Saturday, June 22, 2013

Peter, Preacher of the Gospel 130623

Peter and John had gone to the temple to pray. This was their daily practice but this day turned out to be very different. Walking towards the beautiful gate, once again they saw a beggar who was laid there daily. He was very fortunate that day because they had no money! All they had was faith in the name of Jesus! The man was not just healed he was transformed by having all of those atrophied muscles made strong. He took Peter's word and stood up and began walking and leaping and praising God! Today we come to the next part of the story. As the crowd gathered Peter took the opportunity to explain what had happened.
Let's read the story from the book of Acts…
Acts 3:11-26, While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Peter, preacher of the gospel, took advantage of the gathering crowd to tell them the truth about Jesus. A man, over forty years old, had been healed and given a new life! He was given that gift as result of an act of faith — faith in the name of Jesus!
This act of faith glorified Jesus. Peter wanted it very clear that this healing came from God because of faith in Jesus Christ. However…
The people looked to Peter and John. They did not realize that never has man provided deliverance. Listen while I read, Zechariah 4:6, Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. God wanted his people to understand that it was not in the abilities of men to solve problems or meet needs. It is only by God's Spirit that our needs can be met. Listen also to what Hosea had to say,
Hosea 1:7, But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” David, the Psalmist, said, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”
None of the things that people normally look to can answer their real needs. It is by the Lord God that we are saved spiritually, materially or physically, our healing comes from God. Peter wanted it very clear that Jesus was to be glorified as a result of this healing.
We often tend to glorify the human agent. All glory goes to God! He told Isaiah, 700 years before Christ, that he would give his glory to no one else. God does not share the stage! He will be glorified and we should remember that.
Peter had an excellent opportunity to get glory for himself. There were eyewitnesses to the apparent fact that he had healed this man. The word spread like wildfire and a great crowd gathered. All Peter needed was a PR man, a tent and some signage! But he knew better. He knew the source of the healing and he would only give glory to God through Jesus Christ.…
Peter pointed them back to God. In our actions and in our talk we must keep God central. Listen while I read, Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Peter wanted them to know that it was only by faith in the name of Jesus that God had healed this man. Without faith it is impossible to please God! And not just a faith that believes God exists. God does exist. He does not exist because we want him to he exists in spite of the fact that humanity really doesn't want him to. From Adam onward mankind has always wanted to be the center of attention. Self-centeredness caused Adam to eat the forbidden fruit because he believed the lie that eating that fruit would make him like God. So Peter wanted the attention taken off himself and put in the right place. He pointed them back to God…
And to the Author of life. The Greek word translated "author" in the ESV is translated "Prince" in the KJV. The same word is used in Hebrews and translated "founder" (ESV) or, "captain" (KJV). Peter wanted to point to the fact that Jesus is the author, prince, founder or captain of life. Years later John, who was present that day, would write these words , John 1:3-5, All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In Jesus, on this earth, was life — a life that was the light of men. A light that shined in darkness and overwhelmed the darkness. However, look at verse eleven, He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Jesus came to his own possessions, or his own country by being born the son of Mary and living as a man. But, having come to his own, his own people did not receive him. Pilate had decided to release him but his people denied him. Jesus was the holy and righteous one who had come to save his people. Now his people denied him and used the Romans as a tool to nail him to the cross.
Peter spoke very strong words that day to indict the people of Israel for the crime of crucifying Jesus. Then, he softened the indictment by saying that he knew they had acted in ignorance. But we need to remember…
Ignorance is not bliss. Somehow people seem to think that they are not guilty of what they are ignorant of. I suspect that may be the reason some Christians don't study the Bible in detail because they believe they will only be responsible for what they know. A well-known legal standard is, "Ignorance of the law is no defense."
Ignorance is not bliss but ignorance is…
A lack of knowledge. From the cross Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying him. Luke tells us about it, Luke 23:34, And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The Roman soldiers certainly did not know what they were doing. The Centurion in command of the execution realized at the end something of what was going on when he said, "Truly this was the son of God."
