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Regenesis

Date: Oct. 20, 2013

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Acts 3:11-26

Key Verse: Acts 3:19

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”

In the summer of 2010, we, as a ministry participated in something called The Regenesis Movement. It was a series of Bible studies, presentations, and discussions on Friday nights that, in six weeks, intended to help us rediscover God, reignite our passion, regenerate our faith, and replenish our spirits. It was to be a new beginning in our lives of faith. The name came from the word genesis, which means beginning, so regenesis would mean to begin again – a fresh start. The word alludes to the restoration of all things that God promised from the very beginning of his creation. I don’t know if The Regenesis Movement actually caused us to begin a new life of faith, but the thought of being able to begin again is tantalizing. The Bible says that man was created in God’s image. Think of it like this, imagine yourself in front of a mirror and you see God. I know that some of you think you see God already when you look in to a mirror, but that is not what I mean. I mean, actually see God, the face of God right before you, shining his lovely glory all the time. That’s the image of God. When we look in the mirror we see God. God reflected back at us. But, then, every time you lie, every time you gossip, you throw a little dirt on it. Every time you look at porn, every time you have lust in your heart a big clod of mud gets thrown up there. Every time you do something completely selfishly without concern for anybody else, you hit the mirr0r, you chip a piece off, you break apiece off. Every time you step away from God, that image gets more broken and more dirty until when you look at it, you barely see God anymore. It’s so dirty, so broken, that you might make out a finger or an eye, but you really can’t see God.Doesn’t that sound like the story of our lives? If you were to compare yourself to God, do you see God? No. Our lives, in many ways, are broken and shattered and filthy and mud has covered up the whole thing. It seems kind of hopeless. The mirror is broken. How do you fix a broken mirror? You don’t fix a broken mirror. It’s glass. You get rid of it and get a new one. And if that is our lives, it seems pretty hopeless, but what if it wasn’t? What if that filthy and shattered image could be made whole and restored to its original condition? What if you could begin again, a regenesis? It’s possible and in today’s passage, Peter addresses a crowd at the temple and tells them that very thing…that they could begin again.

Last week, Bob talked about the power of Jesus’ name. Peter and John healed a man who was lame from birth by saying, “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk.” The man then took Peter by the hand and leaped up. He was completely cured, and he could walk and jump even though he never did either before! The power of Jesus’ name could cause the lame to leap like a deer, but it was only the beginning. The gospel has far more power than that. Although the healing was a life-changing event for the man, it was merely the thunder before the oncoming storm. This passage starts in verse 11, “While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.” When people saw the lame beggar walking, they were amazed, and they came running to get a closer look at what had transpired.

The Bible says, “When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?’” (12) Peter says, “What? Have you never seen a crippled man walk? What’s the problem?” Peter was acting like this was an everyday occurrence. Why wouldn’t the people be surprised? Here was this 41-year-old man, who had never taken a step in his life, walking and jumping around. That is surprising. What Peter was referring to wasn’t the act of healing the man, but it was the fact that Peter and John healed the man. The people attributed the healing to Peter and John, as if they performed the miracle by their own righteousness. This sort of thing happens all the time. How many times have you heard about a win in basketball, football or hockey being attributed to one person? In football, often the quarterback is often attributed to the win because he has a great arm to throw the ball halfway down the field or the running back is the focus because he ran all those balls in for touchdowns. In basketball, the person with the most points is attributed to carrying the team: LeBron won the game or Rose won the game, here in Chicago. The people here were looking at Peter thinking, “Man, look how great Peter is. He healed that man.” However, that wasn’t the case. Peter didn’t have superpowers and he wanted to make sure that the people knew that.

Peter continued, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.” (13) After his questions, Peter starts talking about God. He directs the attention from himself to God, specifically to Jesus. It would have been easy for Peter to take some of the glory for himself. I mean, the miracle healing was performed through him. He could have taken even the smallest piece of glory, but the glory wasn’t for him. It all belonged to God and Peter said that God glorified Jesus. All glory honor and praise was due Jesus. To take even a little bit of it would be natural for any of us. We like the recognition and jump at the chance to steal a little bit of the thunder, but Peter didn’t do any of that. He kept the focus on Jesus. While standing in front of this crowd, Peter had an opportunity to share Jesus in the temple and he took it.

