By Mark Ellis
Peter’s first sermon came at such an exciting moment in church history, with the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, exactly 50 days after the Jewish Passover, when Jesus was crucified as our Passover Lamb.
On Pentecost, 120 followers of Jesus were in the Upper Room at a prayer gathering when they heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind, then tongues of fire descended over their heads, and they began speaking in tongues that were unknown to them, but miraculously, the known languages of many of the Jewish pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for the feast.
Pentecost was a harvest festival, when the Jewish people presented to God the first fruits of their wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22). And there were thousands of these pilgrims in Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor.
All these pilgrims heard the commotion and came running to see what was going on.
The sending of the Holy Spirit was strategically timed by God to reach the widest possible audience, because many of these pilgrims would be changed and return home to tell about the Messiah, Jesus.
So the Holy Spirit fell on a day devoted to harvest, giving the disciples a power to witness, and 3000 were saved as a result. That began a harvest of souls that has continued for the last 2000 years.
The “download” of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was a fulfillment of John the Baptist’s preaching, when he said he said he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.
I like to start my day with a morning devotional, and usually I ask God in my prayer time for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
That daily filling of the Spirit seems to be something different from what happened on the day of Pentecost. This was something unusual. They weren’t just filled, they were drenched! And that drenching gave them a boldness they had never known – as witnesses for Jesus.
After the Holy Spirit fell, these pilgrims heard God praised in their own language and they were bewildered and amazed by the spectacle.
But then came the mockers and detractors, who accused the disciples of being drunk. Whenever revival breaks out, there will always be naysayers.
Who would answer these mockers? Who would stand up and explain what was happening? Who could guide them to the truth?
A man named Peter stood up. Could this be the same man who denied he even knew Jesus three times? Could it be the same man who was slow to believe in the resurrection? Could it be the same man who had inserted foot (A) in mouth (B) too many times?
But impetuous Peter, baptized by the Holy Spirit, suddenly had a supernatural boldness and an authority beyond himself.
Consider Acts 2:14 and following:
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (ESV)
Peter says that even though they may appear to be drunk, somewhat giddy with joy, they can’t be inebriated because it’s only nine in the morning.
Peter quoted from the Book of Joel in the Old Testament in a section that described the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured out.
Joel describes a time when young men are seeing visions, sons and daughters are prophesying. I love this emphasis on youth. When God pours out his Spirit, young people will be playing an important role, and I believe the next great revival may be sparked by young people.
On the other hand, Joel doesn’t leave older people out either – he says they will dream dreams. You’re really never too young or too old to receive a God-inspired dream or vision for your life.
Moses was 80 when God called and he led the people out of Egypt. Caleb was 85 when he said, “I want to take that mountain.” John Wesley, the great Christian leader, was still riding horseback from church to church, and preaching regularly at 88 years old.
I don’t care how young or old you are. Your age doesn’t matter if God calls you and plants a dream in your heart. Keep God’s vision alive. Keep His vision alive!
More and more, there are regular reports about Muslims, Hindus, and others in restricted places having encounters with Jesus through dreams and visions.
Recently I wrote about a young Pakistani Muslim man named Ali Husnain, who is a direct descendant of Muhammad. When he was 15 he traveled to England to visit his aunt, who had become a Christian.
He was very shocked and disheartened by his aunt’s conversion, but he decided to go to church with her, out of
curiosity. At the end of the service the pastor gave an altar call and Ali felt compelled to go forward.
When the pastor prayed for him, a light behind his eyelids got brighter and brighter, then his legs crumbled and he collapsed.
At that moment Jesus appeared to him in a powerful vision and said, My son, You wanted to see me. I’m here. Obey me. I will forgive your sins and give you eternal life.
That night, Ali went back to his aunt’s house and went to sleep. Amazingly, Jesus appeared to him a second time in his dreams!
Jesus said, Don’t be afraid, I will protect you.
After Ali returned to Pakistan, he tried to keep his faith hidden, but his belief in Jesus slipped out unexpectedly. He got into an argument with classmates about the correct way to sacrifice an animal in order to be forgiven of sin.
Ali told his classmates: “Sacrificing an animal is not the right way to deal with sin. If you want to know how to deal with sin, you have to pray to Jesus.”
Right after he said it, he knew he was trouble. The next day, his classmates attacked him. They threw him to the ground and pinned his legs and arms, an older man with a beard and turban approached him.
The man said, “You tried to make converts out of our children. Islam gives me the right to kill any infidel who does that and speaks against our beloved prophet.”
The man reached into his cloak, pulled out a knife, and stabbed Ali in the chest. The knife narrowly missed his heart, but punctured his lung.
Ali lapsed into unconscious. Then Jesus appeared to him a third time and said, You were injured because you were defending me. I will not let you die … I will protect you.
Ali survived and has become a leader in the underground church in the Middle East.
There is another great story from one of Sam’s friends, Tyler, who went to the Middle East to minister to Syrian refugees with a young missionary from the U.S. named Daniel.
