Acts 1:8

Christ’s Last Command Is Our First Priority

Some of you (should you wish to admit) watched the royal wedding this past Friday. I confess, I did watch some of it in the morning, then my wife, my girls and I watched the follow-up (since the girls didn’t have a chance to see any of it live). In our democracy where our leaders are elected by the majority of the population, England’s system of government seems like a bit of fairy tale and a bit of antiquity. The separation of royalty and commoner is understood and accepted. And with all this, two billion people around the world tuned in. Why?

All of us, to one degree or another, are intrigued by the crowning of a king or a would-be king. Some say that Duke William (28) has been photographed more times in his life than anyone else because this man will one day, should he live any amount of time, be king. With Queen Elizabeth being 85 years old and her mother living until she was 101, she may well outlive Prince Charles (62). William could be the next king! And this enchants so very many.

Yet, for the Christian, there is a king who is reigning and will reign physically on earth at some point in the future—and this intrigues and enchants us. As we begin the book of Acts, we see that a new phase of the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to preach early in his earthly ministry that they should “repent, for the Kingdom of God has come” (Mark 1:15). Progressively, God’s rule is being established more and more, and with Christ’s coming, God’s fullness of his Kingdom has come with the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:4).

P.G. Mathew once preached,

The greatest need of the modern world is to have the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the final command the Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples before he ascended into heaven was that they should declare the kingdom of God to all nations. Yet today’s Christians are almost silent in terms of declaring God’s praises. Oh, they may vigorously praise God within the walls of a church, but most refrain from proclaiming the gospel to the world outside of the church.[1]

The book of Acts put into motion that “greatest need” in having “the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Luke wrote two books found in the New Testament: one bears his name (the Gospel of Luke) and the other is the book of Acts. As a historian and physician, Luke gave some great detail as to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in Luke; and here he gets into the first generation of the early church.

Consider too how much of Luke’s writings take up: ¼ of the NT. At the end of Luke, Jesus gave the marching orders: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).

Luke notes that this is “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” In other words, what Jesus did in Luke during his earthly ministry was just the beginning. Now he would leave them but continue to work in them through the Spirit! Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples. While they may have thought this was the end, it was really just the beginning. A Christ-centered church is one with confident, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led disciples serving as ambassadors of King Jesus.

1. A Christ-centered church is filled with confident followers of Christ.

Christians are of all people on the planet the most confident. By confidence, I do not mean arrogant. Arrogance is egotistical, proud, big-headed. Confidence is one who is sure, certain, and convinced about their position. How did this happen?

In Acts 1:1-5, we see that Jesus presented Himself to His disciples. They were to be confident in the fact that Christ chose them. He commissioned the apostles, giving them marching orders. They were his cabinet. He filled them in on two particular items.

First, he gave them proofs about his resurrection. At the end of Luke, we read how they saw him along with the wounds of his hands and feet. They touched his wounds. And they heard him. This was a completely sensory experience. Stott expands on this, “Such an objective experience of the risen Lord was an indispensable qualification of an apostle, which explains why Paul could be one and James and why there have been no comparable apostles since and can be none today.”[2]

Yet as far as the rest, what was the result. Some believed. Some “still disbelieved for joy and were marveling” (Luke 24:41). Some outright doubted (Matthew 28:16). But the fact is, Jesus gave them proofs. The evidence is there. And they needed to be there with him, so they could that confidence that their Lord really lives so they could take that elsewhere.

As an aside, I believe it also gives evidence to the brutality of the cross. They knew about crucifixions, but they also knew about death: no one defeats death, especially a crucifixion. The carnage that the crucifixion of Jesus was to such a degree that, as Isaiah prophesied, he was unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14). They needed this time with Jesus so the Spirit could have their minds renewed to the fact that He is alive. He really did defeat death. And thus, he defeated sin.

Secondly, he spoke about the Kingdom of God. What does this mean? Go back to Luke 24:24-27, 44: He shared with the disciples on Emmaus Road and the other disciples later “everything written about” him in the Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. Not only was Jesus telling them about what they were to do, He spent a great deal telling them about who He was.

Over the last 100+ years, we have been bathed in this notion that we should focus on what we should do. Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitled “In His Steps” and that book was where we first saw the question, “What would Jesus do?” We hear church trumpet that they are not about doctrine (too divisive) but about service. Being clear and precise about doctrine is scoffed upon. So we find ourselves looking through the Scriptures to find a nugget about what we should do, that we do not want to dig into doctrinal issues about the nature and work that’s already been accomplished through Christ.

We know what Jesus spoke on the Emmaus Road and to the disciples—it’s fleshed out in the rest of the NT in beautiful ways, showing the continuity of the OT with the NT. The KOG is unlocked and girded by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were to be ‘witnesses,’ ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). They were not there to draft a new constitution, to run His people their own way. They were ambassadors, sent to one country as representatives of another.

