Here’s what we’re working on at the Driscoll house this week: the family heritage project. Two of my kids are working on the family heritage project. Did I get it right, Calvin? Calvin, did I get it right? Family heritage project? You ever done this where you have to trace your family lineage history? We came from here, here’s who we are, here are our descendants. Any of you ever done that, your ancestry, your history, biologically?
That’s what we’re working on at our house. Two of the kids got it for a project this week at school. And what’s true biologically is also true spiritually. It’s good to trace your family history and ancestry, but it’s also good to look at our spiritual church family ancestry and history. Where did we come from? Where did Christianity begin? How did it all get started? Who were the fathers and mothers back at the beginning and how have we inherited this great legacy as the church of Jesus Christ? Well, for that research, you need to go to the book of Acts. And so if you’ve got a Bible, go to the book of Acts.
Here’s what we do. If you’re new—and I know a lot of you are new now that we’re sort of post-Easter. Almost four hundred of you were baptized. We love you, we’re glad to have you, we welcome you. And yeah, you can clap if you want, that’s all good. One of the things we love to do at Mars Hill is go through books of the Bible. And we just finished the book of James, and the book of Acts is the book that we’re in now, beginning today in chapter 5:12. And Acts is a very long book of the Bible, and it looks at the early church history. And so we have divided it over the course of a number of years. We take a big chunk of Acts after the Easter celebration, our biggest weekend of the year.
So we’re in Acts chapter 5, and as you’re finding it in the Bible or on your phone, let me explain to you a little bit about Acts, since we’re jumping in. It’s written by a guy named Luke, and he is a highly educated, very articulate medical doctor. He’s a physician. He only writes two books of the Bible. There’s a guy named Paul who writes a lot more books, but insofar as length goes, Luke contributes more to the New Testament than any other author. And he really writes a prequel and a sequel; it’s a book in two parts. He writes the book of Luke, which is about the life and ministry of Jesus, and he writes the book of Acts, which is about the life and ministry of Jesus’ people, the first Christians, the early church, and their explosion and expansion outside of Jerusalem.
He is a man who has firsthand experience for what he is writing in the book of Acts. He was very close friends with a guy you’ll meet in the next few weeks. His name is Paul. They were traveling companions, so as Paul is going on various missionary journeys, Luke is alongside of him as a colaborer, cominister, friend, and I believe, possibly even his private, personal, medical counsel, because Paul took a lot of beatings, his body was in bad shape, and Luke would have tended to and bandaged up his friend to keep pressing forward and preaching the gospel.
He is funded for his research by a man named Theophilus. This man is mentioned early in Luke and Acts. He’s a generous man, he’s a wealthy man, he’s a benefactor. For those of you who are generous like him, we praise God for you. He funded Luke so that he could travel, conduct interviews, meet with Jesus’ family, and friends, and witnesses of his life, death, burial, miracles, teaching, and resurrection. And so Luke does this massive, massive historical research about Jesus and the early church.
CHRISTIANITY IS HISTORY
For those of you who may have doubts or suspicions about his credibility, you’re not alone. Some have wondered if the stories that he shares with us are in fact historical and actual, and they are.
There was a man, his name is Sir William Ramsey. He was one of the leading archeologists in the late 19th and early 20th century, and he had doubts about Luke’s historicity and his historical accuracy. And so he, as a trained archeologist, spent upwards of fifteen years of his life examining and seeking to disprove Luke in Acts, seeking to show that he is historically inaccurate. And here is what he concluded after fifteen years of research as a professional who sought to disprove the historicity of Luke in Acts. He says, quote, “Luke is a historian of the first rank. This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
Christianity is not just philosophy, it’s not just spirituality, it’s not just ideology, it’s not just morality, it’s history, that Jesus lived and he said and did some things, that Jesus died and he rose. And all of that is shown in the book of Luke, that Jesus is God who died and rose. And then Acts picks up where Luke left off, saying that Jesus appeared for forty days to crowds upwards of five hundred at a time, and then Jesus ascended into heaven. And before he returned to his heavenly throne, where he rules and reigns at this very moment, Jesus said something very important and it’s a clue for us in our understanding of the rest of Acts.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus says this: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses,” starting locally and culminating globally. So Jesus’ life was lived by the power of the third member of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. And he lived, and he died, and he rose, and he is God, and he’s Savior, and he ascended, and he promised, “The Holy Spirit is coming to empower the church, my people, to live a life patterned after mine.” And what it means to live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered life is to be one who bears witness to Jesus, who demonstrates with a changed life and declares with clear speech that Jesus is God, that Jesus forgives, that Jesus loves, that Jesus saves. As we like to say it, it’s all about Jesus.
It’s all about Jesus, and that’s the story of the book of Acts. It’s God sending the Holy Spirit to the church to empower them to be witnesses for Jesus. And here we are as part of that great witness two thousand years later. Jesus is the most famous person in the history of the world. Jesus is the most beloved, worshiped, adored person in the history of the world. He has had more impact than anyone. No nation, no organization, no effort of any human being has ever even come close to the impact and the life-altering effect of Jesus Christ. And we’re all witnesses to him two thousand years later because the Holy Spirit has come in power.
