Friday, July 29, 2016

Increase Witnessing Opportunities

Increase Opportunity

Acts 3 contains another public proclamation of Christ by Peter. Many more individuals were saved as a result. Here are three observations on how this opportunity arose.


You can increase your own opportunities to proclaim Christ by focusing your attention on these things:
  1. Opportunity came through normal life activity. Some people view evangelism with an "event" mentality. That is, they break up their life into times of active duty and periods of off-duty. Active duty would be when they evangelize at church events, etc. Off-duty is any other time. In Acts 3, Peter and John were going about their normal activities when an opportunity to proclaim Christ presented itself. They took full advantage. Christians should seek to live a Great Commission lifestyle instead of being event focused. Events may be part of your evangelism lifestyle but we will miss opportunity to proclaim Christ if we stick only to special occasions. Every day is a special occasion from the Lord to meet people made in His image and to tell them of the Savior.
  2. Opportunity came through the power of God. We live in a materialistic culture. We have all been trained to look at material resources to see what is possible. That is the responsible thing to do. In Acts 3, we see opportunity arise for ministry and evangelism because Peter and John look beyond their material resources to the power of God. When we walk in the will and power of God we already have everything we need. We may not all possess the ability to heal in the power of God like the Apostles. However, every Christian does possess the ability to rely on the Spirit of God to lead and empower us to accomplish His will. When He leads us to do things beyond our natural ability and means, then only He can receive the glory.
  3. Opportunity came when they directed people away from themselves and toward Christ. Humility is hard. After the miraculous healing the amazed crowd gathered around Peter and John. Peter wasted no time in re-directing the attention of the people: "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?" (Acts 3:12). Peter doesn't take even a moment to relax in the glory himself or to receive even a little bit of the praise. He immediately points people to Jesus. When we minister in the name of Jesus we should take every opportunity to ensure that people know we are serving them because of Christ, not because of our own goodness. Serving people can create a great platform from which Christ can be proclaimed. Christians should not serve simply to make ourselves feel better or to receive praise from men. Christians serve to make Christ known to a broken and fallen world. Any time we serve someone an opportunity to proclaim Christ has arrived.
Certainly other observations are possible on Acts 3. Leave yours in the comments below.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Preaching Christ from Moses

In Peter's Pentecost proclamation he preached from the prophets and psalms. In his second sermon (Acts 3) he preaches from Moses.

The church has been growing. The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). Peter has a captive audience because a beggar lame from birth was publicly healed.

The people are marveling at this miracle. Peter asks them, "Why are you amazed at this?" He points our their unbelief. Then he points them to Christ. Two passages from Moses serve as foundation texts.

After this message more believe: But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand (Acts 4:4, NASB).

Deuteronomy 18:15 in Context

Moses is giving instruction for after entering the Promised Land. He commands them to be holy. He teaches that whoever participates in the profane practices of the pagans will be detestable to God.

Then, Moses promises that God will raise up a prophet for them to obey.
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.' The LORD said to me, 'They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.'" (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, NASB)
This passage does not speak of the Lord raising up prophets (plural). It speaks of raising up a prophet.

This was taken to be a messianic promise. The Jews living in Jerusalem would have understood immediately that Peter was appealing to a text that prophesied the coming Messiah.

Genesis 22:18 in Context

This is one of the most famous passages in Scripture. God tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac.

Isaac was a child of promise. His birth had been promised by God to Abraham and Sarah. In Genesis 15 Abraham was promised a son. In Genesis 16 we see Abraham having a child through his wife's maid, Hagar. This child, Ishmael, is not the child of promise. Ishmael is born to Abraham when he is 86 years old (Gen 16:16).

In Genesis 18 we again read of the promised child to come through Abraham's barren wife, Sarah. This promise is made thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael. Abraham was 99 years old.

Isaac is born the following year. Abraham is 100 (Gen 21:5).

Abraham had been waiting for this promised child for more than a decade. Abraham knew God had promised blessing and descendants through Isaac. In Genesis 22 God tested Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice this promised son.