2. A Christ-centered church is a Spirit-empowered people.

In Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes,

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5).

In the OT, God the Father made a promise that he would keep in the NT: sending the Holy Spirit. Here, Luke goes back to what John the Baptist preached: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16)—that is, for Christians there would be empowerment, and with that Spirit comes the fire of judgment when the Word that the Spirit inspired comes forth.

Yet, God promised in Joel 2:28-32

And it shall come to pass afterward,

That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female servants

In those days I will pour out my Spirit.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

This has been so often attributed to the very end times, but this place during Jesus’ crucifixion. And with “great and awesome day of the Lord” which is the resurrection, the Spirit is poured out once Jesus’ earthly ministry is finished.

In Ezekiel 36:25-27, we read:

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God even sent the Spirit at times in the OT, very evident in the book of Judges. The judges were the leaders of God’s people who were empowered by the Spirit for the purpose of conquest, judgment, and deliverance/rescue.

This foreshadows the Spirit’s work now. It would not simply be selective to a few leaders or a few people, but would pour out on all disciples, Jew and Gentile (Isaiah 32:15).

3. Christ-centered Christ has Spirit-led people.

[6] So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [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” (Acts 1:6-8).

Jesus not only broke through their perceptions about the effects of the crucifixion and death itself, but he also broke through their mindsets regarding the nature of His kingdom. This would not be a political kingdom based in this world, per se. This restoration of the Kingdom to Israel would not be accomplished by pushing out Roman rule. The Kingdom has a wider reach than that. In fact, the borders of Israel (the people of God in Abraham) would be extended to include both Jew and Gentile.

They will receive a new Kingdom, but do so through not through a political kingdom but a spiritual one. It would not come through nationalism (racial descendants of Israel) but through an expansion of the witness to where the True Israel would be the church, not simply racial descendants of Abraham. After all, Paul said in Galatians 6:16:

[14] But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:14-16 ESV).

What is the ‘Israel of God’? Paul uses this term to describe the church, not simply a national entity. This is a spiritual entity brought about through Father Abraham who would make a great nation—not a nation based on race, but a nation based on grace through faith. The true Israel are all those who have received the coming Messiah, who have been grafted into that beautiful olive shoot to feast on the marrow of God’s grace (read Romans 11:11-24).

Plus, they thought this would be an immediate overthrow and instituting of a new order. Not so in that manner. Christ has claimed the victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57) and has already proclaimed that victory to this world and even in the nether regions of the world (1 Peter 3:18-21). But during this interim between the resurrection/ascension and His return, Zion is marching forth as we His body, His temple of the Holy of Holies (the Holy Spirit) presses on.

God has made it clear that those who follow the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42), that is, followers of Christ are sent as ambassadors to testify as witnesses in a foreign country that Christ has won the victory over sin, atoning for sin and providing freedom through repentance and forgiveness. These ambassadors (us) are not around to draw up a new way of doing things—they are delivering the message entrusted to them by one who commissioned them.

One pastor from California shared his experience about visiting an embassy in a war-torn country. As he walked about this embassy, he noticed that this American embassy looked very … American. And there is a reason for that: that embassy by international law is considered American territory. This is why when in 1980 when those 52 hostages were taken by the Iranians from that embassy, the travesty was that they in essence invaded American soil, though they were surrounded by a foreign country with different ideals.

In essence, this church of Jesus Christ is, as one author put it, an embassy of grace. Although the church is surrounded by a foreign people with different ideals, we do not belong here nor do we operate by the way the world works. This is an embassy of grace established by Christ Himself, and we are His ambassadors to this war-torn world that is moaning and groaning for reconciliation to the way it was created (Romans 8:18-25).

In closing, dear friends, do you understand that if you are a follower of Christ then you are an ambassador of the Lord Jesus? As Christians, Acts 2:42 shows what the church should be and do: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” Are we devoted to the laws, commands, promises, and precepts outlined in Scripture and fulfilled by the One who purchased us with His precious blood? Are we making disciples who find their identity in the One sent to save them from their sin and, ultimately, will follow the Word of Christ?

If you have not trusted in Christ this morning, please know what the King of kings is up to—arming and equipping witnesses for conquest! As we go through Acts, you will notice that the majority of ‘sermons’ in here are making announcements about what Christ has already done. You cannot live by WWJD? You need to ponder, What has Jesus already done? And why did He need to do it? They preached the Word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. The Word cuts and kills. The Word brings life. What is the Word doing this morning?


[1]P. G. Mathew, The Mandate from the Master. Accessed 26 April 2011; available at http://gracevalley.org/sermon_trans/1998/Mandate_of_Master.html [on-line]; Internet.

[2]John Stott, Acts, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 35.

