Friday 2 June 2017

We are looking at the 2nd Chapter top Acts this morning; for me a favourite chapter, and one which should be to ever Christian. It is a description of the successful first Church.

Let us go through the verses of this great Chapter.

The day of Pentecost was one of the greatest days in the history of the Church, for it was on that day the Church was born. All the believers were gathered in the one place. The Holy Spirit, the source of all guidance which moved the Apostles came upon them as Jesus had prophesied in the signs of wind, tongues of fire, and the ability to speak other languages.

In addition, the city was filled with Jews from very nation living in Jerusalem. There were three great festivals which every Jew who lived within 20 miles was obliged to attend, and as the Feast of Weeks, this was both an historical occasion commemorating the giving of the Commandments to Moses, with the agricultural significance of the Passover when two loaves were offered to God in gratitude for the completed gathering of the harvest.

When the various nations heard their language being spoken by people not from their country, they were startled and amazed. The more cynical mocked and suggested the speakers were drunk, a typical reaction of those who will not accept what they cannot understand.

Peter then stepped forward and made that historic sermon, first pointing out the impossibility of drunk as it was early in the morning, but telling it was the fulfilment of a prophecy of the Old Testament prophet Joel.

The prophecy was that in last days, the days between the Ascension of Jesus and His returning to earth, the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon His people, old and young men and women; and all who call upon the name of Jesus will be saved. Being saved simply means you have been assured of your salvation.

Peter then said what had happened was part of God’s plan and foreknowledge and reminded them that they killed and crucified Jesus, and he testifies to the fact He had seen Jesus crucified and resurrected. He was an eye witness so was fully qualified to be believed.

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, they were convicted and when they asked what they should do, he told them to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. This does not mean if you are baptised you earn salvation; there must be repentance of the past and have faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour.

Repentance is a word often misunderstood. Most people think it means just saying sorry for the past, but rather you are going to change your way of thinking and acting. You accept Jesus was not just a great teacher or social worker, but was the Son God and Saviour of mankind.

No Christian doctrine has been so abused as baptism. The Bible calls for a declaration of faith, commitment to the teachings of Jesus, and acceptance of Him as Saviour. It is was not meant to be the casual act as now when anyone can ask for baptism and be told just turn up at the Church at date and time. To baptise children of parents who have no Church affiliation is a mockery

Peter said this promise was all, Jews and Gentiles, everyone the Lord calls.
Peter said this promise was all, Jews and Gentiles, everyone the Lord calls. Such was the effect of |Peter’s words that 3,000 were added to the Church that day. They met and devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles who had been taught by our Lord; met in fellowship, and were filled will awe and inspiration, and such was rewarded by God who added to their numbers each day. I wonder how many congregations are filled with awe and are inspired at services in this age.

There is a very significant sentence at the end of the passage; and the Lord added to their number day by day. Every day, there would be new converts to the faith. That should not really be surprising. The apostles were getting the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the people around them by their teaching. They told of Christ coming to this earth in a unique way; of the miracles Jesus performed; how He gave up His life for us by dying on the Cross so that our sins could be forgiven by God, so assuring us of eternal with Him.

In addition, unbelievers were seeing the grace of God being displayed in the lives of the believers and were impressed with what was happening and were attracted. God was using these things to draw people to himself and the church grew. This tells us that it is God who builds up a Church. Jesus said on one occasion, ‘No man can come unto me except my Father draw him’. God is drawing people to himself all over the world.
This tells us people come to faith in Jesus only by God touching the heart and people have the free will to respond or reject Him.

Many people do not understand those words of Jesus. This, together with other Scripture, tells us people come to faith in Jesus only by God touching the heart and people have the free will to respond or reject Him. God brings the words of the Bible to us and we have to choose.

Let us now consider what we can learn and apply to today’s Church.

It is in God’s plan that His Church will grow. Having seen how that early Church responded under apostolic teaching, we need to consider how the Church now in this critical time responds with its teaching of the Scriptures. Every so often some Committee puts forward some proposal to combat the problem of falling attendances in the Church. I do not doubt the sincerity of such Committee, but I do doubt the need for such. We now have different types of services; Messy Church, CafĂ© Church and whatever kind of Church, which do attract in a mild way, but such attraction does not lead to much, if any, increase in membership. It is the non biblical part that attracts.

The Church at Pentecost is the model for any Church; faithful preaching, true fellowship, and tuneful hymns. We should be telling the stories of Jesus, and of the guidance left for us in the Epistles.

Why, it may be asked, is it that the Lord is not adding to our Churches? He is in Africa, South Korea, China and South America. I suggest it is because in Britain and other Western nations we are not teaching, and certainly not practising, the teaching of the Apostles. These men were speaking in the name of and on behalf of the Lord Himself who told them what to say. If we choose to teach and preach in a manner to align ourselves with society’s culture and ways rather than with what God has lain down, we cannot expect God to bless our ministry.

It is a fact of life we live in a free and easy country where virtually no behaviour is considered to be morally wrong, and the moment anyone dares to criticise or suggest something is wrong and they are not living according to the Bible, they are labelled as phobic, bigots or discriminatory.

