Transforming People Through the Word That Transforms

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[This sermon was preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church on Sunday, May 29, 2011.  You can listen to it here.]

The Holy Spirit uses transformed people to transform people through the transforming Word! I find it interesting where Peter ‘went’ when he stood up. So many evangelism techniques encourage Christians to begin with their testimonies—to “share your story.” The idea being if one sees what Christ means to us personally, they will see the changed life. We see this happening elsewhere, like in Acts 22 when Paul spoke about his conversion.

Yet Peter didn’t share his story—and he had a good story to share. He could have done the talk-show circuit and had people amazed at his restoration. And all of us are touched by those stories. In the NFL, Michael Vick went from star QB to inmate due to his role in dogfighting back to starting QB whose life has been turned around. We like those stories. Some of you in this room have similar accounts to share.

Yet Peter did not do this. Why? Peter wanted to get to Christ as soon as possible—and for people to understand where they are before Christ as soon as possible. While testimonies are good, in our age people will say, “That’s great that this worked for you—but it’s just not for me.” Peter demonstrates that at the end of the day it’s not about the preacher or the listener, it’s about Christ and how we are sinners in need of the one and only possible Savior who alone could atone for our sins.

So Peter gets to a familiar Word to his listeners, from the book of Joel found in Acts 2:17-21. When Joel spoke this, God had sent great judgment on the people of Israel. He sent locusts that stripped everything green from the land. In the midst of this, God provided hope.

What are the “last days”? This speaks of the start of a new covenant inaugurated with the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and with the coming of the Holy Spirit!  The Jews felt that when OT prophets were dead, the Spirit wouldn’t speak anymore until the Messiah would come: young men, old men, male servants, female servants.  The “wonders in the heavens” and “signs on the earth” refer to what was happening in that Upper Room.  With this being the “last days,” this will be a day of great dread. We even saw at the crucifixion of Christ that the “sun shall be turned to darkness.”

After Peter spoke the words that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” he recognized that those listening to him would understand this being Yahweh, the God they worshiped as revealed in the OT. Peter would then proceed to show that this “Lord” that everyone must call upon to be saved is the person of Jesus Christ! Look at verses 22-24:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:22-24).

We are seeing a pattern here. The Holy Spirit, the gifts, and now we see here that the miracles, signs, and wonders have a purpose: to point to the person and work of Christ. This is an excellent way of determining the motives and the faithfulness of “Spirit-filled” churches: what does their ministry point to? Are they merely trying to unlock the inner power already inside them? Are they using this for more material gain? Are they using this as leverage to show their superiority as ‘super-Christians’ due to their possession of a particular gift?

Jesus was revealed to a people longing for delivery from a Messiah! Yet, Peter does not hold back: “you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men!” You say, “Wait, the phrase before that says that God delivered him up by his plans put into effect from before the world.” That’s right! The Jews’ motives were to silence him, but God is God, using those evil motives to advance his plans!

God transforms people through the convicting, Spirit-empowered Word!  “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37a). How? By Peter’s persuasive preaching? By his illustrations and testimonies and the amount of jokes that he told to loosen up the crowd? No, by the Word of God. Consider Hebrews 4:12-13:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:12-13)

What pierces the heart? What kills and makes alive? What exposes the thoughts and intentions of the heart? The Word of God! When Moses stood before Pharaoh and spoke the Word of God, his heart hardened! When Jesus spoke God’s Word before the Pharisees, they were ready to kill Him! When Paul preached the Word throughout Asia, he was whipped, beaten, and left for dead numerous times (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). The preached Word exposes us before God and will show whether we are dead, or whether we are alive.


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