Have You Been With Jesus?

“And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13)

You’ve probably heard it said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the true” or “Be careful of the company you keep”. Both statements have to do with influence. Peter and John spent three years at Jesus’ side and there’s no doubt He influenced them greatly. When Jesus told His disciples it was to their advantage for Him to go away, they must have wondered how. He explained that until He did, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come (John 16:7). It took awhile for the disciples to understand all Jesus meant, but by the time in which we find Luke writing in Acts 4, they do understand. Peter had preached at Pentecost and the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would come, had come. So, this was a different day, different in the sense that the full indwelling power of the Holy Spirit was present with the disciples. And it was noticeable.

It is not to say that Peter and John had never shown the character of men who had been profoundly affected by the Lord. They had. But Pentecost was pivotal; three thousand people were saved, the early church was born, and it was growing. The book of Acts provides a historical account of the early church, focusing on the apostles’ witness of Christ and the spread of Christianity. It is often referred to as the “Acts of the Apostles”, but may be better described as the “Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles”. It’s true that all spiritual power is the Holy Spirit’s power working in you and me. That was true for Peter and John as well.

In this section of Acts, we find several examples of what resulted from Peter and John having been with Jesus. First, their boldness for Christ in spite of the persecution it brought. When charged by religious leaders not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, their response was, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). It was only their being with Jesus that Peter could say salvation comes only though Christ (Acts 4:12). Second, though the religious leaders had plenty of knowledge of the Scriptures they failed to recognize Jesus in them. Peter and John may not have had any formal education, but they were learned in most important thing they could be; Jesus Christ. Third, what Peter, John and all of the disciples accomplished for the cause of the Christian faith resulted from the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. It was God’s grace and power that led these men in their respective ministries, helping them to endure all that they faced.

There was great value and advantage for Peter and John having Jesus at their side. We have that same advantage. We have the Holy Spirit, God’s inspired Word and full access to Jesus Christ. Sitting at His side will equip you with the accurate message of the gospel. It will also change you. Your faith will cease to be a private affair and you will not be able to help but be bold in your witness for Christ, no matter the consequence. Just as the elders and scribes recognized that Peter and John had been with Jesus when they witnessed their boldness, people will recognize it with you as well. There will be a “family resemblance” people will see as the Holy Spirit works in your life, conforming you to the image of Christ and deepening your love for Him. Can Jesus trust you to accurately proclaim His saving message? Do others know to whom you belong or is it your little secret? Well, let me ask, have you been with Jesus?

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Come and Rest

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Though the Mosaic Law served specific purposes for the Jews, its ultimate purpose was for them to recognize their sin and thus their need of Christ for salvation. The Pharisees, however, taught a sort of self salvation, the thought people had to do something in order to be saved. That’s not what Jesus taught.

A “yoke” is a wooden framework placed over the necks of animals to hold them together in order for them to pull objects. The idea of being under a “yoke” implies being under submission to another. Being bound by the demands of the law was an oppressive burden, a “yoke of slavery” for the Jewish people. In contrast, Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden light.

It is easy to fall into the false belief that we have to “do something” to earn or keep our salvation. It’s a heavy burden trying to do that. In fact, it’s impossible because salvation can’t be earned. The beauty of the gospel and the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 is that they make clear the only way of salvation—by grace, through faith, in Christ. Salvation isn’t based on our religious affiliations, a certain set of rituals or our good deeds. It’s based on death, burial and resurrection. Jesus did it all. Honor and glorify Him by resting in His redeeming work.