The School of Christ (Matthew 5:1,2)


(Note: I’m taking a break from writing original material for The Daily Word for the next month. I’ll be posting vintage TDW on the Sermon on the Mount during this time. ~ George)
Are you a student of Jesus?
 
In the Book of Acts, Luke uses a variety of terms to designate Christ’s followers, including “believers” (5.14), “brothers” (6.3, 10.23), “Christians” (11.26, 26.28) “the church of the Lord” (20.28), and “saints” (Acts 9.13, 32, 41), among others. But one of the earliest and most common terms of self-designation was “disciple” (6.1, 2, 7). Christians were then and are now nothing if they are not disciples of Jesus Christ.
 
But what precisely is a disciple? Webster’s Dictionary defines a disciple this way: “One who receives instruction from another; a scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher; an adherent in doctrine; as, the disciples of Plato; the disciples of our Savior.”* A disciple, in other words, is a student.
 
According to Matthew 5.1, 2, “when [Jesus] saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teaching them, saying….” These two verses paint a picture of a truly Christian education: Jesus is the Teacher. All people are (or can be) his students. Any little spot on earth will suffice as his classroom. And the sermon is our textbook. The only question is whether we will attend the school of Christ.
 
Unfortunately, Webster’s dictionary might mislead us into thinking that the school of Christ is a place of information exchange. Notice how it defines a disciple as “an adherent in doctrine.” Such a definition is fine as far as it goes, only it does not go far enough. Jesus is not merely interested in informing our minds with doctrine—although he does precisely that. He is most interested in transforming our hearts through his teaching. And that is why, it seems to me, his teaching methodology utilizes so many forms of speech. Jesus uses overstatement (Matt. 5.29, 30), hyperbole (7.3–5), simile (6.29), metaphor (5.13, 14), proverb (6.21, 34), paradox (5.5, 6.17–18, 7.15), questions (7.9–10), and poetic parallelism (5.39–40), among other forms of speech.
 
Consider Matthew 5.29: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Jesus could have said, “Lust is wrong and results in judgment.” That is the information content of this verse. But Christ’s specificity (“right eye”) and call for drastic action (“gouge it out”) and pithy proverb (“It is better…”) better communicate the nature and severity of the problem. By using overstatemen, Christ prepares us emotionally for our need of transformation.
 
The other day, I came across this passage in Dallas Willard’s excellent book, The Divine Conspiracy:
 
“You are somebody’s disciple. You learned how to live from somebody else. There are no exceptions to this rule, for human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live. Aristotle remarked that we owe more to our teachers than to our parents, for though our parents gave us life, our teachers taught us the good life.”
 
So, once again, are you a student of Jesus? He teaches for transformation. And if you listen, you will discover the good life, the life that God truly blesses.
 
_____
*http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=disciple
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The Ecclesial Dimension of Revival (Acts 2:42-47)


Acts 2 narrates the paradigmatic revival of the Christian church on the Day of Pentecost. There are three dimensions to that revival: (1) experiential, (2) evangelical, and (3) ecclesial. We have already studied the experiential and ecclesial dimensions of revival in some depth, so let us turn to Acts 2:42-47 and begin to explore the ecclesial dimension, that is, how people express their commitment to God through involvement in a local church.
 
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
 
These verses speak of five concrete ecclesial activities:
 
The first is liturgy. Verse 42 outlines four elements of a worship service: teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer (which in the first century included singing). Over the centuries, Christian denominations have developed considerable variety in their liturgies, but these four elements are present in some way in each and every one.
 
The second activity is expectation of the miraculous. Throughout the history of the church, Christians have witnessed divine signs and wonders in response to faithful prayer, just as the early church did (verse 43). Such signs and wonders are part of the gifts of the Spirit God distributes to the church (1 Cor. 12:9) in response to committed prayer (James 5:13-16).
 
The third activity is social concern. The early church developed organizational structures of voluntary giving and accountable generosity so that its poorest members would not have financial or material needs (verses 44-45). These organizational structures carried on the ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor, and whenever the church has recommitted itself to him, it has recommitted itself to them, whom Jesus loved and blessed.
 
The fourth activity is small groups. In addition to their Sunday liturgy, the early Christians in Jerusalem met daily for worship at the Temple (a practice which permanently ended when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70). According to verse 46, they also met in one another’s homes to eat together, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and worship together. Christian revivals have almost always included what 17th-Century German Pietists referred to as eccesiolae in ecclesia, that is, “little churches within the church.”
 