God is foreshadowing the sacrifice of His own Promised Son, the Messiah. God does not make Abraham follow through on what He Himself will do by offering His own Beloved Son Jesus to die on the cross.

After Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac is demonstrated God once again reiterates His plan to bless the nations through Isaac.
Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:15-18, NASB)

How Peter uses Moses

Both of these passages appear in books written by Moses. Deuteronomy 18 records a prophesy in Moses' own lifetime. Genesis 22 predates Moses by roughly 600 years. Peter is appealing to a line of promises that were made by God 2,000 and 1,400 years before his present day.

Peter is confronting the unbelief of the people by citing these promises. Peter uses these texts to show that God is doing what He has said He would do.

In their unbelief they are amazed at this demonstration of God's power.

In their unbelief they handed over the Promised Messiah to be crucified.

In contrast, the healing took place because of the man's faith in the name of Jesus.

Peter calls his hearers to repent of their unbelief and to return to God by faith. As Jews, they trust that by lineage they are the sons of the prophets and the covenant. Peter claims that if this is true, then they should take hold of the fulfillment of the promised Messiah by putting their faith in Christ. He is the One of whom they spoke.

Peter proclaims that all of the prophets have announced the coming of the Prophet since the beginning until their present day. These prophecies were all built on the foundation found in Moses' writings.

Peter concludes by showing that this promise contained a call to holiness. The promised blessing comes for those who obey the Promised Messiah. Therefore, the proper response is not simply faith. It is repentance and faith.

Explaining Christ

Once again we see that Christ is the fulfillment of God's promise. In this message the promise is not simply for the promised Prophet but also for the promised blessing.

Many seek the blessing of God. Many people think of blessing contrary to how Peter defines it.
"For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways." (Acts 3:26, NASB)
Blessing comes through faith and obedience. His children understand that it is a blessing to obey our heavenly Father. He is not an oppressive dictator. He is not holding out on us.

Consistently Scripture declares that following our own lusts and impulses is slavery. It's a curse.

Christ came to call a people to God. He came to bless us (Jew first, then Gentile) by turning us from our wicked ways to His holy ways. He came to shed His own blood for the forgiveness of our trespasses so that we could receive life and peace by putting our faith in Him.

Many today believe that we can come to Christ without forsaking our former way of life. Many preach a gospel of salvation without repentance.

This is contrary to the promised blessing. This is contrary to the ministry of the Promised Prophet.

We are blessed by turning from our disobedience, believing in Him for salvation, and obediently following Him until the end.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Five Keys to Effective Witness

Content is a major component of effective witness. But it is not the only component.

Some evangelistic methods are presented as if they are the perfect witnessing method. Some think memorizing a method and mechanically delivering the content means you have effectively witnessed.

Witness throughout the New Testament demonstrates this is not accurate. There are certainly unifying principles to be identified. But there is not a cookie-cutter approach that is applied the same way every time.

Content is extremely important. Without the right content our witness cannot be effective. Messing with the content of the gospel voids its power.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (1 Corinthians 1:17, NASB)
Focusing only on content fails to recognize that our witness is not made in a vacuum. We are not preaching to the air. We are preaching to persons.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23, NASB)
Reflecting on Peter's proclamation in Acts 2 is helpful. Other observations could be made from other passages. Regardless, I know of no biblical example of more people responding to the gospel at one time than what we see recorded in Acts 2.

What made Peter's proclamation so effective? Here are five reflections of my own. Feel free to leave your reflections in the comments.

