Called to Live
A series in the Book of Acts
House Group Leaders Notes
Intro to the series:
With a new chapter soon to begin in the life of the church we’re going to spend some time looking at a short section of the Book of Acts. In particular we’re going to look at some of the ways in which the early church lived out their calling to a life of radical missional discipleship.
As we read and pray through the passages we’ll take some time to stop and ask the question:
‘As someone with the same calling, how does the experience and way of life of the early church relate to and inspire my call to live as a radical missionary disciple?’
Week 5: Living Prophetically
Acts 4:1-22, Luke 19:45-48
If we want to understand what it means to live prophetically we need to ask what is a prophet?
A prophet in the most basic sense is someone who is called and inspired by God to communicate a message on his behalf.
The call of Isaiah illustrates the point:
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘And who will go for us?’ and I said ‘Here I am, send me’. The Lord said ‘Go and tell the people’
The way in which the other OT prophets are called follows a similar pattern of being called, encountering God, being sent, and being empowered.
By this same standard we can say that Jesus lived a prophetic life.
There are numerous times in the gospels when those around him ask him if he is a prophet of God – i.e someone who God has sent in order to speak and communicate on his behalf. Jesus doesn’t say ‘no’ and correct them, rather he infers that this is part of his ministry but that he is so much more than merely a prophet as they understand the term.
Jesus life is prophetic in its pattern. It looks like the lives of the prophets of the OT in various ways as he both speaks and acts out the message that he delivers.
As well as living prophetically Jesus also tasked his first century disciples with living a prophetic life. The way in which he did so corresponds with the way in which the OT prophets were given their call by the Father:
Jesus initiated the call to a prophetic life – calling his disciples by name to follow him
Jesus commissioned his disciples – he helped them to recognise the particular way of life he was asking them to embrace
Jesus sent his disciples – he tasked them to go out and do as they had seen him doing in living prophetically
Jesus empowered his disciples – he delegated his authority to them to sustain the prophetic life they were to lead
And so my suggestion is that as Christians we are called to live prophetically in each and every day. Because that’s how Jesus lived, and that’s how he instructed his disciples to live and we are his disciples.
So what does this prophetic life look like?
Commentary on the passage
Peter and John find themselves hauled up in front of the Sanhedrin in a spot of trouble. Not only have they healed a man in the name of Jesus but they are also preaching the resurrection from the dead which was a theological problem for the Saducees. As Peter and John respond to the authorities of thier day we see some marks of what it means to live prophetically - we need to read this passage as connected with Acts 2 and 3:
Proclaiming – Peter and John (from Acts 4):
Speaking to the Sanhedrin – ‘Jesus is Lord’
Truth to power – not just interpersonal, but speaking to the institutionalised ways of doing and being
Boldly and without fear – requires courage and boldness
Pointing to Jesus – ‘this was done in his name’ it’s about making Jesus famous
Manifesting – Peter and John (from passage last week – Acts 3)
Demonstrated in the healing – not just words but also actions, be they miraculous or not.
Showing the reality of the kingdom – freedom, release, fullness of life, peace joy etc
Living in the reality of the kingdom as it shapes how we see and do life – how we respond to the daily situations
Authenticity of life – no matter where you cut our life it looks the same, and what we say, we do.
Teaching – (Peter and John in Acts 2)
Explaining the gospel of Jesus and what it means – in ways that can be understood
Helping others to see how they fit into God’s story – and into Gods purposes and desires
From this, and in keeping with how the lives of the OT prophets were lived, we see that a prophetic life is a whole life. I.e there is a consistency in what is proclaimed, manifested and taught, a consistency of life and message.
Some questions to start us off…
What are some of the challenges that we face with regard living a prophetic life?
The challenge of what shapes us
If we’re going to live this missional prophetic life, we need to be being shaped as disciples by our Lord Jesus. That is we need to be committed to following him, learning from him, and becoming like him. So that if you like, the way we do our lives looks like the way that Jesus would do our lives if he were living them. In the scriptures the life and character of the prophet is always inseparable from the message that they make known.
So what shapes us? Is it the Lord Jesus as we grow as disciples or is it something or someone else? Is it the culture of success that is our primary influence? Or the need to acquire? Are we shaped by the pressures of the world so that in various ways we ‘conform to the patterns of the world’ rather than conforming to Christ?
If we’re not being shaped by Jesus into a shape like Jesus, then it’s very difficult to live prophetically, because like the prophets of old our character and life is inseparable from our message.
The challenge of living authentically across different parts of our life
We have to compartmentalise our lives don’t we. We have a work life, a home life, a social life, a sports life etc etc. Different aspects of our lives that require different things of us. We might be expected to be the hardnosed CEO, the gentle father, the life and soul of the party, the loving partner, all in one day…different situations will demand different things of us.
But as we lead lives of prophetic witness to Christ we want to be cultivating an authentic Christian life in all of the various spheres we occupy. A life that has the same values and commitment to Jesus expressed in each unique place and group in appropriate and different ways.
So that we’re able to be prophetic witnesses to Jesus in each of these spheres without inconsistency of life and character across them undermining our witness and ministry.
The challenge of being distinctive
In many of our daily situations, being distinctive as a Christian is genuinely costly – but being prepared to be distinctive is part of the prophetic life – living prophetically requires us at times to be distinctive.
For many of us the place in which this pressure is really felt is in the workplace. How does the call to prophetic living ask me to be distinctive at work? How do I do this whilst not undermining working relationships or compromising my job?
What are the ways in which we need to be distinctive as part of living a prophetic life that communicates on Gods behalf, his invitation to enter his kingdom?
It’s often much easier to conform and then justify it.
Some prayer prompts:
Pray for each member of the group, that our lives might bear prophetic witness to the invitation of the Father to enter the kingdom life through Christ
Pray for the challenges of: Being shaped by Christ and not the world
Living authentically across the different spheres of our life
Simon Butler, 06/07/2015