By the Power of the Holy Spirit

Acts 4 1-12

After spending the night in jail for healing and preaching, the rulers and priests asked Peter and John  two important questions:

By what power?

Or in what name?

Verse 8 answers the first question. Although surrounded by the most powerful and influential men of their day, Peter was undaunted. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” he told them that “by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene” the miracle was done, thus answering the second question.  Furthermore, he called them out for their part in His crucifixion, boldly quoting the Scriptures to those who knew them best.

If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you have received the Holy Spirit!  He comes to indwell you, not in part, but the whole.  You have the God of the universe within you, to guide you and work in you and through you.  ARE YOU USING THAT POWER TO TELL THE WORLD ABOUT JESUS?  For “there is salvation in NO ONE ELSE.”

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The Spirit is Willing…

Matthew 26 31-46

Here we find Peter making promises with his mouth that he can’t keep, stating that he would die for Jesus and yet he can’t even stay awake for Him.  We know that Peter denies Jesus three times that very night.  What I want to focus on is the end of verse 41, ” the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

I believe many Christians, and unbelievers as well, want to do good things, but life gets in the way. The apostle Paul himself wrote in Romans 7:19 “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” It is important that we be honest with ourselves:  if Paul recognized that he was a sinner and did evil, how can we steer clear of it?

If we were capable of good or of being good, then we could save ourselves.  But we are not good, nor can we do good.  Jesus is good and does good.  He died to take away our sin and to conquer death, so we also, as His followers, are conquerors of sin and death- not by our own initiative, but by the work of Jesus!

He knows that we continue to sin and, of course, we will die, and yet because of the cross and His shed blood, it is to God as if we had never sinned.  When we die, our bodies go into the grave, but our spirits go to be with the Lord forever. By grace, I go about my days and my work, always striving to do good. I often fail, but then I confess my sins daily to my God and receive His forgiveness.  So, I live to struggle through another day, always recognizing His presence in my life, as I strive to be and act more like Jesus and less like me.

We need to feed the spirit and starve the flesh. In so doing, we will overcome!  In John’s gospel, we see how grace is applied, and Peter is lovingly forgiven and charged to continue working for his Lord.

John 21 15-17

What Do We Get?

Matthew 19 27-30

What a bold question to ask!  And yet, it is not a foolish question.   In the previous passage (Verse 16-26,) a young man asks Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life.  Jesus tells him to follow the commandments.  After he says that he follows the commandments, Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and to follow after Him.  The rich young man went away grieved because he could not or would not give up all his possessions.  So in light of this conversation, Peter’s question is appropriate, Since “we have left everything and followed You, what then will there be for us?”

This got me thinking, “What have I left behind?” Do I ask the same question of God, “What do I get?”

I haven’t left my family or my work to follow Jesus; nor have I sold all I have.  So, will I NOT inherit eternal life?

I’ve also realized that I often look for some reward or compensation for what I do.  I often do work for people for no charge.  But I do, I receive gratitude and I feel good about it.  So, do I truly do it for nothing, or do I do it for the reward of feeling good about myself?

To understand this passage, we need to know that there are two worlds:  the physical and the spiritual. We exist in the physical world of sin, but Jesus calls us to live in the spiritual world.  The spiritual world is where we find God, His word and His Spirit.  Since we are both physical and spiritual in nature, that creates a struggle within us.

So, the things we are to leave behind are the physical things that separate us from God, even our family or our work.  We must be willing to leave behind the physical things of this life in order to enter into eternal life!  We must be willing to follow Jesus.  The operative word here is “willing.”  God knows our heart and He knows also that our spirit might be willing, but our flesh is weak.  We are not called to be perfect, but to strive towards perfection.  We need to recognize those things in our life that separate us from God and stop them from separating us, but allowing Him to change our hearts or if it becomes necessary to cast them away to do so.

He gave His life for us and expects the same of us.  Are you willing to give Him your life, in order to have life, that is, eternal life with God forever?  Do not forget that Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith.  If we could do it ourselves, we would not need Him.  Trust in God for all you do. Live for Him and He will take care of the rest.  That is what grace is all about!

Pentecost

Acts 2 1-13

The Jews celebrate the Passover to commemorate the exodus out of Egypt.  The last of the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians was when He killed the first born of man and beast.  The Jews were saved from the plague by sacrificing a lamb and painting their door posts and lintel with the blood, as well as consuming the whole lamb before morning.  They ate it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.  The next day, as God had commanded, they plundered Egypt and left for the promised land.

Pentecost means fifty.  Fifty days after Passover they were to celebrate Pentecost.  It is celebrated with leavened bread as a harvest and first fruit celebration.  A Jewish tradition states that Moses received the Law fifty days after the exodus from Egypt.  The law defined the parameters of their freedom so they could properly worship God.

