I heard a story about a man who went to the zoo, and he was standing in front of the lion cage when one of the zoo workers went into the cage with nothing in his hands but a broom. He closed the door and proceeded to sweep the floor of the cage.
This man got worried because the worker didn’t have any weapons to defend himself if the lion decided to attack. But the worker didn’t seem to be concerned. In fact, when he got to where the lion was, he poked it with his broom. The lion hissed at him and then went to lie down in another corner of the cage.
This man said to the worker, “You certainly are a brave man.”
He said, “No I ain’t brave”, and he kept sweeping.
“Well, then, that lion must be tame.”
He said, “No, he ain’t tame.”
“Well, if you aren’t brave and that lion isn’t tame, then I don’t understand why he doesn’t attack you.”
The worker chuckled, and said, “Mister, he’s old — and he ain’t got no teeth.”
There are some situations in life that just don’t require much boldness, but there are a lot of situations we face that do. In a figurative sense, there are lions that we all have to face that do have teeth, very sharp teeth. So, over the next few weeks, I want to talk with you about the theme of boldness. And I want you to know from the start that some of the material in my lessons will be influenced by what Craig Groeschel has written on the subject.
But I want to start with scripture. There are passages in Paul’s letters where he talks about his own boldness, and he tells us that we as Christians need to be bold. For example, in Ephesians 3:12, Paul says, “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”
But I want to focus primarily in this series on the book on Acts, where there are 11 different verses that talk about the boldness of the apostles. In fact, I think boldness is one of the primary themes in the book of Acts.
In Acts 4, the Jewish leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John.” (Acts 4:13). Later in that same chapter (Acts 4:29), the apostles prayed for more boldness. And they “continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
In Acts 9, Barnabas said that Paul “preached boldly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:27). In chapter 13, “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly” (Acts 13:46). In chapter 14, they were “speaking boldly for the Lord” (Acts 14:3).
In Acts 18, Apollos “began to speak boldly in the synagogue” (Acts 18:25). And I could go on to more verses, but I think you get the idea. There was a lot of boldness in the book of Acts. The early Christians had this bold faith that led them to speak boldly and to take bold actions that led to some bold results. In Acts 17, people said that the early Christians were those folks “who have turned the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6)
And I think that’s what God wants us to do, to turn this town upside down. Martin Luther King once warned against the church being “bastions of the status quo”. Instead, we ought to be a group of people who allow God’s Spirit to work in us and through us, and lead us wherever he wants us to go. But, we can’t expect any bold results unless we’re willing to be a bold people.
Before we go any further, though, I want to stop and define what we mean by boldness. If you look this word up in the dictionary, you’ll find that boldness is defined as a “willingness to take risks and act innovatively; confidence or courage.” And that’s not a bad definition.
Someone has said that Christian boldness contains three elements — conviction, courage, and urgency. And, if any one of those three ingredients is missing, then we won’t act boldly. Without sufficient conviction that something ought to be said or done, then what’s there to be bold about? Without sufficient courage, we don’t have enough strength in our conviction to face opposition or threats. And without a sufficient sense of urgency, we lack the fire under our feet to get us moving. People who are halfhearted, or fearful, or indifferent are, by definition, not bold.
And it is my desire that God would take this church, and that God would give us courage, that God would give us an outspoken spirit, that God would give us the willingness to live for Him without being afraid.
Let me give you just a little bit of a preview of where we’re going in this series. Next Sunday, I plan to talk about bold prayers; because quite honestly, I think a lot of times we pray very timidly. And I’m sure that God is happy when we thank him for our food, or we ask for safety as we travel. But I wonder if God ever says, “Don’t you have anything tougher than that? I’m the God of the universe, I can handle a lot more than that!” So, we’re going to look at praying bold and courageous prayers of faith.
And then, after that, we’re going to talk about being bold in our speech, because when you look at scripture, over and over again in the Book of Acts, you’re going to see words like, “They spoke the word of God boldly”, “they preached boldly”. And we’re going to see people who were not afraid to speak the name of Jesus and the Word of God; they weren’t worried about being politically correct, but in a spirit of love, they were willing to be bold.