So the book of Acts shows the explosion that begins to erupt after the resurrection of Jesus, that 120 followers soon have added to their number three thousand and then thousands more are added. But by the time we pick up the story in Acts chapter 5, persecution and opposition arises. For every action, there’s a reaction. For every convert, there’s a critic. For every salvation, there is a condemnation by those who are critical of the work of God.
MINISTRY IS ABOUT GOD HELPING PEOPLE
So we will look today at what true, real, Spirit-empowered, life on the earth ministry is, beginning in Acts 5:12 where we learn that ministry is about God helping people. We’re going to cover a lot of Bible today. I hope you’re OK with me reading a lot of Bible. If not, I’m going to read it anyways.
So we’ll start in 5:12. Here is the historical record from Dr. Luke: “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together,” this declaration of unity, “in Solomon’s Portico.” It’s a meeting area where you could have large meetings. “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.” They’re hoping for miraculous healing. “The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”
Here’s what’s going on: the apostles, the leaders, chosen by Jesus are doing ministry openly and publicly. You need to get that, because today, people want ministry to be done privately, not publicly. You won’t get in any trouble if you’re like, “Well, Jesus is true for me. I’m not sure he’s true for you.” “I need Jesus but I’m not sure you need Jesus, and I don’t want to tell you about Jesus because Jesus lives in my heart, not in my life.” “I have a personal relationship with Jesus, “not a public relationship with Jesus.” And “It’s something between me and God, and it doesn’t affect my relationship with anyone else.” You won’t get in trouble for that. They’re going to get in trouble because their faith has gone public; it’s not private. They are inviting others to learn about Jesus.
1. PEOPLE ARE BEING LOVED
And four things are happening. One, people are being loved. Outcasts, those who are sick, those who are demonized, those who are out of their mind, they’re being loved, and welcomed, and embraced, and brought into community to receive affection.
2. PEOPLE ARE BEING SAVED
Number two, we read that people are being saved. Non-Christians are becoming Christians, and at that time, there was criticism, and opposition, and ostracism against Christianity as there is in our day. Today, perhaps unlike any other time in the history of our nation, there are no benefits to waving the Team Jesus flag. Have you noticed that? You notice that? If you just say, “I love Jesus. I believe the whole Bible,” there’s no perks at work. People tend not to, “Yay! That’s wonderful!” No. “Oh, you’re the intolerant, narrow-minded bigots.” “Thank you for the open-minded tolerance that I receive.” Right?
We are in a day when Christianity is no longer at the center, it’s at the margins. It’s no longer respected, it’s rejected. And so it was in that day. There were people who respected the Christians and the Christian leaders and were curious about their message, but they were hesitant and reticent to join, to step over the line and say, “That’s it, I’m on Team Jesus. I’m a Christian.”
How many of you are in that place today? You’re like, “I’m interested. I’m curious. I’m in process, but I’m hesitant and I’m reticent to step over the line, and wave the Team Jesus flag, and be all in for Jesus.” So were they, but it says that many, multitudes, numbers of the people who heard about Jesus, they crossed the line of faith. They went public in their commitment to Jesus, both men and women.
I would urge you, I would implore you, I would invite you, give yourself to Jesus. Give your sin to Jesus. Give your soul to Jesus. Don’t allow the criticism of others to damn you to Hell. It’s much better to face their wrath than his. And many were saved. So people are loved, people are saved.
3. PEOPLE ARE BEING HEALED
Number three, people are being healed. It says that sick people get healed. We believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has healed, he will heal, and he is healing. We believe that in the kingdom of God, no one will be sick. We believe that sickness has entered the world because of sin, and occasionally the kingdom of God breaks into this world and healing comes to reveal Jesus as our Great Physician. There are people at Mars Hill Church who have been physically healed. This is all recorded by a medical doctor. We know of people—I know of people who have been physically healed by Jesus because he’s alive and well right now and he still heals. As Jesus healed when he was on the earth, he rules from heaven. He can still heal on the earth because his jurisdiction has no limitation.
You need to know that. If you’re sick, you pray. If you’re sick, we’ll pray. Sometimes God’s answer is yes. For the believer sometimes God’s answer is later, upon the resurrection of the dead. But people were being healed.
4. PEOPLE ARE BEING DELIVERED
And number four, people are being delivered. They had unclean, demonic spirits. Our culture does not believe this, but the Bible declares this: there isn’t just God, there is Satan who, along with the fallen angels, are in rebellion against God. Satan is not equal to God, he is equal to the angels created by God, ruled over by God. But what happened was there was a great war in the presence of God where Satan and demons—they were originally angels, they didn’t want to glorify God, they wanted God’s glory. They didn’t want to submit to God’s authority, they wanted to have God’s authority. And as a result, they were cast down and they were fallen, and they have been at work in the world ever since, beginning with our first parents.
What that means is this: not all spirituality is good, godly, or safe. Reports will tell you that most Americans believe in Satan, but here’s the truth: they don’t believe in demons. This is why we have spirituality in the place of Christianity. And this great erroneous false teaching is that the spirit realm is good. Open yourself up to whatever religion, or ideology, or experience, or spirituality, and it’s all good because spirituality is good.
