Sunday 22 April – Telling stuff

Message

Readings:  Acts 3:12-19  and   Luke 24:36-49

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost a year ago I preached a great sermon on repentance. The text was from the Acts account of Pentecost where the words of Peter “cut them to the heart” and they asked “what must I do to be saved?” Peter’s answer was, of course “repent and be baptised”.

Here’s what I said:

Repentance has two essential meanings

OT – SHUB – to turn or change direction.

NT – METANOEO– a change of mind.

We talked a lot on that day about the mind.

Of course some of you weren’t here last year on that day. Some of you were here but you weren’t all there at the time! And most of you who were here will have forgotten. The mind is indeed a complicated organ. It’s amazing how many other things you remember that are unhelpful!

My guess is that if someone who was dead came back to life and spoke to you – you would probably remember what he said!

Or for that matter – turn it around – if someone was dying, you would listen to their last words!

And so – Jesus – in this another account of his resurrection appearances – had something really important to say.

At school we had this headmaster who used to say – “this is important – sit up now and listen carefully”:

HERE IT IS: 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

It’s like a prophetic statement of what would happen! It’s not unlike the great commission Matthew records at the end of his gospel:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Or for that matter John’s version of Pentecost which we heard last week:

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Or Luke in Acts 1: 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

When Jesus came back from the dead – and before he left again at his Ascension – these were KEY WORDS about the job he was to give his followers.

Go and make disciples – I am sending you – you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.

One way or another Jesus gave his followers the task of carrying out his ministry – being witnesses – preaching the good news of the Kingdom – preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name!

What did we say about repentance almost a year ago? It means

OT – SHUB – to turn or change direction. NT – METANOEO – a change of mind.

It requires change – a change of thinking and direction. Priorities and purpose.

The first reading today has a similar sermon – Peter was banging on about repentance as well to another audience.

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord – says Peter.

The gospel – the good news – that the early church shared was about Jesus and the resurrection. The RESPONSE that this brought was REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS through FAITH.

Once people had heard this message they didn’t go and have tea and coffee.

They RESPONDED in action. In the action of repentance.

IT’S THE CHANGE OF MINDS THAT I AM INTERESTED IN!

Being open-minded is essential for us to figure out God’s will for us. Remember the key verse from the reading from Acts last week?

Act 4:32  – “All the believers were one in heart and mind”

THE FUTURE – HOW OPEN MINDED ARE YOU? 

What is the essence of our task?

TO BE WITNESSES – sent ones (missionaries) – wherever we are.

  • For some it will be in our home town (Jerusalem) and our home church or community.  Or simply at home! Which can be the hardest place to be a witness.
  • The areas of Judea – a wider area of influence (perhaps work and social sphere);
  • Samaria – cross cultural or outside our geographical zone!
  • The ends of the earth – wherever he sends us! Coming here from Africa was like the ends of the earth for us!

HOW OPEN ARE YOU?

The disciples had fixed ideas too!

And case you think that the transformation only happened after Pentecost, look at verses 44 and 45

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

  • He worked on their thinking! He responded to their personal needs (as we saw with the restoration of Peter and the encounter with Thomas the Honest doubter.)
  • He told them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit!
  • And when the Spirit came in power they were transformed and empowered – made bold!

So here’s the test:

  1. Have you repented and changed your direction and your mind – turning away from your way to the Lord’s way – in faith and lifestyle?
  2. Have you heard what he said to his followers about being witnesses?
  3. Will you be a witness?
  4. What will you say?

People use opportunities to tell you stuff all the time.

What do you share with them? What is your TESTIMONY?  What are you a witness to?

I think this is very challenging. I’ll give you an example. I had a haircut this week. And when someone has sharp implements and is attacking you with them, you tend to behave. So I didn’t really argue with the hairdresser’s views on mercy killing while she had those sharp things in her hands. I was empathetic off course because one of her clients had died – and his death had been undignified. But I didn’t introduce my ideas into that conversation. Perhaps I was a bit worried about chunks being cut off my ear. She had a story to tell!

What’s the heart of our story? As witnesses? Surely at a basic level it’s about the love of God for me?

A GREAT PLACE TO START: Perhaps the key – the doorway into the conversation – is found in this verse:

1Pe 3:15  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Now the context is different really. The Christians at the time of Peter’s letter – the same Peter who we heard preaching in the Acts reading – were being persecuted.

And in that context he teaches them to “give a reason for the hope that you have” with gentleness and respect – and he goes on:

1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I should think that the conversation starts when people see that you have a hope that is different!

So perhaps we need to review our grumpy levels in life! If we are miserable people will hardly see us as different and hopeful!

THIS IS A JOURNEY

I think it’s enormously challenging. I read this week about how we have domesticated church – fitting it in to our busy lives – making it subservient to family – to work – to money. As a Session (the church elders) we too are going on a journey to discover from God what kind of church He wants us to be.

At the heart of this is BEING WITNESSES. We need to tell the story. The early disciples were pioneers in a movement – which in time became an institution. We are part of an institution – and God is starting a new movement.

Some practical hints and tips in telling your story:

  1. Keep a clear conscience – is about your reputation and behaviour! What kind of example are you?
  2. Tell your story with gentleness and respect (says Peter)
  3. Start where you are! Be a witness  with the people in your neighbourhood now!
  4. Read your Bible – see what Jesus did! Do those kinds of things!
  5. Pray and serve!
  6. Always be ready to tell others why you have this hope! How God makes a difference in you!

A NEW REPENTANCE MAY BE REQUIRED!

Genuine repentance on our part involves turning away from WRONG IDEAS! When it comes to sharing our faith we probably need to repent as well of these ideas:

  1. It’s someone else’s responsibility! (wrong – it’s all of our responsibility!)
  2. Apathy is bad! (sorry Lord – we can be like this too!)
  3. Indifference is worse! People need to hear the story because they matter!
  4. Selfishness is sinful! Keeping the good news for me alone is like not sharing food with starving people!

A SHORT EASY VERSION OF THIS COULD BE:

  • Live out the story
  • Tell the story
  • Share the love of Jesus that is at the heart of the GOSPEL STORY!

HAVE I CONVINCED YOU? The Holy Spirit will have to CONVICT YOU! Your mind will come up with lots of reasons why this is too hard!

To end with this a favourite verse – Paul teaches us that the mind continues to need that transformation: 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

May your mind be changed! This is telling stuff! A story that needs to be told indeed!

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on April 21, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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