And then, finally, we’re going to look at bold obedience, and we’re going to take a look at some men and some women who would rather be persecuted or killed than to disobey God, or to renounce the name of Jesus Christ. And so, we’re going to take a look at bold obedience.
And, throughout this series, I hope that God will convict us, that he will touch our hearts so that we will develop a boldness that is born out of a belief in the one true God who sent His Son Jesus Christ so that we might live.
But, this morning, I want us to take a look at some ordinary people who had some extraordinary boldness.
And I want to start with a guy named Peter. A lot of you will be able to relate to Peter, I know I can. Because Peter was a guy who was often characterized with bold intentions followed by timid actions. There are a lot of examples of this in the gospels, but I think the best example is found in Matthew 26. Jesus had just shared the Last Supper with his apostles. They headed out to Gethsemane where Jesus told his apostles that they were all going to turn their back on him.
And, in a very bold statement, Peter said to Jesus, in essence, “Even if all of these other guys turn their back on you, I’ll never do it. I’m your guy, I’ve got your back, I’ll never deny you, I’ll boldly stand by you.”
But, of course, you know how the story ended. How even before that night was over, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Three times he said that he didn’t even know Jesus. He had bold intentions, but they were followed by timid actions. But, something happened to Peter that changed him.
In Acts 2, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit, and it was like a switch flipped inside of him. All of a sudden, this guy who used to be afraid to speak up for Jesus, he went out and stood in front of this huge crowd and he preached one of the boldest messages in history. He said to the Jews, “You have crucified Jesus, and you need to turn from your sins, you need to repent and be baptized.” And 3,000 people responded and were saved that day! And the early church just exploded in growth and Peter was bold and he was on fire for God.
In the next chapter, Acts 3, Peter and John were walking up to the temple and they see this guy who had been lame for more than forty years. He couldn’t walk. Imagine seeing someone today who’s been in a wheelchair for forty years. And Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). And he did! It says he was “walking and leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:7). And all of a sudden, everybody’s talking about what just happened because they knew this guy and they knew how absolutely incredible this was.
But not everybody was happy with this miracle. And so, some of the temple guards under the command of the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious group of that day, sent some people out to arrest Peter and John. And they brought them and put them on trial in front of the Sanhedrin.
I’ve read that what the Sanhedrin would do was they would line up all of the members of the Sanhedrin in a semicircle and then they would put the people on trial right in the middle of them. It had to be very intimidating to anybody who was on trial. So, Peter and John were in the midst of them and one of leaders asked them, “By what name and by what authority do you do these things?” (Acts 4:7).
And here’s the bold response that Peter gave: “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed…”
He says, “You know to know how this guy was healed? I’ll tell you.”
“…let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by him this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:8-10)
There is no way that I can overstate just how bold that was. The members of the Sanhedrin hated Jesus, they were glad he was gone, they never wanted to hear from them again. And Peter says, “Jesus is the one who healed this man. And by the way, this is the same Jesus that you killed just two months ago. “
Now, what’s interesting to me is that, in the first century, the name of Jesus was so controversial. And now, 2000 years later, the name of Jesus is still controversial. In our society today, you can be spiritually bold about all sorts of things, and it’s okay. Everybody’s fine with you talking about God, or talking about spirituality. But, as soon as you bring Jesus into it, everything changes and people get all upset.
Craig Groeschel says he was asked once to pray at a professional sporting event. And they said, “You can pray whatever you want. “
He said, “Anything I want?”
They said, “Yes, you can pray anything you want as long as – there’s only one rule — you cannot pray in the name of Jesus.”
He said, “What name do I pray in?”
They said, “I don’t know, you can pray whatever name you want to! You can pray in God’s name, the Lord’s name, the big guy’s name, his name, your name, their name; you just can’t pray in the name of Jesus!”
And the reason is, there’s something about that name. And so, Peter looked at the members of the Sanhedrin and he said, “We did this miracle in the name of Jesus. You killed him, but he’s back from the dead!” It took a lot of boldness to make that statement. The Sanhedrin could easily have done the same thing to Peter and John that they did to Jesus. They could have crucified them. They could have beat them. They could have thrown them into jail.
