Psalm 55 contains some sympathetic words that describe how many people feel in today’s world: a desire to be liberated from the conflicts and suffering of the day. READ Ps. 55:4-8. “Oh that I had the wings of a dove”. As Psalm 55 peaks, there is no indication God brings David peace by whisking him away to a secluded cabin on a lake in the woods ~ David simply affirms an eternal truth of what life with God is like: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall…[and he ends with a direct prayer to God: “as for me, I trust in you.” Ps. 55:22, 23c). God answers our deepest prayers in His way…. Our desire may be to check out of reality and get away… but that is not God’s typical plan. People of faith are forged in the fire. Life with Christ is full of surprises! There are a many fun surprises in today’s scripture.
1. New Life in Christ sets you free! READ Acts 5:17-21a. Open question: what are some of the surprises in those verses?
- NOT a surprise they are arrested, not a surprise the religious leaders are jealous. It’s amazing how often actions are motivated by jealousy.
- The angel releasing the prisoners is a surprise. Later we find out the guards don’t even know it happened. Surprise!
- The boldness of the disciples going back to the public square is a surprise.
“New Life” is a beautiful descriptions for those who follow Jesus Christ. John was released from prison that day. Later, after he came to a greater understanding of Jesus, he wrote the Gospel of John. John 1:4: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
New Life is about quality. 1 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” New Life is the surprise. Freedom to live is the surprise. Freedom to speak is the surprise. Sometimes people not familiar with Christianity wonder what a pastor does all day… Honestly, when you love people and spend time in a broken world, I feel I am the most entertained person on the planet and the most honored. When I was with Denny, he got a phone call from a young woman in the hospital I’ve met a half a dozen times. “Somebody wants to say hi” Denny said as he thrust the phone in my hand. “Who’s this” she says suspiciously as she listened… then she recognized my voice and her guard came down and I could hear the freedom in her voice, and a joy and peace as she talked to me… that’s why I am honored. That’s what keeps me going. To see the prisoner set free. To share a message of New Life.
I am honored to be in the passengers seat watching Chad get our building organized to receive students… who could have imagined our church being the go to place for students… Wild…
Often we create our own prisons. One of the surprises of this passage is that the disciples found freedom while in prison, but the religious leaders are constrained by invisible bars of fear and jealousy. As we read through this scripture ask yourself who is truly in prison and who is free… What constrains you from living the fullness of life offered by Jesus Christ? Fear of being criticized. Anger that God disappointed your plans? A desire for security can be a prison. Locked in by your narrow vision of what life is supposed to be. Others won’t cooperate. The H.S. wants to set us free.
2. New Life in Christ is put on trial. Acts 5:22b-33. READ. Open question: what are some of the surprises in those verses?
- The apostles weren’t in jail, but they were in the temple preaching.
- The commitment to obeying God rather than men.
- The story of Jesus, repentance and forgiveness.
- The giving of the H.S. ~ He is living in us!
- The religious leaders wanting to kill the disciples.
It should not be a surprise that our faith in Jesus Christ is often put to the test. Satan often disrupts through subtle temptations and gray areas. It takes wisdom to distinguish between major and minor issues. It takes grace to accept that our heart felt convictions may not be exactly the same as other sincere Christians ~ yet we are brothers and sisters. We must listen to the spirit to know when to speak and when to hold back, when to act and when to watch, to understand that the Lord uses all kinds of personalities and people for his purposes.
The threat of persecution is never fun, yet one of the surprises of New Life in Christ is that there may be (will be?) times when we are called to take a stand that is contrary to society. If I get in trouble for my actions, I want it be for something important, standing as a witness for Jesus Christ and what he deems as important.
As decisions are made to go forward as COVID retreats and we rebuild, may we ask Kingdom Questions, big questions, how does this help the Kingdom… there will undoubtedly be critics as we proceed…. Shelly posted on FB she had a dream: Covid was over.
3. The Surprising New Life. Acts 5:34-42. surprises in these verses?
- Gamaliel’s wisdom. He’s a respected teacher. We don’t know exactly how he felt about Jesus and the H.S. perhaps some curiosity… the principle he lays out is a good one to consider in lots of situations. It’s certainly to the benefit of the disciples at that time… but it takes wisdom when to act in more boldness and when to let things play themselves out… the disciples are certainly not playing by those rules and they boldly speak out.
- The flogging.
- The Joy
- The continuing boldness of sharing the message of the New Life.
When you are obedient to Jesus Christ you can expect surprises as a way of the New Life. Unexpected allies. Open doors you never expected. Opportunities you never thought possible. The religious leaders wanted to kill the disciples ~ they just conspired to kill Jesus so this is no idle possibility. Gamaliel is a grandson of Hillel, a very famous and respected Rabbi. G. is the head of a conservative school that trained the conservative branch of Judaism, the Pharisees. He was as strict as strict could be… He gives a couple of examples of threatening movements/messages that came to nothing… “Let these men go” G. advises… sidenote, G. has a famous disciple underneath his teaching. READ Acts 22:3.
The New Life is full of surprises. God will intervene in times of trouble. His timing is always right. His ways are perfect. When David was in anguish a 1000 years earlier he cried out to God, “Oh if I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest.” The surprise is that peace comes when he simply casts his cares upon the Lord and humbly proclaims to God, “I trust in you.”
Look for surprises this week, unexpected results for a confrontation you fear, intervention from a suprising source, unexpected peace in the face of a difficulty. We have been given the wings of a dove through the H.S., not to fly away to safety, but to make it through the storm, Life in Christ is full of surprises. Your faith will be tested, you may even be flogged, but you’ll be given freedom from the prison and the Lord will surprise you with the unexpected, bringing you joy.