God Knows Drama

God Knows Drama
This Sunday is the last message in the “Lost and Found” series and the last one in the book of Luke for a while. On October 10th we start a new series back in the book of Genesis. A couple of years ago I preached the first 12 chapters of Genesis and last fall I preached through chapter 22, the story of Abraham.

The new series is called “God Knows Drama.” We will chronicle the lives of Isaac and Jacob as we work through Genesis 35. Talk about drama, these guys had it all. Cheating, deception, family conflict, sibling rivalry, wife rivalry (now there’s a challenge!) and much more. I’m really looking forward to this series of messages and the impact they can have on our lives. We’ll deal with family, marriage, friendship, honesty, tragedy, anger, victory and defeat. It’s all right there in the Bible.

Start inviting folks now to be part of this exciting time in the life of Spring Creek.

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Acts 2:22-28 – Apologetics

Acts 2:22-24 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. 24 God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.

You walk into a room in a house. There is a twin bed against the wall, covered with an NFL bedspread. A shelf with books, arranged neatly is at the foot of the bed. On the shelves are three trophies from various little leagues. On the table in the corner are crayons and coloring books, ready to be used. All the toys are put away, and a quick look reveals that none of them are stuffed under the bed. The closet is arranged so that all the clothes can be found easily, the dresser has no dirty clothes stuffed into it and the floor is vacuumed clean. What can you deduce from these clues? There is a mother in this household. There can really be no other logical explanation. For only a mother will take such care of a little boy. Goodness knows the boy can’t and the father most likely wouldn’t.

In the same way, as a Peter stands to address the crowd, there are events in this world that can only be attributed to an act of God.

Peter’s address to these men of Israel emphasizes the work of God. God is prominent in this first section of his message. It is a Holy God and his word that they will listen to, and it is God’s son, Jesus of Nazareth, that he wants to point them to. To do this, he shows how Christ was attested to by God, delivered unto death by God and raised from the dead by God.

God performed miracles through Christ to attest to them that he was indeed the Messiah. The signs and wonders were done with the specific goal to point to something beyond the miracle, to the person behind the miracle. These were one way that God bore witness to them of the person of Christ.

It is Christianity alone, of all the philosophical systems and other religions in the history of the world that argues that God himself entered the world to redeem the world. He did this through the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The fact that Jesus of Nazareth had performed many miracles was not in doubt to them. Peter stated, “as you yourselves know.” No one in the audience would deny the fact of these miracles. Peter explains that these miracles were done as evidence of who Jesus was, the Messiah, the Christ. But this evidence seems to fall into doubt when one considers that Jesus was crucified.

Peter answers this question in their minds, before they ask it, by explaining the twofold nature of the crucifixion. It was the plan of God, foreknown and yet the fault of both the Jews and the Gentiles.

The tension of this twofold nature is not resolved, only illuminated. God , in his purpose, sent Jesus to the cross. It was his purpose and he knew beforehand that it would happen. God meant to send Christ to the cross to redeem men from their sin. And yet, recognizing that what took place was in the plan of God and part of his redemptive plan, the Jews and the Gentiles were responsible for the death of Christ. Specifically, he says lays the blame at their feet for enlisting evil men, the Romans, and nailing Jesus to the cross. But in general, we are all responsible, to blame, for the death of Jesus on the cross. It was our sin that led God to sacrifice his son on our behalf.

But God, in his infinite love for us, knowing all that Jesus would suffer, sent him anyway. He was not surprised by the cross, for he had seen it from far away. The miracle is that he still went to Golgotha.

So Peter explains, that the miracles were God’s attestation of the person of Jesus and that his death was not a mistake, but in fact the very plan of God. For it is the death of Christ on the cross that makes the greatest act of God possible.

For it was a dead, limp body of Jesus that was laid in that tomb, but a resurrected, powerful, glorified body of Jesus that came out of that grave. God raised him from the dead, showing that he is indeed the Christ, the one who gives life. Death couldn’t hold him down. He rose again. As much as people would deny that death, and as many stories as they would create to explain it away, the resurrection is the centerpiece of history and is as undeniable a fact as you will find.

