I stand amazed
This morning I want to talk about astonishment. The dictionary gives this brief definition - a cause of amazement or wonder - to strike with sudden and usually great wonder or surprise.
There are a lot of things about Jesus that were pretty astonishing.
The first time we learn about Jesus surprising people is when he was 12. The family thought he got lost and they found him in the temple talking about the scriptures. This sounds a little surprising, a kid visiting the big city, goes to church to talk to the teachers about God.
About 17 years later he comes to the river to be baptized by John. Sort to surprising especially to John.
He goes to a wedding and his mom insists that he help them when they run out of wine. So his first miracle involved helping a family friend that might be embarrassed with the shortage of wine. Seems surprising.
Later he saves a woman from being stoned because of adultery, the Law is very clear as to what is to happen but he only tells her to sin no more.
It is not long before there is a frenzy of healing and teaching. He heals people left and right. He feeds thousands of people with only a small amount of food.
Hangs out with sinners. He raises the dead. All these things are surprising and astonishing to some.
One of the biggest points that seems to astonish the disciples is that He has growing power and popularity and does not use it the way that they or - I probably would.
Jesus actions are surprising and amazing - to me and I hope to you.
I don’t know about you but I am hard to surprise. In my English literature class when I read the compositions, I can guess the ending because they have already been used in TV and Movies. Basically, with all the information we receive everyday it is hard to be surprised by what you read these days. Even the stories on the news are pretty much the same.
Can you recall being really surprised recently, what did it take? Our environment has every comfort and every toy that we can imagine. Can a good an old-fashioned surprise birthday party startle us any more?
For kids today, it is not as likely as in the past. They are disappointed with the gifts, because there is nothing special about them. The gifts are too small… all kinds of little disappointments that they find in the most joyous of occasions.
Do the stories of Jesus surprise and astonish you any more? Have they become old and stale? You have heard them preached over and over so there is nothing new in them for you. Has Jesus, what he did and what he promised lost its power to surprise you?
Today’s scripture is from the birthday of the church. Pentecost…. A day when people spoke in tongues, others heard them, and thousands of people believed and were Baptized. There were lots of astonishing things going on that day. Peter the one who denied Christ three times, who had doubts and who Jesus told to get behind me Satan was the main speaker.
Isn’t that surprising?
He is a Galilean, country redneck fisherman. He gave up his pickup and bass boat because there was something special about this man Jesus. Something that was interesting enough for him to follow him and there was no paycheck, just the excitement of being there.
You know, when Jesus was around, there were a lot of wild days. He was full of surprises; POP quizzes, questions about morality, and stories about choices. Nothing seemed to faze him, not even the pressure of the authorities.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter stepped up to give a testimony about Jesus. He still looked like some hick from the sticks, his Galilean accent gives him away. Folks are saying “he’s not from around here.” He did not look holy, like someone that would speak a message from God. People are staring at the spectacle that he and the others are making.
All because of this wind blew into the house, and the fire that was everywhere in the shape of tongues on each person - the disciples knew that this was the day that they had been told to wait for. When your morning starts with astonishing events, you need to hang on and be ready.
They knew that God had blown into town and it was time to take action. The city was filled with visitors from all over. The noise brings a crowd rushing to find out what happened. The people were amazed that they heard the speaker talking in their first language, no matter where they were from…Astonishing..
Even without Jesus in direct attendance to the event, there was something astonishing going on. And Peter gets up in front of this crowd and tells the story of Jesus to all who will listen.
The people take notice. Why? These uneducated Galatians are doing something special, something beyond themselves. This language thing gets attention and people become curious. But their interest is held because of something else.
The people that came out of that upper room are excited. They are sharing the things they have seen.
You know those car dealer ads on TV, where the sales person is so excited. They are designed to get you a little excited so you will visit them. In the sales man can get you excited enough in person, he can get you to sign the paperwork to buy a new car. Excitement about something is infectious.
Peter is standing there saying: Ya’ll listen to me, And you aren’t going to believe this. It is fantastic and marvelous and I can’t explain it. But it is true and I know because I was there.
I knew the man, he was God’s Son and he died for us and here is the best part …
He was raised from the dead….. and he taught us that we will be too if we only believe….
When I imagine this picture I see am man that is excited, he is almost unable to control himself. I see people that are listening to the story not because it is logical but because they are receiving the same excitement. His excitement gets the people to hear the message he is offering.
There is no way Peter is being dull and boring, the people would have hardly slowed down if he were.
