March 24, 2019

Lent Three, Sunday March 24, 2019 — Acts 2:37-47 — How Might We Add 3,000 to the Lord?

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Passage: Acts 2:37-47
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Sermon for Lent Three – Sunday March 24, 2019

Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Acts 2:37–47 (NKJV)

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

 

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

 

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,

   Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –

It was the 50th Day after Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead, the 10th day after He ascended into Heaven.  We know the day as Pentecost, and the city of Jerusalem was full of people from all over the ancient world (cf. Acts 2:5-11). The eleven remaining disciples of Jesus, prompted by the Holy Spirit, had just cast lots to determine who should replace Judas Iscariot.  The Holy Spirit chose a man named Matthias (Acts 1:23-26).   

 

Jesus’ Disciples were together in one place when suddenly a sound like a great wind came from Heaven, filling the house where they were sitting.  Tongues of fire appeared upon each of the Apostles and they began to speak in other languages they didn’t know, as the Holy Spirit enabled them.

 

The ruckus served to gather a large crowd of people, who were amazed to hear about the Messiah in their own language from men not of their country.  The Apostle Peter stepped forward and explained that this ability had been foretold by God through the Prophet Joel (Acts 2:16-21).

Simon Peter, son of a Galilean named Jonas, spoke to them of Jesus of Nazareth.  The man that they had crucified, God had raised from the dead, as foretold in the Psalms by David.  Jesus wasn’t a false messiah, but both LORD and Christ.

When the dust settled, 3,000 people heard the message and believing it were baptized and were added to the assembly of believers.

 

Did you hear that?  3,000 new members in a single day!

 

Can you imagine 3,000 new members?  What would we do if suddenly, the LORD granted us 3,000 new members?  We are currently less than 100 people in a city of roughly 20,000 people.  Our little sanctuary and fellowship hall might fit 200 people, where would we put the other 2,800 people?  We’d have to build an entirely new worship facility!  We sure couldn’t have the Ladies Meetings in the pastor’s office anymore!

What a wonderful problem to have!  How might we add 3,000 souls to the LORD?  In Jerusalem and in Marquette, the Holy Spirit does the work through word and sacrament. It is the Holy Spirit who grants the gifts of true repentance and faith. It is the Holy Spirit who produces in the same devotion to God’s Word and other Godly Attitudes.

Let us begin with prayer:

Lord God, Heavenly Father, you give us every good and perfect gift. As your Holy Spirit completes the good work of faith that you have begun in us, help us treasure whatever is true, noble and right. Preserve us from anything that might become a temptation to sin. Teach us to live day by day in humble dependence on your promises, in cheerful obedience to your laws, and in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Strengthen us inwardly with power through your Spirit so that we may live in love, humility, patience and prayer until we receive the crown of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+++++++

 

It’s happening all across our land.  Christian churches seem to be shrinking.  Many millennials just aren’t looking for a religion or a relationship with God.

 

Many of our own young people have fallen away from the faith in which they were confirmed.  So those of us who remain want to know why and we search for reasons, for answers, but it isn’t often just one thing.

Every shrinking and aging congregation want to grow.  For this reason, some churches call young pastors, thinking that if the pastor has lots of energy to pound the pavement then perhaps the congregation will grow.  Unfortunately, the work of spreading the good news is not just the pastor’s job.  When Jesus said, “Go, make disciples of all the nations” He wasn’t only speaking to the Apostles.  He was giving marching orders to all believers, to every Christian.

How did it happen in Jerusalem?   What was done on Pentecost that resulted in 3,000 souls added to the church?

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”

Why were the people ‘cut to the heart’ or ‘shaken to the core’?  Why did they ask, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Let’s back up just one verse to the conclusion of Peter’s Sermon (Acts 2:36):

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

It wasn’t Simon Peter’s finely crafted sermon.  Peter was a fisherman by trade, not a speech writer and if you look back through the Gospels, you’ll see that Peter was often blunt, to the point.  Peter’s message wasn’t effective because of Peter’s delivery, but because the Holy Spirit gave him the words to speak.  Peter’s message simply contained both Law – revealing the people’s sin (they had put to death the Messiah) and the Good News that God raised up Jesus and he remained both Lord and Christ. He was also persistent.  He testified and encouraged them with many other words.