We, as the church, celebrate Passover as Easter, where Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate Pentecost as the day that the Spirit of God indwelled believers enabling us to enjoy freedom from sin in service to God.

As we see, the Holy Spirit came upon them with power!  First, the Spirit appeared as a powerful wind that drew the attention of all the people of Jerusalem, gathering them together.  Next, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire, resting upon the disciples.  The disciples were then compelled to give testimonies of the power of God and His work to the crowd each one speaking in a different tongue.

Like the wind, the Spirit of God works in the world without being seen, moving the hearts of men for good or evil and directing world events to suit the purpose of God.  For believers, he burns brightly in our hearts and compels us to continue to do the work of Christ.  But know this, He needs fuel to burn within us and that fuel is the word of God.  So, we need to be sure to read and know the word, in order to be used of God.

 

Preaching the Scriptures

Acts 2 14-35

 

The use of Scripture is the foundation of Peter’s preaching.  We see he is constantly using Scripture, not his or anyone else’s opinion, to make his points clear.  He also uses Scripture to interpret Scripture. This is the key to wisdom!  We are not to interpret Scripture in our own knowledge.  Peter, himself, said it best in 2 Peter 1:20, “But know this first of all, that no prophesy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” And Peter followed his own advice.

Peter uses the Scriptures to reveal the gospel message they contain, as they point to the one whom God would send for our salvation. So, if the Scriptures are the foundation of the message (and Jesus is the Word of God) then the message is that Jesus was the Christ, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world and to reveal God, the Father to us.  And that is the gospel message, the heart and soul of preaching, to win the lost and to remind the saved of the word and testimony of our Lord Jesus, the Christ.

Peter finishes his sermon with an admonishment to his listeners in verse 36 “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.” And that message is still relevant for us today, for our sins put Him on the cross.  We are just as guilty as the soldier who nailed Him to the cross or the Jews who cried out, “Crucify Him.”  And so, Peter laid the foundation of his message with the Scripture, then the gospel message was preached, and finished with an admonishment to repent.

I would like to note that I use the pattern of this sermon by Peter when I preach.

Passover & The Lord’s Supper

Passover & The Lord's Supper

 

We been looking at the Old Testament and the New Testament to see how Jesus has fulfilled the law and has not removed it, or cancelled it out.  And today we are looking at the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

Old Testament:  God was working wonders in Egypt to bring His people out of bondage. The last wonder was the taking of the first born of all Egypt, of man and of cattle.  But God was to spare His people and make a distinction between Egypt and Israel.  God commanded Moses to instruct the people to prepare for the Passover an unblemished lamb and to place some of its blood on the lintel and the posts of their doors and to consume all of the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

The lamb was taken internally and the blood of the lamb was a protection from the angel of destruction. The angel was to “pass over” the children of God because of the sacrifice of the lamb.

New Testament:  Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples to observe the law, but also to fulfill it.  After the Passover meal, Jesus passed the bread and the cup, representing His body and His blood. He was the true lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world.

We see a transition from a yearly sacrifice in remembrance of God Passing over His People, saving them from slavery and bringing them to the land of promise and ultimately fulfilling in them all of His promises to Abraham, to a one time sacrifice of the true lamb that would free all of mankind from slavery to sin, and restore them to righteous relationship  with God.  Which is greater?  Freedom from physical slavery and oppression and a promised land, or freedom from spiritual slavery and oppression a the promised Heaven.  To continually have to offer up sacrifices for our sin and be separated from God still, or to accept the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and have the spirit of God indwell us forever?

 

Forgiveness

 

Matthew 18 21-35

Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer in verses 21 and 22 seem to be a bit of fun between two good friends, more than a theological discussion.  Peter’s question seems to be tongue-in-cheek, asked both in curiosity and to needle Jesus as well.  Jesus’ response shows His sense of humor.  I mean, come on! Did Jesus really mean that you should let someone sin against you 490 times, and then you can stop forgiving them? So, it is ok to keep track of the offences?  Really?

The key to the parable is in verse 23:  the kingdom of heaven is compared to a king who wished to settle his accounts with his slaves.  God is who this king represents and all the people He created are represented by the slave.  The king’s offer to forgive the debt is like God’s offer of salvation (the forgiveness of our sin debt).  God through the redemptive work of the cross forgives our debt and frees us from sin.  Jesus took our sin upon Himself on the cross.  Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, which is death.  He went to the grave, but three days later, He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death!

The way the slave treated his fellow slave shows him to be not a true believer, even after having all his debt forgiven by the king.  God has forgiven you all your sins, past, present and future, how should you respond?  We must forgive from our hearts, and that starts with love.  The greatest commandment according to Jesus is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  LOVE as found in Corinthians 13.  With this love, we can find it in our hearts to truly forgive.