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Monday, 14 November 2011 05:57

Back to the Gospel

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By Pastor Dave Royle

Acts 2:14-42

14     But Peter, 1taking his stand with athe eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.

15     "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, afor it is only the 1third hour of the day;

16     but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17     "˜Ã¯Â»Â¿aAnd it shall be in the last days,' God says,

"˜That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all 1mankind;

And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

And your young men shall see visions,

And your old men shall dream dreams;

18     Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,

I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit

And they shall prophesy.

19     "˜And I will grant wonders in the sky above

And signs on the earth below,

Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.

20     "˜The sun will be turned into darkness

And the moon into blood,

Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.

21     "˜And it shall be that aeveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

22     "Men of Israel, listen to these words: aJesus the Nazarene, ba man 1attested to you by God with 2miracles and cwonders and 3signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know"”

23     this Man, delivered over by the apredetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, byou nailed to a cross by the hands of 1godless men and put Him to death.

24     "1But aGod raised Him up again, putting an end to the 2agony of death, since it bwas impossible for Him to be held 3in its power.

25     "For David says of Him,

"˜Ã¯Â»Â¿aI saw the Lord always in my presence;

For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.

26     "˜Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted;

Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;

27     Because You will not abandon my soul to aHades,

bNor 1allow Your 2Holy One to 3undergo decay.

28     "˜You have made known to me the ways of life;

You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.'

29     "1Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the apatriarch David that he both bdied and cwas buried, and dhis tomb is 2with us to this day.

30     "And so, because he was aa prophet and knew that bGod had sworn to him with an oath to seat one 1of his descendants on his throne,

31     he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of 1the Christ, that aHe was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh 2suffer decay.

32     "This Jesus aGod raised up again, to which we are all bwitnesses.

33     "Therefore having been exalted 1ato the right hand of God, and bhaving received from the Father cthe promise of the Holy Spirit, He has dpoured forth this which you both see and hear.

34     "For it was not David who ascended into 1heaven, but he himself says:

"˜Ã¯Â»Â¿aThe Lord said to my 2Lord,

"Sit at My right hand,

35     Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." '

36     "Therefore let all the ahouse of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both bLord and 1Christ"”this Jesus cwhom you crucified."

37     Now when they heard this, they were 1pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "2Brethren, 3awhat shall we do?"

38     Peter said to them, "aRepent, and each of you be bbaptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39     "For athe promise is for you and your children and for all who are bfar off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."

40     And with many other words he solemnly atestified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "1Be saved from this bperverse generation!"

41     So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand 1asouls.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to bthe breaking of bread and 1ato prayer.

Ask any accountant and most will tell you that you say what you want with numbers, you can make numbers say what you want them to say. Governments have been doing it for years with annual budget costs and unemployment figures. A good accountant can make you believe what you want to believe.

I believe some modern day evangelical movements have taken a leaf out of their accountant's books regarding registered decisions for the Lord. For example (and I take my figures from a book by my friend Steef Van Der Schlot who was WEC missions mobilizer for Africa) in one year alone, one denomination said it had 200,000 decisions for Christ. That same year another denomination had 300,000 decisions for Christ. One church alone said it had 600 decisions and another 500.

Sounds good doesn't it? Sounds as though things are moving along quite nicely, in fact could it be said we are in the middle of a Revival?

Well that is until you look at the numbers a bit more closely. Yes maybe 200,000 made a decision for Christ but how is it one year later only 6% are still in churches? Yes 300,000 may have bowed the knee to Christ but one year later only 6% are still around. Yes 600 converted at one church but one year later NOT ONE could be found. Even the great Billy Grahams organization admits that only 4 to5% last the distance.

Now call me cynical, but when the same people say that 26,000 people a day are coming to Christ on the African continent, I feel like saying "well in a year's time bring me 10, or 100, or 1000. Is that too much to ask? And let's see what happens.

So what's going on? What's happening? Surely it's the same gospel today as was preached at Pentecost. Surely we are preaching the same gospel that stirred the hearts of 3000+ so long ago in Jerusalem? Surely it's the same gospel that caused 11 out of 12 Apostles to die for its cause? Surely it's the same gospel that sent Ridley and latimer to the stake and every one else in the Fox's Book of Martyrs? Isn't it? Or is it? If it's the same gospel, the same Spirit, the same power then why are our churches often filled with luke warm, tired, unconvinced backslidden excuses for believers?

What I want to do with this teaching is to just make a simple comparison. I want to compare the gospel message preached by Jesus, Peter and Paul with the message often found communicated in our pulpits and even be bold enough to ask ourselves the hard question. According to the Gospel of the Bible "“ am I saved? You may think this sounds arrogant even rude but it's biblical to ask. 2 Cor 13:5 says:

aTest yourselves to see if you are in the faith; bexamine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you"”unless indeed you 1cfail the test?

