“So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.'” – Acts 4:18-20 (ESV)
Peter and John’s response to the Sanhedrin sums up what the Christian life is all about. They were with Christ for three years, they saw Him crucified, saw Him die, buried in the grave, saw Him alive after His resurrection, saw Him ascend into heaven, and were given power and strength by the promised Holy Spirit, the very Shekinah glory that was once only behind the curtain in the temple, but now lived within them as a result of the work of Christ on the cross. From everything that had taken place, their response was one of awe and amazement, “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” They were so struck by the glory of God, that they could not but speak of the amazing things they had beheld in Christ. To shy away and speak of anything less or opposed to what had happened, would have contradicted everything they had seen, heard, and experienced.
When the Holy Spirit breaks the chains of sin that were blinding our ability to spiritually see the light of the glory of Christ (a work the Spirit does alone), that which was previously just another belief system in the world from which to choose from, is suddenly truth and reality. We cannot know God apart from Him first intervening in our blind hearts to awaken us to our plight and see the glory of Christ in the cross. But once our eyes behold the glory of the Savior, behold what Christ did on the cross on behalf of any who would believe, that He actually turned away the wrath of God for them, we are then freed to see His character, attributes, loveliness, and we want to know Him more as a result. And once we see how amazing, powerful, and infinite all of His characteristics and attributes are in the cross, we cannot help but be changed by the light of His glory. And the more we spend personal communion time with Christ in prayer, once we behold His face in our Scripture reading/studying, and the more we experience Him amongst the fellowship of other believers, the more and more we are changed by Him and become conformed to Him, loving the things He loves and hating the things He hates.
The more we are changed by the Holy Spirit through all of these means together, we cannot but speak to those who don’t know Him personally and savingly about how wonderful He is, in order that some may be saved, as God sees fit to work. And we do so boldly and fearlessly, only because the Holy Spirit comes and gives us power, raising us up to do His mighty work. The natural outflow of a heart changed by the work of Christ, is that we are not able to shut up about the Gospel or God’s overwhelmingly infinite power, sovereignty, and glory. We cannot but speak of the things Christ has done in our lives to rescue us from the valley of death (eternal death). I pray for any who read this, both believer and unbeliever, that the Holy Spirit would come in power, loosing your chains of sin, that you may see how wonderful God is in the face of Christ.
Jesus is the exact representation and image of the invisible God. He is in fact God Himself, God the Son, and He willingly shed His precious blood in order that you may believe, be freed from sin, death, and ultimately hell, and be reconciled to the Lord of the universe, who spoke all things into being. For the unbeliever, you may gain a right-standing by throwing yourself at Christ’s feet and placing your faith in Him, no matter what you’ve done or where you are coming from. For the believer, you already have a right-standing in Christ’s death and resurrection. It is finished. No matter what you’ve done, the Father sees Christ when He sees you, as a result of the cross. And looking to the cross of Christ, His finished work, will inevitably empower us to live a life of gratitude and holiness. How can we do any less having been freed from the bondage of our sin? We aren’t trying to please God with our moral works anymore than Christ already has on our behalf, but we want to be holy because of God’s great mercy on us in Christ. I pray that all of you may be so struck by God’s glory that you cannot but speak of what your eyes have seen and your ears have heard.
The Christian life is one of gratitude for what Christ has done on behalf of those who believe in Him. And all of our actions should be a reflection of a heart changed by the Gospel of Christ. But our hearts can only be changed by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, not by working up our own effort to change. Only the Holy Spirit can change you through the work of Christ on the cross. The Christian life is a life of trial and sacrifice for His names’ sake, because He was the ultimate sacrifice for us. But we do not fear because we receive power from the Holy Spirit. Peter and John, despite all opposition, even if all hell should have attempted to shake their belief in Jesus, were able to stand because the Holy Spirit alone had given them such great insight into the glory of Christ and gave them the strength to withstand. We don’t look to Peter and John and just immitate them alone, but we look to the God of Peter and John, Jesus Christ, the very One that gave them power to withstand the Sanhedrin’s insults and trials, and He will give us power to live lives of gratitude. I pray a double-portion of the Holy Spirit would be poured out in great measure on all of you who read this.