No it’s not. Just as you would not open your door to any person, inviting them into your home, you should not open your soul to any spirit, inviting them into your life. Some people are dangerous, some spirits are dangerous. Some people are unclean, some spirits are unclean. And these people were very spiritual, but they were open to demons, they were oppressed, and they were depressed, their minds were affected, their bodies were polluted, their souls were discouraged. They were in bondage. What they didn’t need was more tolerance and diversity. They needed deliverance, and the God of the Bible came and delivered them, and all of a sudden the unclean spirits were removed from them, and the Holy Spirit indwelled and filled them, and they were delivered. People got their right mind back. They got their health, and healing, and hope back. And I’m not saying that all mental and/or physical illness is the result of demonic oppression or possession, but I am not eliminating it from the category of possibility.
Now, who could be against this? People are loved, people are saved, people are healed, people are delivered. They didn’t get in trouble for doing these things, but doing them publicly in the name of Jesus. That’s what will get you in trouble, is doing good things in the name of Jesus publicly.
You need to know that. God still does these things, and if we participate with him by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will receive opposition as they received. And very quickly the opposition comes because for every action there’s a reaction. Again, for every healing, there is hatred. For every deliverance, there is a debate. For every conversion, there is a criticism. This is the price of ministry. Quickly, we then read it didn’t take long, but here is the fact, that ministry is about helping people. We just examined that. Why do we do all that we do? Because we love people, because we want to help people, because we want to serve people.
But ministry’s not just about helping people, it’s also about jealous opposition. Acts 5:17, “But”—here it comes—“the high priest,” There’s the leader. You can tell. Priest, priest, priest, priest, priest, high priest, there’s the leader. He “rose up.” He got upset. He didn’t like this. He didn’t approve. Nobody asked his permission. “And all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees).” There’s a leader and a group. We would call these the Progressives. These in that day were the Liberals, OK? “And filled with”—what’s the word, Mars Hill? Very important. “Jealousy.” So “they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.”
At this point, had the apostles done anything wrong, yes or no? We would say no. You loved people, told them about Jesus, they got saved, you laid hands and prayed over them and some got healed, and demons got cast out. Yay! That’s four things we can get behind. All of a sudden, along come the opponents. “This needs to stop! More people need to be sick!” What? Here comes the pro-sickness parade. You’re like, “What?” Right? “No, more people need to be demon-possessed, and go to Hell, and not have friends. This needs to stop.” You say, “Well, this is crazy what they’re opposing.” What they’re opposing is that they don’t have the power, they don’t have the control, that the Holy Spirit has not anointed and appointed them for this kind of ministry. As a result, they suffer from jealousy. And the disciples, the apostles, they haven’t done anything wrong.
Let me just be honest. Sometimes, hypothetically, a loud mouth preacher says something he shouldn’t, OK? And he receives opposition because he deserved it. Hypothetically, OK? I knew a guy like that once and I prayed for him, OK? But here, have they said or done anything wrong? No. So just because there’s opposition doesn’t mean there was sin or error. Often times there is, hypothetically, but not here. So why are they receiving opposition? Not just opposition, they had them put in prison. It’s kind of a big deal to arrest the pastor, at least it is to the pastor, OK? You’re like, “Hey, where’s your pastor?” “He’s in jail.” “Oh, I read about that. Sorry.” So, they take the leaders and they throw them in public prison.
Here’s what this is: This is public shaming. This is public disgrace. It’s legal. I mean, now it’s really ugly. Imagine what it was like. A lot of the churches, “Hey, where’s our pastor?” “He’s in prison.” “Hmm, what’d he do?” I mean, you could see the gossip. All of a sudden, everybody’s talking about it. I’m sure, perhaps, not everything was accurate that was said. It’s ugly, it’s public, it’s legal. And here’s what it is: jealousy.
Let me ask you a question. Who are you jealous of? What are you jealous for? Under a lot of sins is jealousy. Under coveting, jealousy. Under gossip, jealousy. Sometimes under lying, jealousy. Sometimes under adultery, jealousy. Sometimes under thievery, jealousy. You have it, I want it. It could be power, position, prominence. You can’t rejoice that God has blessed them because you’re jealous of them.
It happens, right? And it happens in ministry, and when it does, it’s the most ugly. There’s arguably nothing uglier insofar as jealousy is concerned than jealousy among religious leaders. “Oh, their thing is growing? Well, it’s because they’re compromised, and they don’t love the Lord, and they preach a false gospel, they got it all watered down. That’s why.” Or the Holy Spirit blessed them. “Well, yeah, I heard somebody got saved there, you know, but they’re a bunch of kooks and they do all kinds of crazy stuff. And the healing I’m sure doesn’t count.” Are you against healing? I mean, what? Or maybe somebody got healed. “Their thing is growing. You know why it’s growing? They’re just stealing all the people from all the other churches because that’s what they are. They’re all just a bunch of thieves, that’s what they are.” Really? Or maybe people are going there because they’re nice. And that’s why they’re leaving your thing, you’re not very nice, OK? Just throwing it out there as a possibility.