Effective witness includes:

  • Walking in God's timing. Peter waited for God to open the door. Jesus commanded the disciples to wait for the power they would receive when the Holy Spirit came. They waited patiently until God delivered on His promise. They did not rush ahead and miss the opportunity God was preparing.
  • Going along with God's activity in the world. God's preparation of the audience is clear. "Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5). God had gathered this audience from every nation. The reason they were gathered was to celebrate the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Their presence in Jerusalem demonstrates the truth of what the text tells us: these were devout people. They were already primed for hearing God's Word. When God poured out the Holy Spirit on this day so that Peter could speak to this audience we should be overwhelmed with God's activity in this effective witness. God is still active in the world today. We should strive to go along with His activity. It is not enough to simply be active on our own.
  • Boldness. God opened the door. Peter took full advantage. He was not shy. He was bold and direct.
  • Picking relevant passages. Peter's content was perfectly suited to his immediate context. Peter did not simply use his favorite text. He picked passages that explained the situation they were currently experiencing. He picked passages that directly explained the significance of the moment. We must be aware of our surroundings and our hearers. This is what it means to be in the world but not of it.
  • Dedication to the Word of God and to prayer. Peter's message came on the heels of three years of personal discipleship with Jesus and an intense ten day prayer meeting. Peter remained committed to this focus. When a situation arose in the early church that threatened this Peter resisted it. "'But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' The statement found approval with the whole congregation" (Acts 6:4-5a, NASB). The whole congregation approved of this statement because they understood the importance of prayer and God's Word to effective witness. 

It is easy to wander off the path of effective witness. We can fall into the trap of thinking that memorizing a few verses and speaking them mechanically to everyone regardless of the situation is the ministry that God has called us to. It's not. The appeal of such approaches is that they lack a need for continued dedication beyond the initial investment of time in memorizing the method.

Memorizing methods is easy. Dedication to serving in the ministry of reconciliation requires sacrifice.

Dedication to prayer and the Word will keep us tethered to God's will. If we ask for wisdom and opportunity God will direct our steps. He is pleased to use humble and well prepared people to accomplish His purposes.

Dedication to being person focused will ensure that we lovingly speak the truth in understandable ways. We want them to hear us because we want them to be reconciled to God. We want this because there is rejoicing in heaven over every sinner who comes to repentance. We want this because when people are saved they magnify the glorious grace of our God and Savior.

Dedication to boldness will keep us alert. We cannot wait for dead sinners to ask us how to be saved. The crowd asked Peter what they must do only after he boldly proclaimed Christ to them. They responded to Peter's boldness. Peter did not wait for them to open the door because God had already shown him that the door was open.

Dedication to faithfulness to biblical content ensures that we are bringing the word of life; not an eloquent speech which lacks the power of God for salvation.

Are you willing to do what is necessary to prepare yourself to be an effective witness for Christ?

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Promised King

Jesus is King
As Peter wraps up his explanation of Christ on the Day of Pentecost he uses two additional Old Testament passages.

The first reference is seemingly a paraphrase of Psalm 132:11 although it could simply be a summary of several Old Testament passages. The final passage is Psalm 110:1. Both texts serve to drive home the same point: Jesus is the promised king from the line of David.

Psalm 132 in Context

Psalm 132 is a Psalm of Ascents. It would have been sung by faithful Israelites on their way to the Temple to worship. This particular psalm calls on the Lord to remember His promise made to David. This promise included:
  • God providing a king from David's line to rule on the throne forever
  • God choosing Zion as His habitation forever
  • God's blessing upon His people for their faithfulness to the covenant
  • God bringing shame upon the enemies of His king
All of these hopeful truths are found repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. This psalm served as a reminder of God's promises and a stimulus to faithfulness on behalf of the ones singing the psalm.

Psalm 110 in Context

Psalm 110 is a psalm of David. This puts its dating in the same window as Psalm 16 which Peter already cited - approximately 1000 years before the birth and crucifixion of Jesus.

This psalm is messianic in nature, meaning it speaks prophetically of the coming Messiah. Many who are familiar with the New Testament know that often Jesus' followers thought He was going to establish the kingdom of heaven by forcefully overthrowing the Roman oppressors. Ideas like this came from passages like Psalm 110.

Psalm 110 starts with a conversation between God the Father and His Messiah - with the Father telling the Messiah to sit at His right hand until He makes the enemies of the Messiah a footstool for His feet. The psalm ends with a picture of the victorious Messiah lifting up His head and seeing peace in the land after taking a drink from the brook.

