• Tony Birkhead

Are you Sure? Week - 2




Faith takes Courage and Courage takes Faith!


INTRODUCTION

What is the most dramatic thing you have ever witnessed? Do you enjoy telling people about what you experienced? Why or why not?

What, in your own words, does it mean to be a witness? Why do you think Jesus chose that word to describe what His followers would be in the world?

Acts 1:8 gives the church, both past and present, its marching orders. We are to faithfully share with the rest of the world the story of what Jesus has done for us. We can do this confidently because we believe that we have been changed by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and sent out as witnesses to change the world. Peter and John demonstrate what that looks like in Acts 4.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Acts 4:1-22

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. 5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ ACTS 4:1-7.

What were the reasons for the opposition of the Sadducees to Peter’s healing and sermon from Acts 3?

Take a look back at Acts 3:1-10. What does Peter’s response to the beggar reveal about his belief in God? About God’s ability to work through us?

Peter understood that God wants to use us to bless others. He expects us to do only what we can, to give only what we have. Then we are to trust Him to work through our efforts to minister to others in the name of Jesus.

Peter and John landed in jail because of their testimony about Jesus following that healing. Why does sharing the gospel of Jesus provoke people to oppose the message and the messengers?

How did those in the temple listening to Peter and John react to their message? What various responses have you received from people when you’ve shared about your relationship with Jesus?

What was the significance of the question the council asked Peter and John in verse 7? Have you ever felt like you didn’t have the authority to share the gospel because of a lack of education or position?

The Sadducees judged the apostles and looked down on them because they were not well educated (4:13). They had not received training at the feet of the rabbis and had no official standing in Judaism. To the Sanhedrin these disciples were nobodies, ordinary men who had assumed religious authority to which they were not entitled. So, they locked Peter and John in prison.

Think about Peter’s life before the Book of Acts. How was he changed by Jesus? How were all the disciples changed when the Holy Spirit fell on the church at Pentecost?

Do those changes encourage you? How do you identify with the changes these men went through?

Just like He did in the lives of Peter and John, Jesus changes everything for His followers. And, just like Peter and John, we have the same Holy Spirit living inside of us. As Christians, then, we can confidently take our place as witnesses beside these men, not because of our own greatness, but because of how good Jesus has been to us.

READ ACTS 4:8-12.

What motivated Peter to again share the gospel with the religious leaders? What is the main point of his testimony in these verses?

If you were arrested, brought before a judge, and accused of testifying and witnessing about Jesus Christ, how do you think you would respond?

Verse 8 notes that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” which gave him the courage to speak honestly before his interrogators. To be filled with the Spirit means to submit to His control and power. No matter how “ordinary” we feel, the Holy Spirit works through us in extraordinary ways.

What is the meaning of verse 12? Why would this be considered a bold statement today? When have you experienced or witnessed push back to this truth?

READ ACTS 4:13-20.

What do you think was the source of Peter and John’s courage? What did the crowd notice about Peter and John?

Do you notice a difference in your courage and enthusiasm for the gospel when you spend quality time with God? Explain some specific ways it might be evident to others that you have been with Jesus.

What does the fact that the men seemed so “ordinary” communicate about the work of God? In what ways can this encourage us in our relationship with God?

Read verses 18-20 again. How did the religious leaders’ response affect Peter and John? What implication does their example have on our witness?

MOVING FORWARD

  • What does the fact that Peter and John seemed so “ordinary” communicate about the work of God? In what ways can this encourage us in our relationship with God?

  • What are some of the most common excuses Christians make for not sharing the gospel with others? How do the principles of today’s study challenge such excuses?

  • What are you willing to risk in order to share the gospel? What is one practical step you could take this week to grow in your love for Christ and you passion for the gospel?

PRAY TOGETHER

Pray the following together with your group: “Lord, thank You for Your wonderful acts. What You did then, please do now. What You did through them, please do through us!”

COMMENTARY

Acts 4:1-22

4:1-3 The religious authorities confronted and ultimately arrested Peter and John for unauthorized teaching about the resurrection from the dead by using Jesus as the example. The Sadducees in particular were provoked by this, for they did not believe in resurrection because they did not think it was taught in the Pentateuch, the only portion of the Hebrew Bible they acknowledged as authoritative (Matt. 22:23). The apostles were held in custody overnight because Sanhedrin trials were not conducted at night. Rome had granted the Sanhedrin legal authority over the temple area since disputes arising there were religious in nature rather than civic.

4:4 Repeated attempts to suppress the Christian message only caused it to spread more quickly. On Pentecost morning the believers in Jerusalem only numbered 120 (1:15). In response to Peter’s sermon that day, another 3,000 were added (2:41). Now, with the healing of the lame man, Peter’s sermon, and the arrest of the apostles, the church grew to about 5,000.

4:5-7 The parties listed in verses 5-6 represent all the most powerful players in the Jewish religious establishment. They made Peter and John stand before them, two men against all the powers of Israel. Ironic, therefore, that they asked the apostles by what power they had performed the miracle and preached the gospel. It was clear that the apostles, who shirked the traditional powers, considered themselves answerable to and empowered by a different authority.

4:8 Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, a necessary prelude to his successful confrontation with the Jewish religious establishment.

4:9-10 Peter again emphasizes to a Jewish audience that Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom the nation had crucified, was raised from the dead by God. This same Jesus is the power by which the lame man was made healthy.

