Summary: Drop the fluff and the internet cutsie stories; send a clear message of the need for repentance and the obedience of faith!
(“And Can it Be?” – C. Wesley)
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
Peter had just finished preaching the first sermon of the newborn church. He and the others had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by outward, visible and audible manifestations, and a large crowd formed, out of curiosity.
We’re told that Peter took his stand with the eleven, raised his voice, and began to address the gathering men of Israel.
It may be that we have given to us here, the pattern of the perfect sermon. It is short and to the point, it unabashedly addresses not only the issue of sin in general, but the specific guilt of the audience, it gives a clear account of the death and resurrection and Lordship of Christ, and it is notably devoid of any of the superfluous fluff and ear candy that it seems to be all the rage to deliver from so many pulpits today. I mean cutsie stories, philosophical rantings, political soapboxing, so many Reader’s Digest illustrations that there’s hardly time to address a scriptural text at all…
Just like that crowd before Peter, there are millions of people outside of the church today who are bewildered, perplexed, wanting answers and not knowing where to look, and there are some that quite frankly think we’re all nuts, and not because we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking of the mighty deeds of God, but because we’re just generally acting like a bunch of nuts!
And if we are to have any hope of ever reaching any of them for Christ, there needs to be clear, significant, accurate, Holy Spirit-inspired preaching in our churches, preparing and equipping Christians for the work of ministry in their daily lives, and then Christians repeating that clear message to those they rub elbows with on a day to day basis.
Now we may not be wise to simply copy Peter’s words and shout them from the steps of City Hall. If we were to say, “…this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan of God, you nailed to a cross…”, they’re going to say, ‘No we didn’t!’
But they do need to hear and very clearly and without hiding it under a bunch of icing and dressing it up with frill and feel-good funny stories off the internet, that it was the predetermined plan of God that His only Son, hang on that cross and shed His blood and die to pay the penalty for the sin of all mankind, and that includes every one born onto this planet and no one is excluded.
It may sound like an old fashioned notion to people’s very modern and enlightened ears that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but it remains a fact, and it remains a fact that apart from the saving Grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ all are headed for Hell and eternity separated from God and Heaven.
Christians, I recently heard today’s church referred to as a ‘great sleeping giant’, and I think that assessment pretty much hit the nail on the head. If we want people to be saved, if we have any desire in us matching God’s desire that none should perish and all should come to repentance, then we need to wake up to the very basic and unavoidable fact that the Holy Spirit must first convict the heart of sin and grant repentance, and He is not doing that in the hearts of an unchurched or simply unsaved public being told, “Jesus loves you just like you are”.
“Come to church and worship with us! We have great programs for the children, and wonderful midweek bible studies, and women’s ministries and men’s fellowships, and we are very active in missions, and blah-blah-blaaaah, blah, blah!
God became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ, and because of YOUR sin, He was nailed to a cross where He bled and died, and He was put in the ground and two days later He came out of the tomb bodily, and He was seen and touched and talked to by many witnesses; and God has made Him both Lord and Christ, and He is one day coming back in judgment.
That is the message the Holy Spirit uses to convict and draw men to Christ, and if we’re not telling it, or if we’re trying to make it so politically correct that it becomes virtually unrecognizable, then we might as well be reciting ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ while standing on our head, for all the good it will do anyone at all.