Highlights from Acts: Session 4
Key theme: A picture of Kingdom people living by Kingdom power in light of Kingdom promises.
Peter and John are courageous and confident — sure of what they have experienced and unwilling to stay quiet about it, even in the face of persecution.
The life of the early church overflows as living water splashes grace beyond its own borders and people share their material possessions, preach and teach with great effect & care for one another’s needs. Such a counter-cultural group of people is a profound witness for Christ.
Repentance is turning from sin and going the other direction…. You stop what you are doing and do that which honors God. But it’s critical for us to understand that it is not our repentance that brings the forgiveness. Repentance calls out for forgiveness, but it is granted by God’s mercy & gracious kindness at work, applying Christ’s life, death and resurrection to us— so that in Christ, we are free to confess our sin and to ask for the Spirit’s transforming power to guard us from repeating that sin and to make us into more Christlike Christians.
Repentance and faith always go together: the moment that we repent and believe ….. if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (1 Corinthians 5:17).
We are immediately placed in God’s Kingdom — a Kingdom that is growing even now as heart by heart, God calls men, women and children to Himself, grants them repentance unto faith, and fills them with His Spirit.
Once we have been moved from the dominion of sin into the Kingdom of God, our behavior begins to reflect our new citizenship — just like these dear people we read about in Acts chapter 4 …. And, yes, our behavior is a witness to God’s redemptive power and purpose .
Our new creature-ness makes for a thrilling, live-out-loud and don’t hold back display of worship of the God who saves.
Worship is all of life lived in light of the amazing grace of God…. It wells up in both inward and outward displays of gratitude for the God who loved us through death into life.
Christ frees us to love God and love others…. We are made right with God by grace, through faith alone, but a genuine faith isn’t idle. It works through love (Galatians 5:6) as the Spirit works in us.
That’s what we see in Acts 4 and throughout the New Testament. God saves and God transforms …. It is clear for all to see.
In Christ, we are alongsiders.
Alongsiders encourage one another… celebrate one another … mourn with one another… rejoice with one another. Alongsiders LOVE one another. The more we understand God’s love for us … its unbreakable grip, its immeasurable depth, its unconquerable life — the more we will love Him and the more we will love one another. This humble, compassionate, merciful, righteous God/Man loves us into loving. So we come alongside those around us.
But notice ……….. alongsiders aren’t just working … they are worshipping.
See, work is worship when it is done from a heart full of love for God when it is done for God’s glory.
Every one of God’s children is gifted with an ability to serve the kingdom — and we are called to do so. Peter and John preached … the entire group of disciples prayed … they shared, cared, and loved…. Every bit of it contributed to the growth of the Kingdom — and WOW did it grow! Even in the face of rising persecution. The call is the same for us.
One way the Spirit is revealed is by a desire to alleviate suffering in a hands-on way. There is a world of hurt out there and sometimes we need to put food in mouths, or water in homes, or soup in refrigerators, or arms around shoulders. God’s love gives us the power to serve her, whoever she is …. by doing good …. In fact, it’s the Spirit that makes our actions good in any sense of the word — infusing them with God’s power for His glory. In Christ, each act of service is a reflection of Jesus, the Servant of all. Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, picked up a basin and towel, got down on His knees and washed dirty feet….. Jesus shows us how to serve one another.
But all that serving will wear a person down if she’s running around and serving without taking a break to sit at Jesus’ feet. Because — remember — we serve as a response to God’s love … not to earn His favor …. Christ earned that for us …… So Paul tells the Galatians … and us … do not grow weary in doing good. Doing good is not our life blood. Christ is our life blood. We must stay connected to Christ if we are going to have anything to pour out for others.
When you are tired, scared, or at your wit’s end
pick up your Bible and meet with Jesus.
We must meet Jesus in the words of the Bible regularly.
Doing good means loving those whom we consider to be unlovable — even when they reject us…. It means praying for those who persecute us ….. Look at Peter and John! They are preaching to the very people who want to get rid of them … They are fulfilling the law of love ….. blessing those who curse. Jesus says, Love your enemies. That is hard ……. but if Jesus tells us to love our enemies, His Spirit will empower us to do so and those sacrificial heartbeats will rise as a sweet fragrance to God.
Jesus loved His enemies and gave Himself up for them.
We were God’s enemies.
Remember that serving is worship when it is done from a heart full of love for God …. when it is done for God’s glory.
Already we are new creatures … but there also lies a day ahead …. a Day on which we will see Christ face-to-face, when our newness will fill every fiber of our being …. When we will reflect Christ perfectly …. each of us fully regenerated …. and creation itself fully regenerated ….. J.B. Phillips described it this way: The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.
All of creation is watching for that Day.
But right now we live in the Already and Not Yet of the New Creation. Between Christ’s resurrection and His return, we feel the tension between this fallen world in which the New Creation has begun and is growing and the perfection of the next in which everything will be made new. There is a tension within our hearts and in the world — because the New Creation is both Already here and Not Yet fully realized. So with all of creation, we wait for Jesus’ return in joyful hope knowing that He will make all things right and good …. to make all things new.
The apostle John saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And [He] saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And [he] heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ (From Revelation 21:1-5)
Won’t that be a glorious day?
What is the proper response to such an earth-shaking, absolute promise?
Worship is our heart-driven response
to God’s mighty love.
We worship as we come alongside … as we serve-her … and as we serve-him ….. We worship as we experience Jesus in the words of the Bible and as we pray … We worship as we share generously with our clergy and with all of those who are in need.
Worship isn’t just a Sunday morning go-to-meeting kind of thing.
It’s a life lived for Christ!