If You Only Remember One Truth From This Sermon…

Some sermons are more easily forgotten than others. I’ve been thinking recently of those expositions of Scripture which God has used in my own spiritual journey and pondering how biblical truths have deeply altered my mind, will and emotions.

I’ve heard a variety of preachers in my over half-a-century of listening. “If you only remember one truth from this sermon…” has cued me on a number of occasions, that at least in the preacher’s mind, the truth about to be shared is pivotal.

On the Day of Pentecost Peter began with the context of culture, then guided his hearers into the context of scripture, then walked them through several key truths about Jesus Christ, supporting his premises with firsthand testimony as well as other scriptures.  That’s what preaching is all about, isn’t it? Connecting a current issue or application with the content of the Bible or vice versa.  Exposition must be combined with application, but the means of doing so is as diverse as the personalities of those called to preach.

As Peter wraps up his expositional exhortation he draws upon one further Old Testament text and then summarizes his argument with a Spirit-led, Christ-centred conclusion.

The Old Testament text? One that should be studied carefully by all Christians because it is filled with amazing insight into the authority of God, the person and work of the Lord, the kingly priest, whose worldwide victorious conquest of all nations, I’m sure, filled the mind of King David with awe and wonder.

Peter notes, “For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

‘The LORD said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ (Psalm 110:1)

You may well recall the occasion when Jesus pressed the Pharisees with the question, “The Christ, whose son is He?” His knowledgeable hearers answered, “The Son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him, ‘Lord’? and then he cited Psalm 110:1.

Psalm 110 is a Messianic poem, anticipating, 1000 years before He came, the authority of the Messiah.

Peter, in Acts 2, cites just the opening verse as well, having reasoned with his audience from other Scriptures in an earlier part of his probing sermon. Then he presses home his Scripturally based, carefully crafted conclusion, his summary, the ‘take-away’ which the Spirit of God was prompting him to speak.

“Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

What is Peter saying? You (the hearers) did not know who Jesus WAS–that’s why you crucified Him. You thought He was blaspheming when He claimed to be the Son of God, when He claimed equality with the Father, when He permitted people to worship Him. But let’s be clear, the out-poured Spirit of God resulting in individuals hearing the wonders of God in their own languages (v.11) is proof, unmistakable proof that Jesus of Nazareth was and is who He said He was. He is Lord! He is the Messiah! He is your Saviour!

Peter is extending the invitation which was passed on to him three years earlier, the invitation extended to Nathanael by Philip as well in John chapter 1.  I refresh your memory and mine by writing out a few verses in full (with a few words emphasized by me.)

The FIRST THING Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “WE have FOUND the MESSIAH,” (that is, the CHRIST). And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:41,42)

Philip found Nathanael and told him, We have FOUND the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–JESUS of NAZARETH, the son of Joseph.”  (John 1:45)

In one sense Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost is just an extended personal testimony. Powerful preaching flows out of a life that has been radically altered by the Spirit of God through the Person and  Work of Jesus Christ. May God raise up around the world such preachers to “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all peoples.” (Psalm 96)

Why not pause and pray for at least 3 missionaries you know who are involved in this amazing privilege? And why not ask God to help you to ‘in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give ther reason for the hope that you have.’ You may not get to preach today, but perhaps through a simple word of witness you too may be able to give away what you have found!

Men… Women… GOD at work!

It’s construction season in Canada. How do I know? The ‘Men at Work’ signs are popping up along the highways and
streets I travel. I know there are safety issues for construction workers, but I always wonder why a sign indicating ‘Men at Work’ was invented. Typically when I pass these sites, there may be one or two men actually working, while others are drinking coffee, holding up their shovel handles, or chatting with the token off-duty police officer.

Men are hardly the only ones who work. Do women erect signs when they are working? The hard-working women in my circle are involved with raising children, running households, graphic design, music lessons, scriptwriting, to name just a few of their daily activities, yet I don’t see a sign. They just work and work hard at whatever their hands find to do.

As Peter presses into the central propositional truth in his Day of Pentecost sermon, he focuses on God’s work. Preaching is primarily speaking to people of what God has done, is doing and desires to do as He accomplishes His perfect will.

Acts 2:32-33 I would describe as the main truth, the main explanation, the main exposition preacher Peter desires to get across to his ‘congregation.’

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

What do we learn from this text?

  1. God is a triune God. The Father, Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit work in perfect unity.
  2. There is an order to the activity of God. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ is followed by the outpouring of the Spirit of God.
  3. The Spirit of God impacts both believers and unbelievers. As promised by Jesus in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be WITNESSES….” Peter and the band of devoted followers now are testifying to the facts of who Jesus is, what He did and why He came. This same Spirit has also enabled unbelievers to see and hear “the wonders of God in their own tongues.” (Acts 1:11??)

