But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’ Acts 5:20
This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts. It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him. The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us. It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy. Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.
What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’ The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire. And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness. And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.
So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.
I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too. No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. That’s what I’ve been thinking about.
Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen. He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” Now that’s an eye catcher.
People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions. If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.
But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about. And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.
Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study. There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself. We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time. I stopped and asked what that was. The women said it was a man in the holding cell. They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.
I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out. The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray. Please pray.” So we stopped. The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second. We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him. Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.
I said, “Hey, do you hear that?” And they said, “Hear what?” I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there. Jesus did that. He hears our prayers and has the power to work. He will do that in your life.” We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway. I mean it was like a circus out there. It went on and on.
Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again. This circus has to stop.” I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop. Again, within a minute the noise stopped. And again, I said: “Do you hear that? Jesus did it again. That’s what He wants to do for you.”
Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment. She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.” She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol. I told her the story of what happened in jail last week. Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.
She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid. He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that. Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.
The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.” Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen. But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real. Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you. I just thought you’d like it.”
This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”
Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life! Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”
Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…
*Image from Brittalafont.com