Jack Graham - When God Says Go
Jesus is a fighter; He's a warrior. At the cross He conquered sin and death and hell. And he has now commanded us and called us into this battle. Now think of Jesus as a warrior. Consider this picture of Jesus when He comes again. We're going to put it on the screen for you. Revelation 19. This is what's going to happen when Jesus comes "Then I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse, and the One sitting on it is called Faithful and True. And in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire and on His head are many diadems and a name written that no one knows but Himself. And He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood. And the name by which He is called is the Word of God. And the armies of heaven arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword by which He's to strike down the nations. And He will rule them with a rod of iron. And He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty and on His thigh He has a name written: 'King of kings and Lord of lords!'"
Jesus is a warrior, and we are with Him in this battle. And we win! But if you're going to win, you have to be in the war. And so what's happening here in the fifth chapter of Acts, if I can kind of catch you up to speed, 120 people gathered in the upper room after the death, resurrection and the exaltation of Jesus. They're waiting, they're praying. And the Spirit of God, the promise of the Father comes, and they are baptized with the Spirit and with fire. They are filled with God's Spirit. They immediately begin to proclaim Jesus Christ. People who have gathered there from all over the world at a very big feast, a religious feast called Pentecost. People who had come from all over the world, heard the Gospel for the first time in their own language.
And on that day, the day the church was born, 3000 people were saved, they were baptized, the church began to develop in their discipleship daily, as they're growing in their faith and in the word of God. And they are spreading the fire! And the Scripture says, "They were all in all the time" because it was everyday publically and from house to house! This was "My Hope-Jerusalem", alright. Because they're sharing Christ with their neighbors and thousands upon thousands of people are being born again, made alive in Christ! And it is estimated that in the first six months of the church upwards to nearly 100,000 people were converted and began following Jesus. It was a massive Jesus movement! And, of course, when that happened Satan tries to stop it. And Satan always has his minions to work and to try to hold back the power and the work of God.
Now we know that's impossible because Jesus said, "The gates of Hell will not prevail against My church". But that doesn't keep Satan from trying. And one of the primary methods that Satan uses to shut His people down, to shut us up, is intimidation and threats and taunts and oppression and suppression, and even persecution. Before we get to the text in Acts chapter 5, let me show you a verse from 2nd Timothy 3:12. It says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". How many of you want to live a godly life in Jesus Christ? Amen. Alright!
If you do, expect opposition; even potentially persecution! All over the world Christians are being persecuted, put to death, put out of society, solely because of their faith in Jesus Christ. God bless them, God help them, God deliver them. We pray for them. Most of us here in the west in America know very little if anything about physical persecution. But we do know a little bit about another kind of persecution. It's the kind of persecution that Jesus talked about in the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount when He said, in Matthew 5: "Blessed are you when men persecute you. Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".
Okay, we're praying for the persecuted church. But, oh, what about us? "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you (and watch this) utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account". One kind of persecution is to be thrown to the lions; the other is to be thrown to the critics. One is overt; the other is more covert. One is physical; the other is more emotional, spiritual or psychological. But Jesus said, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake and including when you are reviled when people speak evil against you falsely because of Me". Now, not because we're being jerks, but because of Jesus.
And if you are a follower of Jesus you may hear things like, "You know, Christians, these born again kind of Christians especially, they're haters, they're intolerant". Been reading through the internet lately? You been watching news media lately? Have you been listening to some of your co-workers lately? "Aw, these Christians! They're haters. They don't really love people. They don't care about people. These Christians are fringe, they're fanatics, they're fools. They say God created the heavens and earth; they're ignorant"! And you may be put out, you may be passed over at that job because of your faith in Christ. You may be put out of the good standing of the social setting in which you walk. There are a lot of different ways, but I guarantee you if you take a stand for Jesus Christ, you will face the fight because Satan fights fire with fire!
Peter knew about facing the fires, we'll see in this text, but he would later say, 1 Peter 4:12, "Don't think it strange about the fiery trial that you're about to endure as something weird is happening to you". He said expect it; realize that it is going to happen! Persecution. And the whole point of the persecution, resistance, opposition is to stop you from talking about Jesus; to shut your mouth about Jesus. To intimidate you enough that you'll take up the bats and ball and go home. That's what Satan wants. But I want you to see what he gets when God's people take a stand. Beginning in Acts chapter 5, verse 17: "But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy".