And those religious leaders were shocked when Peter said that. I think they were hoping to intimidate these two men. I think they expected Peter and John to back down when it came right down to it. And so, in verse 13, we see their response:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
The members of the Sanhedrin were astonished, they were amazed. They were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John. I want us to spend the rest of the lesson this morning in this one verse, and I want to share three things with you.
1. God gives ordinary people extraordinary boldness.
Verse 13 says that the Jewish leaders could see that Peter and John were “uneducated, common men.”
The word that’s translated as “common” in that verse is the Greek word idiotas (id-ee-o’-tace). This word can mean unlearned, it can mean unschooled, it can mean ordinary; but the most literal translation for the word idiotas is – I’m sure you can figure it out — it’s the word idiot! The literal translation of this verse is — these guys were amazed and couldn’t believe the boldness of these idiots.
You see, here’s the deal. If you’re the best of the best, the brightest of the brightest, you’ve got a PhD and you know to speak 12 different languages, God can use you, I promise he can. It’s just that God specializes in using common people! He loves using ordinary people.
That’s what Paul said in I Corinthians 1, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (I Corinthians 1:26-27)
You see, here’s the deal — God loves to take ordinary people and give them extraordinary boldness. He loves to take people that others overlook and give them boldness, because a lot of you are going to say, “Yes, those guys were bold, but they were apostles. I’m not an apostle. I’m not even a Bible teacher. I’m just a stay-at-home mom, or I’m just a student, or I’m just a soldier. I’m just an ordinary guy! But, there are so many different ways to be bold.
Maybe you’re in your work place and everybody is gossiping. And you say, “You know what? Because of my faith, I’m not going to be a part of this!” And you walk away from the gossip. You’re being bold.
Or maybe you’re a teenage girl and you love God and all of your friends, let’s be honest, they tend to dress immorally. But you make the decision that you’re going to be modest so as to honor God! And they want to know, “Don’t you care about being stylish?” And you say, “I care about more honoring God.” You’re being bold!
Or maybe you’re a guy and all of your buddies are chasing women and trying to get whatever they can get. And you say, “You know what, I’m not going to treat women like they’re objects, I’m actually going to treat women like they’re created in the image of God. And I’m going to honor my future wife that I have not yet met and honor my God who calls me to a different standard. And I’m not going to do that!” You’re being bold!
Or maybe you’re in a business deal and you could make a lot of money on it, but you’re looking at it going, “You know what? I don’t feel right about this, I don’t think it’s quite ethical. And you walk away from a very profitable business deal because of your faith.” You’re being bold!
I want you to understand that God gives ordinary people extraordinary boldness.
2. Your boldness will amaze the world
When you become spiritually bold for the glory of God, your boldness will amaze the people around you! Verse 13 says “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John…they were astonished.” They were amazed. Why were they amazed? Because these men had a serious conviction. And they were willing to hold to their conviction no matter what the consequences might be.
There’s a cooking show on the Food Network called Chopped. I’ve never seen the show myself, but I understand that on each episode, there are four chefs who compete against each other for a prize of $10,000.
Seven years ago, there was an episode of Chopped and one of the contestants was a Christian named Lance Nitihara. Throughout the show, he talked about the mean and inconsiderate person he used to be, but how he had changed his attitude on life and others because of God. He even prayed for one of the girls on the show.
Lance’s chief competitor was a lady by the name of Yoanne, and she was there to win the money to pay for a visit to France to see her dying grandmother – who had been her inspiration.
But, at the end of the show, it was Lance who won the $10,000. But then he turned to Yoanne and he said, “I didn’t expect to win, so I didn’t expect the money. I want you to go see your grandmother, so I’m paying for the ticket.”
And to the amazement of everyone there — the judges, her, the audience — Lance did something bold and he gave away part of his prize money because he felt like that’s what God wanted him to do. And at the end of the show, people were in tears, because this ordinary guy took a moment to live like Jesus Christ. And when that happens, people are amazed.
They may not appreciate what you do. They may even think you’re crazy. But they will be amazed, that someone has such a strong conviction and is willing to live out their faith regardless of the consequences.