God is at work directly and indirectly. There are many times when God acts on His own behalf directly in the universe He created. There are other times when God acts through people and uses ‘means’ to accomplish His will. The great joy of ministry for Peter and all who emulate his devotion to Christ, is to join with Christ as a co-labourer in bringing in the harvest. We do not work FOR God, we work WITH God. He is already at work and He will prompt us through divine appointments to speak to others in His name. To believers we bring truths of encouragement as one of our church’s missionaries did last night in our evening service at Calvary Baptist, Oshawa, or as many pastors, Sunday school teachers and children’s workers did as they spoke God’s truth in various settings. To unbelievers we also speak the truth, we speak of THE TRUTH–Jesus Christ–the only One who provides access to God.

So this week, let’s watch for “GOD at work” evidence that He is moving in and through our lives, accomplishing His purposes for His glory. We may not see any signs that we can capture on our cameras, but the evidence of God’s reward awaits those who diligently seek Him.

 

David – King, Shepherd, Patriarch, Prophet, Poet… Shall I Continue???

What role did have for David, the Hebrew monarch who lived close to 1000 B.C.?

a) King

b) Shepherd

c) Patriarch

d) Prophet

e) Poet

f) All of the above.    Are you sure??

To cite David as an illustration in a sermon preached by a Jew (Apostle Peter) to Jews, is like an America preacher citing Abraham Lincoln or a British preacher quoting Henry VIII. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter references David as he proclaims the good news about David’s greatest Son, Jesus–who is called the Christ.

Notice the highlighted words (my choice) as I quote Acts 2:29-31

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But we was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that He would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.”

David

c) Patriarch – “The word is used in its primary sense, as meaning the founder of a family or dynasty.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

d) Prophet – “a foreteller” “a forth teller” God had revealed to David much truth about the Messiah. Woven into the Messianic psalms are predictions that would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years. Even Psalm 72:8 “He shall have dominion from sea to sea…”, (a portion of this verse is emblazoned in Latin on the Canadian coat of arms) though penned by David’s son Solomon finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Read the historical books portion describing David’s life and fine tune your understanding by studying the covenant God made with David.  Or read the prophetical books (including ‘For unto us a child is born….’) where the prophet Isaiah anticipates the ever increasing governance of this special ‘son’ who will ‘reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…’

David is a king, a shepherd, a poet, yet so much more as God assigns him a task in redemptive history that will prepare the people of God for the King of kings, the Shepherd of shepherds, the Patriarch of patriarchs and the Prophet of prophets.

What may we learn from David’s life?

  1. The will of God for him and for us is good, acceptable and perfect. Though David was clearly a sinner in need of forgiveness and restoration, God accomplished what He desired through His life. We may well pray for our lives, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
  2. Build your life on the promises of God. ‘Every promise in the Book is mine…’ was a chorus my parents some times sang. Ultimately the promises of God, according to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. David tracked the promises of God, paid attention to them and wrote them down. Here we are three thousand years later still studying them.
  3. Seek to use all of your abilities in a Christ-centred way. David’s poetry was Christ-centred. His life pointed to Christ and since his day preachers have like Spurgeon preached from the writings of David yet made a ‘bee-line’ for the Cross. (Spurgeon’s quote – “I take my text and make a beeline for the cross.”)

In whatever role God has assigned to you, to accomplish His will while you have life and breath, follow these Davidic guidelines – Think of Christ, write of Christ, speak of Christ, and ultimately acknowledge your desperate need for Christ! Is it any wonder that David, though sinful, is spoken of as “a man after God’s own heart?”

 

But God…

Has God ever changed your plans? Has your life biography been interrupted with the words, “But God…?”

As the Apostle Peter reintroduces Jesus of Nazareth as God’s accredited Messiah, in his Spirit-filled sermon, he reminds his audience of God’s dynamic power which was demonstrated in the power of the resurrection.

Who raised Jesus from the dead?

  1. Jesus Himself said (John 2:19) ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’  John interprets this prediction with the explanation “But the temple He had spoken of was His body.”
  2. In Romans 1:4 Paul reminds the Roman church that “through the Spirit of holiness (Jesus) was declared with power to be the Son of God.”
  3. Here in Acts 2, Peter completes his three sentence summary of the person and work of Jesus Christ with this disruptive intervention of God. “…with the help of wicked men,” they had put Jesus  “to death by nailing him to the cross…”

BUT GOD…

The death of Jesus would have been just like that of thousands of criminals who had experienced the death penalty by the Roman authorities for the capital crimes they had committed….BUT GOD…

The ministry of Jesus would have been just like that of a multitude of religious leaders throughout human history who have lived their lives, taught their followers and left their impact….BUT GOD…

