November 25, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
(Pastor Struecker began with a quiz. He put some images up on the screens and asked, “Who is buried here?” The images of tombs shown were of Susan B. Anthony, Winston Churchill, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, and Billy Graham. The last picture was of an empty tomb. The answer to the question, “Who’s buried here?” is no one.)
What you’re going to hear from the Bible today describes the significance of perhaps the most important moment in human history. -the moment when God raised his Son, Jesus, up from the dead.
We’re preaching through the book of Acts and, we’re in Acts chapter two. Before we even get to what I believe to be the most successful sermon ever preached, I’m going to try to summarize what you’re going to hear from the Bible today. In fact, I’m going to try to summarize what you’re going to hear from this sermon. I’ll try to put it for you in one sentence. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and claim to be a follower of Christ, you have nothing to fear here on planet earth. If your hope is in Heaven, then you don’t have anything to fear here.
Don’t fear here, if heaven is your hope.
This is what we’re going to hear from the Bible today when Peter stands up and addresses the crowd right after the Holy Spirit falls. He’s visibly there in flames of fire on top of the followers of Jesus’ heads. The crowds can hear the effects of the Holy Spirit by voices that they can understand in their own language. Then Peter stands up and preaches a sermon to them.
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. 24 God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death. 25 For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. 28 You have revealed the paths of life to me; you will fill me with gladness in your presence. 29 “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay. 32 “God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says: The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
I. The Holy Spirit turns enemies into his children
Now you don’t have to fear here, if heaven is your hope. The Holy Spirit does a miracle that we’re reading in the book of Acts, and he turns God’s enemies into children of God, sons and daughters of God. I don’t think we can appreciate the debate that people were having before this moment about Jesus. Some were riding on the fence. Imagine that you’re not really sure where you stand on whether or not there is a God and then you find out that he’s real when it’s too late, and you’re standing in his presence. Imagine the terror that you would experience when you realized you were on the wrong side of this debate. That’s the circumstance when Peter gets up to address the crowd.
If you’re following along in the Bible, you can’t miss the pronouns, because Peter says, “Hey, you heard this man’s message. You saw his miracles. You know about the events of Jesus. Many of you were there just a few weeks ago when he was crucified. You all are witnesses. There’s the empty tomb. Go poke your head in and look at it because that man is not there anymore.” Then, can you imagine what it felt like when Peter said this? “You used lawless men to bring false charges against him. You cried out in the crowd, ‘Crucify him. Crucify him.’ You were the reason that innocent man was killed. Now you are at odds with God because you murdered not just an innocent man, you murdered the Son of God.”
The power with which Peter preaches in this sermon is hard for me to replicate. I want you to think with for me about this man who’s preaching this message. In fact, go back today and turn back just a few pages in your Bible to the end of the book of John. Here’s what you’re going to learn: This same bold apostle- preacher, Peter, who’s preaching with this backbone today that we’ve not seen anywhere in the Bible before, just a few weeks ago, he was running scared like a little girl when he was following after Jesus and Jesus was being taken away to be put on trial. In fact. Peter thought he was a pretty bad dude until some little servant girl around a fire pit said, “Hey, you’re one of his followers, aren’t you?” And Peter said, “No, no, no; not me!” Then other folks said, “No, no, no. I’m sure you’re one of his followers.” Peter called down curses from Heaven, saying, “I am not one of his followers.”
When the weight of denying Jesus hit him, the Bible describes Peter running away in tears weeping at his own failure. Now that man who was a pitiful failure when Jesus was being betrayed, stands up and boldly preaches one of the most powerful sermons we have on record. There is no explanation for this except that he’s seen the resurrected Jesus, and he’s received the power of the Holy Spirit. Now this man, Peter, is a different man because of it. When Peter stands up, he can boldly proclaim God is in the business of taking people who crucified him and turning them into sons and daughters.
Aren’t you glad, church, that God didn’t stop doing this at Pentecost in Jerusalem two thousand years ago? He’s still doing it today in the Chattahoochee Valley. God is still in the business of taking men and women whose sins sentenced Jesus to death and turning them into sons and daughters.
How many of you watched the Washington State University versus Washington University football game on Friday? This is a picture of the Washington State University marching band at half time playing against their bitter cross-state rival, Washington University (photo shown). Did you hear the news reports about what happened to the Washington University band on Thursday when they were traveling by bus to this ballgame? They hit a patch of black ice and with more than fifty people in the bus, it went off the road. It rolled over, and forty people were seriously injured. By God’s grace, nobody in that band was killed. Then Washington University decided they were not going to be able to bring their band to the ball game. Washington State University’s band did something unthinkable. They got out at halftime and performed their number. When their number was over with, that band stayed on the field, got in the formation of Washington University, and in a tribute to their bandmates across the state, they performed the fight song of the other band. It would be like Auburn University performing Alabama’s fight song in formation at the Iron Bowl yesterday. That’s what happened on Friday when Washington State University played the song and showed the formation for the other team that is their bitter rival.
