Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Would you like to do a little test today? To test us as the Church, to see whether we are doing the right thing? It may be challenging. What if the results are not so good?
In fact, if our results are not so good then these are … positive news. How come, some may wonder. How can that be a positive thing? See, if the results are not so good, that means we have found something that is missing and we can improve.
Imagine that lately you have been feeling so and so and you go to your doctor, and he does the testing and tells that you have quite a low level of … some vital element.
What do you do next? You take in this missing element and you get better. Therefore, it is a good thing, if we can find something that is missing and then hopefully get the level of this missing element up.
So, are you ready for our little test? Yes? No? Will do it anyway. How will we do it? We’ll look at our today’s passage from Acts and try to see what is one of the most important things that we are called to do.
Maybe, we can start by reflecting on what we have been doing as Christians, as Jesus’ disciples. Remember, a few months ago, there was this letter with discussion questions sent out from our district and one of the questions in this letter was – where do we as the church spend our time and our energy? Which activities take up the most of our time?
I am sure that is a very long list. I’ve been here almost four years and it seems I still don’t understand how everything happens. It seems that there is this army of invisible people who just get things done. So many things just happen.
And even if we sometimes don’t notice everything that is done, and forget to say ‘thanks’, I am sure that each one of you will have your reward from our gracious God who sees everything that we do, and sees with what motivation we do it.
I am sure that in many, many ways out test results would be good and even excellent. But now, ask yourselves, how high in this list of our activities is witnessing, sharing the Gospel?
How much of our time we as congregation spend praying for opportunities to tell someone about Jesus? How much time do we spent engaging with people to establish relationships so that we could witness them about Jesus?
How much time do we spend trying to find the best ways how to witness to people we know, or in conversations with other brothers and sisters in Christ – how can we do our witnessing better?
Our answers to these questions, will determine our diagnoses. This test will help us to see, why recently we have been feeling unwell. And even if this is not pleasant to admit that something may have been missing, it is very good if we can identify ‘the missing element’.
It means that God’s grace is still with us, that He Himself is reminding us what a great privilege we have, to take part in building His eternal Kingdom. It means, that we can start focusing of how to improve our situation.
But, same may say, ye, ye, what is this witnessing? We don’t have that much knowledge, we are not all theologians, we can’t do this. No one would listen to us anyway.
We may have different scary picture about witnessing. Some may picture it as knocking at your neighbors’ doors. That is one of options, and it is a scary one, and probably not the best one.
Some may picture it as hopeless attempts to talk with your unbelieving and angry relatives … and it never ends well. That’s a scary picture, too.
Bet let’s look at our today’s reading from Acts. What can we learn about witnessing from there? Peter was invited to the house of Cornelius. Cornelius, a Roman officer, his household and his friends trusted that Peter may have something important to say.
You see, this is the first tip for us. We can witness only to those who trust us and are ready to listen to us. This is, why building relationships with non-Christians is so important.
And only when someone sees that you genuinely care for them, they will trust you and, when God given opportunity comes, they will listen to you. Relationships, trust and only then there could be an opportunity to witness.
Yes, but the very talking about Jesus can be very hard. Let’s see what did Peter do? Did he use high theological terms? Did he used complex arguments? This is what he said.
“You have heard what happened. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
The Jews put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear to us. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. Now, everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. And we are simply God’s witnesses.”
That’s it. What did Peter do? He simply retold what he had witnessed. He wasn’t doing anything hard. He was simply testifying about what had happen. He even begun by saying that you already have heard what happened.
It’s true, everyone has heard somethings… He just said: “I’ll tell you more, for I have witnessed it with my own eyes”. This is what we are sent to do. Simply to retell what our God has done.
Imagine, that you were coming to the service this morning and you saw a friendly face in clouds, looking at you. [Like this … face …] Would you need a special training to share it with others?
Words would come naturally. “Do you know what I witnessed today? That was unbelievable. I saw this huge smiling face in clouds. Did you see it?”
Remember, the first thing was trust, the second thing is – events. What Peter shared and what we as the Church are sent to share are events. Real events in real world, witnessed by hundreds and thousands.
We have received them from the first eye-witnessed themselves. From those guys who accompanied Jesus while He was among us. Who walked and ate with Him. We have their testimonies, and we are simply sent to share them.
Just like this… “Do you know about Jesus? Do you know what really happened? There was this Jesus and He had unbelievable abilities. He did things no human being could ever do. Then He predicted that He will be crucified.
But He promised that on the third day He will rise again. Of course, no one believed Him. Who would? But He did exactly as He had promised. Before hundreds of eyewitnesses.
Now we are sent to tell everyone, that this same Jesus will judge the living and the dead, and that everyone who trusts Him, will receive forgiveness of all their sins and eternal life.
And you know, He cares for every person. He cares for you. What He did, He did for you. He wants you to receive what He has prepared for you. That was Him, who sent me to you. This is His message to you.”
See, it is a very simple message. Unbelievable message, but nevertheless – true. God knows you, cares for you, has died for you, and desires to have you with Him in His eternal Kingdom. And you are His witnesses.
At this point a sceptic within us can say: “Sure, you will care for people, and will tell them about Jesus, and they will become Christians. I am not buying it.”
There is this third thing that we need to remember. The power of the Holy Spirit. I agree, we could earn someone’s trust and tell them whatever we want, and that wouldn’t make anyone a Christian.
But what can we learn from this story with Peter? Verse 44 tells: “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.”
Peter did exactly what we are sent to do. And while he was telling about Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. Just picture this, whichever way you can! The Holy Spirit falls on people when they hear about Jesus.
This is the third thing. Trust, events and the power of the Holy Spirit. As we read it today, Isaiah prophesized that God will put His Holy Spirit on His Servant. Matthew described how God put His Spirit on Jesus.
And do you know where this Spirit is now? The same Spirit is given to the Church. Meaning, each of you have received the same Spirit. He fell on you as well, when you heard about Jesus.
This is how you became a Christian. This is how Jesus called you. This is how you were made a child of God and an heir of God’s Kingdom. This is, why you are here today. By the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And He continually falls on you every time when you hear about Jesus. He does it right now. And when you testify about what Jesus has done, the same Holy Spirit falls on your listeners. Have this picture in your mind!
We all have received so much from our dear Lord Jesus. And I am sure we all desire to express our gratitude to Him. And we already do it serving others in so many ways.
But what a wonderful way to give thanks to Jesus by telling others what Jesus has done for them, so that the Holy Spirit can have a chance to fall on them. We all have different gifts, we all don’t have to do it.
But many of you already know, what a joy it is to tell about Jesus, and what a joy it is to see that the Holy Spirit transforms someone from an enemy of God, to His beloved child. I pray that we all could experience this joy abundantly. Again, and again, and again. For we are Jesus’ witnesses.
And peace of God, which surpasses our understanding, keep your minds and hearts in Jesus Christ. Amen.