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Daily Distinctives, April 20, 2015 (If God is For You)

April 20, 2015

Daily Reading:

[Act 5:17 NKJV]
Then the high priest rose up, and all those who [were] with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,

[Act 5:18 NKJV]
and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

[Act 5:19 NKJV]
But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,

[Act 5:20 NKJV]
“Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

[Act 5:21 NKJV]
And when they heard [that], they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

[Act 5:22 NKJV]
But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported,

[Act 5:23 NKJV]
saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”

[Act 5:24 NKJV]
Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.

[Act 5:25 NKJV]
So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

[Act 5:26 NKJV]
Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

[Act 5:27 NKJV]
And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council. And the high priest asked them,

[Act 5:28 NKJV]
saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

[Act 5:29 NKJV]
But Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

[Act 5:30 NKJV]
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.

[Act 5:31 NKJV]
“Him God has exalted to His right hand [to be] Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

[Act 5:32 NKJV]
“And we are His witnesses to these things, and [so] also [is] the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

[Act 5:33 NKJV]
When they heard [this], they were furious and plotted to kill them.

[Act 5:34 NKJV]
Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.

[Act 5:35 NKJV]
And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

[Act 5:36 NKJV]
“For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.

[Act 5:37 NKJV]
“After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.

[Act 5:38 NKJV]
“And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;

[Act 5:39 NKJV]
“but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it–lest you even be found to fight against God.”

[Act 5:40 NKJV]
And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

[Act 5:41 NKJV]
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

[Act 5:42 NKJV]
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus [as] the Christ.

Daily Distinctive:

I hear stories about the Jesus Movement and how it was like this amazing season when people were coming in droves to Christ through Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith. The LORD really used that man. I consider him to be my grandfather in Christ, because one of his sons in Christ became my pastor and I have learned from him now for over twenty years. But I bring this up because I hear about it all the time from some of the “power houses” in the Calvary Chapel movement. Before I was saved I used to think to myself that I was born about 10 years too late. As a teenager when everyone was wearing day-go shoe laces and wearing their collars up with their jeans rolled up tightly around their ankles, listening to 80’s Pop Music, I was into Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, UFO, Zebra, Triumph, Rush, Montrose, and an assortment of other bands that were from the generation before me. I have always felt kind of out of place. And so when I gave my life to the LORD I had to shake my head and say I missed the boat again with the Calvary Chapel Movement. But you know, the more I think about it, the more I am glad that God chose to bring me in amongst the Generation X culture. Now that I am in the prime of life, grounded in the WORD of God, I have the wonderful privilege of picking up the torch that the Baby Boomers have passed and light the way for the Y, and Z generations.

I can kind of relate to the Apostles in this way. Here is what I mean. They too experienced a Jesus Movement. They were there when Christ was on the earth during His earthly ministry. They were like the Baby Boomers. Then Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected and that begin a new Generation X of sorts. And we see in our verses above the spiritual fire that they lit and the impact it has had on successive generations over the millennia. And so I thought this might be a great place to spend my devotional time today. Thanks for joining me!

[Act 5:17 NKJV]
Then the high priest rose up, and all those who [were] with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,

The Apostles were doing some pretty amazing things as the Spirit of God was poured out on them. They were healing the sick, performing miracles and many people were added daily to the Kingdom through their faithfulness. The high priest and the Sadducees only thought that they were through with Jesus! They catch wind of what is going on, and it says here that they were filled with indignation. Now there is a difference between indignation and righteous indignation. To give you an example; righteous indignation is exemplified by Jesus who in His zeal overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple and drove them out with a whip. The difference here is that the indignation of the high priest and the Sadducees was not righteous. Theirs was based on jealousy and selfishness. As we will see as we move through these verses, the Apostles laid the guilt upon the religious system for the death of Christ.

[Act 5:18 NKJV]
and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

And so being in authority they unjustly seized¬†the Apostles and threw them into the common prison. And I want to point out something here that I believe is important for my growth in the WORD and as it seems to be an encouragement for this season in my life. What I mean by this is that no God ordained ministry is ever launched without some kind of opposition. Here we have the religious leaders, who if they were righteous, would be commending the apostles for what they were doing. Instead, they threw them into prison. I fear that this happens in our own age. Men who desire to serve the LORD, that have been called by God to minister to the body are held up at the starting gates by the “rock stars” of religion who fear they may be unseated. I have heard many stories about pride and jealousy and how these seeds have¬†been a deterrent in the lives of new, up and coming pastors and teachers. If you are in the ministry currently, I bet you can look back over your time serving the LORD and count a few yourself. Still, the Bible is full of “but’s” and I love this next one….

