Summary: What does this mean to be convicted, i.e. cut to the heart? How does it happen? What are the results?
Why did Christianity succeed in the Roman empire? According to Emperor Julian’s letter to one of his priests of the Greek religion:
1. Christians died better than anyone else
2. There was kindness to everyone. They were more inclusive than anyone else--religions usually divided by region, race, or ethnicity.
3. They cared better than anyone else, especially for the poor; not just there own kind.
4. Sobriety of lifestyle--they lived morally.
Without models, how did they know how to live this way?
Kenneth Scott Latourette: What is the cause for their difference? A vast release of energy at the beginning must account for it, says Latourette.
The book of Acts tells us what that release of energy was.
(V. 37) They were cut to the heart; that is the secret. The Greek word "convict" means "to cross examine." They were cut to the heart by the Spirit of God.
What does this mean to be cut to the heart?
1. How does it happen? 2. What are the results?
I. How does it happen?
A. Cut by the truth of Christ and the death of Christ
(V. 32) "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."
This gets them to think. Peter does not simply declare Jesus Christ, he proves him.
(1 Pet. 3:15) "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,"
You get cut when you realize this might be true, there are reasons for this. He is not simply saying "this is a leap in the dark, I can’t prove this to you." He says we are witnesses to the resurrection.
The last people to believe this claim would be the Jews. Many Jews did not believe in a resurrection.
They did not believe that the infinite God could become a person.
And therefore only a few witnesses would not have been enough.
He appeared to hundreds of people at different times. This is a matter of public record.
In Acts 26:24-27, Paul is brought before Agrippa. Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you mad." But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe."
Paul appeals to these witnesses, saying "you know these things....."
Unless it was a public record so many could not have been cut to the heart. They were made to think.
B. His death
(v. 36-37) "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
The phrase "You crucified him" cut them to heart. These are not just the Jews he is talking to. They are people from all over the world.
Whenever the Holy Spirit convicts you, you realize it is YOU who nailed him to the cross.
"My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there." -- John Newton
Peter knew this was true of him. He denied Jesus, three times.
"I don’t know him, I don’t know him, I don’t know him."
(Luke 22:61-62) And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
The Lord looked straight at Peter, and Peter goes out and weeps bitterly. Peter saw the brutalized face of Jesus and turned away from him. He realized he had crucified him.
So he says, "you too have crucified him." And they are cut to the heart. Amazing love! How can it be?
"Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"
The first sign of revival is realization.
Exodus 33: God told them to go to the Promised Land but he was not going with them. When they heard this disastrous word, they mourned.
The first step in revival and being cut to the heart is to realize our sin, the judgment of God, punishment. The "justice-love" of God.