Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Counting the Cost

They called them back and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, "Whether it's right in God's eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there's no question—we can't keep quiet about what we've seen and heard."
Acts 4:18-20

Peter and John had been arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of that culture).  They had been required to give testimony as to why they had healed a crippled man.  There were no questions about how it happened but just why.  Under what name have you done this?  Their response did them no favors.

At the very utterance of Jesus the Sanhedrin (which means “The Gathering”) went into an uproar.  They hated Jesus and had conspired to have him murdered.  They thought the problem was over and now His followers were showing up with His teachings and doing miracles.  They had to silence this before they lost all control and power.  So they told them to shut up.  They told Peter and John they could no longer speak the name of Christ.  To do so would bring a punishment of death.

This is where it gets interesting.  What do Peter and John do?  What would you do?  You may think it’s an outlandish question but it’s a question you face every day of your life.  And the answers are lived out minute by minute.

The real question that is being asked of Peter and John and ultimately to us as well is this, “Will you disobey what you know to be right, what God is asking of you for creature comforts?”  “Will you go against God’s word so that you can feel happy?”

And let’s be real honest; most of us choose our own happiness over the things of God.  Don’t believe me?  Then how is it that the divorce rate in the church is the same of those outside the church?  How is it that there are 1.75 billion people living in extreme poverty today?  How can it be that 2 million children are exploited in the global sex trade industry every year?  How is it possible that 14.1 million children have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Africa?  How is it thinkable that every 5 minutes almost 90 children die of sicknesses such as diarrhea, malaria, and measles?

I’m just as guilty as the person standing next to me.  When I see that poor child on the TV screen I feel a twinge of horror and sadness in my gut but then forget as my fingers rapidly click the remote.  Oh, I’m good at placating my feelings by wearing TOMS shoes and buying fair trade coffee but if I get right down to it, my greed overwhelms the Holy Spirit in my life quite often.

The amazing thing here is not necessarily solving all the world’s problems by ourselves, no.  The amazing thing is that God uses us individually to do a global job.  But we have to play our small part.  Each of us has a part to play in the telling of God’s story of redemption to a broken world.  And if we don’t participate in the telling of that story- it doesn’t get told right.

Think about it this way; if Peter and John had decided to choose the easy way, to stop preaching in Jesus name and chose an easy life, would you be reading this right now?  Would you have a faith that pushes you outside your comfort zone?  Would you be trying to pass on that faith to your family and children?  Would there even be a faith to pass on?

When faced with the question of whether it is right do what we want to do or what God needs us to do is something we all face every day.  Peter and John knew what Christ was asking of them.  They knew His words and had counted the cost.  Peter and John were carrying their cross daily and understood that being a disciple/follower of Jesus meant sacrifice.  And because they were willing to sacrifice, we sit here today discussing these questions and ideas.  And because they did sacrifice you and I had the opportunity to know Christ on an intimate level.

I wonder if my answer to that question will have the same impact.


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