Over Our Dishonor, Disgrace and Shame
I have always heard,
in the sales business, a salesman only makes one sale out of ten attempts.
In our age of smart customers the success ratio is surely declining. There
are those unique individuals who can rejoice over 10% or less success rate.
Some get excited over a number of rejections. The law of average says they
are getting closer to a sale. Few individuals can function with 90% of
their efforts receiving a negative response. The vast majority finds it
extremely difficult to function in a negative world. Finding positive feedback
in a negative environment takes a certain amount of skill. It was a skill
that gave faithful Christians in the first century the ability to function
successfully in a negative world. Not only did they function; they also
found reason to rejoice over the negative feedback.
The disciples are in jail
for preaching Jesus. During the night they are miraculously released from
jail. The angel tells them to go and preach the message of life. The morning
light finds them at the temple the preaching the message of life. But all
is not well. For their obedience to the heavenly command, those who continued
to oppose them drag the apostles before the courts in a furious rage. They
want to kill them. But a wise man persuades them differently. Instead,
they call the apostles in and have them flogged. They order them not to
speak in the name of Jesus, and then they let them go. The apostles leave
the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they are counted worthy of suffering disgrace
for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house,
they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is
the Christ. (Acts 5:40-42 NIV)
gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and
those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. Then the
high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the
Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put
them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened
the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts,"
he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." (NIV)
Boldness to Suffer
A good salesperson
believes in his/her product. Believing in the product produces
confidence and courage in the presentation. Peter and John were told by
the angel, "Go, stand and speak . . . the words of life." It isn't just
a doctrinal statement being proclaimed. It is the message of life; it is
the key to life. It isn't something they read, but experienced. They experienced
a rebirth through this living message. Later Peter reflects on what the
message has done for them saying, "Praise be to the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a
living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . .
. " (1 Peter 1:3 NIV)
They have been
liberated for life. Liberation carries with the ideal of zest and
vitality. How many have sought refuge in a free world to enjoy the zest
and vitality a liberated life has to offer? Who isn't desperately
interested in maximizing life with zest and vitality? It is a desire locked
in our psyches. The angel of God came to salvage their lives from that
prison cell. They personally witnessed the powerful message of life.
They know the message
is vitally relevant to a dying world. The message conveys a person's dignity
in the sight of God. God salvaged their lives from death. They personally
received the Word of Life. Peter is saved from his denial, betrayal and
cursing. Christ resurrected him from the intimidating stifling pressures
of life. Their prayers shake the place of prayer opening the doors of the
upper room pushing them into the lifeless streets to boldly proclaim the
message of life.
They knew they
were delivering a message sent by God. It is little wonder they
boldly proclaim; "We must obey God, rather than men." John later wrote,
"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men . . . " (John 1:4)
John later said, " . . . we have heard . . . we have seen . . . we have
looked upon . . . the Word of life." (1 John 1:1-2) Peter later says, "
. . . we have tasted" the gracious hand of God.
A bold rejoicing
comes when we understand that it is God who releases us from our self-made
prisons. Fear of criticism often locks us into prisons of our own
making. Anxiety of failure is also a prison for many. The worst prison
of all is when we fail to enjoy the abundant life because we refuse to
freely open ourselves to personally living the abundant life the message
of Christ has to offer. We refuse to receive what God says we deserve.
Worthy of Disgrace
"Worthy of disgrace"
what a contradiction of words. The words "worthy" and "disgrace"
mix about as well as oil and water. To our modern minds these words are
at the opposite end of the poles. They are antonyms. Rejoicing over our
disgrace, dishonor and shame seems to be a contradiction of terms, to say
the least. There seems to be even a greater contradiction as the disciples
were rejoicing because they were considered worthy of disgrace. We see
those who rejoice disgracefully. Rarely do we witness a person rejoicing
over his/her disgrace. We are encouraged to rejoice over our blessings,
but not our difficulties. It seems even more confusing when we see the
disciples disgrace as sign and proof of God's grace and their worthiness.
for Christ is indicative of their worth. Too often, human suffering
conveys the message something is wrong with me. But we find the first Christians
rejoicing in their sufferings. It spoke of their worth.
F. B. Meyer has written
the following: "How much is lost by a word! Be still keep quiet. If they
smite you on one cheek, turn the other also. Never mind your reputation;
it is in God's hands. You will only mar things by trying to retain it.
Are you misunderstood? Leave it to Him. You are in His care. Are you wronged?
