Sunday, January 6, 2013
Pastor David Lewellyn
Don’t Be Afraid!
to speak up!

Opening:

Good morning, Life Center. Since you are here, I want to take a moment to congratulate you on having 100% church attendance for the year so far! That’s the great thing about the first Sunday of the year.

ILL: Several years ago, I was at a basketball game with my friend Bobby Moore and his family. Bobby is Life Center’s college pastor, he also teaches the baptism class and introduces those who are being baptized each month.

At the game, Bobby’s son sat next to me. Bobby was down the bleachers a little bit, sitting with some of the others who were with us. I was on one end of our group and Bobby was on the other. Sitting next to me on the other side was someone I had never met. Someone big. Someone loud. Someone creative.

I went to public school so I feel like I learned my fair share of creative words, but I was learning new ones sitting next to this guy. Even the words I had heard before were being used in new and creative combinations. He was hurling these word combinations at the refs and players, and doing so loudly. It was not the type of stuff the 5 year old kid next to me should be hearing.

I decided I needed to say something to the guy. I was a bit nervous because he was quite a bit bigger than me, seemingly already angry, and quite inebriated.
“Excuse me,” I said, “would you mind holding off on using obscenities while there are little kids around?”

He turned, clenched his jaw and glared at me as he said, “What did you say?” Clearly not happy with my request. I became more nervous and uncomfortable. I looked around to see if anyone else was seeing what was happening. As I turned I saw that Bobby had turned his gaze to where I was. Bobby is a big and athletic guy. He can be intimidating when he wants. My whole demeanor changed. I became bold.

“I said, cool it on the swearing. There are families here!” The guy looked like he was ready to say something tough again, when he realized that he was being watched by Bobby and the other guys who were with us. He said, “Whatever” and got up and left the game.
I did not get any bigger and the guy next to me didn’t get any smaller, that’s not where my new found courage came from. My courage came from the fact that Bobby was there. It was who was with me.

Today we are going to talk about not being afraid to speak up. Our courage comes from who is with us. It comes from Jesus. Let’s begin by praying.

Prayer:
Jesus, fear can hinder us from doing what you want us to do. It can hinder us from saying what you want us to say. God, my prayer is that you would help us with our fear. Give us the boldness and the courage, to speak up. Help us to joyfully speak of you and the hope you bring. Guide us as we study the Bible, today. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Greeting:
What is something helpful you could tell a Christian who is feeling afraid to speak up about Jesus?

Introduction:
Today is the sixth and final message in a series of talks we’ve been doing called Don’t Be Afraid. Don’t be afraid is one of the most oft repeated commands in the Bible. God doesn’t want us to be afraid. It isn’t his will for us to be afraid.

Today we are going to talk about not being afraid to speak up. Not being afraid to say what God wants you to say, when he wants you to say it.


The big idea:
Say what God wants you to say, when He wants you to say it.

God has given us, as Christians, something incredible and important to say. The Bible refers to Jesus as, “The Word.” It means that Jesus is the clearest thing God has ever said to us about who he is. And God is still showing himself to the world through his son, Jesus. 

Just as God spoke to us about himself in Jesus, we get to speak to the world about God through Jesus. We get to bring Jesus into the conversation.

In situations where there are those who are far from God, we get to tell them there is a way back to God and it is Jesus. In situations where there seems to be no hope, we get to tell people that there is hope in Jesus. We get to remind each other that there is hope in Jesus. When we encourage each other as Christians, we encourage each other by pointing back to Jesus. It’s about Him! We have been entrusted with the great news of Jesus. We need to speak up!

In some of Jesus last words before he ascended to heaven, we are told to teach others about Jesus.

Matthew 28:18-20 

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are told to make disciples as we go. As we are on our way. Wherever Christians are, we are strategically placed to say something important about who Jesus is. We are strategically placed to help people follow Jesus. And Jesus gives us a promise–he is with us. 

We can have boldness to speak up because Jesus is with us. God wants us to proclaim the Gospel, even when it is dangerous, even when we face persecution. This is what Jesus tells us regarding those who would persecute us for sharing Jesus:

Matthew 10:26-31

26 “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Jesus tells his disciples that even in the midst of persecution they should not fear. They can have confidence that truth will prevail, therefore they should preach with confidence. Light will prevail over darkness. 

