Phil began by reading John 20:19-22
And asked: what are we most admonished not to do in the Bible?
Yet fear is in the very air we breathe. We worry about our health, wealth, relationships…
This is the primary strategy of the Enemy to stop us fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives and in the Church.
The first words of the risen Jesus were – ‘Peace be with you’ (to his disciples locked in a room ‘for fear of the Jews’)
He showed them his hands and sides and said:
‘As the Father sent me, I send you!’
He breathed on them –he gave them His Holy Spirit.
They felt guilty by association with the man who had promised to turn the world upside down. Obviously the world didn’t want this. The disciples didn't want to go out and witness. Was it fear of ridicule, persecution, what?
Phil talked about how we admire the persecuted church who can be killed for sharing about Jesus.
We aren't persecuted so why don’t we speak up for Jesus? Has fear shut up our Christian witness?
Fear of leaving our comfort zone; even though we really want to.
Do these fears always have the last word in our life?
We are called to live a life without fear!
We don’t lack teaching on mission! We've talked so much about how to do it. Our biggest problem is fear.
The Ana Baptists in the 16th century had wooden screws fitted to their tongues to stop them speaking for Jesus. What is it that keeps us locked up? What keeps you shut in and shut up?
“Peace be with you”
Let’s step back for a moment into that room with the fearful disciples (John 20).
I wonder if we can imagine in any way what it was like for them to see Jesus standing amongst them – suddenly there in that locked room…
His first words to them are not to tell them off, not to tell them they have failed Him; He declares “Peace be with you”. And He says it twice in case they, and we, didn't get the message the first time.
For the disciples, Jesus’ presence changed fear into joy. Their circumstances hadn’t changed; the same Jews they were fearful of were still in the city. But - Jesus was there with them! The principalities and powers had done their worst – Jesus had been nailed to a cross. But now He was there!
WHAT IS THERE LEFT TO BE AFRAID OF WHEN WE HAVE A GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD?!
Jesus’ peace comes into our locked-up lives and bursts open the locked doors – just as He did for the disciples. Can you imagine being free of fear? Jesus says to us, as to them, “There is nothing to fear, death is beaten. I am with you always”.
The One who was dead and buried behind the stone at the tomb – walks out and into the group gathered behind the locked door – and He releases them to walk out too, no longer held by fear.
Jesus breathes on them and breathes His Spirit into their lives – the Comforter, the Helper, the One who will empower them and be in them. Fear-constricted chests take in the breath of Jesus and expand with new hope and joy. That same power is available to us when we come to Jesus.
Many of us need to hear those words from Jesus again, and realise that He wants to speak them into the troubles and fears we have in our lives – “Peace be with you”. He spoke very similar words to His disciples in John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart, and the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives, so don’t be troubled or afraid”.
What do we feel we are lacking in our lives? What is keeping us locked-in? What would we like to ask Him to breathe into our lives through the Holy Spirit? Courage, strength, faith, hope, love, peace, patience, perseverance….
Take a few moments to pray on your own. Ask the Lord Jesus for what you need. Hear Him speak those words to you “Peace be with you”, and let Him breathe His power into your life through the Holy Spirit.
The power of the Spirit
Jesus was sent by the Father into the world breathing the air of heaven.
He was born of the Spirit. Everything He did was empowered by the Spirit (the same Spirit that breathed on the waters at creation, that breathed on dust and made Adam, that breathed on Ezekiel’s dry bones).
It’s the risen Jesus, with the same spirit that stands with us and breathes His life into us. What can we not do!!
“As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Born of the Spirit, filled with the same Spirit. The same Spirit lives in us.
“Even greater things will you do!” John 14:12
“Neither death nor life…..nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God…” Romans 8:38-39
The Spirit comes in power when we are willing to get together in small groups and to breathe His Spirit in……bringing peace, strength, power, awe. Power to overcome fear.
Is it any wonder Wesley felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ at a small gathering in Aldersgate Street?
We need to ask for what we need.
James 4:2 “You do not have because you do not ask.”
We need to acknowledge what He’s asking us to do.
Face our fears together in prayer.
“We have a God who raises the dead!”
Phil said: Don’t let fear have the last word in your life, replace it with God’s living Word.
Notes by Fiona Agnew and Elizabeth Porter