In between the first and last passage is a description of the Messiah's people submitting freely to His reign. We also see the striking contrast of the carnage wrought upon the enemies of the Messiah who persist in their rebellion against Him. He fills the nations with their corpses (Ps. 110:5-6).

This passage paints a vivid picture of both a conquering warrior king and a peaceful prince. However, the Prince reigns in peace after the destruction of His enemies.

How Peter Uses His Texts

Building upon the dramatic events of Pentecost and the foundation of Jesus' resurrection from the dead in fulfillment of prophecy, Peter turns to these two passages to emphasize the implications. These events are not simply happening to cause a stir. They are happening to call people to a decision: submit to Jesus or perish under His wrath.

Peter explains that Jesus is the promised king from the line of David. Contrary to the common expectation of a Messiah that would reign on earth immediately, this king has ascended to heaven and taken a seat at the right hand of the Father on high. He has taken his seat and He will remain there until the coming day of wrath when He will fully establish His kingdom on the earth.

The establishment of His kingdom will include two major tasks:
  1. The gathering of His people
  2. The destruction of His enemies
These implications are immediately understood by Peter's audience. They respond by asking, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Peter directly tells them the appropriate response:
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized 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 your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:38-40, NASB)

Explaining Christ

Part of our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ is explaining who Jesus is. Another part of our responsibility is explaining the implications of His identity. In Acts 2, Peter does both.

Jesus is not simply some guy that people can pay attention to if that makes them happy and ignore if that makes them happy. Everyone is accountable to Jesus as Lord whether they like it or not. That's what a king is.

What people often do not understand - and certainly many misunderstood in the first century - is the nature of Jesus' kingship. As Messiah, He came first to lay down His life and shed His blood to save all who will trust in Him. He did this already. But He is coming again.

After He ascended to heaven in his resurrected body, He went to wait for His second coming when He will return to judge the nations and establish His kingdom on earth. Peter cited Psalm 110 to show that Jesus has begun the second part of His ministry by sitting at the right hand of God the Father.

The present time - extending from the moment Christ ascended to the moment He returns - are described in this prophetic psalm. Psalm 110:5-6 describes the second coming of Christ which is described again in Revelation 19:11-21. Read both carefully and humbly.

We live in the time between the first and second coming.

As a result, we are responsible to solemnly testify and warn our hearers that this Jesus, whom we crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ. He has made two promises:
  1. He will save all who repent of their rebellion and call on His name to save them
  2. He will destroy all who persist in their rebellion against Him
Therefore, we must lovingly urge our hearers to be reconciled to God through Christ. If they do not heed this urging we must warn them that they will perish under His wrath.

Peter understood well the difference between Jesus' first ministry and his second. We are sadly mistaken if we believe Jesus' return will be as peaceful as His first.

John combines the contrast with striking symbolic language the reaction of those who fail to repent:
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17, NASB, emphasis added)
We don't usually think of "lamb" and "wrath" in the same sense - as a lamb seems gentle. Jesus was meek and mild in His first coming. He is patiently giving time for people to respond to His invitation to salvation, purchased with His own precious blood.

He will not wait forever.

Jesus is King. He is coming back. Are you ready? 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Power Over Death

Psalm 16 Hebrew Text
Peter's sermon continues in Acts 2 with a second Old Testament passage explaining Christ.

Peter transitioned the crowds attention by citing the prophet Joel. Now that he has their attention Peter cites from Psalm 16:8-11, a psalm of David.

Psalm 16 in Context

Psalm 16 was written during the life of King David. Scholars debate the exact dates of David's birth and death. Regardless of the dates chosen we are looking at a psalm written roughly 1000 years before the birth of Jesus.

The original writing certainly applied to events happening in David's own context. In this psalm, David expresses his trust and delight in the living God. Not only does David say that he delights in God but he also expresses delight in God's people.

How Peter Uses Psalm 16

Peter focuses the crowds' attention on the reality of God's power working in the life of Jesus by pointing to the miracles, wonders, and signs God performed through Jesus during His public ministry. The resurrection was the pinnacle of this demonstration.

Peter does not simply point to the historical reality. He wouldn't need Scripture for this.