God is the one to fear, not the men who persecute followers of Jesus. The worse man can do is kill your body, but disobedience to God can have eternal consequences. But Jesus’ disciples don’t need to be afraid because God cares for them. He cares about even the smallest details. He knows the very hairs on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much to God!

Now, as Americans we don’t generally face persecution because of our faith to the point of beatings and death. We are more likely to make someone a little uncomfortable, or angry, or critical of us. They probably won’t beat or kill us. But many Christians across the world and throughout history have and do face this type of persecution for their belief in and proclamation of Jesus.

Remember, even Jesus, the leader and founder of the Christian faith, oh-and-by-the-way, God himself, was killed for the message with which we are entrusted. Persecution is a reality, but in the midst of this reality God tells us to not be afraid. The message we have is more important than our own earthly lives, and God will take care of us.

So God wants us to speak up. He wants us to be representatives of Him in every situation. So how do we do that? How do we remain unafraid to speak up, even when it’s difficult. How do we say what God want us to say, when he wants us to say it, without fear?

In order to get some ideas about this we are going to look at a story in the book of Acts, beginning in chapter 3. If you have your Bible or phone or tablet you can turn there now. I’m going to read it in sections and then give you some of my thoughts on what stands out to me.

This is a story about Peter. The same Peter who lacked the courage to identify himself with Jesus in his last hours leading up to the cross. The same Peter who, in his own fear, denied Jesus three times. But, in the story we are going to read, Peter is anything but fearful and timid. He is bold and courageous! So what changed? I have some ideas. Lets begin in verse one of Acts 3.

Acts 3:1-10

 

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 crippled 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 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.

  1. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Retell the story. Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, stayed on earth for a while, ascended, Pentecost.

ILL:
Do you want a million dollars? Sorry, I can’t. I don’t have it.
You can’t tell news you haven’t heard yourself.
You can’t introduce people to someone you don’t know yourself.

  • They did this in Jesus name. By Jesus authority. Not theirs.  It wasn’t about what they could do but what God can do through them.
  • Jesus is what they had to give. Jesus is what you have to give!
  • People took notice that Jesus power was still active.
  • The lame man simply wanted to be supported in the condition he was in. God wanted to completely change his condition.
  • People come to God looking for this. It isn’t what he’s offering. God isn’t interested in giving people something to make their life better. He wants to give them the best. He wants to give them new life!
  • Our mission is to give people Jesus. It is not to answer their questions, it’s to point them to the answer.

ILL: In youth ministry I get asked a lot of questions. Is it okay if I do this, or is it okay if I do that, sometimes the questions are really easy to answer. But my job is to point them to Jesus. So I ask them questions back. What does Jesus say about it? I’m now constantly thinking, how do I make Jesus the answer?

If I am answering questions, I am the one they are looking to for answers. I’m giving them something I don’t have. I’m only throwing coins in their bucket. If I point them to Jesus, I’m making disciples. It doesn’t mean I don’t help them and speak truth. I do. I try to point them to Jesus. He is the answer. That’s what we have to offer. He’s all we have to offer.

In church the answer is always Jesus!

If we want to speak boldly and without fear. We need to spend the time listening to Jesus, so we have something to say.

Acts 3:11-26

11 While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christa would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’b

24 “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’c 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

  1. Resurrection changes everything.

Here, Peter boldly proclaims the Gospel.

  • You are a sinner. You have offended God and are harming yourself.
  • Jesus died, was buried, and resurrected, so you could be rescued. He took the harm and punishment for sin.
  • You need to repent. Turn to God. Sin has made you spiritually dead.You can’t fix dead by yourself!
  • You will be forgiven.

Wow This is Peter, who denied Jesus in fear.

What do you think Peter was afraid of when he denied Jesus three times? They were taking Jesus to be killed, you have to think Peter was worried that he too would be killed. So what changed? How is Peter now publicly and boldly proclaiming the same things that Jesus was killed for proclaiming, and doing it to the people who were vocal about wanting Jesus dead? I think the answer is resurrection.

