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.

There is a saying: “You can’t lead someone spiritually where you have never been yourself.”

For example, if you have never been to the Cross of Jesus, realized the sacrifice and love that paid for your sin, seen the condition of your sinful soul, your need for a Savior, and humbled yourself, repented, given your life to Jesus, 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 until tears of love for the Lord ran down your face, how can you ever tell anyone else about these experiences and lead them to Jesus?

We should have a hunger for God’s Presence in our lives and in our church, as we see here in Acts 4. Notice they begin their prayer meeting with adoration and praise to God. Adoration and praise will bring the Presence of the Lord.

Ps 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (KJV)

We should have a deeper love for Christ, a deeper worship, and a deeper prayer life today than we had yesterday. Do we want more of God in our life? Do we want to go deeper, experience more of God, and lead others into His Presence? Or do we just want a quiet, dull, religious, social club? 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, the earth shakes, the tombs shake open, soldiers shake with fear, and demons tremble.

God is shaking us up, and it may seem a little scary, because we are not accustomed to being shaken, changed, and we don’t know what the outcome will be. We have our lives all planned out; we are in control; we aren’t sure we can trust God to lead us in a way that is good and victorious. We want to know the outcome before we devote our life to Him.

After all, we look good on the outside. Our lives are in order. We are not doing evil things. We are just as good as other Christians. We are not sure about this pandemonium and shaking God wants to bring. We haven’t been there before.

However, before God can unleash us upon the world, He must unleash Himself upon us! The shaking is to get rid of the dirt that is deep down in our lives. We are accustomed to just vacuuming the top and appearing clean, but like a rug that must be taken outside and shaken vigorously to be thoroughly clean, God is shaking us, ridding us of all sin, dirt, and uncleanness so we may become the Bride of Jesus Christ without spot or wrinkle, who represents Him in this world.

We are in this shaking together. The Spirit is bringing unity, oneness with Christ, and oneness with each other. The enemy wants to divide us, so he can pick us off one-by-one. We must stay together through this shaking and be patient with each other.

Eph 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.

The Holy Spirit unites and makes us one. This is His job. Our job is to not mess it up, 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. That is His prayer for the Church. The standard for unity is the oneness that the Father and Son share. Why? So that the world might know Jesus when they see our unity and love for each other.

John 17:20-21 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

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

1 Cor 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

We are to be the Body of Christ, filled with His Spirit, and living as Christ in this world. Like our bodies, Christ’s Body is made up of many parts and each part has a role to fulfill.

1 Cor 12:12-27 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

We are the Body of Christ. We are His dwelling place, with each part of the Body filled with His Spirit. He is in us and He is among us.

Eph 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.

Therefore, as Jesus said in Matt 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

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. Wives: submit to your husband as unto the Lord. Children: honor your father and mother. Everyone: forgive one another as God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus. 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.

Back to our text in Acts 4: Peter and John told a man to rise and walk in the Name of Jesus. The man went into the temple leaping and praising God. Peter explained the miracle by glorifying Jesus and preaching that only in the Name of Jesus can anyone be saved. This did not set well with the religious leaders. They threatened Peter and John with prison or worse if they ever spoke about Jesus again.

We can expect the same treatment—persecution from those who reject Jesus and don’t want to hear His Name mentioned unless it is used as a cuss word.

2 Tim 3:12-13 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Jesus said in John 15:18-21 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Do not be afraid of persecution. It is not fun, but rejoice that you are worthy to suffer the same treatment given to Jesus. Jesus will defend you, His Bride. After all, how many of you husbands would defend your wife if someone attacked her? If you who are evil would do that for your wife, how much more will the Holy Son of God defend His Bride?

God allows persecution because it shakes and purifies His Church, causing it to grow in holiness, truth, and reality. As this happens in our lives, we become more effective, because people are attracted to something true and real—something Christ-like; something worth dying for.

As we see in Acts 4, we are not defenseless when persecution comes. However, we must remember our attackers are not flesh and blood, but demonic spirits and the ruler of this world. That is why prayer is so important, and why the Church prayed with unity to Almighty God, maker of Heaven and earth, who is our strength and our deliverer from the evil one.

Eph 6:10-17 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

What about protection for the back? Isa 58:8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

As we walk after His Spirit, the breastplate of righteousness protects our front, and glory of God has our back covered! Therefore, pray for boldness; ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with Himself. Do not be afraid! God has you covered while you obey Him!

Fear is a spirit from the enemy, the devil, to make us cower and afraid to speak about Jesus; afraid to give God control of our lives. Satan uses fear to make us ineffective.

Prayer is our battleground against fear and satan. Notice what the church did after Peter and John told about the threats. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.

They praised God. They acknowledged He was in control and everything was happening as He said it would and according to His purpose. Then they prayed for God to show forth His power, validating their message that Jesus is the Christ. They also prayed for boldness to continue speaking the Word and God answered that prayer. They went out from that prayer meeting filled with the Spirit and speaking the Word boldly.

The enemy doesn’t want the Truth, the Word of God, spoken. He attacked the Word of God in Genesis 3 when he questioned, “Did God really say?” He twists the Word because he cannot speak the truth. When he tried this with Jesus, to tempt him in Matthew 4, Jesus responded with the Word of God and satan had to leave. There is power in the Word and we can fully trust that God will fulfill His Word to bless us.

Ps 19:7-11 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Rom 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (NKJV)

Trust Him and give the Holy Spirit control of your life. Don’t fear what He will do. The Holy Spirit will only act according to the Word, because of His oneness with God the Father and the Son. They act in union.

John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Do not be afraid of the shaking from the Holy Spirit. We need Him. The Church in Acts viewed the power of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit as essential in seeing God work in miraculous ways. The power evidenced in the New Testament Church should be evidenced in the 21st Century church.

God has not changed; we have changed. We have become satisfied with religion and traditions instead of the Presence of God. We think we are doing well by coming to church once a week—they met daily for prayer and Bible study. We have become busy with programs and plans—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 for the Holy Spirit to move in our lives and in our ministries as He did in the first church. Notice when the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples, they were no longer afraid but spoke the Word with boldness.

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, take us out of the grace of God’s power. When we are under attack, we must turn to God in prayer and seek His deliverance and power again, for apart from Him we can do nothing. With Him, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

John 16:13-15 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.      All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Jesus is the Word of God and He sent His Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth. Are we listening to the Spirit of God? Do we hear and not obey? Then why do we call Him “Lord”? Why do we resist His shaking? Listen to what the Spirit is saying:

John 8:31-36  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Are you free from the bondage of sin? Have you been to the Cross? Aren’t you tired of playing Christian? Isn’t it time to get real, to repent, to die to self, to be born again of the spirit of God? 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, repenting of your sin, put the old self in a watery grave of baptism, and receive a new life in the Spirit. He will clean you up with a good shaking from the Holy Spirit, who is gentle, kind, and loving.

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. Repent, pray, draw near to God with your whole heart, worship Him, praise Him, thank Him, spend intimate time with Him, ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you may have power and boldness to be His witness, and perseverance to endure persecution.

We can’t take others where we have never been. May the Lord unleash Himself upon us so that we have His power to turn our world right side up again.