This was a golden opportunity. Peter had the full attention of who knows how many people. They were looking at him in awe and wonder, and they were waiting with baited breath to hear from him. Peter could have regaled them with stories of Jesus and his great power, but this was an opportunity to do much more. It was an opportunity to change lives. Opportunity is a finicky thing. It can be presented to us and we can either take the opportunity or ignore it. Honestly, I think that we have a tendency to miss opportunity either because we are blind to it or because we are too lazy or fearful to act on it. Peter saw the opportunity and acted on it.

Peter took the opportunity to, once again, rebuke the crowd. Quite honestly, this is an abrupt change in tone. Peter starts out by talking about the God of their ancestors. They could have been wondering what great things he was going to say about God, but instead, Peter tells them that they killed Jesus. He did this back in chapter 2, also. In this passage, Peter said, “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” (13-14) Peter starts to take them to the woodshed and really begins to unload on the people. Everybody in this part of the temple was a Jew and Peter again brings up the fact that they had Jesus killed. The religious leaders handed Jesus over to the Roman governor Pilate and although Pilate tried to have Jesus released a number of times, the religious leaders riled up the crowd to call for Jesus’ crucifixion, and they called for Barabbas, a man convicted of insurrection and murder, to be released. Pilate called him the King of the Jews, but the crowd said they had no king but Caesar (John 19:15). The people disowned him, even though a few short days before they were crying out “Hosanna!” at Jesus’ entry into the city. The people treated him like a king, but before Pilate, they called for his blood to be spilled. This was dangerous for Peter to talk about. He was accusing the crowd of murder and if they were, in fact, murderers, then there’s a chance that the crowd might get riled up and kill again. Yet, Peter just keeps going on.

Peter delivers the knock-out punch in verse 15, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” They killed the author of life. The people killed the one who created all life. They killed the very one who had authority over all life. You couldn’t feel any lower when Peter got to this point. The gravity of what they did must have just hit them like a ton of bricks. Imagine a kid recklessly running around a house. They are bouncing all over the walls, going here and there, and they bump into a table. On top of that table is a beautiful vase, and when the table is bumped, the vase wobbles back and forth, and tumbles to the ground in a great crash. That sounds pretty bad, but then the parents come in and exclaim, “That vase has been in the family for ten generations!” It was priceless and now it was gone. There was no way to make up the damage. You couldn’t go out and get a new one. Likewise, when they killed the author of life, there was no way for them to make it up. When you kill God, you can’t just go and say, “Whoops, sorry about that. No hard feelings, right?” In fact, if he was dead, he wasn’t feeling anything any more.

However, verse 15 doesn’t end there. It says, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” Jesus may have died, but he didn’t stay dead. He was the author of life, after all. He had authority over all life, including his own, and God raised him from the dead. This is amazing and solidifies the fact that Jesus is truly God. Peter and John saw Jesus a number of times after he died, and it wasn’t a spirit or ghost, it was Jesus in the flesh. Sure, Jesus would appear in locked rooms at will, but he could still be felt and touched. The wounds he bore on the cross were right there for anyone to touch. In order to prove that he was fully alive, Jesus even ate food with them. Jesus was back from the dead.

It was this Jesus, this God that gave Peter and John the power to heal the man. Peter clarifies, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (16) Although Jesus was no longer around the apostles, through his name, Jesus was always near. Jesus still has power and wields it through his people. Lives can be changed and people made whole because of the power of Jesus’ name.

