Sermon Options: April 30, 2023

April 1st, 2020


ACTS 2:42-47

Pentecost had come and gone. The gospel had been preached, and "three thousand persons were added" to the rolls of the Christian church. Excitement was in the air. All those new people. They must integrate new members into the life of the church as soon as possible. It was imperative that all the new faces be woven into the fabric of the church immediately. It was imperative that they realize they were saved for service. When so many join by the front door, we must make sure that we do not lose them out the back door. Luke, in this passage, tells us two significant things about the early church—and our church. He tells us about feelings and doings.

I. Feelings Are Important
One's feelings about church are important. This passage tells us about the awe that was evident by everyone "because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles" (v. 43). Today is an age of disbelief and debunking in the United States. Many are cynical of any kind of leadership, including church leadership. Note, however, the members of the early church were in awe of their leaders. They respected their leaders; they revered their leaders. They were also a glad people. The presence of the Holy Spirit can be measured. It reveals itself by the degree of joy that is present. Happiness is shallow and can be changed with the ring of a telephone informing us that a loved one has been injured. Bad news can destroy our happiness but can never touch the joy of our salvation, which is always good news. The early Christians were also generous and thankful people, for they had "generous hearts" (v. 46). When the church is at its best, the feelings around a church are these feelings. It is a group that has "the goodwill of all the people" (v. 47). Have you ever been in a group like that? Was it a church group?

II. Doings Are Even More Important
It is equally informative to discover the Pentecostal afterglow in the early church regarding their "doings." This passage tells us exactly what they were up to. They immediately "devoted themselves to...teaching and fellowship" (v. 42). New Christians, filled with enthusiasm (which means "in God"), need and want more teaching. They yearn for more knowledge. They reach out to fellow Christians for support and fellowship. The breaking of bread could have been an informal agape meal, a repetition of the Lord's Supper, or simply a social event with newfound friends.

One thing the disciples always asked from Jesus was "teach us how to pray." It is logical that they most often prayed when they gathered together. This passage is an endorsement of the fact that everything we have comes from God for the purpose of meeting others' needs. Once our basic needs have been met, nothing demands that we should spend the rest on ourselves or save it for our offspring. God has blessed us so that we might be a blessing to others. The family includes the whole human family of God.

The final "doing" of the early Christians was "praising God" (v. 47). For them, it was their reason for being, as it is ours. Nick Stevens was an Australian tourist in Los Angeles on January 17, 1994. He woke up that day planning to do what tourists do. He said, "We had been planning to go to the Universal Studios, where they have the earthquake ride." Before he got a chance to go, a large earthquake, 6.6 on the Richter scale, rocked the area where he was and demolished a good part of the city, including the highway system. Stevens commented after the quake, "Now we won't have to bother [going to Universal Studios]." Once you have experienced the real thing, there is no need to experience a contrived event.

Life in the early church was the real thing. Can we experience it today, or do we have to settle for a contrived event? (C. Thomas Hilton)


1 PETER 2:19-25

Suffering is one of those subjects that we like to avoid. Think about it. Who really likes to sit around and discuss suffering? A medical student may love talking about it, but not many others. But the Bible is a book about suffering. It tells us through many stories that humankind is a suffering race. We need not endure suffering silently. The New Testament calls us to suffering Christian style. Hear Simon Peter as he leads us on a journey through suffering.

I. All People Will Suffer
Theologians of previous generations pointed out that all creatures have pain, but only humans suffer. The difference between pain and suffering is the difference between mere physical discomfort and the consciousness of wondering why. A dog can have pain, but it does not wonder why and it does not have emotional struggles with the pain. But people do. Some of the worst suffering we endure is not physical pain at all but the emotional knowledge that something has gone very wrong in our lives. A marriage went sour. A loved one died. Our dreams are unfulfilled. These things bring suffering.

All people, regardless of religious convictions, will suffer. That is simply part of life on earth. But what we do with our suffering matters.