So even ministry leaders, even pastors can be quite a petty, jealous bunch. Jealousy. Jealousy is a deep root of sin in the human heart. Who are you jealous of? What are you jealous for? The religious people here, it’s all about power and control. “You didn’t get permission. We didn’t vote on this. We didn’t agree to it. It says in the manual. You didn’t run it by the high priest. See the guy with the big hat? Nobody even asked him.” But the Holy Spirit decided he was going to love, and save, and heal, and deliver people.
So for religious people, it’s not about helping people, it’s about maintaining control. Hear me in this: Religious people, in the worst sense of that word, don’t really care about lost people, OK? In Jesus’ ministry, he’s preaching, teaching, healing. He’s doing all the same stuff: loving, saving, healing, delivering lost people, non-Christians, welcoming, helping, embracing. Religious people come along, “Jesus, we want you to talk to us. Stop talking to them, talk to us. We don’t want you to talk to them about their needs, and how you can love and help them. We want you to talk to us about very important things like tithing, and about, you know, whether or not we should tithe out of our spice rack, and what we should do on Saturday, and if we pluck a head of grain, is that a good thing or a bad thing? We want to talk to you right now. It’s very important.”
They make a lot of noise, and they disrupt and interrupt. And Jesus can’t even talk to lost people anymore because the religious people want to argue about nothing. Nothing. So Jesus is always trying to get the religious people out of the way so he can talk to the lost people. Jesus finally goes to heaven and the religious people don’t quit. And the leaders are out trying to talk to lost people, and then the religious people show up and want to argue with them. “Hey, they got saved.” “They didn’t get saved the right way.” “Is there a wrong way to get saved?” “We put the fire out!” “Is there a wrong way to hold the hose?”
I mean, really? Religious people want to argue, they want to fight, they want power, they want control, they want every bit of attention on them. Ministry’s about helping people, and sometimes that requires dealing with, ignoring, religious people who don’t care about lost people, because their real issue is jealous opposition.
Here’s the truth: God anoints whomever he wants to anoint, and just because he anointed that person doesn’t mean they’re more godly, or more gifted, or more capable, or more special. Sometimes God likes glory, so he picks the loser and lets him do amazing things by his power. And you can’t explain that. I mean, here’s Peter, he’s a fisherman. The high priest is freaking out because the high priest has spent his whole life preparing to be in charge and next thing you know, the Holy Spirit picked the wrong guy. He picked Peter.
MINISTRY IS ABOUT PREACHING JESUS
Number three, ultimately, consistently, loudly, clearly, passionately, ministry is about preaching Jesus. Why are they getting in trouble? They’re talking about Jesus. If you heal people without talking about Jesus, you don’t get in trouble, right? You’re like, “I healed people.” No deductible, we’re for that, right? “In the name of Jesus.” Whoa, Jesus, now we’re in controversy. We’re talking about Jesus. The reason they’re getting in trouble, hear this, is because they keep talking about Jesus, so the pressure’s going to be, “Stop talking about Jesus and the pressure will come off.”
Let’s read. I’m going to read a lot. Here we go. It’s all right here. It’s going to take a while. Hang in there. It’s a narrative, big story. We’ll catch the whole thing. Verse 19, “But during the night an angel of the Lord”—ninja angel on special assignment, in the Greek—opened the prison doors. I love that.
Let me say this: God is funny, OK? When you read systematic theologies about God, it’ll list his attributes. It doesn’t list funny, because the guy who wrote it’s not funny, but there are times when you read the Bible—it’s funny. This is a funny part, OK? About—It was, “But during the night”—and I can’t—OK, I’ll just say this. I said this in a previous—I can’t read, because, as my eye doctor said, I’m of a certain age, OK? So if you see me doing this, right, it’s because my glasses will be here, I think, next week, OK? I tried to do point one and get healed, but instead I ended up getting glasses. But I can’t read anything; it’s all blurry.
And some of you young people think it’s funny. There’s only one advantage to getting old, that’s lower car insurance. Otherwise, there is no advantage, OK? So if I mispronounce words, hey, hey, respect your elders. Some of us are struggling.
OK, verse 19. “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out.” OK, why were they in prison? For talking about Jesus. So he jailbreaks them and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Do you get that? “You’re talking about Jesus, go to prison.” The angel shows up, “Hey, hey, hey, I’m gonna—let’s get out.” “What do you need us to do?” “Talk about Jesus.”
What? I put my finger in the socket, I electrocuted myself, and you told me to put my finger back in the socket? Yes, for Jesus. Verse 21, “And when they heard this”—they did it. “They entered the temple at daybreak.” They got up early. “Oh, it’s early, time to go get arrested again. Don’t want to be late for this.” “And began to teach.” So, they’re talking about Jesus. “Now when the high priest came”—this is where it gets funny—“and those who were with him”—all very serious. Furrowed brow, big hats, “Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” “They called together the council.” “Oh, we need to get the committee together, and the sub-committee, and the oversight committee, and the reporting committee.” “All the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.” “OK, we’re ready, go get the prisoners.” “But”—that’s a funny word—“when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison.” Imagine being that guy. You have one job. Go to the prison, and get the people, and bring them. You’re like, “There’s no people.” “So they returned and reported.”
Point number one, we found the prison securely locked. Good news, the locks work. Point number two, the guards were standing at the door, looking very guardly. They were doing their job. And number three, but—that’s a funny word. But when we opened them, there were no people in the prison. So, we don’t have people because they’re not in the prison.
