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Back to the Basics

Apr 14, 2024 | John Talcott

Back to the Basics (2) - What Shall We Do

Today, as we come to the Word of God, contemplating the Scriptures, we do so not just to have a deeper understanding of the truth but so that we may be changed. Because we know that kingdoms come and kingdoms go, people come and people go, but it is the Word of God that stands forever. And so, let’s launch out into the deep things of God. Turn with me to the gospel of Luke, at chapter fourteen, and we are going to begin reading at verse twenty-five. We are going Back to the Basics and a message entitled, “What shall we do?” Let’s read together, Luke chapter fourteen, at verse twenty-five,

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace” (Luke 14:31-32).

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

In this passage, Jesus was thinning the flock, he was raising the bar, because he had come to his own and for the most part, they had rejected him. He had come to the people of Israel, but his own did not receive him, and so he cried out,

“I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing…” (Matthew 23:37).

And so, he moves on but he is still looking for those who really believe, those who are really seeking him. And that is good news because I am not finished yet, he is still working on me, I’m still trying to get it right.

Anybody else here that God is still working on, he’s not through, he’s not finished with you yet?

Jesus is still getting me ready, still building me up, doing some finishing work on me.

I know there’s got to be someone else here today whom he is still putting together, sanding you down, getting ready to put on a fresh coat of paint or varnish. Aren’t you thankful that he is still working, thankful for what God has begun to do? Somebody ought to give God some praise right now.

A few weeks ago, on Easter we celebrated the resurrection, and it was later that day that Jesus showed himself to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Later that evening he came into the upper room to meet with his disciples and for the next forty days every now and then Jesus would stop by for visits because he wasn’t finished yet. There were still some things they needed to know, things they needed to experience, and things they needed to receive.

Last week we saw how Jesus met with them the evening of the resurrection and breathed his Spirit into them. This is what he had told them before he had been crucified in the gospel of John, chapter sixteen,

“It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

But then he had promised them even more, it was called the promise of the Father, a baptism, an outpouring, an immersion into the Spirit’s life and power, literally reproducing the ministry of Jesus in the life of the believer. This is an empowering for service, a power beyond ourselves for ministry, because we can’t be his witnesses effectively in our own strength. And so, he told them to wait for it and the Bible says,

“He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command” (Acts 1:3-4).

"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4-5).

We remember from the gospel of John that Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower the church to finish what he had left undone. In fact, he said to his disciples in John chapter fourteen,

“Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

And so it was, in the beginning of Acts chapter two, that the Spirit of God came on the day of Pentecost. There was what sounded like the blowing of a violent wind that attracted the attention of the people out on the street because it sounded like a hurricane, but there wasn’t any wind. The people who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost now began to gather outside of the house where the disciples were, and they were amazed to hear the disciples declaring the wonders of God in their own native tongue.

This great outpouring of the Spirit was the birth of the church and the culmination of God’s promises made centuries before about the coming age of the Spirit. And so, the Holy Spirit had drawn a crowd with the sound of the wind, but now they are utterly amazed because they said,

“Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:7-12).

It’s at that point that Peter stood up and raising his voice explained to them what is going on. They were hanging on to every word, because they can’t deny the signs, and now they’re about to get the explanation in verse fourteen,

“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” (Acts 2:14-15).

And so, he begins by using the illustration of all the believers speaking in unknown languages, declaring the wonders of God, telling them:

“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” (Acts 2:16-17).

In other words, he says this is a sign of the last days, the time of the Messiah, and so what you are seeing is just the beginning of the end. This is the Messianic age, it began with his first coming, and it will be concluded with his second coming. And so, even today, these are the last days.

Peter moves immediately from the prophecy of Joel into the theme of his sermon in verse twenty-two, declaring the identity of their Messiah.

"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” (Acts 2:22).

Now, realize, everybody had heard about Jesus of Nazareth because he had healed many who had diseases, casting out evil spirits, the blind received their sight, the lame walked, those with leprosy were cured, the deaf were hearing and the dead were raised. And so, Jesus had been doing these things in and around Galilee for three years, the people were wondering if he was just a great prophet, or if maybe he was in fact the Messiah.

“This man,” Peter said, “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” (Acts 2:23).

