February 9, 2016

How to Be as Bold as the Disciples

by Jordan Standridge

In a now famous hall of fame speech Deion Sanders told us exactly what motivated him to become one of the greatest football players of all time. What kept him sprinting when he was exhausted? What got him up at four am every morning when he was tired? What gave him the extra strength to do ten more push-ups when the average person would just give up? The answer? His Mama. He said,

I was ashamed of my Mama. My Mama worked in a hospital. She pushed a cart in a hospital. I was ashamed of my Mama, who sacrificed everything for me to make sure I was best-dressed in school. One of my friends in high school saw her pushing a cart and clowned me because of my Mama. So I made a pledge to myself that I don’t care what it takes, I’m not gonna do anything illegal, but my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.

As motivated as Deion Sanders was, his motivation paled in comparison to the disciples. Peter, John and the rest were arguably the most motivated people in history. They were bold, courageous and literally turning the world upside down.

Peter CrucifixionThen you add John 20:18 and it changes everything. Jesus says,

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.

Jesus tells Peter that he will die on a cross. That is the only way to explain that verse. Well, reading his five sermons in Acts (Acts 2:14-39; Acts 3:11-4:4; Acts 4:8-12; Acts 5:29-32; Acts 10:34-43) takes a whole new meaning when you include the fact that he knew he could die at any moment. This could be his last sermon.

So what motivated these guys? How can we be as bold as they were?

Well in order to see what motivated them we don’t need to look further than the first eleven verses of the book of Acts. Here are four powerful truths that made the disciples the boldest individuals in history.

They were chosen by Christ

until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. (Acts 1:2)

Luke right away reminds us that these were the guys who were hand picked by Jesus. Throughout Jesus’ ministry He loved reminding them of this truth. In John 15:16 he says, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit…” Not only were they thankful to Christ for choosing them, but they were motivated by the fact that their Creator hand picked them for a task, the huge task of going out into the world and making disciples.

The truth is that it is no different for us. Christ literally chooses you as well, for salvation, but he doesn’t stop there. He chose you before the foundation of the world in order that you would be an ambassador for him (2 Cor 5:20). He has hand picked you to be his mouthpiece and to glorify him with your life. His incredible love towards us should compel us to boldly proclaim Him to the world (2 Cor 5:14).

They witnessed the resurrection

To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God… (Acts 1:3)

The disciples had witnessed a miracle. They knew Christ was dead. John and Mary and probably others had witnessed his death. Nicodemus carried his dead body to the tomb. Everyone knew he died, and yet He was raised from the dead and spoke to them for 40 days. While witnessing a miracle cannot bring you to salvation (Luke 16:31) it certainly can give a believer the boldness and an added level of trust in the truth of God.

But there is a sense in which we are better off. We believe and yet have not seen. Jesus tells Thomas in John 20:29, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” The fact that we believe in the resurrection of Christ is an absolute miracle. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 18 that it is foolishness to those who are perishing. And yet you believe this, sitting wherever you are, you believe Christ was raised from the dead. Not only is this an incredible miracle and should give you confidence in your salvation, it should propel you to be bold and confident in sharing your faith to the world. 

They had the Holy Spirit

but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

Jesus tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will be living in them for the duration of their earthly lives. A member of the Trinity will allow them to do things that are beyond understanding. It interesting that whenever Scripture talks about being filled with the Spirit it usually has to do with the fact that individuals are being faithful. They are fighting sin and living in obedience to Christ. This isn’t a feeling or something you can capture through an emotional experience. It is by walking in obedience to Christ. The command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 in its context is a call to be imitators of God as it says in Ephesians 5:1. And the disciples were great examples of a consistent and pure walks with the Lord.

While unlike them we are incapable of performing miracles, the Holy Spirit dwells in us as well. He is performing miracles even in our own life. He gives us understanding of Scripture (1 Cor 2:12-13), He convicts us of sin (John 16:8), and enables us to be effective in evangelism (John 14:26). The fact that the same Holy Spirit lives in you, works in you and empowers you just as He did the disciples, should motivate you to live in obedience to your Savior and open your lips to preach Christ anytime you are around unbelievers, despite the threats.

They believed the second coming was imminent

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.

The assumption of JesusThey watched Jesus disappear into the sky, and they’d probably still be looking up into the sky had the two angels not appeared. Their message was simple, “Jesus will soon be returning, let’s get to work” (Jordan’s paraphrase). I believe this was their greatest motivation. Not only had Christ chosen them, not only had he been resurrected, and not only had He given the Holy Spirit, but He was going to return at any moment. A simple reading of the New Testament shows that the disciples believed that Jesus could come back in their lifetime. In fact, it seems like the early church expected this to happen.