The crowds who stood before Pilate's judgment seat did not understand what they were doing. Many of them would never understand. Many of them were present on the day of Pentecost and three thousand of them understood and placed their faith in the living Lord Jesus Christ.
Ignorance is a lack of knowledge and…
A common condition. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in, Ephesians 2:1-3, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Paul writes to the Ephesians to remind them that before they came to faith in Christ they were dead in trespasses and sins. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. We are all born in trouble. When we take these verses together we can see that the common condition of all men is an ignorance of God. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians we are taught that the God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Yes, ignorance is a lack of knowledge and a common condition but…
Ignorance can be cured. The psalmist tells us how to cure our ignorance. Psalm one hundred nineteen honors the word of God in every verse but specifically listen to, Psalm 119:10-11, With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Clinging close to his commandments and storing the word in our hearts is a cure for ignorance. There's an old saying about the Bible it goes like this, "This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book." We need to know the word of God and we need to store it in our hearts. God gave us a promise through Jeremiah…
Jeremiah 29:13,You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. This promise is for us as well as the people of Jeremiah's day. Just before this God had said, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." When we store his word in our hearts and seek him with all our heart he will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The enemy, Satan, will do anything he can to keep us from coming to Christ for salvation or, if we are already saved, keep us from growing in grace and the knowledge of the Lord.
Throughout history people have acted in ignorance. They still do today because the God of this world has blinded their minds to keep them from believing. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge and a common condition but ignorance can be cured by knowledge.
Knowing something is true and acting on it are two different things. The majority of the people on earth believe that there is a God. At the same time, the majority of people on earth are unsaved. To know that God exists is only half the answer. One must also believe that he rewards those who seek him. That is, put faith in him, or, trust in him for salvation…
Knowledge is not enough, repentance is the way out. Faith and repentance go together as two sides of the same coin.
Even the demons have knowledge. But it does not change them. Listen while I read, James 2:19, You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Believing in God, or, as James put it, believing that God is one, is a good thing. I don't know how a person can look at the universe and all the intricate balance of nature around us and not believe in God. The evidences of intelligent design are all around us and should prove without a doubt the existence of the designer. The other night I was watching a program on either the Science Channel or Discovery. The whole plot of the program was all of the necessary elements that come together to sustain life on earth. Earth is the right distance from the sun. Earth has a large moon that affects the movement of tides. Even the planet Jupiter serves as a giant gravity magnet to pull asteroids and comets off their path to keep them from striking Earth. We need the right balance of elements in the air so that we can breathe and plants can survive. Hundreds of necessary ingredients go into the ability of life to survive on earth. Both Venus and Mars are in the zone where life could exist but are missing major elements that Earth has. You think there was not a Designer? Yet the very makers of the program would deny God's existence. The god of this world has blinded their minds.
Some knowledge is necessary. Paul wrote to the Romans, "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" (Romans 10:14) However, knowledge and approval is not enough by themselves. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, had a certain knowledge and certainly approved but he still had to put his personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be born again.
Yes, the demons believe. Why should they not? They were there in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. They were among the sons of God that sang together until Lucifer rebelled and they fell with him. Yes, the demons believe — and shudder!
The demons recognized Jesus when he walked on earth and feared him. Before Jesus cast a demon out of a possessed person it often proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. He had to order them to be silent several times during his ministry. The demons have more knowledge about Jesus then we do and yet they do not, or cannot, repent. Knowledge is not enough and approval is not enough. In order to have salvation one must repent and turn back so that your sins may be blotted out.
Jesus and John the Baptist both proclaimed "repent".
"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" was the common message of John the Baptist and Jesus. Repentance is not just being sorry for sin. Even grieving over our sin is not enough. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10) Unregenerate people feel sorrow when they have done wrong and if the wrong is especially harmful to other people they may also feel great grief. Godly grief produces saving faith. Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God.
