In Acts Chapter 3 we see a man crippled from his mother’s womb sitting near the gates of the Jerusalem temple. It’s a good place to beg for alms. A few moments later we see this same man inside the Temple of Jerusalem standing, and walking and leaping and praising God. Why the miracle? Why the sudden change?
Here We See The Compassion of Peter
You cannot help but wonder how many times Peter and his companion John had passed this man before, when entering through the Temple gates. Obviously their minds had been on more mundane things. But recently they had been filled with the Holy Spirit; and that spelled the total difference. People filled with the Holy Spirit see things differently see people differently. They take on the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of Compassion.
What Compassion Is Not.
The word Compassion has been torn from the hands of the church and twisted into a new meaning by the media spinmeisters. Compassion is more than sympathy. It is more than just feeling someone’s pain. It is more than empathy. It is more than putting yourself in the other person’s position. It is not political correctness, agreeing with everything the other person says. If you disagree with someone of a different persuasion and say that homosexuality is a sin before God, you are a homophobe. Compassion has been co-opted by political and worldly reasoning rather than Biblical reasoning.
What Compassion Is.
Compassion is seeing a need and doing something about it. God is a Compassionate God. He proved himself compassionate by what he did, not just by what he said. He wasn’t just sympathetic towards us in our sin. He didn’t just have empathy for us, he didn’t just feel sorry for us; he did something about our hopeless situation. The Cross is God’s greatest demonstration that he loves us.
”God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Many seem to forget that it was the Church who started the orphanages to take care of those needy children. That it was the Church who started the soup kitchens. That it was the Church who started the homeless shelters. In fact, the office of deacon was started by the early church to make sure that no one in the church was doing without.
Compassion goes to the very heart of God. He loved us when we did not love him. He died for us while we were yet sinners.
The Second Characteristic Is That Of Courage
In Acts Chapter 3 it took great courage for Peter and John to pray for this crippled beggar in the name of Jesus. Jesus has just been crucified; his name was the most unpopular name in all of Jerusalem. But thank God that they had the courage to speak in his name even though they were surrounded by opposition The greatest kind of courage is moral courage and that is exactly what Peter and John Had. It takes nothing less to live for Jesus today
A great illustration of Moral Courage comes to mind when I think of 9-11 and that Sunday School Teacher Todd Beamer.
The week before September 11, 2001, 32-year-old Todd Beamer and his wife, Lisa, had spent a romantic getaway in Italy. The couple returned home Monday rested and relieved to be reunited with their boys David, 3, and Andrew, 1.
But extended family time would have to wait. The next morning Todd, an executive with Oracle, had to be at a sales reps meeting in Northern California. He kissed Lisa, who was five months pregnant with their third child, goodbye and headed to the Newark, New Jersey, airport where he boarded United Flight 93 for San Francisco.
About 90 minutes into the westbound flight, the Boeing 757 was approaching Cleveland when three hijackers onboard identified themselves to the 34 passengers and 7 crewmembers and proceeded to take control of the cockpit and cabin. The plane, now piloted by the would-be terrorists, made a sharp turn to the south.
Todd reached for the GTE Airfone in the back of one of the seats and was connected to a GTE supervisor on the ground. He explained to her what was happening and indicated that he and the other passengers would not likely survive. He presumed the pilot and co-pilot were already seriously injured or dead.
The GTE employee explained to Todd what had already happened at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Upon hearing this news, Todd must have realized that the hijackers were intent on crashing the plane into another prominent building near Washington D.C. (the direction they were now headed). Even though the hijacker nearest to Todd had a bomb belted around his waist, he told the GTE representative that he and a few others were determined to do whatever they could to disrupt the terrorists’ plan.
He then asked the person on the other end of the phone to call his wife and report their entire conversation to her (including how much he loved her). Before hanging up, this committed Christian and devoted family man, who taught Sunday school each week, asked the GTE employee to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him. With the sound of passengers screaming in the background, she complied. When they concluded the prayer, Scott calmly said, “Help me, God. Help me, Jesus.”
The GTE employee then heard Todd say, apparently to the other three businessmen he’d alluded to earlier: “Are you ready, guys? Let’s roll!” With that the phone went dead. Within a few minutes, Flight 93 nose-dived into a rural field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, where it left a crater 40 feet deep as it disintegrated upon impact.