The funny thing (or sad) is that we are two-thousand years closer to His return and it’s barely ever on our minds. Maybe it’s the missing motivation we need to get us off the couch and into the streets preaching repentance. Perhaps its what will cause us to stop wasting time and start working hard for Christ. Maybe thinking about Christ’s return is the motivation we need to finally share the Gospel with our neighbor or coworker who we have wanted to speak with.

The disciples were motivated individuals, they had been chosen by Jesus himself, they had seen and believed His resurrection, they had a member of the Trinity living inside them, and they believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. The same is true of us. I believe that if we recognize these truths we can live lives that are as bold and courageous as theirs.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • tovlogos

    They had the Holy Spirit

    • Jordan Standridge

      Ha! Unless you missed number 3, I’m going to assume you’re saying that points 1,2 and 4 are irrelevant. But the modern day Christians have the Holy Spirit as well so what’s the difference? Why don’t they evangelize?

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  • Jane Hildebrand

    I believe evangelism in America is getting harder, not only because of the intolerance there is to Christianity, but that people are just so comfortable. They see no need for God and they have no fear of Him. It reminds me of Isaiah 57:11 where God said, “Is it not that I have been silent for so long that you do not fear me?” We could use a little dose of fear these days.

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  • tovlogos

    Thanks for your response, Jordan.

    “Ha! Unless you missed number 3, I’m going to assume you’re saying that points 1,2 and 4 are irrelevant. But the modern day Christians have the Holy Spirit as well so what’s the difference? Why don’t they evangelize?”
    No, by no means is anything you said irrelevant. However, I will disagree with: “But the modern day Christians have the Holy Spirit as well so what’s the difference?”
    Jesus asked the rhetorical question in Luke 18:8, notwithstanding the context: “….when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth”? Not much.
    There is more than enough Scripture to clarify the vital necessity to believe in the heart, passionately — the sort of passion that will compel us to take up our crosses and deny ourselves. Not easy, of course; people are so full of fear.
    This is why I believe that when one is born from heaven, literally, he can possess the spirituality to embrace Jesus. There are Christians who never pray, and never read the Bible. Yet they do believe Jesus is Lord. No doubt God has providentially devised circumstances for all believers to come closer to Him. When Jesus walked on water, only one person stepped out of the boat — before they were all martyred, after years of growth, they were all able to step out by the power of the Spirit.

    That’s a rough sketch of how I see it.

    • But Paul says, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom 8:9).

      • tovlogos

        Exactly Mike — that point is implicit in what I wanted to convey. Just b/c someone says, “I believe in Christ,” and goes through a ritual, in no way indicates he is saved. Where should the three-out-of four categories of people, in Matthew 13’s parable, be relegated?

        • Right. Not everyone who professes saving faith possesses saving faith.

          But when you said you disagreed with Jordan’s statement that “modern day Christians have the Holy Spirit as well,” that seemed to me to contradict Romans 8:9, because all Christians have the Holy Spirit, by definition.

          So, the three-out-of-four categories of people in the parable of the soils belong in the category “not Christian.”

          I guess what I’m saying is, we shouldn’t label people “Christians” and then suggest that they’re not really saved or don’t have the Holy Spirit (i.e., that they’re not really Christians). That’s potentially confusing, because there are strains of “Christian” teaching that believe you can be saved without having some special “anointing” of the Holy Spirit that empowers one for life and ministry.

          Your follow-up comment makes clear that when you said “Christians” you were referring to “professing Christians,” and not actual Christians. Thanks for clarifying.

          • tovlogos

            Right I saw the seeming contradiction. Yet I see the state of Christianity in the world, where about a billion people claim to be Christian. I have seen evangelicals degrade into a mere political entity. And churches go directly, and consciously against the word of God. And so on.
            Thanks Mike, I appreciate the feedback.

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  • Shane Wilson

    Jordan,

    Thank you for multiple edifying articles you have submitted on this website. I often find your counsel beneficial for my own thinking and action as a Christian.

    I type this response with respect and hopefully my gentleness and concern for you and other Christians is evident in the text.

    Your article is titled “How to Be as Bold as the Disciples”. And then you submit that Christians can (possibly) be “bold as the disciples” if “Maybe thinking about Christ’s return is the motivation we need to finally share the Gospel with our neighbor or coworker who we have wanted to speak with.” At the end of your article you also provide the summary points of your article, noting that you “believe that if we recognize these truths we can live lives that are as bold and courageous as theirs.”

    I respectfully submit to you that your response is simply insufficient and, while in one sense possibly accurate, in a broader sense, inaccurate. Possibly accurate in what sense? Well, perhaps a few Christians only need to consider the immanency of Christ’s return and that will spur them to evangelism. And if those Christians are reading your article, then considering the truth of Christ’s imminent return very well be the motivating factor missing. If that is the case, then reading your article will result in that particular person acting more evangelistic. But what about a Christian who considers the imminent return of Christ and then concludes, “Well, that’s great, because evangelism is too hard for me”?

