Trust & Obey

Years ago as I left one of my favorite bookstores, a man greeted me just outside the door. “Do you know Jesus?” he asked.
I answered with a hearty, “Yes!”
“Are you sure?” he forced.
“Positive,” I assured him.
He followed me down the walkway, pressing literature onto my clenched fist. I kept walking.

Really? No “Praise Jesus, we’re siblings in Christ” but instead doubt that I knew my God. Bleh.

We’ve all seen bad evangelism: televangelists, health-and-wealth “gospel,” disheveled soap-boxers with “The End is Nigh” signs. Pastors more concerned with their wallets than spiritual health. As a result we’ve become jaded, even to those who would quietly share grace, who won’t push but long to share truth.

For those who follow Jesus, we have to ask ourselves: where do we fall on the faith-sharing spectrum? I know I’ve been guilty of being too forceful. And I know just as often, if not more so, I’ve neglected to speak truth out of my own insecurity; not wanting to ruffle relational feathers, I’ve failed to trust that God will do His work when I am faithful to listen and obey.

Over the last few years, God has nudged me into a new season of evangelism. Actually, even that term makes me slightly uncomfortable as it raises images both of cold-calling door knockers or filled stadiums, neither of which are my scene. I’ve always thought of myself as a discipler, someone who will walk in faith with those who express desire to grow in faith. Except that discipleship grows out of evangelism, and some who might be interested haven’t yet figured out the words to say or questions to ask.

And so I find myself – at the school, the park, the pool party – having conversations that suddenly (it sure feels sudden, each time) turn to matters of faith. And I have become bold in ways I never imagined, witnessing to the truth I have experienced. I don’t have all the answers. I never will. But I know that out of His great love for His creation God sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die and rise from the dead in order to pay the price for our sin, to pave a way back to God, to heal our broken relationship with God, and ultimately, with one another.

I am not perfect. I am as broken as they come, as we all are. I need a loving Savior, and I live in the freedom that He does love me, that He forgives me, that He wants all to come to know Him. And I have the privilege of sharing that truth with others. It’s not always easy. There remains the risk of rejection.

But God is faithful. One of my favorite realizations about today’s passage from Acts 5 is that the apostles didn’t know how Gamaliel spoke on their behalf. God was at work in unexpected ways with an unexpected person who enabled unexpected ministry that changed the world. You do the work God puts before you, and trust the rest to Him.

Connect
Share a time from your past when you disobeyed someone in authority. What happened? 

Study
Read Acts 5:26-42. 
Based on this passage, describe the apostles’ faith. What stands out to you?
How does Peter summarize the gospel (vv. 30-32)? What can you learn about what’s important to tell people about Jesus?
Read 5:29, 32 and 41-42. What do these verses say about obedience as it relates to sharing the gospel, and why is that significant?

Live
Think of some current examples in your life or in the lives of those you know where the principle in verse 29 may come into play.
Sometimes Christians face opposition because the message of the gospel is offensive (see 1 Cor. 1:23). At other times, it is the Christian him- or herself who is offensive. Describe the difference.
Read 1 Peter 3:15-16. What would obedience to God’s Word in this passage look like in your life?
When have you been reluctant to share your faith when you knew you should? What might you do differently?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray for courage for one another to be obedient in sharing your faith with the people God has placed on your heart.
Pray for Christians in places like Syria and Iraq who are suffering right now for their faith in Jesus. Ask God to give them courage and perseverance in the face of suffering, and like the first disciples, to be able to rejoice that “they have been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

By the way, if you’re using and enjoying these Bible studies, I’d really love to hear from you!

It’s All His

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17).

Every good and perfect gift is from God, our never-changing Father-Creator who loves us and gives us good gifts. My life, my family, our home, my job, my friends… The list goes on. Even when I don’t want to call it “good” or even less “perfect,” God has given the gifts. And I have the privilege of using them for His glory.

You and I may work hard, but the course of our lives has been directed by God. Where we were born, into our families, how that shaped us… all His gifts. Our jobs and income sources… His gifts. Sometimes the gifts can be harder to spot, especially when packaged with adversity, but they’re there for those who will excavate diamonds from coal.

Today’s passage includes two examples of people using their God-given gifts. Barnabas encouraged the early Church with his generous gift. Ananias and Sapphira were dishonest about their gift – it was theirs to use as they discerned God’s leading, but they wrongfully presented it as the full amount in order to keep up appearances with the other believers. They paid a heavy price for their misuse of God’s gifts.

Connect
What is one of your favorite possessions, and what makes it precious to you?

Study
Read Acts 4:32-5:11.
Describe the believers’ life together (vv. 32-35).
Compare and contrast Barnabas and Ananias (vv. 4:36-5:2).
What could Ananias and Sapphira have done differently?
How do the believers feel about these events (vv. 5, 11)? Explain.
Describe the Spirit’s role in this passage.

Live
How can keeping up appearances get in the way of God’s work?
How is witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection related to caring for those in need? How can you be involved in both?
What from this passage challenges you to consider your attitude and actions regarding money/possessions?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that God will help you to apply His Word to your lives this week.
Ask God to unify your believing community in heart, mind and mission in the name of Jesus.