Categories: Acts 1:8, missions, sermons | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Brothers, What Shall We Do? (Acts 2:14-41)–Resurrection Sunday Sermon

(Listen to the mp3 version of the sermon, delivered April 12, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)

While I was on vacation in Virginia, Cindy, Hannah and I had a chance to spend the day at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. If you are an American and have a chance to go through that place, I urge you to do so. It was interesting watching a video there on some of the practices and rituals that Washington started—and how many of those presidents continued. For instance,

  • Washington only served two terms, when the Constitution did not put limits on how many terms he served. The people were ready to crown him king (after all, that’s what they were used to), but Washington wisely stepped aside.
  • Washington insisted on being called “Mr. President,” rather than “His Excellency.”
  • He opened the White House for social engagements;
  • He established his cabinet to advise him on matters of policy—rather than simply running the country himself.

I could go on and on, but what’s been clear is how our country is indebted to its founder for so many items, they are almost incalculable. And most everyone who serves in the office of President sits squarely in his shadow. This glorious Easter morning, we shall be looking at the book of Acts—not looking at a fledgling country, but a fledgling church. Their founder, Jesus Christ, had just left ten days before. Forty-three days prior to that he was crucified in an effort by the authorities to silence his testimony and influence in their land.

During his three-and-a-half year ministry, He had turned Palestine upside down with his authoritative teaching and miracles. Unlike the religious authorities who only cared about themselves and their position, Jesus cared about His people—and for good reason. He made them! He calls His people “his sheep” that He lays down His life for. The dream looked over! Yet, on the first day of the week, Jesus arose. He died! And He arose! And for forty days, Jesus taught them “the kingdom of God” and gave them many proofs that he was still alive! He didn’t give them a bunch of money to start their ministries. He didn’t give them buildings nor land to move forward with. All He said was, “I will send you My Spirit, and you will be my witnesses.” Where? Everywhere! And God sent His Spirit, and God gave them the Word to preach—and they preached to the point where the crowd asked in Acts 2:37, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Why ask this question? Because they were “cut to the heart!” Why? Because to a heart prepared by the Spirit of God, Christ cuts right to the heart of who we are. And my prayer for you this morning is that you would be cut to the heart with what the Word reveals regarding Christ! And there is much to cut through to get to that heart!

1. We must listen up (Acts 2:14-21)

Notice in verse 37 that they were cut to the heart after they “heard this.” By saying this, we must realize that we are not by nature agreeable to even the most basic issues of God. From my youth, I remember how Roscoe P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard, who would get on his CB radio asking Enos if he had his “ears on.”

We by nature do not have those ears for God. So when Jesus said repeatedly in the gospels and in Revelation, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” we see that he chooses to make himself known through the Word preached. He puts it before us—will we listen? When the disciples, filled with the Spirit, begin speaking in languages that everyone at Pentecost could understand, “all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’

Some actually inquire regarding spiritual things, intrigued by the message. This is not saving faith, but could go either way: it could become a new hobby of interest, or lead to a deeper spiritual quest that leads to saving faith. But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” We may mock and make excuses for the power or the reason why they are cut to the heart. Rather than respond, some begin to mock, “They are drunk! They are hateful in calling men sinners in need of repentance! They are just babbling superstitions!” Or it could be that some take the Word and are enraged, like the Jewish Council was when they arrested Peter and John. They were so affected that they sought to silence them like they attempted to do with Jesus!

How will you respond? Will you sit with great interest, listening to another one of many perspectives on how to live, adding it to your stockpile of other philosophies and hobbies that interest? Are you secretly mocking, wondering why sensible people hold to such superstitions? Maybe the Word will enrage you and offend you. Each of these reactions shows the power of the Word to penetrate and convict. But will it cut—to the heart!!!

2. We see how Jesus was delivered up! (Acts 2:22-23)

Look at this portion of Peter’s sermon in verses 22-23: 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—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Again, Peter is calling his listeners to listen up! And who does he present? Jesus of Nazareth—a man grounded in history, born of a virgin, growing up in wisdom and stature before God and man! He was a man, but more than a man—he was a man who God gave who possessed many works and wonders and signs that God did through him. Keep in mind that Jesus crucifixion was only six weeks prior. His ministry turned Palestine upside down. Jesus’ 3 ½ year ministry was still fresh in their minds, which is why Peter said, “As you yourselves know!”

Historically, who delivered up Jesus? In verse 23, Peter says, “YOU crucified and killed [Jesus] by the hands of lawless men.” Who is he talking to? “Men of Israel!” So here, Jesus says it was God’s own covenant people, the Jews, and their religious leaders who crucified Christ! Yet look at the rest of the verse—someone else delivered Jesus up. He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

Christ’s death did not catch God by surprise! This was not Plan B—this was His plan the entire time. For family devotions, Martin Luther once read the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. His wife, Katie, said, “I do not believe it. God would not have treated his son like that!” “But, Katie,” Luther replied, “He did.”