It will be all right; just be meek, lowly, and gentle. Let the Lord keep
you in perfect peace; stay your mind on Him. Be quiet before the world
and rest in Him. Speak not a word of argument, debate, or controversy.
Mind your own business and be still!"
they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer
was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put
them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About
midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
and the other prisoners were listening to them. (NIV)
so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know
that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character,
hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV)
is why, for Christ's sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in
hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak,
then I am strong. (NIV)
sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation
of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better
and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will
be richly rewarded. (NIV)
it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this,
that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Counted Worthy to
Suffer God's Anguish
Try to fathom
the idea of our worthiness to suffer the anguish of God. I have
a friend caring a heavy burden he is afraid to share with me. He want speak
of it. He knows I know the burden he is carrying. I can't pry. I can't
butt in. There is little that I can do to show him I care. It troubles
me. It makes me think our relationship is superficial. I am denied the
privilege of helping. I would like to be a true friend. At times, it makes
me wonder if he really trust me or has any confidence in me. The least
I could do is lend a listening ear. That would be enough to rejoice over.
I would be willing to do much more.
I have a cousin dying
of cancer. He is only ten days older than I am. I call him every couple
of weeks to ask him how he is doing. I talked to him last Sunday. He told
me that he knew he wasn't going to make it. He is very open straightforward
with me about dying. He said, "I would just like to make it through December,
for the sake of the family." Each time we talk, we talk about life, dying
and most of all heaven. He is a Christian. I tell him, when you get there
you want desire to come back here anyway. I think he looks forward to the
call each time. I am honored he speaks to me about his burden as he does.
His sharing with me adds quality to both of our lives.
holy, all-knowing God has chosen to allow the finite to share his infinite
burden of lost humanity.
It is no superficial relationship. It
is a relationship of trust and confidence as God places the burden upon
our shoulders. It is through the sharing of His burden that He tells us
we are counted worthy to be his children. The apostles rejoice because
they are counted worthy to suffer for his name. God counted them worthy
to share his burden. The word "counted" in the original text means deserve.
God is telling us we deserve such honor.
In sharing God's
burden, we become one with God. Moses chose to suffer with the
children of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Moses
not only chose to suffer with the children of God. He chose to suffer with
God as he led the Israelites out of slavery. He was no stranger in sharing
the suffering of God for his people. God chose to honor Moses by sharing
with him the burden of Israel's redemption.
The honor of caring
the burden of God made Moses a great leader. On one occasion the
burden of the rebellious children in the wilderness became to heavy for
God to bear. As God spoke to Moses he told him that he would destroy the
Israelites and begin a new nation with Moses. At that moment the entire
burden of God was shifted to the shoulders of Moses. Moses pleads with
God to save his people. He pleads with God to kill him but save the people.
(Exodus 32-33) Moses' willingness to carry the burden of God made him the
meekest man in all the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
"The world is sick of
little buttoned-up clergymen mumbling the canned creeds. It wants real
men--men who believe something enough to sacrifice for it." --John Ewers«
The Gift of Life
God's gift of repentance
is the gift of life.
Have you noticed repentance has the major
theme of Peter's living messages beginning in Acts 2? He concludes his
Pentecost message with "repent and be baptized." (2:38) He instructs the
people in Acts 3 to "repent . . . that your sins might be wipe out , that
times of refreshing may come from the Lord." (3:19) Here in Acts 5, God
gives repentance. Another version translates it the "gift of repentance."
In essence the gift of repentance is the gift of life. A new life begins
with changing the way we think. God's gift of repentance through the living
message gives a new life in Christ.The apostles had experienced this gift
and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! The
God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead-- whom you had killed by
hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince
and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has
given to those who obey him." (NIV)
God's gift of
life can only lead to success. God's gift of life is not from any
human origin. Human efforts fail. Gamaliel said, "Leave these men alone!
Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will
fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you
will only find yourselves fighting against God." (Acts 5:38-39 NIV) The
apostles realized the source of their strength. They were trusting in the
enabling strength and power of God to carry them beyond the threats of
Satan. There was an awareness the religious courts were not fighting the
apostles, they were fighting God. "Day after day, in the temple courts
and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the
good news that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:42 NIV)
God wants each of us
to know beyond doubt we are counted worthy to experience the gift of life
through repentance. This makes it a joy to offer up praise to God as we
suffer for him and with him. Paul expresses it best in his letter to Titus.
When we really experience
the gift of life, we can't stop telling other's about it.
time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds
of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and
hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of
his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the
Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our
Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs
having the hope of eternal life. (NIV)