Now, this must’ve been shocking, startling to hear, that the one who they had been waiting centuries for had been crucified. That Jesus of Nazareth, the one who had been accused of blasphemy, was in fact their Savior, their Redeemer, their mighty deliverer, and their anointed King. And so, the one they had been waiting for was actually crucified by their own leaders, but notice that Peter places the blame squarely on them, convicting them of this great sin, because they were the ones who were shouting,

"Crucify him!" (Matthew 27:22).

The governor Pilate had told them, “You take him and crucify him yourself, as for me I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6).

And so, Peter tells the people, “You did it,” but the death of Jesus Christ wasn’t an accident. He says, “This was according to God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” In other words, Jesus of Nazareth, was both fulfilling prophecy and proving that he was the Messiah in his death and in his resurrection. And then, Peter continued saying,

“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” (Acts 2:24).

He then tells them in verse thirty, that David, their mighty King David,

“Was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 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” (Acts 2:30-32).

In other words, Peter declared that even David knew that this was going to happen and that Jesus fulfilled David’s prophecy proving that he was the Messiah by his life, his death, and his resurrection. Not only that, but “he was exalted to the right hand of God” and we were there. We were eyewitnesses, we saw him go, and now,

“He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Therefore, he drives home his point, the conclusion of his sermon,

"Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).

In other words, in conclusion, Peter is not beating around the bush, he declares that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, and he indicted them as executioners of their own Messiah. And so, he went right to the point, right to the core of the problem, because the most blatant, the most blasphemous sin is to reject the witness of the Holy Spirit and thereby to reject Jesus Christ.

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37).

And so, the Holy Spirit has them right where he wants them and Peter is going to begin making the application of this truth because they are ready, they’re in the right spot. This is what Jesus had told them would happen, he said,

“When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me” (John 16:8-9).

Now, all of a sudden, the people were cut to the heart, because the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, they are convicted because they executed their Messiah Jesus Christ. And so, they cried out, “What shall we do?”

In other words, they are convinced that they have done the worst possible thing, the worst thing imaginable, and as the prophet Malachi said,

“Who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes” (Malachi 3:2, NLT).

And so, they are worried about his vengeance, fearful of his wrath, because Jesus is alive and they can’t undo what they have done, they can’t make it right.

Feeling the pain of the apostle’s words, their guilt is fully exposed by the Word of God, they are cut to the heart by the awareness of their sinfulness. That’s why we must not be focused on telling jokes and stories but on preaching and teaching the Word of God because it is a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Bible tells us in Hebrews chapter four,

“The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

In other words, you may be trying to hide behind fig leaves like Adam, but your nakedness is about to be exposed. And so, we just need to let the Word do its work when we preach, when we teach, and when we witness. And when the Holy Spirit has done what he was sent to do, the people were cut to the heart, and they needed to know what to do.

The first thing Peter said in verse thirty-eight was to do what?

“Repent” (Acts 2:38).

He said to repent, which means to turn around and go the opposite direction. In other words, it is a 180° turn, you were going West and you turn around and go East. North and you turn and go South. In other words, you turn from your self-centered purpose and everything that is part of your old life in terms of sinfulness and rebellion and you turn to God. You commit yourself totally to following Jesus Christ and nothing short of that.

Now, the Jews in Jerusalem that day were convicted by the Holy Spirit and they were afraid of the wrath of God, but they had to be more than that because repentance is not just saying I’m sorry, repentance is more than fear of the consequences, repentance is turning from sin and coming to Jesus. You see, when you are truly repentant you will turn all the way around, cutting the attachments to your past life, from your false ideas about religion, and embrace Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

This is important, because there’s no sense in moving to the next step if you haven’t truly repented. Let me explain it this way, if you are in your car traveling south to Frederick and Jesus is in Gettysburg you can’t get to Jesus unless you turn around and begin moving north, traveling in the opposite direction. And so, no matter who you are, whether Jew or Gentile, if you are not following Jesus, if you are not traveling in that direction, you need to repent, you need to change your direction, changing your attitude, and call upon him as Lord and Christ because you’re not going to get where you want to go without turning around.

The people said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter replied,

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).

In other words, Peter calls on them to boldly and publicly make a commitment to following Jesus Christ. Because they may have believed, they may have been convicted, but the Holy Spirit wasn’t about to let them remain as secret disciples. He says, you’ve got to profess your connection, your identification with Jesus as the Messiah, renouncing your old ways, changing your association, and cutting your ties with Judaism. In other words, in their baptism their families and the rest of the community would know that they have identified with Jesus Christ and are following him.