John Polhill helps us balance this:

In the paradox of divine sovereignty and human freedom, Jesus died as the result of deliberate human decision made in the exercise of their God-given freedom of choice. The Jewish crowd at Pentecost could not avoid their responsibility in Jesus’ death. Nonetheless, in the mystery of the divine will, God was working in these events of willful human rebellion to bring about his eternal purposes, bring out of the tragedy of the cross and the triumph of the resurrection.

What the disciples and all the faithful saw as a defeat—and what the disobedient saw as victory—God in His plan turned everything on its head. The Proverbist was right, “Many are the plans of man, but it’s the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Peter wanted to show that evil had not triumphed, and God had not failed!

3. We must see how Jesus was raised up! (Acts 2:24-32)

Look at verse 24: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” God delivered up unto death—God raised him up to life! Death had literally bound him in—literally, loosing him from the birth pangs of death. This is a perfect understanding—Jesus was rescued by the Father from the spiritual death of taking our sins which lead to death (Romans 6:23) but also from the physical death that he experienced on the cross!

But even with this, God raised Him up! Say that with me: “God raised Him up!” Look with me at Ephesians 2:4-7:

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).

Even David prophesied about this! The “men of Israel” loved David, the epitome of a King—the one through whom their Messiah would come! Yet David was dead; in verse 29 Peter says that we even know where his tomb is! David’s body had decayed away. It was in the grave! (So typical to think greatly of a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to miss Christ in the process!)

Dr. Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa. “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why have you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, its like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive–which one would you ask which way to go?'”

Peter quoted from Psalm 16 that Jesus’ body was not abandoned to Hades, nor did the “holy one’s flesh see corruption.” Meaning, Jesus body didn’t decay away! Death could not hold the Author of Life! And they were witnesses of it (v. 32). So David was a long-ago witness—will they heed David’s words? These men standing before them—they were recent witnesses. Will they heed their words? Dear soul, there are many in this room who are witnesses on how God raised Christ up! And how we have been raised with him!

4. We must see that the Father fills up (2:33-36)!

In verse 33, Peter continues by saying,

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. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, Until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Remember how this entire account began. The Spirit had come upon those 120 disciples in that upper room in Jerusalem. The result was their ability to speak in tongues so they would be understood by the numerous nationalities that had descended upon Jerusalem. This happened because, after Christ arose, the promised Spirit came, indwelt, and filled them up for the purpose of being witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. But this is not simply for a select few disciples.

Look at verses 38-39: 38And 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. 39For 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.” The promise of the Holy Spirit “is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” They saw the effects of this “promise” made in Joel coming true before them. They saw with great evidence that they were able to understand those who had no training in their language, and their message was cutting them to the heart.

This gift is a transformed heart on the inside (due to our repentance), which leads to outward obedience (in their baptism). The gift of the Spirit seals our hearts (Ephesians 1:13-14), and then guides us into all truth (John 16:13-14). God has not left His people alone in this world. Our hearts are changed from surrendering to our own desires to surrendering to the desires of the one who accomplished so much on our behalf!

5. We must continually wake up (Acts 2:40-41)

“Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Save yourselves from this perverse corrupt time—but why? Peter kept reminding his listeners that it was Jesus whom you crucified.

They needed to wake up to their sin, wake up to their responsibility and culpability before God! They needed to be alert to their own issues. We need to wake up to the nature of this generation around us, which our flesh loves and the devil uses to weigh us down. For those of you who claim the name of Christ, this is a strict warning for you. You at one time made a decision, but there’s little to no devotion. You hold on to your position in Christ, but you find yourself having more passion for everything other than Christ. You walked an aisle at one time, but you’re not walking with him now. You are living in the world, and are of the world. For those of you who have not yet received Christ, this is a strict warning for you as well. This crooked generation mocks God—and by rejecting Him for your own rule over your own life, you do the same. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap….”

Categories: Acts 1:8, Christ, church | Leave a comment

Brothers, What Shall We Do? (Acts 2:14-41)–Resurrection Sunday Sermon

(Listen to the mp3 version of the sermon, delivered April 12, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)

While I was on vacation in Virginia, Cindy, Hannah and I had a chance to spend the day at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. If you are an American and have a chance to go through that place, I urge you to do so. It was interesting watching a video there on some of the practices and rituals that Washington started—and how many of those presidents continued. For instance,

  • Washington only served two terms, when the Constitution did not put limits on how many terms he served. The people were ready to crown him king (after all, that’s what they were used to), but Washington wisely stepped aside.
  • Washington insisted on being called “Mr. President,” rather than “His Excellency.”
  • He opened the White House for social engagements;
  • He established his cabinet to advise him on matters of policy—rather than simply running the country himself.