4:11 Peter again identifies Jesus with OT testimony by citing Psalms 118:22. Though Jesus was a stone rejected by the Jewish leaders, God made Him the cornerstone (foundation) of the church. God’s people, portrayed as a building, are both built on the foundation of Christ and are completed by Him. The word translated rejected carries the idea of rejecting with contempt, possibly referring to the crucifixion

4:12 Peter concluded by making clear the uncompromising claim of Christianity: There is salvation in no one else besides Jesus. This message rings throughout the NT. Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

4:16-18 Remarkably, the Sanhedrin admitted that an obvious sign had been done through them (the apostles), and yet rather than repent and believe they focused on damage control among the people. They sought to halt the spread of Christianity at all costs, so they ordered the apostles not to preach or teach any more about Jesus. It seems they wished to guard their status as religious authorities even at the expense of obvious truth.

4:19-20 Peter and John’s reference to what they had seen and heard included their experiences with Jesus plus what they had witnessed since the founding of the church at Pentecost. All told, they had been eyewitnesses to many of God’s revelatory acts.

DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE

HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?

DAY 1

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”,

Matthew 14:22-27

Does life frighten you? Do you feel surrounded by those who would do you harm—computer hackers, dishonest business people, and even neighbors who take advantage of you? The easiest thing in this type of environment would be to hide behind the walls of our homes and protect ourselves from the dangers that lie in wait. But Jesus called His disciples to something different.He asked them to have courage and strength in the face of some very frightening situations.

When Jesus walked on the water toward them as they sailed across the sea, He asked them to believe that this ghost-like figure was really their Savior. He asked them to go out in pairs and preach in His name. And finally, He asked them to go to Jerusalem with Him for His final days. The opportunities that God wants to bring your way will take courage. When faced with opportunities that frighten us, we should remember that God makes us strong in our weakness. God uses the very challenges that make our knees tremble to use us for greatness, and as His hands and feet on earth.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

Psalm 34:17-19

Ever get discouraged? I sure do. In fact I woke up this morning feeling discouraged. It feels like the world is against me, and I’m overcome with feelings of “nobody really likes me.” Sometimes I get discouraged because of my past regrets, and sometimes I get discouraged because God so clearly has not answered my prayers and cries for help, when and the way I want. And honestly, I get discouraged when I put too much trust in people and expect them to do or say something that I’ve been longing to hear.

Discouragement is a real feeling, and it’s a real tool of the enemy to come against the child of God. If you let it sink in, discouragement will press you down, and it can hinder you from doing what the Lord has called you to do. What do you do? Here’s what I do: Dig into scripture that encourages you in the Lord. Discover what God says about any given situation and then trust His Word. It has power to give life if you let it penetrate your heart.

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms 34:17-19 NKJV

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:18-21

When we recognize God’s presence with us, courage starts to develop in us. It grows as we draw on His strength. Without God’s power, we’ll find that hardship and stress drain us emotionally and hurt us physically, leaving us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

After 40 years of wandering, the nation of Israel was in such a state. They should have believed the two spies who trusted in the Lord’s presence and power. But instead, allowing their weakness to hold sway, the people sided with the remaining ten spies, who claimed the Canaanite obstacles were too great (Num. 13:26-32).

In contrast, Paul faced the Roman tribunal after enduring great hardship but was not dismayed, because God stood with him and strengthened him. Times of helplessness and weakness are in reality opportunities to receive an abundance of divine power (Phil. 4:13).

Being yielded to God’s purposes is essential for developing courage. Paul knew God had a plan for every event in his life—even the hardest ones. Instead of seeking a way out of trials, accept God’s way, and you’ll find courage welling up from within. Imagine yourself standing next to God, drawing on His strength.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 4

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Scripture details the courageous way Paul handled trials. He was opposed by religious leaders, manhandled by magistrates, and mobbed by crowds. Yet through it all, he stood firm. How did he do this?

Let’s look at Paul’s own testimony. He said he came to the Corinthians in weakness, and he spoke with fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). He claimed that he had been pushed beyond his ability to endure (2 Corinthians 1:8). In fact, once his fear was so strong that an angel exhorted him not to be afraid (Acts 27:24). He was human, just as we are.

What did Paul know that would also help us? Wherever the apostle was, God was personally present. He trusted in the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and he also took heart from the Lord’s reassurance of His nearness (Acts 18:9). Although it appeared that Paul stood alone before his accusers, he recognized he was actually in the Lord’s company. With almighty God standing beside him, he didn’t have to be afraid.

Because we belong to Jesus Christ, we can know that God is always with us. We, too, have the Savior’s unending pledge of nearness and the Holy Spirit as our permanent companion. As we embrace these truths, we will discover the courage to face life’s trials. I feel braver already. What about you?

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

Psalm 63:4

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is so familiar that we can almost dismiss it as a fable of some kind. But this is a real story that actually took place. And one of the takeaway truths we discover from it is that God did not deliver Daniel out of the lion’s den; He delivered him in it.

Sometimes God will take us out of our problems. But there are other times when He will be with us as we’re facing our problems, as we’re walking through them. That was the case with Daniel. The Lord was with him in that den of lions, as were some angels, and out of the worst conceivable situation came the ultimate good.

Maybe nothing stands out more in this story of Daniel than this one simple fact: Daniel was a man of prayer. Yes, he was a spiritual man. Yes, he was a purposeful man. Yes, he was a persecuted man. But let’s not miss the fact that he was a praying man.

And when Daniel learned about a new law that banned praying to anyone but the king, what did he do? Daniel 6:10 gives us the answer: “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God” (NLT).

Just as he had always done . . . Daniel had done this from his youth, and he still was doing it in his later years. When he knelt down on his knees, he received his fearless courage. This reminds us of a simple truth: If you kneel before God, you can stand before any man.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:19-20

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