Peter even says later that we can go visit David’s tomb, and see where he is laid, but Jesus’ tomb is empty. You won’t find his body there. It is that empty tomb that becomes a great problem for people to explain away. But do not think that the event of the empty tomb took place in a vacuum, away from history. In fact, the resurrection is the most attested to miracle in the Bible, and in history. We know more about how Jesus died than any one in history. We know more about how he was buried and how he was cared for in his burial than anyone else in that time.

That the tomb was empty and that Jesus was raised from the dead was not a question for Peter, it was a fact. He knew it as he knew his own name. It would’ve been easy enough for anyone there to prove Peter a drunkard who was speaking out of his head. For all that anyone had to do was show the tomb where Jesus laid. Anyone who did so would stop all the claims of resurrection made by the disciples. But you notice no one did that. They knew where he was buried, the priests had even sent a guard there. What they didn’t know, was what had happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is clear from the history, Jesus must be the Son of God. As obvious as it must be that that bedroom was clean and neat because of the presence of a mother in that house, so even more we know that Christ is risen from the dead and so is the Savior of the world.

Irrevocable Gifts

Got this email from Dr. Mantooth today and thought it was interesting. He recently finished teaching a course on Spiritual Gifts at our church and this is a follow-up thought from him that he gave me permission to quote.

“As I was reading Romans 12 this morning, I read through chapter 11 to get a feel for the movement of Paul’s thoughts. Verse 29 of chapter 11 popped out at me. “God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable”. His discussion was about Israel in God’s plan. I find it interesting that Paul used the word “gifts”. So I looked it up in the Greek NT and the word is charismata — which is the word we usually translate as spiritual gifts. Anyway, since we had the class on spiritual gifts recently and lots of questions were raised, I thought I’d relay my findings onto you all. It seems that one of the questions that was asked in class was “Does God ever take away a spiritual gift from us?” This verse might give us a clue to that answer. Anyway, it’s worth chewing on for a while. ”

Leon Morris says that the word “gift” here refers back to Romans 9:4-5 where Paul says the Israelites have been given the gifts of adoption, covenants, the law, the temple service, promises and their forefathers. So he makes a case that the word here is more general than spiritual gifts, but speak to those things which the Israelites have from God because they were the chosen nation. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the verse cannot also be applied to gifts from God to the church, or to an individual believer.

The basic sense of the verse is that God doesn’t change. His gifts and His call are irrevocable. Just because someone has rejected God at some point, doesn’t mean that He will have no more use for them or may not still be able to redeem them for His purposes. This was the message Paul had for Israel. Because of the next verses I think it is legitimate to make application to nations and to individuals.

On to another thought: What gifts has America been given by God? Have we had a unique calling in the progress of history and, if so, what have we done with our calling? Let’s discuss…

Acts 2:17-21 – Part 3 – The Spirit breaks down walls

But for some, no matter how much we may show love to them, they will continually put up walls to the work of God in their lives. For many, there are natural sociological barriers that prevent us from being able to share with them easily. These barriers can be race related, language related, class related, national origin related, cultural or even a barrier of gender. Some people have put up walls between themselves and God because of some past history with the church or religion. They may have built walls of distrust because of something that happened in their home or with a relative. Without doubt, the church, being composed of fallible humans, has many times contributed to the establishment of a wall of distrust between men and God. And at times, men create their own walls. Our personal sin creates a barrier between us and God that can lead to embarrassment, resentment or a feeling of unworthiness. Satan capitalizes on these walls by making them seem larger than they are and impenetrable.

However, the good news is that the Holy Spirit comes to all. He crosses all gulfs and tears down all walls. For the scripture says clearly, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord believing in Him and trusting him will be saved. That expansion of understanding is inherent in the word, “Lord.” To call on Jesus as your Lord is to recognize who he is, what he did and to make him so in your own life. No matter where you are today and what you have done, the Spirit will come to you today. You can be saved, if you will call on the Lord.