II. Suffering Can Teach Us Much About God
In today's text, Peter speaks to a group of people who are suffering not because of a natural cause but because someone else is persecuting them. To be in pain is one thing. To be in pain because someone else wants you to be in pain is something else. That is suffering.

All people will suffer, some because they deserve it by their behavior. Verse 20 asks about someone who endures a beating because he has done something wrong. Peter asks how that helps someone. But if a person endures suffering for doing good, that endurance is commendable before God.

C. S. Lewis used to say that suffering is God's megaphone. We can hear God's voice loudly and clearly. God can use our suffering to draw us close to him.

III. Christ Is Our Supreme Example in Suffering
Peter reached back into his heritage and quoted the prophet Isaiah and related the statement to Christ: "He committed no sin/and no deceit was found in his mouth" (v. 22). Christians naturally think of Jesus when they hear that sort of comment. Peter went on to describe the insult he suffered, but he did not retaliate. Jesus accepted the cross. In all of that he "entrusted himself to the one who judges justly" (v. 23).

In our suffering, as in all other areas of our lives, Christ is our example. He knows what it is to suffer unjustly, but he redeemed the suffering. Because of that, as Peter puts it, "you have returned to the shepherd" (v. 25). Suffering can draw us close to God, or it can drive us away. It can make us better or bitter. The choices is ours. (Don M. Aycock)


JOHN 10:1-10

It's unlikely that many young people, if taking a personality inventory, would choose "shepherd" as a career path. In fact, it's unlikely most of us have even seen a shepherd, except perhaps in a picture or on television. It's not a common profession in our culture, but in Jesus' day the work of the shepherd was well known.

Jesus often compared spiritual principles to things found in the everyday life of his contemporaries. In this teaching, Jesus uses the imagery of a shepherd to help us better understand how he relates to his followers. The first image is that of a shepherd going and coming through a door to the sheepfold. The second is that of sheep coming and going through that door.

I. The Good Shepherd Cares for Us
Jesus' words remind us of a low stone fence surrounding a Palestinian home. The shepherd shelters his sheep in the fold near the house at night. Thieves and robbers will climb over the wall, causing the sheep to bleat and scurry about. The shepherd knows that entry by the door of the fold is calming to the sheep. The sheep recognize their shepherd and respond with relief.

I often visit with friends at their ranch. These ranchers have both cattle and sheep in their pastures. When a stranger appears at feeding time, cows are curious but not anxious. Sheep run to safety until they recognize someone familiar. The good shepherd is deliberate, careful, cautious, caring. Those who sneak over walls really don't care about the sheep.

We have a shepherd who cares about us. In the sight of Jesus Christ, we are more than a social security number. We are more than a picture on a driver's license. We are more than the unused balance on a credit card. We are more than a statistic on a computer printout. We are known by God and cared for by our Lord. We are the sheep he tends.

II. The Good Shepherd Protects Us
The second image of this text is the door as exit and entry for the sheep. We imagine sheep safe in the fold during the night when harm might come to them. I often hear people say that they can be religious without the church. I have my doubts about that. The church is a sheepfold into which we enter and from which we exit. It is a place of security, a place of safety, a place of promise. Life is not easy. In the community of other sheep, going and coming together, we find support for living.

Alan Paton was a leader against apartheid in South Africa many years ago. He once wrote:

This year a friend of mine wished me a happy Easter and I, because my wife was gravely ill, replied that I did not think it would be very happy. When my friend reached his home, he sat down and wrote me that no Christian should be unhappy at Easter, because what happened at Easter was of an eternal order, whereas our griefs and problems were only temporal. I replied to him that I did not expect to be unhappy at Easter. I was prepared to face the future and whatever it might bring. I added, "I like to see happiness and to see happy people, especially happy children. I hope they may grow up happy also, but if I had to choose, I would rather see them brave." Life is not easy. Bravery and happiness are gifts from the Good Shepherd. (Harold C. Perdue)

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