Awkward moment, right? OK, so what now? That’s how I know nobody made the book up. This is—who’s sitting around in a committee like, “Oh, we’ll do this,” you know? And then, verse 24, “Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed.” They’re like, “Hmm, so what you’re saying is,” stroking their beard. “What you’re saying is, you put the people in the prison.” “Yes.” “And you locked the door.” “Yes.” “And the guards were there.” “Yes.” “And you went there.” “Yes.” “And the guards were there.” “Yes.” “And the door was locked.” “Yes.” “And there were no people.” “Yes.” “We are perplexed.” That’s so awesome. “Wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them.” So here comes Barney Fife, in from the side, like, keystone cops—“There’s new information.”
Here’s what he says, “‘Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple.’” They’re doing it again. They’re teaching the people. “Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.” OK, if you’re in Washington, I need to explain this stoning, OK? This is different from ours, OK? Their stoning, it’s legal here, OK? Their stoning was you pick up rocks, and you surround someone as a mob, and you hurt them. So, the religious leaders are like, “OK, these people are popular, these apostles talking about Jesus. We’d like to arrest them, but we don’t want to get hurt, so we’ve got to do this a little more cleverly, a little more politically.” “When they had brought them”—verse 27—“they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying”—OK, you’ve got to see furrowed brow, pointy finger. “‘We strictly charged you.’” These were very clear. “It’s in the minutes!” “‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name.’”
THE NAME OF JESUS
What name? The name of Jesus. They don’t say the name of Jesus. The whole fight is over the name of Jesus. All the opposition is around the name of Jesus. You know why? His is the name above every name. His is the most important name. His is the name that is worthy of all glory. And so they get in trouble because they keep talking about Jesus. And then when they get brought before the religious leaders, they say, “We told you not to use this name.” What name?
Mars Hill, I’ll tell you what. Since it’s a declaration of war on the demonic realm, at the count of three, let’s all just say “Jesus” together. One, two, three, “Jesus”! They wouldn’t say it. We’ve got to say it. And there’ll be opposition, but it’s demonic in orientation because if the problem is around the name of Jesus, then that’s a good problem to have. “‘Yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered—I love this. Peter’s like, “OK, so let me get this. I’m not supposed to preach?” “Correct.” “Since you’re all here, I have a sermon.”
I love this guy. Sermon, arrested, released, another sermon, arrested again, told not to preach, sermon number three coming right up. He says—it says, “Peter and the apostles answered—” so they’re all unified, and they’re together, and Peter is the preacher and the leader. “We must obey God rather than men.” “Dear Mr. Big Hat, Jesus said, ‘Be witnesses.’ You could say, ‘Not be witness.’ Cute throne, I know a better one. We’re going to talk about Jesus.” And then he talks about Jesus, preaches a sermon to the guy who arrested him twice for preaching a sermon about Jesus. “‘The God of our fathers raised’”—he uses the name of Jesus—“‘whom you killed’”—“Oh, by the way, since we’re here, you murdered God.” “‘Hanging him on a tree.’”
There’s a quote of Deuteronomy: Cursed is any man hung on a tree. But he didn’t stay dead. “‘God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.’” “You know what? You’re a sinner, too. You need to repent. You need Jesus to forgive you. While we’re at it, I’m going to do an altar call here in the court.” “‘And we are witnesses to these things, because Jesus said, You will receive power.’” You will be my—what? Witnesses. Peter’s got the Holy Spirit. He was a coward before this. He was a total coward. Jesus is getting arrested, tried, crucified. Peter hangs back in the distance.
Here’s Peter, right? He’s like, “What are they doing to Jesus? That looks painful. That looks very painful, whoa.” And a young gal around the fire is like, “Aren’t you with Jesus?” “No, I never met him. Don’t know that guy.” “You have a Galilean accent.” “Oh no I don’t.” He starts cussing. “See, I’m not a good man. Blah, blah, blah.” Right? So, and he denies Jesus three times. That’s Peter, and here’s Peter. Something’s changed in Peter, amen? What happened was he received the Holy Spirit and he got power to be a witness. “‘And we are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit.’”
See, he gives all the credit to the power of the Holy Spirit “whom God has given to those who obey.” “And while we’re at it, you don’t have the Holy Spirit. That’s why you don’t love Jesus. You’re kindling. You’re going to burn forever. You’re those religious guys who murdered Jesus. He got up three days later. You need to repent, join the team, Team Jesus.”
OK, this is what they’re doing to the judge who has the right to jail them again. And God sends an angel to get them out. God doesn’t have to send an angel, but he can. Angels are messengers and ministers. In addition to unclean, demonic spirits, there are clean spirits called angels. It had to be a great day for that angel, amen, up in heaven? “We have a report. Apostles in prison. What are we going to do?” “Get the ninja angel.” Ninja angel sitting on the bench like, “Finally! Yeah, I’ve been working on picking locks. Finally! 10-4.” You know, off he goes.
Here’s the point: God doesn’t have to get you out of every situation, but God can get you out of any situation, OK? He can. And we don’t even know how he got them out because the door was still locked and the guards were in place. I don’t know what happened, but it was awesome.
