The Church - Called Out, Cut to the Heart, and Convinced

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, April 17, 2014 0 comments

What does it take for you to admit that you are wrong? It usually depends on how far along you are in the process of growing and becoming like Christ. Jesus never admitted he was wrong because he never was, but he certainly exemplified humility in that he submitted to the will of the Father even when he desperately prayed at Gethsemane that the cup might be taken from him (Matthew 26:39). This meant that pride was not an option. He was humble and obedient to his Father’s plan. For you and I, pride usually gets in the way. To admit we are wrong is damaging to our egos. Maybe you’re okay with it and hearing someone else’s point of view causes you to admit that you could be wrong. Or maybe you’re like me and you pretty much need clear and convincing evidence before you’ll even consider surrendering your position. A third group of people are those who simply refuse to relinquish their pride, even when the proof that they are wrong is right in front of them. If you find yourself in that group, I challenge you to think about whether you can be part of the Church.

In Monday’s post, Katie talked about how the Church is those who are “called out” as separate from the world. We’ve talked before about how that group essentially started in the Old Testament with the Israelites. Abraham was “called out” from his father’s house and his homeland and was commanded to go to a land God would show him as that which would be promised to his descendants (Genesis 12:1-7). When those descendants were captive in Egypt, they were then “called out” and brought by faith and God’s daily provision to that Promised Land. After that, the entire Old Testament describes the reason why God did this for them – so that they would be a shining example among the nations. This is why God sometimes dealt so severely with their sins which polluted his Name. Nevertheless, he promises through the prophet Joel to restore them and “repay them for the years the locusts have eaten” (2:25), then promises to “pour out his Spirit on all people”, beginning with their sons and daughters (2:28). Finally, he says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” and that “there will be deliverance among the survivors whom the Lord calls” in Jerusalem (2:32).

So we’ve seen that the church is not only “called out” but also “calls on the name of the Lord”. What about this business of the pouring out of the Spirit? The Worldview Warriors team will be writing more about the Holy Spirit in July, but for now I’ll just tell you to look at Acts 2. In my opinion, this is the most important moment in the whole Bible for the Church. In this story, many Jews witness firsthand the fulfilling of the promise I shared above from Joel 2. It’s the day of Pentecost, an annual festival for the Jews that is held fifty days after the Passover. The entire Church, which Acts 1:15 tells us is about 120 people at that point, are together in one place when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. You can read about this dramatic event in vv. 2-13. As a crowd of Jews who had come from all over to celebrate the festival are trying to figure out what in the world is going on, Peter boldly proclaims to them that they are witnessing the fulfilling of the prophecy. He then does what he could not do the day before Christ was crucified – he stands up for Jesus! Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, tells the Jews that they killed Jesus with the help of “wicked men” (aka Gentiles), but that God raised him from the dead (vv. 23-24). He explains to them using other Old Testament Scriptures that David prophesied about it as well.

Peter finishes his sermon by saying, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). How do you think you’d feel in that moment if you were those Jews? You’re being told and shown with unmistakable proof that you helped your enemies crucify your Messiah just a few months prior and that his promised Holy Spirit is now resting on those who believed him. You were so sure that Jesus was a blasphemer and a liar, but now you must either admit you were wrong or put on your blinders and continue your stubbornness, which would be considered lunacy at this point. The next verse tells us that the people were “cut to the heart” when they heard this, and simply asked what they should do about it (v. 37).

The rest of the story tells us how Peter challenged them to repent and be baptized, and how many of them did just that. I’ve talked a lot about repentance before, but it will suffice to simply say here that these people were convinced that they were wrong about Jesus, convinced that they needed their sins forgiven and that Jesus accomplished just that, and convinced that they were now “called out” away from the corrupt generation around them. Acts 2:41 says that “about three thousand were added to their number that day”. Wow! I’m reminded of what pastor and author Rick Warren said at a conference I attended 3 years ago. He said, “Because of the power of the Holy Spirit, on the first day of the Church, they had a mega church”. As current pastor of a small congregation, I long for something like this. I want to see unsaved people come from all over and repent and be baptized, but it can’t happen without the Holy Spirit, leaders who are willing to boldly declare truth, and people admitting they were wrong and Jesus is right.

It didn’t end there, friends. In the book of Acts, the realization of the promise of the Holy Spirit extends to Gentiles, which is really the beginning of the global Church in which you and I may participate to this day. Read Acts 10 on your own and see how Peter is obedient to the Spirit, goes to the home of a Gentile named Cornelius, and learns that God accepts all who fear him (v. 35). Cornelius and the other Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit, and a new “nation” of God’s chosen people is born. Today, we call this “the Church”. We have many differences, but we are united in our need for a Savior AND in our belief that Jesus was he. We are called out of a corrupt generation, cut to the heart when we realize the need to repent, and convinced that Jesus is Lord and that we don’t have all the answers. If you accept those terms, come join us.