Series: Who We Are - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 9, 2019
In your bulletin - right after Be Thou My Vision - you’ll find the passage for this morning and a place for notes. If you are able, would you please stand with me as we come together before God’s word. And would you read out loud with me our passage for today: Acts 2:37-39.
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And 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. For 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.”
Verse 37 begins with a question: Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and [then they] said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Before we get to the question “What shall we do?” we need to make sure that we’re together on what exactly “this” is and who’s asking the question. Otherwise verse 36 is like watching Endgame without having seen Infinity War. We need back story.
What is “this”?
One thing I noticed about the happiest place on earth is that most people don’t seem to be happy. They have these serious looks on their faces and they’re constantly trying to get someplace - seemingly in search of something that will make them happy. Along the way they spend tons of money on stuff that in the not too distant future will be pretty worthless - temporary happiness - temporary value.
It is amazing how a place of fantasy so mirrors reality.
As people are doing life, they’re asking basically four questions.
Is there any purpose or meaning to my existence? Or are we all just evolved ooze occupying space and recycling oxygen until we die?
Is there any moral basis for how to live life? Any right and a wrong? Or is it just survival of the fittest. The one who dies with the most toys really does win.
Is there a God who can be known? Or is the universe just some kind of impersonal reality. And if there is a God what does that mean for me?
What about my mortality? Does anything come next? If so, what does come next? Or does someone just snap their fingers and that’s it. Poof.
Man’s answers to these questions always come up empty. So people are keep rushing from experience to experience filling our lives with more and more worthless stuff. Just trying to do life the best we can by our own whit, wisdom, working, and Wikipedia.
The passage we’re looking at today takes place at Pentecost. Which was the great - first fruits - harvest - Pilgrims coming from all over - festival that took place 50 days after Passover. Which is today. Today is Pentecost Sunday. Happy Pentecost.
On Pentecost - back then - people were dealing with the same essential questions and issues that people today are dealing with. They’re just trying to do life like the rest of us. On that day of Pentecost they were doing the Pentecost thing - doing what they knew to do that made sense out of their lives - religiously - culturally.
On that Pentecost the Holy Spirit fills the house where the disciples are with the sound of a mighty rushing wind and what appeared to be tongues of fire resting on the individual disciples. And the Jewish Pilgrims from all over wherever there was any where to come from - they heard the sound of that and they came to find out what was going on.
What they experienced when they got there - was the disciples - speaking by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. The disciples speaking in the languages and dialects of where all these people had come from - speaking about what God was doing.
So they asked the understandable question: “What does this mean?” Which resonates: “In the way that I’ve learned how to do life how do I process this? What does this mean for me?”
Peter answers the question by explaining that what they’re experiencing is God doing what God said He would do.
God Who also testified of Jesus through miracles and wonders and signs - the ministry of Jesus for the last plus or minus 3 years. God pointing at Jesus and saying He’s the one. Jesus is the Messiah - the Christ.
And Peter goes on - you all saw that Jesus was crucified and put to death - at the hands of godless men. The Romans that you all put up to doing it.
And then you all saw Jesus raised from the dead just as God said He would do. Jesus that has ascended into heaven where He is exalted in His divine authority and power.
The bottom line of Peter’s answer comes in verse 36: “Let all the house of Israel [you] therefore know for certain that God has made Him [Jesus] both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom You crucified.”
“God has made Him…” Meaning that the plan and purposes of God - what God said He would do, He did. Jesus is the accomplished fulfillment of all of that. And you crucified Him.
The question they asked at Pentecost was: Is what does this mean for me?
Peter’s answer is - you knew what God had said. You knew what God had promised. You saw God at work. God fulfilling His promises. God attesting to Jesus as Lord and Christ. And you crucified God in the flesh - your Lord and Christ. You may have forced the Romans to do it. But, you crucified Him.
Which is Peter’s between the eyeballs bottom line and answer to the question: God is at work here. And your sin - your guilt before God. Which cannot be ignored. It must be dealt with. What God is doing demands a response.
Ravi Zacharias - the Christian apologist and author - Ravi shared about a time he was speaking to a wall-to-wall crowd of students at an Ivy League university - presenting in his powerfully persuasive manner the intellectual case for Christianity.
