A Church That Acts – Offering Jesus

 

Today we continue with our journey through the book of Acts. Remember, our objective here is to rediscover the origins, history, divine influences and governing principles which drove the first century church and followers of Jesus through the centuries to follow in order to discover some practical lessons which are relevant to our walk of faith today.

Central to what we hope to glean from the book of Acts is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. Apart from this event the early followers of Jesus would have been committed but powerless. The arrival of the Holy Spirit is THE defining catalyst for the success of these early believers.

With that as the backdrop we pick up the narrative in Acts, chapter 3.

Acts 3:1-10
1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.
2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.
3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.
4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”
5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.
8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God,
10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Okay, let’s flesh this out a bit.

Peter and John were heading into the Jewish temple to pray. It was 3 p.m. No doubt they had done this many times before; likely passing this same beggar on many occasions. But today was different.

The way this beggar survived was by asking for money from those coming and going at the temple. Now, at and around the church no one wants to appear crass or hard-hearted so these were people most likely to toss a coin in his direction. They could ease their conscience for not being in the same predicament and look good doing so. It was a win-win-win; ease their conscience, look good doing it, help the beggar.

Peter and John, however, were not people of means. They were poor fishermen and had nothing to give…at least no money. But Peter instructed the man to give his attention to them. “Look at us,” he told the man. And it is here that we learn our first practical lesson.

1) If we are ever to make an impact in the lives of the people around us, we must first gain their attention.

For Peter, it was a direct instruction, gaining the man’s attention amid the noise of the crowd coming to the temple. For you and me it may be the consistent action of showing kindness and generosity which gains us the attention of the one(s) we hope to influence. When we are doing what is right, we don’t usually need to ask people to look at us…they notice because in many ways such actions are counter-cultural.

Then Peter delivered the disappointing news, “Silver or gold I do not have…” No doubt the man was already dismissing them in his mind.

“No money, …no good to me.”

But before he could look away Peter continued, “… but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And here, we arrive at the second practical application from this story.

2) We cannot give what we do not have, but what we have to give is what people really need.

“Such as I have…” is a powerful reminder that we all can make a difference for someone else. It also means, however, that we must be prepared to give away what we have. What “such as I have” looks like may vary when it comes to parting with our money or our stuff. In some cases that may, indeed, be what God requires of us. But the most life-changing gift we have to offer others is not what money can buy but what God offers as a free gift; His love, acceptance and salvation.

Offering someone some of our stuff may just be a first step in the “such as I have” equation. The stuff may earn us the right to be heard so that we may offer the best gift of all.

And so, Peter, without a pause, reached out to the beggar and commanded him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

…..And the crowd stopped and the noise died away and all heads turned to the one who had just made a complete fool of himself. 

Did you just hear what you said, man?!

Do you know who you’re talking to?!

We’ve all watched this man begging on these steps for his entire life.

WE know he can’t walk. YOU know he can’t walk.

He has NEVER walked a step in his life.

Peter was the center of attention; about to become a hero or a joke. But he took the man by the hand (he demonstrated faith) and helped the man to his feet. 

Now we should note a few things we might miss in a casual reading; observations which compound the magnitude of this miracle. First, since the beggar was lame from birth and had never walked, his legs were likely frail and spindly. His bones were likely brittle and weak and the traces of muscles in his legs were absolutely useless. In addition, the man had no concept of the balance required to stand upright.

But Peter reached out in faith and in the authority of the One who had done other miracles among these same people, and helped the man to his feet. And as he did, bones were strengthened and muscles were regenerated. The beggar didn’t learn to balance, he was balanced; he didn’t learn to walk, he was instantly a seasoned walker. And to everyone’s amazement, he entered the temple,       “… walking and jumping, and praising God.” And that brings us to our final practical lesson.

3) When we act in faith, God does miracles.

Bold declaration (know the truth)

Confident expectation (act in faith)

Miraculous results (experience God’s wonders)

Peter did not perform a miracle, God performed a miracle. Neither will we will perform miracles, but our God still does miracles when we act in faith. Keeping that perspective will allow us to boldly do God’s work in this fallen world.

It’s not our power, it’s God’s power.

It’s not our miracle, it’s God’s miracle.

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