Why do I ask? Because today I am convinced that many in our churches have not had a genuine salvation experience. How do I know? Because when I ask them to give their testimony, they have not got a blessed clue how to respond. I ask "How did you get saved?" and the answer is often "well I was having problems in my life and I just could not cope and a friend told me about Jesus and prayed for me and I said the sinners prayer and I felt all tingly and different and I have been with Jesus since" I met a young lady in hospital once who had been brought up in a Christian home and although she was professing to be a Christian she had no divine appointment which caused repentance and commitment. And this is what we see by the thousands, a mystical experience, even a right of passage through family, but no knowledge of sin, no knowledge of Christ's atonement, no conviction, no carrying of the cross.

So what's happened? Paul gives us a clue I think in Romans 1:16

For I am not aashamed of the gospel, for bit is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the cJew first and also to dthe Greek.

Today many churches either do one of two things or even both. First of all it has become ashamed of the gospel. The fact that the gospel has become foolishness to a dying world somehow becomes an embarrassment and so we will preach any other message apart from the full counsel of God. In fact as with Rick Warren we will join with the world to preach and unbiblical message that is contrary to scripture. As I am typing this essay I have a news alert coming in from California on a "˜Church' cooperating with Isis worship, not only that the "˜church' is led by a transgender lesbian figure, here is the link http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=360365

Secondly, even when an element of the gospel is preached they somehow think the Holy Spirit isn't powerful enough to bring conviction of sin by Himself not realizing that the gospel message is "˜The Power (Dunamis) of God for salvation, that God's word is powerful and active like a two edged sword. And when that happens we add a bit here, we cut a bit there, we become manipulators of the crowds with our music, effects and sloppy anecdotes because we don't know the power anymore.

So often what we see churned out of our pulpits is a Hybrid gospel, a gospel we are not quite as ashamed of, a gospel that only has the power of human psychology.

You will have heard this gospel many times, but generally speaking it has the following attributes.

Firstly the focus of the message is on self and not on Christ. You will hear the preacher "are you lonely? Are you depressed and feeling down? Is there hurt and rejection in your life? Has life lost its purpose and direction? Are you financially struggling? Then come to Jesus who wants to make everything better for you, who wants to prosper you financially"

Sometimes coming to Christ seems like joining a lonely hearts club or a self help therapy group, it's an appeal to the selfishness that resides in every one of us. It manifests in our fallen hearts (Jer 17:9) and says "I will consider Christ if all my needs are met". Pastor Bill Randles calls it "I worship". I will worship God in my own way in my own place in my own time when the "I" is satisfied.

Secondly the gospel message has to be inoffensive. "Let's not frighten people away by using scary theological language such as sin, depravity and repentance. Let's not offend by being judgemental, let's not make people feel guilty about their condition before a Holy God or their treatment of each other, let's not mention the law of God. But let's emphasise such things as sentimental and sensual love instead of the agape love of the Bible. Let's emphasise relationships and how Jesus desires a relationship with you so much He just wants to hold you and squeeze you and whisper in your ear He loves you. Let's not tell people they are sinners who deserve Hell fire. It's not good public relations.

Thirdly, the message is not for the personal sinner, it's for the anonymous. We often take them to huge rallies, 10,000+ people, when decision time comes for those who want this servile, sentimental Jesus, what do we find? You may have heard this many times. "˜Eyes closed tight shut, no peeking, this is between you and the Lord, let's see those hands raised, Yes I see them, thank you brother, thank you sister"¦."

This call to the unknown Christian, there is no standing, no tears of repentance no real decision because often no real message has been communicated. A one off decision with no discipleship, no cost, no shame, no regrets, no repentance, no carrying of a cross and a people who think they are saved based on a warm inner glow more often the result of manipulated pop psychology.

And the results? A great many converts of which 94% fall away. 600 decisions and one year later none to be found. A half million decisions and a year later few to be seen. The evangelists themselves even admit that most who come to the altar call will never enter a church again. Why? Because the church is ashamed of the gospel and has replaced the power of salvation with man made psychology.

Dear reader I pray none of us were saved under this gospel which is no gospel at all, where our salvation is almost akin to a Mormon burning in the bosom experience instead of The Cross, The Rock, The scandal on the rock of offence who is Christ Jesus.

So let us look into this Gospel of Peter's and also dip into other scripture insights concerning our great Salvation. I have several observations:

First of all v14 "But Peter taking his stand with the eleven raised his voice and declared to them "˜men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem let this be known to you and give heed to my words" So first of all we see that Peter was Direct, there was no mincing of words, no grey areas, the men of Judea and Jerusalem knew they were the target of his words. No silly stories, no warming up the audience, he pointed the finger "˜You people" he spoke to the people who needed to hear it most, no political correctness here, no niceties or generalisations it was as direct as an exercet missile.