For an hour afterward, one of Ravi’s associates was engaged in a vigorous conversation with four young men who were contesting argument after argument that Ravi had presented. The associate answered every protest skillfully and convincingly from the Christian perspective.
Finally, one of the students - who seemed to be speaking for all of his fellow debaters - made this surprising admission: “To be honest with you, I think most of what that man [Ravi] had said is true. And I don’t care.” (1)
Our sin. Our guilt before God. We must respond to what God is doing. We don’t get a bye on this.
One of the foundational blessings and realities of the good news - the gospel - of Jesus Christ is the honesty - the truth - about ourselves that God comes at us with. It’s harsh. But it’s honest.
The Gospel is not the good news that we all are fundamentally good people who’ve just messed up. We’ve just made bad choices. Or, we’ve had bad things happen to us and so we’ve got issues that we need to deal with. Or maybe people we can blame for our hang ups and not deal with all that.
Which is just more moving sideways through life without hope. More living by what the Facebook crowd thinks about life.
The Gospel is not the good news that God is love and that Jesus wants to be our friend and that God has a wonderful plan and purpose for our lives.
Those are benefits of the gospel but not the Gospel itself.
The Gospel is the good news that convicts us or our sin. Peter’s answer that points to our sin and guilt.
If we’re going to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ - what God has done in Christ - His work on the cross - we need to first be convicted of our sin.
With our sin - we put the nails on his hand and hammered the nails through His flesh. Our sin drove the nails through His feet. We lifted Him up on the cross. The thud of the cross sinking into the earth is for our transgressions. The ridicule - the disgrace - the forsaking - the blood flowing should have been ours.
We crucified Jesus. I crucified Jesus.
We don’t like to hear that. But it’s the honest truth. Each of us is depraved. Forever hopelessly separated from God facing eternal banishment and punishment. And our sin condemns us. God’s verdict upon our lives is just and deserved.
Verse 37 - “When they heard this they were cut to the heart.” When these people realized their own sin their hearts were pierced - stabbing heart level pain. That’s conviction. We get it.
What Peter says should pierce our hearts as well. Should convict us.
Verse 37: Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
How can we respond? Is there any possible way to respond?
Peter’s answer - verse 38: “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.
The good news of the gospel is not only the truth that convicts us of our sin but the good news of the gospel is that God also gives us a way forward. Out of Hell and through the stuff of life - with God and to God forever.
To repent means by faith turning from our sin to God to receive God’s by grace given salvation and Holy Spirit renewed life.
Baptism symbolically - publicly - testifies or our faith and repentance and God’s work within us.
Jesus’ message - what we looked at when we looked at Mark - Jesus message was: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Which is the message that’s echoed by Jesus’ followers. Recorded in the New Testament. The response that Peter calls for on Pentecost.
The New Testament records numerous examples of those who have repented. The woman at the well. The Roman Centurion. Peter and James and John. Saul, the persecutor of Christians who becomes the proclaimer of Christ. And there are numerous more. Each of them turns, trusts, and follows.
It’s what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who has turned away from our sin - repented - and is trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ - and nothing else - to save us from coming judgement.
How are we suppose to respond? Peter says, “Repent.” Real time what does that look like?
Maybe some of you can relate to this.
I remember when our kids were learning how to swim. The progression of helping them into the water and floating them around and splashing and having them bob around using some flotation device. Being there with them and helping them to get used to being in the water.
And then the day came when they’re standing on the side of the pool and I’m there in the water and looking up at them. They’re up there with their little floaties on staring down at you. And you tell them to jump.
Maybe there’s some give and take and coaxing. As a parent, our pursing our kids - helping them to do what we know is best for them to do. Our promising to be there to catch them and be with them in the water.
Until finally they choose to jump. And we catch them. And then there are lot of do overs. What is a whole new world for our kids.
Thinking about that. What finally wins is not the water and their being able to dog paddle around the pool with floaties on - what wins out over fear and hesitation is the trust of our child in us - the father who promises to catch him or her. To come through on what we’ve promised.
Our response isn’t based on whether or not we can handle the water but whether or not we can trust God. Beyond intellectually knowing that we can - like those listening to Ravi - but whether we’ll actually choose to jump and to trust God - our Father - with our lives.
Thinking about what that means in real time.
First: Faith is not a blind leap into the unknown.
