In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in week five of a sermon series called Cultivating a Living Faith. You know, many of us have sat here or in pews or chairs similar to this for most of our lives. It’s very easy to come sometimes and think, I’ve heard this before, and so we just kind of mark time and we kind of do what we think we’re supposed to do. Coming to church all the time. But you know, we are always encouraged to cultivate a living faith. And the living faith changes, it grows. There are seasons, there are ups and downs, there are joys, there are sorrows. There are burdens. Our lives change. Our seasons of our lives change. Our children change. And so too does the living word of God to talk to us in new ways that we’ve never heard before. And so it is that we come today and we’ve already heard from the prophet Joel, this prophecy about God pouring out his spirits. And today we’re gonna be looking at the second chapter of Acts, and it’s famous for the Pentecost story, which we’re gonna read at the end of May on Pentecost weekend. But today we’re gonna talk about a meeting of small band of disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem where Jesus has told them after his ascension to go and wait to go and wait for. They hardly knew what to go and wait for the Holy Spirit, but they had little or no idea what that would look or feel like. But as they watched, as they waited, as they prayed, just imagine some of the, the fear that must have been encroaching in on their heart. Jesus, their leader, their rabbi had just been crucified. Yeah, but while they’re sitting there waiting, watching, praying, wondering what’s next? The Holy Spirit fell in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel and all who were present were filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in other languages. Well, we’ll take that up in a few weeks, but what we’re gonna talk about today is what followed that outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And it was a sermon that followed that, and it was preached by none other than the impetuous and thunderous and bumbling foot in mouth. Apostle Peter, I really like Peter. If you haven’t noticed, I opened my mouth to change feet, but that’s Peter. And, and if you’ve watched any of the Chosen TV series, you, you look at Peter and you go, there is no way that that man could preach this sermon that we’re gonna read in just a moment. Because he preached the most powerful convicting, uh, uh, convincing sermon that over 3000 people were baptized. Imagine that it’s an amazing sight and an amazing situation that we encounter in this living word of God. And as we read it, God wants to to touch us in a new way today. So I’d like to read from the second chapter of Acts and um, a couple of sections here.
We’re gonna begin at verse 14, where Peter addresses the crowd that have gathered there. You know, now there are thousands of people that have gathered because they’re really curious about what the heck is going on, because this is crazy. You know, the, the season, the, the celebration of Pentecost is not something that was new with the New Testament church. Pentecost came 50 days after Passover, so the Jews were the, the, um, people in Jerusalem. The population would sometimes triple for because of these big festivals, double or triple. Imagine that. So Jerusalem is crowded with pilgrims from all over the then known world. They’ve come to Jerusalem to worship for Pentecost, and so now when Peter is preaching, there are thousands of people that are curious about what’s been going on there. So listen to this. Then Peter stood up with the 11. He raised his voice and addressed the crowd, fellow Jews and all you who live in Jerusalem. Let me explain this to you. Listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk as you suppose it’s only nine in the morning. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel in the last days. God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people, and your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women. I will pour out my spirit in those days and they will prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And then reading further in verse 37. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart. They said to Peter and the other apostles Brothers, what shall we do? Peter replied, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit because the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all. On whom the Lord, on whom the Lord call our God. Will.
Did you get that? I didn’t. Okay. We’ll back up just a little. At least you got it up there. This is, you have to have bionic eyes to read this. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off. For all whom the Lord our God will call. This is the word of the Lord. Will you join me in prayer? God, thank you for your spirit, because your spirit is really here. There’s an energy, a passion and interest and eagerness to see, to hear, to sense what you’re gonna do, you know? God, would you help us kind of to sit on the edge of our seats to perk up our ears, each of us, me included, to to hear and feel and sense, and know and understand something that’s, that’s new because your word is new, and so may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, oh Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. Dear friends, in Christ, grace to you, in peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Imagine that scene with me, if you will, Peter, who of all of the disciples have been most prone to saying crazy, crazy, impulsive things, suddenly by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sounds like the angel, Gabriel. And he speaks this amazing sermon, and now God has so apprehended the heart and the soul of Peter. That’s one of the closest disciples of Jesus. And so the entire Old Testament scripture is opened up. It’s like this brand new vista. He’s now seen things in technicolor. All the way from Adam to Jesus to the coming revelation of God. And, and Peter’s been telling these, these Jews here, he says this stuff, this Jesus, whom you crucified is God’s only son, our Lord. He has made him Lord and Savior of all. He has traced the entire history from Abraham, from Adam, and from Abraham and from Moses and from the Exodus all the way up to Jesus, his life, his death, and his resurrection, and he’s told them so earnestly by this amazing innervating power of the Holy Spirit, this whole story. And, and then these people that are present there, they are cut to the heart and they