What stops you from following Christ? I’m not talking about going to church or Bible Study, nor am I talking about giving to charities, or doing a good deed every now and again. I think it’s fair for every believer in Christ to compare ourselves to the righteous saints of the Old Testament and the followers of Christ that we read about in the New Testament and ask if we, also, are living boldly for our faith. What stops us from doing just that? To put it simply, it’s fear. We fear death, so we don’t take risks. We fear what they may say at work (or even losing our jobs) so we just as soon avoid the conversations, even as the Holy Spirit is pricking our hearts. We fear the invisible social standards, that they may cast us out of social circles, or disown us. We fear death, because this world has been all we live for (hint: death comes for everyone, but not everyone finds life that is truly life). Meanwhile, Christians in the early church, and indeed today in many parts of the world willingly face all of these things, and more for the glory of Christ Jesus, who they boldly proclaim, even as they are tortured, raped and killed. And why do they do this? Because the Fear of God, which is to hold God in awe, wonder, worship and glory, is greater than the fear that loss produces. Loved ones, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re not effective for Jesus because our fears cause us to lose heart and forget who hems us in before and behind, that God’s Spirit lives within us. Those fears cause us to forget that they may destroy our bodies, but cannot effect our souls: to lose one’s life for Christ is an express ticket home (“for me,” says Paul the Apostle, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, Philippians 1:21). If we care about this life, about what we may lose, we’re lost already. Jesus warns “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). This world is not our home, not if we believe in Jesus. It holds some wonderful blessings from our Father and Creator, but those blessings are but a shadow of what is to come. What shall we do, then? Let us pray boldly, as the early church did, that we may declare the riches and glories of Christ Jesus, and let us rejoice, even if the ultimate sacrifice is called of us. Let us live each moment as if it is our last, and surrender every breath to the one who breathed life in to Adam, causing him to be a living being. Fear God, and the world has no terror for you! Acts 4:13-31 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. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.