Instead, Peter first explains that all of these miracles - including the resurrection of Jesus from the dead - were all part of God's predetermined plan. God inspired David to speak prophetically and look ahead in human history to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus roughly 1000 years in advance.

Jesus rose from the dead in fulfillment of this prophecy in the psalms. Jesus rose from the dead to demonstrate His victory over death. Jesus did this in accordance with God's predetermined plan.

Peter then links this truth back to the events of Pentecost as further proof of Christ's victory. Christ is risen from the dead - they are all witnesses to this. More than this, Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father in heaven. Part of Christ's exaltation included His receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, which He poured out on earth resulting in the dramatic events they were currently experiencing on Pentecost.

The crowds' present experience and the events of the past - both ancient and recent - declared without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is Lord and the promised Messiah (Christ).

Explaining Christ

No matter what anyone believes, Jesus was not a victim. He was not a political activist who angered the wrong group of people. He wasn't a religious zealot whose views got Him killed.

He was the promised Messiah. He was God in the flesh come to shed His own blood for the salvation of sinners.

His death was on His own terms. He died so that He could rise again in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

The gospel message relies on this truth:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NASB)

Psalm 16:8-11 is foundational for explaining Jesus' mission and victory. Anyone can claim to be a Savior. But not anyone can predict their own death, burial, and resurrection 1000 years in advance.

Only the living God can do this.

Jesus is both Lord and Christ. We can know that He reigns with authority because of His victory over death. But it is even more than this. His victory over death was proclaimed 1000 years before He was even born!

Only God is able to speak authoritatively and perfectly regarding the future. We can trust His Word and the resurrection of Christ in fulfillment of Psalm 16 is a perfect example.

God's Word tells us of a coming Judgment and that every human being is guilty. He also tells us that Jesus is willing and able to save all who trust in Him for salvation. Praise God!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Call on the Name of Jesus

Acts 2

Acts 2 contains our first example of how the first followers of Christ explained Him using the Old Testament.

We don't start here because it is the first canonically. It's not. There have been many references to the Old Testament - many of which explain Christ - in the Gospels. These are printed before Acts 2 in your Bible. They were written by Apostles and associates of the Apostles. We will examine many of them in later posts.

There are even two Old Testament Scriptures cited in Acts 1:20. These Scriptures are used in relation to replacing Judas. They are not specifically explaining Christ. If you are interested in an in-depth study that looks at the complete use of the Old Testament in the New I recommend G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

We start in Acts 2 because it is the first chronologically. Luke wrote Acts c. A.D. 60-62 which is nearly three decades after the crucifixion. But the event he is recording in Acts 2 happened on Pentecost - only 10 days after the Ascension of the risen Christ into heaven and only 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Prior to ascending to heaven Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses. He told them to testify what was written about Him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Then He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and empower them.

Acts 2 records the coming of the Holy Spirit. It records the power of heaven being magnified. It records the first public testimony of Christ by His followers in obedience to the command He gave before ascending to heaven.

When Peter opened his mouth the first passage he used was Joel 2:28-32. He testified about Christ from the Prophets.

Joel in Context

Scholars do not all agree on the date of Joel. We will assume that the dating of 597-586 B.C. is best. This was leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Captivity. It is 600 years before the day Peter is speaking in Acts 2.

In its original context the prophet Joel is declaring judgment against Judah for their unfaithfulness to the covenant. It also promises salvation to those who will repent and trust in the Lord. Judgment is coming but hope and salvation are available.

How Peter Uses Joel

The coming of the Holy Spirit included some drama. There was loud noise. People began proclaiming the mighty deeds of God in different languages. This activity grabbed the attention of a large crowd of people. The observers didn't know what was happening. Some thought the disciples and their associates were drunk.

Peter opened his mouth and explained that this was not from drunkenness. It was what the prophet Joel wrote about 600 years prior.