Because Todd Beamer was committed to Jesus Christ and his Kingdom, he was willing to do whatever was necessary to put the needs of others above his own fear of danger and imminent death. Thanks to him and the three other businessmen who joined with him, the intended target in the nation’s capital was not reached and who knows how many lives were saved because of that. No one on the ground was killed.
According to Todd’s wife, Lisa, “His example of courage has given me, my boys (and my unborn baby) a reason to live.”
Satan has hijacked thousands of people’s lives. He has caused multitudes to crash and burn.
We need the courage that Todd Beamer and the others had. We need to take back the plane. We need their kind of moral courage to stand up against the overwhelming odds that want to destroy our Christian way of life.
However, that is a lot easier said than done. Where do we find this moral courage? The answer is found in Acts 4:13
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
Peter and John possessed the strength they needed to stand courageously, and Todd Beamer possessed that same strength, because they had been with Jesus.
One of my favorite preachers, Charles Spurgeon, said, “There is something in the very tone of the man who has been with Jesus, which has more power to touch the heart than the most perfect oratory.” The power of the Holy Spirit within you, speaking through you, inspiring you gives you the power you need to overcome every obstacle.
The Third Characteristic Is That Of Commitment.
In Acts Chapter 3 it took compassion and courage for Peter and John to pray for this crippled man in the name of Jesus but it also took commitment. They knew that they would face severe opposition and would soon see the inside of a prison cell. But Peter and John were sold out lock, stock, and barrel to the cause of Christ. No one, not family, nor friend, and nothing of this world meant more to them than Jesus. Their lives would have been a lot easier if they would have just stayed quiet. Nobody would have known the difference and they would have gone home instead of going to prison. Lukewarm, milquetoast, insipid Christianity would have been happy with that; but not white hot, Holy Spirit filled Christianity. You may as well command the sun not to shine as to tell a Spirit filled Christian not to shine. The attitude of these two disciples was “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
Commitment Comes From Wanting To Please God Rather Than Man.
“ If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and motheis wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
What are you doing Jesus?! New converts never stick with you if you say things like that to them. Don’t you know the first rule of selling a quality product: never discuss the cost? But that’s exactly what Jesus does to those who commit to him. He tells them what it will cost them to follow him. He tells them that there is a difference between being a spectator and being a participant in Christianity. He tells them the difference between being an admirerer, and one of his committed his disciples.
Jesus here does not really mean that we should “hate” our relatives. He’s using hyperbole, deliberate exaggeration. The word ‘hate’ is a deliberate exaggeration to catch your attention. It means that in comparison to your love for Jesus, your love for your family, even your love for your friends, yourself, should pale in comparison to your love for him. Commitment means that Jesus must come first in every human relationship:marriage, family, business, education.
This is the difficult choice for new Christian who may have to face up to rejection from his or her parents. In some cultures of the world this can mean ejection from the family, or even death. This also means that a non-Christian partnership is out; your priorities have changed; Jesus now comes first.
Jesus also said;
“If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Jesus here is describing the practical Christian life as a life of sacrifice. Changes are to be made on how we live. Christians are to lay their lives on the altar for him. When he carried his cross to mount calvary he gave us his all. In the very same way a disciple carries his cross by giving him their all. As Lord, Jesus tolerates no rivals, he does not settle for second best. There are to be no locked doors, no secret rooms no private chambers in the human heart. “Take up your cross” total commitment; it means loving God with all of your mind and all of your strength; it means loving the unloveable and touching the untouchable; it means honesty and integrity in everything you do; it means loving and forgiving however we are wronged by others; it means a life of moral and sexual purity; it means putting right the things you do wrong. Out of Bounds” for him is not found in any area of the human heart.
Jesus also said;
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
Easy to say; not so easy to do, This triple challenge of commitment might lead to changing your ambitions, changing your job, changing where you spend your time, changing what you wear, changing what you watch on television, changing what videos you rent. Before you commit know the cost for it will turn your whole life around
Jesus gives this challenge because he is not content to fill the church with spectators and half-hearted amateurs.
Compassion, Courage, Commitment: that is how you can tell if someone is filled with the Holy Spirit. These are the three characteristics that motivated Peter and John and I hope motivate you. Make the ultimate commitment; be all out for Jesus. Don’t be a spectator, a possessor, a participator a true follower.
He’s Only A Prayer Away