 

When a Pastor prepares and delivers a sermon that strikes home for us…it’s not due to his ability…but due to the Holy Spirit who works through the Word and Sacraments.  The preacher’s job is to proclaim the Word and the Holy Spirit comes with power in that Word.  Now that isn’t to say that a pastor can’t get in the way of the message.  It can happen, but the pastor isn’t the power and never will be the power.

When a Pastor takes water and baptizes a child or an adult, it isn’t the pastor that’s working miracles.  It’s the Holy Spirit who works in baptism to convert and cleanse, not the pastor and not the water.  The pastor’s job is to administer the sacrament on behalf of the congregation who has called Him, but he isn’t tasked with converting unbelieving hearts or cleansing children of sin.

It was the message, the Law and Gospel that pierced the hearts of the people on Pentecost.  There wasn’t a magical potion.  The Holy Spirit worked through the Word and Sacrament then and still does now. The same Holy Spirit works in the same way today…when the people of God proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments.

In fact, the Holy Spirit had already begun working sorrow over sins in their hearts, through the message that they had crucified their own Savior.  We can see that in the words, ‘they were cut to the heart.’ They were sorry that they had sinned against God, but didn’t know what could be done about it. Sorrow over sins is the first part of repentance, and it’s more than being sorry you got caught…it’s being sorry for sinning against God.  In the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul illustrates the difference (2 Corinthians 7:10):

10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

It is a good and godly thing to feel bad about having sinned against God, to say with King David (Psalm 51:3-4a)

 

“For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight…”

 

When we come to God with true godly sorrow, the Holy Spirit does His work and completes the work of salvation in us by moving us to trust in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and deliverance from judgment.  This doesn’t mean that we never sin again, but that when we do the Holy Spirit works this cycle in us of Godly Sorrow and Confidence in what Christ has done. Repentance isn’t our part, but a gift of the Holy Spirit, for the Scripture declares that (1 Corinthians 12:3b):

 

“…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

 

True Repentance isn’t the only gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God also works through Word and Sacrament true and lasting devotion to the blessings that are ours through Jesus Christ.

 

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  

 

The 3,000 weren’t carried up by the excitement of the moment.  It wasn’t Peter’s sermon.  It wasn’t a feeling of being family.  They didn’t just go back to their old heathen lives.  The Holy Spirit didn’t only work repentance and faith, He also enabled them to continue steadfastly, to be devoted to:

       The Apostle’s Doctrine – the teaching which we find in the Bible, given by Jesus to His Disciples and related to us in the Scriptures.  They didn’t make up new teachings, but stuck to the things Jesus had taught and said.  The Church Growth Movement, which has infected many Christian churches today suggests that we not talk about Jesus’ bloody suffering and death because people find it difficult and it’s troublesome for children.  Jesus’ death was the complete payment for sin and without it there is no forgiveness!

       Fellowship – While the 3,000 may have hailed from different countries they had one important thing in common – faith in Jesus, the Christ.  They loved Jesus and they loved one another because of Him.  They banded together, they had a close relationship with those who held to the Apostle’s Doctrine, the teaching of Jesus.

       The Breaking of Bread – isn’t just a reference to having lunch together, but a reference to the Lord’s Supper in which Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to His Disciples.  Those who held faith in Jesus in common and were united in Jesus Teachings also celebrated the Lord’s Supper together, a reminder of their unity in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17).

       Prayers – are an act of worship directed properly to the one true God. Those who held faith in Jesus and were united in His Teachings, who celebrated the Lord’s Supper also recognized that not everyone who prays to a god prays to the true God.  They gathered to worship and pray with those who shared their common, but uncommon faith.

This kind of devotion and dedication is worked by the Holy Spirit.  So also, their loving concern for one another.

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

 

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Is Communism commanded by God?  Well, no.  In fact, no system of government is commanded by God.  This isn’t a command of God that requires every congregation to pool all of its resources in this way.  This is a description of the true loving concern that those early believers had for one another.  It was their love for Jesus that prompted them to share everything with fellow believers, especially those who had need. They weren’t first concerned about themselves, but one another.  The Holy Spirit is the one who produces such devotion and godly attitudes.

If we are to grow and increase as a congregation, it will be the Holy Spirit who accomplishes it by Word and Sacrament.  It will happen to glorify God, not Calvary or you or me.  It is the Holy Spirit who works the gifts of repentance and faith. It is the Holy Spirit who produces in us devotion to His Word, and other godly attitudes like love for one another.

May God the Holy Spirit make us bold to speak of Christ so that the Holy Spirit may do His work among us here in Marquette, and so glorify our God.  Amen.