Following are the rough notes from my sermon this morning. All definitions unless otherwise noted are from Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. I would appreciate any comments/critiques and responses.
Rise Up And Walk: A Different View Of Healing Acts 3:1 - 13
SST: Peter and John put aside their “planned” spiritual mission in order to take advantage of a “God planned” moment of ministry. This resulted in a clear presentation of the Gospel message to a crowd of amazed and willing hearers from which about 5,000 men were brought into a relationship with Jesus.
Introduction: Is there a difference in doing something spiritual as opposed to doing something Godly? My answer is “yes”. The dictionary says “spiritual” means of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit. Something can affect your spirit without it being of God. In fact, there are many things that we could say are “spiritual” that are actually quite harmful to us. There are things that we do that we think are spiritual but in fact have no positive spiritual impact upon us. There are also those things we do which we falsely think are spiritual.
By contrast, something is Godly when it is “like” God; it is similar to God or to His attributes or character. Something can be Godly when it is “of God”, that is from God or representing His blessing or gifts. Additionally something can be described as Godly when it is in relation to God, for example in receiving something from God or in imitating Godlikeness.
We live in a time in history where there is a great pursuit of the “spiritual” and a limited pursuit of that which is “Godly”. I am told that in some places in the United States there are more New Age bookstores than there are Christian bookstores. Many are seeking to be spiritual, few are seeking to be Godly.
This is only unusual in light of the truth that Christians have feverishly been spreading the truth through books and music, a movement which began in earnest in the 1970’s and has reached fruition in our day and time. The impact of this Christian retail movement has not been lost on the world. Contemporary Christian music is the fastest growing sector of the music industry. A trip to your local bookstore will reveal that in addition to walls and walls of books and CD’s you will find DVD’s, bumper stickers, t-shirts, pictures, trinkets, cards, decorations and a slew of what can only be called “Jesus Junk”. Please understand, I am not opposed to any of these items or to the spread of Christian bookstores. They are a healthy move in the right direction for expanding the Kingdom and the awareness of the Kingdom of God.
I cannot escape, however, the sense that many people shop at these places out of a desire to “be spiritual” rather than with an attitude of humility, seeking to be like our God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who loved to be seen praying in the marketplace, there is a contingent of us who want to be “seen” as Christian. In that respect we are no different than the church people who attend for the prestige and not the powerful worship of our Creator. We are like the businessman who plays the percentages by joining the biggest church in town. I once had a boss who, upon finding out I am called to minister, told me, “Well, I hope you just the biggest (blankety blank) church in town!”
With that in mind I want to tell you a story from the New Testament book of Acts. It is the fifth book in the New Testament and it details the early days of the church after Jesus’ return to heaven. Our story occurs in chapter 3 and involves two of Jesus’ most prominent disciples, Peter and John:
Acts 3:1 - 13 (NKJV) 1Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. 12So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
TS: Now you probably think that with a story about healing and a title that says, “Rise Up and Walk” this message would be all about healing. Instead I want you to know that it is all about opportunity and obedience. I want to use this text to paint a picture in our minds. This picture will be built around five truths drawn from the sacred text. We will also take time to have a conversation about several important words that will point us in the right direction. This picture is not about how God would have us to be healed though He does desire this. It is about what God would have us do in order to fulfill His purpose for our lives and in doing, offer healing to others.
First, I see in this passage this truth…
1. The best way to live life is found in doing what God has called you to do.
Many people who seek to be “spiritual” are doing it honestly. They truly want to find purpose and meaning in life. That is why we need to understand that if we really want to find purpose in life we need to discover God’s purpose for us and pursue it relentlessly. Peter and John were two guys who had found that purpose and followed it.
They were on the way to the Temple to worship. These two guys were the real thing when it came to being followers of Jesus. There was no hypocrisy here. They were on their way to worship because worship is an important part of who we are. We were created with worship of God in mind. Genesis tells us we were created in the image of God. A beautiful way of expressing God’s desire that we worship Him is found in 1 Chronicles 16:29 where the Word says “Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!”
Worship of God and God alone is so important that it is the central point of two of the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other God’s before me” and “You shall make no carved image of anything to worship it”.
Peter and John had a reason to worship, a command to worship and a desire to worship. In effect they were fulfilling what God had called them to do. They were fulfilling a responsibility.
That brings us to our first key word, Responsibility. My definition of responsibility is the action of faithfully fulfilling an obligation.
Peter and John were being responsible by coming to worship. The sacred text says they came at the ninth hour, or at 3:00 PM. In that day there were as many as five prayer times observed during the day. They were being faithful to come and worship through prayer. My point is not that you have to be at church every time the door is open. It is that we are responsible for our own relationship with God.
