through suffering for Him. When a person is persecuted because of Jesus, they don't just get a greater understanding in their minds of what he went through. I believe the Bible teaches that there is a deeper level of experiencing the presence of Jesus in our life when we suffer for Him. And if you love Jesus and he's the supreme treasure of your life, then having the chance to experience even more of Him in this life is worth any amount of suffering.
The Apostle Paul wrote about this connection between suffering for Jesus and experiencing him. In Philippians, chapter three, verse ten, he says, My goal is to know Him Christ and the power of his resurrection. That's where a lot of people get really excited. I want to know Christ and the power of his victory. But then you keep reading, oh, and I want to know the fellowship of his sufferings.
One of Paul's goals was to know the fellowship of Jesus suffering. That's an interesting phrase. There's a relationship that's connected to Jesus suffering that Paul wanted to experience. He wanted to be in that suffering with Jesus and know Jesus in the midst of it. Romans 816 to 17.
Paul goes on to say, the spirit Himself testifies together with our Spirit that we are God's children. And if children also heirs of God and covet with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him when we suffer for Jesus in the same way that Jesus Himself suffered, there is for us a particular kind of intimacy that we get to experience with Him. I can know Jesus on a deeper level if I am treated the way he was treated by those who hated Him. The Spirit testifies to us that we are children of God when we suffer for Him. And what does it mean that the Spirit testifies to us, other than Him doing a special kind of supernatural work in us while we suffer or after we suffer, to let us know what it is he's testifying to?
The Spirit is doing something in us in the midst of our suffering. I can imagine the Spirit ministering to the apostles something along the lines of, they did this to Jesus and now they're doing it to you. They are treating you like they treated Him. You are being like Him in this moment, rejoice. And then this is something they would have experienced from the inside by the Spirit, and that would have filled them with joy.
Jesus is in us by way of His Spirit being in us. And when we suffer for his name, he lets us know that he is with us in a tangible way. And there's supernatural joy for the believer in that experience. So we love Jesus. We should want to experience as much of Him as possible, as much as we possibly can.
That doesn't mean we should seek out persecution, right? If I get to know more of Jesus in suffering for Him, maybe I should just try to get persecuted. We shouldn't walk around telling people, I'm a Christian, now punch me in the face so I can have joy. It doesn't work like that. Probably not a great evangelistic strategy either.
But we won't ever have to seek out persecution. If we are seeking to submit our lives to Jesus, that's because if we give our lives to doing whatever it is he asks us to do, then persecution will find us. Jesus promised it would. We don't have to go around looking for it. The apostles weren't looking for persecution in Acts 5.
They were just preaching the Gospel. They weren't looking for persecution, but they also didn't shrink from it when it came. And that's why they were filled with joy when it did come. They got to know Jesus in a way that they wouldn't have known Him otherwise. And this isn't natural.
This is supernatural. It's a supernatural joy. Verse 42 every day in the temple and in various houses, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. We come full circle. We saw the Church gathered in the temple in Solomon's colony all the way back in verse twelve.
And here they are again in verses 42 back in the temple, and they are continuing to teach and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a church that is unashamed of the name of Jesus, and they are going to lift up his name no matter what it may cost them. So let me ask you this. Now that we finished reading these verses in Acts five, do you come away from ending these thinking to yourself, wow, boring, boring? Not even close, right?
Miracles, holiness, evangelism, jealousy, persecution, supernatural, joy, all in only 31 verses. How come we don't experience that? What would need to change for us in order for us to begin to experience the kind of life the church is meant to live? Because I'm going to assume you want to experience, like really experience the power of Jesus in a radical way in your life and in his church and in this city and beyond. I'm going to assume that.
So we can ask this question another way what's the remedy for boring church? And the answer is simple. But simple doesn't necessarily mean easy. If the church isn't going to be boring, it needs to be inconsistent. Radical obedience to Jesus.
Obeying. Everything Jesus has commanded us to do will produce the kind of unboring church we read about in Acts. That was their secret. That was their secret sauce. They obeyed Jesus.
Not really a secret, it's just like the point of Christianity. But obedience to Jesus was what led the church to experience the grace and power of Jesus in their lives. There is nothing awesome about a church that doesn't obey Christ. But here's the catch. Radical obedience to Jesus, like we read about in Acts, will bring persecution into our lives.
But what's the alternative? To radically obeying Jesus? Not obeying him obeying him halfway or halfheartedly. Picking and choosing which commands of Jesus to obey will produce an impotent and boring church. It will be a church that lacks power and life.