[Act 5:19 NKJV]
But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,

[Act 5:20 NKJV]
“Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

Now, I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of the Apostles while they were sitting in jail. Perhaps they talked about how Jesus had promised persecution. Perhaps they were a little indignant themselves. As the night wore on and they considered that their very lives may have been in danger, I wonder if they second guessed themselves? But if they did, that did not last long, as we see in verses 19 and 20, and angel comes in and opens the prison doors and frees them. But notice too that the angel directs them to continue doing what they were doing. What and encouragement! Don’t give up, keep your nose to the grind, and go stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life!

This serves as an encouragement to me personally. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about throwing in the towel. I will say to myself, “Self, is this really worth it. I mean if I am going to take this kind of abuse, I may as well just get it from the corporate world, at least then I could do whatever my flesh desired without having any convictions.” And then someone will say something to me that lights the spark again and I kick myself for having doubted. But the point is simply this, we need to keep our nose to the grind and moving forward. Jesus promises us good things if we do not faint or grow weary in our service to Him.

[Act 5:21 NKJV]
And when they heard [that], they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

It is one thing to receive encouragement, it is entirely another thing to act upon it. Now think about this for a second. They had just got out of prison and now they are going back into the “lions den” so to speak, huh? Yep, they put feet to their faith and trusted that the encouragement to go and teach the WORD of God was what the LORD wanted from them. And so they go with reckless abandon. I read this and fell compelled to do the same, regardless of what may or may not happen.

But then the high priest and the Sadducees catch wind of the preaching going on in the temple and they are like, “Didn’t we just arrest these clowns last night? Go check the prison and make sure that they are still there.” And so they sent to the prison to have the Apostles brought to them. The plot thickens.

[Act 5:22 NKJV]
But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported,

I would not want to be one of the guards here. “Um…sir’s….um….well….er….well you see…what had happened was…we went to get them, but well….here’s the thing….we know they were there…but…well…um…they are not there now?” The officers had to give the report. I mean think about the poor saps that were guarding the prison door. They must be quaking in their boots about now for fear of execution for dereliction of duty. But to their defense, the officers continue their report…

[Act 5:23 NKJV]
saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”

Now Harry Houdini was not alive yet, but it would appear that these apostles were working some magic, at least in the minds of the officers anyway. They come back and report that the doors of the prison were shut securely, or locked tight, and the guards had not abandoned their posts, but when we went in to get them they were gone…Vanished….poof!!!!

[Act 5:24 NKJV]
Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.

Now, if I were the chief priest or one of the Sadducees at this point I would be wondering about these Christians. I mean, the same thing happened with their Master and He was dead! What is with these Christians, do they have the ability to turn into  a cloud of vapor or something?!?!

Notice too that they wondered what the outcome would be. Think about this for a second. They had the apostles arrested, no doubt so that they could trump up charges and put an end to this Christianity thing once and for all. But now they were equally confused as to why then, if they escaped would they risk getting caught again. Not only that, but they were teaching the people and well received I might add. So now the high priest and the Sadducees were in a bit of a pickle. They couldn’t just grab them in the hostile manner in which they first brought them into prison, there would be a revolt and they would lose the hearts of the people. Although at this point I am sure the people were starting to catch the fire as evidenced by the Scriptures which tell us that the church was growing in number daily.

[Act 5:25 NKJV]
So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

And so it is confirmed that the ones who were making such a ruckus in the temple were the very same guys that they had arrested…DUNH DUNH DUNHHHHHHHH (my attempt at making plot thickening sound effects…I digress). But now the chief priest and the Sadducees had to do something about it. But how?

[Act 5:26 NKJV]
Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

So they figured the only way to keep from starting a riot and getting themselves stoned was to treat them with dignity and invite them, albeit with a high level of insistence, before the council.

[Act 5:27 NKJV]
And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council. And the high priest asked them,

[Act 5:28 NKJV]
saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

Hold on…did you just say what I thought you just said Mr. High Priest guy? Are you asking if we intended to bring the guilt of Jesus’ blood on you? Because I am pretty sure that is what I thought you just said. Notice that they did not bring up the whole issue about how they managed to get out of prison to begin with. Obviously they were ashamed by their own inept ability to confine their own prisoners, but then they try to play nice by acting all innocent.