The fifth activity is evangelism. In verse 47, we read that the church grew as God converted people daily to the Christian faith. God is the Great Evangelist, but he used the words of Peter and uses our words today to catalyze people’s interest in the gospel.
 
Revival cannot happen without a vital experience of the Holy Spirit, a deep commitment to Jesus Christ, and regular participation in a Christian church. They are a chord of three strands that cannot—and should not—be broken.

Momentous Decisions (Acts 2:37-41)


Life is filled with momentous decisions, none more momentous than what we decide about Jesus Christ.
 
In Acts 2:14-36, the Apostle Peter outlines the history of Jesus’ ministry and explains its theological significance. Through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Jesus fulfills the promise of God to save people who call on his name and to fill them with the Holy Spirit.
 
According to Acts 2:37-41, the people who hear Peter’s sermon understand the momentousness of Jesus’ actions, but they are uncertain how to respond.
 
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
 
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
 
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
 
Notice three things about Peter’s answer to their question.
 
First, it involves repentance. The Greek word for “repent” is metanoesate. Literally, it is a command to change (meta) one’s mind (nous). Our response to God is an intellectual one. It requires a changed way of seeing God and our relationship to him. And that changed way centers on what God has done to save us through his Son, Jesus Christ. The history and theology Peter relates in his sermon are the foundation of Christian faith. Our faith must be rooted in truth that can be intellectually apprehended.
 
But repentance goes beyond believing to behaving. Metanoesate more broadly means changing one’s entire being: how one thinks, feels, speaks, and acts. When you understand what God has done for you, the natural—not to mention logical—response is a new way of living.
 
Second, Peter’s answer involves church. Peter’s command to the crowd is twofold: “Repent and be baptized.” The first verb is active; the second is passive. Repentance is something you and I do. Being baptized is something that is done to us by others. Christianity is not an individualistic faith. It is a rather a social one. Jesus calls us into community with others, and baptism is the first formal act by which that community recognizes us as fellow followers of Jesus Christ.
 
Third, Peter’s answer involves sanctification. Sanctification literally means “to make holy.” Peter describes the present age of the world as “this corrupt generation.” Despite the grace of God, the world continues to sin against him and to pervert his good creation toward unholy ends. To follow Jesus is to walk a straight path.
 
Believing and behaving, baptizing and belonging, becoming holy: these are momentous decisions. In response to God’s promise of grace and salvation, choose well!

Jesus as the Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy (Acts 2:25-36)


I have worn glasses since I was two-and-a-half years old. They correct my nearsightedness and help me see things at a distance.
 
Biblical prophecy is like glasses. In Acts 2:25-36, Peter quotes or alludes to three psalms that speak about the Messiah. These prophetic lenses help us see Jesus clearly. Here’s what Peter said:
 
David said about [Jesus]:
 
I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence [Ps. 16:8-11].
 
Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne [Ps. 132:11]. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
 
The Lord said to my Lord:
 
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet” [Ps. 110:1].
 
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
 
First-century Jews believed that David was a prophet who wrote psalms under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They interpreted his songs as vehicles for telling the truth about God, his plan, and the Messiah who would bring that plan to fruition.
 
For Peter, Jesus was that Messiah. Psalm 16:8-11 is a song of hope, in which David expresses confidence that God will not abandon him to the grave. But as Peter pointed out, it did not apply to David himself, whose tomb was in Jerusalem. Rather, it applied to Jesus, David’s descendant and heir, whom God raised from the dead. Peter and others were “witnesses of the fact.”
 
Psalm 132:11 speaks of the “oath” God “promised” to David to “place one of his descendants on his throne.” While Jesus did not ascend to an earthly throne, he did ascend to a heavenly one at God’s right hand (Ps. 110:1) and ruled from there. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the first of his kingly acts.
 
When we see Jesus through the lens of these three psalms, we see a God who makes and keeps his promises in spite of human opposition. The crucified Jesus is “both Lord and Christ”—David’s and ours.

The Purpose of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-24)


What was the purpose of Jesus Christ?
 
In Acts 2:22-24, the Apostle Peter offers a succinct answer to this question in his sermon to the Jewish crowd at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost:
 
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
 
There are two parts to his answer: history and theology. The history is a précis of the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ, focusing on his miracles and culminating in his death and resurrection. The theology shows God at work behind the scenes of everything that Jesus did and that was done to him. Neither the history nor the theology sits well with modern minds.
 
