Acts 2 and God’s Unstoppable Plan

Sometimes we hear people say that they want to get back to a sort of “Acts 2” philosophy of church ministry, and that isn’t always a bad thing.  We see a powerful, growing church in Acts 2 – devotion to God’s word, building each other up in the faith, spending life together (both in the church and at homes), and an intentional prayer life – not to mention a very strong others-orientation – some even selling their material things in order to make sure that other  members had their needs met..  Those are all good things.

But what struck me this morning, perhaps it’s because of Good Friday being 2 days away are two things:

  • The amazing foreknowledge of God.  Peter in his sermon to the crowd states that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” (2:23) The cross was not a reaction, it was not a “Plan B” – as Pastor Matt Chandler says in his book Explicit Gospel “The cross of Jesus Christ was not some surprise, not some plan B for God, but rather the plan known within the Godhead since the beginning. God’s response to the belittlement of his name, from the beginning of time, has been the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a Roman cross.”   As we celebrate this weekend, let’s also celebrate the amazing, intentional, unstoppable redemptive plan of God to bring a sinful human race back to himself.
  • David saw the resurrection of the Christ.  2:31 says something amazing about David, and I think it’s another passage that answers the questions “How did God see David – the adulterer, murder, etc – as  ‘man after his own heart?”  – “David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ.”  David was looking ahead to the Messiah and understood that he would come and be sacrificed for the sins of the world and would rise again.  This is where he placed his faith. Yes, he had massive personal sin issues – but if the cross of the Christ is powerful enough to cover them – isn’t it then powerful enough to cover our sins?  Then what is stopping us from running to God instead of running away from God when we sin?  Look at the amazing knowledge of our God – he knows it all anyway.

Foreknowledge and other attributes that show God’s massiveness should bring us comfort that there is nothing that God doesn’t know and control in line with his beautiful merciful plan of redemption.  David knew this truth and even applied it to the Christ, according to Peter in our text today.  This brings peace and fullness of joy.

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;

therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

my flesh also will dwell in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:25-28, ESV)

Who Do You Say that I Am?

In Matthew 16:13-20, we see another important exchange between Jesus and Peter.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
(Matthew 16:13-16 ESV)

As Jesus asks the disciples what others are saying about him, the real question he is getting to is “Who do you say that I am?” Indeed that is still the question. With so many different voices trying to explain to us who Jesus was (a good teacher, a prophet, a kind and “all accepting” man). Which one is right?

Peter’s reply is the right one that Jesus is “the Christ” – literally “the anointed One” – the Messiah, the one the Old Testament said would come, God in flesh, the reconciler of us to God.

As I’ve spent much of the weekend talking about youth and faith – isn’t this the goal? That our children understand and believe that Jesus is “the Christ” and submit their lives to him – to be his disciples and grow in maturity into the fullness of that understanding.

Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the foundation of our church is built, and disciples build their own lives on this truth – that Jesus is the Christ.

Who do you say that he is?

Acts 4 – Be Clear, Be Bold, Be Boasting…and Bob

Below is the text of message from a Praise and Worship Night on 7/23/11 at Green Pond Bible Chapel.

For audio click here.

I want to talk to you all tonight about that name Jesus and we are going to look briefly at a story in the book of Acts where the disciples are starting their ministry the church is very young,  just getting off the launching pad.  Jesus has been crucified, buried and has risen back to life and now has gone back to heaven.

We are gonna plunge into Acts 4 where we last left our heroes Peter and John they were in deep doo doo because they were preaching about the name of Jesus and some folks didn’t like that.   In this episode of the Peter and John show, our heroes are in trouble for healing a man.  Let’s get some background here and listen

[read Acts 3:1-10]

So there’s this dude, we’ll call him Bob.  Bob has been sitting on a blanket at the entrance to the subway in Penn Station for ever.  Everyone knows who Bob is, he is there every single day.  Crippled.  On his blanket.  Holding up his ratty, torn, faded, sign.  Begging for spare change.

Peter and John, on their way into church see Bob. Bob wants money.  These are disciples, not the most lurcative occupation one could chose in those days, also not the safest and most popular as we will see in a minute.  Peter heals him. Boom. Do you see the power of the apostles?! We pray and beg for God to heal people, they just say “You.  You are healed. Get up.” Wowness. Playas from another laya.

As for Bob – leaping and praising God.  Bob has been this way for over 40 years.

OK, so jump over to Acts 4 now and listen as I read…here’s where it hits the fan.

[Acts 4:1-22]

Stop after v12.

Do you see this?  Are you catching this…Peter and John just spent the night in the pokey they are surrounded by dudes in suits who think a good time is poking them with sticks, playing Let’s ask the disciples 746 questions and maybe slap them around a bit.  These are the religious leaders of the day, the guys in the church. They are questioning them, hard direct questions. You who are Christians, do you ever get questioned?  What kind of questions – “You go to church? Really?  You like a Christian band?  You are going to a WHAT?  A worship night, what in the name of Rupert Murdoch is a worship night?!”