Head knowledge is not enough! Even the demons have knowledge. Repentance is required and…
True repentance involves saving faith. There is more to salvation than simply being sorry for sin and recognizing the existence of God. The book of Acts records the words of Paul when he was speaking to the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. He reminded them that he had been faithful among them. Listen while I read from that account. Acts 20:20-21, ...I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Repentance and faith are linked together. A problem with that statement is the modern understanding of the word "faith". Today, faith often refers to an irrational or illogical belief in something that cannot be proven. One can believe that the world is flat or that the moon is made of green cheese! Such belief, no matter how strongly it is held, does not make it true. When everything is falling apart around someone a friend may say "have faith" and mean something like, "be confident that something good is going to happen." Friends, that is not saving faith! In fact, that is superstition and ungodly. Anytime a person is in trouble we could encourage them to "have faith in God" but not simply a vague "have faith".
Peter, seeing the crowd gathering around, and being guided by the Holy Spirit, immediately took the opportunity to tell the truth about Jesus Christ! First, he told them that the God of their fathers had healed the man they saw before them. Then, he reminded them that God had sent the Author of Life, Jesus, and they had rejected him and condemned him to death. After that, he recognized their lack of knowledge and called them to repent by turning away from their sins and turning to the Lord Jesus Christ. His goal that day was that they ALL may be turned from their wickedness. Well, not all of them believed but the number of men who believed that day came to about five thousand! (Acts 4:4)
Are you ignorant of what God has done for you in Christ Jesus? Ignorance can be cured by knowledge. Have you come to know that Jesus died for the sins of the world? Are you willing to act on that knowledge by repenting and receiving God's grace by faith? I pray you will do so, if you have not already.

All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Peter, Man of Prayer 130609

Simon Peter was the one who promised Jesus he would never deny him. Within a few hours he had denied his Lord three times when confronted by some servants while Jesus was being tried. Peter followed at a distance while Jesus was being forced through the streets to the place of crucifixion. Peter hid while the women went to check on the body of Jesus only to find that he had been raised from the dead. Peter had gone to the empty tomb and returned to a locked room in fear. Jesus appeared to the disciples there and over the next 40 days he proved that he was raised from the dead. Then on the day of Pentecost Peter, the former coward, boldly stood in front of the crowd and proclaimed Jesus as Lord and called on the crowd to repent. Now, he goes about his day-to-day events.
Listen while I read from…
Acts 3:1-10, Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
In spite of the fact that they had been told that they would be witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth they were still trying to find their way. On the day of Pentecost they had borne witness in Jerusalem with the magnificent result of 3000 brought into the kingdom in one day. They had no church growth consultants, no popular evangelists or experienced pastors to turn to so they did what they could.
They were attending the Temple for prayer. In fact, that was exactly what they should be doing! They should wait on the Lord in prayer until they knew what to do next. We don't know where the rest of the disciples were that day but we do know that Temple prayer was part of…
The disciples' daily routine. As recorded in Acts 2:46-47, And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Prayer should be a normal part of our daily routine as it was with them. The little room on the side of the church building is always unlocked if you need a quiet place to pray. Many Christians spend little time in prayer. In fact, many would say, "Why should we pray?" Wayne Grudem gives an excellent answer to that question in his Systematic Theology. I quote, Prayer is not made so that God can find out what we need, because Jesus tells us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8). God wants us to pray because prayer expresses our trust in God and is a means whereby our trust in him can increase. In fact, perhaps the primary emphasis of the Bible’s teaching on prayer is that we are to pray with faith, which means trust or dependence on God. God as our Creator delights in being trusted by us as his creatures, for an attitude of dependence is most appropriate to the Creator/creature relationship. Praying in humble dependence also indicates that we are genuinely convinced of God’s wisdom, love, goodness, and power—indeed of all of the attributes that make up his excellent character. When we truly pray, we as persons, in the wholeness of our character, are relating to God as a person, in the wholeness of his character. Thus, all that we think or feel about God comes to expression in our prayer. It is only natural that God would delight in such activity and place much emphasis on it in his relationship with us.
