Last week’s reading from Acts gave us a brief overview of life in the early church in relation to how they understood giving. They saw it as a spiritual discipline, and through an extraordinary sense of unity they shared what they possessed for the common good of all. For many this led them to sell what they had, not bric-a-brac, but items of value because they took to heart the teaching of Jesus on Kingdom principles and lifestyle. This led to an astonishing unity that gave them a mind-set for giving, giving that arose out of knowing the needs of their fellow believers. In deep fellowship they gave generously because they felt that they belonged to a new family, the family of Christ.
We also saw that they gave out of the joy and power of the redemptive work of the cross of Jesus. The grace of God was working in such a way that they gave generously and joyously. God’s grace empowers us to do things that may otherwise seem daft in the eyes of the world. Giving as they did empowered them to live wholeheartedly for Jesus, doing things they didn’t do before they became a follower of Jesus.
Through giving, we are not paying God back for anything that He has done for us. No, we’re joining in the joy for which God created us, and for which Jesus redeemed us. We are joining in the activity that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in doing themselves 24/7! I really think that this is an awesome privilege that God has freely given us – in giving spontaneously, generously and joyously we are joining in the activity that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in doing themselves. Wow!
So on to this morning’s reading from Acts 3. Here we have Peter being chased by a crowd through Solomon’s Colonnade, which was a covered porch to the temple. It may well have been a bit of a scary moment, all these people eager to hear what he has to say. What’s got their attention? He has just healed a man crippled from birth. If you want to draw attention to yourself then perform a miracle, people will soon come running to find out more! The crippled man didn’t get what he asked for, money, but he did get a brand-new life; he became a new creation, for he now had a life he hadn’t been able to experience before, for he had only seen life from the side lines.
Peter doesn’t waste this time to speak. He capitalised on the opportunity, speaking spontaneously and powerfully about Jesus, because he was empowered by the grace of God. The same grace that led the people to give to those who had need.
The way Peter shared the message of Jesus teaches us how we ourselves can share the Gospel with others. He presented his message by telling…
(1) Who Jesus is; the servant of God, the author of life, the Holy and Righteous One, the Son of God (v14-15).
(2) How the Jews had rejected him; they hounded Pilate until they got what they wanted. Even though Pilate wanted to set him free the people had clamoured to have Barabbas, a murderer, released instead (see John 19:1-16). When Peter said “You handed him over to be killed”, he meant it literally (v13). Tough talking, because Jesus’ trial and death had occurred right there in Jerusalem only weeks earlier. It wasn’t an event of the distant past – so most of these people had heard about it, and some may very well have taken part in condemning Jesus.
(3) Why their rejection was fatal; they murdered the author of life (v15), disowning “the Holy and Righteous One” (v14). In effect they disowned the God they worshipped! The religious leaders thought they had put an end to Jesus when they crucified him. But their confidence was shaken when Peter told them that Jesus was alive again and that this time they could not harm him. He boldly said this because the apostles were witnesses to this fact (v15).
Because God raised Jesus from the dead those people before Peter had an opportunity to change, so he showed them what (4) they needed to do to change, by repenting from their sin and turning to God so that their “sins may be wiped out” (v17-19). After pointing out the sin and injustice of these leaders, Peter showed the significance of the resurrection, God’s complete triumph and power over death.
Many people want the benefits of being identified with Christ without admitting their own disobedience and the need for turning from sin. But when we repent, God promises not only to wipe out our sins, but to bring spiritual refreshment (v19). Repentance may at first seem painful because it is hard to give up certain sins, but God will give us a better way. As Hosea promised, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3).
Do you feel a need to be refreshed?
So when we present the Gospel we are to say:
• who Jesus is
• that He was rejected by those He came to save
• that we have all rebelled against God.
But there is hope; God raised Jesus from the dead and through repentance of sin we will be embraced by the spontaneous, generous and joyous empowering grace of God. The significance of this grace is that we receive and know that Jesus’ resurrection is proof that God has triumphed over death itself. For the Christian there is no death, only eternal life. All of which makes real to us the power of God’s love for us!
So Peter tells the crowd that they have a choice; accept Jesus as the promised Saviour and Messiah, and repent of their sin, and experience refreshment from the Lord. God is always offering people the opportunity to believe and receive Jesus as their Saviour and Messiah, and as their Lord.
Displays of God’s mercy and grace, such as the healing of this crippled man create moments when God’s love and divine supernatural power are freely on display for all to see. Such moments show us how Heaven can powerfully invade earth in a life changing way. So such occasions are beautiful teachable moments.
In prayer we are to ask that Jesus, not ourselves, receives the glory for the opportunities God gives us to share the Gospel. It’s important to understand that by using Jesus’ name, Peter showed who gave him the authority and power to heal. The apostles did not emphasise what they could do, but what God could do through them. Jesus’ name, therefore, is not to be used as magic – it must be used in faith, so when we pray in Jesus’ name, we must remember that it is Christ himself, not merely the sound of his name, who gives our prayers their power (v16).
Our response should be to pray to have courage like Peter to see the opportunities in our daily life that God gives us to witness for Christ, and to use them to speak up for Him.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God. The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.
Read again the two passages from Scripture: Acts 3:11-19 & Luke 24:36-48, and let them speak to you afresh in light of sharing the Gospel. As God speaks to you why not write in your journal what you sense God is saying to you.
The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.
Please consider this question in light of this week’s sermon:
In Acts 3:11-19 Peter used this phrase about Jesus, “the author of life” (v15).
As Jesus is the author of life, Jesus is to be the author of your life. As Jesus is the author of life, Jesus is also the author of eternal life!
How does knowing these truths help you in looking for and responding to the opportunities that God gives you to share who Jesus is with those you spend your time with? Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond to this question. As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.
Help us every day to come with anticipation into your presence. As we take this step we ask you to roll away the stone from the tombs of our hearts, O God that we may share in the fullness of the resurrection life that your Son Jesus offers to all who put their faith and trust in Him and who call on Him as their Lord and Saviour.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!