Consider, first of all, the history. Modern treatments of the historical Jesus downplay or outright deny the supernatural and miraculous character of Jesus’ ministry. There is no better symbol of these treatments than the so-called Jefferson Bible, in which President Thomas Jefferson literally took scissors to the pages of the Gospels and cut the miracles out. The resulting Jesus was a talking head, a teacher, a dispenser of gnostic truths.
 
Peter, on the contrary, emphasized the acts of Jesus. Jesus healed the sick, exorcized the demonized, died for sinners, and conquered death by his resurrection. Of course he taught as well. Peter knew that. But his précis of Jesus’ ministry focused on the deeds, for they were the deeds of God.
 
That brings us, second, to the theology. God stood behind Jesus’ acts. He “accredited” Jesus to his contemporaries (and to us) “by miracles, wonders and signs.” In fact, he “did” them. God “raised” Jesus from the dead. And, most controversially, he arranged for Jesus’ capture and crucifixion according to his “set purpose and foreknowledge.”
 
Modern philosophers typically fall into one of two mutually exclusive categories: determinists, who say that individual choice is determined by large impersonal forces; and existentialists, who say that there is no reality beyond what the individual chooses. Christians reject them both. We believe that a personal God guides the choices of human individuals toward his appointed ends without thereby robbing them of moral freedom and responsibility. How God does this is a mystery. That he does so is a biblical truth beyond dispute.
 
The whole bent of modernism is to squeeze God out of life, to claim that he plays no role in the world. Peter’s sermon is a prophetic refutation of that tendency. God is active in the world. He has a plan for it. Enacting that plan was—and is—the purpose of Jesus Christ.

A Review of Reconciliation Blues by Edward Gilbreath


Edward Gilbreath, Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006).
 
Everyone views the world along an angle of vision that affects both how he interprets the world and lives within it. That angle of vision itself is formed by, among other things, time and place and creed and culture, not to mention the postmodern troika of race, sex, and class. To understand why a person interprets the world the way he does, then, we must begin by understanding the person.
 
Edward Gilbreath is editor at large for Christianity Today and editor of Today’s Christian. These are two mainstream evangelical publications, placing Gilbreath firmly in the evangelical camp. In America, evangelicals are predominantly white, but Gilbreath is black. That status as a black evangelical gives Gilbreath a unique angle of vision, which he writes about in Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity.
 
In a moving paragraph, Gilbreath describes
 
the loneliness of being “the only black,” the frustration of being expected to represent your race but being stifled when you try, the hidden pain of being invited to the table but shut out from meaningful decisions about that table’s future. These “reconciliation blues” are about the despair of knowing that it’s still business as usual, even in the friendly context of Christian fellowship and ministry.
 
Gilbreath’s story is not unique. Although much of Reconciliation Blues is autobiographical, Gilbreath also writes about such pioneering black evangelicals as evangelist Tom Skinner, publisher Melvin Banks, and activist John Perkins, not to mention other lesser-known pastors and professionals. They trod (and continue to tread) a lonely road within evangelicalism’s predominantly white subculture.
 
Historically, that subculture was not friendly to black demands for civil rights. White evangelicals sat out the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Or worse, they rooted against its heroes. Gilbreath tells the story of Dolphus Weary who, as a student at Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) heard white students laughing at the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 
Of course, that event is forty years in the past, and Gilbreath concedes that white evangelicals have made progress in their racial attitudes. But there are still blindspots. Gilbreath mentions the 2004 brouhaha over LifeWay Publisher’s VBS curriculum, Rickshaw Rally, whose stereotyped artwork offended many evangelical Asians. Rather than admitting offense, LifeWay dug itself into a hole defending the curriculum.
 
For Gilbreath, as for many black evangelicalism, part of the problem with white evangelicals is institutional racism, defined by sociologist James Jones as “those established laws, customs, and practices which systematically reflect and produce racial inequities in American society.” Examples of this kind of racism include:
 
the failures of public education (why are inner-city schools devoid of proper resources?), imbalances in our nation’s criminal justice system (what’s with the inordinate number of black males in prison?), and the inability of African Americans and other minorities to keep pace with their white counterparts (why do some banks charge higher rates on loans to African Americans and Latinos?).
 