See later, they’re going to die and get murdered and martyred, so you don’t get an angel every time, but sometimes God loves the church so much that he’ll even send angelic free staff to help out in time of need. That’d be fine. Anyways, they’re commanded to stop preaching. They get in trouble for preaching. Do you see how this works? Preach, arrested, jailbreak by an angel, preach again, arrested again, preach again. What’s the point? Keep preaching. Keep talking about Jesus. And when you’re left with this dilemma, “OK, it’s getting expensive for me. I’m either going to stop talking about Jesus and make it go away or I’m going to keep talking about Jesus and pay the price to pay.”
They decide, “You know what? Jesus paid the greatest price for us, we’ll pay any price for him.” And better than us living a life of comfort and ease is people being loved, and saved, and healed, and delivered. And there’s a joy in seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in and through people, and that’s what ministry’s all about. Now, they do say—and I want to unpack this briefly—“‘We must obey God rather than men.’”
So I want to be careful with this because this can be an opportunity for spiritual abuse. Because sometimes people say, “God told me.” Well, we’ll see, OK? You can’t just pull out the “God told me” card. Ladies, let’s say you meet a guy and the guy says, “God told me to marry you.” “Interesting, he didn’t tell me or my dad, you know, so I don’t have to just assume that because you say the Lord says that the Lord in fact has spoken.”
You need to be very careful. Somebody comes along, “God told me to plant a church.” Let’s check that. All right, you can’t—I mean, 1 Corinthians 14 is clear. If you think you got a word from the Lord, you’ve got to check it by the leaders. So what we’re looking for, if you believe God has told you something, especially to do something that is difficult like this, we’re looking for a godly person—Peter’s a godly person. In godly community—it says he’s with the apostles, they’re all agreed. Under godly authority—they all agree on this. With a godly motive—to talk about Jesus. Doing a godly thing—wanting to minister to people. In a godly way—by being open in public and not hiding anything. So if you believe the Lord has told you something, he may have, but I would ask, “Are you a godly person in godly community under godly authority with a godly motive doing a godly thing in a godly way?” And what they are demonstrating is what we would call civil disobedience. Civil disobedience like in China where they have population controls. If a woman who loves Jesus gets pregnant, the government comes and says, “You have to have an abortion.” She could say, “I can’t do that. I need to obey God. I can’t obey you.”
When we’re talking about civil disobedience, we’re talking about as a last resort, doing what is best for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which probably means it’s not benefiting you. That’s what they’re practicing. They’re putting it all on the line for Team Jesus.
MINISTRY IS ABOUT TAKING A BEATING WHILE REJOICING
Last point, perhaps my least favorite, ministry is about taking a beating while rejoicing. They don’t give you a class in this in seminary or Bible college, right? When they punch you in the mouth, quote the Psalms. I mean, they don’t teach you this, OK? We’ll read it. It’s a long section. We’ll read it all together. “When they heard this”—chapter 5, verse 33 of Acts—“they were enraged and wanted to kill them.” It’s escalating, OK? An angel has shown up and it gets worse. “But”—see, this is always—here it comes—“a Pharisee.”
Oh, here’s the right, right? The Sadducees are the left, the Pharisees are the right. The Sadducees are the Liberals, the Pharisees are the Conservatives. The Sadducees are people who compromise on certain things and the Pharisees who are, well, they like to add things to God’s word. “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.” “Take the twelve, put them outside. Let’s have a private, closed door meeting. I want to think about this. You guys are really fired up here. Cooler heads maybe should prevail.” “And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men.’” “Think this through. Let’s hit the brakes here.”
He gives a few examples, case studies. “‘For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.’” That guy said he was somebody and he was nobody, and it went away. “‘After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him.’”
He started doing his own ministry, but “‘he too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.’” It really fell apart. “‘So in the present case I tell you, “‘keep away from these men and let them alone, ““for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, “‘it will fail; but if it is of God, “‘you will not be able to overthrow them. “‘You might even be found opposing God!’ “So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them”—what? “Not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” “No more talking about Jesus!” “Then they left the presence of the council”—what? What’s the word? “Rejoicing.”
How many of you didn’t see that coming? They beat them up and then the guys threw a party. They got kazoos, and hats, and a cake. They put it all on Instagram. Missing teeth, eating cake, what happened? We got beaten for Jesus, what a great day! The story continues. “They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor.” It’s all about public dishonor, shame. Shut up, back down, go home, stop. “And every day”—guys didn’t even take a day off. You’d be like, “I need two weeks vacation. “I got beaten. “I’m going to put it on YouTube and flee to Canada, you know? That’s how I’m going to communicate.” “Every day, in the temple,” which is where all the religious people are, which is where they got in trouble in the first place, which is where they got in trouble in the second place. They’re either really brave or not very smart. “And from house to house”—they had Community Groups—“they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
So, the thing is escalating and they took a beating. Now when we read that, some of your translations will say flogging. Flogging was with a cat o’ nine tails or a flagger. This is my usual Good Friday accoutrement. This is what they did to Jesus. Think about it. Oh, what did they do to Jesus? Oh, they opposed him, religious people hated him, they beat him, they arrested him, they flogged him. Going to do the same thing to the people who are talking about Jesus that they did to Jesus.
