Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sermon on Acts 10:34-48, for the 6th Sunday of Easter, "Confessing Jesus"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      Paul seizes a golden opportunity—open invitation to speak the Gospel (cf throughout Acts). Cornelius’ household—major encounter with Gentile “God-fearers” ready to receive the Word. Believed in God of the Bible, did not yet know Jesus. Are we looking for, praying for open invitations? Again like Philip last week, Peter “opens his mouth” and begins telling about Jesus! Why were they doing this? Why so much “Jesus talk?” It was given to them to testify/bear witness.
2.      What’s “witnessing” all about? Not about Peter’s story, our story. Not marketing (Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:17: “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”). An open and honest statement about Jesus. All about Jesus: Very creed-like: God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power. Doing good and healing, God was with Him—death on the tree, raised by God in three days. And we ate with Him! Not talking about before He died, but after He walked out of His grave alive! Not “alive in our hearts” or a warm memory or inspiring example, but flesh and blood, heart pumping, lungs breathing Galilean air, eating, tasting, drinking, hands on and feeling, ALIVE! Don’t you think it’s of first importance for you and for everyone to know that this man defeated death?!
3.      Even more so because raised to heaven to be God’s judge of living and the dead. He’s the inescapable figure that everyone will encounter in death. Son of God, judge of all. No neutrality toward Him. Hinge of history, hinge of death and life. Good news—He’s an impartial judge. Not a “respecter of persons.” But also means He weighs good and evil without favoritism. Objective—no family favorites, political favors, rich man’s immunity—all are found guilty of sinning and falling short of the glory of God. Sees not the outside appearance, outer “righteousness” but the heart. Problem—hearts are the source of sin: Matt 15:18-19: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
4.      No favoritism; but is pleased with all who fear Him and do what’s right. (Justification and sanctification language—“fear Him”= faith, recognition of God’s power and ultimate authority; answer to Him. “Do what’s right” (Pono bumper stickers) more than outward obedience—an obedience moved from the heart. We’re always failing, but striving to obey His commands. Love God, love neighbor. Set apart (sanctified) from the world. Wrestling with sin (even sometimes, by the grace of God conquering), not giving it free reign.
5.      This impartial judge also gives forgiveness to all who believe in His name! Come with your sins, your guilt, and turn it over to be washed away! Leave it behind on Jesus’ cross, knowing it is paid for on His death! More than “fair”—He’s merciful. Peter’s Gospel cadence—God’s anointed, powerful miracles, death, resurrection, judge of living and the dead, forgiveness! Witness, confession of Jesus. Cross of Jesus. Without that message we’re left in our sins. Without the cross what is our hope? What is our goodness (nothing but hypocrisy and self-righteousness)? But with the cross of Jesus for us, we’re free.
6.      Word took powerful effect. God’s Word is always effective--“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth,  making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it .” Holy Spirit poured out on the people. Keep examples before our eyes so as not to forget the power of the message about Jesus. The Spirit does all the work Himself, through the Word. Not by our cunning or cleverness, but His Word.
7.      Speaking in tongues miracle. Same as at Pentecost. Not to be separated from or replace baptism. “Who can withhold water?” Confirmed their faith in Christ, joined to the Jesus in the church, His body.
8.      Seek those open invitations. Pray for them. Confess Jesus—say the same words—same story. It’s not our story, our witness, but Jesus’ story—His life, cross, death, and resurrection. Faith confessed in our creeds, you’ve memorized. This Word is powerful to create faith, change lives, and set us on the path to heaven, where we’ll joyfully face Jesus our judge confident of the verdict of innocence granted by His forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s final word on sin for those who believe Jesus. Trust in Jesus? God’s verdict’s in! You’re forgiven! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Read Acts 10:1-33. What were the events that led up to Peter’s sermon in verses 34ff? Who was Cornelius, and how did this encounter happen?
2.      Describe God’s impartiality and how it contrasts with human favoritism: Acts 10:34; Job 34:19; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Rom. 2:9-11; Eph. 6:9; James 2:1-9. What things tend to influence us toward favoritism? God shows no favoritism among those who “fear him and do what is right,” regardless of their nation. What is the “fear of God?” Read Exodus 20:20 after the giving of the 10 commandments. How is the word “fear” used in two different ways in this verse?  Also see Deut. 6:13-14; 8:6;  Prov. 9:10
3.      How is verse 38 a testimony to the Trinity?
4.      Why did Jesus appear to those whom He chose? Luke 16:30-31; 1 Cor. 15:3-11. What simple truth did Jesus’ eating and drinking with them after His resurrection reveal?
5.      How does Jesus’ appointment by God to be the “judge of the living and the dead” make Him an inescapable figure for every human being? Not only does history hinge on His life, death, and resurrection, but our eternal future hinges on Him as well. There is no “neutral” position towards Him.
6.      What is confession? How did Peter bear witness or testify about Jesus? How is this the heart and core of Christian evangelism? 1John 5:6-12
7.      How can you be more aware of opportunities around you to witness?

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