Acts 4 - Whom you would change, you must first love.
What situations, events, or brokenness in this world would you change? Whom would you like to be changed? Change, defined by our current culture is progressive and normally moving forward to some other loosely defined reality. Little consideration is given if the outcome will be positive or negative. Could change be reflecting on tradition or events in the past that modified the course of history? Change often comes from an unexpected place, with unintended results. Peter and John were the voice of change. They appealed to everyone to remember of an event that changed the course of history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the ultimate expression of love.
“5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Out of love, Peter and John acted boldly proclaiming the resurrection of the risen Savior. Out of love for the lost, broken, and the sick, they proclaimed there is power that calls all to come and repent. (Acts 4:12) They were utilized, empowered by the Holy Spirit to heal the lame beggar, but why them? The Holy Spirit employed Peter and John because they were ready to love the lost. Many of us, while our intentions are good, are not ready to be used by the Holy Spirit. Our hearts must ache for the lost, sick, and the broken. This opens the door for the Holy Spirit to enter us. Peter and John were open to the Spirit. Why else would “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13) be so empowered to stand in direct defiance to the authorities and say, “You crucified Christ, but God raised him from the dead!” (Acts 4:10)
A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King brings clarity for how are we to proclaim the gospel of Christ to others.
“Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know that you love them.”
Has the church corporately done a good job of loving people? Sometimes the answer is yes, but many times the answer is no. Why is this? If we clutch the greatest truth, the greatest love, and the freely extended grace for forgiveness of our sins, we must turn to another and show them the way to this gift! God lovingly pours His blessings on us and we, in turn, should love others as an extension of the blessings granted to us. Love is the forceful change mechanism used by the Holy Spirit to bring about change. How powerful is a voice of love in comparison to a voice filled with anger and contempt? In any situation, an expression of love enabled by the Holy Spirit, through a believer in Jesus Christ, will bring about lasting change of the heart. Peter and John provided us with an example, “for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) The prophet Jeremiah states, “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9) Our calling as Christians is well defined. We must loving speak what we have heard, with love, with grace, with gentleness and respect. (Acts 4:29, 1 Peter 3:15)
While united by grace in Christ, the Church provides a physical connection for the execution of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18, Acts 4:31) “All the believers were of one heart and one mind.” (Acts 4:32) As one body, we are to give our gifts to the church to advance the mission of Christ, while indwelled with the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 provides answers. Every church member has different gifts and talents. (1 Cor. 12:4) The Holy Spirit provides each gifts and talent for use “on mission.” (1 Cor. 12:7) Of course, a sinful nature fractured this perfect union between God and His creation. (Genesis 3) This causes us to hold our gifts tightly, claiming them to be a product of our own doing. However, you are not your own! Your gifts are from God. Created for a unique and special purpose, in the image of God, each member of the church has a special place in the eyes of God and His church. Romans 12:4 tells us, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Therefore, who does it take in the church to do the work of the mission? Everyone, each using their Holy Spirit provided gifts and talents!
How much transformation could the Christian church enact if all followers of Christ called upon by the Holy Spirit, seek and serve the lost, sick, and the broken? Can we accomplish this task by our own will? No. In the broken world in which we live, some will always reject the gift of Christ. (Psalm 2:1-2) That we cannot help, but we pray and call out to God, the Holy Spirit, to enable us to declare his word. (Acts 4:29)
Our responsibility is to love one another, allow God’s sovereign will to lead us, and showing others kindness and grace by positioning ourselves to be used by the Holy Spirit. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit, the brokenness of the world is restored, the lost saved and lame beggar calling for alms healed. We are disciples of the greatest story of the world, unfolding before our eyes. We know how the story ends. Persist in love, remain compassionate, and live courageously, for He has risen.