Even though Peter was addressing the Jews there, his message is for everyone. In the crowd were people who probably did call for Jesus’ crucifixion, but it is also likely that there were people who weren’t even around. How is it possible that people who weren’t even in Jerusalem at the time could have killed Jesus? They never cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion. They never sneered at him or mocked him while he was hanging on the cross. We’re a couple of thousand of years and thousands of miles removed from the situation. Did we kill Jesus, too? The answer is that we are just as responsible for Jesus’ death as those who called for him to be crucified and disowned him as their king. The reason that Jesus died is that no one is righteous, and everyone is evil. Jesus died for everybody’s sin. Every lie or bit of gossip told, every lustful or angry thought, and every selfish desire was a nail that held Jesus to the cross. If we weren’t sinners, then Jesus wouldn’t have died. He wouldn’t need to die. Jesus came to bring salvation for all people. He came to save sinners, and everyone in this room, everyone in the world for matter, is a sinner. None of us is exempt, and when we sin, we disown Jesus by telling him that we don’t need him. In our pride we reject the author of life and choose the opposite – death. All of our pride killed Jesus. Our hands might as well have hammered the nails into Jesus’ flesh, because his blood is still on our hands.

Do you know what is ironic about what is being said? It is ironic that it is Peter saying these things. Peter disowned him three times before a little girl and a group of nobodies. Peter was just as sinful as anyone else. What gave him the right to tell everybody that they killed Jesus? Was he a huge hypocrite pointing out the sins of others, while ignoring the fact the he himself was a guilty as they were? Who gave Peter the authority to say what he did? Honestly, you might be wondering how I am able to stand up here and preach because you know full well how sinful I am. The answer is yes I am a hypocrite. I’m not worthy to stand up here and share God’s word. I don’t have any righteousness of my own that enables me to do so, and neither did Peter. Hypocrisy runs rampant in Christianity because none of us is worthy to share God’s word. Christians are the biggest group of hypocrites in the whole world, without a shred of righteousness or authority on our own. But thank God that we don’t need our own. Our lives can be restored.

Peter continues, “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.” (17-18) Peter recognized that the people might not have known what they were doing. They didn’t realize that that was God hanging of the cross. Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) However, God used the people’s ignorance to bring about the salvation of the world. It’s not unlike the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was the favored son of his father. It got to the point where his brothers despised him so much that they threw him in to a cistern and sold him into slavery. He wound up in Egypt as a slave, where he performed well for his master, but he was wrongly accused of trying to take advantage of his master’s wife and was thrown into prison. There, he became a model prisoner, but he was still a prisoner for many years. It wasn’t until Joseph helped Pharaoh to interpret some dreams that he was set free, but he wasn’t just set free. Joseph was appointed to be the number two man of Egypt, second behind the king only, and he was tasked to prepare the country for the upcoming famine. The famine was so severe that it reached to his home, and his father sent Joseph’s brothers to get food from Egypt because the Egyptians had prepared for it. Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him, but when he finally revealed his identity, he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) God took a terrible event and used it for great good. He used Joseph to save a lot of people.

You might wonder, “But couldn’t God just have prevented the famine from happening? He is powerful enough, right? Why go this route?” God could have prevented the famine from ever happening, but it was an opportunity to show something even greater. It is the same with the sin problem. It would take a lot of power just to wipe out all the sinners or even to burn out the sin from everybody. He did that once. God sent a flood to destroy everything and he saved the best of humanity, but sin still endured. It’s not that God failed, but this was an attempt to show us that destroying everything wouldn’t work. It takes a lot of power, but in the end, it is just not effective at solving the problem. It would take a lot of power to wipe out evil, but it takes even more to use evil to bring about good. The people killed Jesus, which is a very evil act, but God used that evil to bring about the salvation of the world, by making Jesus take the punishment for our sins.

God caused Jesus, his Messiah, to suffer so the disease of sin could be cured and life restored. Peter said to the crowd, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” Although Peter recognized that the people didn’t know what they were doing when they called for Jesus’ crucifixion, he did not absolve them of their sin. He didn’t tell them that there were no hard feelings; Peter told them to repent and turn to God. Repentance is the act of turning away from your sin and turning to God. The people had to turn from the acts that caused them to kill Jesus even though they didn’t realize that is what was going on. We have to acknowledge that our sins are evil and we have to disown them and not Jesus so that we can be wiped clean. Over the course of time, an oil painting by one of the great masters gets dirty and fades. The painting gets covered with whatever is floating in the air and its appearance changes until it is only a shadow of its former self. When this happens, you can’t just take a bottle of kitchen cleaner and spray it. That will cause a lot of damage. It takes a professional, who uses special cleaners and painstakingly removes the filth and repairs any damage. The result is that the painting is restored to its original condition. The colors pop out and details that were forgotten are revealed. That is what God does through our lives through Jesus.

