I will give you what I have

INDEX

One day Peter and John were walking to the temple in Jerusalem. I wonder how the conversation went that day? Was it about the amazing way that the Holy Spirit had come to them? Was it about the three thousand new believers at Pentecost? Was it something practical, such as: "What are we going to do when we run out of room at the temple?" It is interesting to speculate, but I am sure of one thing: they were not expecting what happened next.

Temple and Beautiful Gate

They had passed this way many times before. They had probably seen the man who always sat at the roadside there, because that was the usual place for him to be. Perhaps it was a lucrative begging position or perhaps not, but the fact was that this man had no other way of scratching a living. He had been lame from birth and, on this particular day, he was being carried to his usual post when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple through the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-5).

These days, just as then, people beg for all sorts of reasons and, for this man, it was just another day. When you have to beg for a living, all days are the same. There is no day off. This man could not even get up and enter the temple, or go off to the city. He was lame and unable to go anywhere unless somebody carried him. You can imagine the situation: here were two prospective donors, so the man called out to them as he did to so many others, each hour of every day. But today was not just another day; neither for him, nor for Peter and John.

When you beg, people either give you eye contact or they don’t. If they don’t, then you can expect nothing from them. From the vast majority you get no eye contact at all and you receive nothing. If people do bother to look at you, then you can expect at least something; it may be sympathy, maybe some scraps of food, or it may be money. If it is money, it may be just a few coins, or it may, just may be something more, that will enable you to feed yourself, your family, or at least provide a little hope for the day.

Peter and John gave him eye contact, so his hopes immediately rose. There was something different about these two men. Perhaps he recognised them from previous encounters at this gate, but there was definitely something about them. They looked at him intently, and then Peter said: "Look here!" The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting a gift. (See Acts 3:4-5.)

What do people expect from you?

What are you able to give people? Life or death? Do they expect anything at all from you? This man’s expectation was more than fulfilled. People get handouts all the time; sometimes, even really big ones, but few can match that received by this man. "Peter said, 'We don't have any money for you! But I'll give you something else! I command you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!'" (Acts 3:6).

Peter had learned many lessons while he had been with Jesus. One particular lesson had been about the authority he had as a follower of Jesus Christ. This seemed like a good opportunity to put it into practice. When we talk to people who claim to be in need, we need to look beneath the surface sometimes and discern whether their true need may lie elsewhere. It may be something deeper: something that takes a little more time and listening to discover.

We may need to be bold when we pray for people to be healed. Peter didn’t just speak to this man; he took his hand and pulled him up. It wasn’t until he had the courage to put his full weight on his ankles that he discovered that he was well! When you pray for someone’s healing, get them to do something they found difficult in the past that will prove to them that they have been healed and then their faith will rise for the completion of the miracle. As this man’s faith rose, he didn’t just walk, he started leaping and praising God. He didn’t remain at the Beautiful Gate either; he followed Peter and John into a new lease of life. (See Acts 3:7-11.)

When God did this fantastic thing in the man's life, both he and others were excited by it. They recognised a situation that had looked hopeless in the past and were amazed when they saw how different he was afterwards. Such events will always provide an opportunity to explain faith in Jesus and Peter was not slow to recognise this (Acts 3:12-17). Peter used the opportunity to preach the good news about Jesus to the crowd. He was well aware that the very same people had been among those calling for Jesus' crucifixion not long since, but he wasn't afraid to make what he said relevant and appropriate and didn't try to "sugar-coat" his message in any way.

When talking to people about God and Jesus today, some seem to go out of their way to avoid upsetting their sensibilities, but it may be that a realisation of their own shortcomings and rebellion against God is the very thing that will cause them to come to faith in Jesus. Similarly, we need to understand that the authority to pray for healing in Jesus' name can be claimed by all disciples of Jesus. Peter & John were alert to the voice of the Holy Spirit encouraging them to pray for the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate. They responded accordingly and Jesus healed the man. Jesus is still healing people today and we can be the instruments by which He does so - if we are similarly alert to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in us.

"I am surrounded by fearsome enemies, strong as the giant bulls from Bashan. They come at me with open jaws, like roaring lions attacking their prey. My strength has drained away like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart melts like wax; my strength has dried up like sun-baked clay; my tongue sticks to my mouth, for you have laid me in the dust of death. The enemy, this gang of evil men, circles me like a pack of dogs; they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count every bone in my body. See these men of evil gloat and stare; they divide my clothes among themselves by a toss of the dice." (Psalm 22:12-18)

This prophecy of how Jesus would suffer on the cross was written long before the events themselves took place. It's worth reading it and meditating on it for a while to recognise what horrors Jesus willingly underwent for all of us.

