In our last Sunday gathering, we met at a university chapel rather than in our usual dorm lounge because the dorms were all closed. Students are done with school and many of them went home for the summer break. There were still some graduate students in the area and they ended up coming out to the gathering, but this meeting was mostly made up of single adults.
After sharing in a meal, we continued in our study from the Book of Acts. Since we had less people, we decided to do the study all together in the larger group. We covered a good chunk of Scripture for this meeting. We looked at Acts 3:1-4:22. Our study revolved around 2 things: 1) the need for experiencing transformation and 2) what happens when transformation is experienced.
When we looked at chapter 3, we noticed a beggar. There are several things we noticed about the beggar – he was crippled from birth (this is all he knew), he had a need (begging for money), and he had an expectation (thinking he was going to get something from Peter and John). The response of Peter was not what the beggar probably expected in this situation, but to the believer it makes perfect sense. In Jesus’ words, “Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts” (Matt 10:8-10). The disciples understood that the greater need that a human heart has is the need for salvation through Jesus Christ. The beggar was instantly healed. We also noticed those keys words again in the Book of Acts – “filled with wonder and amazement” (v. 10), “astonished” (v.11).
The greatest marketing strategy and advertisement for the power of Jesus Christ is through a transformed life. I challenged the people with a simple question – “How do you know that you have genuinely experienced transformation?” The answer to that question is to ask your family and friends. If they notice that something is different about you then it is a pretty good sign that you are changing by God’s grace. As people begin to see the transformation in your life, they will become curious as to the cause and the reason for the change. Then you will be given an avenue for a verbal witness.
What happens when transformation is experienced? Well, first look at the beggar. In v. 8, we see that the beggar was, “walking and jumping, and praising God.” Uh… if you have been crippled since your birth would you do the same? I think I would have done the moonwalk and started break-dancing (haha… I think I gave away my age). It was interesting that the gate at the temple was called “Beautiful.” As we turn to the Beautiful One, we realized that He is the only one that can make “beautiful” things.
Not only do we see praise and jubilation from the person experiencing transformation, but look at the response of the people that knew the beggar. In v. 10, people were filled with wonder and amazement. We noticed that the people were running to them to see what was going on (v. 11). After Peter proclaimed the resurrection message, we noticed that they were arrested (there will always be opposition when we try to do the will of God). But the most powerful part is the fact that the church grew to about 5,000 men. So if you include the women and children, the actual number was probably well over 10,000 people.
When Peter and John were brought before the Jewish court, all we see in them is courage and conviction. They would not back down from preaching the message that, “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). The people were once again “astonished” as they saw that Peter and the disciples were unschooled and ordinary men. When was the last time you and I “astonished” someone and left them in “wonder” and “amazement”? Not because of the great things we have accomplished or the talents that we possess, but simply because they see the power of God working in our lives.
When God works there is always wonder and awe. What was the reason for this kind of anointing on the lives of the disciples? Verse 8 tells us that they were, “filled with the Holy Spirit.” We need this filling if we are going to plant this church.
After the study we spent some time in prayer. We prayed for the same kind of anointing and transformation in our lives. Then we went out and did some prayer walking around the campus as well as the city of Evanston. We convened back together for fellowship with some bubble tea. It was a good gathering. God is allowing us to take some baby steps forward.