I could go on and on, but what’s been clear is how our country is indebted to its founder for so many items, they are almost incalculable. And most everyone who serves in the office of President sits squarely in his shadow. This glorious Easter morning, we shall be looking at the book of Acts—not looking at a fledgling country, but a fledgling church. Their founder, Jesus Christ, had just left ten days before. Forty-three days prior to that he was crucified in an effort by the authorities to silence his testimony and influence in their land.

During his three-and-a-half year ministry, He had turned Palestine upside down with his authoritative teaching and miracles. Unlike the religious authorities who only cared about themselves and their position, Jesus cared about His people—and for good reason. He made them! He calls His people “his sheep” that He lays down His life for. The dream looked over! Yet, on the first day of the week, Jesus arose. He died! And He arose! And for forty days, Jesus taught them “the kingdom of God” and gave them many proofs that he was still alive! He didn’t give them a bunch of money to start their ministries. He didn’t give them buildings nor land to move forward with. All He said was, “I will send you My Spirit, and you will be my witnesses.” Where? Everywhere! And God sent His Spirit, and God gave them the Word to preach—and they preached to the point where the crowd asked in Acts 2:37, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Why ask this question? Because they were “cut to the heart!” Why? Because to a heart prepared by the Spirit of God, Christ cuts right to the heart of who we are. And my prayer for you this morning is that you would be cut to the heart with what the Word reveals regarding Christ! And there is much to cut through to get to that heart!

1. We must listen up (Acts 2:14-21)

Notice in verse 37 that they were cut to the heart after they “heard this.” By saying this, we must realize that we are not by nature agreeable to even the most basic issues of God. From my youth, I remember how Roscoe P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard, who would get on his CB radio asking Enos if he had his “ears on.”

We by nature do not have those ears for God. So when Jesus said repeatedly in the gospels and in Revelation, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” we see that he chooses to make himself known through the Word preached. He puts it before us—will we listen? When the disciples, filled with the Spirit, begin speaking in languages that everyone at Pentecost could understand, “all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’

Some actually inquire regarding spiritual things, intrigued by the message. This is not saving faith, but could go either way: it could become a new hobby of interest, or lead to a deeper spiritual quest that leads to saving faith. But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” We may mock and make excuses for the power or the reason why they are cut to the heart. Rather than respond, some begin to mock, “They are drunk! They are hateful in calling men sinners in need of repentance! They are just babbling superstitions!” Or it could be that some take the Word and are enraged, like the Jewish Council was when they arrested Peter and John. They were so affected that they sought to silence them like they attempted to do with Jesus!

How will you respond? Will you sit with great interest, listening to another one of many perspectives on how to live, adding it to your stockpile of other philosophies and hobbies that interest? Are you secretly mocking, wondering why sensible people hold to such superstitions? Maybe the Word will enrage you and offend you. Each of these reactions shows the power of the Word to penetrate and convict. But will it cut—to the heart!!!

2. We see how Jesus was delivered up! (Acts 2:22-23)

Look at this portion of Peter’s sermon in verses 22-23: 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—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Again, Peter is calling his listeners to listen up! And who does he present? Jesus of Nazareth—a man grounded in history, born of a virgin, growing up in wisdom and stature before God and man! He was a man, but more than a man—he was a man who God gave who possessed many works and wonders and signs that God did through him. Keep in mind that Jesus crucifixion was only six weeks prior. His ministry turned Palestine upside down. Jesus’ 3 ½ year ministry was still fresh in their minds, which is why Peter said, “As you yourselves know!”

Historically, who delivered up Jesus? In verse 23, Peter says, “YOU crucified and killed [Jesus] by the hands of lawless men.” Who is he talking to? “Men of Israel!” So here, Jesus says it was God’s own covenant people, the Jews, and their religious leaders who crucified Christ! Yet look at the rest of the verse—someone else delivered Jesus up. He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

Christ’s death did not catch God by surprise! This was not Plan B—this was His plan the entire time. For family devotions, Martin Luther once read the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. His wife, Katie, said, “I do not believe it. God would not have treated his son like that!” “But, Katie,” Luther replied, “He did.”

John Polhill helps us balance this:

In the paradox of divine sovereignty and human freedom, Jesus died as the result of deliberate human decision made in the exercise of their God-given freedom of choice. The Jewish crowd at Pentecost could not avoid their responsibility in Jesus’ death. Nonetheless, in the mystery of the divine will, God was working in these events of willful human rebellion to bring about his eternal purposes, bring out of the tragedy of the cross and the triumph of the resurrection.

What the disciples and all the faithful saw as a defeat—and what the disobedient saw as victory—God in His plan turned everything on its head. The Proverbist was right, “Many are the plans of man, but it’s the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Peter wanted to show that evil had not triumphed, and God had not failed!