Everyone needs a place of prayer. Cherlyn and I pray together in the morning in our front room and at night, before going to sleep, in our bed. I also pray often during the day — short little prayers — like, "HELP", or, "WHY?", or "WHERE IS IT?"! For whatever reason we should set aside a particular place to pray. The disciples went to the Temple because it was…
The place where God was seen. They knew the words of the psalmist Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
It was in the dedication of the Temple that Solomon met God in a personal way. There, he received this promise from God, "if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2nd Chronicles 7:14)
It was in the Temple that Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. It was there that day that Isaiah said, "Here am I, send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)
In the presence of a holy God our lives are changed and his grace is released.
The temple was the sanctuary of God. Soon the Temple became a place filled with ritual and religion rather than relationship. During his ministry Jesus went into the Temple and drove out those who sold animals for sacrifice and changed money for the offering. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13)
The disciples continued use the Temple as a house of prayer. They didn't realize it was…
A place no longer needed. Listen while I read Hebrews 10:19-23, Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
When Jesus was crucified there was a change in the Temple. When the Temple was constructed it was based on the same floor plan as the tabernacle in the wilderness. There was an outer court surrounding two rooms called the holy place, and the most holy place. In the holy place was the altar of incense, the menorah and the table for showbread. Behind the curtain, in the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant. The Holy of Holies would be entered by the high priest once a year on the day of atonement. After an elaborate ritual he would offer incense in the presence of the ark of the covenant.
This was the only time the ark was seen. However, on the day of Jesus' crucifixion at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the hour of prayer, there was an earthquake and the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom opening the way into the holy place for all to see.
Yet the disciples continued to come there for prayer because…
They were willing to be obedient. They had been told to wait for the coming of the Spirit who would empower them to witness. That had happened in a powerful way on the day of Pentecost! Now they waited and prayed. Too often we get busy at busyness trying to be sure "something" happens. As soon as we think we know what God's will is we set out to "make it happen". It's as though we say to God, "Thank you for the direction now please move back while I get the work done." We can't accuse Peter and John of running ahead of God as I often do. I have personally been critical of the fact that they stayed in Jerusalem after Pentecost when they had been commanded to go into all the world. The Father knew they were going to stay and had a plan that included that. In fact, he had been holding this man for Peter. You see…
The beggar was there every day. Some twenty-one or twenty-two years before this event a twelve-year-old boy walked into the Temple looking for teachers so he could ask them questions and give them answers. Three days later, his parents came into the Temple as they frantically searched for him. That boy's name was Jesus and he asked his human parents, Mary and Joseph, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Luke tells us that they did not understand but his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
If they had just known the beggar, who was brought daily and put at the Temple gate, he could've told him where Jesus was!
In the years that followed from time-to-time Jesus returned to the Temple and each time he must seen this man. I know that Jesus had a very compassionate heart and he must've looked on many sufferers and wondered what the will of the Father was. Oh, I know, Jesus himself was God. However, he had limited himself while in the flesh. On earth he did not act like God. He humbled himself in obedience. I believe each time he saw this man at the Temple gate he thought a prayer, "Father do you want him healed?" I believe the Father answered, "Yes, but not now." You see, he was being saved for Peter.
The beggar was laid at the Beautiful gate daily to beg for coins. Even today, it's not unusual to see beggars in and around the holy places in Jerusalem. They know that people with a good heart will be coming there. He lay there begging but...
His expectations were limited. At the best, the beggar expected to take home enough money to meet his needs. And that would be a good day! He never expected that he would go home one day walking and leaping and praising God!