When they entered the tent of one Muslim family, Daniel stood at the door and said, “Hi, my name is Daniel, and I’m here to tell you about Jesus.”
When he said that, this entire Muslim family started going nuts and then they learned from a translator that the night before their visit, the family was having tea together when a man appeared at the door to their tent, who was dressed in a white robe. The man was glowing.
He said, “Hello, My name is Jesus and I am sending a man tomorrow named Daniel to tell you more about me.” Then he disappeared.
So when Daniel arrived at their doorway and told them his name, they were completely undone. They asked him to tell them more about Jesus and he gave then the Gospel and the whole family gave their lives to Jesus.
Going back to our passage there is a wonderful note of hope we shouldn’t miss in Acts 2:21. No matter how bad things may look in the world, Joel reminds us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
And if everything seems to be falling apart in your world, call on the name of Jesus and you will be saved. There is power in the name of Jesus.
Let’s look at Acts 2:22-23:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
One thing you can say about this first sermon of Peter: It is a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered message, as Peter goes on to testify about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Peter had seen the miracles of Jesus firsthand. Many of the people he was speaking to had either seen the miracles or knew somebody who had seen the miracles of Jesus.
There are people today who view Jesus as a good teacher, a prophet, but they can’t quite believe he is God.
But when has anyone else in history walked on water? When has anyone else fed 5000 people from a few loaves and fishes, given sight to someone born blind, turned water into wine, raised someone from the dead?
When Peter talked about the mighty miracles of Jesus he says these miracles were “in your midst…as you yourselves know.”
He says all these things – even Jesus’ death on the cross – were part of God’s divine plan. Jesus Christ did not die as an accident of history. It was God’s rescue mission to deal with the problem of human evil.
Today, if you violate the law you get a fine, perhaps a jail sentence, maybe even the death penalty if you murder someone.
Even something as minor as a parking ticket has to be paid for, and in God’s universe, operating under his laws, sin has to be paid for.
There is a penalty attached to sin. The more you sin, the greater that penalty becomes and the further you distance yourself from God. Ultimately, Scripture says the wages of sin — what you earn when you sin — is death and eternal separation from God.
But the good news is that God made a way to pay the penalty for your sins through a substitute – Jesus — who paid the penalty on your behalf.
God says that either your sins will be punished or they will be pardoned, but they can’t be overlooked.
Some might think that God’s love is too great to punish sin or allow anyone to go to hell. But if a judge in a courtroom allows a rapist or murderer to walk free, we would say an injustice occurred. God is too holy, too righteous, too good to overlook sin. No sinful person can enter into God’s holy presence in heaven until this sin problem is taken care of.
The Good News is that God so loved the world he sent His only Son, to pay that penalty for your sins by dying on the cross, so you could receive a full and complete pardon. Will you receive his pardon? It’s a free gift. You just have to open your heart to receive it.
Consider Acts 2:24: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”
Peter knew Jesus died and that he was raised bodily from the dead – he witnessed these things firsthand. It should be emphaszied that if the resurrection did not happen, Christianity falls apart.
When I was 29 I read a book called “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” and it was the chapter on the resurrection that was most important to me. It presented all the theories and arguments that have been used over the years to refute the resurrection of Jesus.
One by one the author, Josh McDowell, demolished every argument using sound reasoning. It persuaded me that my faith could rest on something solid –historical events described by multiple eyewitnesses.
I finished reading that chapter on the resurrection, got down on my knees and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.
If Peter had been lying, many of the people he spoke to knew what happened, and could have contradicted him if he was espousing the stuff of myth or legend.
The empty tomb of Jesus sets him apart from the leaders of the other major religions of the world. Muhammad’s tomb is occupied and you can visit it in Medina, Saudi Arabia. You can visit Buddha’s remains at a temple in Sri Lanka or the grave of Confucius in China.
But the tomb of Jesus is empty! His resurrection body is the prototype for all believers who are raised. My father passed away a year ago and because he believed in Jesus I expect to see him, some day, in a new, youthful, glorified, resurrection body.
The resurrection power of God is a power that no man can duplicate – even the most brilliant scientists can not duplicate this power, the ability to bring life out of death, to transform the human heart, to bring hope out of hopelessness-– this is resurrection power.
Let’s look at Acts 2:33: This Jesus God raised up, and was “exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
The people who heard Peter’s message were convicted by the Holy Spirit. “What shall we do?” they asked. And, Peter said, “Repent.” Repent…isn’t that word old fashioned and out of date? Essentially it means to change your mind about yourself and change the direction you’re headed.
It means coming to the recognition that you are a sinner and you can’t save yourself, and you must make a U-Turn in life. Instead of running away from God, you move toward him.
Let’s look at verse 40: “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Peter said to save yourselves from this crooked generation. Other translations say to save yourselves from this perverse, evil, or unjust generation.
Is our world today any less crooked, any less perverse, any less evil, any less unjust? Our only hope in a deeply troubled world is Jesus. Are you ready to find new life and new hope in Him?
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