I’m no preacher, though I admire those who can move the heart , inspire to action or introduce a new perspective by speaking with passion from the front. I’m more prone to latch onto a verse or passage of scripture, internalise it, roll it over in my brain and even, on occasion, put it into practice. My way is decidedly un-flashy and that’s fine with me. I’ve often thought that the most effective way to deliver a preach would be to simply expound on one powerful verse or passage. It would be hard to choose just one; the Bible is full of potent stuff which, if thrown around carelessly, could knock your socks off.
Having offered that disclaimer, consider this little gem, from Acts 4.13:
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John
And understood that they were uneducated, untrained men
They were marvelling and began to recognise them as having been with Jesus
In this chapter of Acts, Peter and John had been speaking boldly to the people but were irritating the religious leaders; so they were dragged before the authorities – not a threatening situation at all! – who demanded they explain themselves:
By what power, or in what name, have you done this? (Acts 4.7)
Their answer, straightforward and no-nonsense, was that they did what they did in the name of Jesus himself, reminding the hostile authorities that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”
It’s at this point in the narrative that the leaders notice Peter’s and John’s confidence as well as their lack of education or training (see above). Here were a couple of ordinary fellows who were simply convinced of the uniqueness of Jesus and were compelled to speak up about it. And somehow – the narrative doesn’t say just how – but somehow, they were recognised as having been with Jesus.
I wonder if people ever recognise me as having been with Jesus? Is there anything different about me, about the way I relate to people and move in the world, that would identify me as His follower? Have my education and experience, or perhaps my cynicism or my insecurity, gotten in the way of Him being evident in me?
Through the years I’ve experimented with and started churches, had studies in my home, encouraged people to examine the scripture for themselves, admonished folks to stop fiddling around with petty religious irrelevance, tried and succeeded and failed at lots of things and have certainly been asked more than once what gives you the authority to (do whatever it is that someone thinks I shouldn’t be doing)? My answer invariably boils down to this: Jesus. The authority to share the gospel, offer encouragement from the scripture, extend the Kingdom and challenge the prevailing cultural view comes directly from Jesus Himself. Is there any higher authority? He’s the one who commanded us to make disciples, reminded us there would be persecution and difficulty, and admonished us not to give in or give up. Sure, there are hierarchies and organisations and denominations and all sorts of structures attempting to track these things and perhaps even try to control them. That’s more or less an exercise in futility, given that that God’s Spirit is “like the wind, which blows where it wishes; you hear the sound of it but do not know where it’s going or where it comes from…” (John 3.8). Trying to monitor and control the activity of Jesus in the world is like trying to take charge of the wind.
Better, perhaps, to simply obey Him and take seriously the authority, and the freedom, we’ve been given in Christ, fasten our seatbelts and see what happens.