And I’m not talking about doing anything weird. What I’m talking about is being bold with integrity; the boldness where you’re serving people faithfully in Jesus’ name, where you’re encouraging them, where you’re living with integrity, where they look at you and they say, “There’s something different about this person.” A boldness where you’re so generous with your money and your heart and your time, where you’ve served your way into people’s lives, and therefore you’ve earned the right to say, “I love you. Can I tell you about my God?”
If you will be bold in your faith, people will notice. They will pay attention, and they will be amazed.
3. Spiritual boldness comes from knowing Christ
At the end of verse 13, it says, “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
These religious leaders tried to figure out what would make Peter and John act this way. It wasn’t in their education because they didn’t have any formal religious training. It wasn’t in their credentials because they didn’t have any. It wasn’t in their religious pedigree because they didn’t have one. It was in the Spirit-filled boldness that was the result of being with Jesus.
How could these “uneducated, ordinary fellows” make such an impact? Why were they not intimidated by their arrest? How could they dare to speak so freely? What was their secret? When the religious leaders considered all the facts, they came to one simple conclusion: They had been with Jesus.
Peter and John were bold because they had been with Jesus. But there’s something important that you need to remember — Boldness is not the goal. Knowing Jesus is the goal. Boldness is always a byproduct of knowing Jesus.
When you spend time with Jesus through prayer, through study of God’s Word, when you come to know Jesus better and better, it will cause your faith to grow. And as your faith in Jesus grows, it leads to boldness. And, as your boldness grows, it leads to results you can see.
And when you begin to see those results, guess what happens? You want to spend more time with Jesus, and when you spend more time with Jesus, guess what happens? You get more faith and you start praying bigger prayers and you see God at work, which leads to more boldness, which leads to more time with Jesus. And it just goes on and on.
The problem is, the opposite is also true. If you don’t spend much time with Jesus, then you don’t have much faith, and, as a result, you’re not very bold. And, of course, you don’t see any results and so, you don’t want to spend much time with Jesus.
All around us in our society, we see signs of the diminishing impact of Christianity on our culture. And we wonder why Christians have lost their influence in society. I think this verse gives us the answer.
The early Christians turned the world upside down because they had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. This one single fact explains the boldness of the first generation of Christians who took the gospel from Jerusalem all across the Roman Empire.
It wasn’t just knowledge.
It wasn’t just a few prayers.
It wasn’t just having religion as a hobby.
It was because they had been with Jesus.
And let me make this important point:
There is a difference between being around Jesus and being with Jesus.
There is a difference in being around Christians and being with Jesus.
There is a difference in being around Christian events and being with Jesus.
There is a difference in being around the church and being with Jesus
These disciples had been “with” Jesus and they knew him intimately and that changed everything. Even their enemies could see the difference Christ had made in their lives. And it makes more difference than we realize.
So, what does it look like when someone has been with Jesus? And I think the best way to put it is that Jesus begins to rub off on you. For example, if you show up at church with dog hair on your clothes, it would be obvious to everyone that you have been with your dog. If you show up with burgers on your breath and ketchup on your shirt, it might be obvious that you have been with the good folks at McDonald’s. If you show up with a hillbilly accent, it would be obvious that you’ve been hanging around those hillbillies.
You see, we tend to become like those things that we are around. So, if we spend time with Jesus, we’ll begin to look more and more like him – to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, talk like Jesus.
And that results in a life that is marked by humility, honesty, grace, approachability, kindness under pressure, and truth-telling when it would be easier to lie. A life like this carries with it the aroma of heaven.
I once heard someone make the statement about a certain Christian leader: “Whenever he entered the room, I felt a little closer to heaven.” A man or a woman who has been with Jesus is going to become more and more like Jesus.
Would you bow with me in prayer?
Father, I thank you today for the Christians in this room who really do want to make a bigger difference in this community and in this world. I pray that you would fill us with a conviction that Jesus Christ is the answer to this world’s problems, and that you would give us the courage to speak for Jesus and to live for Jesus. And I pray that we would be changed, just as Peter was changed, so that our bold intentions result in some bold actions.
And even though we are ordinary people, Father, we know that you can work through us, in ways that will amaze everyone around us. And may it be so very evident to those we come in contact with that we have been with Jesus, and that he is at the very center of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.