Now they are jealous because the Apostles are now on their turf because many people are coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. There was a man who was crippled from birth there who had been healed. He's on his feet, leaping, dancing, praising God! I mean, instantaneously. There's no co-pay here, there's no hospital care here; there's no Obamacare here; I mean, just a man on his feet in the name of Jesus! And he's exhibit A of the power of the resurrection. So they don't know what to do about this. And so they call the boys in. They've already called them in once and told them not to speak about Jesus, and threatened them. So they keep doing it. They run to their friends. Who do you run to when you get in trouble? You run to God's people, you run to God's church, and so that's what they did.
And guess what they prayed? They didn't pray, "Well, Lord, keep us safe. Lord, you know, don't let anybody hurt us". No, they prayed for more stuff of the same stuff that got them in trouble to begin with. They prayed for boldness! Courage! And so they get right back at it. And they're out preaching Jesus. So they are arrested. Verse 18: "They arrested the apostles and put them in public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 'Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.'"
Go-stand-speak-all the words of this life in Jesus Christ. Go, stand, speak. Go tell! It was an angel that got them out of prison. They were put in the public prison and, in the middle of the night... Aren't you glad that God works the night-shift? I mean, in the darkest hour God will deliver you! He may even send an angel to open prison doors, to break down the darkness in your life. He sent that angel. But think about this: the angel could get them out of prison, but the angel couldn't go preach Jesus. That's not the assignment of an angel. An angel has never experienced the grace and the forgiveness of God as we, the witnesses of Christ.
I'm sure the angels get a little impatient with us from time to time, maybe running to the throne of God and saying, "These humans are not getting the job done. Let us go; we'll write it in the sky"! You know, "We'll show up with angel wings and people will believe". No, that's not God's plan. We can do something that angels cannot do! We are to do what angels cannot do, and that is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ! So the angel gave him the commission from the Lord. Go, stand, speak, tell all the words of his life! Isn't that what people around us are looking for life? They think life is in pleasure or life is in profit and money or things. But life is in Jesus. He who has the son has life, and he who does not have Jesus does not have life.
Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord". We have the gift of life which brings hope to people now and forever! And so we are to go. You can't spell Gospel without beginning with G-O. You can't even spell God without starting with G-O. It's at the heart of who we are, what we're going, and as we go we are to go and graciously take our stand in the public places. When they were preaching in the temple, don't think church here. This was in the public Solomon's portico where people were in and out, there were thousands of people there. So Peter and John are there preaching in the public place, and again, we've made the point clearly over these weeks. They were doing what? House to house evangelism.
So it wasn't just the religious professionals, the apostles, but everyone was at it and all at it. Everyone was sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. And so now they're out again. And notice what they did. They're out of jail and what they do, verse 21: "they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach". Middle of the night, what are they? They washed their face a little bit, splashed a little water on their faces, and then they get right back at it the next morning at daybreak! And they're preaching and when the Sanhedrin shows up, they're thinking, okay bring those boys from the prison. We'll teach them a lesson. They go down there to get them in jail and they said, "They're gone". "Where'd they go"? "Don't know".
Somebody shows up and says, "Well, they're back out doing it again. They're out preaching Jesus again"! "What"! They're afraid now. I mean they're afraid of these Christians. They're trying to figure out what is happening. It says: "they were greatly perplexed". Verse 24, I love that. "they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to". That's the kind of Christian I like to think аbout: Up everyday just serving Jesus, sharing Jesus. The devil's crowd doesn't have a clue what to do to stop it. You know it's like you get up, you start serving Jesus and witnessing and sharing your faith and loving and living for Christ, and the devil says, "Hell's bells! They're at it again". At it again. You can't stop them. And that's what happened in the first century because they would not be silenced. They were arrested, they were threatened, they were taunted, they were ultimately beaten.
But here's something that happened here. They they really turned themselves in because they didn't want to cause a riot. The temple authorities didn't want to cause a riot so they go to these guys and say, "Okay, would you guys mind coming in? We need to talk to you some more". They said, "Sure, love to". So they are right back at it, right in front of these religious authorities. And the religious authorities tell them in verse 29 and following. No, look at verse 27: "And when they brought them".