say, brothers, what shall we do? What should we do? They were cut to the heart. Barbara Brown tell Taylor tells us that if you’ve ever been cut to the heart, you know what they’re talking about. Because if you’re really, really lucky sometime in your life, there’s something that is so right and so true that pierces right through your defenses and it goes straight to your heart and you’re cut to the heart and you drop to your knees or you, you are so amazed. You are so odd, you are speechless. You, you laugh until you cry or you cry until you laugh on, on rare occasions. A glorious piece of music, some lyrics that just, they just bypass my defenses or my inattention and they strike home to my heart. I I, I go out sometimes at night and I look at the Milky Way, and, and I’m cut to the heart. I, I stand at the, the ocean and hear the, the roar of the tides and the waves, and I’m cut to the heart. But you know, it’s not a mental thing that happens to you when you’re cut to the heart. It’s a whole body thing. And, and, and, and sometimes we’re just drawn to, to praise, to say a word of thanks, to sing a song, to do something. And sometimes we need help and knowing what to do. And such was the case with all these people because they said, what shall we do? They asked Peter and Peter didn’t even miss a step. He said, well, repent. Repent. Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Taylor described it this way. Peter’s world had just been turned upside down. The hinges had been blown off the doors of his life. And then when the Israelites asked him, what should we do? He didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t give them a three step prescription, did he? He didn’t say, go and do this and this and this and this. He just said, prepare for a holy hurricane my folks. ’cause this is just what’s gonna happen. This is just a foretaste of what happens when God gets ahold of you and your life is gonna be changed. That’s the truth of what he told them. Knowing full well that that’s what would happen. The moment Jesus came to live in them, their understanding would change. He says, forget everything you ever knew about who you thought was in charge of the world. Get ready to revise all your notions about what makes somebody great. If you think you know which way is up, think again. If you think you know how things turn out in the end, get ready to be wrong. This Jesus I’ve been telling you about is one surprise after another. This Jesus I’m telling you about is God incarnate. He’s God with skin on and he will love you when you are unlovable. He will walk with you when no one else will. He will comfort you when everyone else abandons you. He will encourage you, embrace you, hold you, wash you, clean of sin and shame that dogs your steps. He will give you a peace that passes understanding, walk with you through the darkest valley, and then when death is all done with you, he’s gonna pick you up and carry you right into the arms of his Heavenly Father who is now ours as he flings wide the doors of heaven for us. And all you can do is love him and let him love you back in any way that he chooses. And sometimes it’s so strong that it takes your breath away, and that’s when the Holy Spirit comes return. He says, repent. And then find in him your all and all. And then go and get born again. Go down under the river. I love the way Taylor continues. Walk into the river of death with Jesus. Go wonder with him. And while you’re down there, let the current take away everything that separates you from him. And then when all your own breath is gone, let him give you some of his. Take his breath inside of you. Let it save your life. When you rises, you rise with him. Understanding that your life is no longer your own. You’ve been bought and paid for. It. You died down there and you’re borrowing his life now and then receive the Holy Spirit. Let is breathe deeply. Do it with me. Take a deep breath. It’s the Holy Spirit. When God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, out of the mud. I just have this mental image of God bending down over this newly formed creation, created in his image and breathing down over his mouth and nose and breathing into him, the life, the ruach, the Holy Spirit of God, and he came alive, and that’s what the Holy Spirit does to you and me to breathe. We receive a gift that’s invisible as air and be astonished by all the forms that that breath can take. Shy people become audacious and stand up and share their faith and frugal people become philanthropists. There’s no limit to what the Holy Spirit can do. You just can’t hold your own breath, that’s all. You just have to keep breathing, paying attention to keep responding. Some people call it intuition. Some people call it inspiration for ages on end. The church has called it the Holy Spirit.
We Lutherans aren’t real good with the Holy Spirit, are we? We don’t know what that is, but you just breathed it in. And every time you breathe, that’s God’s life in you. Every time your heart beats, every time your your lungs expand, it’s the Holy Spirit inside you forever and forever. The church has called it the Holy Spirit and response to Peter’s sermon. About 3000 people were baptized when they heard that. It sounds like a fairytale, but it isn’t. That’s what happens when we’re cultivating a living faith. And the Holy Spirit cuts us to the heart. You know, that literally means being stabbed or pierced, and you know that that’s happened, my friends, when you realize that it’s, you’ve not just broken God’s rules, but you’ve broken God’s heart. Think about that for a moment with me. You’ve not just broken God’s rules, you’ve broken God’s heart. Timothy Keller explains that the Bible has a lot of things to say about how you should live life. There are rules here, there are commandments in here, and a lot of people read that and they think this is all about me and how I’ve gotta live and how I should, how I should, uh, try and earn my way to God’s heart to get God to love me. But you’d be missing the point of this entire book if it’s only about rules for you, because it’s all about Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ came and lived the life that you should have lived. Jesus life lived the life you should have died. He died the death you should have died, and he took the punishment that you deserve. So the Bible isn’t about you. It’s not about you at all. It’s about him. Him the one who gave all of his life for us. It’s about Jesus Christ and what he’s done for us. And when we understand that, we’re