    Interestingly, in my 13-year experience as a Christian, I have never once heard that as an explanation for an “evangelism-less” or “evangelism-little” Christian life. I have asked a minimum of a few hundred professing Christians why they don’t evangelize or why they only evangelize a “little” and their responses can be categorized in the following topics; 1. Fear of man, 2. More interested in worldly things, 3. Don’t know what to say. I submit to you that underlying these three reasons is an uncaring attitude and a disobedient heart.

    Why do I submit this? Please be patient with my following explanation.

    I was an atheist for 30 years and when I became a Christian in 2002 I was reading through the gospels. I easily noticed that one of the primary examples Jesus Christ set in His three year ministry was evangelism (Mark 4:17, Luke 19:10, John 4). I learned in my salvific experience, what should be obvious, that the gospel is the most fantastic message on the face of the earth. As a result, I wanted to explain it to everyone (Christian or not). A related feature to this topic taught by Jesus is connected to grounds on which we approach Jesus Christ for salvation. I read in Mark 8:34-37 and Luke 14:25-35, if I were to come to Jesus for salvation, then I had to completely “give up me” and “take up Him”, “Whoever wishes to come to Me, must deny Himself, take up His cross, and follow Me”. I learned that every sinner seeking forgiveness through Christ was required to fully submit to Christ.

    Now, there are many ways in which American professing Christians (and non-Americans) have attempted to define this phrase “fully submit to Christ”, but I submit the obvious is the correct explanation. That the person seeking salvation in Christ must first reject himself, discard himself, and disown himself. A little more fully, this concept means “to abandon all of my human thinking contrary to God’s Word”. Second, the person seeking salvation must replace his sinful living with “following Christ”, this phrase summed up as “learning and living according to God’s Word (which includes His example defined by evangelism). Both concepts are entirely anchored to love and obedience. And according to Jesus, love and obedience are intricately interwoven together, John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”.

    Thus, a rough summary regarding evangelism as it is taught in the bible is this:
    1. Jesus requires a self-rejection for anyone who wishes to come to Him
    2. Jesus requires a total commitment to Him for anyone who wishes to come to Him
    3. Jesus was defined by evangelism
    4. Therefore, all Christians should be defined by evangelism (with only a very, very few exceptions) or they should be eagerly laboring toward becoming defined by evangelism.

    Next, a rough summary regarding evangelism, obedience, and sin as taught in the bible is this:
    1. “Following Jesus” equals “obeying Jesus”
    2. Obeying Jesus includes evangelizing in a similar manner as Jesus
    3. Disobeying Jesus is sin
    4. Therefore, all Christians who refuse to evangelize in a like manner as Jesus are sinning against God

    Last, a rough summary regarding obedience and love as taught in the bible is this:
    1. Loving Jesus is demonstrated by obeying Jesus (I’m not referring to the false teaching of Biblical Perfection, but I am referring to obeying Jesus in a similar manner as Jesus expects)
    2. Disobeying Jesus demonstrates an unloving attitude toward Jesus or demonstrates hate toward Jesus (in the case where a professing Christian claims to love Jesus but his life essentially is characterized by unrepentant sin)
    3. Therefore, all Christians who are currently refusing to evangelize biblically, should repent and commit themselves to evangelizing biblically

    Now, returning to my experience as an evangelizing Christian, I noticed in the first few months after my salvation, that most professing Christians I associated with had zero desire to evangelize. Most avoided the topic of evangelism. This avoidance of evangelism has been one of the single most disappointing prevalent features I have witnessed in Christianity here in America (spanning the spectrum of professing Christians; laymen, deacons, elders, pastors, theologians, etc). Eventually, I began to ask detailed questions to individuals to hear from their mouths why they choose not to evangelize; and I typed earlier by far the three most prevalent. One example from a well-respected elderly elder was “That kind of evangelism (biblical evangelism) just doesn’t work anymore.” I talked to him more about the topic and he admitted he simply did not want to “offend anybody” with the biblical gospel (ie. 1. Fear of man). The first church I attended, the senior pastor (of a congregation of 3,000) apologized for teaching ten minutes on repentance and he did not even explain repentance accurately (1. Fear of man). Honestly, I could easily list 30 examples from my immediate memory of professing Christians explaining their fear of man.