That’s what Christian baptism is, it is a public expression of faith, it is a symbol of our union with Christ, and that is why Peter insisted they be baptized. It’s not about being saved, it’s about being fully committed, having counted the cost, willing to cut ties from the synagogue, the Jewish community, and even your family if necessary. You see, the biggest stumbling block for a Jew to follow Jesus was the fear of persecution, the fear of being thrown out of the synagogue, or to be put out of the community.

Peter says, you’ve got to get that out of the way, you’re going to have to count the cost,

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Now, this can be confusing because of the translation, it sounds like in order to have your sins forgiven you must be baptized. Isn’t that the way it sounds in the English language? But we know that can’t be true because the Bible says,

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And so, if you study this phrase in the original language, it is actually best translated, “because of forgiveness.” We find the word used this way in Matthew chapter twelve, verse forty-one, where it says,

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah” (Matthew 12:41).

In other words, they repented because of the preaching of Jonah. And so, if we apply that use of the word here, verse thirty-eight would read,

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

In other words, Peter said, you repent and are baptized because your sins have been forgiven. You repent and are baptized because of what has already happened on the inside of the believer. The Bible says,

“Your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (1 John 2:12).

And so, baptism is a public expression, a symbol, or outward sign of a believer’s faith. In your baptism, the invisible becomes visible as you are testifying and agreeing with God about your sin and believing that he has already forgiven you. And then Peter says,

“You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

In other words, the condition for receiving the indwelling life of the Spirit is not by being baptized, but by surrendering, humbling yourself, repenting and publicly identifying with Jesus Christ as Lord. Because Peter tells us,

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).

And so, this is Peter’s conclusion, his appeal to all the people, to those Jews who had rejected Jesus, and to those pilgrims who haven’t heard of Jesus. He calls them not only to repent of their sin, but to publicly identify with Jesus in their baptism, because he knows the ones that get over that hurdle, that stumbling block, they will be the ones that really believe and are saved.

Peter remembered that Jesus had talked about counting the cost. About putting him before father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even their own life. Because nobody would build a tower without first sitting down and counting the cost to see if they had enough money to complete it. Or a nation wouldn’t go to war against another nation without first sitting down and considering whether they were able to overcome them (Luke 14:25-33). And so, Peter is telling them to count the cost, consider what you are doing when you come to Jesus Christ, because he is appealing to fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation" (Acts 2:40).

This is the same generation that Jesus called, “Unbelieving and perverse” (Matthew 17:17). In other words, this was a wicked and adulterous generation and Peter says, “Save yourselves.” He says, “Receive the lifeline, surrender to the salvation provided for you in Christ Jesus.”

And so, when they asked, “What do we do?” He says, “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). In other words, make sure that your repentance is real. That you know the cost, not vacillating, tossed back and forth as if by the waves of the sea, or blown here and there as if by the wind but with true repentance that is heartfelt, honest, and legitimate (James 1:6). Because it is that kind of genuine godly sorrow that brings repentance and leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

In other words, repent and be willing to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in front of those who will persecute you, those who don’t believe, and those who don’t understand. Be baptized in front of your own people because there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, salvation is found in no one else. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6).

The Bible says that those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41). In other words, there were three thousand converts, three thousand who had counted the cost, three thousand who were fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. These weren’t those who were baptized one week and then denied Jesus the next. Not getting baptized on Sunday and going back to their old life, their old habits, and their old friends on Monday. No, these were real believers, these were disciples of Jesus, they were going to change the world because the Bible says,

“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

In other words, they turned from everything life meant, what they had valued, what they had lived for in the past, and they followed Jesus Christ with total commitment. It is to those who are fully devoted,

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples" (John 8:31).

In other words, if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope that you have, then Jesus says, “I will know that you are really my disciples.”

Peter said, “Repent and be baptized,” but this is just the beginning, because the real question is what will you do? Let’s make it real personal, what will you do when you hit a bump in the road, when it seems like you’ve come to a dead end, or when it feels like the enemy is trying to destroy you, are you still going to be around? There was a time when many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed him, but he said,

“He who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

You see, it’s not just whoever gets baptized, its whoever is there when it is all over. This is the real church, it was visible, there were no secret disciples. They were devoted, continuing in the teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. In other words, they demonstrated the legitimacy of their salvation, they were for real, they were really in it, and they were about to change the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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