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It All Depends on Where You Look

Some people see death while some people see the resurrection. In Acts 5, the church is in its infancy and the power of the Holy Spirit is creating quite a stir. The disciples have been miraculously released from jail and they are teaching the people on the temple mount. There are two prominent groups in the story. Both groups witnessed the death of Christ on the cross and both groups know that the resurrection has taken place. The disciples have chosen to focus on what it means that Jesus rose from the dead. The Sanhedrin chose to focus on the fact that Jesus had been killed.
I find this intriguing because I see the same choice being made today by modern men and women. Some people see the decay, hardship, and obstacles of life. They are afraid to venture out because it might fail. They hesitate on valid opportunities because it will take a lot of work and will expose their inadequacies. They refuse to utilize their gifts because they don’t want the responsibility that will result from their productive influence. Don’t get me wrong, the hard things of life are real in our world and we don’t want to live in denial. The brokenness of life, however, is not a great place to focus.
At the same time, I have observed another group of people who see life in the midst of the devastation. They see the opportunities of life and believe they will somehow work out. They are convinced that hard work and perseverance will bring about positive results. They live with the conviction that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) They don’t deny that life is an incredible challenge but they have accepted that death is not the end of the story.
As I read Acts 5 today, I saw the contrast between these two mindsets. Those who were fixed on the death of Christ:

  • Made decisions out of fear – “The captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.” (v. 26)
  • Relied on authoritative statements to control the behavior of others – “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. . .” (v. 28)
  • Were motivated by guilt and shame – “you . . . are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” (v. 28)
  • Were threatened by the progress of others – “When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.” (v. 33)

On the other hand, those who were focused on the fact that Jesus was alive and had given the Holy Spirit to people:

  • Experienced unexplainable blessings – “The officers . . .  reported, ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’” (v. 22-23)
  • Lived out their purpose despite the obstacles in their lives – “Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’” (v. 25)
  • Were supernaturally confident – “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” . . . Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (v. 28-29)
  • Believed grace is available to anyone at any time – “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead . . . that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (v. 30-32)
  • Were joyfully persistent – “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (v. 41)

Today, I have a choice. I can focus on the hard stuff of life and the effects of death on my world. Or, I can focus on the resurrection of my Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in me. Intellectually, it is such an obvious choice. God, give me the supernatural strength to live in the power of your risen Son.

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  1. How awesome an example – and reminder – of how important our choices are, and how potentially enormous the impact of those choices to a much broader, wider group of people! This responsibility, when fully understood, is awesome to the point of frightening sometimes! It is ironic in one sense and yet prophetic in another that God lays this choice out so clearly for us over 3,000 years prior to the time of Acts, in Deuteronomy 30:15,19-20:

    “See, I set before you today life and prosperity (blessings), death and destruction (curses)… This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. NOW CHOOSE LIFE, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hod fast to Him. For the Lord IS your life, and He will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!”

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