    Therefore, Jordan, I submit to you that professing Christians are not bold like the disciples because they are disobedient; they are disobedient to Jesus Christ Himself. They submit themselves to a yoke of fear, engage in worldly interests as a priority to obeying biblical evangelism, and make little or no effort to equip themselves to become biblical evangelists. Their disobedience is a personal sin against God. (Could there be some exceptions due to ignorance? Yes, but like I noted earlier, the features of evangelism are plainly noticeable in the gospels). Frankly, my submission here applies to all Christians, regardless of their popularity or prestige. Jesus is the defining example to live our lives, not any other thinking submitted by professing Christian leaders, authors, pastor, theologians, or any other intellectual of the age.

    Ultimately, the apostles in the book of Acts displayed boldness in evangelism because they chose to obey Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded them and they elected to obey. The features you listed were absolutely true of them; they were chosen by Christ, they witnessed His resurrection, they had the Holy Spirit, and they believed the return of Christ was imminent. But the determining factor in their boldness was their decision to obey Jesus Christ.

    Now, I have completed submitting what I label the real reasons why Christians don’t evangelize. Now, I’ll submit a solution to the problem.

    The solution can be wrapped up in seven points, as follows:
    #1, “Scrap your passions, desires, and commitments that are interfering with your biblical obedience” Phil 1:21
    #2, “Identify the excuse or excuses you employ and stop using them.” Mark 8:34b
    #3, “Intimately recognize the phenomenal character traits of your new self.” Eph 4:24
    #4, “Confess your sin to God emotionally, intimately, and remorsefully” 1 John 1:9
    #5, “Start passionately saying ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ and ‘I want to obey You’, and oh God please help me lovingly obey You.” 2 Cor 10:3-5
    #6, “Pray desperately and regularly to God.” Psalm 51:1—17
    #7, “Know and walk in the power, love, and discipline of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Tim 1:7

    These seven points come from a sermon titled “Considerations of Obedience and Reformulating for 2016”. You can listen to the sermon for the fullness of the points if you are interested; here is the link. http://www.cornerstonewichita.org/sermons#speaker_user_13

    Secondly, I am concerned with your own witness as an evangelistic Christian. For this concern I need more information from you to determine your own practice or non-practice of biblical evangelism. From your typing I’m not sure if you were describing yourself or simply making a general statement that does not apply to you.

    In your article you typed “The funny thing (or sad) is that we are two-thousand years closer to His return and it’s barely ever on our minds. Maybe it’s the missing motivation we need to get us off the couch and into the streets preaching repentance. Perhaps it’s what will cause us to stop wasting time and start working hard for Christ.” My question for you is, “Does this description describe you personally? Or are you simply utilizing the pronoun “we” generally speaking to those people who are not considering the immanency of Christ’s return or evangelism and NOT to describe yourself? Are you on the couch or wasting your time instead of preaching repentance in the street and working hard for Christ?

    If this statement describes you, then I plead with you to reconsider your reasons for not evangelizing in a similar manner as Jesus. I pray that you will discover or re-discover the distinctive privilege to evangelize, especially considering you are leader in a church setting an example to follow. Simultaneously, that statement may not be defining you and perhaps you are an assertive evangelist; to which I say “thank you for setting an excellent example” and encourage you to press forward, especially since you a leader in a church setting an example to follow.

    Please elaborate or re-explain anything you believe I have misrepresented from your article. I realize for some Christians, even pastors, the content that I have typed may be received somewhat shocking; I pray that you will receive this note as intended and attempted, “the truth spoken in love”.

    Respectfully

    • Jordan Standridge

      Hey Shane thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you that it ultimately comes down to disobedience. I was once told that as an evangelist that my job is to edify the church and to encourage and stimulate people to evangelize more. That is my goal in my posts that have to do with evangelism. In this particular post I wrote a summary of a sermon I gave expositing the first 11 verses of Acts. When I preached through Acts to my college Bible study, I saw these verses as the springboard for the rest of the book. To answer your question I don’t think we should ever get to the point where we are satisfied with the amount of anything we do, as I believe we can always excel still more, that said evangelism is not an area I think I struggle in, as I usually share the gospel on a daily basis. I do think that lack of teaching can cause people not to share the Gospel, just like a lack of teaching can cause people to not grow as rapidly in sanctification. That’s why teachers endure a stricter judgment. On a personal note as I teach evangelism at my church I always try to be gentle with christians who struggle in this area. Although it comes easy to me to engage anyone anywhere with the Gospel it is not easy for most christians, so I try to not only lead by example but to bring people with me to do evangelism. I have seen God use this to encourage others towards evangelism. People know they are being disobedient, they don’t need to be constantly reminded of that, what they need is scripture, encouragement and someone to come along side them and to show them how to do it. I pray you are involved in a church and are gentle towards your brothers and sisters and perhaps taking them out with you to show them how to obey Christ in this area. Thanks for your thoughts!

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