BUT GOD raised Him from the dead.  Good Friday was not the final day of Jesus life. Yes, He died on that day, but on the third day He rose again. He was “freed from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Death has laid hold of every descendant of Adam and Eve. God had warned that first pair that violation of His standards would result in death–spiritually and physically speaking. Spiritually they became separated from God instantly. Each baby, regardless of how ‘cute,’ is born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Physically the process of death destroys our finite bodies, some times through illness, ultimately because the wages of sin is death.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was anticipated one thousand years before it happened. As David expressed his confidence in God who had interrupted his life on various occasions, he penned these words (Psalm 16:8-11)

“I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

God’s presence in David’s life brought great peace and comfort. Despite challenging circumstances, the Lord’s near presence left this Israelite monarch in peace. The benefits of having a genuine relationship with God?

The benefits of having a genuine relationship with God?

a) a glad heart;

b) a joyful tongue (ready and willing to praise God at any time);

c) a hopeful body.

What would the future hold for David? What does the future hold for every genuine follower of Jesus Christ? Hope. Joy. Peace. The very Presence of God.

Just last evening as I visited briefly with colleagues in a funeral home as they grieve the loss of a mother, a grandmother, a follower of Jesus Christ, I was reminded of the difference God makes! Life would be tragic. Death would be tragic. BUT GOD….!

 

 

Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility

If you want to stir up a discussion between Christians, just raise the issue of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.

Nathan W. Bingham in his website’s post entitled Charles Spurgeon’s Evangelistic Fervor writes –

Throughout his prolific ministry, Charles Spurgeon sought to maintain the important balance the Scriptures give to divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Perhaps no preacher ever held these two truths more carefully in balance. Being committed to the full counsel of God, Spurgeon embraced both truths with equal allegiance. He clung tenaciously to God’s sovereignty in the salvation of His elect, but he was equally convinced of the mandate to extend the offer of the gospel to every person. Emphasizing one of these truths to the exclusion of the other, he believed, would result in an unbalanced ministry.

Spurgeon was once asked how he could reconcile the apparent contradiction between these two truths. He replied: “I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had a falling out with each other. I do not need to reconcile what God has joined together.” He confessed: “Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.” Spurgeon simply embraced both divine sovereignty and human responsibility as clearly taught in the pages of Scripture.

I’m using this citation this morning as an illustration of the amazing, balanced statement preached by the Apostle Peter as part of his Pentecost Day sermon.

“This man (Jesus of Nazareth) was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  (Acts 2:23)

Divine sovereignty = God’s plan. The death of Jesus was no accident but took place in God’s time and in God’s way with God’s full approval. We don’t live in a ‘random’ world but one of order and design, established firmly by the will and purpose of the one and only Triune God. Read through the gospel accounts and see Jesus operating under full submission to His Father’s will.

Just yesterday I preached from John 2:1-11 where the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine is recorded. I noted that Mary is referred to not by her proper name but as Jesus’ mother. When she comes and ‘informs him’ (as if He didn’t know), that the wine supply for the wedding was exhausted, Jesus asks, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” Elsewhere in the gospels, when His mother and brothers show up, while He is speaking to a crowd, He asks, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to His disciples, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers….”

Jesus came, not to do His own will, or the will of His mother, but that of His Heavenly Father.

It is a great mystery that the will of God is woven into our lives while we carry full responsibility for our actions.

  1. Judas didn’t hand Jesus over to His enemies by his own strength, though he carried responsibility for this evil. God’s set purpose and foreknowledge were being accomplished.
  2. Roman soldiers carried out the execution of crucifixion, yet Jesus had said to His followers, “I have power to lay my life down and power to take it again. No-one takes my life from me….”

I think Spurgeon’s summary statement, cited by Nathan W. Bingham, reflects biblical truth. We may well find these truths to be mysterious, but let us yield to the clear and unmistakable teaching of God’s word.  Let us pray today as we should every day, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

Introducing Jesus Again…

Having gained the attention of a large crowd through supernatural means, as the Spirit of God was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, God now enables Peter to introduce, or reintroduce Jesus to the gathered crowd.

Knowing what your audience knows and does not know is important when it comes to preparation of sermons. The truth it, we are very limited in our knowledge, whereas God is all-knowing. Peter assumes nothing as he summarizes the life, death and resurrection of Jesus with three profound statements. Today we’ll reflect on the first statement.

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this:…” Peter is talking as a Jew to Jews. Like Paul, in his strategy of evangelism, portrayed to the Corinthian church, Peter became a Jew to win the Jews. It wasn’t much of a cultural challenge. He was Jewish. He had grown up in Judaism. The ‘new perspective’ he brought to his peers was a divinely granted understanding of who Jesus was. While others were still looking for the Messiah, as Jews long for him today, Peter claims to have found him in the person of Jesus–Jesus of Nazareth.

