Monday, April 16, 2012

Acts 3:12-20 Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter                                                                       April 15th, 2012
Acts 3:12-20

Look at your Living Lord Jesus!  See his powerful work!  Who could argue that he is still dead, when you see these powerful signs!  Surely it was not Peter and John who did these things, but the power of the Lord in them.  When the trees shake, you know the wind is blowing.  When a lame man walks, you know Jesus is working.

Those people came running to Peter and John because they had seen a man walking, a man whom they knew had never walked before.  The man was walking, and jumping, and praising God.  And part of his praise, evidently, was that he told everybody what Peter and John had done.  The man had been begging by the temple gates, as he did every day.  Peter and John approached him.  Peter said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  And then Peter took him by the hand and helped him to his feet.  Instantly he was strong, and that man who had never walked began to run and jump.  When the people heard him tell this story, they ran over to Peter and John to find out more.

But Peter pointed the people to the real miracle worker—our living Lord Jesus.  “Men of Israel, he said, why does this surprise you?  Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.”

Now, if they were amazed at the crippled man who was walking and jumping, they would be more amazed that Jesus, who had been crucified, was alive.  That’s an incredible claim, but how else would you explain this miracle?  And perhaps even more than that, how else would you explain this powerful change in Peter?  Isn’t this the same Peter who had been so afraid of the Jews that he had denied even knowing Jesus?  Isn’t this the same Peter who had felt like such a hypocrite, that he fled weeping into the night?  How was he saying these powerful things now?

Peter preached that Jesus is the Son of God—and this was the same message that God Jesus crucified.  Peter preached to the Jews, “You Jews condemned the Son of God.  You condemned him to death, even though the heathen Pontius Pilate recognized that he was innocent.  You Jews disowned your God.  You took a murderer instead of the Holy and Righteous one.  Jesus was the author of life, by whom all things were created.  In fact, he was the one who gave you life, but you gave him death.   And then you Jews thought you were rid of him, but God raised him from the dead.”

You can’t say things like that today and get away with it!  Back then you could be killed for saying things like that—Jesus was!  Where did that courage come from?  It could only be that Jesus really did rise from the dead, and Peter saw him, and now Jesus was with Peter to give him courage and power.  Peter could only have said these things if Jesus were alive and with him.

There is one more amazing thing about this story.  A lot of people actually believed what Peter and John said.  In chapter 4 we hear that the number of believers grew to 5,000.  What else could that be, but the power of Jesus?  In Peter we see power for speaking about Jesus.  In his message we see the power of speaking about Jesus.  What else could it be, but the work of our Lord? 

Theme: Your living Lord gives power to his people!

1.  The Power for speaking about Jesus.

Think first about the power in Peter that moved him to preach like he did!  Would you have had the guts to do that?  Why not?  Don’t you believe that your Lord is alive and he is backing you up?  Yes of course you believe.  But…

It’s not easy to say those things.  It is not easy to tell people that their sins make them God’s enemies.  Now, we are not talking to people who crucified Jesus, but we do have to tell American Christians that their sins make them God’s enemies just as much as those Jews.   People who think they are good Christians don’t want to hear that.  They don’t want to know that the true God demands a perfect life.  They don’t want to know that they have actually set up another god, an American god who settles for man’s best effort.  The American god thinks the way Americans think.  If they think that they should go to heaven, then that is what their god thinks too.  If they think its enough to go to church once in a while when they feel they need it, then that is what their god thinks too.  What they think about the Bible is what their god thinks.   This is the fatal flaw of mainstream Christianity!  We have lost the objective reality of what God thinks!  People need to be told to wake up, because Christ is alive, and he still backs up his Word.  What the Bible says is still what Christ says!   Anyone who disagrees, whether its on abortion or homosexuality or marriage or anything else—anyone who disagrees with the Bible is an enemy of God.  Now do you have the guts to say that?  Even if that person might be your wife, child, or grandchild?

Whether you personally tell someone that or not, you are at a church that says those things.  Do you have the guts to associate with me, if the media finds out what I just said?

Truly, I don’t actually have the guts to say that either—not by my own power. We do believe that our Lord is alive and backing us up, but we are also afraid.  And it is hard for our faith to conquer our fear.  We are afraid of starting a fight.  We are afraid of what people will think and say.  We are afraid that people will find out what a bunch of hypocrites we are, and they will use our words against us.   After all, who of us has been perfect?  We have all done things and thought that God will not mind.  At one time or another, we have all made a god who thinks what we think.