That kind of church will not be holy, and nobody will be interested in becoming a part of a church like that. Doing boring church will stave off persecution for a while. It's my opinion that Satan has no interest in persecuting a church that isn't obeying Jesus. If we aren't obeying Jesus, we're already ineffectual in the war against the kingdom of darkness. A boring church is not overcoming the gates of Hades.
Satan doesn't have to fight against a dormant church. So we can be boring and comfortable. And that will keep persecution at bay for a while. Because even if we don't obey Jesus, persecution will come eventually. We will see this pattern play out soon.
In the book of Acts, the early church didn't press the issue of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. They seemed to be content hanging out in Jerusalem and growing the church there. But then persecution broke out. And when it did, it scattered Christians all over the known world. And with that scattering, the gospel finally spread to where Jesus wanted it to go all along.
So we can obey Jesus or we can disobey Jesus. One will lead to a holy church, the other will lead to a boring church. But either way, know this jesus is going to build his church. It's going to grow. He just lets us choose what kind of church we're going to be in that building process.
How does a church become a radically obedient church? The answer doesn't involve me making you feel bad for not living a kind of life that invites persecution from a world that hates Christ. Shaming someone into doing something is never the answer. So I'm not going to do that. The answer is this we need to love Jesus more than anything else in this world.
But how can I make you do that? I can't make us love Christ. I can talk about how awesome Jesus is, how beautiful he is, how worthy he is, how good he is, or even how much he loves you. But mere words cannot make a person want to lay down their life for Jesus in each and every situation they face. For that, we need a miracle.
We need the real, tangible, powerful, beautiful presence of Jesus to flood our hearts and our minds. We need to experience the reality of the resurrected Jesus again and again and again. Because if you and I got just a taste of the heavenly glory that's found in Jesus, then and only then would everything in this world that used to grasp our affections begin to become strangely dim in comparison to the glory that's in Jesus. We need Jesus to work a miracle in our hearts. We need revival that takes place in the church.
We need this revelation of Jesus way more than we need the supernatural working of signs and wonders that we read about in verse twelve. And how did those signs and wonders come about? The church prayed for God to do those miracles. And you know what? He did them.
He did those. So that's the answer to how we live the kind of lives God is calling us to live. We pray that God glorifies Himself in us and we keep praying until he does it. And when he answers that prayer, then and only then, the church cannot be stopped. If we behold Jesus as the most amazing reality in all of his existence, then and only then will we lay down our lives in radical obedience to Him.
We will love Him more than anything. And if that happens, there will be nothing boring about the kind of life that church experiences.
I'm going to pray for God to do this in us. I'm going to pray that he does it. I want to keep praying throughout the days and weeks and months and years until as the Lord carries that he does that kind of miracle in our life. As I begin to pray, I'm going to actually invite the worship team to come up. I'm going to invite you to actually bow your heads and pray.
Pray this with me. And as I'm praying for this, and I'm praying for me first, and I'm praying for us as a church, make this prayer your prayer. If this is what you want God to do in your life, take the words and make them your own. So let's pray. Father, we just want to pray the way that Your word models us to pray, because it's a perfect way to pray.
Jesus, you told the disciples to ask the Father to hallow his name, for the Father, to set his name apart as holy and as awesome. And so Father, we're asking that you would do that in our lives right now. If we're lukewarm, if we're complacent, if we feel spiritually dead or lazy, lord, we need a fresh touch from you. We need the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened. We need to see the risen Christ with those spiritual eyes of our heart.
We need to behold you. God. Show us Your beauty. Show us your power and your mercy and your forgiveness. Show us Your wisdom.
Show us how you're holding the whole entire universe together by the Word of Your power. Show us how you're working all things together for good. Show us how you're building your church. Give us vision, give us excitement, Lord, but make these breathe on these dead bones and make them come alive. You say in Your Word, Lord, that if we ask the Father for the Holy Spirit, you will give it to us.
So that's what we're asking, Father. Give us the Holy Spirit and cause Him to be given to us continually, over and over and over again, keep washing over us. Be that living water Jesus that you talked about in John seven. These rivers of living water rushing from within us, flow in us and satisfy us, but flow out of us to touch a lost and broken and dying world and help us to minister to them in Your name. But Lord, that will never happen until you captivate our hearts.
So we pray, Lord, that you would captivate our hearts, hold our hearts, keep our hearts, and don't let our hearts go. Don't let us wander after the things in this world that cannot and will not satisfy us. Don't let us wander off into things in this world thinking that they're going to bring us joy and they're only going to destroy and paint and tarnish our life and make us ineffectual for You, Jesus, we need a miracle. So God, would you move Your hand in our hearts and show us Your glory and pray these things, Jesus, in Your name, amen. Amen.