3. We must see how Jesus was raised up! (Acts 2:24-32)

Look at verse 24: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” God delivered up unto death—God raised him up to life! Death had literally bound him in—litera
lly, loosing him from the birth pangs of death. This is a perfect understanding—Jesus was rescued by the Father from the spiritual death of taking our sins which lead to death (Romans 6:23) but also from the physical death that he experienced on the cross!

But even with this, God raised Him up! Say that with me: “God raised Him up!” Look with me at Ephesians 2:4-7:

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).

Even David prophesied about this! The “men of Israel” loved David, the epitome of a King—the one through whom their Messiah would come! Yet David was dead; in verse 29 Peter says that we even know where his tomb is! David’s body had decayed away. It was in the grave! (So typical to think greatly of a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to miss Christ in the process!)

Dr. Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa. “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why have you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, its like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive–which one would you ask which way to go?'”

Peter quoted from Psalm 16 that Jesus’ body was not abandoned to Hades, nor did the “holy one’s flesh see corruption.” Meaning, Jesus body didn’t decay away! Death could not hold the Author of Life! And they were witnesses of it (v. 32). So David was a long-ago witness—will they heed David’s words? These men standing before them—they were recent witnesses. Will they heed their words? Dear soul, there are many in this room who are witnesses on how God raised Christ up! And how we have been raised with him!

4. We must see that the Father fills up (2:33-36)!

In verse 33, Peter continues by saying,

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. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, Until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Remember how this entire account began. The Spirit had come upon those 120 disciples in that upper room in Jerusalem. The result was their ability to speak in tongues so they would be understood by the numerous nationalities that had descended upon Jerusalem. This happened because, after Christ arose, the promised Spirit came, indwelt, and filled them up for the purpose of being witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. But this is not simply for a select few disciples.

Look at verses 38-39: 38And 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. 39For 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.” The promise of the Holy Spirit “is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” They saw the effects of this “promise” made in Joel coming true before them. They saw with great evidence that they were able to understand those who had no training in their language, and their message was cutting them to the heart.

This gift is a transformed heart on the inside (due to our repentance), which leads to outward obedience (in their baptism). The gift of the Spirit seals our hearts (Ephesians 1:13-14), and then guides us into all truth (John 16:13-14). God has not left His people alone in this world. Our hearts are changed from surrendering to our own desires to surrendering to the desires of the one who accomplished so much on our behalf!

5. We must continually wake up (Acts 2:40-41)

“Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Save yourselves from this perverse corrupt time—but why? Peter kept reminding his listeners that it was Jesus whom you crucified.

They needed to wake up to their sin, wake up to their responsibility and culpability before God! They needed to be alert to their own issues. We need to wake up to the nature of this generation around us, which our flesh loves and the devil uses to weigh us down. For those of you who claim the name of Christ, this is a strict warning for you. You at one time made a decision, but there’s little to no devotion. You hold on to your position in Christ, but you find yourself having more passion for everything other than Christ. You walked an aisle at one time, but you’re not walking with him now. You are living in the world, and are of the world. For those of you who have not yet received Christ, this is a strict warning for you as well. This crooked generation mocks God—and by rejecting Him for your own rule over your own life, you do the same. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap….”

Categories: Acts 1:8, Christ, church | Leave a comment

When Smaller Churches Rise to Greater Heights

I am pastor of a church that averages around 170 per Sunday morning: 30 in the children’s area (workers included) and 140 in the main worship service. Technically, we are above the national average of churches (which average approximately 75), but we are just below the “medium” range, which begins at 200.

By the world’s perspective, smaller churches face a daunting task. In an age of consumerism where people come to a church to see what that church can do for them and provide for them, we are tempted to work to make the “big sell.”

Over the years, we have lost some of our long-time members to bigger churches in our area that have more resources to provide more programs for children, youth, young adults, parents, grandparents, singles, divorced—every type of demographic available.

While these churches gain traction and momentum, many of our smaller churches work hard to maintain. Some may visit the church, take a look and examine the particular ministries on the table, then may feel they need to move on to churches with … well… more!

John Benton in his wonderful little book “Why Join a small Church?” recounts a story of a friend of his who was a zealous Christian and a pastor of a small church. Though the church had only a dozen or so elderly folks in attendance, he took the call. He preached the Word of God faithfully, with much boldness, and accompanied by much prayer. Here Benton describe this:

What a situation! For many years nothing much seemed to happen, except a few minor encouragements from time to time. Though the preaching was good, the church continued fairly small. But my friend stuck to the task, praying, preaching, and doing whatever he could, with the help of a faithful few, to make the little flock a group of Christians pleasing to Christ. And after something like fifteen years of his ministry there, suddenly the church took off. Christians moving into the area began to join, people began to get saved. Things they had only dreamed of before as a church began to come true. The church numbers something like 200 to 250 people on Sundays, the building has been renovated and they have been used by God to plant another church in a nearby town.