We live in a world like that ourselves. We dream little dreams and plan small plans. There is plenty of evidence in the Scriptures that God wants to do much more for us than we are willing to ask Him for. In his sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11) Later, Jesus would say, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!…" (Matthew 23:37)
I am sure God is willing to give us much more than we even know to ask for. The beggar at the Temple gate saw two men and hoped to receive something from them, but he had no expectation of what he was about to receive. You see…
Peter's resources were unexpected. Peter's very first words must've been disappointing. He knew what the beggar wanted and expected. And so he immediately turned aside the obvious. I can picture the man as his look went from that of expectation to disappointment. "I have no silver or gold." Peter said to him. "But I will give you what I do have." and…
The results were amazing. Begging is probably not very boring because, hopefully, you get to see a lot of people and some of them are very friendly and helpful. But what this man received was beyond his wildest imagination. He had no idea…
What Peter had to offer. Peter must've remembered the words of Jesus, recorded by John, John 14:12-14, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
Wow, that's a pretty powerful statement. It should leave us scratching our heads in wonder. "Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do." Amazing! But he goes on, "and greater works than these will he do." Greater? Greater than the works of Jesus? I do not begin to understand what Jesus meant by those words. But I have a rule that I follow when studying Scripture. Almost without exception, the simplest understanding of the passage is the right one. Jesus released power from heaven as he sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Father. The Holy Spirit no longer visited on earth as he had in the Old Testament times. Now the Holy Spirit abides in the people of God. The sanctuary made with human hands no longer represents where God lives. The room we worship in is not a sanctuary. The sanctuary of God is in the human heart where the Spirit of God lives.
Peter must've thought the same prayer that I have supposed that Jesus thought. "Father do you want this man healed?" The answer this time was, "Yes, now!" The daily routine of going up to the temple to pray at 3 in the afternoon was interrupted. Peter was open and obedient. Perhaps he had been with Jesus at other times when they had walked past this man. After all, he was daily laid at the Temple gate. We need to remember that God's will must be done in God's time and in God's way. Peter had nothing of his own to give this man. What he had belonged to Jesus. It was the power to heal. And it…
Resulted in complete healing. This man was over 40 years old! He had been lame, or crippled, all his life! If a modern surgeon came to this man and operated on him he would have never been "normal". Through disuse this man's muscles would have atrophied. They would never have been normal and he would always walk poorly if at all. Instead, when Peter spoke the words of power, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk…" his feet and ankles became strong! This was more than healing! This was restoring life and vigor to a body that was, for all practical purposes, dead and passive. This is a rare miracle but not unheard of. Abraham and Sarah were restored to full health in their old age in order to bear a son, Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And if you read the whole story of Genesis you will find that Sarah became attractive to men again in her old age.
Well that's the kind of healing that happened to the man at the Temple gate. Whatever had caused him to be crippled was corrected but also his muscles were given normal tone so that he could spend the rest of his life…
Walking, leaping and praising God. Isaiah had prophesied 700 years before. Isaiah 35:5-6, Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
I remember visiting a farm one spring on the day the cows were turned outdoors for the first time since fall. It was amazing to see those cows walking and leaping like calves. Yes, maybe they were also praising God for another spring.
Imagine yourself being in the place of this man. (I do wish we knew his name) It was a normal day in Jerusalem not particularly different from any other day. The crippled man's family and friends probably took turns carrying him from his house to the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. He had been there for several hours with his hand out begging alms. His arms were probably the strongest part of his body because he held them up hour after hour.
Several people had passed by him and looked the other way. Some had looked at him and pronounced peace upon him. They would have said, "Shalom". Some came expecting him to be there and already had their coin in their hand. You see, they knew the Proverb, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed." (Proverbs 19:17) Who could be poorer than a beggar?
Suddenly the man's world changed! Two men on their way to prayer stopped and stared at him with a particular interest. They had nothing in their hands but they were obviously interested in him. Then those blessed words, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” came from the lips of one of them.
What happened? We only know what could have been seen by the human eye. If he had pain up until then, it stopped! If he somehow felt weakness, that ended! Instantly, he was completely healed.
These two men had simply been going to pray. Likely, they were talking along the way. Perhaps even as they walked they were praying. They went to the Temple to pray out of obedience. It was like any other day until one of them knew God was about to work a great miracle. Their personal resources were limited but their God, our God, was and is unlimited!
Often we find ourselves limited in the things that really matter. There is a story told – it may be true – that during the Middle Ages a simple monk had gone to the Vatican. He was being shown around the magnificent churches and chapels. His guide is said to have remarked, "We no longer have to say, 'we have no silver and gold'". To which the monk replied, "Neither can we say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.'" Well I want you to know that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will not only save you from your sin but he can also heal your diseases when it is his will. Come to him today he will meet your needs in unexpected ways.