Sometimes people have this idea that to have faith means leaving our brains at the door on the way into church and embracing what has no basis in reality or science or whatever else we might think has cred. People believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Great Pumpkin. And Christians believe in Jesus.
Iron Man has more cred than Jesus.
Peter says, you’ve heard what God said - the prophecies. You saw what God did - mighty works and wonders and signs that fulfill prophecy - that authenticate Jesus as the Messiah. You saw Jesus die. And you’ve seen Him alive. Jesus - God - is in the pool.
And those people back then - at Pentecost - the apostles and the writers of the New Testament - inspired by the Holy Spirit - they recorded what they heard, saw, and experienced - for us. Today we can read all that recorded for us in the Bible.
The Bible is an eye witness record and declaration of God at work in and through the lives or real people in real time in real places - God redeeming people from sin and giving them forever life with Him.
And there are many of us here today who will testify to the truth of that because of what God has done in our lives as we’ve chosen to believe what He’s done in their lives and we’ve seen God at work the same way in ours.
Choosing to trust God - to by faith repent - is not a blind leap into the unknown.
Second: Choosing to trust God - to by faith repent - means having faith in Christ alone.
As messed up as our lives can get - each of us can easily default to “I’ve got this” mode. We are incredibly self-reliant people. True? That’s very human.
One of the hardest things for me to hear from Karen is, “Maybe we should call a plumber?”
And it’s very human for us to think that somehow we can contribute to what only God can do for us.
When we realize just how dependent we are on Jesus for our salvation we begin to understand why the Bible is so insistent that salvation comes only through Jesus. There is no other way. No other savior. No other religion.
There’s nothing on our side of the account balance that will ever balance out what God has done for us. Today or tomorrow or forever.
Greg Gilbert, in his book: “What is the Gospel?” - Greg Gilbert asks questions that resonate: “Putting your faith in Christ means that you utterly renounce any other hope of being counted righteous before God. Do you find yourself trusting in your good works? Faith means admitting that they are woefully insufficient, and trusting Christ alone. Do you find yourself trusting what you understand to be your good heart? Faith means acknowledging that your heart is not good at all, and trusting Christ alone.” (2)
Choosing to trust God - to by faith repent - means having faith in Christ alone.
It’s like jumping off the edge of the pool and mid air crying out, “Jesus, if you don’t catch me I’m toast. I’ve got no other hope. No other Savior. No other way forward. Save me.”
Third: Choosing to trust God - to by faith repent - means total reliance on God alone. Which is the day-to-day of living by faith.
Repentance with faith is what it means to be converted. The title of today’s message: “Converted.” Heart level - life direction changing - being converted. From this to that. All in with God. Period.
Being converted. Conversion means a radical change in the way we do life because the very basis of that life has changed. The basis isn’t us. It’s God. Reliance on God alone for that life.
Conversion may or may not involve some emotional or public experience. Praying a prayer or coming down to the front or raising our hand at some event or making some sincere pronouncement or being baptized - all those acts can be misunderstood as conversion.
Conversion doesn’t mean that one day we’re living some horrible life of sin and the next we’re a squeaky clean saint. Or that we’ve lived a morally upright life and now we’re living a more morally upright life. It might.
But all that is not the radical change the Bible presents as conversion.
Quoting Thabiti Anyabwile: “Conversion is the radical change from an enslaved life of pursuing sin to a free life of pursuing and worshiping God. Conversion is a change of life, not merely a decision. This change is not a matter of moral rectitude, self help, or mere behavior modification. It is not accomplished by outward displays or religious practices like “walking the aisle.” It cannot be accomplished by human effort but only by the power of God.” (2)
Quoting Mark Dever: “Scripture teaches that we must have our hearts replaced, our minds transformed, our spirits given life. We can’t do any of this. The change every human needs is so radical, so much at our very root, that only God can do it. He created us the first time. So He must make us new creations. He was responsible for our natural birth. So He must give us a new birth. We need God to convert us.” (3)
Conversion is the radical change in how we do life that God promises to produce in us - which He does by the working of the Holy Spirit - as we choose to by faith to repent and yield our lives to Him.
That promise - Peter goes on in verse 39 - that promise of forgiveness and radical converted spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit enabled and empowered life - that promise God extends to you and your children and those far off - maybe the families of these Pentecost pilgrims back home. It is what God promises to do in all those who respond to God’s calling by faith repenting of their sin and turning their lives over to Him trusting in Jesus alone for their salvation. Even in a far off place like Merced.