Numbers are not everything. I believe this church had already become a great church even before attendance began to increase.

Even with slight numbers, small churches can rise to greater heights. How?

  1. A commitment to prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).
  2. A determination to establish God-centered, Christ-exalting relationships (Acts 2:42-47);
  3. A desire to inject the message of the Gospel, accompanied with genuine compassion and care for those you are trying to reach (Ephesians 4:15);
  4. A hunger and thirst for knowing what you believe, why you believe, and why it is worth telling (Ephesians 4:11-16);
  5. A dogged commitment to assembling together with the saints at the appointed time (Hebrews 10:23-25);
  6. A shedding of a consumeristic attitude, looking for a church that meets your particular needs, rather than rolling up your sleeves and helping that church be what God would have it to be!

I’m sure there are more. But notice what resources are needed to maintain these things: the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Bible, and you.

What about it?

Categories: Acts 1:8, Christ, church, evangelism, leadership, prayer, worship | Leave a comment

When Smaller Churches Rise to Greater Heights

I am pastor of a church that averages around 170 per Sunday morning: 30 in the children’s area (workers included) and 140 in the main worship service. Technically, we are above the national average of churches (which average approximately 75), but we are just below the “medium” range, which begins at 200.

By the world’s perspective, smaller churches face a daunting task. In an age of consumerism where people come to a church to see what that church can do for them and provide for them, we are tempted to work to make the “big sell.”

Over the years, we have lost some of our long-time members to bigger churches in our area that have more resources to provide more programs for children, youth, young adults, parents, grandparents, singles, divorced—every type of demographic available.

While these churches gain traction and momentum, many of our smaller churches work hard to maintain. Some may visit the church, take a look and examine the particular ministries on the table, then may feel they need to move on to churches with … well… more!

John Benton in his wonderful little book “Why Join a small Church?” recounts a story of a friend of his who was a zealous Christian and a pastor of a small church. Though the church had only a dozen or so elderly folks in attendance, he took the call. He preached the Word of God faithfully, with much boldness, and accompanied by much prayer. Here Benton describe this:

What a situation! For many years nothing much seemed to happen, except a few minor encouragements from time to time. Though the preaching was good, the church continued fairly small. But my friend stuck to the task, praying, preaching, and doing whatever he could, with the help of a faithful few, to make the little flock a group of Christians pleasing to Christ. And after something like fifteen years of his ministry there, suddenly the church took off. Christians moving into the area began to join, people began to get saved. Things they had only dreamed of before as a church began to come true. The church numbers something like 200 to 250 people on Sundays, the building has been renovated and they have been used by God to plant another church in a nearby town.

Numbers are not everything. I believe this church had already become a great church even before attendance began to increase.

Even with slight numbers, small churches can rise to greater heights. How?

  1. A commitment to prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).
  2. A determination to establish God-centered, Christ-exalting relationships (Acts 2:42-47);
  3. A desire to inject the message of the Gospel, accompanied with genuine compassion and care for those you are trying to reach (Ephesians 4:15);
  4. A hunger and thirst for knowing what you believe, why you believe, and why it is worth telling (Ephesians 4:11-16);
  5. A dogged commitment to assembling together with the saints at the appointed time (Hebrews 10:23-25);
  6. A shedding of a consumeristic attitude, looking for a church that meets your particular needs, rather than rolling up your sleeves and helping that church be what God would have it to be!

I’m sure there are more. But notice what resources are needed to maintain these things: the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Bible, and you.

What about it?

Categories: Acts 1:8, Christ, church, evangelism, leadership, prayer, worship | Leave a comment

REACH: Our Small Groups Ministry at My Church

In January, I preached about spreading God’s glory from our neighbors to the nations. It is my conviction that Christ called us to be witnesses from our hometown to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8). In fact, the entire layout of Acts is how the Spirit led His people to fulfill His mission. So, too, must we be led by the Spirit of God to seek out ways to strengthen God’s people and share God’s gospel through Jesus.

That’s why God has impressed on me and a number of others that we should start some small groups that meet outside of our church building called R.E.A.C.H. This stands for:

Reaching

Every

Area from

Church to

Home

—given this not only a name, but in what we should be engaged: reaching our people and our neighbors with the Gospel.

Why do this? Consider:

  • The majority of our members only come to one service per week, either due to driving distance, work, health reasons, or just lost the habit of attending (Hebrews 10:25);.
  • The majority of those who live in our neighborhoods come to zero services, thus are not being fed the Gospel nor are they fellowshipping with those who are under the Gospel of Christ.