All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

130602 Peter, his First Sermon

Acts 2:14-41
Acts chapter 2 begins with a description of the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The disciples of Jesus were all together in one place. Several things happened at once. There was the sound of a mighty rushing wind! There was the appearance of fire settling on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to fulfill the commission given them in Acts 1:8. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." They began to speak in languages they had never learned! The witness to Christ was beginning to go out across the Roman world beginning in Jerusalem. The scene was chaotic and unique. It called for an explanation.
Remember Peter? He was the one who denied Jesus 3 times in the front of servants. Now he was standing in front of a huge crowd of people many of whom were there when Jesus was condemned. Apparently without fear…
Peter explained what was happening. Listen while I read Acts 2:14-21, But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The crowd was very confused by what they were seeing and hearing. They were questioning one another saying, "What does this mean?" However some of them were saying that they were drunk and they were making fun of them. Today, if there is a powerful move of God in an area there might very well be the same kind of questioning. The devil would like nothing better than to be able to make fun of Christianity. Well…
They may have been drunk, but not with wine! Paul spoke to the issue of wine and drunkenness as well as what happened on the day of Pentecost. Listen while I read, Ephesians 5:18, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,… I have always wished that Peter had taken a different approach to denying their drunkenness. I would like for him to have been able to say, "These people don't drink alcohol." But I'm not sure they would've understood, or that it would be true. A little while back I drove out past our church on River Street, stopped, and turned right onto Lake Street. As I passed the veterans club I saw red and blue lights in my rearview mirror. So I pulled over to see what the problem was. The trooper came up and said, "I see your turn signals work. You didn't use them when you turned off of River Street." My defense was there was no traffic in either direction. The whole incident was funny to me so I laughed. The trooper then asked if I had been drinking. I said to him, "I'm the pastor of the Baptist Church." For me, that was an adequate response because I believe no pastor should ever be drunk. And I wish that could have been Peter's defense. However, Peter found it necessary to note that it was too early in the day to be drunk. They would not understand him simply saying, "We are filled with the Spirit." So Peter told them that…
What Joel prophesied has come true! Joel had said that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit. Paul wrote to Titus about the same subject in, Titus 3:4-7, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Fulfilling the promise of Joel, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, sat down at the right hand of God in heaven and poured his Spirit on his people.
Peter proclaimed that the Spirit had come, not just for the purpose of prophecy or experience but in order that we may become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. With the coming of the Spirit…
Salvation is now available! Peter could proclaim, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Again, we turn to Paul for the same truth that Peter shared. Listen while I read, Romans 10:9-13, …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The disciples gathered there that day may have been drunk but not with wine. They were drunk on the fulfilled promise of Joel the prophet. Now, without any ritual or animal sacrifice everyone who confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved. Everyone who believes in him will not be ashamed. The door is now open to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord because…
Its all about Jesus. Acts 2:22-28, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.
Peter had seen it all! He had seen the mighty works of Jesus. He didn't need to explain who Jesus was.
Jesus had proved who he was. One example of this proof is found in John 7:28-31, So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
As Jesus healed the sick, raise the dead and fed the thousands he showed the signs that he was the Christ. It must've angered the Pharisees no end that the crowd would be asking such a question as this. They wanted to arrest him but because of the crowds they could not. He could not be arrested until his time came. None of this was according to man's plan but instead was…
According to God's plan. This plan was actually prepared by God before he created the world. Some 700 years before Christ was born Isaiah talk about it. Listen while I read, Isaiah 53:4-6, Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Peter understood that Jesus would be delivered up only when God was ready. Only by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God could Jesus be taken. At least three times Jesus had told Peter, and the other disciples, that he would be arrested beaten and crucified. At that time, Peter did not understand and verbally opposed the whole idea. Jesus had had to say to him, "Get behind me Satan". Not only was Jesus delivered up…
Jesus was raised up. This would become part of the common message of the disciples. When they were arrested for preaching about Jesus Peter used this defense. Luke records it in Acts 5:29-32, …Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Peter was telling the story exactly the way he saw it. On the day of Pentecost he proclaimed that Jesus was raised from the dead in spite of everything the religious leaders could do to prevent it. Later, he and the other disciples, would use the same message again and again. Jesus was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification.