Peter is saying to this crowd, “You were an enemy of God. You were there when you cried out in the crowd, ‘Crucify him.’ Now the one whom you sent to the cross and to the grave is alive. But instead of taking it out on you, God does something unthinkable. He crosses the gap. He goes to you. He pulls you back from your sins. He rescues you. He makes you into his son or daughter.” Peter’s no longer talking about what you did to God. By the time we get to this in the end of the sermon, Peter’s talking about what God did for you. God is still in the business of turning enemies into his children.
II. A proper fear of God makes all other fears disappear
You don’t have to fear here, if Heaven is your hope, because a proper fear of God will make all of those other fears disappear. I’m talking about those of you right now who are really struggling with a person at work or somebody in your life. I’m talking about somebody who’s really struggling with circumstances or you have some really big problems you’re wrestling with. When Peter stands up to preach this sermon, this is one of the boldest sermons in human history. In fact, based on how you measure success, this may be the most successful sermon ever preached. This is what I’m saying. The famous pastor R.G. Lee’s sermon Payday Someday doesn’t touch what Peter does here. The famous Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards can’t even touch what Peter does when he stands up to proclaim boldly that when you fear God, all of those other fears will fall away.
When Peter got the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Peter also got courage, supernatural courage. Now he can stand up and declare like David in the Old Testament, “Because God is my Savior, I will not be shaken.” Think about David when he stood up to declare, “There is no man on earth that I will fear, not even a giant named Goliath. There is no problem on earth that I will worry about, not even when somebody is trying to take my life and take my throne. I have nothing to fear because God is with me.” This is exactly what the Bible is teaching to me and you today, if you call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been glued to the news. This is unusual for me, but I cannot get enough information about the story of John Allen Chau. He was an American missionary who went to this remote deserted North Sentinel Island and was murdered this week. This American missionary saved his money and made his way over to this the Bay of Bengal, right off of the coast of India. There’s an island where the people of that island have made it known to the world, they want nothing to do with outsiders. If you come to their island, they will kill you.
John Allen Chau made the decision to try to get to that island and introduce the people of that island to Jesus. He hired a fishing vessel that took him close to the island, and then Chau kayaked to the island. As soon as he got out of the kayak, there was a young boy waiting for him with a bow and arrow and shot Chau. The boy hit him directly in the chest with the bow and arrow. Chau would have been killed instantly except the arrow hit his family Bible, and instead of hitting him in the chest, it hit him in the Bible. Chau jumped back in the kayak and went back to the fishing vessel. Now he’s left wrestling with whether or not he’s really serious about reaching this island. I want you to think about it like you’re in his shoes on that fishing vessel. You probably should be dead right now already, but the only reason you’re not, is God miraculously saved your life.
Chau left his diary on the fishing vessel. The British newspaper, The Telegraph, reported a couple of diary entries after his first encounter on the island and then making the decision to go back. Here’s what he wrote in his diary, “I don’t want to die.” Many asked the question, “Wouldn’t it be wiser to just leave the island alone or let somebody else continue the mission?” Then he decided, “No, I don’t think so. If those people on that island don’t have Jesus, then somebody is going to have to bring Jesus to that island.” Chau got back in his kayak, went back to the island, and was murdered as soon as he reached the beach. Now the international community is trying to figure out how to get his body back from an island that has made it clear if you come there, they will kill you. I don’t think we can appreciate the courage that it took for somebody like Chau to stand up and make the decision. -to put it all on the line, to go to this remote island, and try to introduce those people to Jesus.
If you’re struggling with fears, it’s ok. It’s natural to wrestle with fears. From time to time we all do it. I sometimes have to struggle with fear, but I want you to think about it this way: If you are a Christian and know Jesus Christ as your Savior, there is something really wrong if fear wins. Because, if you really believe that God loves you enough to take care of you, if you really believe that God knows what’s going on in your life, if you really believe that God is powerful enough to handle your problems, when you wrestle with fear and give into it, you’re saying one of these things: “God, you don’t care. God, you don’t know. Or God, you’re not big enough to handle what I’m going through.”