Peter says that God raised Jesus from the dead, and Peter was a witness of it. He had seen the man whom he follows, not be affected by death. Death is no longer a fear.
God conquered death. We as Christians live our lives in response to a resurrection. We daily die to ourselves and follow the risen God. We were dead in our sins, but he made us alive. He died for our sins, but he was made alive. Resurrection changes everything.  People don’t have to die anymore. They can have eternal life, and it begins now!

ILL:

Acts 4:1-13

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is

“ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.a’b

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

 

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

  1. It’s not about who you are, it’s about who’s with you!

If there is a time for Peter and John to be afraid, this is it. These are the people that got Jesus killed. They arrested him, tried him, beat him, then killed him. These exact guys had that done. Peter and John know this. Now they are being asked, by what name did you do this?

  • These guys don’t like Jesus. It could be bad news if Peter and John say, Jesus.
  • In an incredible act of boldness, once more preach the gospel. They once more tell them it was Jesus!
  • They thought their problem was over. But the power of Jesus was still alive.
  • There is no other name by which you can be saved, they proclaimed.
  • Who are these men? They are ordinary, unschooled. But they are courageous and bold. Why?
  • What stood out to them. Where did their boldness come from? They had been with Jesus.
  • Jesus was the difference maker. Jesus is the difference maker. and he wants to make a difference in you! And he wants to make a difference through you!
  • Ordinary is not a good enough excuse!
  • Jesus does remarkable things with the ordinary.

When Jesus is with you, you don’t need to be afraid. You can accomplish whatever he wants you to accomplish. It was never about you or your skills or what you have to offer. It was and is always about Jesus.

ILL:
What is this? Basketball. In my hands it’s an ordinary basketball, but in the hands of LeBron James, it’s an NBA Championship.

What is this? Football. In my hands or Tony Romo’s hands, it’s an ordinary football, but in the hands of Russell Wilson it is this year’s Super Bowl trophy.

What is this? Microphone. In my hands it is just an amplification device, but in the hands of the master (Justin Bieber) it is multi-platinum records, and stadiums full of screaming fans.

Jesus is the difference maker. It’s not about you or your gifts. It’s your ability to rely on Jesus that makes you bold and effective in the kingdom of God!

Remember, Jesus promised, he is with us!

Acts 4:14-22

 

14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

  1. Don’t shut up!

The proof of God’s power was undeniable. The healed man was standing before them, but the religious leaders still did not want to believe. They commanded Peter and John to stop speaking or teaching at all the name of Jesus! They wanted them to shut up!

I love Peter and John’s response, should we listen to you or God?
We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

When God has made an impact on your life, you don’t keep quiet about it.
They are talking about what they have seen and what they have heard. That’s what we need to talk about to. How God has saved and impacted our lives. That’s what we talk about.

When the world has nothing to say, the world wants you to shut up, don’t shut up.

When the world is weak, it wants you to be weak. Don’t be weak. Be strong in Jesus.

When the world is hopeless, it wants you to be hopeless, don’t be hopeless. Your hope is in Jesus!

You have seen, you have heard. You know Jesus. Don’t be quiet about it!  No matter the cost, no matter the risk, Don’t shut up.

Where is it in your life that you need to speak up? Is it a neighbor who has not yet decided to follow Jesus? Is it friend and work who is going through a difficult time? Is it your family that is going through something difficult. Bring Jesus into the conversation! Don’t be quiet!

God wants the world to know that he has come to rescue it! He has entrusted us with that message. Can we just say today that we will not shut up! We will say what God wants us to say, when he wants us to say it! We will be bold with the life giving message of Jesus.

Acts 4:23-31

 

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“ ‘Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together

against the Lord

and against his Anointed One.ab

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

  1. Boldness comes through prayer.

When Peter and John are released the immediately join with other believers and pray. They pray for boldness.

  • If we want boldness we, should pray.

Psalm 34:4

 

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

he delivered me from all my fears.

  • Fear doesn’t usually disappear over night.
  • Pray. Seek Jesus. remember hoe great he is!
  • God answered their prayer and gave them boldness. God will answer yours, too.


Closing:

The big idea: Say what God wants you to say, when he wants you to say it!