First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, June 6, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Companions of Jesus!!”
As we continue our summer sermon series in the book of Acts, our journey this morning takes us to Acts chapter 4. Peter and John have just healed a crippled man at the Temple in Acts 3:1-10. As a result, a large crowd gathered around them at Solomon’s Colonnade where Peter began to preach. Peter seized the moment to preach the gospel message in such a powerful and compelling way.
While the book of Acts records powerful sermons, amazing miracles, and explosive church growth, it also reminds us that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. For whenever believers seek to impact their culture, whenever the gospel is preached with power, and people’s lives are changed, the enemy stirs up fierce opposition. And we’re going to see the situation get pretty nasty for the apostles in Acts chapter 4.
In Acts 4 verses 1-4, we find that Peter is interrupted right in the middle of his sermon. Luke tells us that, “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.”
Peter and John’s boldness in proclaiming the gospel is something that we cannot miss in Acts chapter 4. They had Peter and John brought up before the elders, the teachers of the law, the Sadducees, Annas, the High Priest, Caiaphas, and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” With courage Peter answered, “Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed … Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” Wow!
I was struck by many statements in Acts chapter 4, but one in particular captured my heart. It’s the words of Luke in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.” The Jewish leaders were astonished by the boldness of Peter and John. They weren’t impressed with their background. They had no formal religious training. It wasn’t in their education. It wasn’t in their credentials. They had none. It was in the Spirit-filled boldness that was born out of knowing Jesus. When the religious leaders considered all the facts, they came to one simple conclusion: Peter and John had been with Jesus.
Our companionship with Jesus … walking closely and faithfully with Him ~ That’s what makes the whole difference. No fact is more important for our consideration today than that one; especially, all around us, we see signs of the diminishing impact of Christianity on our culture. We wonder why Christians have lost our influence in society. I think this verse offers us a very clear answer. The early Christians turned the world upside down because they had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. That single fact explains the boldness of the first generation of believers who took the gospel from Jerusalem across the Roman Empire. I think the story of Peter and John in Acts 4 challenges us today in at least two ways:
First: You Can Be around Jesus and Yet not Be with Him
“They were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.” It was more than just knowledge. It was more than a few prayers. It was more than religion as a hobby. It was something that produced a dynamic power that transformed ordinary people into bold witnesses for Christ.
I think our temptation today is that we can be “around” but not “with.” It is dangerous to be around Jesus and not be with Jesus. There is a difference between being around Jesus and being with Jesus. There is a difference between being around Christians and being with Jesus. There is a difference between being around Christian events and being with Jesus. There is a difference between being around the church and being with Jesus. The disciples had been “with” Jesus and knew Him intimately and that changed everything. Even their enemies could see the difference Christ had made in their lives.
Second: Our Lives Should Carry the Aroma of Heaven
The lives of these disciples carried the aroma of Christ. “They recognized them as companions of Jesus.” In 2 Corinthians 2:15, Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Those who truly follow Christ, will always have the aroma of heaven.
Many years ago, I had a parishioner whose life carried that aroma of Christ. I remember a comment someone made about him as he said, “Whenever he entered the room, I felt a little closer to heaven.” Over the years, I have known a few people like that in my life; people who carried the aroma of Christ. Those people draw you closer to the Lord whether they are talking or listening, laughing or crying, standing or sitting, following or leading because they carry the aroma of heaven.
Friends, Christians don’t become Christ-like by accident. We become Christ-like when we become “companions of Jesus.” We do not become like Christ merely by self-effort. Without the Holy Spirit, we will stay exactly as we are. Christian life is a journey, so keep going and keep following. We are not there yet, but we are on the way. This is our challenge. This is our calling. And this is our prayer today. May Christ be seen in us. May the Holy Spirit fill us with grace and truth. May the whole world know by the way we live that we have been with Jesus; we are companions of Jesus.” Amen.
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