Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1402
June 16, 2019 Acts 3.1-26
Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“Times of Refreshing”
In the Name of Jesus
Peter and John were on their way to a prayer meeting at the Temple and they came to this lame (disabled) fellow who had his hand out for any spare change. He saw Peter and John coming and asked for a handout, Peter looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here. I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Next thing everyone knew, this once lame man was dancing and singing and praising God! Peter had invoked the name of Jesus to bring healing. It was nothing Peter did except speak the name and give the command. The name was the power. The name was the represented God’s ability and willingness to heal a man who could not walk. It is why we pray “in the name” and why we claim promises “in the name” and why we believe there is power “in the name”.
People started to gather around to see what had happened and Peter realized he had a congregation – so he took advantage of the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. This is the second sermon from Peter after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. He preached to those who claimed they were drunk with wine and now he preaches to another group who witnessed the healing power of Jesus’ name. Peter was quickly becoming the preacher for the church in Jerusalem. His testimony and witness to Jesus and the name of Jesus was being revealed to the crowds who were also witnessing amazing things done in the name of Jesus.
The first thing Peter said to them was “why do you wonder at this?” “Why do you stare at us?” Peter’s questions assume that there should not be amazement at the power of God. Those questions make me think that the Israelites had become numb in the faith, desensitized to the power of God, and paralyzed in their capacity to see God work through the power of Jesus’ name. They were like we are! We are numbed by the information age; they were numbed by their legalism. They had created too many man made rules in attempting to be faithful to God’s laws, but in so doing they forgot the very things they intended to keep. I want to share with you why I think this is the case.
Today, in modern times, the information age has provided vast amounts of data, so much so that we can never comprehend all that we are asked to hear and absorb. With this data, we have become witnesses to more numerous acts of violence, crimes, political chaos, destruction of all kinds, and the list goes on. I imagine if we lined up all the stories of the newscasts and newspaper articles, Internet sites and infomercials, we could encircle the earth more times that we would care to count.
A question for the Church and for all Christians is what all the information has done to our soul? What has the repeated exposure to crime and violence done to our spirit? Experts dispute the results of studies, so that we are always debating things like violence on television, wondering whether such violence promotes criminal activity or simply reflects it. Then there are the numerous times we are told to watch this program or that program, read this book or that article, and it may save our lives. It is after all, according to NBC, “must see TV!”
I do not know what to make of all the studies, and I certainly cannot make heads or tails of the millions of informative stories that the media insists I must know. I am concerned with what all this information and our constant exposure to acts of violence does to the Christian soul.
My conclusion at this point is that it numbs us. It desensitizes us. It diminishes our ability to discern right from wrong and paralyzes our capacity to hear God through it all. I think the same kind of thing happened to the Jews in the time of Jesus. They were desensitized to what God was doing because they were completely blinded by the legalism they created. We too are often blinded by all the information we have gathered mostly outside of the Bible, but even paralyzed by all the information we try to add to the Bible.
Peter’s sermon seeks to clear up the paralysis of rules and information by preaching Christ alone. One of the key phrases Peter uses to reveal Christ is “the Author of life”. He wrote the book on life; He is the creator of life. He gives life in its fullness and this is what has happened to the lame man. It is by the name of Jesus that healing has occurred. This word would have been just as scandalous as when Jesus forgave sins. The complaint against Him was that only God can forgive sins. Peter demonstrates that Jesus not only can forgive sins but He can heal all our weaknesses.
Notice how Peter tells them this is the work of their God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of their fathers. He tells them this is God’s work, in Jesus’ name. Peter is giving them the same word that Jesus gave when He stated that He was one with the Father. Again, we see how the Jewish leaders and Jewish people had been so wrapped up in fulfilling every letter of the law, it paralyzed them. They could not even recognize the power of God at work in the healing of this lame man. They certainly would not have given Jesus the credit. It is the classic “cannot see the forest for the trees.” Peter tells them this is the work of the God they know and that it was done in the name of the Messiah they do not yet know.
Faith Through Jesus
Now they need to see something more, even more amazing than the God they have always worshiped and known. They need to see the Messiah they have waited for so long. Peter says that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus. Receiving the presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is the final result of repentance.