The Holy Spirit had come in fulfillment of God's promise. They are prophesying because of the Holy Spirit. Here is the whole passage (Old Testament references are capitalized in the NASB):

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. 'AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. 'THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. 'AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.' (Acts 2:14-21)

Some people want to get caught up on the wonders in the sky and the signs on the earth below. However, this is a misunderstanding of Peter's intention. Peter uses Joel 2 as a link from the current event to an explanation of Christ. Nothing in the text tells us that there was darkness on the day of Pentecost. The text doesn't say that the moon turned to blood.

There is no reason for us to try and force these things or to try and explain how those parts of Joel's text were fulfilled while Peter was speaking. That wasn't his intention. We shouldn't make it ours.

The events of Pentecost - particularly the coming of the Holy Spirit - marks the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise God made through the prophet Joel. It is a mistake to think that everything the prophet wrote was fulfilled in that moment.

Peter uses this passage because it begins with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. This is happening in the immediate present for him and his audience. Peter quotes Joel all the way to the coming of the Lord and the promise that all who call on His name will be saved. This contains a promise for his present hearers all the way up to our present moment in the 21st century.

It will continue until the Great and Glorious Day of the Lord shall come!

Revelation contains descriptions of the signs Joel described. They are coming in the future. They will occur before Christ returns in glory.

Peter was not using this passage to say it was all happening right then. Instead, he was showing that it was beginning to be fulfilled right then. The fulfillment continues to the present day. It will continue until the Great and Glorious Day of the Lord.

Explaining Christ


Peter used a relevant text to turn his audiences attention to the significance of the events taking place. God wasn't making a show just to display His power.

He was making a show to point people to Christ. God was fulfilling His promise made 600 years before.

Peter uses this passage to transition to an explanation that to be saved everyone must call on the name of the Lord. Peter used this opportunity to make the case that Jesus is the Lord. Everyone must call on Jesus to be saved.

Just as the remnant was preserved through the judgment brought by God on Judah through the Babylonian nation, salvation would be given to all who trust in the Lord from the judgment to come. God was faithful in the past. He will be faithful in the future. We can trust His promises. Jesus is able and willing to save all who come to Him. Praise God!

In our next post, we will continue to look at Peter's message in Acts 2. He cites further Old Testament texts to drive home his point that everyone must call on the name of Jesus to be saved from the wrath to come.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

From Dangerous to Powerful


I'll always remember the last day of my first Greek class. Our professor ended the course by saying, "Congratulations - you now all know enough to be dangerous." (I'm paraphrasing.)

After one course we didn't know enough Greek to be useful. We only knew enough to be dangerous. We knew enough to convince others that we knew much more than we actually did. It is easy to lead people astray by sounding like an authority even when you don't really know what you're talking about.

Moving from dangerous to useful is important. While none of us will ever know everything we should strive to always be growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. While we cannot wait until we know everything before we speak the gospel to others there are two basic themes to keep in mind to help us grow into maturity in the faith.

  1. Preparation through study.
  2. Preparation through prayer.

Both take time. Lots of time. We should be engaging in both forms of preparation until we take our last breath. A consistent daily investment in both areas will yield amazing results over time. We must be disciplined to devote ourselves to these pursuits. Our Lord is worthy of nothing less.

We don't want to be dangerous with the Word of God by speaking things that are not true but may sound true to others. Instead, we want to be powerful witnesses for Christ. I can't tell you how many people I meet while witnessing who make claims about what the Bible says that simply aren't true.

It's a lot of people. A lot. People throw around the phrase, "The Bible says," like it's nothing. Most people are simply ill equipped to judge the truth of whatever follows that statement.

We want to avoid being misled and misleading others. I want to suggest that simply studying your Bible isn't enough. You should really consider taking the time to memorize large sections of Scripture.

I know, I know... that sounds crazy to some people.

Consider this: when the Apostles stood up to speak they didn't have notes. They didn't have a Bible in their hands. They had the Word of God hidden in their hearts. As a result it flowed from their lips.

You won't be able to speak the Word of God boldly, faithfully, and powerfully if you don't know it. What may seem extreme is really just a prerequisite. Memorizing large sections instead of isolated verses will also help you to ensure that you are not abusing the Word of God by using it out of context. When we twist the Scriptures we claim to speak on God's authority while saying things He never said or in a way He never intended.