Legally, you were only allowed to flog somebody only forty times. Many people died from that. Some of the religious leaders decided, “Well, what if we miscount?” So they would only allow thirty-nine in case you miscounted, then you actually got the forty. Because here’s how weird religion is. It doesn’t bother you that you’re flogging someone, it bothers you that you miscounted. That’s how kooky religion is. Oh, you’re destroying someone. But was it forty? Because that’s really the issue. The guy with the clicker missed one. This is how bizarre religion apart from the Holy Spirit can become. It’s no longer about people; it’s about rules, and control, and power. And so they flogged, they beat, they almost destroy the apostles. And it’s all because this mediator, this person of peace, this rabbi comes in, this teacher, and says, “This is going to go one of two ways. If this is what God’s doing, you can’t stop it.”
He’s true. So two thousand years later, here we are. Christianity’s the biggest thing in the history of the world. We’re still talking about Jesus. Nothing can stop the church because it’s of God.
He says, “But if it’s not of God, it’ll just self-destruct and go away, so don’t worry about it.” So they beat the disciples, and they give the illusion that they leave it in the hand of God, but ultimately they beat the disciples to incentivize them, “Don’t talk about Jesus. “Don’t preach about Jesus. Don’t teach about Jesus.” And it says that the leaders, they’re released, and here’s what they’re not doing, running away from the prison. They are limping away from the flogging. The flesh on their back is like ribbons. They’re bleeding, they’re exhausted, they’re traumatized. They look like a zombie horror film. And what do they do? They drag themselves into the temple. “Sorry I’m late for service. “Let me tell you about Jesus. “He took a beating like this for you because he loves you.” Wow, every day, teaching about Jesus. The body’s still bleeding, it’s still seeping, it’s still healing, but the body belongs to the Lord.
PAYING WHATEVER PRICE YOU NEED TO PAY
Here’s the big idea, Mars Hill: Jesus took a beating for you. Sometimes you may need to take a beating for him. They didn’t tell you this at camp. When you’re in junior high, right, and they let you Jet Ski all day, they say, “Oh, the Jet Ski’s from Jesus.” Thanks Jesus, I love Jet Skiing. “Oh, tonight we’re going to have a campfire, “roast some marshmallows, s’mores, acoustic guitar.
All right, who wants Jesus’ love?” “I do!” They didn’t tell you this. “Who wants to get beaten for Jesus?” Oh, put your hand down. Right? So many believers are so ill-equipped for what is truly the Christian life because all you’re told is, “God loves you and he’ll bless you.” They don’t tell you that not everybody loves you and not everybody’s going to bless you, that you may get treated like he was treated.
In that day, they would beat your body, and today, social media, you’ll lose your reputation, social capital, friends, maybe a job. You’re going to have to—Mars Hill, you’re going to have to pay a price. He paid the ultimate price, you may need to pay a little price to walk with him, to be a witness to him so that others can meet him and be saved and served by him. But our goal is not comfort and ease, our goal is to be witnesses. Jesus took a beating for you. Sometimes you may need to take a beating for him.
Number two, when you take your beating for Jesus, whatever it costs you—friends, family, job, spouse. I’m not saying that that’s what you want, but if that’s the price you need to pay to maintain your allegiance to Jesus and to be a witness of him, then pay whatever price you need to pay. And ultimately, ask the Holy Spirit to help get you to the place of rejoicing. It says that they were beaten and they left rejoicing because they were beaten for the name of Jesus.
Let me say this: there’s a lot of beatings in your life, a lot of beatings in my life that we totally had coming. You can’t be like, “They beat me, I’m like Jesus.” Jesus is like, “No you’re not. You’re not anything like me. You’re not!” Right, here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 5:10: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. If you’re saying, “I’m getting persecuted “because I won’t sleep with my boyfriend or girlfriend. “I’m getting persecuted because I won’t lie on the job. “I’m getting persecuted because I did talk about Jesus. “I’m getting persecuted because I was trying to do, “by the grace of God, in humility, “through the power of the Holy Spirit, the right thing,” then you’re blessed.
You’re not blessed by the people who are persecuting you, but you’re blessed by the Lord who was persecuted for you. That’s the big idea. You may not begin with rejoicing. There will be a season of mourning. There will be a season of grieving, like, “Lord, what are you doing? Why is it so hard? Why did that happen?” But even if you don’t get quickly to rejoicing, you can invariably get to rejoicing if you persevere by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he will empower you.
Number three, they keep going to church. It says they go to the temple. This is where they have the really big meetings because they have big rooms. So they’re still public witnessing. Like, Christianity is under a little pressure and the leaders have been arrested twice. It’s kind of a news story. It’s a little bit of a thing.
The believers had to decide, “Are we going to go to church? Oh, would you look. “The game’s on. I don’t know if I can make it.” But they go, and to walk in—this is publicly, and it’s in front of a whole bunch of a religious people in the same place where they had multiple controversies.
The believers were like, “You know what? “I’m on Team Jesus. Grab the flag, join the parade.” It just is what it is. Here’s the truth: If you don’t care about Jesus enough to actually commit yourself publicly to him, why would anyone find your invitation to him to be compelling? You don’t believe it so why should they? You’re not committed to it, so why should they be? If they take a little bit out of your account and that’s enough for you abandon your faith, then you don’t have faith at all.
