When you are putting together your mission calendar for this next year don’t fall into the lazy habit of doing the exact same trip every time. We don’t say it out loud, but there are several reasons we do the same thing year after year. “It’s easy because it’s familiar.” “It’s non-threatening to our members because they know what to expect.” “It falls within their comfort zone.” “I know I can get people to go on this trip because they’ve been on it in the past.” “We know how to do this.”
The challenge in all organizations is to get people to move outside of their comfort zone, to stretch themselves. In church we don’t just talk about stretching mentally, but spiritually. We like trips that are spiritually familiar, where we are doing things we have done before. Don’t jump ahead of me, I believe in doing things at which you are good. But there is a place for the challenge, the trip that pushes us spiritually, that stretches our faith and our willingness to trust the Lord.
Consider these things when you are putting together your plan for the mission in your church:
- Do something that is entry level mission. This is a trip that anyone could go on, even someone who may not be a believer. Often this can be a construction or disaster relief type trip. Non-believers benefit from being around believers all day, seeing their attitudes and listening to the way they speak to one another.
- Do something that requires spiritual preparation and depth. This might be a children’s or youth ministry trip that offers a sports camp or VBS type of ministry. The work may be familiar to many but it also demands more preparation. You might find some new VBS or youth workers on this type of mission trip.
- Do something that challenges your church staff. Helping a new church plant get off the ground, teaching discipleship, street evangelism, cross-cultural relationship building or direct outreach opportunities are examples of things that require more from the missionary. Taking your members on this kind of trip can open their eyes to the opportunities that abound right across the street.
Don’t mistake the entry level trip for something that isn’t spiritual, just recognize that there are some things that are more spiritually challenging than others and we all need to be stretched. You’ve got some people in your church who have done so many construction trips that they don’t even think about the spiritual dimension of mission anymore. They need to be challenged.
One last thing, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be challenged spiritually. Go to the International District in Houston to reach the nations. Go help the church plant in the next town as they canvass a neighborhood. Go!
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.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
Look at how Peter approached the job of evangelism. As he shared that day the message, he was straightforward and clear in what he said. He did not mince words. He clearly laid out not only the truth of the work of Christ but also the necessary response of the people. But many times, in reading this passage and relating this story, we overlook verse 40.
Peter warned and pleaded and called them out. He spoke many other words to them. He urged them to make a decision. He repeatedly called on them to come to Christ.
Probably the most difficult thing to do when sharing Christ with someone is asking them to make the decision to accept Christ. It is at this point that we encounter the greatest battles from Satan. He will do anything to keep us from asking the very simple question, “Would you like to receive the gift of eternal life right now?” For in that question we go beyond the giving of information and offer the appropriate response to information. It is the same in the worship service, the greatest tension can take place in a service during the invitation. At that point in the service Satan will do anything to distract you from hearing from God and reacting to him. He will give you any number of excuses why you shouldn’t respond. The commitment is hard.
That is why it is so important for believers to pray during the invitation time at church. Realize that there are mammoth spiritual battles taking place all around you. I know that not every message speaks to every heart they same way. There are times when we come to church, listen, are encouraged, but not convicted because we are already right with God, we are doing what we should be. This isn’t a time to relax and take a nap, it is time to pray. Pray for others who are dealing with conviction. Pray for God’s Spirit to win battles in hearts and minds at that very moment. Pray for a powerful move of God during the invitation. Commitment is hard, pray for those around you.
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.”
Peter shared the good news of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord. He shared the need of man who in his sin and rebellion against God has brought upon himself the judgment of God. That each of us is responsible for the death of Christ, for it was our sin that sent him to the cross. But that God did not leave him in the grave, but raised him from the dead that he might offer us the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with him. Now man must respond to that offer. “What shall we do?”
Repent. The message of Jesus Christ is that we must repent. That means that we must turn from our former way of acting and thinking and turn toward God’s way of acting and thinking. It is a change of intellect, emotion and volition. We change the way we think, the way we react and what we do. Peter’s message is the same as John the Baptist’s and Jesus’. Repentance involves a change in approach to life. It includes an new and intense abhorrence of sin and an adherence to Jesus.