Here’s my first challenge to you tonight:

Be Clear

Note our heroes, Peter and John – what do they say?  v10-12.

Wow.

Don’t just say God.  Drop the J-Bomb.  God is vague to someone not Biblically informed – JESUS.

It’s also salvation

Acts 4:12 – there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Here’s another clear verse, this is perhaps one of my favoritest verses in the Bible – 1 Timothy 2:5-6.  That’s the gospel. Be clear.

It’s hard to be clear, isn’t it?  It’s much easier to just kinda waffle a little bit right?  Well, let’s look back at our passage and see more from our guys.

[Read v13-14]

Be Bold

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Be bold in Christ.

it doesn’t take anyone any more special than you are.  These were common uneducated men. Don’t let yourself think “I can’t, I don’t know enough….blah blah blah.”  Be clear and be bold.  Go big or go home.

Be so bold that you astonish people – I’m so sick of the status quo -why blend in with the rest of America?

Be so bold that people recognize Christ in you. Do people recognize that YOU have been with Jesus? Listen – here is one of the most important things I’m gonna say to you tonight.  Let me see everyone.  Some of you are in here, and you are claiming to be Christians, but your lifestyle is not backing it up. You got zero street cred to walk around being bold if your life is full of sin.   Be full of Christ, not sin.  You cannot be bold for Christ with others if you are not bold for him alone.  Don’t even try it.  Get you and Jesus fixed first. Being bold for him means saying no to sin to yourself first. I know how it is, some of you are gonna get all fired up and go calling your friends and be like “You need Jesus.  Yeah I said it, JESUS!  You need him you are going to hell.  Wait where are you?  At the bar?  Dollar drafts?  I’m in.”

So what I’m saying is that before it comes out of you, it has to be in you.  Jesus has to own you.   Watch.

[read v15-22]

You see this seen the suits have a problem.  “They healed Bob.  Bob has been there for 40 years!!! Everyone saw it.  And worse yet, Bob guy is here today standing right there! (v14)This is BAD! What are we going to do?  OK, have them go out so we can talk. ” [they go out, suits talk, they come back in] “OK, here’s what we are gonna do. Just don’t do that anymore, OK. No more mentioning the name of Jesus.  We mean it.”  [Peter and John look at each other like ‘that’s it?  I thought they’d stone us for sure]. Peter and John reply, “Um, Mr. Suit, you see we can’t honor that request.  Whether or not we’re in bigger trouble now, is up to you, but we can’t stop. We can’t.  It’s in us.  Jesus owns us, we can’t help but speak the name of Jesus.”

Be Boasting

v20 – “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Even at great risk to personal health and safety, the disciples couldn’t help but speak the name of Jesus.  They could not be silenced.  Remember Bob?  What was his reaction?  Leaping and praising the name of Jesus.

The essence of worship, is not singing songs – that’s cool and all and Biblical, but it’s more the act of worship in our everyday lives. It’s to be so overwhelmed with Jesus it oozes out of you.

If we are truly Christians – we have been made new.  We have new hearts we have new lives, we now live in Christ, not for ourselves.  We have a story to tell, God has done a work in us he has changed us, healed us, saved us.  I will tell you that if you saw me 15 years ago, you would want to be nowhere near me.  I was a different person, Christ has come and made me new – new affections, new habits, new language, new appetites, new LIFE – lasting change in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you are longing for that, if you are here tonight and you don’t know that change, and listen, just because you are here in a church event doesn’t man Jack. There are plenty of people in churches who aren’t saved.  He is reaching out to you tonight, reach back and respond to him in your hearts tonight.

One of my favorite Crowder songs is “Come and Listen” – the chorus goes “Come and listen to what he’s done.”  We’re going to play that song over the system here.  The next band is going to quietly make their way up here and quietly set up.  I am going to make my way to the back of the church, outside the double doors here of the sanctuary.  There are going to be other leaders, elders, counselors from GPBC who are going to be out there with me.  If the Holy Spirit has moved in your heart tonight, come tell us what he has done.  Come tell us what you think he is doing.  Come tell us how he is calling you for lasting real change in Jesus Christ.   We want to pray with you.  So as the song is playing,  Pastor Jack’s band will set up – make your way out the doors and see us.

Let’s pray.

God we come to you tonight in worship, mostly in song – but now in our hearts, our inner selves, our core.  You made us, you know us.  There are those in here who know you and know you well, give them an even bigger appetite for you.  Yet there are also those in here who claim to know you,  but don’t really or maybe don’t claim to know you at all.  You don’t own their hearts, their affections, their appetites – Spirit:  claim them in the name of Jesus tonight.  Come to them, regenerate them, make them new. Give them hope, give them lasting change in the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.