Verse 19 talks about our sins being wiped out and times of refreshing coming. To be refreshed means to be renewed or restored. It is a fresh start where all of our sins have been forgotten. It’s like we have a new identity. In the book of Luke, there is the story of the Prodigal Son. One young man takes his share of his father’s inheritance, runs off far away and squanders all of his money. When he is at his lowest, he decides to go home and beg to become a hired hand, but when he gets close, his father runs to him and throws his arms around him and kissed him. The father restored his position as a son and proclaimed, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24) That’s God for us. When we come back to him, he restores the image of God that he placed within us. We are alive again. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We become a new creation when we are refreshed. We begin a new life in Christ.

This is all to God’s glory. In our new creation, we can see who God is. We can see God’s power, his grace, his love and his faithfulness. We see all these things because we don’t deserve it. He has the power to do miracles. Who can fix a broken mirror? Only God. He doesn’t change his plans and this restoration has been his plan all along. Moses said that God would raise up a prophet like him, and that we should listen to him. (22) Moses, one of the great men of God, said that Jesus was coming and that we should listen. And why should we listen? Because, he is the author of life and if you are not going after the author of life, this passage says in verse 23 “Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people” (23) because Jesus’ words are the words of life. If you don’t listen to the words of life, what’s the default value? There is nothing in between life and death. It’s life or it’s death. So, if you are not after life, you’re chasing after death.

None of this was new; God’s has had this planned this entire time. It says in this passage here, “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’” (24-25) Like I said, that has been the plan the whole time. And one of the reasons why this is the plan, that this is the good news that we have, is that this gospel message reveals the fullness of our God.

By saving his creation through Jesus’ blood, God reveals to us who he is and it shatters all of our preconceptions. We have a lot of preconceptions about who God is. Many times wer see God as this mean taskmaster, you have do this and that and don’t do this or that. But through the gospel, you see God’s sovereignty; you see how he rules over everything for all time. You see his holiness, how he is set apart from everything and how different he is from this world. You see that he is omnipotent, that he is all powerful. You see that he is omniscient, that he knows everything. You see that he is immutable, which means he does not change. You see his wrath because of his justice deserves wrath. You see his love because he did not let his wrath fall on us. This is our God. This is the God who came down to us. And it has been told for a long, long time. God is so faithful. For thousands upon thousands of years, this has been the plan, and he has been carrying out bit by bit, piece by piece.

He is the author of life. Think about that word again, author. An author knows the whole story before it is even written. The author knows the beginning, the middle and the end, even before putting pen to the page. They have the story in mind. God does, too, and he is able to use whatever happens in the middle to get to that end goal that he’s aiming for – the salvation of his people, the restoration of his people, to bring them back to the original image, to heal, to make new. And that’s how Peter concludes here, too. He says, “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (26) Jesus came to turn people from their wicked ways and make us a new and greater creation, not to feel sorry for ourselves. Look at Peter. Peter could have felt sorry for himself. He disowned Jesus three times. He said, “I don’t know Jesus” to a little girl. Yet, because of what God did, Peter was able to stand in front of this crowd and confront them. Even though he denied Jesus three times, he repented and accepted that he was a new creation. Sometimes we don’t accept fully what God has done and we hold onto our past sins, but God has forgiven us, and if God has forgiven us, then we have to forgive ourselves. God forgave you. When you accept his word, when you accept what Jesus has done for you, and repent, you disown your sins. You may still sin, but you disown them. You set them aside. You know what? God forgives you. He forgives all of you. He changes you into something new! We are no longer who we once were! We are refreshed and restored! We can live our lives like that. We are no longer beaten down and broken. We are healed. We are new. We are everything God needs us to be. We are not lacking anything. Thank God. Praise God that times of refreshing have come for his glory and for our great benefit.

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Daily Bread

The Result of Complacency and Pride

Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

  “I abhor the pride of Jacob
    and hate his strongholds,
    and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

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