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    Prayer and fasting 21 days – Acts 4 

    When the Holy Spirit works through us, it is not long before there is demonic opposition!  The earthly powers – and the demonic powers motivating them – try to discourage the apostles from proclaiming Jesus, who was the main focus of the first evangelistic sermon in Chapter 2 and of the explanation of the miracle in Chapter 3.  Their response shows the key to responding to intimidation and opposition is to be filled with the Spirit (see verses 8 and 31).

    Ask God to fill you with the Spirit and give wisdom and steadfastness to push through any intimidation.  Ask for love for people (who are never our enemies, even when demonic forces work through them) and inspiration to pray.

    Further reflection

    We see the Holy Spirit giving courage to Peter and John in speaking to the Council (as Jesus taught in Matt 10:19-20).  It is important to note that they had a choice: they could either allow the Spirit to lead them as they spoke out or they could retreat into human efforts and would no doubt have been overcome by fear.  Later we see the church responding in the same sort of way.  In v24 we read that they responded to the news by a) praising God and focusing on Him, b) asking for boldness while God continues to show His power in miracles.  That is how to meet spiritual opposition!  God’s affirmation of their prayer was immediate (v31) – a dramatic reminder of His approval and His power, with a fresh outpouring of the Spirit.

    The believers’ prayer shows they clearly understood Jesus’ teaching that speaking out to proclaim what God is saying must be backed up by works of power that demonstrate what Jesus is doing through his people.

    The gospel has very practical implications for us.  In verse 31 we see God Himself by the Holy Spirit making His presence known in a dramatic way.  Like the day of Pentecost this presence of God is what defines the church (Matt 18:20 is the only New Testament definition of church and Jesus is clear it is His presence that makes a group into a church).

    Importantly towards the end of this chapter in vv 32-35 there is a summary of what was happening in those days.  The gospel had the sort of impact on the church that it had had on a few individuals through Jesus’ ministry (e.g. Zaccheus in Luke 19).  This was the fulfilment of the Old Testament Law’s instructions on the year of Jubilee, a time of redistribution of wealth as the rich shared with the poor.  The result was even greater power as the apostles preached.

    We see the church living up to its calling by sharing practically.  They were of one heart and mind, which is the happy state Jesus prayed for in John 17 and Paul and the other New Testament writers encouraged and instructed many times in their letters.  They showed it by how they handled their possessions: love in action.  Dare we handle possessions so lightly that we make them available to others?  Do we really want to obey God by living generously and loving others in response to His love, so that we can see the presence of God released among us so strongly?

     

    Chris Horton, 06/09/2017