The key element for the people to whom Peter was preaching was that they should change their minds and attitudes towards God. They were aware of what the religious authorities thought about Jesus and had done to Him. As a result, many believed that following God was all about following rules and many were happy to do so if it meant that their inmost thoughts and attitudes could remain unseen and unchallenged. Many had failed to understand that God had given His laws in order to create the desire for change in people’s hearts. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, He said:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: 'Love your neighbour as much as you love yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others." (Matthew 22:37-40).

Nothing has changed today. This teaching of Jesus is still valid. It is only in recognising God’s love for us that we are free to truly love others. People today are as confused as those who were alive when Jesus was on the earth, but they are still searching and, if anything, are more desperate to find the truth today. What could the people in the temple that day do to turn their hearts towards God? Peter said that they simply had to put their faith in Jesus, the messiah whom they had crucified. The same is true for people today. When we turn to Him, He will wash away our sin, cleanse us and bring us into His family and a loving, close relationship with our creator God.

Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father but, one day, He will return and claim those that have given their lives to Him. What does it mean to "give our lives to Him"? Well, as with the people in Peter's day, it involves acknowledging (confessing) our shortcomings and rebellion (sins) and being prepared to turn around and leave those things behind (repent of them). It means asking Jesus to be the one in charge of our lives from now on.

Healing from some illness or disease, or even deliverance from some flaw in our character that constantly provokes us into doing the wrong thing, will not resolve our basic, root problem which is: separation from Jesus. But we can deal with the problem and be healed all at one and the same time. This has been God’s plan for us throughout the ages. When Jesus came to earth, He often dealt initially with a person's wrongdoing and selfish nature (sin) but then physical healing flowed automatically. The beggar at the Beautiful Gate was healed for all to see, but it was also evident that his heart had changed as well when he went into the temple courts "praising God". It is so vital, whenever we are praying for healing, that there is a change of heart as well as healing of the body. What does it benefit people to have their bodies healed if they then go to hell! (Matthew 5:29-30) Healing is a wonderful way for people today to be challenged by the claims of Jesus.

Divine Healing

Divine healing is healing for the disciple who wants to walk in the fullness of his or her privileges in Christ. Every born-again believer has the ability to grow up into spiritual adulthood. That is why the Holy Spirit came after Jesus had ascended and why God gave His written word to us. The Bible is spiritual food. It produces spiritual growth, just as natural food nourishes the physical body (1 Peter 2:2). We grow up spiritually in direct proportion to the amount that we feed our spirit from God's word and obey it. It can really mean the difference between life and death - the extent to which we give our attention to God's word and obey it.

As people exercise and train their physical bodies in order to help them develop and grow healthily, so Jesus' disciples need to feed regularly on His words and learn to trust what He says and be obedient to what He asks. Our physical bodies can become feeble and unhealthy from lack of exercise and, similarly, our spirits will remain weak and faithless if we do not nourish and exercise them regularly.

God created us as physical beings but then placed His Spirit in us so that we could have an ongoing relationship with Him. Whenever we choose to be self-sufficient rather than acknowledging His place as our Creator and God, we add to a spiritual barrier that separates us from Him. When Jesus took on Himself the consequences of our rebellion against God (by dying for us on the cross), He made it possible for our relationship with God to be restored and for our spirits to respond once again to His Holy Spirit within us. As we allow His words and His Spirit to renew our thinking, so our entire lives are transformed and we are able to understand what life is all about. In his letter to Christian disciples in Rome, the apostle Paul says: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)

The "law of sin and death" came about as the result of rebellion by human beings against God and His very nature and character. Having abandoned God's care and provision for us in this way, one of the many consequences is that we all now suffer now from sickness and disease. This is not what God intended for us and, when we accept the rule of His kingdom over us, our lives can be transformed and health can be restored. Jesus regularly healed people to demonstrate that the kingdom of God was radically different from human governments and our attempts to live independently of God. Similarly, Peter & John demonstrated that, even after Jesus had gone to be with His Father, His Spirit was still able to transform lives and bring healing - physical and spiritual - to those who needed it.


Click on the button below to load the QUESTIONS for this study in a new browser tab. You can opt to print the question sheet or simply follow the questions and write down your answers in a notebook or a separate file on a computing device, such as a laptop or mobile 'phone.

QUESTIONS

INDEX