We return again this morning to chapter three of Acts where we are given a sign and a sermon. The sign is the miraculous healing of a man who was severely crippled from birth for over forty years. After walking, running, jumping, and leaping for joy, we are told he is now clinging to Peter and John. All the people came, they were amazed and astounded. God wanted to say something and He used this miracle to get everyone’s attention so He could say it, and not just to them, but to us here and now.
A Sign and a sermon. In chapter three of Acts we are given a sign and a sermon, a miracle and a message. The sign is the miraculous healing of a man who was severely crippled from birth for over forty years. After walking, running, jumping, and leaping for joy, we are told he is now clinging to Peter and John. All the people came, they were amazed and astounded. A sign and a sermon. Which do you think is more impressive, which is more powerful, which is more important? Let’s imagine for a moment I went to Mary right now and said, “Mary, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Then immediately her leg grew back and strength returned to her legs and she stood up and started walking. In fact, even though it isn’t a very Dutch thing to do, she started dancing. After that, what would happen? People would start talking all over Lynden about this amazing thing Pastor Robert did and people would come flocking. Am I right? Who knows, it might even make the national news. Within months I would have a TV ministry, a mansion and a Lear Jet. And I would be a charlatan for cashing in on the miracle and using it for my own gain and glory. If I was wise I would do what Peter did and call time out and preach a sermon explaining what happened and why it happened and what it all means and what we should do in response to what happened. In other words, the miracle is not what’s most important, what’s most important is what it points to.
In last week’s sermon I said we were looking at a snapshot summary of life in the early church and This morning’s text is like a close up. Luke referred in his summary to daily visits to the temple, and now he references one of those daily visits, at 3 pm in the afternoon, the time of the evening sacrifice. But something happened at 3 pm that afternoon. In that summary Luke also wrote: Acts 2:43 Awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. Luke tells us the story of one of those signs and wonders, the
Luke shows us a picture, a snapshot of the church in the first century. It sure looks like a perfect church, doesn’t it? They are all together, they are devoted, committed, they are sharing everything, lots of hospitality, praising God, full of joy and everyone in town is in awe of them. Wow, do you wonder how long this lasted? This one snapshot of the church in the first century shows us what a health church looks like but it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t a utopia. You don’t have 3,000 new converts show up at worship and have tranquility. The rest of Acts will show us warts and all. They will be opposed and attacked. Two of their members will drop dead for lying. Paul and Barnabas will get in a disagreement. Paul’s letters to early churches are full of sins and divisions and disagreements. The Churches Four Foundations. This is a picture of what a healthy church should be like. If we devote ourselves to these four foundations God by His Holy Spirit may be pleased to give us some of these same results. A church that doesn’t have or care about these four foundations can expect none of these results. Churches are all built on something. Some churches are built on a foundation of entertainment and relevance, being hip and cool. Some on emotion and hype, some on social justice and being man-centered. It is amazing how simple it is to build a solid, steady, stable, Spirit-filled and God-glorifying church. These are the four very ordinary but essential commitments and marks of a health Spirit-filled church that lead to supernatural results. God delights to use the ordinary because then when the extraordinary happens He gets the glory.
Peter’s sermon started as an answer to a question. The Jews asked, “What does this mean?” He said it was the pouring out of Spirit God had promised long ago by the prophet Joel. Then he went on to make the connection to Jesus. This Jesus you killed, this Jesus God raise up, this Jesus who is now seated in glory with God and who sent the Spirit you now see. Acts 2:36-41 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Those last words of his sermon, “This Jesus whom you crucified” were ringing in their ears and when they heard it they were cut to the heart and the sermon ends with another question. “What must we do?” We are still uncovering all the miracles on that first Pentecost, all the ways the Holy Spirit revealed Himself.
Peter is preaching his first sermon, a three point sermon based on three OT texts. We looked at the first point last week built on Joel 2:28-32 when Peter explained to the Jews in Jerusalem that God has poured out His Spirit as He promised long ago. After giving this explanation of Pentecost, Peter explains why God did it now. Something has happened they need to know. Full of the Holy Spirit Peter says, “Men of Israel, listen to me, I have something very important to say” and His first word is Jesus. That’s it, the most important thing to say is Jesus. That is the name above all names. Jesus is the answer to their confusion about what’s going on. Jesus is the answer to all of life’s most pressing questions and the most daunting problems. More than anything else this is what they must hear. The best way to understand Pentecost is by Jesus. So Peter preaches Jesus, the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, the whole Gospel concerning Jesus. Luke gives us just a summary.
You know how we tend to remember painful or traumatic or embarrassing experiences in life. Experts say the reason for this is because adrenalin fixes those experiences in our brains. I remember my first sermon. November 11, 1981, preaching class at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. It was painful, traumatic and embarrassing all at the same time. I was nervous, I felt completely foolish and inadequate. It was one of my worst ever. So, there were really two miracles on Pentecost, the filling of the Holy Spirit enabling them to speak in languages they didn’t know, and that Peter’s very first sermon was so great. Peter, an uneducated Galilean fisherman, just seven weeks removed from denying Jesus with curses, stands up not only to preach, but to preach a great sermon. It even had three points and he had never been to seminary. By the way, your past sin doesn’t have to be a barrier to your usefulness to Christ and His work. Our past sin is meant to make us humble in our service and sympathetic to those around us. God only uses sinners, even the chief among sinners. The grace of God covers a multitude of sins. For Peter to fall so far and to rise so high is clearly the power of God and the wisdom of God. Through Christ we can do all things. Expect great things, attempt great things, in the power of the Spirit and in the wisdom of the Spirit.
Why should the ascension of Jesus matter to us? We are pretty clear about the importance of Christmas day, and Good Friday and Easter. And we might even be able to say why Pentecost is important, but Ascension Day is another story. The fact that it falls on a Thursday makes it seem less important. It is the neglect step child of religious holidays. Let me open your eyes for a few moments to the glories of the ascension of Jesus and why we should remember it and celebrate it and lift it up from its lowly status.
In chapter two of Acts the Holy Spirit gives us the revelation of God concerning what happened on Pentecost Day after Jesus ascended back into heaven. The chapter is too long to deal with in one sermon so I decided to get a running start at it the week before Pentecost Sunday. Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem without the Holy Spirit. Don’t do anything without the power of God and the wisdom of God in us by the fulness of His Holy Spirit. God once again made good on a promise, fulfilling His promise to send the Holy Spirit.
Introduction. At the conclusion of our worship this morning we will have our annual election for elders and deacons. As I said last Sunday evening at our prayer service, this is the most important decision we make each year. The future of every church depends on its leaders. This is why we had a special prayer service for this decision, that’s how much of a priority it is for us. Clearly among the apostles it was a priority decision as well. It was the only business they conducted while praying together in the upper room. But praying wasn’t all they were doing. There is something else going on here, there is an elephant in the room.