6 May 2018
Acts 2: 37-42
From above, to the inside, to the outside
Keeping in mind that Ascension Day (of hemelvaart) is on Thursday, it is fitting that we continue with the sermon series about the Holy Spirit. We looked at the symbolism of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and tonight we are going to look at the Holy Spirit who calls us to action… You can open your Bibles to Acts 2:37 where we can find the story of the first converts to see how they experienced the Holy Spirit – or tried to make sense of what happened on the day of Pentecost – when the Spirit came down on the apostles. Just to refresh your memory and to give a bit of a background – Just before his ascension to heaven Jesus’ last words to his disciples was (Acts 1:8):
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.”
Then, after the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles, the people were curious about what had happened to the disciples (remember, the people staying in Jerusalem heard this great sound, some heard about tongues of fire and they heard the disciples speaking in different languages). Peter addressed the people who saw and heard this strange thing happen – in his speech, Peter proclaimed the Gospel – he explained to the people that Jesus was the real Son of God.
Let’s see how the people reacted to Peter’s speech:
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “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.
39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
If we look at our theme tonight: “From above, to the inside, to the outside”, we can clearly see that when the Holy Spirit comes down on you, something happens inside of you… something inside of you change and the result is that you start to live and act differently. From the Bible we can see that Peter and the apostles received the courage and the words to proclaim the gospel… Here they experience something from the movement from above, where the Holy Spirit downed on them, to the inside, where they were given the drive and wisdom to do God’s work, to the outside, where Peter gave his speech to the people who were wondering what had happened.
The surprised reaction to Peter’s speech can be seen in verse 37: When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” The word “hear” that is used in this verse can also be translated as “understood”. So we can already see the work of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit worked in the crowd’s hearts and minds in such a way that they understood what Peter had told them about Jesus. The people probably heard many speeches and stories, but these words of Peter changed something in their hearts. There is a saying in Afrikaas: Ons kan die getuig-werk doen, maar die Gees doen die oortuig-werk. We can testify, but the Holy Spirit will do the convincing. We can see that the crowd were deeply touched to such a degree that they were “cut to the heart”.
We can ask the question, ‘why did this speech of Peter touched the crowd so deeply?’… Have you ever had the feeling when someone tells you something and it makes you feel so guilty that it is like someone stabbed you in the heart? I think that is how some of the people felt… because among the crowd there were also people who fought to get Jesus crucified. So they had this huge amount of guilt because they realized that they had falsely accused Jesus. We can see the desperation in their question to the apostles: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
I think we can all relate to these people in some extend… We received the Gospel and some of us accepted Jesus as our Saviour God but then we sin again… Before even realising, you do something that you are ashamed of – maybe you said something to someone or said something about someone that you know you shouldn’t have; maybe you looked at something that you shouldn’t have; maybe you thought or did something you shouldn’t have… I think we can all think about something that we have done that we don’t want anyone to know. So we can still ask today… Brothers and sisters, WHAT SHALL WE DO?
Then Peter answered the crowd: “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. To repent is to confess what you have done… But through the power of the Holy Spirit it is more than just confessing. The Spirit calls us to action. The Greek word for “repent” means to make a 180 degree turn… To literally make a U-turn (a radical turn) from the road that you took. To make such a turn is not something that you can do on your own and that is why Peter assures us that the Holy Spirit will be the guide and navigator. We don’t have to be perfect to come before God – God wants us to come to Him just as we are… The Holy Spirit is a gift of assurance; a gift to help us understand that we do not have to go through life alone. God is with us through His Spirit.
To be baptized is to know that you are part of God’s children. It is a sign that you are a child of God but it is not a condition (voorwaarde) for salvation. It is to proclaim that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through the power of God, we are changed from the inside – through forgiveness and with that, the Holy Spirit is our driving force to live and act as forgiven people of God. This promise is for everyone who receives the Holy Spirit. It does not matter where you come from or what you did… If you are open for the Holy Spirit to come down on you and change you from the inside, you will be surprised to see how differently you begin to see your own life.
Peter still warned the crowd to be aware of the corrupt generation – to not conform to this world. Today, we live in a world where hate, racism, inequality, and money rule people’s lives. But the Holy Spirit calls us to be different – to see people as people who are made in the image of God. People who are called to treat others in love. It is only through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we can see and act different from the world. The Holy Spirit can make us bold to do God’s work – we can see the power of the Holy Spirit in verse 41: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Imagine 3 000 people coming to faith – only because the apostles testified through the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine 3 000 people who radically changed, who repented and started to purposefully live, filled with the Holy Spirit… Imagine the radical change that it can bring in our world today…
Those 3 000 people did not just receive faith on that day, they also received and became part of a family where they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer”. All those different people, coming from different backgrounds, probably speaking different languages, found a community where the Spirit lead them to support each other and to strengthen each other in faith. In Galatians 3:28 we see something about this new community: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
May the Spirit lead us daily to live radical and to be a radical faith community. A community who have been given the Spirit from above, who have been changed from the inside and who are led by the Spirit to live radically towards the outside – to be the representatives of God on earth. All that we have to do is tell people about how God came into our lives and how we can live freely for Him…
Moment of reflection/ Prayer:
I would like to invite you, to spend a few minutes in the presence of God… Invite the Holy Spirit in your life and know that God’s grace is efficient for you – no matter where you are now or what you did.
(MAKE ME A CHANNEL OF YOUR PEACE playing in the background)
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you that You send the Holy Spirit to come down on us and to change us from the inside, so that we can go out and tell people about what You are doing in our lives. Thank you that you heard each of our prayers, and that you know and love us. Thank you that we can know that You are with us through the Spirit… We pray for your wisdom and presence to guide us daily. We pray that you will guide our faith community to live as a unity and to support each other in our faith and needs.
Song: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.
With this we would like to ask that everyone that needs a lift home and anyone who want to give someone a ride home will stay behind so that we can make sure that everyone can get home safely and in this way support each other as a faith community. May we experience the movement of the Holy Spirit that comes from above, changes us from the inside and empower us to live as God’s free people.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8; NIV)