Processing all that… What does that look like in real time? What does it mean for us to jump?
First: It means choosing sides.
John writes [1 John 1:6,7]: “If we say we have fellowship with Him [God] while we walk in darkness [sin], we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Quoting Greg Gilbert: “Repenting of sin doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop sinning—certainly not altogether, and often not in particular areas, either. Christians are still fallen sinners even after God gives us new spiritual life, and we will continue to struggle with sin until we are glorified with Jesus. But even if repentance doesn’t mean an immediate end to our sinning, it does mean that we will no longer live at peace with our sin. [even if repentance doesn’t mean an immediate end to our sinning, it does mean that we will no longer live at peace with our sin.] We will declare mortal war against it and dedicate ourselves to resisting it by God’s power on every front in our lives.” (5)
Converts grieve over their sin. They’re repulsed by it. They renounce it. They turn from it. Their desire is to walk in the light of Christ - becoming more and more like Jesus.
William Arnot - a Scottish pastor from the 1800’s - William Arnot writes: “The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that the one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.” (6)
Have you genuinely repented of your sin? Do you hate your sin? Are you at war with sin? Or do you excuse it? Cherish it? Defend it? Who’s side are you on in the war against your sin?
What does this look like in real time? What does it mean to jump? In the war against our sin it means choosing side. So, who’s side are you on?
Jesus said that we can know what kind of tree we’re looking at by the fruit it produces.
Luke 6:44: “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.”
Meaning that we can tell what’s going on inside someone by the kind of things they produce - what they say and do. Converted people - who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit with new spiritual life will begin to live like Jesus and bear good fruit.
Paul writes [Galatians 5:19-21a; 22,23]: “The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry… and he goes on. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
That kind of good fruit doesn’t come from us. No matter how hard we try to produce it. Just trying shifts the focus of our faith from Christ to us. Which is epic failure.
That kind of Christ-like fruit only comes to us as we learn to - by faith - choose to yield our lives in the day-to-day of our lives - in every situation and circumstance - choose to yield to the will of God and trust Him for whatever He desire to do in us and through us and to us wherever and whenever and whatever that might be.
By faith repentance is the choice to jump. To let go of what’s behind us. Flying through the air there is no going back. Jumping is rejecting what’s behind us and totally trusting God for what’s ahead. The life He offers us in Jesus. The life of the converted.
Over the past few Sundays we’ve been moving through the first two chapters of Acts looking at Who We Are as the church. Next week we’ll come back to the quote from Allistair Begg. But, coming back to Who We Are as the church:
Creekside is a supernatural fellowship of generally unlike people bound together by God in Christ - as members of Christ’s church and as witnesses of the gospel - empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God intends - for God’s glory.
That happens as we are individually convicted and converted.
Expanding that: To live as God intends for us to live - with God given meaning and purpose to our lives - as Godly men and women in the places and relationships where we do life - that happens as we are individually convicted and converted.
To live with the assurance of having been made right before God - having our sins forgiven - and to know the power and working of the Holy Spirit within us - that happens as we are individually convicted and converted.
That happens because when we choose to jump God really does catch us.
So real time - what does that look like for you? Are you convicted? Are you converted? Have you repented? Have you by faith turned from your sin to God? Are you walking in darkness or in the light? Who’s fruit is being produced in your life?
1. Ron Hutchcraft, Called To Greatness (Chicago, Moody Press, 2001)
2. Greg Gilbert, What Is The Gospel? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2010), page 79
3. Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What Is A Healthy Church Member? (Wheaton, Il, Crossway Books, 2008), page 49
4. Mark Dever, What Is A Healthy Church? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2007), page 87
5. Greg Gilbert, What Is The Gospel? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2010), page 81
6. William Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth (London, T. Nelson and Sons, 1894), page 311 - cited by Greg Gilbert, ibid, page 81
7. Allistair Begg, Sermon: Membership Matters - Romans 12:1-10, September 6, 2015, truthforlife.org
Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What Is A Healthy Church Member? (Wheaton, Il, Crossway Books, 2008)
Mark Dever, What Is A Healthy Church? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2007)
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 5: Insights on Acts (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016)
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.