God's Shakedown

God’s Shakedown

There is a huge difference between knowledge and experience. We could say we know a lot about the candidates running for president, but we have not experienced a relationship with them. Thus, we don’t really know them. Unfortunately, many people know a lot about Jesus Christ, but they haven’t had an experience with Him. They don’t really know Him.

Therefore, if you have never realized the sacrifice and love of Christ that paid for your sin, seen the condition of your sinful soul, your need for a Savior, and humbled yourself, confessed your sin, dedicated your life to Jesus, repented, received a new life through baptism, and been born again of His Spirit; if you have never died to yourself, picked up your Cross daily, and walked in the power of the Holy Spirit; if you haven’t prayed continuously, praised, and worshipped with thanksgiving and adoration for Jesus until tears of love ran down your face, how can you ever tell anyone else what Jesus is like?

We should have a deeper love for Christ, a deeper worship, and a deeper prayer life today than we had a year ago. Nevertheless, we should still want to know Him better, to experience Him more intimately, so that we can more effectively tell others about Him.

We get to decide how much of God we want. God will not force Himself upon us. We must desire Him. When God shows up, mountains shake, prisons shake, the tombs shake open, soldiers shake with fear, and demons tremble. Meeting places also shake.

Acts 4:23-31 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:” ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Before God can unleash us upon the world, He must unleash Himself upon us! In this example, the Church asked for grace to speak the Word of God boldly. God answered their prayer by shaking the meeting place and filling them with the Holy Spirit.

God wants to shake us, too. Do we desire that?

It may seem a little scary, because we are not accustomed to being shaken, and we don’t know what the outcome will be. We have our lives all planned out; we are in control; and we are content. After all, our lives are in order. We are not doing evil things. We are just as good as other Christians. We’ve been baptized. Why do we need to be shaken?

Like a prison shake-down, the purpose of God’s shake-down is to expose what we have hidden. The shaking is to get rid of the dirt that we have swept under the rug. We just vacuum the top and appear clean on the outside. But like a rug that must be taken outside and shaken vigorously to be thoroughly clean, God wants to shake us, rid us of all sin, dirt, and uncleanness so we may become the Bride of Jesus Christ without spot or wrinkle—a Church that represents Jesus in this world.

Ephesians 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Another purpose of God’s shake-down is to produce unity in the Church. The Spirit brings unity, oneness with Christ, and oneness with each other. That is His job. Our job is to yield our rights and desires to Him, to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.

Four times in John 17, Jesus prays that the Father will make us one with Him and with one another. The standard for unity is the oneness that the Father and Son share. Why does Jesus want us to be one with Him and each other? So that the world might believe in Jesus when they see our unity and love for each other.

John 17:20-21 "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

People will know we are Christians because we love one another. Therefore, our unity determines our effectiveness in accomplishing our mission.

However, unity in the church doesn’t begin on Sunday. It begins at home. Let there be no division in the home. Husbands: love your wife as Christ loves the Church and gave His life for her (Eph 5:25). Wives: submit to your husband as unto the Lord (Eph 5:22). Children: honor your father and mother (Eph 6:2). Everyone: forgive one another as God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus (Col 3:13). God wants unity in our homes so we can bring unity to the body of Christ and worship Him in spirit and truth, united in mind and thought.

Some marvelous and great things occurred when all of the members of this church in Acts 4 were unified and prayed. God shook the place. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. God answered their prayer and empowered them to continue witnessing boldly.

The power of God operates through a praying church. Signs and wonders, salvation, healing, praise and adoration, all take place within the context of a praying church, who believes God will provide what is needed.

The reason we don’t see more conversions to Christ is we are not seriously praying. Some of us don’t pray when we are alone. Very few of us will attend a prayer meeting. It’s time for us face our fear of praying in public and ask God for boldness.

Just as individuals are to pray, we are to pray as a church body. We are to pray, believing that God, who is all-powerful, hears and answers our prayers. Doing this will shake us and change us; bringing the life of the Spirit, who is God, into our midst.

A praying church becomes a worshipping church, who loves God and praises Him. When we pray, uninhibited by fear of what others think, prayer will lead to worship. We won’t be afraid to lift up holy hands. We won’t be able to constrain outbursts of praise. Our focus will be upon Christ, not what someone else is doing. We will be praying, worshipping God, and enjoying it because we sense His pleasure, presence, and love.

In Acts 4, Peter and John had just been face-to-face with the same men responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. It wouldn’t be that difficult for the high priest to use his power and influence to end their lives, too. They threatened Peter and John not to speak about Jesus anymore. When they were released, Peter and John went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.

Notice, as these disciples in Acts 4 prayed and praised God, their prayer didn’t become a plea that God would keep Peter and John safe. So often, that’s where our prayer ends; for we say, "God, You have brought us out, now keep us safe." But that wasn’t the emphasis of their prayer. They pleaded to the Lord that He would enable them to go on preaching the Gospel with greater boldness. They did not pray, "Lord, don’t let it happen again." They prayed, "Lord, do it again! But this time, give us greater boldness that we may speak Your Word and tell others about Jesus!"