Secondly, he used apologetics, in other words he reasoned rationally with the crowd using the Word of God concerning the coming of the Holy Ghost and of the resurrection. He expounded that Jesus came into history, died a real death, lived a real life and that their own scriptures prophesied it completely. (Read v 16-36) Jesus is a real person with substantiated facts that could be investigated locally.

Based on these first two points alone is this gospel being directed at you? Is your belief based on blind faith or the piggy back belief of your parents faith? Or can you say with the Apostle Paul "For I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard which I have entrusted to Him until that day"?

This faith is not just something you feel, it's not just sensual, it is Aletheia, truth, meaning an unveiled reality and objective historical fact.

Thirdly, Peter's message was "˜Christocentric', Christ centred. Peter declares in verse 21 that calling on His Name equates to salvation. He declares it is Jesus who was resurrected, that it's Jesus who reigns; he declares that it is though Jesus alone that a man is saved.

In a world that hates absolutes, a world full to the brim with political correctness lest we offend anyone especially Islam, we need Jesus to be declared as the only way, the only truth, the only life more than ever. You see Confucius cannot save, Mohammed cannot save, Joseph Smith cannot save you, their corpses lie in the ground decayed. Alpha cannot save you, seeker sensitive cannot save you, purpose driven has not got a clue. The truth is I can declare to you today of an empty grave, an empty tomb which once held the body of God's own Son, but the grave, death itself could not hold Him, Satan could not nail Him and it says in verse 32 "This Jesus God raised up again to which we are all witnesses". Tell me, who is the centre of your belief? Is it "˜I' worship? Is it self or is it Jesus the Messiah?

Fourthly, Peter placed the responsibility of Jesus' crucifixion where it belonged "“ on the people. Verse 36 says:

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom YOU crucified" (emphasis mine)

Do you know that we crucified Christ as though we ourselves handed him over and drove the very nails through His hands and feet? It's a horrible thought and of course the listeners to Peter's message did not physically do it. But our sinfulness, our unrepentant hearts our pride, our lust our greed, our sin and our rebellion may have just as well hammered the nails home into place. Let the horror of that sink in. It was for you and I that He hung there, for our sin He died.

The cross is a place of abject horror, it's not a model for our Christian jewellery, it's where all that is Holy, good and righteous died for miserable little sinners like you and I.

Fifth, Peter preached repentance, he preached obedience he preached forgiveness.

Verse 38 says: "And Peter said to them repent and let each of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"

Repent because a Holy, Right, Just God desires to deal with our sins, our own righteousness could not deal with our sin because according to His word they are as dirty rags. Judaism could not deal with it with all its law and rules, the law was there as our school master to show us how we cannot keep the law and the law anyway pointed to a perfect lamb who would take away the sins of the world once for all, Jesus the Messiah.

No, repentance μετανοέω metanoeō is not about being sorry because you have been caught out, it's not a feeling of shame, it's the result of guilt because we've been tried, judged as guilty and now God wants us to turn in the opposite direction and kneel to Jesus our priest and King as our only provision for salvation.

Finally, Peter's message was so straight and so true and so full of the Power of God unto salvation, so offensive to our pride that it caused deep rooted conviction.

Verse 37 says "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles "˜Brethren what shall we do?'

Did Peter say "˜just bow your heads while the music plays, close your eyes, say these words and make Jesus lord of your life" Did Peter say Jesus is waiting to hug you and hold you and make you happy?

No, Peter declared "˜Repent and turn away from your sins be saved from this perverse generation. You see Peter's gospel was Aletheia, it was an unveiled reality and in Peter's message the reality was revealed "“ Jesus.

Reality, that's the gospel, a foolish message to a dying world, a stumbling block, a horror story of sin, death, but thank God, resurrection.

The church has become full of unsaved people, how do we know this? Because Jesus and His gospel has the capacity to change a life from death to resurrection. Jesus said if you love me obey my commands. Pick up your cross and follow me. The road is narrow. The Apostle Paul talked about crucifying the flesh about being conformed to Jesus death, having fellowship with His suffering.

In the luke warm, sick, tepid church where do we see this? Yes we sometimes do, but how often is it "Bless me, bless me, bless me, give me prosperity, things, big buildings".

Let's take a leaf out of Peter's book   and as we begin to share the gospel with those around us, let us be the real good news that he preached. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel, trying to make it palatable and a vehicle for cheap grace. Let us have confidence in the gospel, realising IT is the power of God unto salvation. Only Jesus saves a soul, it is His business all we are is messengers.

Finally let us take a direct lesson from Peter, let me ask the reader, under what gospel were you saved? The sensual, pop psychology gospel of a fallen church? Or the full offensive gospel that really sets men free?

Selah

Read 2849 times Last modified on Monday, 14 November 2011 05:57

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