Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sermon on Acts 1:12-26, the 7th Sunday of Easter, "Apostles of Jesus""

Sermon Outline: 
  1. Faith in action—Acts readings, how they worshipped, lived, prayed, fellowshipped, witnessed of Christ. Just celebrated Ascension Day, first business for the disciples is to choose a 12th apostle to replace Judas. “With one accord they were devoting themselves to prayer”—unity of mind and spirit: Phil 2:1-2 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
  2. Peter addresses the company of believers (~120), tells the events around Judas, the betrayer. Driven by despair to suicide. Though very unpleasant, it points us to a very important truth about sin and repentance. Judas had been filled with overwhelming guilt and grief, when He realized Jesus would be condemned to death. Tried to make it right, but could not. Sought forgiveness from the corrupt priests, but instead of turning him to God’s grace, they turned him back on himself. Enveloped by dark despair.
  3. What Scripture calls a “worldly grief” instead of a “godly grief.” How does the example of Judas (and also the apostle Peter!) illustrate this difference between a worldly grief and a godly grief? 2 Cor. 7, Paul is speaking about a grief that the Corinthians were experiencing: he talks about a godly grief that leads them to repentance. Vs. 10: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Judas’ was consumed by a worldly grief that lead to death. Devoid of any hope or faith, and so never became true repentance. Repentance does have sorrow or godly grief as its first part—but second and vital to true repentance is faith that looks to God for forgiveness. Crucial difference between Judas’ regret, and Peter’s repentance.
  4. So what about that godly grief illustrated by Peter? He was also sorrowful over his denial of Jesus. But he looked to Jesus for forgiveness, had hope that he could be (and he was!!) restored. His godly grief led to repentance—acknowledge sin in order to be cleansed by God. So also for us, never to succumb to worldly grief, such that our sorrow drowns out all hope. Grief or sorrow itself is not bad, but becomes worldly when it despairs of any hope. Ex. we know that sin grieves God, that it is an offense against Him (“I have sinned against heaven and against you” or “against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight (Ps 51:4)). Sorrow about hurt we have caused, may not be reparable. But repentance turns away from the sin, and looks to God for His mercy. And in that turning, discovers no longer a fearful judge, but a merciful Savior in Jesus Christ, to grant you forgiveness. If we turn instead to ourselves, or try by our own devices to clear ourselves of guilt, we’ll see only more guilt, or fall into despair or hypocrisy. But to look at Jesus is to know God’s fatherly heart toward us, and find His forgiveness.
  5. God doesn’t want us stuck on grief, but to unload it on the cross! Matt. 11:28-29, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Ps. 32:1 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 51:8-12 “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
  6. Choosing a replacement for Judas—mark the high criteria set for the candidates! Eyewitness of Jesus ministry, not only of His resurrection, but all the way back to His baptism. Very important because of the great responsibility—apostles were sent out as Jesus’ representatives and eyewitnesses. All suffered for the sake of the Gospel. 12 men, but we know so little about them. Even Matthias is only mentioned here in the Bible. Their ministry was not about themselves, but about lifting up Christ before the eyes of the people. Two candidates qualify: Joseph, and Matthias. Decision made first with prayer(!) that God would show which He had chosen. Prayer marked their unity and “one accord, back also in vs. 14. They were seeking out God’s will, and not their own.
  7. Finally cast lots—random way of choosing—both qualified candidates. Matthias was the new apostle. Called to the ministry and apostleship. The ministry of the church continues through pastors who carry on the mission of discipling all nations, and proclaiming Christ. Not called apostles because we have no direct commission from Christ, but missionaries, evangelists, pastors, teachers of the word, continue in the ministry. In all events of the early church’s life, even in the tragic death of Judas, we are reminded to look back to Jesus Christ as our Savior, the one who delivers us from the grief and sorrow of sin, into the life of hope and comfort and forgiveness under His grace. It’s also in Him that we find the unity of heart and mind to live like the early Christians, working together in “one accord” and being devoted to prayer and the teaching of the apostles. This was the life of the early Christians then, and it is our life now—the life in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      After Jesus’ Ascension into heaven (Acts 1:1-11), the 11 apostles of Jesus reconvened to choose a replacement for Judas. Describe their unity: what gave them “one accord” (v. 14)? Acts 2:42-47; Phil. 2:1-5
2.      What is significant about the brothers of Jesus (see Mark 6:3) joining in with the disciples and Mary after the resurrection? Read John 7:5.
3.      How does Judas’ bitter end show us a contrast between regret and remorse, and the repentance that leads to faith (as for example Peter’s denial)? Matthew 27:3-10. How was this the fulfillment of various OT prophecies? Ps. 69:25; 109:8; Zech. 11:12-13; Jer. 19:11
4.      What was different about the sorrow of Judas vs. the sorrow of Peter? 2 Cor. 7:5-13. What is the good result of a “godly sorrow”?
5.      How do the Scriptures describe this sorrow over sin? Ps. 38:3-8; Ps. 6. How does the Scripture describe the sublime comfort when sin is forgiven? Matt. 11:28; Ps. 32:1-2; 51:7-12; Acts 3:19-20
6.      How did the disciples make the decision to choose a new apostle? What rigorous criteria did they apply in choosing the two candidates? Why? Acts 1:21-23. Why was being an eyewitness so important? How did they make the final choice? Acts 1:24-26.
7.      What faith lessons can we take away from the example of the early apostles?

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