Acts 2:17-21 – Part 2 – The Spirit crosses boundaries

When the Spirit comes, he comes upon all people. He comes to sons and daughters, old and young. He comes to the male and female servants of God. He comes to everyone. Paul wrote that there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Jew or Gentile when we receive the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God breaks out across the gulf of prejudice and every “ism” there is. He comes to break across racism, religionism (i just made that word up) and sexism. For those in Christ, the Holy Spirit changes our attitudes. He confronts us with hate and ignorance. He brings people to our door, on our front step and tells us to love them. He will not allow us to hold onto our pride when it keeps us from seeing others as sinners, lost and in need of a savior who died for them. God does not tolerate within us our hatred or apathy toward those he loves. God, through the gift of His Holy Spirit, has shown us clearly that he came for all and all have access to the power and grace of his Spirit. It is that the Spirit came to all, regardless of sex or race or nationality, that shows so clearly that God does not see us in terms of skin color or birth place, but that he sees us as his creation who desperately need a Savior.

If you are a Christian and still insist on being prejudice against any group, because of their race, their sex, their age, their culture, their language or their shoe size, you will not keep that prejudice long and be at ease. If you say that you are a Christian and feel at ease with your prejudice, you must examine your faith, for God will not have put up with that. As ministers of the church, each of us should begin to see people as those needing a savior, who need to be brought into a relationship with Christ. Don’t measure people by anything. Just love them and share Christ with them. Allow God’s Spirit to work his truth in your life so that you can overcome whatever prejudice you have now.

Acts 2:17-21

17 And it will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 I will even pour out My Spirit
on My male and female slaves in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will display wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below:
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
before the great and remarkable day of the Lord comes;
21 then whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The prophecy from Joel addresses truths about the Holy Spirit. The promise was that in the last days, in which we now live and which began with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is poured out on the people. The word “pour” means to be spilled out, to fall like rain, a downpour. It is used to describe a generous, full pouring, not a sprinkle or a small amount. Two times he says, “I will pour out my Spirit.” This is the breaking open of heaven. The gates of heaven will open and the presence of God will descend on the people. God will no longer limit himself to one person, but he will pour himself out on all people. God’s Spirit will come out of heaven in abundance. He will come in fulness upon his people. He will bring all of himself to those who believe. He will enable them to see visions and dream dreams and prophesy. That is to say that the coming of the Spirit will enable God’s people to see the world as it is and as God desires it to be. To see their own lives as they are and as God desires them to be. To prophesy is to be enabled by the Spirit of God to understand and express God’s truth. Most prophecy today, as it did to Peter on the day of Pentecost, is understanding the truth of God revealed in scripture.

Just as God broke open heaven at Pentecost the same God opens heaven today so that we may experience the power and work of the Holy Spirit. When you receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, the Spirit pours down from heaven into your life and fills you with his presence. You too, as a Spirit-filled Christian, will see visions, dream dreams and prophesy. God’s desire for you is not different that it was for those first century believers and his Spirit is the same now as he was then. He pours down upon you to make you into a witness for God. As he inhabits your life, the only evidence of His presence is what happens in your life from that point forward.

Acts 2:37-39

37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

But what did they say on the streets, near the temple of Jerusalem? The proclaimed the wonders of God. When the Spirit comes into your life and makes His power known in your life, He uses you to make known the Person of God. He has no desire and will spend no time extolling your virtues. He will not give you a three minute introduction with applause signs in the background flashing. He is not about to waste His work on naming the number of charities you have worked with. The Spirit comes to give praise, honor and glory to God. He is here to lift high the name of Jesus. He comes to draw men to the cross. He is here to change sinners into forgiven men and women. He comes to use you for the glory of God and for His kingdoms sake. He speaks through you to declare the wonders of God.

Jesus said that the Spirit will come to convince and convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. With regard to sin that you might know that you need the cross. With regard to righteousness that you might see the holiness of God. With regard to judgment, that you might avoid hell and be brought into right relationship with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for you. The Holy Spirit will announce His presence in your life so that He may bear witness to the Father.