Sermon Options: April 7, 2024

March 8th, 2021

The Pristine Church

Acts 4:32-35

The text from Acts depicts a church that is almost too good to be true. It describes a group of people of “one heart and soul” (v. 32). The church’s love and trust are reflected by the phrase “everything they owned was held in common.” This is how the Christian faith ought to look, but in practice some of what we see in the church is ugly by comparison to this pristine picture of primal Christianity.

I. Money Can Corrupt

Economics and materialism tear at the fabric of our nation as few things do. Economics and materialism are not strangers to the church either, as the story of Ananias and Sapphira will soon brutally demonstrate (Acts 5:1-11). Economics and materialism seem at the root of many conflicts. This is why 1 Timothy 6:10 states plainly, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith.”

Most pastors can nod in agreement with my Liberian friend’s assessment of pastoral care in the African context. He quipped, “Most of my counseling has to do with business—woman business or money business.” I would guess that my friend speaks for many pastors in the United States, too.

II. Competition Can Kill

We all are familiar with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Some workers go out at sun-up, others at three-hour intervals throughout the day. A few work about an hour. Yet at the moment of payment, all workers—the early and the late—receive the same wage. It seems unfair to our way of understanding equity! The prodigal son is the same way. Where is the justice in the way the owner of the vineyard or the prodigal’s father deals with those who do less than their share? And from our point of view, we surely understand the grumbling.

In our families, in our places of work, in our schools, in our neighborhoods—even in our churches—our tendency as groups of people is to compare ourselves with one another. One of the most accurate and devastating measures happens to be cash. We all know how to quantify someone’s hourly or annual wage quickly to size up the person. Unfortunately, this proclivity to compare also puts us at odds with one another. Most of us are geared for competition, not cooperation.

III. The Church Can Transform

Verse 33 says it all: “With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” This community of early disciples was empowered by a vision of power that was virtually unknown. Neither jail time, nor fear of the government, nor fear of the religious authorities made these early disciples afraid. They were so overwhelmed by the spirit of Jesus resurrection, that no longer were money or competition the driving forces in their lives; serving the Lord cooperatively was. Each contributed what he had and took only what he needed. What made the difference? The transforming power of Christ in their lives!

About a year ago my two little boys were discovering the trials and tribulations of a seesaw. The younger kept yelling at his mother to make his older brother get off, but he soon discovered that one person riding a seesaw was less than satisfying. When a four-year-old realizes he cannot play the game alone, but he needs a cooperative partner, there is a seed for the kingdom of God. (David N. Mosser)

The Path to Salvation

1 John 1:1–2:2

Do you know what it’s like to desperately want to shower? You’ve been working in the garden or on the car on a hot day. You’re dripping with sweat and coated with grime. Just thinking about it makes you want to go wash up, doesn’t it?

But I’ve seen little boys and girls who are covered with nearly their weight in dirt and grime, and it doesn’t seem to bother them. No matter what their dirt quotient, they still don’t want a bath!

People can be the same way when it comes to sin. Sin corrupts, pollutes, makes a life filthy, but often we don’t even see it—like children merrily playing away while they become progressively dirtier. But we are not children, and sin cannot be washed away from our lives like dirt from a child’s body. How can we deal with sin in our lives?

Jesus Christ came to reveal God to us, and to provide for us a means to be reconciled to the Father—to overcome the barrier our sin has created between us and God. In these verses, we receive insight into how Jesus Christ can transform our lives.

I. Recognition of Sin Leads to Confession (vv. 8-9a)

Doctors tell us that some forms of pain are actually beneficial, because they alert us to medical conditions we might otherwise overlook. A problem is rarely solved before it is recognized as a problem. That is why the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin—so that we realize our own need and will be open to a solution.

And the solution to the sin problem begins with confession—acknowledging our own sin, our own weakness. Confession requires laying aside pride and recognizing our own unworthiness next to God’s holiness.

II. Confession of Sin Leads to Forgiveness (v. 9)

God is eager for us to confess our sins because he is eager to forgive. Jesus gave us a wonderful picture of God’s forgiving nature when he told the parable of the prodigal son. The watching, waiting father stands ready to receive and forgive the wandering son, if only the young man will take that first step back home.

When we acknowledge our sin and confess it, God is ready to forgive our sin and transform our lives.

III. Forgiveness of Sin Leads to Cleansing (v. 9)

No matter what your sin, no matter how great or small, God is willing to forgive you and to cleanse your life. God’s cleansing is not superficial but complete. If you have surrendered your life to Christ as Lord and Savior, from that point forward when God looks at you, he does not see the sinful acts you have done, but he sees the sinless purity of Jesus Christ who stands in your place.

Christ removes the power of sin. Before sin held us in bondage, but Christ has freed us from that slavery. Sin has no dominion over us, except what we allow it to have. And as we walk day by day with Christ, sin has less and less place and influence in our lives.

Christ removes the penalty of sin. In the Letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “the wages of sin is death”—utter and total separation from God. But through the power of Christ, we have been released from that inevitable penalty, and have been set on a new path that leads to the eternal presence of God.

Here is one of the great promises in all of Scripture, but it demands a response. Are you willing to reach out in faith and allow Christ to transform your life? (Michael Duduit)

Fact and Faith
John 20:19-31

It’s commonly understood that the church began at Pentecost. But as I see it, that’s when the church was empowered by the Holy Spirit for its life and ministry (see Acts 1 –2). I contend the church was born when Jesus rose from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the church. Or as Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” ( 1 Cor. 15:14 NIV).

Christian apologetics (the theological discipline of highlighting the credibility of Christianity’s claims) has provided an intellectually irrefutable case for the Resurrection. The existence of the church, the shift of the worship calendar from the Jewish sabbath (seventh day of the week) to Sunday (first day of the week), the New Testament, the transformation of the disciples from cowards at Jesus arrest and crucifixion into crusaders in less than three days, and the continuing testimonies of people who claim a personal relationship with him have been cited as overwhelming witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. It has even been said there is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than the birth of George Washington.

John 20:31 makes the connection between the fact of the Resurrection (“these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah”) and the saving faith inspired by the Resurrection (“and that through believing you may have life in his name”).

I. The Fact of the Resurrection

Belief (pisteuo) in the resurrection of Jesus is more than two feet planted firmly in the air. It is the conviction and confidence enabled by the fact of the Resurrection.

John refers to the resurrected appearances of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (vv. 10-18), the disciples (vv. 19-23), and Thomas (vv. 24-29) as “written so that you may come to believe” (v. 31a). They provide proof for the profession.

II. The Saving Faith Inspired by the Resurrection

When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas how he could be saved, they replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (see Acts 16:30-31). The resurrection of Jesus inspired the belief in Jesus, which enables salvation through Jesus.

John’s understanding of salvation includes existential and eternal dimensions. Existentially, Christians are happy, whole, joyful, and secure. Eternally, Christians say with David A. Redding, “Anyone who feels sorry for a dead Christian, as though the poor chap were missing something, is himself missing the transfiguring promotion involved” (Getting Through the Night, 1972).

Of course, the greatest apologetic proof for Jesus resurrection is not what we say about it but rather how we look as a result of it. Referring to John’s Gospel, Rudolf Bultmann noted: “Its purpose is to awaken the faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God” (John, 1964). In other words, the fact of Jesus resurrection inspires animated faith.

The only gospel that some folks will ever hear or see is the gospel according to you. Do you look saved?

That’s the connection between fact and faith. Or as the song goes, “If you’re happy and you know it, then you really ought to show it.” (Robert R. Kopp)

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