The truth of the matter is that they were the ones who had the blood on their hands for Christ’s murder. Instead of being cleansed by it, they tried to wash their hands of it. And so I would like to take a second to point out something that I have learned from this passage. Listen, if you are confronted with your sin and convicted of it, man up and take the blame, repent and move on. Don’t try to justify your sin. Don’t make excuses. Just admit, acquit it and forget it. Bring your sins before the LORD with a confession and He says that He is faithful to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. But to be arrogant and prideful, even manipulative as the chief priest was trying to be at this point is a sorry excuse and lame attempt which will only result in your own shame.

[Act 5:29 NKJV]
But Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

I love Peter and the Apostles answer. They say, in essence, “Hold up….you can tell us until you are blue in the face not to teach in the name of Jesus, but you are not God! And for that matter we are going to obedient to God, who told us by the way through His angel, you know…the one that freed us from your silly little cage…to go and do the opposite of what you are telling us to do. Oh…and since you brought it up….”

[Act 5:30 NKJV]
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.

You are guilty of murdering Jesus. And so we are not making it seem that way, that is the way it is. You are murderers. Still even your plan to destroy the WORD of God incarnate has failed and it is in His name that we preach. Furthermore….

[Act 5:31 NKJV]
“Him God has exalted to His right hand [to be] Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

“You think you know about what God wants? Ha! You don’t know anything. It was Jesus who is the Messiah that you pretend to be ambassadors for. You act like you have the ear of God, but the reality is that the One you proclaim to know is the One you crucified and this is the One that you were waiting for. You saw Him, but you failed to witness Him. We on the other hand….”

[Act 5:32 NKJV]
“And we are His witnesses to these things, and [so] also [is] the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Man! Tell em Peter! Tell em Apostles! These guys were probably boiling at this point, infuriated that they are being called out by common fishermen and laypeople. Who do these guys think they are? Oh wait…look at the next verse…they were beyond boiling….

[Act 5:33 NKJV]
When they heard [this], they were furious and plotted to kill them.

So enraged and blinded by their pride they were willing to break their own commandments which they claimed to know so much about by plotting to kill the Apostles. But in all fairness, there was at least one amongst them that had a cool head about things. And you know there are people in our days that are not saved but are leaders because they have the ability (God given I might add) to reason things and not act hastily. The irony of it all is that the person who stands up is might be familiar to you….look at the next verse….

[Act 5:34 NKJV]
Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.

Now if you are not familiar with this man Gamaliel, he was, as it says in this passage a Pharisee, a teacher of the law, but also a man who had garnered a great deal of respect by all of the people. But what you may not know is that this Gamaliel was the one who the great Apostle Paul had sat under when he was a Pharisee. Funny how the wheels go round. But anyways, he tells the council to put the apostles outside for a moment so that he can talk some sense into his fellow religious leaders.

[Act 5:35 NKJV]
And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

And so he warns them to be cautious about how they handle these guys. He probably reminded them, “You know they were not lying about the blood of their Master being on our hands. This is true, whether He was the Messiah or not. If you do the same thing to them that you did to their Master, then there will definitely be a revolt like you can’t imagine.” Then he goes on to give them an alternative, one that will quiet the whole matter and leave it up to God. He says in verse 36…

[Act 5:36 NKJV]
“For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.

And so he reminds them about this guy named Theudas who was the next up and coming rock star. “He went about doing what he could to make a name for himself and even got quite the following, but look what happened to him. He was killed and his name and power fizzled away to nothing, and don’t forget about Judas…you guys remember him???”

[Act 5:37 NKJV]
“After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.

The same thing that happened with Theudas happened to Judas of Galilee. And he goes on to drive home his point…

[Act 5:38 NKJV]
“And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;

[Act 5:39 NKJV]
“but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it–lest you even be found to fight against God.”

And when I read this I think about how wise this man truly was. It is a shame that there is no account that I have found of him ever coming to know Jesus as his LORD and Savior. That will be really cool to get to heaven and see him there. But still, it does show me that we can glean wisdom from wise people whether they are Christians or not. The truth is the truth no matter who says it, even if the reasoning behind the truth is not legitimate. The problem is that too many times even the wisest of worldly men will contaminate the truth with heresy. I think about in our own times how these false teachers will preach another Gospel, but will read from the Bible. There are many people that come to a saving knowledge of Jesus through their teaching. The problem is that over time they are subjected to more and more heretical teaching and eventually shun the truth that they were so close to grasping that would bring them to the point of surrender and salvation.