I’m not sure if it’s the message or if it’s the messenger, but Peter stands up and boldly proclaims to the crowd, “You killed an innocent man, but if you will turn to him in faith, if you will properly respect and reverence God the Father, he will radically, totally change you. He will move in your life and make you into a new person. -Not just for you, but he’ll do this for your children. He will send his Holy Spirit on you, just like he did on me, if you’ll turn to him in faith.” The courage that it took for Peter to preach this message is impressive. Peter knows you don’t have anything to fear here on earth if Heaven is your hope.
III. Jesus made death work backward
You don’t have anything to fear here on earth, if Heaven is your hope, because at the resurrection of Jesus, God may death start to work backward. The king of all fears is the fear of death. You don’t even have to fear death, because it’s not the end anymore. Death is the beginning of eternity. You have nothing to fear when you have surrendered to Jesus Christ at the soul-level. What Peter is saying to the crowd is, “Go poke your head in that tomb, and go look for yourself. That tomb is empty. That man is alive, and he is seated right now at the right hand of God the Father. Since he’s at the right hand of God the Father, he is ready to receive you if you will repent and be baptized. He’s ready to pour his Spirit out on you. He’ll do it for your sons and daughters, if you will turn to him the way that we have turned to him, if you will turn to him in faith.”
There are thousands of people who responded to this sermon that day. I want you to think about this with me for just a second. How many of you in this room would love to see thousands of people repent and be baptized next year at Calvary Baptist Church? Maybe one of the reasons why this happened at Pentecost is because there were so many unbelievers in that crowd. Last week I told you when the Holy Spirit fell, they had no idea how to process it. They basically thought these guys must be drunk because every party that they’ve been to, people are getting drunk. They don’t know what it looks like to go to a party when people aren’t getting drunk. When you are in a room full of people who don’t know Jesus, it’s not a surprise that dozens or hundreds or thousands of them will repent and be baptized because you and I have done our job. We have invited friends to come with us in our cars to check out church for the first time in their life. Then the Holy Spirit takes over and does the rest. I can’t do that. You can’t do that. But the Holy Spirit could do that. That’s one of the reasons we asked you on social media to bring a friend this Sunday, because maybe they’re playing games with eternity, and maybe today, the Holy Spirit will help them to settle this once and for all.
Here’s what the Bible is describing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it put better than the way the brilliant English professor, C.S. Lewis, described it. He wrote a book to his eight-year-old niece titled The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. If you know the story, the great lion from the book is Aslan. He represents Jesus, and the white witch is a woman by the name of Jadas. She represents Satan. The wardrobe is the doorway into paradise into a land called Narnia. When these four children go through the doorway into Narnia, they bring sin with them. One of the children by the name of Edmund betrays Aslan. He betrays his brother and sisters, and he does it for sweeties. Now this child belongs to Jadas, and in order to rescue this child, Aslan will have to give his life. The message from Acts chapter two, the sermon that Peter is preaching is, “You can go poke your head in that tomb and look for yourself. That man is not there anymore. He’s alive. What happened to him can happen to you too, if you will turn to him in faith.”
I can’t end this sermon without reminding us of who this man, Peter, is. He’s not a priest. This isn’t his profession. He’s not a Levite. He wasn’t born into this. He’s not a paid preacher who does this for a living. This is a fisherman that stands up and boldly proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you will place your faith in him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God can do in you what he did for Peter. When Peter preaches this sermon, thousands of lives are impacted by it.
Church, hear me. God uses everyday people like you with the exact same message. “I am no longer headed for Hell. I am on my way to Heaven, not because of anything that I’ve done, but because of what God has done for me.” God uses the same power of the same Holy Spirit to touch lives today. He can do it through you, if you will just be a faithful and bold witness like Peter was when he urged people to repent, be baptized, and be saved from this corrupt generation. I’m going to urge you today. Don’t let this sermon just go in one ear and go out the other. Will you please do something with what you’ve heard?
• I need Jesus to grant me eternal life. Today, I turn from my sins and trust Jesus as Savior for the first time.
– I have let fear of others develop a hold on me. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help me get over those fears.
+ I will start a gospel friendship with someone who is far from God.
- What would it require of you to make your enemies into your friend? (Be specific.)
- Read Romans 5:8. What did it take for God to take his enemy and turn them into his children?
- What is the biggest fear that you have ever had to overcome? How did you find the courage to face that fear?
- Be honest; do you have any fear about death?
- Why does Peter ask people to “repent” and “be baptized”? In other words, what does repentance require, and what does baptism require?
- Reread Acts 2:37. Can you truly repent without being “pierced to the heart”? Explain your answer.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to help us display Christian courage this week.