In the Spirit we are filled with new life. Renewed to the presence of Jesus in our lives, we regain the openness to God’s presence in our life – to learn again how to discern right from wrong and open our eyes and ears to see and hear.
In a world where the church is numbed by the cultural forces, in a world where the Israelites were numbed by legalism of their own making, there is need for repentance. Repenting from the ignorance that tells us that information is all we need, more and more information, and if that is not enough, more and more information until we lose our ability to see the power of God at work around us. Our singular focus is on Jesus. That can only come through faith, for without faith we cannot see.
Peter not only tells of who Jesus is as God’s Son raised from the dead, but he also helps the Jews to see that Jesus is the very One they have been hoping for and looking for to redeem God’s people. I have said in previous sermons that Jesus taught the disciples beginning with Moses, and here is more evidence of what Jesus may have taught.
22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Jesus is the one foretold from Moses and the prophets and the Psalms and all of Scripture. How then can the Jews see this Jesus as the One? The answer is in repentance.
Repent – Turn Back
In their blindness, in their paralysis, they handed Jesus over to be killed, they rejected the Son of God, killing the Author of life. But Peter realizes they were blinded in their legalism, ignorant to what they were doing, and so, he proposes something for them – and for us. For we are blinded by our culture, by this information age, our “legalism” that numbs us to the work God is doing all around us, and in our sin, we virtually hand Jesus over again. Peter says to the Israelites and to us,
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus (Acts 3.19-20 ESV).
What can bring us out of our numbness? What can lift us to walk out of our paralysis? What could bring the Israelites out of their legalism? Repentance. Peter knows they have done wrong, he knows why they did wrong, and other way to see the Lord for who He is and for what He does than repentance. In Peter’s words “repent and turn back”. The implication is to turn back to God and away from the things that have turned us away from God. In returning we recognize that we have felt remorse, regret for what we have done or become. We find ourselves so alienated from God and the things of God that we realize we must turn back to God. And in turning back we know that we must stop continuing in sin.
We so often walk blindly in one direction, like a man who will not stop for directions. He will drive ten miles in the wrong direction before he will stop to ask for directions. Then he finds out that he must turn around and go in a completely different direction. When we turn away from sin and turn to God, we turn completely around in a new direction.
Times of Refreshing
Perhaps my favorite phrase in this passage is the result of repentance, in Peter’s words, verse 20a, so “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”. What a beautiful thought, to be refreshed by the presence of God. In Exodus 31:17 we read that after God had made heaven and earth, on the seventh day “he rested and was refreshed.” The word “refreshed” in Exodus comes from the verbal form of a Hebrew word that means self or breath. In Exodus 31 God gets God’s self back. After working for six days he sort of catches he breath on the seventh day. I imagine it this way, that we catch our breath, we get our life back through repentance because the sin that once robbed us of life no longer runs us out of breath, no longer drives the life out of us. We are no longer exhausted by our busy, information filled lives. We are refreshed. We get a similar kind of refreshment when we follow the Sabbath command to rest.
I want to open a few other passages about refreshment. Proverbs 15.30, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.” Such a great connection to the Good News of Jesus Christ that refreshes our bones. That, I believe, means that we are renewed and refreshed to the depths of our being, to the marrow of our bones.
Another passages from Proverbs is 3.5-8 with a similar thought,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Trust, faith, believe is the Lord will bring a certain refreshment like no other. But like the Jews in Acts and the modern mind today, we cannot depend on ourselves, but put total trust in God.
We see similar thoughts as well about God’s word in Psalm 19.7-8,
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. Such revival and rejoicing can only bring refreshment.
One more passage the I think sums up our times of refreshing and renewal, Titus 3.4-6
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
In God’s love and goodness Jesus came. He saved us, not by our own righteousness, which is what the Jews were trying to accomplish. But Jesus came by His mercy, washing, regenerating, renewing. These are terms of refreshment!
If there is one thing we need in our modern existence, it is a time of refreshing. Such refreshing comes through repentance, through trust, through the Word of God, through the mercy of Christ our Lord. This is the message Peter sought to convey to the crowd in Acts 3 and to us today. Let us find true refreshment in Jesus and Him alone. Amen.