This always likely to occur when someone wants to join the politically correct crowd and tell you sanctimoniously, you shouldn’t say that. Unfortunately many people within the Church have adopted the way of the world, it has somewhat been accepted, and even applauded. This is so wrong; the Church should be setting an example and making its voice heard instead of secularists setting out their agenda.

A Danish philosopher once stated, whereas Jesus came and turned water into wine, the modern Church has managed to do something altogether more difficult, to change wine into water. Many will agree with him as we have watered down the gospel of our Lord so that people are confused as to what they exactly should believe.

There is a false Christianity around today. There are people who put on a Christian front. They act like Christians, they read the Book, and sing the hymns, but they have no reality of Christ in their lives. That kind of Christianity is worthless. If we want to be men and women of God, we are to follow the teaching God has provided for us. This clearly set out in the Bible and readily available for all to follow.

Paul commanded Timothy to preach the word, and by the word he meant the Scriptures, which is still the primary task for all preachers. He gave a clear instruction for all Christian pastors and teachers that they were commissioned to teach the truth and to refute error. Jesus said the heart of the Christian faith is eternal life and that we may know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.

He also warned that a time would come when people would not want to hear sound doctrine, but would find teachers who were willing to say what they wanted to hear. Sadly, such false teachers abound who are prepared to defy God.

At a time when the Church of England is haemorrhaging so fast, a bishop calls for the Church to hold a fast day once a month to pray for climate change; that was his concern not the gospel. On Easter Day last year, such a prominent day in the life of the Church, in a televised service from a Cathedral, the preacher lost an enormous opportunity to tell about Jesus by giving instead, of course climate change. These are only two examples of a lost cause which affects all Christians and not just Anglicans.

We have to ask ourselves, why is the Church here, and what is our responsibility to God? Our primary task is to preach the gospel. If we do not do that there is no purpose for the Church. Both Jesus and Paul put that before any other work they did. We are here to tell about God and Jesus; about His unique birth, miracle works; His sacrificial death on our behalf, and how God resurrected Him as a foretaste of what can happen to us.

The once great Methodist Church was built on strong Biblical foundation. The greatest revival of Christianity in this country came during the ministry of John/Charles Wesley If they were alive today they would have much to say at the way the Church has failed to proclaim the message they left, that salvation was through Christ alone, the value of a person’s life was measured by their faith; by the manner in which they lived their lives, and the doctrine of heaven and hell.

When one politician spoke out for the Church in this country, and however much you may doubt the sincerity as opposed to political campaigning; the words he spoke were welcome. Yet within one day 50 angry liberal atheists got together and organised a protest widely circulated by press, radio and television.

Now compare that with the Church’s failure to respond as strongly when the previous Prime Minister redefined marriage to destroy 2000 years of Christian teaching; who in a submission to the Court of Human Rights opposed protection for the unborn child; who submitted to the same Court that the Cross was not a Christian symbol; that if you dared to speak out against same sex marriage you could resign rather than being dismissed.

Can you imagine either John or Charles Wesley supporting same sex marriage? Marriage was given by God at the creation of mankind; it is God’s first building block for society, and to change that would be to rip the heart out of God’s plan and purpose. Yet when the Methodist Church held a consultation on the question and the majority were against, it was decided to hold a decision and reconsider in two years time.

Obviously if we are faithful to Scripture we are going to upset many people, not out of a desire to do so, but simply because we will strike at their conscience. The Bible clearly states all people, even those who have never heard the gospel, have a sense of right and wrong. We have to tell of the consequences for them when this life is over.

If you were walking down a road and you saw a house on fire and also saw someone in side trapped, you wouldn’t just wave to them, you would seek to save them; so we have a Christian duty to try and save them spiritually.

One day every man and woman will have to give account for the way they have lived their lives, and preachers bear a much heavier responsibility, for as Paul warned Timothy, they have been given the privilege and task of proclaiming God’s Word and failure to do so will have to be answered for. We still have men/women preaching false doctrine, then attempting to justify doing so by misinterpreting Scripture.

If ever the Word of God was needed it is never more so than now. Never let us be reluctant or ashamed to proclaim it in a bold and positive way.

We need to pray that all Christians to have the same commitment and dedication to our faith as the followers of
Islam give to their faith. You will not hear a Muslim cleric criticise the Koran or challenge its teachings. They will not allow anyone else to abuse or mock, and whilst we may have a different belief, we must give credit for such loyalty. The BBC
once admitted that whilst the Bible is permitted to be the subject of (so called) humour, they would not allow the Koran be treated in such a way.

Sometimes a problem does arise when there are a range of preachers at the same Church. For instance, I am here this week with a conservative evangelical message and next week or soon after someone with a liberal approach will be here, a situation which arises in numerous Churches and understandably causes confusion in people’s minds as to who is right.

There is however one way of deciding; turn to your Bibles and see which message can be verified.

I want to close with words of John Wesley who once stated “I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God.

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