R.E.A.C.H. groups with bring the presence of God’s people at Boone’s Creek to the various locations where our people are located—as well as to those who are unbelievers, thus offering them an entry point in developing relationships with God’s people. What will these REACH groups set out to accomplish? Four things:

  • Strengthen our sanctification (2 Peter 3:18);
  • Foster fellowship (Acts 2:42-44);
  • Cultivate care and concern among the members (Hebrews 12:5-8; Galatians 6:1-2);
  • Generate an exercising of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:8)

Three have already expressed interest in leading a REACH group: Alex Marshall, Jr. (Lexington), Cam Potts (Richmond) and Mike Hamilton (Winchester). Doug and Mindy Yates are working on leading a REACH group here at church on Wednesday nights to reach our parents/grandparents who drop off their children to TeamKID. We will also have a REACH group that will meet on Tuesday at 10:00 A.M. here in the Athens area.

We will make use of three resources to train these leaders. The first (and primary) is the Scriptures, along with “Why Small Groups?“, edited by C.J. Mahaney. The other will be “Sticky Church” by Nelson Searcy.


The REACH groups will kick this off on Tuesday, March 24. Why March 24? It marks 40 days prior to our revival services beginning on May 3 and going through May 5. You will have a prayer guide to work from, as well as discussion questions based upon the Sunday morning sermon (I do this to keep from adding one more “thing,” and to help streamline our teaching ministries here).

We will have sign-up sheets in the vestibule (that’s church language for ‘foyer outside the sanctuary’). Alex lives in the Hartland area in Lexington and Mike Hamilton lives in Winchester. If anyone else is interested in leading one, please let me know so we can begin training ASAP. Otherwise, sign up for a REACH group and watch God move among that fellowship.


Again, there will be sign-up sheets in the foyer. Please sign up for one of these, or volunteer to lead a group.


May God help us spread His glory from our neighbors to the nations,


Bro. Matt

Categories: Acts 1:8, evangelism, small groups | 1 Comment

REACH: Our Small Groups Ministry at My Church

In January, I preached about spreading God’s glory from our neighbors to the nations. It is my conviction that Christ called us to be witnesses from our hometown to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8). In fact, the entire layout of Acts is how the Spirit led His people to fulfill His mission. So, too, must we be led by the Spirit of God to seek out ways to strengthen God’s people and share God’s gospel through Jesus.

That’s why God has impressed on me and a number of others that we should start some small groups that meet outside of our church building called R.E.A.C.H. This stands for:

Reaching

Every

Area from

Church to

Home

—given this not only a name, but in what we should be engaged: reaching our people and our neighbors with the Gospel.

Why do this? Consider:

  • The majority of our members only come to one service per week, either due to driving distance, work, health reasons, or just lost the habit of attending (Hebrews 10:25);.
  • The majority of those who live in our neighborhoods come to zero services, thus are not being fed the Gospel nor are they fellowshipping with those who are under the Gospel of Christ.

R.E.A.C.H. groups with bring the presence of God’s people at Boone’s Creek to the various locations where our people are located—as well as to those who are unbelievers, thus offering them an entry point in developing relationships with God’s people. What will these REACH groups set out to accomplish? Four things:

  • Strengthen our sanctification (2 Peter 3:18);
  • Foster fellowship (Acts 2:42-44);
  • Cultivate care and concern among the members (Hebrews 12:5-8; Galatians 6:1-2);
  • Generate an exercising of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:8)

Three have already expressed interest in leading a REACH group: Alex Marshall, Jr. (Lexington), Cam Potts (Richmond) and Mike Hamilton (Winchester). Doug and Mindy Yates are working on leading a REACH group here at church on Wednesday nights to reach our parents/grandparents who drop off their children to TeamKID. We will also have a REACH group that will meet on Tuesday at 10:00 A.M. here in the Athens area.

We will make use of three resources to train these leaders. The first (and primary) is the Scriptures, along with “Why Small Groups?“, edited by C.J. Mahaney. The other will be “Sticky Church” by Nelson Searcy.


The REACH groups will kick this off on Tuesday, March 24. Why March 24? It marks 40 days prior to our revival services beginning on May 3 and going through May 5. You will have a prayer guide to work from, as well as discussion questio
ns based upon the Sunday morning sermon (I do this to keep from adding one more “thing,” and to help streamline our teaching ministries here).

We will have sign-up sheets in the vestibule (that’s church language for ‘foyer outside the sanctuary’). Alex lives in the Hartland area in Lexington and Mike Hamilton lives in Winchester. If anyone else is interested in leading one, please let me know so we can begin training ASAP. Otherwise, sign up for a REACH group and watch God move among that fellowship.


Again, there will be sign-up sheets in the foyer. Please sign up for one of these, or volunteer to lead a group.


May God help us spread His glory from our neighbors to the nations,


Bro. Matt

Categories: Acts 1:8, evangelism, small groups | 1 Comment