Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Acts 5:17-26
In this wonderful text we learn something about the nature of freedom. Peter and the apostles are thrown in jail, enslaved because of their preaching. They knew that their testimony about Jesus put their lives in danger. Being thrown in prison was clear evidence that their time might be running out. Then God does the miraculous and sets them free. At this point I would be tempted to accept this miracle with gratitude and see this as an opportunity to keep quiet and get out of Dodge. After all, you can’t keep expecting God to bail you out. Having been given my freedom and escaping a possible life prison sentence or even death, I would learn my lesson and slip away quietly into the night.
But that is not the effect of real freedom. Real freedom, God-given freedom encourages and empowers the preaching of the Word of God in a greater way than we ever might have thought possible. The timid find courage in freedom. The apathetic find passion in freedom. The unsure find confidence in freedom. And the result is an unquenchable drive to share this freedom with others. Peter and the apostles literally ran back to the temple and at the first rays of the morning dawn were testifying once again in the name of Jesus. Amazing.
You have not been set free to remain silent. You have been set free in order to be used by God to free others. That is an awesome truth. You cannot live as a faithful steward in a world enslaved by sin and keep your freedom to yourself. If you do, it is a counterfeit freedom, because real freedom, God-given freedom must be shared.
Do you believe that it is God’s will and purpose that every human being, every human heart on the face of the earth be set free from sin and embrace the joy of the faithful steward as a follower of Jesus Christ? If so, how do you think God plans to accomplish so great a task? The answer is simple, he will do it through his people, through the army of steward warriors that he will raise up and send out throughout the world proclaiming the freedom of the kingdom of God.
Who will God bring into your life today that lives enslaved by the things that used to enslave you? What will you do with this newfound freedom? Will you humble yourself before God, open yourself to the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and be ready to be used by God as an agent of freedom in the lives of the people you touch?
I’m sure that somewhere in your life you have experienced the power of personal testimony. Someone stood up in church and shared a moving story about what God had done in their life. Or perhaps a missionary spoke in your church and talked about the miraculous deeds they had seen God do in their work. There may be no more powerful form of communication than the testimony of a credible witness to an amazing feat of God. If you have truly been set free at some point along this journey, then you have just such a testimony. Your challenge is to write it down word for word. Don’t worry about the length or even the quality of the narrative. Write from your heart. Share what it felt like when the chains fell, when you first sensed real freedom in an area where you have known only bondage for so long. Once you have finished it, share it with your spouse, your pastor and a few close friends. Ask them to tell you what they felt as they read it. You will be amazed at the power of your story, even in the lives of those that you might consider to be spiritual giants. My prayer is that this experience will encourage you to find ways to share it more broadly. Share it in a blog, write a letter to family and friends, read it at a church service, or however the spirit might lead you. Remember, you have been set free in order to be used by God to set other people free. Your testimony to freedom is a great tool for that purpose.
Gracious Lord, it is hard for me to imagine myself as one who boldly proclaims your word in the public square. I have a hard time admitting that I’m a Christian in certain circles of friends. But you have set me free. I cannot deny the work that the Holy Spirit has done in my heart during this journey. I am so thankful, so deeply grateful for this freedom. If you can use me in some small way in the process of helping someone else know that same freedom, then I submit myself to you for that purpose. Help me to develop a personal testimony about this experience, and give me the courage to share it with others. I cannot hide this under a bushel. Give me that same zeal that you placed in the heart of Peter and the apostles that I, too, might emerge from my chains, and in my freedom run with excitement to tell others. Oh Lord, give me such a passion. In the name of Christ who came to set us free. Amen.