If memorization doesn't come easily to you - don't worry. You're not alone. I highly recommend Dr. Andrew Davis' method (free e-book available here). I am currently memorizing the book of Ephesians using this method and it is going much better than I anticipated. You can do it, too, if you make the commitment and stick to it.

The second thing is to be prepared through prayer. I freely admit that study comes more easily to me than prayer. It is easy for me to spend two hours studying the Bible. It is not so easy for me to spend two hours in devoted prayer.

However, when Jesus instructed His disciples that they would be witnesses to the things concerning Him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, look at what He told them to do next: "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49, NASB).

Jesus didn't just want witnesses. He didn't even simply want knowledgeable witnesses. He wanted powerful witnesses. He told them to wait for the power to come through the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Their power did not come from themselves. Their power did not come from their eloquence. It didn't even come from their study. Their power came from waiting for the Holy Spirit to come in fulfillment of God's promise.

The next ten days were spent in prayer.

I am always humbled when I read about the prayer lives of powerful witnesses for Christ from the past. Men like Martin Luther, George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, and D.L. Moody all spent hours in prayer every day. They knew that their power was found on their knees spending time alone with the living God.

What may seem like a waste of time to a non-believing world is a worthwhile investment in eternity.

Are you willing to do what it takes to become a powerful witness for Christ? If so, you will need to be devoted to preparation through both study and prayer. We do not want to miss opportunities along the way. I am not suggesting that we shut ourselves off from the world forever. Quite the contrary!

Such devotion to study and prayer actually guarantees that our opportunities for powerful witness will greatly increase as we go about our lives in this fallen world. You will never have to miss opportunities because you left your Bible at home.

I pray that you will be available and willing to be a vessel yielded to our Lord. Pray for me, too, that I will do the same.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Explaining Christ From the Old Testament


Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
(Luke 24:27, NASB)

This passage in Luke is simultaneously awe-inspiring and frustrating.

Awe-inspiring because it tells us that on the day that Jesus rose from the dead He made the opportunity to explain to some of His followers everything the Old Testament Scriptures had to say about Himself as He walked with them down the road. He started with Moses and went right through all the prophets.

A few verses later (Luke 24:44-49) Jesus explains to a bigger group of His disciples that everything written about Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms has been fulfilled. These Old Testament passages contained the truth which they were to testify to the nations:
  • That the Christ would suffer;
  • That He would rise again from the dead on the third day;
  • That repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations.
Awesome.

Yet, it is frustrating because Luke was not inspired to include the content of Jesus' explanation. We know that He explained everything. We even get a brief outline.

But that's it.

Instead of being bummed out by this, we can rejoice that the Old Testament Scriptures are still written. We can hold them in our hands and read them today. However, many Christians seem to think that the Old Testament is irrelevant for the modern believer.

This idea could not be more wrong.

On resurrection day Jesus did not say that those poor disciples would need to wait until the New Testament was written before they could understand Christ. Instead, Jesus reprimanded them for being foolish and slow of heart in believing what had already been written! He did not hesitate to proclaim from the Old Testament everything they needed to know.

While we may not have a transcript of Jesus' teaching that day we do have two wonderful gifts.
  1. The entire Old Testament.
  2. The entire New Testament.
Some interpreters try and make every passage in the Old Testament a passage about Jesus. This is a mistake. Jesus did not teach that everything that was written was written about Him. Instead, He explained everything that was written "concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." The road was only seven miles long and Jesus' explanation didn't last all day!

In the New Testament we have inspired writings which cite and explain Old Testament passages concerning Jesus. This is not exactly the same as hearing it from the lips of Jesus Himself. But, it is the next best thing.

In the coming posts we will take a look at the use of the Old Testament by the authors of the New Testament to see how the Holy Spirit led them to explain Christ to the first generation of Christians. By studying these examples, I pray we will all be better equipped to know and love our Savior and explain Him to the world.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.