Hope Changes God’s People
3rd Sunday of Easter
Hope Changes God’s People (it makes us dedicated)
1. To the Word
2. To each other
3. To the Sacraments
4. To prayer
5. To the mission
Text: Acts 2:14, 36-47
Finally! After all these years of trying and trying and trying, we killed him! Finally! After all of the trouble that he caused, we don’t have to worry about what he will do next any more. Finally! After all of those disturbances of the peace, that terrorist is now dead! And we killed him! I’m so glad to be rid of . . . Jesus.
The Jews were so glad to have finally killed their enemy, that “blasphemer” called Jesus of Nazareth. The Jewish zealots were much more satisfied with his death than some Americans seem to be with Osama bin Laden’s death. They finally had peace. What a wonderfully quiet and worry-free 50 days it had been.
But then came the Jewish harvest festival that was on Pentecost, 50 days after the Passover. Suddenly the followers of Jesus started making a raucous. It sounded like they were babbling. “Those fishermen must be drunk,” they thought.
But then the one named Peter stood up. Peter told that crowd exactly what happened. He told that crowd exactly who Jesus was and what he did. Then he told the crowd this in verse 14 this morning: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The disciples weren’t drunk. They had been suddenly given a gift to speak in different languages to different people about Jesus. This Jesus is Lord and Christ—and the Jews killed him! He wasn’t a terrorist. He wasn’t a troublemaker. He wasn’t even a false teacher. He is God and he is the long-promised Savior. Those Jews killed the one that they had been expecting for thousands of years!
Finally they realized what they had done. Jesus’ resurrection, which those disciples witnessed, was the proof that Jesus is in fact Lord and Christ. This means that Peter was right. They had killed their Messiah! Verse 37 says, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” They didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know what to do. You can hardly be more guilty than being the ones who carried out the horrible death of Jesus!
But Peter had hope for these people. Look at 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 promise is for you and your children and all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
They had sinned—really badly. They knew they were as guilty as could be. They knew they deserved every bit of God’s wrath, anger, and punishment. So Peter told them to repent. To repent means to understand your sin, to be sorry of your sin, and to turn away from your sin. And when repenting, they could turn to Jesus and find the forgiveness of sins. Where could they get connected to Jesus? Peter suggested one of the simplest of ways—baptism. They could be baptized in the name of Jesus and be connected to Jesus, and there also find the forgiveness of sins. This wasn’t a promise for some people. This wasn’t a promise for “good people.” This promise of forgiveness in Jesus was for all the people, “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
We are now well into the church season of Easter. Two Sundays later, we are still basking in the glow and the joy of Easter morning. But the sorrow of Holy Week is still fresh on our minds as well. It was only 16 days ago that we gathered on Good Friday and sorrowfully watched and listened as our Savior was crucified. On that day one thing became very clear—we did it too. It was also our fault. Peter just as well could stand up through the pages of Scripture and point at us and say, “You crucified Jesus, too.”
And he would be right. Death is the curse of sin. Hell is the punishment for sinners. You and I can’t escape that label. We are sinners. We have sinned too. Much like the Jews of Jesus time, it becomes such a part of our lives that we hardly even think about it.
How often is God’s name thrown into conversation as if it is just another noun, verb, or expletive? How often do we see or hear things on TV or in movies these days and hardly even think about how terrible those actions or words really are? How often do we sing along to songs on the radio without even thinking about the words? How easy isn’t it to just fudge a number here or there when applying for government aid or reporting taxes so that we have a little extra cash to spare? How easy is it for us to miss church without feeling bad at all? To forget to pray every day and not even think about it?
Oh yes, we are sinners too. And if we are sinners too, that means we put Jesus on the cross, too. Thus, like the Jews, we are cut to the heart. How could we have done such terrible things? Oh the guilt of causing the Son of God to bear our wrongs and suffer our punishment and die our death!
But Peter also stands up through the pages of Scripture to proclaim hope to us as well. He calls us all to repent. He calls us all to recognize our sin, to be sorry for our sin, and to turn from our sin. Then he tells us to turn to Jesus. For when we are connected to Jesus, we too receive the forgiveness of sins. In baptism and through faith Christ’s life and death become our life and death. In baptism and through faith his victory on the cross becomes our victory.
This promise isn’t just for some. It isn’t just for the “good people.” It isn’t just for adult. “The promise is for you and your children and all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Just like those Jews, we now have hope. We have hope through Jesus and his forgiveness.