Why did they ask for great boldness? Because they did not have it! They acknowledged their weakness and confessed that they needed more grace in order to boldly do God’s will in light of these serious threats. God answered their prayer for boldness by filling them with the Holy Spirit.

Wait a second, weren’t these people already filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2?

What this shows is that we need to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. Sin, fear, and lusts of the flesh, distract us from the grace of God’s power. When we are under attack, we must turn to God in prayer and seek His grace and power again, for apart from Him we can do nothing. With Him, we can do all things through His strength.

God has not changed since Acts 4. The Church has changed. It has become satisfied with religion and traditions instead of the Presence of God. Members think they are doing well by coming to a meeting once a week! The Church in Acts met daily for prayer and Bible study. They prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, and God added to the Church daily those who were being saved.

Our challenge is to pray daily for the Holy Spirit to move in our lives and in our ministries as He did in Acts. Notice when the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples, they were no longer afraid but spoke the Word with boldness.

When we lack courage to do God’s will (especially in relation to sharing the Gospel), we need to remember our ability comes from God’s grace. Apart from God’s grace, we can do nothing. We do not have to pretend to be brave when we’re not. It is okay to say, “Lord, I’m scared. Please give me courage to do what You want me to do.” God is delighted to answer such a prayer. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble who admit their weakness (1 Peter 5:5).

Along with courage, the Church in Acts 4 also prayed that God would continue working miracles and healing people, “Lord, stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Why would they ask for this?

Would they say, “We need healing because we don’t like to be sick,” or “We need healing because God’s people should be healthy, and God wants what is best for His kids?”

Those are common answers of today that lead to disappointment and doubt when we suffer. The basis of such beliefs is self-centeredness. As a result, self-pity arises when we are ill or face a trial. We think God doesn’t love us. God doesn’t hear us. God doesn’t care. The focus is on self, self, self.

The early Church was focused on Christ and the Commission He gave to them. I believe they would have said, “We need healing and miracles because those things will help people believe the Gospel!”

Mark 16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

If we just want miracles and healing to make us feel better and for personal blessings, we probably won’t see them nearly as often as the early church did. However, if we are reaching out to friends and neighbors, telling them about Jesus, and praying for a miracle in their lives, then God will come through some way. He wants to show His power and love to them. He wants them to learn to trust Him, and know He is God. And when they know God is able to heal their bodies, or do other signs and wonders, then they will know He is powerful enough to forgive them and help them in other areas of life. That has always been the purpose for God’s miracles, and therefore, He wants the Church to ask for miracles and for boldness to preach the Gospel.

The biggest miracle that occurs in a praying church is that it becomes a spiritual church. In a spiritual church, there is very little arguing, fighting, and focusing on things that do not matter, because their eyes are on Jesus and His Commission. A spiritual church is where people are maturing, growing in the Lord, loving one another, and ministering to one another. A spiritual church reflects the character of Jesus; becoming a sign themselves that Jesus is alive and present in their midst. Nothing but the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit can create such a spiritual church.

Ephesians 2:21-22 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

If we really believe there is only one way to be forgiven—through faith in Jesus—we will make it our priority to pray and ask God to empower us do what He has told us to do. This is the kind of prayer God wants to answer! He will make sure we have everything we need to carry out the task of making disciples. A church that is praying for miracles and boldness to share the Gospel is going to win souls to the Lord.

The only way salvation will be known by sinners is if someone opens their mouth and boldly proclaims that Jesus can save to the uttermost, regardless of anything they have done. Many souls are won to Christ as we speak to people one-on-one about Jesus. All of us are ministers of the Gospel. And so, each of us should pray "Lord, give me the power of your Holy Spirit so I might have greater boldness to speak about Jesus!

When we begin to pray like that, the Holy Spirit will work in miraculous ways in First Christian Church of DeQueen! For when God is in a place, there is a shaking, and we will never be the same! For if we pray, we will praise. If we pray, we will witness. If we pray, we will worship. If we pray, we will give. If we pray, we will love God and one another.

If we DON’T pray, we will DOUBT and DO WITHOUT!!!

So examine yourself. What are your prayers like? Have you been praying for boldness so that you can share God’s message of love and forgiveness with others effectively?

We cannot ignore the fact that our most important task in this life is to pray and share God’s love with others. We are called to know God, to be filled with His Spirit, and to make Him known to others. However, we can’t tell others about something or Someone we have never experienced ourselves.

Ephesians 5:15-21 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Baptized believer: will you allow God to shake you, to do some deep cleaning in your life, to rid you of all hypocrisy, shallowness, and game-playing? Ask him today to do these things in your life. Then repent, pray, draw near to God with your whole heart, worship Him, praise Him, thank Him, spend intimate time with Him, ask Him daily to change you and fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you may have grace and boldness to be His witness, and perseverance to endure persecution.

If you have never confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, why are you waiting? You can’t clean yourself up. Come to Jesus humbly, confess your sin, and put your faith in Jesus’s atonement for your sin on the cross. Then make a public profession of your faith by dying to the old way of living in a watery grave of baptism, and you will receive a new life born the Holy Spirit. He will give you grace to repent and to walk according to the will of God. Then you will have experienced the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have something to tell others.