TS: A funny thing happened as they went to worship. God stopped them! God did so by means of an interruption. That interruption came in the form of a crippled man begging at the entrance to the Temple. This leads to the second truth I draw from this passage, in the words of baseball great Yogi Berra…
2. When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
Peter and John were two of Jesus’ lead disciples. Along with James they had spent more individual time with Jesus that the other disciples. They were part of Jesus’ inner circle. We could definitely say they were busy men. Peter had recently preached about Jesus on a special day called Pentecost and three thousand people had come to know Jesus. Yet here is the truth of Scripture…
When their road forked they took the time to stop for this man. In the midst of their busy schedule and important lives they made themselves available to God for the benefit of one man. Availability is our second key word.
Availability means: the quality or state of being available. Being available means: qualified or willing to do something or to assume a responsibility. It means to be accessible or obtainable.
TS: Now being available is only the first step down the new road they took. The second step was…
They took the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. We would say they “seized the day”. The word that comes to mind is Usability.
Usability can be described as: convenient and practicable for use.
Something or someone can be available but not usable or even useful.
TS: We have talked about being responsible, available and usable but what happens when the task or the need seems to great?
3. They met the need they could.
They had no money and no ability to help his financial request. They had an Inability. Inability is our next focus word. It means: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity. It means being powerless and it can be a pretty depressing word. It is all about our limited nature. There are just some things we cannot do. At the very least there are some things we think we cannot do. Peter and James were up against the wall and the hard place. They were being asked publicly to show the kind of love Jesus was known for and they had nothing that would meet the need they were asked to fill. What they did have was greater…
They did have the power of God flowing through them. What they lacked in financial ability they made up for in Supernatural ability. They literally had a power beyond themselves. They were not limited to what they themselves could do but by the Divine power of God.
The key word here is Supernatural. It means: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God. Some would describe it as: departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature or attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit).
Seeking Supernatural outcomes is a matter of exercising incredible faith. How many of us would even dare to look past the immediate need, and the embarrassment of not being able to meet it, and in faith boldly say, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
TS: For us, if we are to really have a supernatural impact upon others we must first realize that…
Every person we meet has a spiritual need that we can meet. Awareness.
Awareness is our next conversation word. It means: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge. It also implies vigilance in observing or alertness in drawing inferences from what one experiences. My way of saying it is that we see what is going on around us. Often this means we see needs others miss.
Jesus showed this kind of compassionate awareness when He looked upon the City of Jerusalem where He would be crucified and said in Matthew 23:37 - 39 (NKJV) 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Jesus said that shortly after His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In other words, just when others were praising Him and just when the disciples were thinking their King had finally arrived He was aware of the vast spiritual vacuum before Him and just what it would cost Him.
4. Their obedience caused an increasing circle of influence for others to glorify God.
Influence is our next conversation word. It means: an emanation of spiritual or moral force or the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command. It can also be described as the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.
Peter and John, because of their faithfulness, were now influencing more than just the crippled man. They now had an audience of thousands. If you read through the end of the encounter you will find this simple statement in Scripture from Acts 4:4: “However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
5. They shared the Gospel clearly so that those around them could understand and accept.
In other words they shared the Jesus message with simple Clarity. Clarity is our next to last conversation word. It means “the quality or state of being clear or visible”.
For us it means that we need to tell the story of Jesus in a way that is clear and understanding to the world around us, or at least to whoever will listen to us.
Conclusion: The focus of this story in the Bible could easily be drawn simply to the man who was healed. My point, however, is that this man is a minor character whose name we never know. God is the main character in this Divine show, providing the power and majesty to change the lives of at least 5003 people that day: the crippled man, the five thousand who started a faith walk with Jesus that day and two obedient disciples whose faith was reinforced because they were:
Responsible in their actions
Available to God when the opportunity cam
Usable in His hands for a good work
Supernatural in their faith
Aware of the real need in the midst of the crowd
Influential by their obedience
Clear in their message
Peter and John get the award for best supporting actors in a life changing reality drama. It is there example I call you to follow today. Are you willing to surrender today to the life God wants you to have? It is not a life that is filled with empty spirituality. It is not a life of selfish pursuit of personal happiness. It is not a life of timid faith. It is not a life of going with the crowd so much as a calling to show the crowd where to go. It is not a life of silence but a life of boldly proclaiming truth even if in a still small voice.
Surrender is our final conversation word for the day. It means to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand. To be surrendered means to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another or to give oneself up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.
Are you willing today to surrender your fruitless pursuit of spirituality in favor of a life surrendered to God and being like Him?