These examples of evangelical insensitivity and institutional racism raise political questions that make white evangelicals uncomfortable. Two of the more challenging chapters in the book are back-to-back chapters on politics: “Is Jesse Jackson an Evangelical?” and “God Is Not a Democrat or a Republican.” Jackson is a lightning rod of controversy among conservative white evangelicals, both for his politics and for his personal indiscretions, but he is viewed with admiration by many in the black evangelical community for his social concern. Indeed, his heir apparent at Operation Push is a Bible-believing, black evangelical pastor named James Meeks. And while in the abstract many white evangelicals agree that God is not a partisan, they still have problems with the concrete practice of voting for Democrats that is so prevalent in the black evangelical community.
 
(Indeed, after reading Gilbreath, I began to wonder whether politics is a stalking horse for race in contemporary American culture. That is to say, I began to wonder how much of the tension between white and black evangelicals is due to political differences rather than racial ones.)
 
Gilbreath tells his story and provides challenging analysis, but throughout this book, his main concern is racial reconciliation among evangelicals. This was a prominent them among evangelicals in the 1990s. Promise Keepers made racial reconciliation one of its seven key promises. And white Pentecostal denominations (such as the Assemblies of God) disbanded the all-white Pentecostal Fellowship of North America and joined with black Pentecostals and others to form the multiracial Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America in 1994 (the so-called “Memphis Miracle”).
 
Unfortunately, racial reconciliation has fallen on hard times. The first sentence of Gilbreath’s book is the sentiment of a black female friend of his: “I’m sick and tired of racial reconciliation.” And the Epilogue of the book describes a November 2005 conference of dispirited racial reconciliation leaders, Gilbreath among them. Despite the history, heartache, and hard work, Gilbreath isn’t giving up on the dream of reconciliation. “I think about Jesus’ prayer for his followers, ‘that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me’ (John 17:21).”
 
As I said at the outset of this review, everyone has an angle of vision. Gilbreath has his, and I—white, Pentecostal, and politically conservative—have mine. But surely Jesus’ angle of vision is the one that counts, the one that calls us to work through our differences to a higher unity based on our common life in him!

This Is That (Acts 2:16-21)


We explain what we do not know in terms of what we do.
 
Consider the word horsepower. James Watt coined that term to market steam engines to people who relied on horses as beasts of burden. They understood how powerful horses were, so Watt explained how powerful steam engines were in terms of how much horsepower they were equivalent to.
 
In Acts 2:16-21, the Apostle Peter used what his audience knew (Old Testament prophecy) to explain what they did not know (the disciples’ spiritual experience). Here is what Peter said:
 
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
 
“In the last days, God says,
            I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
            your young men will see visions,
            your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
            I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
            and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heaven above
            and signs on the earth below,
            blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
            and the moon to blood
            before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
            on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
Peter’s “No” reminds us that we can misinterpret what we do not know in terms of what we do. The crowds had misinterpreted the disciples’ spiritual experience as the slurred speech of drunks. Peter rejected their misinterpretation and turned to Joel 2:28-32 for the proper interpretation. He noted four Old Testament expectations that the disciples’ spiritual experience had met:
 
First, the expectation of the end: First-century Jews looked forward to “the last days” and “the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The disciples’ spiritual experience heralded the beginning of that end.
 
Second, the expectation of universality: First-century Jews looked forward to a day when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all people regardless of nationality, age, sex, and class. This happened on Pentecost when the disciples praised God in many foreign languages, which they spoke by divine enablement.
 
Third, the expectation of signs and wonders: First-century Jews believed the end of time would be characterized by supernatural portents in heaven and on earth. The sound of wind and tongues of fire that manifested themselves on the Day of Pentecost were examples of such portents. So were the miracles performed by Jesus and by the early church.
 
Fourth, the expectation of salvation: First-century Jews looked forward to the day when God would judge the wicked and save the righteous. According to Joel, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This expectation began to be met when 3000 people accepted Peter’s evangelistic message and were baptized (Acts 2:41).
 
This is that. We explain what we do not know in terms of what we do. And what we should know best is the Bible, which helps us interpret all spiritual experience.

Answered Questions, Committed Lives (Acts 2:14-15)


When my wife and I started dating, we had to sort out our religious differences. She was raised fundamentalist Baptist; I, evangelical Pentecostal. She believed in once-saved, always-saved; I did not. I believed speaking in tongues was normal; she did not. We worked things out by the time we married. Now we are both Bapticostals.
 
I mention my personal experience because I think it illuminates a problem facing Christians in modern America. If two Christians with similar beliefs and morals have to explain themselves to one another, imagine how much they need to explain themselves to non-Christians, who do not share their beliefs and morals. If religious literacy among Christians is low, it certainly must be lower among unbelievers.
 