Peter and the other disciples were not charged with talking people into believing what they said - only to share them. They were not charged with selling life insurance but to tell God’s creation about how much he loved them.
Unlike a car dealer, they were not selling anything… I suspect people on the day were not that different than us in many ways. Although, probably less gullible than we are, they would want to know what is the catch? What are you really selling?
All this was activity was about getting people to listen to the story. The rest was up to the Spirit of God. If the people listened they could decide. Wither they did or did not was not Peter’s problem.
So, I mentioned that it is a surprise that Peter is the spokes person because of his history. What would make him able to get over his past and feel worthy to tell the story?
I believe the he had a personal revival….
I hear on the radio that people say we must have revival in our churches. They want God to come and renew them and revive the Holy Spirit in HIS church. That sounds like a great Idea. Perhaps we should be praying like that.
What do you think would happen if God answered that prayer? To tell you the truth, true revival, the kind where God shows up, scares me. Think about what a true revival means. Can you honestly say that would be a prayer that you can ask God for?
Revival scares me because revival means giving up control. It means that everything we do, how we have our church service, how we do our business of all sorts and how we live our personal lives are put on the alter and handed over to God’s control not ours!
I don’t know about you but I like control. I like knowing what is going to happen for the most part. If we pray for revival we are saying to God that we are giving up control to Him and will do whatever He directs.
Have you read in the bible the kinds of things he has people do? Radical amazing things, where people get hurt and live hard lives and many time don’t know where the next meal is coming from.
-Revival means giving up all our stuff, our jobs, and freeing ourselves from the comforts of this world.
Can you honestly, I mean really honestly, say that you want revival?
-Revival means giving up control and not feeling sorry, or feeling like you made a mistake. It means not saying WE never did it that way before… we can’t afford it, …. I’ve done my part it, …
-Revival in a church starts with individual people. It is not just about your stuff. You must sacrifice something else on the alter of God. After letting go for the physical stuff we have to let go of ourselves on that same alter. We have to sacrifice the I, in I think or I believe, I want.
- Revival of ourselves is when we give up the control of what we will and won’t do for God! We turn the Holy Sprit loose in our lives, and more importantly in our hearts. Let God direct and realize that we are just a tool in the hands of God, it is God that will get the results.
It started when Peter went with Jesus in the first place. He walked away from the fishing business and most of his friends and family. He left the world, as he knew it, to see where this man would lead. He freed himself from the worldly stuff in his life.
Personally, I believe that before the day of Pentecost, Peter had not fully submitted himself to God’s use. He still thought he had something to loose.
--He protected it when he denied Christ. He feared loosing his life. The tensions were still high with the Authorities; religious and Roman. They all risk be arrested at most any time.
It was not until Pentecost that Peter actually gave all of himself to God. When he finally placed himself on the alter as a sacrifice for Jesus. That is when he received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was not until then that the full astonishment of what Jesus was and did sank in. When he submitted completely he received full understanding of his personal forgiveness and could finally be free enough the risk everything for God.
What Peter discovered is when you don’t have any stuff to protect - you are free to speak and act for Jesus.
In a way it might have been easier for Peter to act than for us. We have more stuff. We like our comfort and don’t like the unknown. We like control and don’t like surprises, especially negative or risky ones. Maybe it is really harder for us to approach the alter and really give the Sacrifice God is asking for. It is hard to get excited enough to even try because the stories are the same but we are different.
Maybe, Peter and the other believers were excited enough to risk even their lives because they had heard the sound of crutches being thrown to the dirt streets, they witnessed people being given sight, they saw a dead man get up and walk. They were absolutely amazed and what they knew to be true. They had a level of excitement that kept them at the edge of their seats wanting a chance to tell the story - over and over again.
Think about this and be honest with yourself. Are you board with the stories that brought you here? Have you lost your excitement for the astonishing things that Christ did and promised? Has the pressure of the work and its expectations covered up the sounds of crutches hitting the floor. Has the understanding of a God adopting you as his child become old and stale? Is the fact that when your earthly body fails, you too will be raised to a life in heaven become boring?
Have you forgotten or never had a Pentecost moment?
I heard some place that the hard part about being a living sacrifice is that you can always crawl off the alter. Perhaps you left the alter and all that became unreal or the volume of the world covered up the promises.
I want to call you this morning to make an informed decision and pray for revival in your life. I hope that all of us can decide to really let God have control of every aspect of our lives. When we do we can become excited about the good news and enjoy the freedom that God offers us through Jesus Christ.
What does this church do that would give astonishment to our community? What do we do that people would notice and say I wonder what happened to them?
All Glory be to God!