It is the message to the world, we must change the way we have lived in, reacted to and thought about the world. Christianity is not a religion that can be added to your plate, it is a relationship that will overtake your life. You cannot remain the same as you are today and claim Christ as your Savior and Lord. That is why Peter includes baptism in his statement. Repentance is clearly the emphasis in this urgent command. But baptism is associated closely with repentance for baptism is the visible picture of the inward change. For Peter, it would have been inconceivable that anyone who would repent of their sins and receive Christ as Savior and Lord would not be baptized. Baptism is a natural response for the regenerated Christian. It does not bring forth forgiveness of sins, it accompanies genuine conversion. This is the message Peter brought to the crowd on Pentecost. It is the same message preached for 2000 years and still today.
32 “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says:
The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
35 until I make Your enemies Your footstool. ‘
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”
Jesus has been raised from the dead. He has been exalted. He has received the Holy Spirit. He has poured out the Spirit on them. These are all aorist tense verbs, which means that they represent past action that has been completed. That is to say, each of these events is now a fact of history.
They have all witnessed his resurrection. This no doubt refers to the 120 believers who were in the upper room that morning of Pentecost and are now speaking in various languages. There were about 500 witnesses to his ascension, which is the reference of being exalted, raised up, to the right hand of God. Since Jesus said that he must go to the Father so that the Spirit may come, they can then assume that he has received the promised Spirit, verse 1:4, and they are all witnesses to the pouring out of that Spirit. These facts seem clear, but what can we make of their interpretation. The conclusion is reached in verse 36.
Peter’s startling conclusion is that Jesus must be the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah. I call this a startling conclusion because of the impact this statement would have on those listening.
In first century Judaism there was some great expectation that the Messiah would soon come. The Messiah is spoken of often in OT scripture. He is to be the one to establish the kingdom of God on earth, bringing peace and joy to his people. He is to be the savior and king of the world. While many were eagerly expecting his appearance, many also had some false understandings about the nature of the Messiah and the work of the Messiah. Many thought that when the Messiah came he would topple the Roman government and establish a new Israel here on earth that would rule with an iron fist all the pagans of the world. Many thought that the peace and joy that would come with the coming of the Messiah would be a peace between nations and a joy of victory over other countries. You can see how, with this pervading understanding of the Messiah, presenting Jesus as the Messiah was quite startling. Maybe even more so because not many had recognized him as the Christ while he was alive. Jesus referred to the coming of the Christ several times in scripture, but only a few times did he acknowledge his identity when others called him the Christ. He did so when Peter made his statement, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God” and at his trial. He was called the Christ by John the Baptist, Andrew, Martha and some demons. The last time he was called the Christ was by those who ridiculed him while he hung on the cross. So when Peter, on this day calls him the Christ is an amazing statement of theological boldness.
That kind of theological boldness has historically been in short supply and remains so today. There is a pervading weakness in the church to stand for Christ as THE ANSWER, THE CHRIST, THE KING OF KINGS. We must not shrink back, but stand boldly in the marketplace of ideas, as Peter did, and proclaim the truth about Jesus.
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.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up. 2 Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth. 3 But if, in fact, our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 Regarding them: the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness” —He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
There is a tragedy across the earth. Billions are blinded by the enemy, a veil over their eyes, they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Look back at 2 Cor 3:16, the veil is removed when a person turns to the Lord. Believers, we need to pray that God will remove the veil, shine His light in the lives of the lost, for they are perishing (v. 3).
Would you begin to pray today for someone you know who is blinded by Satan? Pray that God would open their eyes. Pray that God would shine His light in their lives. Pray that the next time they hear the gospel they will finally see what has been there all along.
You might just add their first name to a comment on this post. Then we could each look at the comments to know some others to pray for. Would you add someone today? Would you pray for someone today?
2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
12 When I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ, a door was opened to me by the Lord. 13 I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus, but I said good-bye to them and left for Macedonia.
14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? 17 For we are not like the many who make a trade in God’s message [for profit], but as those with sincerity, we speak in Christ, as from God and before God.
A believer should be the scent of Christ, the fragrance of Christ. Those who cross our path will either like it or not. Check out this video from the Bill O’Reilly show.
What about the scent of Christ spread by Brit Hume? Will Tiger Woods find it the scent of life or death? What kind of scent are we spreading?
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