Everything the people had seen on that day, the witness of hearing the gospel in their own language and the words of Peter called for a response and…
The people responded to the message. By this time in the sermon Peter was pretty relaxed. Listen while I read Acts2:29-41, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Peter's message came to an end when the people began to cry out, "Brothers, what shall we do?" They had seen the prophecy of Jesus found in John 7 being fulfilled.
Having witnessed the outpouring of the Spirit. Perhaps some in the crowd had heard the words of Jesus himself recorded in John 7:37-39, On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
They were seeing the results of the spirit being poured out and…
The people were convicted. Jesus had told Peter and the other disciples about the work of the Holy Spirit in dealing with the hearts of sinful man. Now Peter and the others were seeing the results of what Jesus said in John 16:7-11, Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of mankind to convict, or cut to the heart, concerning sin. The thousands who stood before Peter as he spoke were confused no longer. And out of that group of thousands many of them listened as…
Peter delivered the invitation. Peter brought same message that John the Baptist and Jesus himself had brought. Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repentance is not just being sorry for sin. Repentance involves much more than that! Paul rejoiced over the Corinthians, "not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting… For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death". (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) A worldly grief may involve great sorrow for one’s actions and probably also fear of punishment but no genuine renouncing of sin or commitment to forsake it in one’s life. The Bible tells us that Esau wept over the consequences of his actions but he did not truly repent. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology tells us. Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. So when the people asked, "what shall we do?" Peter could respond to them that they should repent! The next words he used have been the source of controversy throughout Christian history. They are, "and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." And out of those words grow a concept called "baptismal regeneration". A casual reading of the passage would support that idea. But I'm here to tell you that baptism does not save a person. The word "for", as used in this sentence, can have 2 meanings. Let me use another example. If you saw a poster saying, "Osama bin Laden Wanted for Murder", it could mean that Osama bin Laden is wanted to commit a murder. Or, obviously, Osama bin Laden is wanted because of murder that he committed. "For the forgiveness of your sins" could mean, "in order for your sins be forgiven" or, "because of the forgiveness of your sins". The first meaning would contradict everything else the Bible teaches about salvation by grace through faith. Repentance is not a "work" it is a heartfelt sorrow for sin committed. I am not a linguist, and certainly not a Greek scholar, so I don't know why the translators did not translate this passage, "be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins". I do believe that's what the passage means.
The next part of the passage, "and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Also leads to confusion in the minds of many people. What the passage says is clearly, "Repent every one of you and be baptized because of the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The Bible does not teach that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace. In fact 1 Corinthians 12:13 tells us that we are baptized into one body in one Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring a sinner to salvation. Remember the words of Jesus when he said that the work of the spirit is "to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come". Baptism in the Holy Spirit is salvation. The fruit of the spirit is available in the life of every believer and the gifts of the spirit are available to all believers as well.
Be careful that you don't fall into the trap of worshiping the gifts further than the giver of the gifts. Salvation is by grace through faith, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.
God's Spirit works in the life of every believer from before their salvation into eternity. Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, not to renounce the crowd that had refused Jesus but instead to call them to repentance. First, he showed them what they were witnessing was prophesied by Joel hundreds years before. Then he told them that Jesus, whom they had rejected, had been raised from the dead and proved to be both Lord and Christ. This Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit causing the cowards, that had ran away at the crucifixion, to boldly stand in front of the crowd and call them to repentance. We have no greater message today than that was offered by Peter on the day of Pentecost. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you because of the forgiveness of your sins." You will only do this because the Holy Spirit has worked in your life to call you to turn from your sin and come to the living God. This same Holy Spirit will work in you to enable you to live the Christian life. Today is the day of salvation.

All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.