As Peter and John were going up to the temple in Acts 3, they were confronted with a lame beggar who asked them for alms. Money they could not give him, but they did give him a much more wonderful gift: complete healing of the body.
As those around saw this miracle and how the man who had been healed was now walking, leaping, and praising God, they were amazed. Peter explained that the healing was not by their own power, but through the power and name of Jesus. All the excitement drew the attention of the rulers, and the two apostles were arrested.
The next day they were brought before the Jewish leaders. When asked about the authority by which they did these things, Peter again stressed that it was through the name of Jesus. He also used the occasion to accuse the Jews of crucifying Jesus. The leaders were shaken, amazed at what they had heard.
Two things struck them: their boldness and plain speaking; and the fact that these were uneducated men. You didn’t need education to catch fish; you needed skill and experience, which they doubtless learned from their fathers. How could this anomaly be explained? There was only one answer — they had been with Jesus. This was the conclusion of the Jews. Clearly, the Jewish leaders hadn’t forgotten Jesus. This is an interesting statement, they had been with Jesus. What exactly did that imply?
Physically with Jesus
For the best part of three years, they had been with him. They had heard his teaching, sometimes in company with other disciples. Sometimes he took them apart by themselves to instruct them. They had seen his sinless life and observed his miracles. He had set them a wonderful example of holy and prayerful living. The time with him had transformed their lives forever.
Of course, there were limitations: sometimes he rebuked them for their lack of understanding and sometimes for their lack of faith. But all that would change with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Spiritually with Jesus
The Holy Spirit continued the Saviour’s ministry to his disciples. He helped them, taught them, empowered them, and convicted the hearers of their preaching. These were no ordinary men. They were men of God.
We don’t downplay the importance of education. Luke and Paul were both well educated, but education doesn’t guarantee a life-changing ministry. Being with Jesus did.
I begin with the question: have we been with Jesus? Have you? Have I?
How can we be with him? When Peter writes his first letter, he acknowledges that those to whom he writes have not seen Jesus. But they could still love him, rejoice in him, and be with him. So how can we be with him?
We have to be converted. We may admire Jesus, agree with his teaching, and wonder at his miracles. But these things don’t mean that we have been with him. Many during Jesus’s earthly ministry admired him and followed him. Some cried, ‘Hosanna to the son of David,’ but a few days later many of the same crowd were crying out, ‘Crucify him.’
To be with Jesus, we must not only admire him, but commit our lives to him. We need to become his disciples. We must confess our sins and seek pardon. We must leave our sinful life and the ways of the world to follow Jesus. That is the first step to ‘being with him’.
Have you taken that step? Have you been converted? If not, you live apart from him. You do not know him. Eternal life is to know him (John 17:4). If you do not know him, you cannot be with him.
We must spend time with him. This is a simple and obvious statement, but I fear there are many professing Christians who spend little time with Jesus.
How is your prayer life? Prayer is not just a time when we rattle off a few requests – it is a time when we draw near to our Saviour. We commune with him and refresh our souls in fellowship. He speaks to us through his Word, and we speak to him as we turn his Word back into prayer.
Godly people have always seen the importance of drawing near to God. Martin Luther was a busy man, pioneering the Protestant Reformation in Germany as he lectured, preached, and wrote. He said he had so much to do that he couldn’t get through everything unless he spent three hours a day in prayer! Strange logic, but it is so true.
We must spend time with Jesus in our daily walk. Paul said, ‘To me, to live is Christ’ (Philippians 1:21). Later in the same epistle, the apostle said, ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’ (4:13).
The context is contentment, but it is applicable to all circumstances. It was Christ who strengthened Paul for his ministry and his daily walk with God. We need that strength as much as Paul did. We will only know it as we walk with Jesus. Our greatest need is to be holy – to be like Jesus. That only comes through being with him.
We need, as one writer put it, to practise the presence of God: to be consciously aware of God’s presence at all times, even in the mundane things of life.
When we walk with the Lord, we will be seen as those who have been with Jesus. Robert Murray M’Cheyne had a wonderful ministry in Dundee even though he died at the age of 29 in 1843. His Spirit-anointed preaching brought much blessing, but many testified that they were blessed as much by his godly presence as by his preaching. It was evident that he had been with Jesus. God grant that to be true of us.
We spend time with Jesus when we gather as a church. When we gather with other Christians for worship, we are not only meeting with those who have similar interests, such as at horticultural societies, naturalist clubs, etc. There is something extra special when Christians come together. The Lord is with us in that he is in each believer; but there is more, there is a corporate presence. The Lord is in the midst of us.
That’s why it is so important to meet together. During periods of Covid lockdown, we were denied that. We appreciate hearing God’s Word online, but it is not the same as meeting together and knowing God’s presence. We should long and pray for that.
Churches can employ all kinds of gimmicks to get people to attend, but what we need is the felt presence of God. We must walk with him and fellowship with him. Nothing is more important.
Is this your experience? Do you live with Jesus? May God grant that all of us would know what it is to be with Jesus, that we might have an effective testimony and that the Lord himself might be glorified.