cut to the heart. And when we begin to understand that, then sin becomes personal and not generic. You know, it’s one thing to talk about sin with the small s and to say that I’ve sinned against you by thought word, indeed, by what I’ve done and what I’ve not. I’ve not loved my neighbor as I, so that’s generic sin. And we do that every Sunday, every time we gather for worship. But when sin becomes personal and we realize we have broken God’s heart, that’s when it becomes something more than an abstraction and a generic image for us. Do you remember that scene after the Garden of Gethsemane, after Jesus has been arrested? All the other disciples have cut and run. They’re nowhere to be found. But Peter has at least enough nerve, Peter, who just denied to promised Jesus that he would follow him all the way unto death. Peter has enough nerve left to linger around the courtyard, outside the hive priest’s home while Jesus is being inside tried for his life. And you’ll remember the story that several PE people came up to Peter and said, well, well, you, you know Jesus, don’t you? And he goes, no, Uhuh, no, I don’t know. Someone else comes and said, well, you’re from Galilee. You’ve got a Galilean accent. You’ve gotta know Jesus. And he had no, I don’t know him. And finally, the third time, he denied knowing him. No, I do not know the man. Now, all the time that Peter’s doing this, he’s gotta feel guilty, doesn’t he? He knows he’s lying. He knows he’s breaking the 10 commandments. He knows he’s disobeying God. But read on. And when Jesus was being led from one part of the house to another part of the house, Jesus looked Peter straight in the eye. And then it was that Peter was cut to the heart, then he was cut to the heart and he went out and wept bitterly because sin then just wasn’t a breaking of a law. It was breaking of God’s heart, you see? That’s when sin became personal to him then, and only then was he cut to the quick to the heart. And here’s the difference. My friends don’t miss it. It’s one thing to know you’ve broken the rules. It’s a totally different thing to know you’ve broken God’s heart. Rules are one thing. God’s heart is another. The Bible isn’t about rules. The Bible is a love story with your name in it. About how God sent his very only son with your name on his heart, your name engraved on the palm of his hand, and he came for you And for me, that’s when sin is personal.
If, if only you see this as a big look book of laws, then you feel guilty. That’s not what it’s about. When you begin to see sin personally, then you see your sin in your need of a savior, and that’s when Jesus becomes real to you. That’s when you know what it is to repent, to return to the Lord your God, for his gracious and merciful, abounding, steadfast love. Do you know what kept Jesus on the cross? Had nothing to do with the nails. He could have just called on a million Angels to deliver him from that cross in a moment. But it was love. It was love that kept him there. Love for you. When Jesus said, father, forgive them for they know not what they do. He had your name, your story. He had your sin on his lips and in his heart. For he know you story and he knows your life. It was his love for you and me. And when that becomes personal, then it’s, I did that. I was I, Lord Jesus, I that crucified thee. That just doesn’t bear down on your will and on your burden, it bears down on your heart. George Whitfield was an 18th century preacher in theologian in Great Britain. He’s credited with helping start the great awakening that swept across Europe and brought people to Christ. He wanted people to hear this gospel about Jesus, but they weren’t coming to church to do it. And so he did one of the most radical things ever done in that day and age. He decided to go outside and preach. It was never done. So he lived, uh, on the village, in the village of Bristol, England, and on the edge of town was Kingswood. A suburb where all the coal mines were located, and he went there to preach. And the Colliers, it was the British name for these coal miners. Uh, they were the dirt poor people who lived on the margins of society. They lived underground, eeking out in existence, often died by the age of 40 from black lung disease. They were filthy and destitute. Can you imagine their surprise when they come out of the mines one night by the hundreds? And here’s George Whitfield and all of his Anglican garb, probably with his powdered wig and all standing on a podium, and he says to them, come, I wanna preach to you and eye witnesses there. This was a history making event that he would be outside preaching an open revival. And they said that there were hundreds of miners that came with the coal dust covering their faces and their bodies, and they stood there and listened attentively to George Whitfield telling this story, and they began to see sprouting on the men’s cheeks, these little white rivulets running down their cheeks and realized they were tears because they’d been cut to the heart. That’s what the gospel does. That’s what Jesus love does. It cuts to the heart. It cuts to the heart. You know, each of us have different temperaments. Some of us are more prone to tears than others to whom we’re married, but whether the tears appear on your. Cheeks are on your heart. My prayer is that today you will be cut to the heart with the love of God that it pierces through your defenses, that it pierces through the, I’ve always thought, I’ve always heard, I’ve always understood, and that the Holy Spirit comes and speaks to you in a brand new way this day.
On the day that Charles Wesley was converted to Christianity, Charles was known to have penned the text to over 6,000 hymns. But on May 21st, when he came to Christ, he penned the words to a now famous hymn, asking the rhetorical question this way, and can it be. That I should gain an interest in my savior’s blood died. He, for me, who caused his pain for me, who to death? Him pursued amazing love. How can it be that thou my God should die for me. Amazing love. How can it be that thou my God should die for me? What do we do when we’re cut to the heart? It’s the same message the prophet Joel gave us eons ago. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Rejoice rejoin me in prayer. What else can we do? Oh God. When we are amazed by your amazing love, but to rejoice and offer a humble thanks and gratitude for your gift of life, for your death, your resurrection, and now your reigning as you come to us once again this day. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.