And you know what, Hope Changes God’s People. Hope changes us. Hope changes the way that we live. Hope changes what we do. Hope changes what we are focused on. Hope changes what matters most to us. Look at how a newfound hope changed the lives of the early Christians. Look at verse 42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Hope in Jesus changed those Christians. They became devoted to a number of important things. First they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching—to the Word of God. So we are changed and will devote ourselves. There is no greater message. There is no greater book. There is no other book that can be called God’s Word. God’s Word will continue to change us, to strengthen us, and to encourage us every time we read it. We too will take advantage of every opportunity to hear it, read it, study it, and learn it—here at church, in Bible studies, and at home.
Next it says that they devoted themselves to the fellowship. Fellowship is an expression of unity and oneness. It is a love between those that have something in common. They shared a common unity and faith in Jesus. So they cared for one another. It says in verse 44, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need . . . They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people.”
Hope in Jesus also makes us dedicated to each other. We share a common unity and bond through our faith in Jesus. Christ the King is not just made up of families. We are one big family. It is a joy for us to love each other, to care for each other, to help each other when we are in need, to support each other. We enjoy fellowship as we share things, as we donate to our food bank together, as we have church picnics together. The hope we have in Jesus brings us closer together and makes us united with one another.
Then it says that they were dedicated to the breaking of bread. Later on it again says that they broke bread in their homes and ate together. This wasn’t just having a meal together. Certainly they did that. But we also know that very often they concluded these love feasts of fellowship with participation in the Lord’s Supper. They recognized its great importance. They recognized that in the Lord’s Supper, like in baptism as Peter said, the forgiveness of sins is offered and proclaimed. So they dedicated themselves to those two special things.
So also today the hope that we have in Jesus makes us dedicated to the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We have had many, many baptisms since this new building has opened as many have received forgiveness and adoption into God’s family through baptism. We will continue to stress its importance. We will also continue to carefully teach and instruct about the Lord’s Supper so that all may properly receive that special meal which is also offered for the forgiveness of sins. We too are dedicated today to these special Sacraments that Jesus gave.
Finally in verse 42 it says that they were devoted to prayer. It was of great importance that they communicated with their loving and merciful God in prayer. God heard their prayers and listened to their prayers which were made possible through Jesus.
Hope Changes God’s People today still and makes us dedicated to prayer. A God who loves us enough to live and die for us to forgive all our sins certainly loves us enough to hear and answer all of our prayers. Prayer is the heartbeat of our faith. So we will continue to pray for ourselves, for our families, for each other, for our church, for the spread of God’s kingdom, and much more.
As they did all of these things, these early Christians were also dedicated to their mission. Even with the threat of persecution, and later the threat of death even, they continued to meet at the temple. They met in homes. They met in the catacombs under the city when they had too.
So also we today are dedicated to the mission. Having this incredible hope of eternal life in Jesus makes us want to share that mission with everyone. So we all can look for ways to share that news. We can tell our friends and families at home. We can invite people to church. We can help and serve at church for outreach events. All these things we do because our new-found hope in Jesus makes us dedicated to the mission.
Some of you know that recently we submitted a major grant request to the Walton Family Foundation for the advancement of our school. It was for over a million dollars! It was for our school, but it would also affect our church because we also use our school to reach out to people with Jesus. This last week I heard back from the foundation. They declined to grant any of the request. We got nothing.
It was surely a disappointing couple of days. Didn’t God know how much that would have helped? Didn’t God know how much good that could have done? Didn’t God know how much our school could have grown, and ultimately our church, too? Doesn’t God want us to grow and be a large church just like that early church? 3,000 people joined their church in one day!
But it wasn’t grants and foundations and kids carnivals and great outreach plans that changed and grew the early church. Jesus changed those people. Jesus gave them hope. Then their lives were changed and they became dedicated to the Word of God, to fellowship, to the Sacraments, to prayer, and to their mission. God blessed their work and that’s how they grew.
All of our plans and events and grant requests are nice. God can work through those, and those can be blessings too. But there is only one way that God will continue to bless us and bless our church and school so that we grow. First we focus on Jesus and the hope that he gives us. Then that hope changes us so that we become dedicated to the Word of God, to each other, to the Sacraments, to prayer, and to our mission of sharing Jesus. For 2,000 years God has blessed that dedicated work of his people, and he still will today. God give us all that dedication, for Jesus’ sake.
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Posted on May 8, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Acts, Acts 2, Change, Church, Fellowship, God's Word, Hope, Osama bin Laden, Peter, Prayer, Sacraments, Sermons, Walton Family Foundation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.