The Jews could have come back at Peter, and called him a hypocrite.  They could have said, “Weren’t you the one who denied him on that night when he was put on trial?  Why didn’t you say anything then?  You allowed us to crucify our God.”  I wonder if Peter was ever afraid of being called a hypocrite.  I think he was.

Peter knew that it was not in his power to do these things.  He said to the people, “Why do you stare at us, as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk.”  Peter found nothing especially powerful or godly about himself.  But he found power to deal with his guilt and overcome his fears.  That power was with him because our living Lord Jesus was with him. 

You are not going to find the power in yourself to say what needs to be said.  That power is given to you at the time when you need it.  The Living Lord is with you, to give you power.

Jesus has promised it.  He said, “you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them…do not worry beforehand what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”  And also, “Surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”

2. Power of speaking about Jesus

Power for you—
Before you get to speak the Word of God, you need the power of that message for yourself.  You need to deal with your guilt—Peter promises that your sins are cancelled through faith in Jesus.  That means that all of those times when you have been too afraid to speak have been cancelled, wiped off your record entirely!  That means that all of those times when you have excused your own sins have been wiped out!  Anything that would cause you guilt and make you feel like a hypocrite has been erased.  Peter also promised that your soul will be refreshed through faith in Jesus.  Because your heart has been weighed down by a load of guilt and a long struggle against sin, Jesus promises to give you refreshment through his Word.  Like a cold glass of lemonade refreshes your body on a hot day, Jesus comes to you in his Word to refresh your soul with his gracious promises.  And not only that--he comes to stay with you, and be so close to you that the Bible would even say that he is "in" you.  How much more closely could you be connected to your Savior?  Because you need him constantly to remind you of your forgiveness, and constantly to refresh your soul again, Jesus has promised to dwell in you.  Peter promised that   Jesus would be sent to all who believe.

Power for others—
That Word of God that works for you with such power works for other people too.  Look around you at how many other people believe it! Other people will believe it too!  Their number grew to 5,000!  Imagine that!

Power for the Church—
Whenever Christians start to talk about Evangelism, it is amazing what kinds of ideas they come up with to bring people into the church.  Maybe people will join our church if we have more activities, more outings, more meals, maybe we can have a carnival with some kind of Jesus theme.  But sometimes Christians need to be reminded that the Word of God makes people want to join the church.  Specifically, the Gospel—the Word that tells you that God has cancelled your sins, wiped them out completely, and he wants to be with you.  That is what makes people want to join the church.  It isn’t the gimmicks and programs that give a church its power.  Our power is the Word of God.  Real evangelism is putting God’s powerful Word out there.  Anything else is just messing around.

Conclusion:  Have a little peace knowing that the courage and the power do not come from you.  It comes from your living Lord, Jesus Christ.  Have the peace of knowing that your sins are forgiven.  Be a bold Christian, because Jesus has chosen to use hypocrites like Peter who denied him, and hypocrites like you and me.  He has washed us clean in the waters of baptism, fed our souls with his very body and blood, and given us these comforting promises that our sins have been wiped out, and that he will always be with us and in us.  Be a bold Christian, because Jesus has chosen to be with you, and use you.

He may put you in a situation where you need to stand up for the truth.  If that happens, he will be with you to back you up.  Have peace, knowing that when you say, “This is a sin because this is what God says,” your Lord Jesus is alive to back you up.  That person will feel the truth in his heart, and if he resists he will find the truth when his life is over and he sees Jesus sitting in the judge’s seat.  If you personally are not called on to tell the truth about God, you are at the very least called on to support your church, because together we proclaim the truth.  Have a little peace, knowing that our living Lord backs us up.

And have a little peace knowing that you have Jesus backing up his promises of forgiveness too.  Don’t worry about whether or not people will believe it.  The power doesn’t come from you.  The power comes from the Word of God, and from your living Lord who spoke it and backs it up.  Whenever any of us promises forgiveness, God actually wipes out sins, God, your living Lord backs up his Word and refreshes the soul, and in fact he gives himself to be Lord in that heart also.  There is power in this Word, and God will have it be spoken.  He will give you power to do it, and he will give you power to stand with me when I do it.  Just as he did for Peter, so he does for us.  The Living Lord gives power to his people.  Amen.