There is an additional twist to this problem. Some American unbelievers are not merely ignorant about Christianity; they are hostilely ignorant. They do not understand it, but they nevertheless want to critique what they do not understand.
 
This antipathy to Christianity is as old as, well, Christianity itself. Acts 2:1-13 describes the earliest Christians’ experience of the Holy Spirit, which produced supernatural, charismatic manifestations such as speaking in tongues. Many bystanders asked, “What does this mean?” They were genuinely interested in the supernatural phenomenon they were witnessing. Others, however, ridiculed the disciples: “They have had too much wine.” They critiqued what they had not bothered to understand.
 
Acts 2:14-15 records Peter’s response:
 
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”
 
Notice, first of all, what Peter does not do. He does not ignore either the honest questioners or the hostile critics. Several years ago, I talked with a friend of my sister’s who, though once a strong Christian, had become alienated from the church. When I asked her why this had happened, she told me that she had been turned off to the faith by a pastor who, instead of answering her honest questions, tried to bully her into silence. I wonder how many people share her unfortunate testimony. Unanswered questions result in uncommitted lives.
 
Now notice what Peter does. He answers the hostile critics. They claim the disciples are drunk; he argues that the facts show otherwise. This refutation then allows him, in verses 16-41, to answer the honest questioners and explain what Pentecost means. Think of answering hard questions as a ground-clearing operation. If you want to build a house, you must first lay a foundation. And if you want to lay a foundation, you must first clear and level the ground. That is what Christian apologetics does. It clears away alternative explanations of spiritual experience—whether honest or hostile—so that the foundation of the gospel can be laid in people’s lives.
 
So, next time someone asks you a question about Christianity, answer it! Answered questions lead to committed lives.

The Evangelical Dimension of Revival (Acts 2:14-41)


Every Sunday, I preach to my congregation. Sometimes, my sermons are ill-prepared and poorly delivered. Other times—hopefully, more often than not—they are well-prepared, well-delivered, and spiritually effective.
 
The Apostle Peter preached the first recorded sermon of the Christian church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). In it, he proclaimed the gospel or “good news” of Jesus Christ. The English word gospel comes from the Greek word euaggelion, which the Romans transliterated as evangel. Preaching is an evangelical activity. It brings good news to its hearers.
 
When I read Peter’s sermon, I see four characteristics of a good sermon:
 
First, it is apologetically sensitive. I don’t mean that a preacher says “I’m sorry” a lot from the pulpit. Apologetics is that branch of theology that provides a defense (Greek, apologia) of the Christian faith. In Acts 2:1-13, we read about the disciples’ spiritual experience on the Day of Pentecost. Some bystanders think the disciples are drunk. But Peter defends them. “These men are not drunk as you suppose” (verse 15). A good sermon is always aware of the alternative explanations people offer for spiritual experience, and it defends the truth.
 
Second, it is biblically grounded. Peter doesn’t offer a subjective defense of the disciples’ spiritual experience. He doesn’t say, “Well, I just feel like this is God at work.” Instead, he says, “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (verse 16); and “David said” (verses 25, 34). In other words, Peter grounds his defense of the disciples’ spiritual experience in Scripture. Specifically, he quotes Joel 2:28-32 and Psalms 16:8-11 and 110:1. A good sermon always grounds itself in the objectivity of God’s Word rather than in the subjectivity of human experience.
 
Third, it is Christ-focused. The Bible is a big book. It says many things that are not always easy to square with one another. What readers need is an interpretive key to unlock Scripture’s meaning. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and showed them that he is that key: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). When Peter quotes Joel and the Psalms, he does so because they illuminate Jesus Christ: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (verse 36). A good sermon always keeps the focus on Jesus.
 
Fourth, a good sermon is decision-oriented. In light of his biblically grounded, Christ-focused defense of the disciples’ spiritual experience, Peter calls on his audience to make a decision: “Repent and be baptized” (verse 38). If Jesus really is the good news of the Bible, then all of us need to respond to him with love and faith. A good sermon requires us to make changes in our lives.
 
Acts 2:1-47 narrates the paradigmatic revival of the Christian church. It includes an experiential dimension (verses 1-13). But it also includes an evangelical dimension (verses 14-41). Let us always strive, like the early disciples, to ground our spiritual experience upon the evangel of Jesus Christ!

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