Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Harvest

Acts 2:22-41

Today, a church would make national headlines if it added 3,000 people in a year. 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, the church gained 3,000 people in a single day. The Spirit worked in Peter and the disciples, giving them not only the words, but the languages in which to speak. Then, Peter's sermon sealed the deal.

We are, each of us, called to spread the Gospel. At some point, the time will come for us to witness verbally. Peter's sermon illustrates several key principles of evangelism:

1) A good witness speaks the hearer's language.
"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 2:22b

Not only does the Spirit provide the means to speak to the crowd, but Peter works from their frame of reference. Note that Jesus' parables center largely around farming and shepherding, which would be immediately familiar to the crowds following him. Peter starts with the miracle taking place before their eyes, and moves to the signs Jesus performed. Everyone knew about Jesus' miracles, and many in the crowd had doubtless seen them firsthand. Suddenly, the convictions that follow are that much more personal, hit that much closer to home. He starts with what they agree on, and moves to the more controversial, difficult issues.

· Does our witness bring the word to people, or do we expect them to come to us? Do we speak into their lives, their circumstances?

2) A good witness keeps the focus on God.
"Men of Israel, listen to this..." -Acts 2:22a

Peter has already risen to prominence in the church. He is, as he speaks, fulfilling Jesus' blessing on him that he will be the rock on which the church is built. (Matt. 16:18) Furthermore he is in the midst of a miracle. The Spirit has poured out an amazing blessing on him, which the crowd does not have. Peter has a few he could be proud and superior. But instead, he's on point. He doesn't turn the focus to himself. He doesn't even focus on the tongues of Pentecost except in their function. He places the focus squarely on God, and on the mission he's been given.

· Does the way we speak return the focus to God, or take it away from Him? Do we miss opportunities to witness by focusing too much on our own preferences and agendas?

· God does miracles for a purpose; do we miss that purpose wrapped up in how it directly affects us?

3) A good witness doesn't back down from the truth.
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." -Acts 2:36

They were cut to the heart. (v.37) This is what Peter and the Spirit were going for. They wanted the crowd to be stricken. Horrified. But not so the disciples could feel better than them. Not so the Christians could assert their superiority over them. No, there was a goal in mind: godly sorrow leads to repentance. (2 Cor. 7:10) If the method was brutally direct, the aim was no less clear. "Repent," says Peter. "Save yourselves." He didn't just shock them. He didn't merely scare them. He pleaded with them. (v.40)

· The time will come when we have to speak the hard truth in love. Does pride creep into our witness? Or are we, even when we have to be firm, always focused on the truth and the mission?

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