My old pastor used the analogy of cyanide. He would ask, “How much cyanide do you want in your coffee?” The point being that it only takes a little to kill a man, and this what happens when we get mixed up with false teachers. Still what Gamaliel says here was pretty smart, if you ask me. He is essentially saying, “Look guys if it is mans concoction it will fall flat, but if it is from God, then it is going to happen and we would be fools to stand in the way of it.”

Another thing that I want to point out is something that has kept me up many a night questioning my own motives for ministry. If this burning that I sense to pastor a church and teach the WORD of God is in my flesh then it is doomed for failure. But I am also encouraged knowing that it if it is from God then nothing can stop it. This is why I did not jump right out and start a church when I first felt the flame. That would be unwise. And so wisdom prevails in this instance. Look at the next verse…

[Act 5:40 NKJV]
And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

They may have agreed with Gamaliel, but they were not simply going to let them go. They persisted in beating them and bullying them and telling them not to speak in the name of Jesus again. Finally they let the Apostles go. What nuckleheads. I mean if I even had the slightest thought that they might be messengers from God I would not lay a hand on them. I wish that I could say that cooler heads prevailed, but that was not the case. Still, God had plans for these zealous Apostles and His plans had nothing to do with them dying then.

[Act 5:41 NKJV]
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Here over the past few days I have been seeing the LORD giving me a theme. That is rejoice always. This is exactly what the Apostles do. When they left the presence of the council, they rejoiced. They were glad to be counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus Christ. I see two things here. First they did not gloat. They did not rub it in that they were right. They just left. But when they were out, they rejoiced in their afflictions. To them it was glorious to be counted worthy of suffering for the cause of Christ.

And so when we are persecuted from within or without, we too must rejoice that we are counted worthy of suffering shame for the sake of Jesus Christ too! I say from within or without simply because all too often we are persecuted by the very same people that we fellowship with (within) and by those who are not a part of the body of Christ (without). But when we do suffer we need to keep in mind that we are in good company. Consider the Apostles who died for the cause of Christ. But beyond that, consider the Master who was persecuted on our account. We are indeed blessed when we are persecuted for His namesake.

[Act 5:42 NKJV]
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus [as] the Christ.

I love this. You can’t keep a righteous man down. They did not stop. They kept going at it. The power of the Spirit in them compelled them to continue. And we see here that they didn’t stop teaching in the temple. In fact, they taught daily in the temple, but not only that they went and taught in every house! Amazing. All the chief priest and Sadducees accomplished was adding fuel to the fire which the Holy Spirit had lit in them!

I am so encouraged by this. I could fall a thousand times and I would get back up because the LORD bids me GO! Good stuff.

Daily Muse:

Tick…tock…tick…tock…tick…tock. I am looking at my dad’s watch. My mom gave it to me after he passed away last year. As I look at the second hands moving I think about what my dad did with his time on the earth. I can only think about how many times the hand moved around the dial as time was wasted on things not glorifying the LORD or edifying the body. I thought about putting it on and wearing it, but it seems like this particular watch has a history of vanity, time spent in vain, wasted. But now I am starting to think, why not put it on and redeem the time, for the days are few. Perhaps if I decide to wear it I can look at it and remind myself not to let a second pass where I am not glorifying the LORD. Maybe I will wear it.

Daily Prayer:

LORD, thank You for this time in the WORD today. I am refreshed and excited to see how You will move in me over the course of the next few days as I reflect back on this time in devotion. I pray LORD that You would bring this devotional to my remembrance when I suffer for Your sake. LORD I pray for those who willingly or even unconsciously persecute me. I pray LORD that my life would be a testimony to them of Your grace and Your power. I pray for men in my life who, like Gamaliel, are wise in the world. I pray that You would bring them to the point of surrender and that they would use the gifts that You have given them for Your glory. Finally, I pray for my wife and children. I ask that You would protect them, and draw them closer to You. I pray that I might be a godly example to them. I pray that You would do a mighty work in them that is undeniable. That they would be astounded by You, Your grace and Your majesty. I love You Jesus. Thank You for giving me eternal life, but thank You for giving me Your Spirit right here and now. I am Your servant. Use me how You see fit.  -Amen

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