Now this is really strong. Watch this. "When they brought them, they set them before the council. (Now they're in front of this auspicious religious council). The high priest questioned them, (I mean, the big man is doing it here) and he's saying (he says three things.) We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. (The teaching of Jesus Christ), and you intend to bring this man's (Jesus) blood upon us". When they started out, they had 120. They prayed, baptized with fire, filled with the Spirit. Then 3000 are baptized. Then they're numbered at 5000 men, plus women and children who came along, and they are saved and baptized. And then we're told that miracles start happening just at the hands of the apostles, and that people are gathered, this is back in verse 16, "people gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing in people who need healing". And look at verse 14 of chapter 5. It says: "And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes, both men and women".
Now they can't even count them; they're just saying multitudes. Multitudes! Massive numbers of people are coming to Jesus! And now what was intended to be a criticism. They said, "You have filled this city with this teaching about Jesus Christ". The whole city heard! The whole city was saturated! There was nobody in that town that hadn't heard about Jesus! Not a single one! "You have captured this city with your doctrine! (We told you not to do this!) Did we not strictly warn you? And you intend to bring this man's blood on us"! You see, the problem people have with Christians is Christ. It's Jesus who is the problem. And here's why: You can heal the sick, help the sick; you can feed the hungry and people will applaud you. You can help the orphaned and the homeless and people say, "You go! That's great"!
As Christians we can take up coats and jackets and give them to the cold, and people say, "That's a really good thing that they're doing"! And we can start homes for unwed mothers, we can do a lot of things. And as long as we just do those things and never mention Jesus, we'll be fine. In fact, people will like it. But you start saying, "This cup of cold water is in Jesus' name", you start loving people in Jesus' name, you start serving people, and you say, "We're here because we love you because Jesus loves us, and He loves you, and we want you to know Him".
You say what Peter and John said in Acts chapter 4, verse 12, "There's no other name given among men by where you must be saved other than the name of Jesus", and that's when the fight begins! And that's when they will say, "You can't say that here. You can't talk about Jesus. We like your stuff! We like your good deeds! We like your work"! And so some cowardly Christians have decided, "Well, we'll just do good things, but we won't say anything about Jesus. We'll do good social works, but we won't talk about the Gospel". Wrong! Because all you're doing then is sending a man to hell with a full belly instead of an empty one if you don't tell him about Jesus who is mighty to save!
So the whole thing is about stopping Jesus! The mission and the message of Jesus Christ. And Peter said, here's a good principle, verse 29, "We must obey God and not men"! We must obey God! I don't care what else you're doing, Christian. You think, "Well, I show up at church, I give money, I do good deeds, I'm a good Christian". NO! If you're not endeavoring to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by personally sharing your faith, you're disobedient to God. Period! So you more than anyone can go in Jesus' name. You must go in Jesus' name. It's high treason against the Commander-in-Chief if you don't. And too many Christians are not in this battle.
I've seen numbers upwards of 80 percent of church members never personally share their faith. That's a tragedy! And I'm just praying that God will ignite a fire in all of us, that we will be all in and all at it all the time. And we will go and stand and speak. Go stand where you are in your circle of influence, in your sphere, go stand there. And lovingly, graciously but simply and clearly share the good news of Jesus Christ and the difference that Christ is making in your life. Verse 33 says: "When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them". They were like a cornered animal. You know, kill the messenger. And they plotted to take their lives, but they couldn't shut them up, they couldn't shut them down.
And what happens next is great theater. Okay, there's a man. They're in the council and they don't know what to do. They got these guys and obviously they're not going to stop. They've got the people that God's giving them favor, great grace is upon them all. Great numbers of people were coming to Christ, so they're wringing their hands, saying, "What do we do now"? They beat the apostles, they bloodied them.
And there was a man who was a Pharisee among them, Gamaliel. He was a very astute and according to Jewish history, a very brilliant man. He was the spiritual father to a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle. He was in effect the mentor of Saul in the Sanhedrin. And this man Gamaliel, he stands up and he says something like this. He says, "Look, we've had these uprisings before. We've had people come along and say they're Messiah and it all went away. And if this is not of God this will go away, too". He said, "But if it is of God, you don't want to end up fighting God". That's good counseling. And because of the power of the resurrection and because the Jesus people were of God, it spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. And you couldn't stop it. Psalm 107:2, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so". Let's go in Jesus' name. When God says, "Go", Satan says no! Sometimes he says "Oh no"! When God says go, don't you dare say no.