And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 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!”
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men."
Well, I have begun working my way through Acts, and this was the passage that really grabbed my attention the other day. And even though it's not rocket science, I think it bears repeating: if you have to choose between obeying God or obeying men, pick God. Every. single. Time. Just be sure it's God you're following, and not your own fleshly desires.
That is what I have been thinking on this week. It is of the utmost importance in my walk with God that I hear FROM HIM about what He wants from me and for my life, and that I not just take my cues from others around me.
In this passage, we see Peter addressing the Jewish religious leaders. These were respected members of the community, and leaders in the synagogue. If Peter had had anything less than a definitive, divine encounter with God, I think it would have been nearly impossible for him to stand against them in what they were telling him to do. The Peter we see in the gospels, who denied Christ 3 times, would have cowered under the pressure. But that Peter was gone, and we see here guys that are so rooted and grounded in Christ that nothing will sway them from the Great Commission. Jesus said to preach the gospel, and they are preaching it. Whether it is a convenient message or not. Whether it makes religious people comfortable or not. The message of Christ will not be compromised.
At the same time, they are firm and resolute, but they are NOT meanspirited. I see here humble men who are obedient to Christ, but not out for personal gain or wordly influence. Today I was reading in Acts 8 about Simon the Sorcerer, who asked if he could buy the ability to lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter's response in Acts 8:20-21 is unflinching:
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God...."
So how am I sure it's God I am following? Well, the biggest thing I see is the most helpful: God has given me His Word, aka the Bible. The more I read and study His word, the easier it will be for me to recognize when he is truly speaking to me. I don't believe there is anything God is going to speak to me that is going to compromise His word. And secondly, I am going to continue to PRAY and to ASK for HELP. Because I know the word, I know it also says in James that we can get more wisdom if we ask for it. It says in James 1:2-8:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
In other words, Count your trials joy, because they are going to produce godly fruit of character in your life. And if you need wisdom, ASK for it. But ask with an attitude of trusting God. You have to make up your mind that God is good, and that He is trustworthy ahead of time if you expect God to answer you, I think. At least that's what I take away from this passage.
The third way I know I am following God, after these first two, has to do with my heart attitude, I think. This is something you, again, have to ask God to reveal to you. When we are choosing to obey God, we should be doing it in an attitude of submission and love for other people, not out of pride. I ask God to show me my heart pretty often; I have to say, it's one of those prayers that you can't get mad when he shows up and DOES IT. I am pretty sure everyone has areas of their heart that aren't pretty---that are under renovation, so to speak. Or atleast they ought to be, if they are not. So God will always have something to show us where we can improve in our attitudes, or sin that we should repent of and has no place in our life. But hopefully, when we face an area of life where we feel we must choose between serving God or man, we will find that our heart in that area is right before God and our attitude toward those we view as opponents of God is right as well. We are called to love our enemies, even if we have to confront them with difficult truth.
The last passage which really spoke to me this week is the first part of Acts 8, verses 1-4, immediately following the passage discussing Stephen's martyrdom:
Now Saul was consenting to his death.
that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at
Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea
and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
I love what it's saying here: that the horrible event of persecution was ultimately the way God used to spread the gospel. It was not an accident. God only allows that kind of pain when he has a greater purpose in mind. I am seeing that more and more. None of our pain is wasted in God's economy, if we consecrate it to Him; ultimately, we WILL have the final victory in Him. I find great encouragement in that fact.
Anyways, that's what running around in my brain this week that I thought I would share. I'm still working through my life goals/manifesto, but have nothing more to share with that right now.