It’s a test and the believers decide, “We’re going to be together, and we’re going to learn about “Jesus, and we’re going to sing to Jesus, “and everybody’s going to know, and we want them to join us because we want them to meet him.” They also keep going to Community Group. That’s what we call it, house to house. Meals, friendship, time together, loving one another, caring for one another, serving one another because you’re the family of God.
Especially when a little opposition, or ostracism, or persecution comes against God’s people, they need to hang together and support one another because they’re the family of God and that’s what they do.
Here’s what I love. I love the last line. “They did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” You walk into their big meetings, what are they talking about? Jesus. Walk into their little meetings, what are they talking about? Jesus. Why are these people so controversial? Jesus. Anything good happens, who gets the credit? Jesus. Anybody needs help, it’s in the name of Jesus. And they won’t stop talking about Jesus.
Mars Hill, we can’t stop talking about Jesus. We’re here to be witnesses of him. And the Holy Spirit wants to empower you, and me, and us to be witnesses who continually testify, “Jesus is alive. He forgives sin. “He helps people. He changed my life. “He changed their life. He did this. “He did that. He loves you. You need him.” If you’re here and you don’t know Jesus, you need Jesus. I want you to be clear from the story that these people are very moral, they’re very religious, they’re very spiritual, and they’re very wrong because they don’t have Jesus.
We’re not trying to recruit you to morality or spirituality. We’re not trying to recruit you to religion, but to invite you to Jesus. We want you to turn from sin, and trust in him, and as the multitudes did, cross the line over to Team Jesus and go public with your faith. For those of us who are believers, you need to know this, that this life comes with a price, that there is opposition, ostracism, persecution that comes against those who would make much of the name of Jesus.
But what a great joy, what a great glory, what a great honor, what a great privilege it is to be counted worthy of being opposed because of Jesus. You’re going to pay a price. Make it for the name of Jesus. You’re going to live your life for some cause, reason, or purpose. Make it the name of Jesus.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND
As we get ready to sing, and to celebrate, and respond, we’re going to collect our tithes and offerings, we’re going to partake of Communion. We give to the God who has given all to us so that more might come to hear of him. We also partake of Communion, remembering Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, that he took a beating for us, and he died for us, and he rose for us. And we’re going to sing, remembering that right now he’s surrounded by angels and departed saints, and these people who died in faith, they close their eyes in death and they open them to the glory of Jesus. And they’re singing his praises together forever. And as we sing, we join the angelic hosts, we join the departed saints in enjoying the name of Jesus.
Lastly, if you’re not in a Community Group, we want you to get in one. This is not a walk that you can make alone. This is a walk that we make together. And so when it comes to Community Groups, just as they met from house to house, so do we.
My first question is, are you in a Community Group? If not, let us find one near you. We love you, we want to get you plugged in with God’s people.
Number two, the questions now that I want you to discuss this week are, what opposition have you faced as a Christian, if you’re a Christian? And I don’t want to say that your opposition and persecution, if it escalated to that degree, pales in comparison to what they suffered. Maybe it’s difficult for you and we want to love and hear that so that we can sympathize with you, and walk with you, and love you. What opposition have you faced as a Christian?
Number three, how did you respond to that opposition? Was it godly like they did or was it ungodly and something maybe you need to apologize for or learn to do better the next time by the Spirit’s power?
Number four, where do you need to guard your heart against jealousy? The problem here started in the heart filled with jealousy. That’s where so many problems begin. Who are you jealous of? What are you jealous of? And number four, who do you need to talk with about Jesus? Who is God calling you to be a witness to? Maybe you’ve not spoken to them because you’re fearful of their response, you’re fearful of the price you might pay, you’re fearful of the reaction they might have. The Holy Spirit will empower you to be a witness.
In Community Group, I want you to be praying for one another and those people you are to be speaking to about Jesus. And then obey the Holy Spirit and trust him to give you the words to speak and the courage to have, because the only thing worse than someone not liking you because you introduced them to Jesus is someone going to Hell because you refused to talk to them about Jesus. There’s nothing more important than someone’s eternal destiny. And we go there because we are sinners, but ultimately, the way out of that path of destruction is someone who knows Jesus sharing with us the truth and love of Jesus. And if we truly love someone, we share with them his love for them, amen?
Father God, thanks for a chance to preach the Bible. I like this; this is very fun for me. Holy Spirit, thanks for writing a book that is perfect. Thanks for writing a book that is unlike any other book. Thank you for writing a book that brings power and life transformation. Holy Spirit, thank you for joining us. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for empowering us. Thank you for gifting us. Thank you for sending us. Thank you for filling us. Thank you for showing us who Jesus is and what he’s done. Help us, by your power, Holy Spirit, to live for the fame of Jesus’ name, amen. Amen.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.
The Holy Spirit is coming to empower Jesus’ church to be witnesses for Jesus to the whole world. This requires God’s followers to take their faith and their ministry public, which will create opposition and criticism. Today, as in the days of the early church, there is no benefit to being open about one’s faith. This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is working, people are loved, people are saved, people are healed, and people are delivered from Satan and sin.