“Jesus of Nazareth was a man…” Though much more than a man, Jesus was fully human, apart from any evidence of sin, so prevalent in every branch of the human family tree.

“accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

How did Jesus conduct His ministry? By the power of the Holy Spirit. He was God in human form, with His deity cloaked in humanity. God the Father repeatedly authenticated who Jesus was as He sent Him to His own people with the message of salvation.  “He came unto His own…” John reminds us in the first chapter of his profound gospel.

God publicly accredited Jesus as He launched into His ministry at the age of 30, by the river Jordan where  John the Baptizer was preaching. “This is my beloved Son…” the Father declared.  And then the miracles, the wonders, the signs–all of the evidence–authenticating or verifying the Person and Work of the Messiah. God was at work in and through Jesus. Though He was and is God, Jesus manifested a submission to His Father’s will. The Spirit credentialed Him to seeking hearts.

What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Read about it in Mark’s gospel. (Mark 3:20-30) The Spirit of God was empowering Jesus to do miracles, yet those who were watching at that time attributed this Divine work to that of Beelzebub.  As Jesus was being introduced, there was a strong rejection of Him.

So what is Peter doing and he begins his sermon? Reintroducing Jesus. The Jesus they thought they knew (as a Rabbi, a teacher, a man from Nazareth) was much more than they knew. He was and is Lord, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Let’s praise God for who Jesus is. Thank God that you know Jesus, if indeed you do. And let’s pray for those who do not know Him yet. Perhaps today we’ll have an opportunity to introduce or reintroduce others to Jesus.

The Future Is As Bright….

“The future is as bright as the promises of God.” This quote by Adoniram Judson is a testimony to his clear faith despite the challenges God permitted in his life. If you haven’t read this Desiring God ebook on Judson’s life you would do well to budget time to do so. “How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!” is the subtitle given to this biographical sketch of this pioneer missionary to Burma. I’ve read To The Golden Shore one of my favourite impactful biographies and I commend it to you!

As the Apostle Peter seeks to explicate the events of the Day of Pentecost, he cites Joel 2:28-32. This Minor Prophet with a major message, brings to the people of God an urgent call to repentance which follows progressives waves of ‘natural disasters.’ God had permitted wave after wave of grasshoppers to destroy the crops of Judah and to leave the nation gasping for God’s help in desperation. As Joel guides the nation to repentance, he anticipates a bright future filled with the promised Holy Spirit whose person and work would evidence God’s plan of salvation.

Let’s look at Acts 2:17-21 which is Peter’s quotation of Joel 2:28-32. Note the certainty of God’s promise, the confirmation of God’s presence and the clarity of God’s plan.  If this sounds like a sermon outline, it just might become one some day as I tackle this subject in my preaching schedule.

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

Read and reread the New Testament. I’ve come to the conclusion through my study that the last days began with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and will continue until Christ returns a second time.  “We’re living in the last days,” I’ve heard a variety of preachers proclaim.  “Of course,” I mutter to myself, “we’ve been living in them since Christ returned to heaven!”

While not sidetracking too much consider three texts which support this premise.

Hebrews 1:1,2 “In the past God spoke….but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son…”

I John 2:18,19 “Dear children….you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”

2 Timothy 3:1 “…There will be terrible times in the last days….   Paul then unpacks the characteristics and urges Timothy ‘Have nothing to do with them.’ If these characteristics were for a future date, why urge Timothy to avoid contact??     I leave you to ponder this and other evidence.

In the last days (beginning with the Day of Pentecost) God promised to pour out His Spirit on all people, not just Jews, not just the residents of Judah but on Samaritans and Gentiles as the power of the Spirit moved Christians to witness in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

What would be the evidence of the Spirit’s moving?

  1. Prophesy by both men and women. Capacity to speak truth which would strengthen, encourage and comfort others. Guided by the Spirit, Christians may speak truth into the lives of others and be empowered by the Spirit to do so.
  2. Powerful Spirit-led activity confirming the proclamation of the message. Visions and dreams would be granted as God supernaturally gains the attention of people to who He is and what He is doing.
  3. Powerful Spirit-empowered experiences of regeneration. Gospel preaching will be accompanied by powerful results as the Spirit of God convicts and converts sinners.

What a season of harvest this will be! This Day of Pentecost which celebrated harvesting was only the beginning.  As Peter preached one sermon–think about it–one sermon–the Spirit moved in power and 3000 were converted.  Jesus had preached many sermons yet only 120 were clear followers as  He returned to heaven. This was definitely the beginning of a new era.  The Comforter had come!  The Spirit of truth had arrived! The Spirit of Christ was launching His ‘spotlight ministry’ (an illustration cited by Dr. James Packer), as He focused the attention of hungry hearts on the Saviour, the ONLY Saviour, Jesus–who is called the Christ!